Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 27, 2011.

The weather forecast is a little bit up in the air with several sources predicting different things. The next wonderful opportunity to head south isn't until Wednesday. Screw that, we're not waiting around for four more days before we head south. We'll take “uncertainty and possible mayhem” for 400 Alex.

We pulled the hook and ventured out the eastern end of Nassau Harbor. The wind for the last 2 days has been hovering at about 25 to 30 knots out of the northeast. This morning it had ebbed to 20 knots out of the east. After 2 hours of motorsailing our 144° course left us close hauled but sailing southwards.

During the first 8 miles we were pounding into close set 4 footers. It was about at this time that I realized what a waste of time washing the boat the other day had been. After those first 8 miles we were able to kill the engine and sail close hauled to the southeast. For about an hour the seas flattened out and we were actually enjoying the sail. And then the world went to shit.....

We had a double reef in the main and as one 35 knot squall after another beset us. We had to reduce the headsail until we furled it altogether. We pulled into the bight at Normans Cay after a mentally exhausting 41 mile day.

We haven't been to Normans in 5 years and it was good to sleep in after yesterdays trip to get here. We did boat chores all morning and decided to hit the water for the first time this season just after lunch. We've never been in the water here for whatever reason. We took the dink out in search of some coral that we passed on the way in. We never found the heads we sought but after heading towards the southern end of the cay we came across a tiny patch.

To my surprise on a small patch of coral the size of an average living room I came across at least a dozen lobster. They were all pretty much legal as far as size went but I'm a bit spoiled so after taking the largest 4 we moved on. After another 5 minutes Christy found a cluster of small heads which yielded 2 more bugs. So including the long ride both ways we were home in an hour with 6 lobster. Its just like riding a bike....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 26, 2011.

Okay, the long version of the crossing incident, complete with previously unreleased material. This will be an investment of your time that you will not get back. It's not my fault if you miss Dancing With the Stars tonight. Seriously, its like 5 full pages and is still really only the highlights. If you're undeterred grab a drink and join us as we head for the Bahamas.

We left Government Cut in Miami at 0800. The skies were clear and crystal blue; an absolutely beautiful day. We had about 10 knots of breeze just a little too close to the bow to be able to sail so we settled in for a pleasant motorsail across dead calm seas. I would guesstimate that about 35 boats left from Cape Florida, Government Cut and Fort Lauderdale. We were alone and about an hour behind a half dozen boats with several others less than an hour behind us.

We angled the Gulfstream perfectly, never dropping below 6.5 knots and arrived at the North Rock waypoint about 2.5 miles behind the group of vessels in front of us.
At North Rock our course turned more to the south but we were still able to carry all sail as we motorsailed along. We were now on the 34 nautical mile leg to the Mackie Shoal waypoint.

While listening to the VHF as darkness fell we followed several conversations and determined what boats we knew and how far along they were. In the darkness I could make out 8 different stern lights all headed towards Mackie Shoal. We knew most of the boats including Options 3. O3's buddy boat was a new one for us though, Serenity 5. Over the radio we learned that O3 had no radar and was trying to stick right to S5's stern in the darkness. O3 was chiding his friends on their inability to steer a straight course, even joking “Where you going, Andros?” During the course or their frequent radio conversations we learned that Serenity 5 has no radio in the cockpit, their radar is below at the nav station and to top it off they were hand steering as they have no autopilot. So on a 24 hour crossing if one of them was napping the other one had to leave the helm to drop below to answer the radio or to check the radar. Which meant that the helm was unattended with no autopilot. No wonder they were wandering all over the place.

They were also trying to match speeds with each other which can be pretty difficult, especially at night. The night was full of radio calls of “which one are you?, I lost you, flash a light so I can find you again.” They were constantly comparing SOG's to try and stay evenly spaced. Every time they called out a speed I noted that we were actually running the same speed or even a tenth or two slower yet we were gaining on them because of their meandering course. Sometimes they'd be well off my port bow and 30 minutes later they'd be way out to starboard while the other stern lights remained dead ahead as we ran the rhumb line.

The rhumb line from North Rock runs directly to Mackie Shoal. The excellent Explorer Chartbooks provide you a latitude and longitude for every turning point. No matter what chart information your particular chartplotter runs on if you take the Explorer waypoints and manually insert them into your chartplotter you can provide yourself with a safe route. Its not like trying to blindly follow your chartplotter on the ICW where your machine might run you solidly aground.

As we rounded the Mackie Shoal Light (extinguished) O3 and S5 were 1.7 miles wide of the rhumb line, off our port bow. Since they had gone so wide in an effort to avoid the Mackie Shoal Light we gained a ton of ground on them and the next time they crossed our bow as they wove their way along they were only a half mile ahead of us.

After rounding the Mackie Shoal mark we had to adjust course 14 degrees more towards the breeze. It was just too much and the headsail wasn't doing anything but blocking our view so we furled it. With Options 3 and Serenity 5 running several hundred yards wide of the rhumb line off our starboard bow we once again set Rover and headed through the darkness towards the NW Shoal waypoint.

