A Travellerspoint blog

Of Boats and Blogs

Swallowing the Anchor

sunny 95 °F

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The Boat: We purchased our boat on August 1st, 2007 with the intention of keeping it for five years. Today, we are two weeks into the seventh year of our five year plan. We have been to and through many of the Bahama Islands. We have been from Key West to, almost, Maine; we have been through the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays; we have been up and down the Potomac River. We have suffered gales and tropical storms. Just about everything that can breakdown on a boat has broken down on our boat.

This last trip probably covered about 2,000 miles; all in, we are comfortably over 5,000 miles but less than 10,000. There is not much more on the eastern seaboard that we want to do. Going well south into the Caribbean would require a commitment of a year, or so, something neither of us is inclined to do. And, in truth, this last trip was wearing and difficult. The mind is willing but the body does not easily follow.

Ecclesiastes 3:6 tells us that there is: a time to keep, and a time to cast away. We have kept the boat over six years and it is now time to cast it away. We're putting the boat up for sale with no regrets.

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The Blog: When we started to cruise, extended periods on the boat visiting watery places, we wanted a way to let our closest friends and family, specifically my mom, know where we were and what we were doing. I had, at the time, read a lot about blogs but had never actually read a blog. Coincidentally, at that same time, I was reading Mark Twain's (Samuel Clemens) book: Innocents Abroad. Written in 1869, it was a chronicle of his ocean voyage to Mediterranean Europe and the Holy Land. Published as a book, it was, in fact, a compilation of articles he had written and transmitted back to the USA for publication in newspapers, i.e. a travel blog based on the technologies of the time which were the telegraph and the printing press.

I was immediately struck by the fact that Aboard is an anagram of Abroad. I supposed that if one were to choose an American person of letters to emulate/plagiarize, it would be hard to do much better than Twain. And it all fit so neatly. We were, truly, innocent in the sense of naive and inexperienced, despite our serious efforts to learn about boats and boating and we were aboard our humble boat.

Thus was Innocents Aboard launched. This, the blog sign off, will be the 134th entry. Sadly, my mother passed, but the momentum of the blog continued. It has been a delight, mostly, to write about our adventures and misadventures. We have always viewed the boat not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end: new and shared experiences together. In that we have succeeded, having experiences that delighted and thrilled us, along with some experiences that were unexpected and a few, at least, that were unwanted. The best part of our six year pilgrimage was totally unanticipated: we have met so many nice, wonderful people with whom we have shared our boating lives.

As Rick said to Ilsa, "We'll always have Paris," I will be able to say to Carol,"We'll always have Ziveli."

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Posted by sailziveli 16:14 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

The Long Journey Home

Being There Is More Fun Than Getting There

semi-overcast 81 °F

As of the last blog entry, the battery monitor was not working and this was really bothering me; Carol, too. I knew that we relied on this thing but we didn't realize how much until we had the prospect of a long trip without it. As Sherlock said: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. When I ran the radar cable into the cabin I must have jogged the small wires and two had come loose, a fairly quick fix. The panel seems to be showing accurate battery bank voltage, so we will leave with some peace of mind.

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Order of Travel: Cape May, NJ to Portsmouth, VA

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The days are getting shorter now, maybe an hour shorter; it's been several weeks since the summer solstice. Sunrise in Cape May wasn't until 0550. We were away before that, by a few minutes, and got to see this sunrise over the bascule bridge spanning the New Jersey version of an ICW.

We had the devil's own time crossing the mouth of the Delaware Bay. We were pushed east and slowed down. I can account for either one of those happening but not both at the same time. By noon, things were better and we started making good time, very good time, sliding from New Jersey, through Delaware, past Maryland, headed for Virginia. The reason to leave when we did was the promise of a NW wind at the expense of some thunderstorms. Nothing much happened until midnight when things heated up, a bit, literally. The thunderstorms arrived ahead of the NW wind. It was kind of interesting watching XM weather on the laptop, the radar screen and out the "front window," sort of like Rashomon for weather. Rain on the radar screen forms dark smudges that look like amoebae having sex. First there is one blob, then it splits into two, and does it again, some disappearing, some merging and others welling up to replace them. Regardless of the number and direction of the several blobs, they all seemed to converge on the center of the screen, all the time: our boat. The wind and waves weren't much; the lightning, however, was concerning. It's fascinating to watch an electrical storm on the open water. There is nothing on the horizon to obscure the show, and what a show it can be. Beautiful to behold and terrifying to think that all that energy, when discharged, could use our mast as a path to get to ground. For a brief period, a gibbous moon hung in the night sky, lighting one quadrant of the horizon while next to it lightning strikes provided an even greater intensity of light across another.

