Sunday, September 30, 2007

September 27. We’re here in Solomon’s Island, Maryland. We left Washington a couple of day ago.

The first day out of Washington we had the ebb tide rolling along with us for most of the day as we motor sailed south. The Potomac is beautiful to the point of being boring as it’s so undeveloped. We put in a sixty mile day with only the last 2 hours being decent for sailing. The wind built from virtually nothing to 15 knots and we barreled along for the last 10 miles.

Our stop for the night was to be in a small cove on the south shore of the river called Bluff Point. Again, as we veered into the shallow waters near the shoreline we had to dodge hundreds of crab pots.

We were able to get in a lot closer to shore than the charts seemed to indicate. It was nice having more water than expected as the winds from the south were whipping the surface of the water into a rolly mess. Once we tucked up tight against the shore the winds weren’t a factor and we settled in for a comfortable night on the hook.

The next morning we set off at 0700 and were hoping to make it to Solomons Island that afternoon. Again we had the ebb tide helping us along until we reached the mouth of the Potomac. As soon as we turned to head north up the Chesapeake we were again aided by the tide as it turned to a flood tide and propelled us northward.

As we were turning into the Chesapeake we heard a Navy Range Boat directing traffic about 8 miles north of us. There’s a target platform that the Navy uses for target practice out in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. They were asking that you stay a mile and a quarter either east or west of the “hot” target area. No problemo, if you’ve got supersonic planes making bombing runs, I’ll gladly give you a little extra room. I understand that you’re practicing, which means you’re not good at it yet so hell, I’ll give you 2 miles. The planes were ridiculously loud but were virtually invisible as they traveled so fast. By the sound of them you’d swear you were going to have to duck and when you finally saw them they were tiny dots in the sky.

After 2 more hours we dropped the hook in Solomon’s Island. It was kind of crowded but not really too bad. We’ll be here through the weekend as we’re supposed to have a front come through with 25 knots from the north. It’s nice here with easy provisioning and a very protected anchorage. So we’ll sit here before heading up to Annapolis for the boat show.

I’ve got another entry for your Cruiser’s Dictionary’s. It was actually a warning sign on the Metro (subway system) in Washington DC.

Escabump. (es ka bump) n. A person coming to an unexpected stop at either the top or the bottom of an escalator, instantly becoming a speed bump for the crowd of people behind them.

Monday, September 24, 2007

September 23. Today is our last day of being tourists in Washington. There is just so much here that you literally can’t see it all in less than a few weeks. We’ve decided to stop back here early next summer on our way north.

Washington has proven to be beautiful, clean, safe and cheap. It’s really been a very enjoyable week here and the people that we’ve met have been outstanding. But I do have a short list of complaints………..
Bike racks. There are very few bike racks around the monuments and museums. They have all these great 10 foot wide sidewalks that cry out for bicyclists and there are very few convenient places to lock your bike. Several museums have none at all.

Helicopters. Holy crap are there ever a butt load of helicopters barreling across the city. Most people don’t encounter the choppers the way we do. On one side of us is the city and we have Ronald Reagan Airport off on the other side. So the obvious flight path for the choppers is right down the river. They have to fly very low so as not to interfere with flight operations out at the airport so they come in a just above masthead level, right down the river. Think Apocalypse Now but with the choppers being faster, louder, lower and more frequent.

Most of them are marked, United States of America. They’re probably ferrying Congressmen from here to there. Every now and then it must be someone a little more important as there will be 2 or 3 identical choppers with a gunship escort.

It’s not unusual to see at least 30 helicopters or more in the portion of the day that we’re here on the boat. Don’t get me wrong; it is way cool to see these guys hard banking to follow the meandering river as they scream along at ridiculous speeds. The air traffic does slow way down at night but it’s not unusual to have a helicopter blast through at 0600.

So to recap, the lack of bike racks is short sighted and the choppers just take some getting used too, so things really are pretty good here.

Today we took a short ride over to the Jefferson Memorial. The time line of his life was full of one amazing accomplishment after another. He really was a brilliant man who deserves his name mentioned along with Lincoln and Washington whenever the great names in American history are discussed. I had no idea how much he had to do with the early success of our young nation until I saw his accomplishments listed one after another.

After that we hit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. He was the only 4 term president in American history and his memorial was about as long as his term. I had never even seen a picture of it before so I was surprised at the shear length of the monument. It’s a long row of brown stone blocks that’s a couple of hundred yards long. The stone work incorporates a lot of waterfalls along with quotes attributed to FDR. It’s quite unlike any of the other memorials we’ve seen so it was an interesting change. Kind of reminded me of the Polar Bear display at the Bronx Zoo.