Over the next 20 miles we made up the half mile deficit and pulled even with S5 and had O3 off our starboard quarter. For the next 4 miles we ran with S5 400 yards off our starboard side with O3 trailing them by a hundred yards or so. And then there was the incident.....

There was a single sailboat anchored on the banks well off to starboard. By dumb luck I happened to be looking at the anchored boat when I saw Serenity's stern light disappear. I had been watching his portside running light and the glow of his stern light on his dinghy. I realized that after leaving the NW Shoal light (extinguished) well to port they were diving down to leave the NW Channel Light (extinguished) well to starboard. The only problem with that plan was that we were right next to them. We now had a single red light bearing down on us closing the distance quickly.

I called S5 on the VHF and got no response, I hailed again and the wife answered with “hold on”. I chopped the throttle and S5 crossed our bow about 70 feet in front of us. As soon as he was clear I hammered the throttle to move forward as O3 blindly followed his buddy boat and crossed our stern 100 feet behind us.

I can't believe this shit. We're in the middle of the Bahama Bank with water everywhere and I've got to chop the throttle because some dolt decides its time to turn left? We literally passed through a hundred yard gap, in the pitch dark between two boats turning to the left. You might expect me to be upset, I’d say that you were right. When I finally did make contact his impression was that he couldn't believe that we had turned right and cut between he and his buddy boat. He was trying to explain to me the responsibilities of an overtaking vessel. Overtaking? I explained to him that I’d been next to him for over 4 miles, 40 minutes at this speed. It had taken me over 60 miles to make up the 2 miles we had started behind him. Hardly an overtaking situation. I'd been abeam of him for miles. Even though he was the starboard vessel it doesn't give him the right to just turn into us and attempt to pass through us. Livid doesn't begin to cover it, I was vibrating.

Then he started a conversation on the VHF about “this guy turning right and cutting between us” with his buddy boat. O3 is stupid enough to add “yeah, I don't know where he came from, I never even saw him”. That's probably my fault as we often travel on an alternate plane in a parallel universe often just inexplicably popping out of the dark void. Idiot. We'd been off his port bow for the better part of an hour and he hadn't even seen us? Then Serenity's wife got on the VHF and started to explain to O3 how “some people shouldn't be allowed on the water without having taken a navigational course”. Okay, now I wish someone would choke this bitch until her uterus plops out onto the floor. It was one of those moments when I realized how much I appreciate my Mothers efforts to raise me to be a gentlemen. I'm in the Bahamas, its going to be a splendid winter, Ommm, Ommmm. I was really trying to pull it back together so I didn't engage them any further on the radio. It wasn't easy.

Rover had been steering this course for HOURS. We hadn't deviated for HOURS. This asshole is hand steering like a drunk and he thinks we're the ones making unexplained turns. I was in that range between perturbed and HOMICIDAL. But I was trying to pull it back together, Ommmmm Ommmmm.

After ten minutes we altered course onto the final leg for Nassau. The small course change allowed us to once again pop the headsail and we were off like a prom dress. We passed a few boats in the pre-dawn darkness and we left the ass-clowns far behind. I was running “the incident” over and over in my mind and I couldn't fathom how neither boat had a visual on us even though we were lit up like a Christmas tree. They both had genoas up with their steaming lights illuminated. Did the glow of their steaming light reflecting back into their faces off their own genoas destroy their night vision to the point of not being able to see us? I decided I didn't give a shit, it's behind us, they're history. Thank God we had some chits in our Karma box. It's going to be a beautiful winter. Ass-clowns.

We dropped sail and motored into Nassau Harbor at 0715. We make a nifty landing at the tidal flow ravaged fuel dock before heading over to our slip. We were safely tied up by 0830 and a pleasant young woman from Customs & Immigration was on the boat and we were filling out forms by 0900. At about this point Christy said “look”.

Whoever says God doesn't have a sense of humor has never spent the day with me. Serenity 5 was pulling into the slip next to us and Oh Look, Options 3 is pulling in next to them. God, my hats off to you, well played, you funny funny motherfucker.

Customs went exceedingly well, I' was in good spirits and I am not going to lose my mind. We headed into town with Fine Lion, Sapphire and Night Hawk. We succeeded in locating phone cards, sim cards and pretty much everything everyone needed. Then we stopped in for our Thanksgiving meal at the Green Parrot. Christy & I left everyone else downtown and walked back to the boat. The Veranda was still salt encrusted from our jaunt down to Miami so since we were paying for a slip we wanted to wash the boat.

I had the boat clean and as I stood on the foredeck rolling up our hose, Brian from Options 3 walked down our finger pier, leaned against the piling and good naturally said “Hey, Hows it going?”.

I distinctly remember opening with “now that we're off the water with you fucking clowns things are great”. That was to be the end of the pleasantries. Right away he got angry too. Good. Kicking puppies is no fun. We started to argue a bit when “Bruce” from Serenity 5 walked over and joined in. Not surprisingly, he wasn't on my side. This was better because I actually like Brian and having Bruce to focus on let me vent more completely. Rage will eat you from inside so its always better to let it out. It turns out it takes about ten minutes, a lot of which is foggy to me now.