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Regardless, this sunset showed that the maxim about, "red sky at night, sailor's delight" is just a maxim. Finally, about 0300 the NW winds arrived. We were heading about SSW which put this wind on the stbd. stern side, making for a wallowy ride. I came up for watch to see Carol hanging her head over the side, feeding the fish, despite having put on a scopolamine patch. She's done this enough times that she has learned to go to the lee side of the boat. The silver lining benefit of the storm .... cooler temperatures for the next few days.

Norfolk is very close to being halfway between Cape Cod, the northern apogee of our trip, and Brunswick, our southern destination. Carol and I both felt the same thing: Norfolk has a home court advantage for us, a place with which we are familiar and it's part of the South, Amen! We get to use our venerable Chart Kit for Norfolk to Florida, first purchased in July of 2007 in anticipation of moving the boat that August from Charleston, SC to Oriental, NC. It is dog-eared, pages are torn and smudged, stained with boat supplies and meals eaten underway, messy from drinks spilled and notes scribbled in haste. For all that, it is as comfortable as the proverbial "old shoe." We're glad to be here.

No free day on the boat is complete without adding to or deleting items from the eternal, inexhaustible To-Do list. Our layover day in Portsmouth was more of the same: work as a kind of (oxymoronic) rest therapy. So, we worked. There will be no more rest days, save for weather, until Morehead City or Charleston, SC.

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Order of Travel: Portsmouth, VA to Morehead City, NC

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Heading south from Norfolk & Portsmouth means dealing with bridges and locks for the first 15 or 20 miles, a timing and coordination challenge only slightly less complicated that the invasion of Europe in 1944. We actually did pretty well on that, only having to wait for one bridge, that one about 15 minutes. There were a couple of interesting moments along the way. As we approached a turn to head towards the first bridge, this monster came from the other direction. Too big to make the turn itself, it had two huge tugs to handle those navigation issues. We passed within 50 feet of it and the boat, Carol and I felt small, vulnerable and insignificant. The other incident came later. There was a rowing shell with a crew of four coming towards us; it moved left, we moved right and everything was OK ... until they were about 50-ft. away and decided that was the time to cut across our bow to the other side of the river. Our boat doesn't have any water brakes but we jerked the engine to reverse and avoided a disaster. It would have been our fault, regardless, because we were the vessel under power.

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Going from Virginia to NC we traveled a canal, straight and true. When we had last seen that area, 100 days ago, it was green, but a weak, winter green, the green of life surviving with no sign of Spring on offer. Now, 100 days later, the green was rich, deep and bright vibrant with life. In 130 miles, so far, we have seen beaucoup cypress trees along the banks and even more cypress stumps in the water. The lone sentinel is the only cypress tree we have seen thriving in the water, well away from shore. Few of the hundreds of osprey nests that we saw going north are now occupied; presumably the hatchlings have fletched and flown, and are now surviving on their own.

The trip is 180 nm from Portsmouth to Morehead City. On the first day we did exactly 45 nm, one quarter. We stopped in Coinjock, again, because there are no anchoring alternatives without much more travel south. Also, Carol has a predilection for the restaurant there which pretty well iced the stop. The irony was that she had what will probably be her last crab cake of the trip and she said that it was the worst of the trip.

The second day was just plain work. On the water, underway for more than 12 hours, covering more than 70 nm. We stopped a couple of miles short of Belhaven, NC; for practical purposes we did in one day going south what we had done in two days going north. The highlight of the day was when two tug/barge combinations tried to pass each other, in opposite directions, while in the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal. The three vessels ended up occupying a very small, piece of watery real estate. The thought for the day was: when elephants dance, mice tremble; we were the mice.

We could have made it through to Morehead City on day #3 of the ICW trip, but we decided to stop near Oriental, NC to see a friend. Probably just as well; lots of rain and poor visibility. The next morning, the trip from Oriental to Morehead City was short and easy.

