Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 27, 2009.

It suddenly came rushing back to me just why I always looked forward to the weekends. No work. Anyway…..

On Thursday evening we were pleased to be able to host the youngest girlchild and 3 of her friends from school. It was brutally hot but the girls were good sports about the heat. After dinner and a few drinks they even got into the nautical spirit. It was good to have them aboard and we look forward to seeing them again later in the year.

Today we decided to try a different bus line and a trip to a different grocery store. We walked into town and found ourselves in the midst of a cross country bicycle race finish line. I can’t imagine riding a damn bike all the way across the entire country.

So we got up to town just in time to miss the bus we wanted to take. The next one was due to arrive in an hour. We decided to take an alternate bus so we tried to chat the driver up as we boarded in an effort to make sure we would end up where we wanted to. Evidently actually having to interact with the public wasn’t in this guy’s job description. Talk about a nasty little power tripping piece of shit. In our 12 second interaction I started to understand the “other side” of those “deranged man kills bus driver” headlines.

We got where we wanted to go and after shopping we waited over an hour for the next bus back to town. This driver was a woman who was courteous to people’s faces but had nothing but snide remarks to make about the patrons after they exited the bus. Oh yeah, these buses don’t have air conditioning and are hotter than hell. We left the boat at around 11am, dinghied, walked, stood around waiting for buses, shopped for about 45minutes, and reversed the trip and got back to the boat at 3pm. Next time we will walk.

I really don’t understand how something as simple as a bus ride can be such an ordeal. We’ve ridden the bus in Miami, Vero Beach, Charleston, the Florida Keys and Washington, DC. We’ve been on buses in the poorest parts of huge cities. We’ve ridden buses where we’ve been the only English speaking people. We’ve ridden buses where we had a difficult time communicating with the driver because of a language barrier. But until today every bus driver we’ve met has gone out of their way to help us learn the ropes of their bus route. Every other bus line that we’ve ridden has always been a positive experience. Cleanliness, promptness, courteous drivers and a schedule that seems to make sense all have been common, except here in Annapolis. Don’t get me started about the traffic……

Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25, 2009.

I’ve completed my first 3 days on the new job. The first day was interesting to say the least.

I headed out with one of the bosses to knock out a few repairs. The first boat of the day was at first glance, an easy one. The boat was having starting issues and needed their hot water heater replaced. The boss, who I’ll call “Bob” went below to start troubleshooting the engine while I slipped into a cockpit locker to replace the hot water heater.

Unfortunately the holding tank, the completely full holding tank, was in the way. A plan was formulated where I was to put some straps around the tank and winch it to the side about 4 inches enabling me to get at the hot water heater. It worked like a charm and the new hot water heater was soon in place. That is until things all went to hell.

I had the engine water side and the electrical connections completed and was just starting the fresh water side when I noticed a slow drip from one of the bottom fittings of the holding tank. I though “ut oh, that’s not good”. I was only looking at it. I never touched it, I didn’t poke it, fondle it or encourage it but all of a sudden the entire fitting fractured and popped apart. I guess the 25 year old hard plastic fitting didn’t have the elasticity to flex at all when I pulled the tank aside. Shit. Literally, everywhere. A 2 inch gusher of the unimaginable, flooding the locker, going down the limber hole and filling the bilge. Crap. Again, literally.

Of course, the owner was there but fortunately she was pretty cool about the situation. “Bob” finished the engine repair and he and I methodically cleaned the locker and all of the several contaminated bilges. After the bilges were clean the owner continued to flush the nether regions of the boat with fresh water while I finished up the hot water tank and “Bob” took the holding tank down to have a new fitting plastic welded in.

The holding tank was promised for later that day so we headed off for the next job. It turned out to be a straightforward remove and replace job. A 50 foot powerboat needed new trim tab actuators. Simple, quick and not involving fecal matter of any type……perfect.

The third boat of the day was a work in progress. We got there and had enough time to install a new flywheel, damper plate and bell housing. We got the starter in and mounted the transmission and it was time to go. On the way back we picked up the repaired holding tank and stopped in and reinstalled it.

It ended up being a 10 hour day but in spite of the shitty start, things went pretty darn well.

Day 2 was another 10 hour day, the last 3 of which I spent installing a pair of solar panels on a cruising boat. Of all the things I’ve done so far this was definitely my favorite.

The highlight of day 3 was fixing an overheating powerboat and getting to take it out for a test spin. I monitored engine temps at the heat exchanger until we got out to the Severn River where we got to open her up. The thing did 33 knots and left a wake about the size of a dinghy. I even got to drive the thing back to its slip…… Yeah, it was a glimpse into the dark side and I gotta say "I just don't see the allure".
June 23, 2009.