Next up was the Holocaust Memorial Museum. First off, there’s no bike rack. The front of the building is quite stark with steel angle iron and plate steel all bolted together. It’s brown and gray, very somber but powerful.

The inside lobby of the building has a feel of a 1930’s train station or something similar. We were ushered into an elevator and whisked to the fourth floor to start our self guided decent back to the ground floor.

We’ve been debating whether or not we should see this museum. I was pretty sure I knew the story and really wasn’t looking forward to spending several hours watching people suffer. We were prepared for a very sad story of the genocide of an ethnic group with a madman in at the helm of all of Europe. Everyone we encountered said that we should see it when we got the chance, so here we were.

The story starts with the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party in the early thirties right up through the end of the war. It’s a story that is built on cruelty with instances of heroism and bathed in indifference. The building is full of artifacts, photos and video testimonials. I’m glad that I did go, I learned a lot more than I knew when I walked in, but I’d never go again. The trip through the museum was a well done, miserable experience. It’s what I expected given the subject matter. Lest we forget…..
September 21. We took our time getting ready to go out today and met the Freedom’s at 1100 hours.

We went over to the Smithsonian’s information building. We had to stop in because the building is so good looking and we wanted to venture inside. It is the original museum and its just beautiful inside.

Next up was a return trip to the National Art Gallery for a guided tour dealing with sculpture. Again the tour was great. After the tour we wandered a bit before having lunch and then we headed over to the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art.

Modern art is a pretty broad term. It seems that you can hang anything on the wall and call it art. We saw pieces ranging from unimaginative tripe to thought provoking pieces that were just brilliant. There was actually a 3 foot by 6 foot framed canvas that was just flat black, nothing else and yet there it is hanging on a museum wall in Washington, D.C. What 2 eggheads got together and deemed this piece of crap worthy of a wall of its own. Yet again we took a guided tour after spending twenty minutes on our own wondering what the hell we were looking at.

These randomly scattered chairs inside a box were actually an exhibit.

There were sculptures, welded pieces, works in wood and of course paint. Like I said some of it was nicely done by obviously talented individuals. Some of it was completely boring crap. There was a rolled up car fender complete with undercoating on a pedestal. A torn and folded piece of metal that’s been on display for sixty years. The guide asked my impression and I told her I thought that it should have been recycled. Everyone in our group snickered quietly but I think she was crushed; she didn’t ask me anything else.

There was one American artist, Morris who had only sold one work in his lifetime. After his death over 600 completed canvases were discovered in his home. The museum is “fortunate” to have over twenty of them in a series of display rooms. They’re all the size of a king sized bed or larger. They all are very similar in style. They look as if someone took a fist full of crayons and dragged them across a sheet of paper. What you have is several parallel lines of differing colors. Kinda rainbowish.

After washing the colors to blend the edges of the color, that’s it, he’s done. The guide was beside herself with glee as we proceeded from one room to the next……oooh, look here he works from left to right. Oh my, here he starts to use curved lines………and oh look there’s horizontal. Christ, I was pretty sure that some of them weren’t even hung right side up. Hell, there was one piece that was twenty feet long with a few stripes painted vertically at either end with the middle fourteen feet of canvas being left untouched. Did he die while he was working on that one? Jesus what crap.

After the tour of the Hirschhorn we stopped in for some Thai food at Jenny’s Asian Fusion restaurant. The food and service were really great and it’s a very short walk to the yacht club where we stopped in for a quick night cap before heading back out to the boats for the night.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

September 20. Well today was the big day. Fortunately for us Jim from the sailboat Freedom met a woman here at the yacht club that works for one of the senators here in D.C. She was able to have our names added to a list of people taking a tour of the White House today. It’s very unusual to be able to take this tour on such short notice. As it was, we had to provide all of our personal information to the senators office so they could forward it to the Secret Service for background checks.

Our tour was set for 1130 so we set out by 0930 for a short bike ride downtown. We had to leave our bikes at the Washington Monument and walk the last 2 blocks as the Secret Service will not allow anything to be left anywhere the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue is now a pedestrian mall in front of the White House and bikes aren’t allowed to be chained anywhere.

So we arrived an hour early but we were encouraged to get in line to have our I.D. checked before we entered. The agent at the gate checked Jim & Deb’s photo ID and ushered them inside the gate. He then checked Christy’s and mine before sending her through and sending me to the holding area. WTF?