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Order of Travel: Morehead City, NC to Charleston, SC

Things are supposed to get easier with practice, unless you're on a boat. In Morehead City we checked the offshore weather forecast: lots of 10~20 and 15~20 knot winds from the SW which, generally, is the direction we needed to go to get to Charleston. We could have waited a good while for the right weather and then still have had a two day trip south. Waiting did not fit my agenda ..... at all! We could get to Charleston in five days on the ICW. So that afternoon in Morehead City lots of stuff got done: laundry, shopping, oil change, other filters were changed. No lay over day.

We hate the ICW because of the "killer bee's:" bridges and boredom. We cannot go fast enough to make all of the schedules for the many, many bridges that still swing and lift. And, it's a challenge to hold station while a bridge gets ready to open with a single propellor vessel. This stretch of the ICW is, basically, huge chunks of boredom interspersed with the frustration and aggravation of waiting for bridges. The pattern seems to be that if an opening is supposed to happen on the hour, then that's when the bridgetender starts to think about finishing his/her cup of coffee.

As much as we dislike travelling this waterway, there is a certain ironic symmetry to what we're doing. We took possession of the boat on August 1st, 2007 and started moving it from Charleston to Oriental via the ICW. On August 1st, 2013, exactly six years later, we find ourselves moving the boat from Oriental to Charleston, via the ICW.

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It's been almost five years, November of 2008, since last we saw these waters. Most of it is not memorable but I remember with pellucid clarity all the places where I got confused (many), screwed up (several) and places where I ran aground (two). It's good not to repeat past mistakes so that we have the energy and enthusiasm for making new mistakes. There were some moments of nostalgia, actually lowlights, from the trip south in 2008. We saw the dock where we arose, one dark morning, to a boat, dock, mooring lines, electrical lines covered in ice. We passed the marina where Carol heaved her Thanksgiving dinner over the side (that's her in 2008 on the side of the boat) to a beautiful sunset. We passed Awenda Creek, where we tried to tried put out two anchors and fouled the propellor. We were so much younger then; we're wiser than that now.

Some things have gotten better over the years. One of those is my boat handling skill. On the very first trip to Oriental the captain we hired let me try some stuff, waiting for bridges, exiting marinas. Totally clueless! I have no idea about how well I do on an absolute scale; relatively the improvement has been exponential. If I don't know a lot, I do know enough to handle whatever has been served up.

It's been rainy, raining almost everyday since we left Cape May. These are summer rains, warm when they're falling and steamy when they're over. As I demanded my due on the way north, shore power to stay warm, Carol has been getting her due as we head south, shore power to stay cool. Neither one of us has been sleeping very well; that would be worse without the A/C.

It's summer, it's near the weekend and the stupids are on the water in force. Who are the stupids? They're people who:

• think it's their God-given right to anchor their fishing boats in the middle of narrow, shallow channels, made more shallow by the tide, because that's where God put the fish and the beer.

• cluster their boats in the center of the channel under 65-ft. bridges because the water is deeper there, ditto the fish and beer thing. Had to use the air horn to get their attention.

• cut in front of sailboats while pulling their children on tube floats so that the kids can fall off in the tubes in the center of the channel between us and a bridge that just opened while we're going full speed.

The jet skis don't even count, the people having the excuse of not being boaters. We must have seen every jet ski in South Carolina at least twice, some four, six and eight times as they buzzed by and buzzed by again and again.

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Sunrise on the Waccamaw River

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At Charleston, we will have travelled 469 miles from Norfolk/Portsmouth on the ICW; most of those miles meet W. C. Fields' criteria that, "I would rather be living in Philadelphia." There are, however, some miles that were meant to be savored. South of Myrtle Beach the ICW enters the Waccamaw River. The place we stayed that night was about three miles into the Waccamaw. It has, in our experience, a unique channel, reminiscent of the channels we saw in the Bahamas that were cut through the rock of the island. This channel was cut through the woods .... the trees were felled, the stumps pulled and the remainder dredged. It seemed that if you had the wingspan of Shaquille O'Neal you could have touched the trees on both sides as you entered. A pretty cool boating experience ... going through the woods.