While we were headed to Annapolis our friend Bess (who should be a Headhunter) was already here doing some legwork for us. She works at a local chandlery and had her antenna up for a job opening for me.

She told me of a friend who was the service manager at one of the local marinas. I went down and applied and had a pretty good interview. I left with the promise of a phone call in a day or two. On Wednesday the service manager called with a half dozen more questions. He told me he had to discuss me with the 2 guys he works for. By Friday I was done waiting for the phone to ring so I headed down there in the dink.

As luck would have it, I walked in while both of the bosses were in the office. While we were discussing my possible employment an employee walked in and started to discuss a problem he was having while attempting to paint a boot stripe on a boat. They both threw some possible solutions at him and he assured them that he’d tried them all. They told him they’d be right down as soon as they were finished with me. I interviewed with each of the guys separately and aced both interviews. They told me that they had a few fires to put out and after they talked to each other they would call me in an hour or so.

I walked out psyched. I aced the interviews, the phone call was just a formality…or so I thought. The phone call did not come that day. The next morning I called the service manager who told me that the employee that couldn’t handle the painting has been with them awhile and they’re going to give him the job that I was applying for and then use the opening to hire a professional painter. Shit. Talk about crappy timing.

On Saturday we were boatbound by the weather so job hunting was a no go. This enabled me to stew in the juices of my recent employment failure. On Sunday, nobody in charge is at the local marinas so I spent some time embellishing, er, updating my resume.

Monday morning I got a call from Bess. It seemed that some guy with a marine repair service was in to buy some supplies and she chatted him up. Turned out he was looking for somebody, Bess thought of me because I am somebody. She excused herself from the conversation and called the boat and told me to call him in 20 minutes.

We looked his business up on the internet and emailed him my resume. I waited a half hour and rang him up. He said he’d look at my resume when he got home and give me a call later.

5 o’clock came and went, 6 o’clock as well. Shit, another dead end, or so I thought. At 7 o’clock the phone rang and Christy went below to answer it. The look on her face was a little confused at first as she ascended the companionway steps.

The caller said to her “Is your boat white with blue canvas?”
She warily said “yes”
Then he asked “Did you have to go below to answer the phone?”
Now she’s a little freaked out but answers “yes”

It turned out that he’d just gotten home and was out on his deck, having a beer and was reading my resume when he decided to call. By a stroke of dumb luck, we’re anchored directly behind his house. He invited me up to the house to interview right then and there.

I hopped in the dink and headed right over. I had another good interview and was hired and told I could start the following day. I was having conflicting emotions. I was glad to get a good opportunity but after 3 years of not having to get up first thing in the morning for work I was a little frightened by the prospect of waking at dawn. That was when he told me that they usually start at 0900. He thought I was smiling at the thought of a new job, yeah that’s good, but starting at 0900 is awesome.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 22, 2009.

We’re still here in Annapolis and the weather has finally broken. We were pretty much stuck on the boat for several days. It was either blowing like stink or it was pouring buckets.

On Sunday we finally got off the boat to do a little walking around. We also decided that we better get out and do a little food shopping while we had the chance. We definitely needed some fresh veggies before the onset of scurvy. There’s no grocery store in downtown Annapolis so the trip to the store involved a bus ride.

Instead of walking to the nearest bus stop we did a little walkabout in an effort to loosen up the old legs. It was fortunate that we did because we walked right into an Irish Festival. It was a couple of blocks long and had food, shopping and loads of entertainment. There were Irish step dancers, a kilt wearing Irish rock band and of course the obligatory fife and drum corp, oh, and beer.

The Irish were out in numbers and I even saw my first Irish Wolf Hounds. I had never seen one before and was pretty surprised at just how freaking big they were. Back in the day, before the Irish invented binge drinking, they were a pretty violent people. They often used these huge dogs in battle. Now I understand the whole "kilt thing". You see those bigass dogs headed your way you could probably run a hell of a lot faster unencumbered by pants.

After walking through the festival we were on the bus and off to the grocery store. I’ll spare you the details of the food shopping but it was pretty standard. Lotta isles, lotta stuff, as always, that stuff turns out to be pretty darn heavy, lotta lugging, bus ride, dinghy ride and back to the boat to put it all away.

While putting the groceries away we saw something completely new to us. Mexicans fishing in the wild. Actually, they were crabbing. It’s just that the technique was something that we had never seen before. They would wade out into the water and press a stick firmly into the bottom. They’d tie a string to the top of the stick and a piece of chicken to the other end and throw it into the water.