His whole point of contention was that we had turned right abruptly and cut between them and that they had never altered course. I countered with “you left the first maker far to port and needed to leave the next on the starboard side, you absolutely turned to port”. “Nope, no we didn't.” I gave a direct look at Brian like “come on' be serious” and he was honest and said “yeah, we turned but only a little bit”. All of a sudden it turned into Perry Mason versus Laurel & Hardy.

Since Brian seemed to be embracing the notion that they may have f'd up I ignored Bruce and spoke directly to Brian when I went with “this guy's a complete buffoon, he's incompetent, he can't tell if hes going straight or turning, he's INEPT and whats worse is that he doesn't realize it, he f'ing dangerous”. It was the first thing I had managed to say with any composure. Bruce turned and stalked away.

Once the douchebag was gone Brain and I were able to tone it down a bit until we parted civilly. I'm sure the forty or so people on the docks enjoyed our version of improvisational white trash street theater.

After Brian left I finished up on deck and went below. A short time later there was a knock on the hull . The evening security guard stopped in to tell me that “the guy on that boat over there said you was picking on him”. (S5)
ME “hold on here, I'm on my boat washing it, I never got off the boat, I didn't go looking for him, he came over here to give me grief and he thought he was not gonna get some back?”
THE GUARD “well, I guess a man has to wash his boat”.

This shit caught me completely off guard, I was actually astonished.
ME with a little smirk “he said I was picking on him?”
THE GUARD grinning “he said you was mean to 'im”
ME “unless he shows back up over here I think we're done”
THE GUARD “cool, have a good night”

I was mean to 'im?, Christ, inept and a pussy as well. Next thing I know he'll be having his dad exhumed to come over to kick my dads ass. More like a candyass-clown.

I've vented, I've re-centered my Wa and its going to be a beautiful winter......
Leaving today, no internet for at least a week, adios mi amigos...
November 25, 2011.

Usually I'm dead set against paying for a slip if I can avoid it. While considering the imminent weather during our crossing we decided that Nassau was the place to go.
You are required to take a slip if you check in at Nassau so we've always avoided going to Nassau in the past. But we're here and a slip it is.

The marina we chose has concrete central docks with wooden finger piers. The concrete docks are scarred with reminders that something as simple as taking or departing a slip can turn ugly pretty quickly. The tide roars through the slips at close to 2 knots when the tide is running. It can make docking intimidating but actually makes things a bit easier if you think things through first. After tying up, plugging in and signing in it was off to take care of business in town before stopping in for a traditional Thanksgiving day meal in paradise. A huge cheeseburger, a huge chicken breast sandwich, terrific spicy fries, a bottle of water, a glass of wine and 2 beers.......52 tip. Paradise ain't cheap.

As promised the wind is pretty strong from the northeast. We're in no hurry so rather than head out in 25 to 30's we opted to leave the slip after 1 night and anchor here in Nassau harbor. There’s a few places to anchor here in the harbor but we chose one a little more out of the way. The most popular anchorage is west of the bridges and has ribbons of sand interspersed with patches of grass. If the sun is high and you drop the hook in a patch of sand you're all set. But when the last minute arrivals drop their hook indiscriminately because the sun has dropped a bit, well, when they start dragging its a crap shoot as to who they'll take out. Its gonna be fairly crowded there for the next 2 nights so we'll do something a little different. We're east of the bridges, just off the main channel with excellent protection from the blow and evidently right in front of a local tourist attraction.
I've been told that Elvis Presleys daughter owns the house that we're anchored in front of. Several small guided boats full of tourons stopped to snap pictures during the day. All I know about her is that I think shes the same girl who married Michael Jackson back in the day. Creepy.

There’s 5 cruise ships currently in the harbor so the channel out of the eastern end of the harbor was a nonstop parade
of dive boats, monstrous sailing catamarans and booze cruises traversing the channel. It makes for excellent people watching.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 24, 2011.

We're here. The short wind, 24 hour 160 nautical mile motorsail, pitch dark, almost killed by a new boater who couldn't successfully fall over Niagara Falls in a barrel, went through Customs & Immigration by 0900, Thanksgiving dinner with friends, found that my asshole magnet still works, huge dockside argument w/ previously mentioned neophyte who then ran and sent security down to the boat because I was “mean” to him. Lol. Hope your holiday was good too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 22, 2011.

We've arrived in South Beach after 2 long days. We left Vero Beach with the intention of heading out the inlet at Fort Pierce for an overnighter to Miami. Just as we were nearing the inlet we heard a few sailboats heading in after a night on the ocean heading south. I chatted them up on the VHF and they seemed pretty pleased to have survived the inlet. Our worst ass kicking in the inlet category was right there in Fort Pierce a few years ago. It seemed that the inlet was a little whipped up so I was hesitant to head out. I've never been a big fan of having my ass kicked. The topper was when I asked about their point of sail. Apparently, the wind was close enough to their nose that they had to motor sail all night. If I'm gonna have to run the engine I might as well stay in the ditch.

So we barreled along as best we could with the 8 bridges and all and arrived in Lake Worth 45 minutes after dark. Sneaking down the channel and around Peanut Isle in the inky darkness made safely dropping the hook a welcome respite from the tension of the day. And then I hatched a new plan......