The Waccamaw River is about 30 miles long and 20 of those miles are atavistic of the times before humankind walked on two legs. You could almost imagine Francis Marion, himself, stepping from behind a tree or, maybe, Mel (The Patriot) Gibson. The ride is/was gorgeous, the beauty unspoiled by development or other traces of human activity. The water through that stretch of river has an odd brown color, maybe the color of diluted Coca-Cola. I have been told that it is caused by tannin that leaches into the water from trees, probably cypress since they dominate. Interesting to look at, but it discolors white boats with a golden ring around the water line, which washes off, but not easily.

Along the way we saw many of these clumps of yellow flowers growing at the water's edge. They seemed to have a propensity for the bases of cypress trees, which is where these were growing. Those 20 miles almost pay the freight for all the rest.

On Sunday, we arrived in Charleston, taking five days to do what should have been done in four except for the dozen, or so, bridges for which we had to wait. Nine days, overall, from Norfolk/Portsmouth, about 52 miles per day, not bad but not great. Carol and I had mused that the Charleston City Marina might be an exception to my rants about public marinas being poorly managed. That debate was settled when we were about 50-ft. from the dock and the little princess not too bright on the VHF radio insisted that we switch all of our mooring lines and fenders from starboard to port. That did not happen; we moored at a place of my choosing.

It was and is good to be in the South, again. We have made the reacquaintance of several southern traditions: mosquitos (annoying), gnats (infuriating), deer flies (ouch-ing), humidity (sweating) and, for Carol, grits (yukking). We laid over a day there to accomplish several things. First, Carol wanted to get to Hyman's Restaurant, a mecca of lowland cooking, most of which has grits for dinner. I wanted to clean the cockpit to get rid of the several ka-jillion dead deer flies that we dispatched in transit. Finally, we scheduled appointments with two boat brokers to get a feel for the process and the options.

Order of Travel: Charleston, SC to Brunswick, GA

We concluded our business on Monday. This trip on the boat, probably our last trip on the boat, was NOT going to be down the ICW for four days .... been there, done that, didn't like it, ain't gonna do no mo'. On Tuesday the wind cooperated, sorta, being generally from the SE as we headed SW. We headed out the channel early, against the current, caring not a whit. From the Charleston sea buoy to the Brunswick sea buoy is a straight line, two waypoints 126 nm apart, pretty simple navigation, a trip we have made, both ways, several times. That part of the trip is easy: set the autopilot, lean back and enjoy the ride. It's the 35 nm going out one channel and then into the other where the time adds up, especially running against the tide.

The trip went faster than we had imagined and was not without some excitement. About 2000 on Tuesday Carol noticed that the bottom of the mainsail, a hook & loop system, was loose. A fairly simple fix, we had things back in order in about five minutes. The only obvious explanation is that the halyard stretched, but it's relatively new at about three years. Perplexing, but not to worry about now, at least. And, what trip would be complete without autopilot problems? Ours came at 0400 on the way to the Brunswick channel entrance. One of three things went wrong, two of which I can fix and the other is under warranty with Raymarine.

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We started the trip to take the boat north to Oriental, and beyond, on October 10th, 2012. 301 days later we are back where the northern journey began. The bridge over the Altamaha River was sort of like the finish tape for a running race. When we broke that plane the trip was over; all that was left to do was to motor up the East River, toss some lines and get hugs from Sherry and Cindy to welcome us back.

Trip Coda: This trip back to Georgia has seemed long to me. Notwithstanding the fact that it was long, about 1,000 net miles, it also took many days. We left Cape Cod on July 8th and arrived here on August 7th, a month in transit. It finally dawned on me that all our other return voyages were from the south; we could get to Brunswick from Miami in three days. This took 30 days, although a few of those were to accommodate Carol when she was sick.

Posted by sailziveli 09:11 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises bridges boats boating Comments (0)

Cape May, NJ ..... Again

rain 88 °F

Friday was not a good boat day which means that it was not a good day ..... at all. We started getting ready to leave about 0600; there was no reason to hurry, the trip from Atlantic City to Cape May is only about 40 nm, including both channels. Stowed the electrical cables, started the engine, singled up the mooring lines and then the fun began. Tried to power up the chart plotter ..... bupkus, nada, zip.