Then they would walk a short distance away to watch and wait. When a crab would come along and grab the chicken they would try to walk away with it. The string would go taught and the crabbermen would be happy.
They would take their dip net and sneak up to the stick and try to slowly draw the crab in until they could thrust the net upon them. This technique was new to us and very exciting. I watched them crabbing for an hour and then I realized that this new technique was also pretty stupid. They didn’t catch shit. When a crab is in the water, he’s in his element, what are the chances of actually sneaking up on a crab. Every time they’d pull that crab close they would thrust the net into the water and only come up with a piece of chicken tied to a string.

Of course the next day 2 women showed up and tried the very same technique. They also didn’t catch shit. Although, I think they just wanted to spend the day in thigh deep, murky river water chatting about whatever mindless crap, unsuccessful crabberwomen talk about.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June 16, 2009.

After an oil change we decided to get out of Solomon’s and head for Annapolis. The forecast was for 5 to 10 knots out of the southeast, so of course, we got pretty much the opposite. So we sailed close hauled into 5 to 10 knots out of the northwest. By noon the wind died and we had to crank up the engine.

As the day went on the wind did finally swing around and start to come out of the southeast. The wind was light enough that I was getting pretty jealous of the boats that were flying spinnakers. Unfortunately, the wind was so light that they weren’t really going anywhere either. By 1500 hours the breeze did start to fill a bit and we shut down the engine and slowly sailed north.

We did see a bit of big
boat traffic on the bay but we didn’t really have to avoid anyone. Later in the day we had a pretty violent storm blow across our bow. So we got the benefit of some 15 knot breeze that we were able to put to good use for the last 10 miles of the day.

We arrived in Annapolis at 1730 and decided to take a mooring ball for the night. The area where we usually anchor along the naval academy was just too rough. The next morning we slipped the mooring and headed up Spa Creek.

There’s a small lift bridge at the mouth of the creek. Once through the bridge we were disappointed to find that Spa Creek was literally paved with mooring balls. We took our time heading up the creek and considered dropping the hook here and there. It’s just so tight here in the creek that it seemed that no matter where we dropped the hook we would at some point be encroaching on the channel or sitting too close to someone's dock.

Finally after about 3/4’s of a mile we found a little room just past the last mooring in the creek. We’re next to some kind of state park so we snuggled up close to that bank of the creek since there were no docks sticking out into the river.

Last night we met some friends in town for a couple of hours of catching up before heading home for dinner. On the way home we received a call from the Alibi II's who were on a friends boat, anchored near ours. So we swung home and dressed a little warmer and headed over to Krasna to see Bill & Bess and meet Krasna's owner Lee. It turned out that we had briefly met Lee down in Elizabeth City. We happened to be walking by when he arrived and we caught his bow lines as he pulled into the slip. Small world, had a great time, laughed for hours, went home way too late.

The weather is kinda crappy so we’re probably going to be spending a good bit of time sitting here on the boat.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June 13, 2009.

The other day I wrote what I thought was a fair, impartial, fact based account about the ineptitude of another mariner. Even though every word was true Christy decided that by naming names I had gone a bit too far. I thought by naming names I was actually performing a public service. I mean let’s say you had a serial killer living on your block, would you prefer to know exactly who it was or would the fact that you know there’s a maniac in the neighborhood be enough? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

As luck would have it, today we crossed wakes with the aforementioned unnamed mariners. We were on our way into the dinghy dock when I mentioned to Christy that the dink approaching from our left hadn’t notice us yet. They were at least 200 feet away and I was sure they’d turn around and see us any moment.

There are established rules of the road for boaters and in this situation we were what is referred to as the “stand on vessel”. That means we’re supposed to maintain course and speed so that there’s no confusion resulting in both boats altering course and making matters worse. Simply stated, in this situation, they’re supposed to avoid us. There is another rule that over rules all the other rules and that is that every boat, regardless of right of way will do everything possible to avoid a collision. Thank God there are no rules pertaining to how many times you can actually use the word rule in a sentence. Anyway…..

They obviously didn’t see us; it was no big deal, so we came to a stop to let them pass across our bow. It was pretty amusing when they were about 3 feet from us and they finally turned to face where they were going and we were sitting practically right next to them. They weren’t surprised or startled. It just seemed to be something that happens all the time. They just kinda waved and said “Hi” as they motored by. We said “Hi” back and as they passed, I looked down and there on the side of their dink was their big boats name. They were the same people from the other day that were so intent on watching their chartplotter in the Alligator River that they kept running aground. Christy and I kind of exchanged looks, shook our heads and went on our way.