I woke at 0340 and checked the engines fluids, strung our jacklines, woke Christy and pulled the hook. We were headed out the Lake Worth Inlet into 4 foot seas with 15 knots a wee bit too close to the nose. We had to motorsail for the first 2 hours before bearing off just 10 degrees. Then the engine was off and we had ourselves a very nice sail down to Government Cut in Miami.

So, as I write this we should be outta here around 0900 tomorrow and headed for The North Rock entrance onto the Bahama Bank. After that, who knows.....
November 21, 2011.

Lets talk about “Buddy Boats”. There are several different degrees of buddy boating. Your first buddy boat is probably the most important one you will ever have. You've read all the books, gotten the boat ready, maybe even taken a few classes and you head out. You might not realize it, but you still don't know anything. The passage of time will cull away some of the stupidity but finding a buddy boat that has the “mentoring gene” will save you countless miles of scratching your way clear of your own easily avoidable mistakes.

Our first buddy boat was Non Linear. They picked us up in South Carolina and hand fed us the rest of the east coast of the US as we followed them to Marathon, Florida. Once there, they crossed to the Bahamas while we spent the winter in Marathon, exploring the Keys. During the 8 weeks we spent with them they showered us with the benefit of their experience. For them it was like raising a child but once the umbilical cord was cut we went out on our own stumbling our way down the waterways. Did we still make mistakes, absolutely, but their lessons saved us from countless others.

Another type of buddy boat is what I like to call the Compadres. They're the type that when you see one of them you can be sure the other is fairly close by. These people are happy in the fact that they've found another boat of such like minded people that they can follow one another from port to port without ever tiring of each others company. They're social with other boaters but when its time to move on its pretty much always in concert with “their” buddy boat. Compadres are usually 2 boats, a third boat makes things a little awkward and comes dangerously close to becoming an Entourage.

An Entourage is a group of good friends that happen to be boaters. I've traveled for a while with an Entourage so I can appreciate the benefits but I can also remember the drawbacks. A big plus is that no matter where you head you always have several of your closest friends just a dinghy ride away. The downside of course is that sometimes you just want a little private time. Trying to decide where to go, when to leave and how to get there becomes an exercise in futility when you consider the opinions of a gaggle of boats. Throw in some weather discussions and you'd be better off trying to herd cats in a burning building. Then there’s always the chance that someones feelings are going to be hurt by some imagined slight. Or God forbid that a subset of the larger group form a tighter bond. For me, the logistics are just mind numbing. Its fun but a little trying at the same time.

Then there’s the Kid Boats. Having kids on board adds a whole new dimension. Finding a buddy boat with kids on board is pretty important to other boats with kids. It gives the kids an outlet where they can just be kids and the parents can get together to commiserate with each other about added difficulty of having kids on board.

One of the great things about having a buddy boat when doing the ICW is that some days you just get to take a day off. Instead of sitting up and paying rigid attention to the depth and every twist and turn you can just relax a bit and follow your buddy as he leads the way down the ditch. The next day, he can follow you. You make the same amount of distance while only doing half the work. We've spent months traveling with the same boat and enjoyed it as much as any time we've spent on the water because we shared the load.

On the flip side of that coin is the buddy boat that always follows. You end up being the tour guide while the boat behind you basks in the safety of your wake. I'm not sure what it is. Whether they feel inadequate to the task or if they feel entitled. If its a boat with years of experience and miles under the keel but with no confidence, then I kinda feel bad for them. But once in a while I get the feeling that its more like the follower feels entitled. As if their personal comfort and safety is more important than yours and that just galls me. They can come up with more “you take the lead, because........” excuses than I have fingers and toes.

One type of buddy boating that doesn’t fit into any category is the Armada. The classic example of the Armada is a crossing to the Bahamas. The weather window starts to look promising a few days before it arrives. This gives anyone wanting to cross an opportunity to get themselves staged at a logical jumping off point. Its not unusual to have dozens of boats waiting to cross from a popular spot like Miami. When the window opens there will be dozens of boats heading out from No Name Harbor, Government Cut and even from Fort Lauderdale all converging on a few safe points to enter the Bahama Bank. The Armada provides the illusion of safety, forms on the whims of the weather and dissipates as everybody scatters among the islands.

I guess all these thoughts about buddy boats came to me because this is the first year we won't be seeing our friends on Far Niente out on the water. They sold the boat this spring and bought a huge motor-coach to cruise the United States with. They live in Vero Beach so we saw them this week while we were there but unlike every other year, this year we left them behind. We've been Compadres, we've shared an Entourage and followed each other for more miles than I can recall. Things change, we move forward and remember the fun we've had in the past.

In the mean time we are looking forward to our next Armada......

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 18, 2011.

Chores, chores and more chores. Even though the boat was fairly well squared away before we left Annapolis there’s always a revolving list of chores to be knocked out.