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Looked at the other electrical .... none of the DC circuits that recharge our several phones, iPads, computers, etc. were working; every device was draining power. It was deja vu all over again, a repeat of what happened in Oriental before we headed north. Same chart plotter symptom: no power to either unit .... at the helm or in the cabin.

Somehow, once again, a commonplace electrical issue had bled over from the DC outlets to the instrument circuit. This is, of course, still not possible, except that it has happened twice. I messed with things and made no progress for several hours. Finally, Carol rented a car so that we could go to West Marine and Radio Shack to get new parts and pieces. Worked some more hours with frustrations at every step of the way. The list is too long and it would sound like whining because it is whining. Every time I closed things up, thinking that I was through, something required going back and doing it again, and again, and again. About 1800 (6pm) everything actually worked. The concern is that I really don't know what the problem was so I don't know whether stuff worked because of what I did or despite what I did. Which is to say that it may happen again. Part of the issue is fuses, the old glass cylinder type, of which our boat has nine. The fuses look OK, ie the metal filament is intact, but either no power flows or reduced power flows. How this gets at the navigation system is the mystery. As a precaution, I stocked up on fuses.

Carol summed up the day when she said, "This will make it easy for you to sell the boat." Unfortunately, we have another issue with the chart plotter that we may be able to resolve in Cape May, having found someone to look at the issue. Either way, that may make it even easier.

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Saturday was an OK boat day and an OK day. We got to Cape May without issue. It was a bumpy ride into the wind but we made good enough time and were moored securely just after lunch, which suited Carol just fine. She had an appointment to get her hair done and was much concerned about keeping that appointment. There are just some things that "regular guys" will never understand about women, beauty parlours being, possibly, a top ten item on that list. There will never be a gender bending version of Steel Magnolias with old guys sitting around on lumpy chairs with torn naugahyde upholstery reading years old copies of Popular Science, Guns & Ammo and Sports Illustrated, but never the swimsuit issue, and getting more hair cut from their noses, ears and eyebrows than their heads. Not much visual drama there.

Carol was resplendent with her hair just the right shade of chemical red, replacing streaky mauve and puce with accent streaks of neon orange. A visit to the salon almost always makes her feel better, more confident, a better self image. I swear, from a mile away, that I could hear her singing as she walked back to the boat:

I feel pretty
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and bright

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Anyway, you have to be old enough to remember West Side Story. Point two on Carol's agenda was another visit to the Lobster House restaurant; having cooked one night in a row she thought that this was her due, so we did. Once again she managed to avoid the tuna melt. Of course, all the excitement of having her hair done, eating out and spending 10 minutes on the helm wore her out and she was asleep before 8PM.

My agenda only had one item: get nekkid and get into the very nice showers here at the marina. I did both.

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Sunday was not a good boat day which means that it was not a good day ..... at all. Our chart plotter/radar system is a monochrome antique but had always performed well and we are used to it; a color screen has never seemed, a priori, a value adding proposition. The system has two displays, one at the helm and one in the cabin. An area of the screen on the unit at the helm had gone bad, readable, but with difficulty. My bright idea was to swap the units which we did Saturday morning before getting underway. It mostly worked except for the radar, a resource on which we have come to depend. I called ahead and, improbably, had a guy that came over to the boat on Saturday afternoon to look at the system after we arrived. Warren looked more like a termite inspector that a marine electronics specialist, but he knew his stuff. He was unable to resolve the issue without a call to Raymarine, not open on Saturday. He did mention that the radar cable was usually 10 meters long and the cartoon "idea" light bulb went off over my head. If we could find the cable we could reroute it to the cabin and everything would work, MAYBE!

On Sunday morning we found the cable in a very inaccessible part of the boat and it seemed, on inspection, to be long enough to reach the main cabin. Then the fun began, a concatenation of actions that typify the most aggravating aspect of boating. The cable has a 1.25 inch connector/lock and was too big to get through the channel in the sole of the cockpit. So, to get the connector and cable through the cockpit sole it was necessary to remove the Morse cables that control the engine speed and transmission. In order to remove the Morse cables it was necessary to disassemble the Teleflex throttle control. To access the Teleflex throttle it was necessary to remove the helm and autopilot. To get to the pieces that I dropped I had to remove the panel with the rode chain counter. We had to empty one lazarette and most the the galley cabinets to access the cable run. We did all of these things. Finally, we rerouted the cable, drilled a bunch of holes, got the cable to the unit, hooked it up and, voilà, the payoff was a working, readable navigation system at the helm with radar. Eight hours on Sunday, several more on Monday. This type of work would have cost $100/hr. So, I guess, we can appreciate the sweat equity we have invested in the boat. But, if that's such a good deal, why didn't we enjoy it?