It seems that everyone else is on the guards entrance list except moi. Somehow a senior guard from inside the building has been made aware of my presence and he comes out to interrogate, er, interview me. It seems that for some reason my background check was not completed. I show him the invitation that had been sent to us via Email but he’s not interested. He copies the info from my Drivers License and along with my Social Security number he goes back inside and leaves me in my own special isolation area.

It sucked to be in my own little fenced off area. As the other people arrived for their tours they wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Just a quick peek and then look away. Oh my God, what did he do? Is he a terrorist? Is that Osama Billaden? A threat to the nation? No, that’s just Bill, somebody screwed up his paperwork so he’s on a government sponsored time out.

After about 10 minutes of this solitary confinement I got cellmates as a pair of bubble headed girls were stuck in “the area” with me. Soon after that, a pair of grandmothers and a disabled veteran were also ushered into “the area” After about 4 hours or twenty minutes the senior agent came back, apologized for the delay and let me rejoin my group. Good thing for him because I’m sure when I used my drivers license as a spoon and tunneled my way to freedom it would have been a career ender for him. I’m not bitter and I don’t think that incarceration has changed me, but I guess time will tell, Bitches.

The tour itself wasn’t so much of a tour as it was an unguided wander through the White House. There was an agent in every room and if you had a question they were more than capable of answering anything that you might ask. Some of the rooms haven’t changed in close to two hundred years. The oval office is changed every time a new President takes office. There were pictures of each Presidents office as it looked during his term. Some were dignified while others looked homey, even kinda comfy. Kennedy’s was stately and yet beautiful while I’m sure the only taste Nixon had was in his mouth, holy Christ what a disaster. He should have been impeached because of his taste in interior decorating.

After the tour Jim & Deb went back to their boat while Christy and I headed over to the Air and Space Museum. It was quite the display with everything relating to flight that you could ever imagine. This was a big thing on my “must see” list. I was a little afraid that Christy would be bored but nothing could be further from the truth. As we were walking through the very extensive Wright Brothers display Christy actually fell behind as she read every placard in sight.

After we got back to the marina we went out to the boat for a while. We had such a late lunch that we decided to have a quick snack before going back into the yacht club to watch Jim perform.

Jim plays the guitar and sings very well so it was an enjoyable time. The marina here is full of a very eclectic mixture of liveaboards. During the evening we met a young soldier who is one of the guys we saw the other day in the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. We’ve also met some of the key members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association of which we are members. Then who walks in but state senator Larry Craig. I would have never recognized him as being anything but another cruiser. He’s the guy who was just arrested in that police sting because his foot brushed another mans foot in a public restroom. He spent a good portion of the evening with us just shooting the bull. He seemed like a regular guy with a good sense of humor and he kept his feet to himself.

Friday, September 21, 2007

September 19. We went and did a little more sight seeing today here in Washington, DC.

There’s just so much to see that you could easily spend a month here in town and have something different to do every day. We started off with a visit to the National Aquarium. The aquarium is actually a couple of hallways with oversized aquariums built into the wall. I guess we’re a little bit jaded by the quality and quantity of outstanding aquariums we’ve been fortunate to already see. Since it was the National Aquarium I was just expecting a lot more than I got so it was a little disappointing.

Next up was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The building itself is worth the trip. Marble and stonework everywhere. The stone treads on the steps are actually worn to the point that you can see where a million people before you placed their feet as they climbed the steps. It’s just an incredible place. The displays covered all of the wildlife that you could imagine. The Hall of Dinosaurs was a great display and the gemstone and minerals on display were fantastic. Also on display at this time in the museum were some of the most famous gemstones in the world including the Hope Diamond.

The Hope Diamond wasn’t as spectacular as I expected it to be. It was huge and a deep shade of blue. I thought the blue color muted the brilliance you usually expect to see in a diamond. It just wasn’t anything special. Some of the other stones, particularly the emeralds from India were so big and set in such garish settings that they looked ridiculous.

There were some beautiful examples of gems though, especially some formerly owned by Napoleon.

Next we were off to the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art. Wow, what a place. Once again the building tried to steal the show as it was just beautiful. Inside, was room after room of sculptures and paintings. We walked in just in time for a free guided tour that covered the evolution of painting through the Italian Renascence.