In the few days we've been here in Vero Beach we've been able to pare down the list quite a bit. I've been up the mast to clean the corroded contacts in our deck light. I've also cleaned the transom, resealed the mast boot, changed the engine oil, serviced the generator, sewn a torn seam in our canvas enclosure, stenciled on the new dinghy registration numbers, tuned the rig properly, installed the new roller furling line, new traveler control lines and hand sewn a 4 foot seam in the cushion on the “mother-in-law” seat.

Christy hasn't been exactly sitting around either. The fridge has been defrosted, the laundry is done and another 500 pounds of provisions has been purchased, lugged home and stowed. Then throw in a few hours of vacuum bagging meat and we're almost done.

Its not all been drudgery though. We've been to a great get together at the Solitaires home with the crews from several other boats. Then to Jay & Di's house for another great evening. We even got to see Di's workshop where shes putting a lot of her collected sea glass to work.
After completing a holiday wreath she went “all in” and started
making enough ornaments for an all sea glass Christmas tree. Throw in a happy hour up at the marina and
an evening on a neighboring boat and its been a pretty good time here.

After some last minute details on Sunday I think we're going to head out of Fort Pierce inlet on Monday and sail the 120 miles down to Miami. Right now it looks as if Wednesday will be an opportunity to cross the Gulfstream. The weather right after the crossing opportunity is looking pretty dire so crossing will be a game time decision.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011.

What I consider the first third of this years trip is done. After 19 days and covering 920 nautical miles we arrived in Vero Beach before lunch today. If you subtract the 5 days we lounged in Oriental, NC we averaged about 66 miles a day. Some days we were running away from the cold while others we were running for the next anchorage. Getting the timely weather window that allowed us to skip Georgia made a huge difference to us as Georgia, while beautiful is incredibly meandering.

This year the weather dictated that we spend more time on the ICW than we usually do. Even when the winds were reasonable and from good direction the offshore swell was much bigger than normal due to near hurricane Sean passing north along the coast.

Large portions of the ICW can be sailed but its hard to do with winter temperatures chasing you. Sailing a 5 knot 40 mile day is hard to justify when you can motor at over 7 knots for another 20 miles made good. It seems that every 50 miles south equates to about 1 degree Fahrenheit.

I think that everyone considering the trip along the east coast should do the entire ICW at one time or another. There really is a lot to see. The animal life along the waterway is more prolific than I had ever imagined. We've seen flamingos, pelicans and bald eagles....we didn't have any of those back in Jersey. We've had to stop the boat to allow a bear to continue his swim across the ICW. We've seen alligators, pelligators (The Pelligator ), deer, wild horses, the beast with two backs(The beast with Two Backs ), wild goats and this year we can add a flock of turkeys to the list.

You can never predict what might be around the next bend. Quaint towns, history, abandoned boats, challenging routes, forest fires and Frenadians....there's just so much out there.

Every anchorage is different. Will you have it to yourself, will it be filled to capacity, will you run into friends long unseen, will there be anchoring antics....? Of course there will, that parts always a given.

Will you bump the bottom....probably. Will you run hard aground....possibly. Will you die from it....lets hope not. It might be inconvenient, it might be embarrassing but there’s a good chance you'll get yourself off. Sometimes you need some help from the tide while other times it takes a call to TowBoat US. But it'll pass. Will you see someone else run aground....absolutely. Will you ask yourself “what the hell was he doing over there?”....of course. Will a complete stranger ever offer to help.....yes, will you pay it better.
November 14, 2011.

We left Saint Augustine at first light, went through the bridge and stopped at the city marinas fuel dock. Dumped some garbage and filled both the water and fuel tanks and then once again turned south. We had a tidal push for several hours and dropped the hook in Daytona Beach by 1330.

This morning we had the hook up before first light and started making our way south. We wanted to knock out an 82 mile day so we had to start especially early. We had the tide with us for the first 45 minutes and then it ran against us for most of the remainder of the day. What the tide giveth the tide taketh away. We nailed the timing of all the bridges and dropped the hook just 6 minutes after sunset near Melborne.

The Eau Gallie public library is right on the waterfront so we always drop the hook right outside the reference section to grab some of their free wifi. Another plus is that the Packet Inns live close by and dropped in with pizza.

Vero Beach tomorrow.....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12, 2011.

We left Minim creek at first light with a bold plan. Not really, but it sounds cool. Anyway, we wanted to get down past Charleston if at all possible. The mileage is doable its just that the bridge just before Chucktown can be a pain in the ass with it restricted hourly opening schedule.

Color us blown away when we arrived and the bridge tender told us he was on request. Cool, open sesame. From there it was a quick 7 mile jaunt across Charleston Harbor to the Wappoo Creek bridge. The Wappoo is closed in the morning from 0600 to 0900 for rush hour on weekdays. We wanted to get through the bridge before tonight’s rush hour closing from 1600 to 1830 so we could avoid so many wasted hours of daylight in the morning.

We made it handily and after traversing Elliots Cut we settled in for the night along the marsh grass bank of the Stono River. As forecast the wind jumped up to 35 knots from the west northwest but we were snug as bugs. A plus in our chosen spot for the evening was some free wifi. By 10 AM every day lately I've been in shorts with no shirt as the weather has been so pleasant. When I checked the weather for the area on the internet I was disappointed to see that temps were forecasted to fall to 30º the next night.