So let’s talk about other hazards on the water…………………………

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to spicy food I’m a wimp. I’m the guy that they make mild salsa for. Christy has a hard time taking that seriously so as a result we have a lot of medium salsa onboard as she attempts to change my preferences.

The other night when she served dinner I started to eat and had to stop and ask “Are you mad at me?”. She said “Why, what’s wrong?” I thought I was gonna die. She had made a Spanish dish for the evening’s meal. It consisted of Chorizo, rice, diced tomatoes and black beans and various spices. I know it sounds pretty good but evidently Chorizo is the Spanish word for magma.

Christy had been food shopping with Nancy from Solitaire and was unfamiliar with Chorizo. Nancy said it was “really good”. So if I actually had died, Nancy would be sitting there in court as a codefendant.

It was so hot that I couldn’t even pick around the small chunks of sausage. Its juices had permeated the entire dish. Christy was laughing at me so hard she couldn’t breathe and had tears in her eyes. That was until she realized just how hot her meal was. Now all of a sudden it was more like “Yeah, this is pretty hot”. She likes her food as spicy as she can get it, and this was even too much for her palate.

So we both picked the chunks of Chorizo out and threw them overboard. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a fish kill. Anyway….the swelling has finally gone down in my lips so we’ll be getting underway tomorrow for Annapolis.

Friday, June 12, 2009

June 12, 2009.

Well, we’re sitting here in Solomon’s and it’s hot as hell. The first 2 nights here were stormy and all day yesterday it was close up, then open up, as one storm cell after another roared through. The weather is better now, the rain is gone but the heat is fairly oppressive.

We started the day with Christy giving me a haircut. I noticed that the “yield” from my haircut is not what it once was. I used to be able to put the dogs to shame. Now when we’re both clipped my hair pile's a bit smaller even though the hairs are the same color and length. Damn. At least I can still pile the hair. When I can count them I'm gonna be pretty despondent.

The youngest girl child came down from DC to visit us today. It was great to see her and since she was driving what better place for a reunion than WalMart. That’s right, we haven’t seen her in ages and we made her take us food shopping. So we loaded up on the extras in anticipation of our departure for parts north, namely Annapolis.

So that’s about it for now. Hot, sweat, fans, balding, groceries and the youngest girl child.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 10, 2009.

After our brief but ferocious storm cell went through last night the evening settled right down. In fact, when we woke this morning the water was as flat as we had ever seen it.

We took our time getting underway as the tide wouldn’t be flooding into the Chesapeake until after 1000. So at 0930 we hauled anchor and motored out on absolutely glassy water.

Once we turned north we did get just enough wind to barely fill the genoa. This increased our boat speed by 2 tenths of a knot. The sad part is that I was actually pleased by that.

As the day wore on the wind did build enough that before long we were dealing with seas in the 2 inch range. It was as dull a day as I can remember. It’s nice to get a dull one every now and then.

We did get to watch as the navy had gunnery practice on a huge grounded ship shown on charts as “The Target”. It looks like some cruiser left over from World War 2. It’s now just a sinister blackened hulk sitting firmly aground. We listened as a navy range patrol boat warned boaters to stay a minimum of 2 ½ miles from the target ship. We were about 4 miles away and watched as helicopters made runs at the ship delivering bursts of heavy machine gun fire.

Since they were blowing crap up on that side of the
bay I figured it would be safe to take a shortcut through the aerial target range. We usually can’t get close enough to touch the targets and it saved us half a mile by cutting through.

We arrived in Solomon’s to a very crowded anchorage. The only spot open for us was the exact spot we usually choose to drop the hook so it was like we had a reservation. Its dead calm now but we do have another series of storm cells off to our west headed in this direction.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

June 9, 2009.

The days really are longer at this time of year. What a huge difference that can make if you were trying to cover a lot of distance during a single day.

I woke at 0530 and it was actually daylight out. We only had a fifty mile day on tap so I didn’t want Christy to think I’d gone insane so I didn’t wake her until 0630. We raised the hook followed by both sails and we were underway before 0700.

The wind was either light or non existent. We did have a few hours of sailing but some of it was at 3 knots. The day was sprinkled with storm cells passing through. Fortunately the tide was with us for the majority of the day.

We decided to stop for the night in Indian Creek, Va. As we made our approach we found a huge storm cell blocking our path. At the same time the Coast Guard is on the radio warning boaters to take shelter as there are several vicious storms in the area. Yeah, no kidding. Fortunately the cell was moving to the southeast as we made our approach from the east. We got to watch a pretty good display of lightning without having the danger of actually being under it.