It was very interesting to go through the galleries with a knowledgeable guide who obviously loved the art on display. We learned about the transition from stacked painting to point of reference painting. It was interesting to see how art evolved over the course of a few hundred years. I learned more useful things about art in forty five minutes than I would have thought possible. If ever offered the opportunity to take a guided tour of one of these galleries it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Those 3 stops quickly ate up the entire day. A quick word about the bicycles. Yesterday we probably covered 15 miles and today there were another 6 or more. Without the bikes there would be no doing what we’ve already accomplished. I look at the faces of the thousands of tourists as they walk along the sidewalks as we ride past. Most of these people probably haven’t walked this much in years and nobody is enjoying the walking. You can see every place you want to go but the size of everything gives a false sense of how far things really are from one another. Washington is gorgeous but there is an incredible amount of walking to do. So wear comfy shoes or bring a bike,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 18. We arrived in Washington, D.C. yesterday. The ride up the remainder of the Potomac went very well for us. As luck would have it we were able to ride the flood tide for more than 40 of our 50 mile day.

We are anchored in the Washington Channel, which is right in the heart of downtown Washington. We are across from the Capitol Yacht Club which is where we can land our dinghy when we go ashore. Walking the dogs is very convenient on the opposite shore as there’s a park with miles of very inviting grass.

We’ve again run into Jim & Deb on the catamaran Freedom. They’re great folks and we really get along very well. They’ve been here for a week and they’ve pretty much got the lay of the land.

We spent the day riding our bikes around the city. First we went to get tickets to get into the Washington Monument. The monument dominates the Washington skyline. You can see it from our boat in the anchorage and just about every picture you take of anything in the city you wind up with the monument in the background. We got our tickets and had 50 minutes to kill so we rode up towards the capitol building and then turned around and headed back to the monument.

The monument is just over 500 feet tall and is a must see if you’re doing Washington. The view is spectacular; we could easily see Veranda riding peacefully at anchor.

After the monument we headed out across the Potomac to tour Arlington National Cemetery. There are more beautiful white headstones than you can imagine. Every headstone represented a family that had suffered a great loss, it was so sad. We saw J.F. Kennedy’s resting place with the eternal flame. It was so simple yet so powerful. Then we went over to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I had been there as a child and remembered the guards as being larger than life, so powerful. Yet now when I saw them I was struck by how young they were, barely more than children. It made me feel a hundred years old. The precision and the pride that they display in the performance of this duty is overwhelming. It really is a very special ritual that is repeated every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, rain or shine. The words “precision” and “pride” just doesn’t do this display justice.

After the cemetery we rode down to see the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. Each was so different yet both were so moving. The Korean Memorial has a squad of soldiers moving across a field. The detail is amazing and kind of painful. The Vietnam Memorial is beautiful polished black stone and very sobering, it makes you feel like crying would be appropriate.

We also saw the Lincoln Memorial, what a building. So simple yet so powerful. The statue of Lincoln seated looking out over the reflecting pond is very cool as well. The artist who did the statue studied every picture of Lincoln that was available, even his death mask. He decided to depict Lincoln as the man who had preserved the union by means of the Civil War. He looks almost slumped in his chair, exhausted yet resolute.

We’ve been to a lot of very interesting, very cool places but Washington makes them all look like a waste of time. The city is beautiful, spotless, we saw a movie being shot, we saw a protest about reforming the green card process and rode past the White House like it was just another house on the block. It’s been an amazing day and tomorrow promises more.
September 16. We were up and underway again at 0700 hours. Today we were leaving Solomon’s Island and headed for a yet to be determined spot on the Potomac River.

The wind was already cranking as we raised the anchor. As we left the anchorage and turned east it became apparent that the wind would be right on our nose for the first hour or so. How does it know? Anyway, we put up the full main and motor sailed out into the bay. As soon as we were able to turn south we pulled out the genoa and shut off the engine.

This mornings run to the mouth of the Potomac was about 20 miles. We were moving along at better than 7 knots about half way into our trip and then the wind very slowly petered out. We had 20 knots for a while and then it was less than 5 knots. When we turned west and headed up the river we furled the genoa and started the engine. We were able to maintain 7 knots in spite of the tide ebbing against us.

I was shocked at the width of the Potomac, 30 miles up the river it’s still wide as hell. It’s also a lot more shallow than I had imagined it would be. There’s very little barge and tug traffic and it was alive with fish. They were literally jumping out of the water. The banks are dotted with pretty homes but on a whole it appears to be very undeveloped.

On one of our charts there is a sunken German U-boat recorded. It seems that the Germans tried to send a U-boat right up the Potomac River to Washington during World War II. This trip has been a real education for me as we’ve visited so many different places and each one has its own story. I’ve always enjoyed history but I guess you can only learn so much until you actually start to run into it. I for one never knew that the Germans actually got a sub into the Chesapeake and then the Potomac. Those wacky Nazis.

