Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 30, 2010.

Flexibility is one of the lesser known virtues, but it’s a must have if you’re traveling by sailboat.

The weather started off just as it was supposed to. We were afloat and underway from Whittaker Creek at 0900. As soon as we cleared the creek the engine was off and we rolled out half of the genoa. I didn’t put up the mainsail as we had to stop in a few miles to pick up some diesel, so I was being lazy.

After crossing the Neuse River we found ourselves running downwind so we decided to sail the creek. It’s wide enough and covers a meandering course through the woods. The wind was strong enough even in the forest that we were able sail. Besides, it was good practice as we haven’t had to do any gybing in ages.

We stopped at Seagate Marina for fuel and once safely tied to the dock a fella stepped forward and said “I read your blog”. We chatted for a bit and because I’m a social Neanderthal I never even got his name. Anyway, it’s cool to meet people that read my crap.

After fueling we motored down to Beaufort and raised sail and dilly dallied waiting for the rest of our floating compadres to arrive. I heard them coming under the bridge so we headed out the inlet to take a look-see at the conditions. As we set sails for our southwesterly course we had 15 to 20 knots apparent coming over our right shoulder. The seas were 1 footers, so we were off. We called back to the others in our party but they surprisingly decided that the weather forecast was a bit too iffy so they were headed to the bight at Point Lookout.

With that whole hindsight thing….all I can say is “boy, did they miss an opportunity”. We ended up with anywhere from 15 to 25 knots out of the northwest for close to 12 hours. We covered the first 80 miles of our proposed 210 in no time flat in fairly benign seas. The wind started to come around straight on the stern and dropped off a bit. We ended up doing between 4 and 5 knots all through the night before the wind abandoned us altogether. By 0900 we had to start the engine. Running a following swell and averaging a little better than 7 knots would put us into Charleston just after midnight of our second night. Charleston is a big, easy inlet but we decided that we were tired enough to divert to Winyah Bay. Diverting to Winyah Bay would allow us to drop the hook for the night right at nightfall. So that’s what we did.

We slept like babies and in the morning we rose to a beautiful day of motoring down the ICW to Charleston. We’ll sit here til Wednesday morning so we can see some of our people before heading down to spend a few days in Beaufort, SC.

I do have to share one bizarre thing that we experienced during our night at sea. We were sailing along with the egg timer in command just before midnight. The moon wasn’t up yet and it was fairly dark. Christy was seated up under the dodger facing aft while I was prone on the bench with my head at the aft end of the cockpit. I was looking up past the bimini at the stars when it happened.

Picture an envelope. Instead of just the top flap opening, all 4 flaps opened at once and what I can only describe as “a milky, off white flash of light” flared out from the “envelope”. It wasn’t stark, like a flashbulb, it was more subdued. I didn’t even have time to contemplate what it was that I had just seen, when Christy exclaimed “what the hell was that? That wasn’t lightening was it?” She described what she saw as a “cone of light” focused directly down on the Veranda. She actually saw a focused circle of light around our small boat. I don’t hear voices in the rigging and the dolphins never speak to me unless we’ve been at sea for 2 or more days. Couple that with the fact that Christy saw something to corroborate my delusion leads me to believe we actually saw “something”. With no point of reference I had no idea how high above us this thing was. I never heard a sound and we were moving along smartly through a fairly quite night. Borders & Customs newest stealth spy system, the US military, Google Earth, a UFO or my ex-wife with a flashlight tied to her broom, I dunno….we were observed and it was cool.

Friday, October 29, 2010

October 28, 2010.

We’ve been sitting in Oriental for a solid week, doing chores, socializing and waiting for a weather window. A window seems to have opened just a smidgen.

Theres a front predicted to come through early on Friday morning. Right now the wind is hard from the southwest and as a result the water has all blown out of Whittaker Creek and we’re sitting firmly on the bottom. As the front passes through the wind will shift and blow at close to 30 knots out of the north. This should refloat us and enable us to get underway.

We’re about 4 hours from the ocean so we’d like to get moving as soon as we’re once again floating. The rub is that the window is a short one. 24 hours of wind from the north followed by a few hours of no wind before it clocks around and comes from the southwest once again.