There is no wind in the forecast for the evening. However there are small craft warnings about storm cells moving through the area this evening. So instead of our usual 2 mile trip up Indian Creek we opted to stop at the first part of the river wide enough to accommodate us without leaving us encroaching on the channel.

This choice left us fairly exposed but allowed us to put out more scope than the narrow confines would have if we ventured further up the creek. So of course an hour before nightfall things went to hell in a hand basket.

We had finished dinner and were sitting in the cockpit reading when I looked up and remarked “looks like we’ve got weather coming”. Christy looked up and nodded in agreement. Not 2 minutes later I glanced up and couldn’t believe how ominous the sky had become, especially so quickly. The difference was amazing. I walked to the bow and dropped another 20 feet of chain into the water and lengthened the snubber by another 10 feet. I was sure we would be fine but better safe than sorry, besides, what’s the use of carrying all that chain around if you’re not going to get it wet every now and again.

By the time I walked back to the cockpit the wind was gusting to 45 knots. The wind was between 20 and 30 knots for about 20 minutes. We did have several gusts into the 40’s followed shortly by voluminous rains.

Tomorrow we can leave a little later and hopefully ride the tide right to Solomon’s island, Md. Where we’ll probably stay for a while.
June 8, 2009.

So when I left you last, we were hiding from weather in East Lake at the top of the Alligator River. We woke to 20 couple knots of wind and decided to sit tight since the first part of our day would include crossing the Albemarle Sound.

From our anchorage we could see the ICW 3 miles away. We watched and listened as 2 trawlers headed north towards the Albemarle Sound. The first trawler had no problems and negotiated the confusing north end of the Alligator River. The second trawler was run by a woman who belongs somewhere between dipshit and dunderhead in the dictionary.

They ran hard aground and called out to the first boat to inquire as to how he had made it through the 4 feet of water. He responded by saying they never saw less than 12 feet of water. She said that she was right on the “magenta line” in 10 feet of water and stuck as hell. Finally, they managed to wriggle off the bottom, back away and give it another go. Boom, aground again. After 10 minutes they were able to back off and give it another go, with the same results. She kept announcing that they’re right on the “magenta line” in 10 feet of water so therefore there must be a problem with either the chartplotter or the GPS satellite system.

Finally she spied a southbound boat so she waited and watched as he successfully negotiated the entrance to the river. While she was watching she actually said over the radio “oh, no wonder we were having problems, he’s way over there between the marks”. These stupid people were evidently following the magenta line on their chartplotter and totally disregarding the aids to navigation along the waterway.

We listened for hours as this woman complained about the inaccuracy of her equipment while real problem was that they were to busy watching their chartplotter and not looking outside the cockpit at the marks right in front of them.

The chartplotter is usually a startlingly good guide as to where the channel actually lies. What this woman couldn’t seem to comprehend was that the information loaded into her plotter is based on charts that are decades old. Weather and currents move the channels from time to time. The Coast Guard does a darn good job of moving the aids to navigation to indicate where the channel really is. Even though the channel marks were “way over there” she decided to follow the chartplotter instead of the marks that were plainly evident. Then she compounded her mistake by bitching about it for hours and never did seem to grasp the concept that the chartplotter was only a guide not a guarantee, even though a few people tried to explain it to her on the VHF. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you ever see the “Edited....Christy says I should be more respectful of people's shortcomings” headed your way, get the hell out of the way because she’s to busy staring at her chartplotter to notice anything happening outside the cockpit.

So after the morning’s entertainment the wind abated a bit so we got underway around 1230. The winds were down to 10 to 15 knots, the Albemarle was surprisingly calm and we were able to sail all the way to Elizabeth City, arriving at 1800 hours. There was a 2 day regatta underway so we decided to stay an extra day so we could catch the second day.

In the morning I took our jerry jugs and headed over to the nearby marina to grab some diesel fuel. The joke was on me because they haven’t sold fuel here in town since 2001. While talking to someone I found that the regatta was actually hydrofoil racing. We said the hell with that and got underway for the Dismal Swamp.

There is only one other possible place to get fuel and that was at Lamb’s Marina just 3 miles up the waterway. The problem with that was that there is only 4 feet of water in the marina so we couldn’t get in with the big boat. So we pulled off the ICW, dropped the hook and then took the dink and proceeded to jug 30 gallons of fuel out to the big boat.

After loading the fuel we were back underway for the southern lock at the Dismal Swamp. We purposely made the last locking of the day and allowed ourselves to be stuck in the swamp overnight.

Our plan was to grab a spot on the wall at the North Carolina state line visitors’ center. The visitors’ center is actually on state road #1 but is also the only visitors’ center in the country that can be reached by either car or boat.

