A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sailziveli

It's Just Simple Math

Pulpit Harbor on North Haven Island

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The math is pretty simple, probably second grade level. We saw it entering and leaving Belfast Harbor. When we went into the harbor the water’s depth was 26-ft.; when we left the next day it was 13-ft. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it kinda was.

The trip south to Pulpit Harbor was easy and short. Less than 20 nm, not quite four hours. The harbor’s entrance was a little tricky to see from the open water if you had never been there before; we hadn’t. Between the charts and the cruising guides, no big deal. The charts showed Pulpit Rock guarding the harbor. It was big, it was an obvious navigational issue and it looked nothing like any pulpit I have ever seen. Maybe some rum-soaked sailor was having an attack of conscience when first he spied the rock.

It’s a fairly sheltered place, a good anchorage for any vessel. The shore is lined with nice houses, many of which have docks to the water. There were many mooring balls, all of them private according to the cruising guide, most of them vacant according to a quick assessment. So, despite the vacancies, we decided to be good citizens and anchor for the night, not wanting to usurp another’s property.

Anchoring. Every sailor has stories of what happened during an anchoring gone bad. We have Ocracoke and Awenda Creek, and weren’t interested in adding to that litany. This is the first time we had even anchored with a nylon rode (rope). Our boat had a heavy steel chain and a massive anchor although we did carry spare nylon rodes and extra anchors. So, some aspects of this were new to us. Nylon stretches and stretches even more when it gets wet. First lesson: it becomes a 150-ft. rubber band, literally. It would stretch and then contract as the wind worked on the boat. Not a problem, just new information until on one of the stretches the rudder crossed the pendant of a mooring ball. That took a while to untangle and made us decide to re-anchor somewhere else with more swing room.

Fair enough, learn from your mistakes. It’s hard to pull a 12,000-lb. boat into a 20-knot wind without a windless, but we did and moved to a new spot. A couple of hours later, as the tide was running out I looked at the depth gauge: 6-ft. of water with a 5-ft. draft and a couple more hours before the tide was low.

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We were going to be aground before the tide had completely run out. Rookie mistake!. I had not done the math; the water was too shallow. It’s even harder to pull the boat the second time, but we did, again. All thoughts of good citizenship evaporated and we took and empty mooring ball for the night. No one showed up; no one complained.

We had never seen tides quite like this in all of our travels. Two high tides and two low tides every day, with about 10-ft. to 12-ft. difference between the high and low. Thus means that every hour of every day the water level is changing by 20-in. to 24-in. up, down, then up again.

There were two schooners in the harbor that stayed the night. They were from Castaine or Belfast, or both. This one left a sail up to help it betterr ride into the wind. It was having a cookout that smelled pretty good, but there were no invites.

We never made to the Pulpit Harbor Inn for dinner; closed on Mondays. So, we stayed on the boat and went to bed early.

Posted by sailziveli 10:15 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

New Plan

Belfast, ME

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Carol said she needed to do some shopping, not in the sense that we needed stuff on the boat or else we would perish of thirst or hunger. No, she just needed to go shopping. Shopping is elemental for her, like oxygen, necessary to sustain life. So, I told her that the cruising guide said there are lots of stores in Belfast, Maine, a mere 10 nm west of Castaine, so off we went on this Sunday morning.

And a great morning it was. When we slipped the mooring the water's surface was like glass. Great for some photographic shots, but not so great for sailing. A warm sun was shining on us motored west. For a while we were the only boat in motion, at least that we could see. It was like we owned the moment, not having to share it with any other boaters.

After a couple of hours a light breeze came up from the SW, not even close to being a wind. It was just enough to fill the sails and to push the boat. We only topped 4 knots a couple of times and those times were quite evanescent. And with the breeze other sails started to go up. It was like white flowers blooming from the sea.

Belfast was a surprise. A lot of sailboats, including two schooners that take folks out for day cruises. I guess that I still have schooner envy. I would love to sail one of those vessels but I see no way to make that happen. I would guess that there are at least 100 mooring balls here, probably more. Maybe one in three is in use.

For the first couple of days we spent a lot of energy dodging lobster pots. They were thick ... in the harbors, in the channels and in the open water. About halfway through Eggemoggin Reach they almost disappeared. Not coincidentally, we started seeing really nice homes lining the coasts of the islands and mainland. Best guess: this place is too expensive for lobster men to live and too far away for them to waste time and fuel getting here.