Charleston is about 210 miles away so we have to haul ass to get there before the wind comes around on the nose. The thing that’s bothering us is that we need to get going as soon as the front comes through but the wind is forecast to be up near 30 knots. The thing with predictions is that it could be 10 knots higher or 10 knots lower.

2 years ago making this same jump we absorbed a serious ass kicking and don’t want to risk a repeat performance. We found ourselves surfing huge seas at between 8 and 13 knots with an apparent wind reading of 35 knots. Combine the apparent wind speed and our boat speed and we were found ourselves in winds in the low forties. Which, if you’ve never experienced it for yourselves, SUCKED bigtime, especially in the dark for hours on end.

So of course we’d like to wait for the wind to drop a bit before heading out but then the window is sure to close on us. It’s a dilemma; we’ll play it by ear and see what happens.

As it stands now we’ll head out as soon as we’re floating. We’ll stop for fuel on Adams Creek and head out the inlet. If its doable we’ll head for Frying Pan Shoals and on to Charleston. If its too snotty we’ll head to Point Lookout to hide in Lookout Bight until the wind drops to a manageable level.

We’ll be accompanied by Fine Lion, Sapphire and Savage Son. Theres another dozen cruising boats here in town and I wouldn’t be surprised to see we have some more company as we try to take advantage of this window.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 23, 2010.

We wanted to head out across Albemarle Sound at first light but when I raised the mainsail, I looked up and realized that we had a broken batten. I dropped the sail and gingerly climbed up onto the new bimini. I designed it so that I would be able to stand on it but really had no idea if I could. Actually being able to reach and touch the sail made it easier to remove the pieces of the broken batten. Oh well, something else to fix once we get to Oriental.

The wind was ridiculously light forcing us to motorsail the majority of the day. We passed through the Alligator River with nary a breeze and then it was down the Pungo Canal where sailing opportunities are
always very rare but the opportunity to dodge disaster is always around the corner. We stopped for the night at the southern end of the canal.

Day break found us within striking distance of Oriental, about 55 miles away. The wind was from the southwest which wasn’t the best direction but at least there was some wind. We got to sail about 40% of the day which, while not great, did beat the hell outta yesterday. While the wind was light we did get the opportunity to chat with the Savages while sailing 9 feet off their stern. When the wind finally did pick up it was right on the nose forcing us to motor the last couple of miles into Oriental. As you can see, even though the water here is 20 feet deep and several miles wide, the powerboats can't seem to find any other route than right up your ass.

Once we arrived in Oriental we threaded our way into Whittaker Creek and were soon tied up behind Ken & Carol’s house once again. While it’s great to see Ken & Carol; the Savage Sons, Fine Lion and Sapphire are all in town as well. So there will be a bunch of socializing but we’ve also got chores to do.

On our first full day here we removed all the battens and found that one of the remaining three battens was splintered so Christy went down to the local sail loft and ordered us 4 new ones. We also had 13 other chores scheduled for the day and I was quite pleased to be able to knock out 11 of them. Of course more things have cropped up since we’ve arrived so we’ll be pretty busy while we’re here waiting for a weather window to jump out at Beaufort and head south to Charleston.

Don’t worry about us working too much though; Tennessee Tom was cookin’ up some pig for a local fund raiser so we found time to grab a fork and eat some pork…..

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 19, 2010.

Started the day by going through the bridge at Great Bridge which predictably is called the Great Bridge bridge. After that it was motor, motor, motor. Virginia. Motor, motor, motor. Lunch. We passed a tugboat pushing a barge headed north in a fairly skinny section of the Intracoastal Waterway without incident. Ten minutes later we heard him call out “To the 2 southbound power vessels just north of the Pungo Ferry bridge, The first boat MIGHT make it but the second one won’t”. The power boaters had to wait while the tug proceeded through the narrow opening of the bridge before they could resume barreling south at break neck speed. Then it was more motor, motor, motor. North Carolina.

50 miles later we found ourselves anchored off to the side of the ICW just north of the Albermarle Sound.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October 18, 2010.

With the first leg of our trip being less than 50 feet we were ready for a bit of a longer jump for our second day out. So at 0900 we motored slowly out of Back Creek and bade Annapolis adieu.