The joke was on us again when we arrived and found the face dock crammed with other boats with the same plan. It all worked out good though as several of the boats, us included, rafted alongside some of the boats tied to the wall.

We left the visitors center the next morning to complete the transit of the Swamp. We were out of the lock at the north end at 1130 and headed for Norfolk. Norfolk would be the perfect place to see if your AIS was working as there are too many contacts there to even count.

We ended up dropping the hook in Mill Creek and spent the evening with Joe and Paula, friends from Oriental. They were taking a cruise of their own and were headed south to Oriental so it worked out perfect for us to meet up with them for a fun evening of drinks and dinner.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 5, 2009.

During the night we were hit by some heavy rain. However we awoke to a fairly decent day that even had some patches of blue showing. The day had really been forecast to be pretty shitty so we got underway with the intention of at least putting the Pungo Canal behind us.

The predicted winds of 15 to 25 were a no-show so we had to motor the entire 20 miles to get through the Pungo. As soon as we cleared the narrow confines of the canal the wind began to make an appearance.

As we turned east we found ourselves beam reaching in 20 knots of wind. Fortunately before we pulled the hook I had put a double reef in the mainsail. As we turned north up the Alligator River the winds continued to build. We once again found ourselves dealing with a myriad of differing wind directions. The only constant for the day was that the winds were continuing to build.

With the wind coming over the stern climbing past 25 knots we had to tie a preventer no matter where the mainsail was. An accidental gybe with this much wind was sure to be a gear breaker. The seas were starting to build and we were developing a high speed roll of sorts. The only viable option for us was to reduce the size of the genoa even further in an effort to slow us down a bit.

The only bridge on the Alligator River will not open if the wind exceeds 35 knots. By the time we reached the bridge we had doused the genoa altogether and were still doing 6.5 knots with a double reef in the main. Fortunately we made it through the bridge before the winds forced the closing of the bridge.

Once clear of the bridge Christy decided that we didn’t want to challenge the Albemarle Sound in the present conditions. That pretty much left us with 2 options of where to drop the hook for the evening. On the western shore, right at the mouth of the Alligator River there’s a possible anchorage of sorts. The wind is cranking, the seas have built, the entrance looks sketchy on the chart and we’ve never been in there. So we looked to the eastern shore of the river and decided to duck into an area called East Lake. It’s fairly crappy as far as anchorages go but we’ve been there before and in these conditions that was a huge factor.

On the chart East Lake looks like a great choice. The thing that’s not immediately obvious is the fact that East Lake is freaking huge. It’s deep in the center but shallows up before you can really tuck up against any of the shoreline. So no matter which way you’re facing there is a butt load of fetch. Another thing that doesn’t show up is the fact that the entire place is covered with crab pots. I’m talking thousands of crab pots. Throw in half submerged crab pot floats, 30 knot winds, rain and spray and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands. Oh yeah, for the last 2 ½ miles we were beam to the seas trying to dodge all these damn pots on the way in. Oh it sucked.

But we made it into the anchorage unscathed and found a gap in the crab pots large enough for us to drop the hook. The wind finally topped out at 37 knots. There’s been some spectacular lightning and some heavy rain on all sides of us but nothing directly over us as of yet.
June 4, 2009.

Today we kinda took our time getting going. We backed away from the town dock and spun the boat around smartly at 0730 and headed out. The weather for the day was light prevailing southerlies building to 15 knots late in the day. The afternoon forecast also called for some heavy thunderstorm action as well.

We were headed northeast on the Neuse River with 8 knots or so of breeze coming over the stern. We were sailing wing and wing for about 3 hours while making an SOG of 3 to 4 knots. We were passed by a half dozen sailboats under power. It was a perfect day for the crew to practice their synchronized sleeping.

I’m still absolutely flabbergasted when sailboats motor from here to there. I mean, I realize that there wasn’t very much breeze but WTF? They weren’t tearing it up either. We were bumping heads with a counter current and while we were flirting with 4 knots they were only making about 5 knots. It took each one of them about forever to catch and pass us.

Anyway, by the time we got to the Bay River we turned 40 degrees to port and went on port tack. The wind built a bit and we were soon doing about 6.5 knots. We were also starting to reel in the guys who motored away from us, but only for a few minutes.

Once into Goose Creek the wind pretty much died and we had to start the engine for the hour and a half trip through the creek. As we reached the Pamlico River we ran into our first thunderstorm of the day.

The Pamlico River runs east and west and the ICW crosses it from north to south. The Pamlico River and the Albemarle Sound both have fearsome reputations. They’re both fairly shallow and have some current which can very quickly combine with some wind to build very ugly seas, very quickly. Or so I’ve heard. We’ve always had perfect conditions when crossing either of these bodies of water, until today.