Our anchorage for the night was chosen as it’s only a 50 mile run to Washington, D.C. We decided to spend the night in the Tobacco River. Tobacco is evidently the Indian word for crab pots. This anchorage is the last possible stop for 25 miles and the previous good spot was 7 miles behind us. When we arrived at our choice for the night we were disappointed to find that it was practically paved with crab pots. We wove our way in for close to 2 miles before settling on a spot with just enough room for us to swing at anchor without getting tangled in one of their floats.

The water depths are not an issue for us but its bizarre how many abrupt depth changes there are. When we entered our anchorage we went from close to 70 feet of water to 9 feet in a boat length. The chart said we’d be okay and we were but it still makes your butt clinch a bit.
September 15. Yesterday we had over 15 knots of wind from the south. It was supposed to clock around and blow 20 to 25 after midnight. As a precaution we went 5 miles up into the Sassafras River to anchor for the night with 360 degrees of protection.

During the night the wind died and we awoke to a dead calm anchorage. The thought of the old expression “calm before the storm” flickered through my mind. We had a fifty mile day scheduled so we didn’t get underway until 0700. After pulling the anchor we motored down the Sassafras towards the upper Chesapeake Bay. As we motored west the wind started to build ever so slowly. By the time we got to the mouth of the river we had 22 knots of wind dead on the nose.

As we started to turn south we were able to put up the mainsail albeit with a double reef in. We were still to close to the wind so we had to motor sail for a few miles until we turned more towards the south. After turning south, out came the genoa and off went the engine. We were running before the wind with the ebb tide going with us. It was wonderful, for a while.

The seas soon built to become formidable rollers. They were from our starboard quarter so things could have been way worse but we were on the edge of control a good bit of the time. We had to slow the boat down as we were really flying down the front side of the breaking swells. It took every bit of effort to pull in some genoa without turning upwind to luff the sail. I pulled so hard my hamstrings hurt; I pulled a muscle in my stomach and brutalized my hands. The waves can’t get too big in the bay because of the shallowness but they stack up very close together, break quickly and it can get pretty ugly very quickly.

Once we had the boat slowed to about 8 knots we had a much better time of it. The VHF was alive with the chatter of boaters discussing the severity of the sea state. Then came the promise of relief, several power boaters that were headed north said that the conditions were not nearly so bad on the south side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. They were flabbergasted by what they ran into on the north side of the bridge.

We had run the thirty some miles to Annapolis easily before noon and we had planned to continue on to Deale, Maryland about 16 miles further. The wind dropped to about 15 to 18 knots but the seas became fairly flat. So out came the rest of the genoa and we were effortlessly sailing along at about 7 knots even though the flood tide had started to fill in against us. We were abreast of Deale at 1300 hours so we decided to continue on to Solomon’s Island. It would be another 20 or so miles but we couldn’t really put it to bed with the wind blowing so nicely for us. So on we went.

Along the way we saw 9 of those Navy 44’s positioning themselves for the start of some racing. Man those are pretty boats and the crews all look really sharp all dressed alike. Those things look like rockets as they streak across the water.

We also saw a submarine floating in the bay out in front of Annapolis. It was pretty cool to see until the machine gun toting patrol boat came out and ran us off.

When we got to Solomon’s I went to roll up the genoa and found that I couldn’t. I could roll it in about 2 turns and then it would jam up. Crap. I couldn’t find anything binding on the furling line and then I realized that there was an over wrap in the drum on the roller furling unit. Shit. The line had fallen down over itself and now with hundreds of pounds of pressure on it I couldn’t even begin to untangle the mess.

Even when Christy turned the boat up into the wind there was still an incredible amount of pressure as the sail flapped wildly. That was one of those times that an “Easy’ button would be perfect. I ended up sticking a screwdriver through the lower snap shackle to turn the drum manually and hold it with all my weight with one hand while I stuck my fingers inside the drum and untangle the mess. I wondered which would hurt worse, the screwdriver slipping out and stabbing me in the chest each time it spun around or my fingers getting ripped off in the drum. I’m thinking fingers. After a couple of minutes that seemed like days, I was able to clear the line and we were back in business. It was the first time I’ve ever had a drum jam like that and if it never happens again it’ll be okay with me.

So all in all today ended up being a 77 mile day when we thought we’d be doing 50 or so. The best part about it though was that we probably sailed close to 70 of those miles and still made great time. Everything considered this was one of the best sailing days ever.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

September 14. When we turned in last night we were on the edge of a pack of a half dozen anchored boats. I was up and on deck to take the dogs to shore at 0500 this morning. As I looked around I couldn’t believe it, everyone else was gone. I mean its freaking 5 o’clock in the morning and everyone else is already up and underway?