On the plus side, if there is one, I found two potential disasters. I had to get under the steering mechanism to access the Morse cables and the radar cable and, while there, found a nut and washer, one of four, on the steering mechanism that had fallen off. I probably hadn't been in that space in two years, or so. We have an emergency manual bilge pump built in and I noticed that part of it was cracked and it probably would not have worked. Finding these sorts of issues is never a positive thing because the next question is always: What else have I missed?

Monday was a very busy day but without the stress of: what if I cannot do this, what if I do it and it doesn't work. That was until I started checking out an error message on the battery monitor panel. It indicated a blown fuse, or interrupted circuit to the house battery bank. Using Occam's Razor, I took several of the right fuses to the lazarette and we both cleared things out to access the batteries. Sometimes the good friar's razor cuts wrong, to wit, we had a broken positive battery post connector, improbable to the max. It's a fairly simple replacement unless you have about a jillion wires connected, old hands and nearby negative terminals against with these positive wires can short, all true in this instance. Got this problem fixed and the battery monitor is still goofy. The question I cannot answer is whether there is a real problem or the monitor is hosed. I'm pretty sure it's the latter .... I hope.

It seems, at times, as if events are conspiring against us or, maybe, we're being tested; regardless, the number of hurdles between us and Brunswick has appeared unreasonably large and growing. Any pretense about a "fun trip" has gone away; we are now on a working trip to get the boat back to Brunswick, GA and the to-do list grows daily. Strangely, this is hectic but seems normal and, in a left handed way, comfortable despite the anxiety. We have a goal and are focused on that attaining that goal. It sometimes seems that Carol and I do better under adversity, working to achieve an end than we do in "playing and having fun."

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We had thought to go to Ocean City, MD before heading to Norfolk. That would have shortened the trip by about 40 nm. I think that Carol wanted to ride the roller coaster, ironic since in 2-ft. waves she is heaving chunks over the side. But the weather forecast has winds from the north on Wednesday and we plan to hitchhike on those to speed the trip south.

The order of travel is:

1. Cape May to Norfolk, VA: 180 nm ~ two days, one night
2. Norfolk to Morehead City, VA, via the ICW to avoid Cape Hatteras: 180 nm - four days, no night travel
3. Morehead City to Charleston, SC, 220 nm ~ two days, two nights
4. Charleston to Brunswick, 160 nm - two days, one night

And miles to go before we sleep,
And miles to go before we sleep
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This will be the last blog entry for a while. This is all territory we have covered before. I will probably do a recap when we reach Brunswick.

Posted by sailziveli 14:23 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Atlantic City, NJ

sunny 92 °F

They came by boats into the Great Salt Pond; they came by ferries into the Old Harbor. Regardless, they came. Too many people .... an area much, much smaller than the township of Spring Creek had more people standing in line for restaurants and bars than there are in all of Madison County, NC. And it was hot, the warmest for that day on record. The Great Salt Pond was crowded with boats at anchor, not enough room to let out proper scope or to swing safely with the wind and tide. As much as we wanted to see the island, we had waited too long, the island was overrun. The time to have visited was in June like we did with Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

It was good to be quit with that place. At 0513 on Tuesday, there was light enough to see, barely, and we were underway for Atlantic City. The prevailing wind at this latitude at this time of year is from the SW, the exact direction we were headed. Normally this would have made for a long, not very pleasant slog into headwinds and waves. The other reason to leave was a brief window with winds from the N/NNE, not a lot of wind, and it was forecast to deform and diminish overnight. In the event, the wind held for more than 24 hours and provided an extra boost along the way. We motor sailed and made very good time, far better than expected, hitting the channel into Atlantic City before the marina opened at 0800.