As we approached the Pamlico there was a thunderhead off to the northwest. The rain was well north of us but the wind quickly built and came out of the northeast. We shut the engine down and were close hauled, easily doing over 7 knots.

I was really surprised just how quickly the seas built. It was only about a 3 foot chop but they were right on top of each other. It was bang…spray, bang…spray over and over again. I could see how the Pamlico earned its reputation. Somebody in a smaller boat like a fishing skiff would have been in a world of trouble, real quick.

The storm’s wind was just what the doctor ordered. We reeled in boat after boat as we made our way across the Pamlico and up the Pungo River.

All of the other boats we saw underway today stopped in Belhaven as the Coast Guard had been announcing small craft warnings for tonight and tomorrow. Belhaven has a decent anchorage and a nice marina. Since the wind was up we decided to keep going. We sailed right into the anchorage at the south end of the Pungo Canal and dropped the hook in 15 feet of water. There’s room for several dozen boats here but we shared the anchorage with only one other vessel so we expected an uneventful night.

So, all in all, today was an excellent day for sailing. It was a little slow for the first few hours but as the thunderheads passed through they brought some very challenging winds. I think we sailed every point of sail at least a half dozen times today as the winds constantly changed due to the passing storms.

There’s supposed to be 15 to 25 knots from the south tomorrow with torrential rain. With wind like that we could probably make the trip all the way to Elizabeth City under sail. We’ll wait until morning though to see just how badly it’s raining before we do anything. Maybe we’ll just knock out the Pungo Canal and call it a day, I dunno, we’ll see.
June 3, 2009.

We’ve spent 3 nights tied to our favorite dock, at Ken & Carol’s house. We completed a couple a nagging little chores that needed doing. First and foremost was that the batteries needed to be equalized. Each morning our voltage had been lower and lower so it was a must do. That involved shutting down every 12 volt system on the boat, then basically whacking the batteries with a controlled overcharge for a period of 8 hours. We decided to do it here so we could take advantage of the Small’s garage fridge.

So, while we were emptying the fridge and freezer we decided to defrost them both. That decision snowballed into adding a layer of insulation inside the top of the refrigerator. Ken had a piece of painted aluminum that he donated to the project. I cut and bent it to fit inside the “roof” of the fridge. Once screwed into place I pumped a can of spray foam into holes that I had drilled in the aluminum. So what we ended up with was a false ceiling in the fridge that now hides a new 2 inch layer of foam insulation. The dairy products were absolutely giddy and the vegetables were psyched.

Then I decided to finally exorcise the demon that lives in our bilge in the form of the bilge pump float switch. I rewired this same switch only a month ago and the little bastard was still giving me trouble. I found that as the water gradually rose in the bilge the switch would slowly begin to float and….nothing. If I moved the switch abruptly it would turn on the pump, but if it moved slowly it didn’t do its job. It pisses me off when something can’t do its simple little job. I mean it’s not like I’m asking a lot of it. For Christ’s sake it’s up…on and then down…off.

So the solution was simple…I ripped it out and smashed it into tiny little pieces. The switch still didn’t work but I felt a whole lot better about it. I’ve got 2 spare switches on board. 1 is the same type that I just annihilated while the other was a sensor type switch. It has no moving parts but has 2 external probes that complete a circuit when water reaches the probes thus engaging the pump. I built a slick little mounting bracket so I could dangle it down into our lower bilge.

Installing it in the lower bilge is no easy feat. Everything has to be done by feel with 1 arm at full extension. It took a while and after finally getting the bracket screwed into place I flipped on the breaker and almost broke down in tears. When I flipped the breaker the pump immediately came on but the problem was that there wasn’t any water in the bilge. F*%k me.

So I removed my bracket and brought the new switch up where I could see it. Here I am, thinking that I’ve been carrying this defective switch around for close to a year. I was despondent at the thought of having to put the other float type switch back in.

These switches only have 2 wires coming from them. With the float type there’s no polarity to the wiring. Evidently with this magical, no moving parts, mystical sensor type switch, it does make a difference. I decided to reverse the wires and test it BEFORE I reinstalled it and eureka…it worked. So I once again, I stuck my arm down into the nether regions of the boat and reinstalled the new switch and its custom bracket.

When we arrived here in Whittaker Creek the dockside water was just deep enough to tie up. Since then it had gone out a bit and we’ve been sitting in the mud. As today passed the water came up a bit so we decided to get out of the creek while we could.