The conventional wisdom is to leave Cape May 2 hours after low tide. In doing so you are assured of a push all the way up the Delaware Bay, as the tide floods in and you ride it like a wave. Low tide was at 0400 so I was planning to leave at 0600, so where’d everybody go?

As we pulled out of the Cape May Canal and turned north we could see several boats rounding Cape May. It didn’t dawn on me until that moment that all of the boats anchored near us had been too tall to make it underneath the 55 foot fixed bridges that straddle the Canal. So they probably left around 0400 to go back out through the inlet and then were forced to sail around the tip of Cape May and on up into the Delaware.

When our courses finally intersected we were 400 yards behind a 40 foot sailboat that we had been anchored next to last night. The tide was really rolling in and we had a supposed 5 knots of wind straight over the stern. The wind built steadily and we were soon doing a steady 9 knots SOG with 15 to 18 knots of wind. We only had the full mainsail up and tied off to one side with a preventer to avoid the chance of an accidental gybe in the very rolly conditions. After 40 miles we were still 300 yards behind him. When we surfed at 11 knots so did he, when we gained on him, he’d pull away yet again.

When we arrived at the C&D Canal we had to drop sail as you are not allowed to sail through the canal. We pulled into the canal and fell into line 200 yards behind the same boat. I never touched the throttle from the moment we entered the canal until we anchored over 30 miles later and we were still 200 yards behind him. I couldn’t believe how both boats were so evenly matched even after so many miles. I’m sure he must have been getting a complex as we followed him all day and anchored just a couple of yards away in the Sassafras River.

The weather is supposed to be pretty nasty tomorrow with big winds. The winds are supposed to be from the north northwest for 2 days and if they are manageable we should be able to sail a good portion of the way to the Potomac. We have an appointment with George on Thursday that I’d like to keep but we won’t let that cloud our judgment.
September 13. We were up and underway at 0600 hours. The tide at the inlet will be ebbing so we’ll get sucked out the inlet and into the ocean. The only downside of this is that we’ll be transiting the channel to the inlet at just about low tide. The last time we went through this channel we bumped the bottom but were able to force our way through. Today, not so much.

We hit bottom at the same place we did last time except this time we were good and stuck. As the parade of fishing boats sped past we tried to use their wakes to bounce our way along and get going again. No dice. We had to call Tow Boat US and they showed up after about 30 minutes and towed us free of this series of speed bumps. We’ve traveled about 4000 nautical miles and this is the first time we needed to be towed free from a grounding. In our home waters no less.

Once free of the bottoms clutches we were on our way to the inlet again. The time spent “parked” cost us our shot at the last of the ebb tide so it was a little slow heading out the inlet into the newly flooding tide.

Once clear of the inlet we turned south towards Cape May. The breeze was between 3 and 8 knots so we were forced to motor sail the entire way. It was so pleasant I was able to take the time to fix a problem that my professional electrical “technicians” left behind. It wasn’t so bad and with the little bit of lift from the sails we were able to drop the hook in Cape May by 1700 hours. We anchored among 6 other cruising boats after a pleasant 75 mile day.
September 12. Holy shit where does the time go. It’s been a week since my last update. We’ve been sitting here at the marina in Forked River. We’ve accomplished most of the things on our “to-do” list. The marina here has several picnic areas scattered around the property. Most marinas have these areas but this is the first marina we’ve been to that the people actually seem to get together and use these spaces. It’s nice to see the people from 2, 3 or 4 boats getting together for meals, cocktails and laughter. There’s the Wild Bunch, the Corner Club, the Odd People that nobody talks about. It’s really a nice place to hang out.

I was able to finish the dinghy chaps and after some eye hooks are installed on the inside of the dink, it’ll be ready to install. When I post pictures you’ll be impressed, if not, I’ll just blame it on the quality of the camera.

I recounted before the trouble we’ve had with our alternator on our journey. I’d decided I needed professional help, no not that, with the alternator. As luck would have it there is a business near the marina that bills themselves as being a DC marine specialist, excellent, just what we need, an expert.

I went over and arranged for an estimate which turned into an agreement to do some work. I was not really comfortable doing anything but basic electrical work. I need a professional so I can walk away from this knowing that everything was done right and I can sleep at night.

I haven’t slept since. There were several components added to our existing system along with another alternator. Everything was installed and when it was time to hit the go button, nothing worked. The boat started but everything in the instrument panel was dead. Crap.

Anyway, to make a long story short. They installed everything and when it didn’t work the guy wanted to bill me for 6 additional man hours to figure out what was wrong with the work they just did. Its got to be a mistake so I went down to see the boss and ask about the hours billed.