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The weather was absolutely perfect, the wind helpful, the skies clear but a little hazy, the seas had a gentle swell, giving the boat a comfortable rolling motion so that we knew we were at sea. So what could spoil such an ideal passage? It's been five years since we have cruised in July or August and some things get forgotten. Block Island's parting gift for the trip was a cast of stowaways: most of the black flies that had been on the island hopped aboard the Ziveli in anticipation of a dinner cruise .... and Carol and I were the dinner. It was an insect version of Tora, Tora, Tora as wave after wave flew into, then attacked us in the cockpit. Kill some, others were waiting around outside to take their places. They weren't huge, except for the part that bites which was very large, indeed, able to cut through t-shirts. The fly swatters were busy but I seem to be losing some hand/eye coordination because I was a lot less than lethal, my SpK (swats per kill) ratio being unacceptably much higher than a perfect 1.0. As the bug body count mounted and so did the mess on the sole of the cockpit. This bodes ill for the four days that we will spend on the ICW, from Norfolk to Morehead City, to avoid Cape Hatteras.

Long Island passed below the horizon about noon. Not too much later we were south of Moriches Inlet, passing close by the location where TWA 800 fell from the sky, in pieces, one day early for the event anniversary on July 17th. It's closing in on twenty years, now, since that tragedy in 1996. It seems more recent than that. Too many disasters have created milestones which mark the passages of our lives.

Carol had remarked that we hadn't seen any porpoises since we arrived in Montauk. A little after lunch we saw our first ones, maybe five or six. For the five years and fifty weeks that we have owned the boat I have been trying to take a picture of any porpoise, any time, anywhere but these guys are way quick and all I have to show for my efforts are many porpoiseless pictures of ripples, splashes and empty water. In the evening a gam/pod/school swept by the boat, at least 50, probably more. A smaller group broke off and buzzed the boat which was way cool. I know it's sentimentally anthropomorphic, but they just seem so exuberant and playful, showing off just because they can. They also seem to define fluidity and grace in the water. Of course, if I were a 6-in. fish lower down the food chain my opinion would probably be different. Patience and perseverance were, finally, rewarded: a photo "trophy" at the end of a long hunt.

Carol saw some sea turtles, which I missed, no pictures. This seems farther north that I would have thought that they ranged.

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That night the sun seemed to sink into the muck and mire of haze and smog over New York. While the EPA may decry the pollution, observers can appreciate the unintended consequences of absorbing all of the light spectrum except for red and orange. There was a half moon overhead when I started my 0300 watch, bright and high in the sky. As the moon passed to the west and got lower in the sky, it went from white, to yellow through red, each shade of color a little less bright than the last as the light passed through more and more of the atmosphere. Finally, it seemed not so much to have set as to have been extinguished, just disappearing from view, the dimming light finally fading to nothingness. It was much more beautiful than I can describe; I understand the science of the event but cannot relate the inherent poetry of what I saw. What we didn't see was the penumbra of light on the horizon that usually marks large cities. I expected to see a large halo of light and that we would just aim for the middle. It's a good thing that the GPS worked.

We waited around the channel entrance for a while for someone from the marina to respond and give us mooring instructions. It's a municipal marina so they took their time. We had been observing a dredge in the channel area for a while; when we started into the channel it seemed to occupy all of the space with dredging stuff spread from side to side. It was pretty easy to decide I didn't know what I should be doing or where I should be going; turned around and headed back out. Tried to hail the dredge on VHF 16 ... no response. Called TowBoat US and they told me to try VHF 13, which worked. Got some instructions and had at it. It's not an overly complicated channel but with dodging stuff it was interesting enough.

The passage was remarkably easy and pleasant, about as big a no-brainer as these things can be: mash an autopilot button once in awhile, adjust sail trim when you get bored. But it was hot and dehydration causes fatigue. Regardless, we were both exhausted when the boat was finally moored. As an act of mercy, the first order of business was to hook up shore power and get the AC going. It was 94o when we arrived and Carol was in the full Nordic Princess mode, melting faster than Greenland's glaciers. No surprise there; she wears SPF one kajillion clothing that has the absorbency and comfort of Saran wrap; she lathers herself in sunscreen that, in a cooking emergency, could substitute for a can of Crisco, then goes into the hot weather and cooks herself like the chinese prepare beggar's chicken.

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The large building with the sloped top is interesting. From the front profile it looks huge; from the side it is only about two rooms wide, rather like a knife's blade, having a broad flat side and a thin, narrow edge. The first time I saw the side view I was unable to associate it with the front side until I saw the white dome on top.