With that harrowing thought in mind we set off even earlier the next day in an effort to get south. A long day would put us in Beaufort, SC. After about 15 miles I heard a guy calling his buddy on the VHF. It seemed his buddy had gone out of Charleston inspite of the less than enthralling forecast, light winds with huge seas. His buddy said that while the wind was light, the waves were in fact only 1 to 2 footers.

With that in mind we made the semi rash decision to skip taking the Slawson Cutoff to the ICW and headed down the Edisto River for the ocean. At 1100 Veranda once again felt the Atlantic’s chilly embrace. The wind was about 12 knots out of the northwest and the seas were basically flat.

We had a pleasant sail until about 1830 when the wind completely disappeared. We cranked up the engine and motored for the next 20 hours. Skipping the meandering Georgia ICW saved us 60 miles so even though we had to motor it was well worth it. Out on the water the night temps never fell below 40º so that was a bonus as well.

We entered the inlet at Saint Augustine at 1430 on Saturday. The remnant swells from Sean and the new curving inlet made the entrance a bit puckering but we were through quickly and anchored just north of the Bridge of Lions in Saint Augustine.

We're tired, we're warm, we're in Florida, we're happy and we're outta here tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 9, 2011.

We decided that this morning would be a good day to try a new inlet. We wanted to head offshore and the Little River Inlet looked to be the place since we anchored directly across from it last night. We were up and underway along with the Alibi II's at dawn. The mainsail was up as we wove our way down towards the inlet and then the phone rang.....

It was our friend Dawn from Annapolis who had received an email from weather guru Chris Parker. After midnight he had sent out an addendum to his regular daily weather advice. He never does that. She knew we were headed out and the forecast had once again changed dramatically. We were expecting 3 to 4 footers from the southeast with 10 to 15 knots of breeze from the east northeast. The wind was the same but due to tropical low Sean building in strength we could expect seas at 10 feet growing to 15 by late afternoon. 10 to 15 footers rolling under our beam with marginal winds directly behind us sounds like a miserable experience. We've actually already have that experience so we turned around and headed back towards the ICW and that's when it happened.....

We almost killed our first health nut. We were the first southbound boat as we sliced through the dead flat waters of the ICW. Our health nut was in a one man rowing scull heading northbound. Since he was rowing his back was towards us. He was smack in the middle of the channel so I adjusted Rover a few degrees to put us hugging the starboard side of the channel to pass him port to port.

I've seen these rowing fanatics before and a lot of them wear a tiny rear view mirror on a headband so they can see whats going on behind them....but this guy, no. As far as I could tell he hadn't heard us approaching, he hadn't turned around, he was just lost in the moment rowing to his approaching doom. We were going to pass well clear of him but as 300 yards became 200, then 100 he finally sensed our approach. He looked over his shoulder, saw us, spazed and turned directly across our bow in an effort to get out of the way.

He took 2 quick strokes, realized he went the wrong way and froze.....Shit. If I went even further to starboard we were definitely going to run aground. He was already pointing in that direction, if he took one more stroke we'd run aground and kill him anyway. Holy f@#k me. It happened so quickly I didn't even have time to disconnect the I hit the port tack button. The boat immediately turned 90 degrees to port. We cleared him by a boat length at best. I threw off the autopilot and spun the wheel hard to starboard before we shot out the other side of the channel. I don't know what his heart rate was but I’m pretty sure mine was higher.

Shortly after that we had another first. We encountered a northbound tug pushing a loaded fuel barge in the “rockpile”. The rockpile is a section of the ICW that was blasted through bedrock. At low tide you can see ledge after jagged ledge of unforgiving bedrock that lies just below the surface at high tide...The common dogma is that you do NOT leave the center of the channel. Somebody wants to overtake you, fine but you don't move over to help him, he's on his own. Period.

I hadn't heard any security calls so when I heard the tug coming through the bridge at the lower end of the rockpile I was quite saddened. F@#k us. I contacted the tug on the radio and told him we were a mile away and headed at him. We arranged a port to port pass, he gave me as much room as he could spare and we slipped down his side as close as we could without trading paint.

After that the day leveled out and we made good time down to Minum Creek where we are hiding out down below because of the mosquito swarms.
November 7, 2011.

Today was one of those rare days that makes you glad to be traveling the waterways. We had one confirmed celebrity sighting after another for a good portion of the day. We saw all 3 Stooges, Laurel & Hardy, The Keystone Cops and even had an encounter with Jerry Lewis (back when he was still zany). It was a very special day on the water.

We left Mile Hammock Bay at dawn and headed down the ICW. Even though we're in the confines of the ICW I still plot our course. I put a waypoint at each liftbridge that we'll be encountering. That way, for example, if the bridge only opens on the hour the chartplotter will do the math for me. It considers our current speed and the distance we need to cover and tells me exactly when we'll arrive. That way way I can tell if I need to add some more coal to the fire or if I should just back off a bit and take my time.