I didn’t even get to finish asking the question when this a-hole started screaming about me trying to cheat him, how I’m a thief. I was astonished; I was almost speechless, almost. He ended up throwing me out, threatening to call the cops if I didn’t leave. All I wanted to do was pay them and now he wouldn’t even take any money. I ended up leaving a check after they were gone for more than they earned, but I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for them to troubleshoot their own incompetence. Past performance is no guarantee of future results so your experience may vary from mine. But I wouldn’t let these “technicians” plug in a toaster for me. Twenty dollars to plug it in, and four hundred dollars to figure out how they plugged it in wrong.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September 7. Things are moving slowly but at least they’re moving in the right direction. When we were here in Forked River in June we took the dogs for booster shots and physicals. It turned out both dogs had Lyme’s Disease. The treatment was for us to give them a months worth of antibiotics while we were away. When we got back they would be rechecked and if healthy they would be given inoculations to keep them from getting Lyme’s again.

The follow up trip to the vets proved that the antibiotics were successful and since the dogs were free of Lyme’s they could be inoculated against getting it again. During this physical it was discovered that Molly had a tumor on her stomach. After a series of x-rays it was determined that surgery would be necessary.

I walked her up to the vet on Friday morning and it proved to be a long day waiting until we could pick her up again on Friday evening. The operation went well and although she was completely out of it she appeared to be fine.

It was good that Molly was fine but sadly our sewing machine died. There was much sorrow. We’re in the middle of making dinghy chaps for our dinghy. Dinghy chaps are a tight fitting protective layer of sunbrella fabric pulled over the dinghies tubes. The fabric protects the tubes from the sun and can double the life expectancy of your dinghy.

The process involves pulling the dinghy up onto the dock and taping heavy paper to the tubes. Once the paper is completely covering the dinghy it is removed in sections and used as a pattern for the sunbrella material. Our pattern ended up yielding 5 large pieces of material which will have to be sewn together, but alas the sewing machine is dead.

We went to the nearest Wal-Mart and bought a Singer, brought it home to the boat and discovered that it’s a piece of shit. I got it all set up, got all the sewing crap out and laid out the pieces of fabric. I started to sew and discovered that the tension could not be adjusted because a small metal part was fractured. So it was broken right out of the box.

Just about that time the youngest girl child dropped in with her boyfriend for a short visit. Good, I needed the break as between yesterday and today the sewing machines were starting to get the best of me. But like I said, their visit was short and Christy and I were soon on our way back to Wal-Mart to return the defective machine. Then we headed over to Sears where we picked up a cheap Kenmore machine that had been highly rated on the internet..

I got about half of the sewing done this evening and the new Kenmore seems to be doing a pretty good job of it. I am getting the hang of sewing but if ever we meet and I offer to sew something for you, just say no, we’ll both be better off for it.

Boat Name of the Day: A sailboat named Jib’rish. I thought it was pretty clever.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

September 4. Well, here we sit in Forked River NJ. We’re safely tied up in a very protected, very clean marina; we’re surrounded by family and friends.

We got to do some catching up with the oldest girl child as we haven't seen her since Christmas.

We even went for a daysail with friends on their Pearson 36. It was loads of fun to blast around on a boat other than our fully loaded floating home.

As usual we’ve got a list of projects that we’d like to accomplish. We’ve already put 2 coats of Cetol on the rest of our unprotected topside woodwork.

Most of the projects are pretty small and the list really isn’t that long but there is work to be done. We spent a day in a borrowed car and did laundry, reprovisioning and ran errands. We also had to order a few parts so we are going to be here for about 10 days while we wait for things to arrive. This will give us the time to visit with family and friends and accomplish most of our list.

The biggest thing on our list was a problem we’ve been having with our alternator. We burned out our original alternator 2 months into our trip and we fried our spare about a week ago on our trip through the Long Island Sound. Two burned alternators in about a year is excessive. Its seems that the problem basically that our battery bank is so large that the alternator is killing itself trying to fill the capacity that it “see’s”. It’s kind of like filling a swimming pool with a bucket. So we were forced to bite the bullet and order a bigger alternator, a huge bucket.

Today while getting back on the boat Christy had a little mishap. She was carrying a pocketbook for the first time in almost a year and decided to drop it on deck so her hands would be free while climbing aboard. Funny thing though, she missed the boat and dropped the bag into the river. I didn’t get the chance to laugh as she turned to me and said that our cell phone was in the bag. Crap. I jumped on the boat and grabbed the boat hook and fished out the bag but not before the phone had been reduced to junk.