Atlantic City's raison d'etre is simple: separate visitors from their money. This marina is no exception, being one of the most expensive in which we have stayed. Had I been able to guess that we would have made such good time, 6.4 knots vs. my "aggressive" estimate of 5.5 knots, I would have opted to head directly for Cape May which would have been easily doable at that speed. Since we're here, we'll spend a day looking around, if for no other reason than to convince ourselves that we don't want to stay any longer than that. In truth, we were both so worn out the next morning that getting underway would have been out of the question. It will be interesting to see how we hold up because we have four more night passages planned before reaching Brunswick.

From a distance, on the water, the city looked nice enough. When we started through the channel into the city, it got a lot rougher. Not much of the old Atlantic City remains; it has mostly been torn down, paved over and built up. There is not much grace or charm, even less of beauty here, I think, all three sacrificed to make the machine. There are some condos, townhouses and private residences in town. I can no more understand wanting to live here than these residents could understand wanting to live in Spring Creek. That divide is so alien as to be uncrossable.

We both did a little work each day but nothing very strenuous or tiring; it was just too hot and will remain so through the weekend. We are off tomorrow for Cape May, again and plan to stay there for the weekend.

Posted by sailziveli 19:26 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating tourist_sites Comments (0)

Block Island Sleepover

The Cruise Is Over .... It Just Hasn't Ended

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We figured that Carol could use another day to rest. So, after two days of maintenance we just hung out for the weekend in Newport. Nothing much that we wanted to do that we hadn't already done. Plus, we figured that the harbor in Block Island would clear out on Monday morning giving us a better chance of getting a mooring ball.

So, we did little in Newport. Carol started eating again managing to dine out two nights while we were there; kept it all down, too. Carol is an equal opportunity consumer of seafood, equally comfortable and satisfied with meals from each of the three major marine phyla: chordates (fish), arthropods (crabs & other crustaceans) and mollusks (shellfish). For all this, after years of watching, she has never ordered a $4.99 tuna melt, having a propensity for menu items that have market prices and for which the check comes with an AED lest the bill shock to the point of a heart attack. I always carry my nitro pills when we go out to eat... just in case.

Monday morning we were both up early, but in no hurry; it's only a 4-hr. trip. It was the first clear morning in a while, i.e. no fog. Busy with boat preparations, I kept noticing that the sunrise was really very nice. So, I had to stop my work and take another picture, and another, etc. Two different views of the same event on the same morning since I didn't want to choose between the two.

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The trip, as forecast, took just 4 hours, leaving at 0600 and arriving at 1000. The harbor master told us to take any lime green mooring ball that was open. What he neglected to say, until confronted face to face, was that there weren't any open lime green mooring balls. Anyone who believes that government works should go to a publicly managed marina (St. Augustine, FL, excluded) and compare that experience with any privately managed marina. No contest! Private enterprise wins 99 out of 100. So we anchored except this harbor is really deep. The shallow spot where we dropped the hook is over 20-ft. deep at low tide. Not a problem, just different, and a long way from the dinghy dock. We hung around the boat through lunch into the afternoon and the boats just kept coming and coming. We went ashore for dinner, Carol killing mollusks at this particular session. The place was just covered up. It's probably a sour grapes rationalization, but as much as we were looking forward to the visit, there are just too many people here for it to be much fun.

That afternoon, I decided to look at the wind forecast for the balance of the week. It pretty much came down to leave Tuesday and arrive in New Jersey on Wednesday or be prepared to stay here longer than a little while. We were not inclined to want to do that. Our enthusiasm for this visit is declining, so before 0500 Tuesday, 07/16, we will be underway for Atlantic City. The attraction of the place is that we can make the passage in two days and one night without too much worry, less than 36 hours. Cape May, the preferred destination, is 50 nm farther and requires two days and two nights. Who knows? Maybe we'll run into the Donald or the Boss.

The decision to make this crossing was not as spontaneous as our decision to leave the Abacos in 2012. But it has that hurried feel, unsettling, as if we are overlooking something important that will not be called to mind until it is too late. Hopefully, just nerves and not a premonition.

Posted by sailziveli 18:15 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating Comments (0)

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