We were making about 7.5 knots on our way to the second bridge when the Keystone Cops decided that they had to pass us. We were going to arrive with 2 minutes to spare at our present speed. The Frenadians behind us decided that if they passed us, arrived sooner and waited even longer than that would be a whole lot better. So they pulled to our starboard side at 7.5000005 knots and began to sloooowly overtake us. No big deal except.....

There was a small jonboat with 2 old guys in it recovering a fishing net directly in our path. As they retrieved the net they were pulling their boat across the ICW from left to right. I stayed on the green side (left) of the channel and planned to leave the fishermen 50 feet to starboard. I looked over and expected Jacques to either move closer to us or to the extreme right side of the channel leaving the fishermen in the middle. Then I realized that he was headed straight at them and we had front row seats. I don't know WTH he was looking at but finally, he jumped to his feet, threw the wheel hard to port and chopped the throttle.

He missed running them down by 15 feet or less. There were only 2 guys in the jonboat but I'm sure I saw at least 5 middle fingers sent in his direction. 200 yards later Jacques fire walled his boat and easily overtook us. We settled in behind him and not a half mile further along we were once again treated to a display of seamanship like few others.

Another small boat anchored on the extreme left side of the channel in a cluster of crab pot floats. Jacques stayed dead straight and looked like he was going to pass them closely on his port side. But at the last possible moment he once again threw the wheel hard to port and left the channel missing them by a few feet. Their oaths and epitaphs must have had some powerful ju ju because Jacques managed to wrap one of the crab pot floats in his prop bringing him to a rather ignominious halt. We stayed in the middle of the channel and rounded the bend just in time for the bridge. Jacques missed the bridge but he probably met some new people.

Even after we were safely anchored the nautical hijinks didn't end. A single hander came in, dropped the hook and promptly sucked the dinghy painter into his propeller as he backed down on the hook.
Oops. Nothing like a November swim in Carolina Beach.

I thought our day of simple amusements was over until one last Frenadian joined the list. They pulled in, wedged themselves into the middle of the herd and dropped the hook and then......nothing. No snubber, no setting the hook, nothing.
The guy just stood on the side deck with his arms across his chest for 10 minutes. What he was doing eludes me but it looked to be connected with his non anchoring ritual. Of course, he was directly in front of us. Jesus, we've got to get offshore and away from these people.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 6, 2011.

We were off the dock and underway at first light. The wind has the ocean just too whipped up for us to be jumping out at Beaufort, NC. We could sit and try to wait for favorable conditions but winter is creeping south after us. With this in mind we've decided to cover as much distance as we can on the inside.

The day was an uneventful mix of motoring and sailing along with some of our closest friends.

Early in the day we were hailed by the sailboat traveling behind us. They wanted to overtake us and were calling to let us know so we wouldn't be surprised. The pass was taking a long time to materialize so we took the next few turns wide hoping that they would sneak past on the inside of the turn. A quarter mile went by, then a half mile, then a mile, then another and then I kinda gave up trying to help them pass. Then the wind presented a favorable angle so out came the genoa. They did finally catch and pass us......44 miles later. I think their radio call was a bit premature.

We knocked out 62 statute miles and dropped the hook in Mile Hammock Bay along with 30 other boats. We've definitely caught the crowd.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 5, 2011.

First off, Happy Birthday to our now 25 year old jar of Skippy peanut butter. You may have to go back to March 6th of 2010 to make sense of our having an antique jar of cremey peanuty goodness aboard.

Although Oriental is one of our favorite stops along the east coast it wouldn't be possible for us to stay as long as we do without the generosity of our friends Ken & Carol. We sneak all the way up Whittaker Creek and tie up behind their home. Most places we stop we tend to anchor out. Unfortunately, the only downside to Oriental is the anchorage itself. The space inside the seawall is pretty tight with room for a half dozen, short scoped, tightly spaced boats. Outside the seawall you can get as many boats in as the wind direction will allow.

Besides taking a slip there is one more alternative for those trawlers or sailors with shorter masts. If you can squeeze under the 45 foot tall fixed bridge adjacent to the harbor you can have a bit more room to swing at anchor.
Our friends Bess & Bill on Alibi II took this option and squeaked under the bridge when they got here. They are a 32 foot ketch with a mast height of about 42 feet. Unfortunately there is a down side.....

There’s really no tidal range here in Oriental. BUT when the wind blows out of the north through east northeast the water gets piled up in the Neuse River. Since the Alibis arrived, its been blowing a bit of a hoolie. Its been honking anywhere from 20 to 45 knots for 30 hours and the water is 3 or 4 feet higher than usual. They're pretty much trapped behind the bridge. They're not in any danger but they're stuck there until the wind abates a bit.

Since we've been here we've completed a lot of boat chores, enjoyed a lot of socializing, attended the nautical flea market
and pretty much walked around town waiting for the wind to die down a bit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

November 3, 2011.

Oriental is being Oriental again. If it wasn't for the whole “cold in winter” thing, this place would be perfect. Town is looking pretty good considering that Oriental was walloped by hurricane Irene. They experienced about a nine foot tidal surge and quite a bit of town was under water.

The best thing about town is once again, the people. We generally stop here twice a year as we pass through. We have friends that we knew from Jersey that have made their home here and allow us to tie up at their dock whenever we're here. Through them we've met several other couples that we've become close with as well.