As soon as we were clear of the creek the sails were set and we started what would be a very pleasant trip down the bay. Late in the afternoon we still had decent wind so we decided to keep going rather than stopping for the night.

The wind was closer to the nose than I would have liked, but it was just great to be back underway. We encountered a few large ships and several tugboats during the night. Things went well for us but we did hear one captain having a fairly difficult passage. He was bringing the cruise ship, Carnival Mercury up the Chesapeake when he encountered several southbound sailboats in the dark.

First there was the captain of the “Schooner Libertate” who informed the huge passenger ship that he was under sail and therefore the “stand on vessel”. The captain of the Carnival Cruise ship informed the Libertate that he was right in the middle of the deep water “shipping” channel and that he would NOT be maneuvering around his small sailing ship. Almost immediately after that encounter, he very tersely hailed a small sailboat and very politely but between clenched teeth told them NOT to try and cross his bow. When the sailboat called back to declare their intentions it became apparent that they barely spoke English. The cruise ship captain was very polite but you could practically hear him squeezing the mic as he told them EXACTLY what he wanted them to do. I dunno, we had an easy night.

The wind got lighter as the night dragged on and we spent a few hours in the 4 knot speed range. The wind finally died when we were 6 miles from Norfolk. So at 0800 we started the engine and motored in.

There are a few bridges in Norfolk that can really suck the fun out of a good day so we decided to knock those off today before we stopped for the day. The first 2 bridges we came to are train bridges that are normally open unless a train is nearby. Luck was with us and they were both open for us, then we came to the Gilmerton lift bridge. We came around a bend in the river and the bridge was just opening. There were several boats lined up waiting to go through. We hailed the bridge tender and asked if she would hold the opening for us. She said to slow down and she’d drop the bridge, clear traffic and go right back up for us, awesome. And then reality kicked in. As soon as she put the bridge down the adjacent train bridge also went down as there was a train coming. Shit. That crap turned into an hour as we waited for 2 trains to cross the bridge.

The next bridge is only 2 ½ miles away and only opens on the hour. Of course, we got through the damn train bridge at 10 minutes to 1300. We can cover 2 miles in about 20 minutes so we couldn’t make the next opening so we dragged our feet and spent the next 70 minutes basically waiting for this last bridge. After that it was a short hop to the lock at Great Bridge.

We locked through quickly and found a spot on the free town dock between the Great Bridge lock and the Great Bridge bridge. We were tied to the wall and had drinks in hand by 1500. It ended up being a 30 hour day covering 145 miles with the first 23 hours being entirely under sail. So we’re out of Maryland, in Virginia and only a stones throw from North Carolina.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 14, 2010.

We officially started the trip south today. The first leg of the trip was completed in about 10 minutes as it was a jump of about 50 feet. You see, the slip we have been in since our arrival was a LOT narrower than our 12 foot 10 inch beam. We spread the outside pilings and wriggled in and have been here for several months without ever leaving the slip. Our friends on Dawn Treader left a few days ago, leaving a very desirerable 13 foot wide slip behind.

It poured all day and finally around 1600 hours the rain let up enough for us to go about unplugging the shore power cord and gathering in all our docklines and fenders. Because of the rain and the state of the tide we were floating 2 feet higher than usual. Since we have to “spread” the pilings to get out of our slip I wanted to do it while we were floating higher. The further up the piling we are, the more I can spread em’. Things went well and we easily slipped out of the confinement of our 11 foot 6 inch slip.

Christy drove while I handled lines as we usually do when departing a dock or slip. Conversely, whenever we dock I do the driving as Christy has limited vision in one eye and as a result she has virtually no depth perception. Since it was so crappy out I decided to let her stay inside and drive while I rigged lines for the new slip. She really aced getting into the new slip and we were soon tied up and plugged in. I was having nightmares about having a perfect breeze from the north to drive us down the bay but not enough water to get out of the old slip so I’m real happy to have made this small jump.

Things are winding down and falling into place. When we bought the dinghy from Grant we had to find a buyer for the old one. It kinda slipped to the back burner and we soon found ourselves owning 2 dinghies with only 2 weeks before our intended departure. Christy wrote an ad and we posted flyers in the local marinas and West Marine, we also put an ad on Craigslist. Results….the dinghy is sold.