Hopefully the alternator will arrive on Friday and our new phone should be here in 2 or 3 days, if so we should be back on our way by Monday or Tuesday.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

August 29. In order to hit Barnegat Inlet on an incoming tide we have to arrive before 1300 hours. It’s a little more than an 8 hour trip so as a result we were up and underway at 0345.

It was actually kind of pleasant out with a full moon and virtually unlimited visibility. It was so clear that we didn’t even have to turn on the radar as the moonlight was exceptionally bright.

Another advantage to our early departure was the complete absence of fishermen on the water. Usually the area inside Sandy Hook is very crowded with clammers and small fishing boats, this morning we were alone.

The only boat traffic of any concern was a large ocean going tug that was pushing a crane barge into Raritan Bay as we were making the turn at the Hook to head out. After determining which way he was headed and exactly what we were looking at we stayed just outside the channel and our passing went perfectly.

Christy enjoys a sunrise at sea.

The wind was virtually non- existent so we were forced to motor all the way to Barnegat on the glassy seas. As part of our pre-trip checklist we check all the fluid levels. I was surprised to find out that the fuel tank we have been running on was still about half full (not half empty). I figured that we’ve had so many pure sailing days lately that this must account for our miserly fuel consumption. This will allow us to arrive in Forked River with one tank full and the other with more than a quarter full.

About 3 miles from Barnegat Inlet Christy said that she just heard the motor slow down. I checked the tachometer and our boat speed and find nothing different than it had been all morning. I dismiss it as Christy having gone deaf from the 0345 start.

Two minutes later the engine died. We quickly turned ninety degrees to port and unrolled the genoa. There was about 3 knots of wind and Veranda slowly started to head offshore to get us some sea room as I started to diagnose the problem. I was in the engine room and Christy yelled down that we’re probably just out of fuel. I know we can’t be as I checked the levels last night but it would be the easiest problem for us to overcome so I recheck the tank mounted gauge. Empty. Dead empty. The needle must have been stuck at half full the night before, I knew that our fuel consumption had been a little to good to be true.

It was a simple matter to switch over to the other tank which was full and bleed the air out of the fuel delivery system. About 8 minutes after the engine quit we were back up and underway headed for the Inlet.

I was practically sick to my stomach thinking about the tough place we would have been in if we had run out of fuel a half hour later. We would have been in the inlet with not enough wind to maneuver in the current. We would have had to drop the hook and we would have been alright but it’s an experience I can happily live without.

On the other hand a giant positive revealed itself to me. My first thought was we had wrapped something around the propeller and I hadn’t considered fuel starvation as we “knew” we had plenty for today’s trip. Christy was as calm as Gandhi and thought of the simplest probable cause of our loss of power. She didn’t know it was coming, she didn’t have time to plan and she nailed it. Yep, I’m wearing her down.
August 28. We had to negotiate the currents in Hell Gate this morning on our way down to Atlantic Highlands.

It looked as if the best time to get to Hell Gate would be between 1030 and 1115. We slipped our mooring and motored slowly out of Manhasset Bay at 0845. We arrived at the Gate at 1040 and were treated to a pleasant ride with over a knot push down to the Battery. Then the tide built and we got 2 knots all the way to the Verrazano Bridge.

It was finally a sunny day and the city looked beautiful from the water. The harbor was full of tugs and barges, ferries, water taxis and big ships. The trip was uneventful and over quickly as we arrived in Atlantic Highlands, N.J. by 1400 hours.

We are safely anchored here behind the seawall. We’ll spend an extra day here to await a more favorable tide at our next port of call, Barnegat Inlet.

Sitting here is the Flying Pig, whose crew, Skip & Lydia we had met down in Marathon. They’ve just gotten up here to the northeast to await Lydia’s mom who is flying in from England to join them for a little traveling with them on their boat.

The Flying Pigs came over to the Veranda and spent a few hours catching up with each others exploits. Once again it was a wonderful evening during which we were treated to yet another beautiful Atlantic Highlands sunset. Seriously.

We spent a good part of the next day visiting with the Flying Pigs as well as getting the ten cent tour of their boat. We were both envious of the storage they have on their Morgan 46 footer. Their V-berth is completely empty, enough said. If my Mom were to visit us on our boat she’d have to sleep with the sewing machine on top of the bicycles in our V-berth.

Skip and Lydia are just another example of the couples that we’ve met on the water that seemed as if we had been friends for years, and we probably will be. After a few hours we headed back to the Veranda to turn in a little early to get some extra rest in anticipation of tomorrow’s early departure. The moon rising over the Flying Pig.