I cast off the bow and spring lines and Christy backed the boat down on the stern line. By backing against the still secured stern line the bow swung to port and the promise of deeper water. It worked like a charm and when the time was right I slipped the stern line and prepared to fend off as we plowed towards the deeper water of the channel. It ended up being an easy deal getting out of the shallows and off the dock.

We headed over to the town’s boat basin in the heart of Oriental. The town maintains 2 free slips for transient boaters. They’ve always had boats in them when we’ve been here before, but today one was empty.

So we sit here in the center of town, in a free slip complete with wifi. We’ll be leaving tomorrow headed in the general direction of the Chesapeake. It should take us about 4 days, but we’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

May 30, 2009.

Last nights forecast of violent thunderstorms turned out to be spot on. We had a good bit of rain, some gusting winds and of course thunder and lightning. The unusual thing was that Christy slept through it all. She’s usually a very light sleeper so we were both pretty surprised that she slept so soundly.

We were up and underway at 0700 for the 46 mile day to Mile Hammock Bay. The issue with the day, besides the adverse tidal flow and lack of water was to be the bridges we had to transit. There are 3 in a 15 miles span and they all have a strict opening schedule.

The chartplotter incorporates some software that calculates your estimated time of arrival at each bridge if you maintain a certain speed. So I can see that if I maintain my present speed that I will arrive at the next bridge 17 minutes early. So I usually chop the throttle a bit and take my time arriving so we don’t have to sit and try to hold position in front of the bridge forever while every small powerboat for a hundred miles comes blasting by.

Even so, sometimes it just doesn’t help. We ended up spending a total of an hour and a half dilly dallying while waiting for bridges to open today. It’s frustrating but it is what it is.

The ICW can be exceptionally boring but every once in a while you see something that just leaves you wondering. Today we saw a house for sale with a 20 foot tall giraffe in the backyard. Selling point? I dunno.

Then of course there was the house that’s practically its own private island. It sits at the end of a long narrow peninsula and is exceptionally “pink”. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen this color of hot pink on a house before, not even in the Bahamas.

Our arrival in Oriental felt like the end of a long road. We turned into Whittaker Creek and crept along with the usual 6 inches of water under us. At the end of the creek we have to turn around and come starboard side to our friends, the Small’s backyard dock.

As usual we ran aground a few feet from the dock. There’s no tide per se up here in the creek. The water is influenced by the prevailing winds. When the wind is from the southwest the water is blown out of the Neuse River and the water in Whitaker Creek goes with it. Luckily there were some docklines attached to the piling that Christy could reach with her boat pole. We got lines attached fore and aft and warped the boat alongside the dock.

It’s good to be here as we’ve got a few chores to do.
May 29, 2009.

After a one night stay in Georgetown we were again underway. We have family and friends in G-town but we didn’t even drop the dinghy into the water. We need to get north so we’re concentrating on moving. Screw fun.

All of our friends have either gotten north already or their not leaving Florida so we had to make new friends. Actually they’re not new friends but our oldest cruising friends. Anybody recognize that ass? That’s right John & Marcia on Non Linear.

John & Marcia have been cruising for more than 10 years now. They’ve just returned from Trinidad and were sitting in Georgetown when we pulled in. On our very first trip south they took us under their wing and mentored us from North Carolina all the way to Marathon, Fl. We were cruising through the anchorage seeking a spot to drop the hook and recognized John walking down the dinghy dock as we went past. I yell out “Hey, we’re heading north, do you think we could follow you?” Startled, he looked up and said “Suuurreeee!”

They’re still doing the “mentoring thing”. They were leading 3 other boats up the ICW to New Bern, NC so what’s one more. The next morning we were underway together. It was great to catch up with them while we were anchored for the night in a little creek in Enterprise Landing. The next night we spent the night in the Calabash River with Non Linear and their group of “ducklings”. When we first arrived in the anchorage Christy hauled me up the mast to make a permanent repair on our lazy jacks.

This morning we all left together and headed north. They were stopping in Southport but Christy and I had loftier goals. We put the hammer down and some sail up and soon left them behind. There wasn’t much breeze but the sails did give us another half knot at times.

We hit the Shallotte Inlet on a rising tide and then the cut known as Lockwoods Folly just before high tide. These were 2 areas I had been concerned about and we made it through with no complications. We just made it to the Cape Fear River before the tide was due to ebb and were able to ride the last of the flood tide all the way to our intended anchorage in Carolina Beach.

We’re safely anchored with the forecast calling for violent thunderstorms for the evening. We should be underway for Mile Hammock Bay in the morning. Hopefully that will put us within striking distance of Oriental the next day.

A little bizarre graffiti....