Sitting here for so long it was easy for the boat to become “unpacked”. The V-berth is usually organized with the rarely ever needed things buried nearest the bow. It took some time but we’ve repacked the V-berth yet again and it’s ready for the trip.

We’ve been working very hard and knocking things off the “to-do” list in an effort to be ready. In between everything Christy has gotten 3 coats of finish on the rub & toe rails.

We still have a couple of dozen things on the list but we’re knocking them off. We have a few more hours to work with Maggie and then I’ll return the work truck……and we’re outta here. All we need is some water to return to the bay after yesterdays big winds from the northwest.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 11, 2010.

Enough with the work bullshit. It gets old and can be depressing and since the season is just about over and we’ve got most of our boat chores completed it was time for the crew of the Veranda to have us some fun.

This weekend was the Annapolis sailboat show. We don’t really need anything but we always enjoy doing a little dock shopping. It was even sweeter this year since there was very little chance that we’d be buying anything. Nothing to carry, nothing to pay for, nothing to install, and oh look, it’s not frigging pouring like every other year, perfect.

We look through all the tents and stands to see if there’s anything new and exciting but there rarely ever is anymore. Although we did see a watermaker designed to make 30 gallons of water an hour while running on a Honda generator....brilliant nitch marketing. We still take the long dock stroll to look at all the biggest, newest, fancy ass sailboats that will probably spend more time tied to the dock than ever really going anywhere. We don’t bother to board any of the boats anymore but it is fun to look at this and that newest “trick” setup that some desk bound designer has deemed necessary. They want you to remove your footwear before boarding any of the boats and you really have no idea how many people you can fit on a 30 billion dollar Hylas 70 until you look at the pile o’ shoes.

I think the biggest boat there was a Gunboat catamaran in the 70 foot range. This extravagant “sailing” platform costs about a quarter of a trillion dollars and yet there were dozens of people standing in line waiting for the privilege of leaving their shoes on the dock so they could board this monstrous boat that almost nobody can afford. I just don’t get it. Quick disclaimer…..If I found one under the Christmas tree my opinion might change.

While walking the show is nice, it’s all the people that are rolling into town that we really enjoy. We had cruisers, friends from Jersey and internet friends all converging on Annapolis for these few days. We’d like to see everyone but it’s so difficult with everyone having their own schedules (like waiting for a damn diver) and varying commitments.

We saw a slew of people at the weekly cruisers gathering on Friday night on the Great Lawn. We enjoyed each others company until well after dark. It was a little more special for me as I haven’t had anything to drink for a week because I was on a few different meds while trying to kick the flu. Christy makes an excellent nurse but she has some archaic views on mixing meds and alcohol. I figure that alcohol kills germs and so do the meds so let’s mix em’ and let them fight the good fight to get me healthy again. She keeps repeating some crap about Karen Ann Quinlan, I dunno. So I made the best of it and used the evening to get myself back into shape for what is usually the best gathering of the year, Saturdays EYC Bash.

The Eastport Yacht Club is located out on the point of Eastport and every year during boat show they throw a hell of a party. It’s about a half mile walk for us so we headed down that way at 1800 hours. It’s a charity event so we spent the next 6 hours drinking to better some cause or other. They charge 10 bucks to get in and then they sell beer, wine and a pretty good meal at reasonable prices. There was pulled pork, sausage, burgers and dogs along with all the sides. I had dinner twice to make sure I had enough in me to soak up the evenings alcohol.

We grabbed a beverage and wandered around looking to meet our people. We established a beachhead in a back corner where we ended up with a substantial gathering. The evening couldn’t have been nicer and due to MSU beating Michigan, everyone was in great spirits. The event just got better and better, culminating with the Rovers being the closing band of the evening. We’ve seen the Rovers before and they lived up to their reputation as a terrific Celtic rock and roll band. They kilt…..

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 10, 2010.

Okay, I admit I’ve been a bit remiss about updating the blog. I can’t help it, it’s not my fault. First off, it’s already October, where the hell has the summer gone?