Between doing boat chores during the day and trying to keep up our end of the bargain when it comes to the rigorous social schedule, it can all be very exhausting. Last night we were included in a cruisers get together that was held in our friends, Don & D's house. A half dozen locals along with a dozen cruisers invaded their home for a sit down dinner. Our friend Carol baked 6 chickens and everyone brought something to share. It was very Thanksgivingesq, right down to the stuffing and cranberries. 20 people for a sit down dinner with an afternoons notice, just another day in Oriental.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 1, 2011.

Happy Birthday Mom.

We had planned to consider today as a lay day if the weather forecast proved accurate. They were predicting 25 to 30 knots from the north with rain. Screw traveling in that. But we woke to clear skies and 15 knots out of the west.

We had to motorsail for a few miles until we turned south into the Pungo River.
At one time I was able to count 29 other sailboats underway all around us.
It seems that we've caught up with some of the pack.

It ended up being one of the nicest sailing days we've had in a while. Of the 30 sailboats we saw I could count on one hand the boats that were sailing. Most were motorsailing while a few were even underway sans sails. I just can't understand it. This Pearson 36 came by us under full sail with a beautiful wing and wing spread.
The wind did build to 25 as the day wore on but we just reefed a bit and barreled along across flat seas.

We arrived in Oriental by 1500 and are tied up behind a friends home on Whittaker Creek. We'll be here a few days while we await a window to jump outside at Beaufort.
October 31, 2011.


We were up and off the dock at Midway Marina in Coinjock just before dawn. We had to be out early as we wanted to knock out an 80 mile day. Its not that easy at this time of year with the days being so short.

After the trip down the North River we entered the Albemarle Sound with 10 to 12 knots of breeze from the east. We sailed through a 2 inch wind chop with the occasional rogue 4 incher thrown in. The Albemarle can kick your ass in a heartbeat so it was a welcome change to head out in such lovely conditions. Of course with 3 miles to go the wind kicked up over 20 knots, the seas instantly grew and we dove into the Alligator River just in a nick of time.

With the breeze kicking a bit we rode a perfect beam reach down the length of the Alligator River. We arrived at the northern end of the Pungo Canal at 1415 so it was a no brainer to continue on.

The Pungo Canal is about 22 miles long and is pretty much always a motoring experience. True to the norm we powered down the waterway and had the hook down by 1745. We shared the expansive anchorage with 9 other boats all attempting to hide from the nights 35 knot wind forecast.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October 30, 2011.

Remember that whole part about the nice people in Naptown blah, blah, blah. Then there was the whole bittersweet last day of work thing. But I guess it all boils down to the fact that we were really looking forward to getting out of Dodge more than we realized. So much so that while Christy was in the shower on our second day out....we ran out of water. Fortunately, the 2 deck jugs were full so she was able to rinse away the shampoo and such.

We had a list of things to get done before we departed and Christy thought I topped off the water tank while I assumed that she took care of it. So basically we left town with no water. Crap. We'll have to stop and pick up some fuel and fill the water tank while we're at it.

So with that in mind we left Mill Creek at 0730 and headed down through Norfolk. Once again like every year, the Gilmerton Bridge screwed us. Its always something with this bridge, every year its different but its always something. The Gilmerton Bridge sits right next to a railroad drawbridge that is actually fairly busy. We came around the corner and the bridge was already up and several boats were passing through. We were the fourth of five additional boats trying to get through the bridge. She said she had been open too long and she closed the bridge preventing the last 3 of us from making it through the opening. An additional 3 minutes and all of us would have been through.

Shes got to close the bridge so as not to interfere with the schedules of all those people sitting in their heated cars, in park, drinking frappe lappe chinos while talking on their cellphones and playing with their Ipads on a Sunday morning. While we're backing and filling trying to hold position in 20 knots of breeze and getting blown around like leaves in the Walmart parking lot. During the hour long wait for the next scheduled opening another 9 boats showed up to add to the fun......and then the train bridge went down. Crap. After wasting 1 ½ hours at the Gilmerton Bridge we locked through at Great Bridge and made a quick stop at Atlantic Yacht Basins fuel dock.

AYB is the last place that we purchased fuel on our way north in the spring. After our 300 mile round trip to Annapolis and back our fuel tank was down just 12 gallons. The water tank was still filling so I filled 2 deck jugs with an additional 10 gallons of diesel just to allow more time for the water to fill our tank.

Anchorages along the Virginia Cut Route are kind of few and far between. The loss of an hour and a half at the Gilmerton Bridge really put a hurting on our days run. We opted to knock out the crossing of Currituck Sound. But once across the sound darkness was falling to quickly for us to get to the anchorage we pined for just past Coinjock. So for the first time ever we had to stop and tie up on the marina wall in Coinjock. On the downside was the fact that it cost us about 70 dollars to sleep on our own sheets. But the plus side was huge. Internet and electric. Since we were plugged in we ran the heater all night. When we rose this morning it was 38 degrees in the cockpit. Thank God the Gilmerton Bridge screwed us once again or we might have frozen to death.