So to recount, work has been slow as hell. We’ve been making ends meet by working with Maggie doing brightwork. Things there have been going well and the last boat of the season will be finished during the upcoming week. That’s good and bad. I was hoping to make more money this season but the slow down at work will enable us to head south a bit sooner.

ANYWAY, during the last 2 weeks I’ve spent a bit of time flat on my back fighting the flu……….which sucked, and working on the boat.

The fluids are changed, the brightwork on our boat is half done, the charging issues have been addressed and the diver finally showed the hell up.

You see, we added our names to a list of nearby people that were having a diver clean their hulls before they headed south this year. He was supposed to show up on Friday but it was close to 1500 hours before we heard that he called and rescheduled for Saturday. So after spending all day Friday waiting, we once again waited while the diver took care of other boats on the list on Saturday. Finally at 1600 hours Christy walked over to the next marina to see how the diver was making out.

This is how we found out he had gotten too cold and had gone home at 1430. Bastard. So we called him on the phone to get us the next available appointment. Answering machine, shit. He never called us back so I was like “F#%k him, I’ll get another guy”.

As luck would have it we were driving through a nearby marina and as we were passing by a guy was putting on his wet suit. I bang a u-turn and ask the guy if he’d be interested in cleaning our hull as well. My first line is that “we’ve been having a hard time getting a diver to show up, etc, etc”. He says “no problem” and gives us his phone number and promises to be at the Veranda on Saturday morning. We drive away psyched until Christy says “What are the chances that both of the divers we’ve contacted here in Annapolis are named Roger?” Crap. Sure enough Christy checked her phone and the number for the diver who hasn’t shown up and this guy, is one and the same.

He called us later in the evening when he put two and two together and promised to be there around 0900. At 0930 he called and said he’d be here in an hour or so. We were scraping and sanding so it wasn’t a big deal when he did finally arrive at noon.

He cleaned the boat and told us that the hull was pretty darn clean with only a bit of slime. But the prop and shaft were once again completely encrusted with barnacles. He scraped all of that crap away and installed a new zinc for us as well.

So we’re now officially ready to start thinking about the trip south.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rain, rain go away

September 30, 2010.

Rain is defined as---Water condensed from vapor in the atmosphere and falling in drops from clouds.

Yes, rain. It's been raining steadily for 24 hours with the promise of at least another 12 hours to go. We’ve had that lovely combination of wind and rain. What makes this bit-o-rain so special is that the winds from the south have driven a lovely windblown tide up into the bay.

So, while we were trapped on the boat all day, we planned to do a few boat chores. I had already run the wires for the fan, light and solar panels in the new dodger but had left the lower ends coiled in the coaming for a rainy day job. Running the wires down through the boat from the coaming to the electrical panel involved the removal of quite a bit of the headliner in the salon.

As luck would have it, we woke to water dripping from the ceiling, so the ceiling's removal became a “2 birds with one stone” kinda thing. Unluckily, the drips made their way into our closed computer, which will not power up, this computer holds all our life, all our pictures, navigational software and all out bookmarked favorite places etc. Crap. I removed the track for the curtains and several trim pieces to allow a few of the ancient ceiling panels to be removed.

The leak turned out to be from a neglected screw hole leftover from the old dodger. I dried the area and slapped on some duct tape to await some drier weather for a more permanent repair. After that was done we pretty much sat here and listened to it rain. And rain it did.

We can usually take an easy step, slightly up or down off the boat and straight onto our finger pier. Just after dinner this evening I went out to check on the boats in the marina and found that our toe rail was now 5 feet above the dock. I went back inside and checked my phone for missed messages to see if God had called and left a message about us needing to build an ark. WTF?

We were at low tide and the windblown tide combined with the rain had us 5 feet higher than usual. Fortunately, the wind died early in the evening and the water started to recede even though the tide was still “technically” rising.
We had water knee deep on the approach to the docks and several of the dinghies tried to float away. I rounded up and secured the loose dinghies and adjusted the lines on a few of the other boats here in the marina.

Fortunately the rain finally let up, the wind died and the higher than normal tides disappeared by morning. So, I would have looked pretty foolish if I had started on that ark……