For all the time that we spent fogged in we are both pretty red in the face. Some sun, some wind and my face looks like a crispy critter and so do the backs of my hands. For all the sunscreen and SPF 50 clothing, Carols is also pretty pink.

We are now on the western side of Penobscot Bay, an area that I never even considered in the original cruising plan. The trick is to get back east without going over the same ground. So, the new plan is to head to Pulpit Harbor on the island of North Haven. There is an old inn there, the Pulpit Harbor Inn, which is supposed to have good food. I'm sure Carol can be talked into forgoing cooking on the boat. From there, a couple of nights at Isle Au Haut, a tricky bit getting to Mackerel Cove and then back to Bass Harbor.

I had thought that renting a boat might not be a good idea, that I would endlessly compare this boat to ours and not like the differences. And, there has been some of that. But mostly it has been about accepting the boat for what it is and learning to work within those constraints. With our boat we were married. With this boat it's just a first date.

Posted by sailziveli 16:41 Comments (0)

Burnt Coat Harbor & Castine Bay

overcast 64 °F

My whole reason for doing this in June was to avoid the crowds. Did I ever get that right. In Blue Hill Harbor they were having a new employee orientation the day we were there. Tonight, we tried to eat at an old inn and were told that they hadn’t even staffed up yet. Clearly, mission accomplished.

So, left Blue Hill Harbor a little after 0800; got the boat into open water and futzed around with the sails which eventually we got up. Since there was no particular hurry we decided to sail the whole way. Slow going for the first few miles; just not very much wind. Then we came from the lee of Long Island, one of a dozen, or so, in these part with this same name, and things really heated up.

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Without trying very hard, the boat’s speed picked up, and up and up. At one point we were sailing over 8 knots, something that never, ever happened in our boat. This boat flies. Despite all that speed, this schooner went by us like we were at a standstill. That in no way diminished the fun. It was bright, it was sunny and we were sailing. What else could there be on such a day.

I had forgotten, I guess, how physical sailing like that can be. Sailing slow is easy; sailing fast is working the lines and fighting the helm to hold the line with the wind. Boats, sometimes, tend to move into the wind when the boat heels over and the rudder has less purchase in the water. This is called weather helm and it is a constant tug-of-war between the boat, the wind and the helm. Fun first, fatigue second and the sails came down the last mile or two.

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So, finally we made it to Burnt Coat Harbor. There are not any local legends, at least in the cruising guides to tell us whose coat got burnt, when the fire occurred or how the flames started. Inquiring minds will never know. The harbor is a working harbor mostly devoted to lobster, a few scallops, clams and mussels. It was interesting that the men had formed a co-op, vertical integration, it seems. Anyway, this place had a restaurant a couple of miles away in Minturn, which being old and tired, seemed like a long hike, so we did not even bother going ashore. We grabbed a mooring ball and called it a day.

We buttoned up the boat for the night and then there was the problem: no power for any of the boat’s systems. We could start the boat, but nothing else would power up. Big problem because without a chart plotter I wasn’t going anywhere other than to bed. We called Carlton J. who maintains the boat for the owner and he allowed that he would be out the next morning, by boat, probably fifteen miles from Bass Harbor.

I really figured that the trip was over. We would get towed back to port and disembark, then head back home. When Carlton came along side in his boat the next morning, he had brought his wife and two dogs, one of which was bigger than me. Turns out the problem was nothing more than a loose battery cable; easily tightened and power returned.

The weather forecast was lousy: rain, fog and high winds, too high for sailing. So where to go? We had planned on a place called Bucks Harbor but there are no mooring balls these and I did not want to anchor in a strange boat, in a strange place and rely on everything going right in bad weather.

We decided to traverse the whole length of Eggemoggin Reach and head for Castaine Bay with mooring balls and restaurants. It was a tedious day. Some rain but mostly just gray. No wind, so we motored the whole way intent on beating the weather, which we did.

What made the day enjoyable was lighthouses, three of them. One at the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor, the second in Eggemoggin Reach and the final one at the entrance to Castine Bay. Lighthouses seem anachronistic in today’s digital world. But these areas have working boats with local residents, and sometimes electronics fail, and sometimes they fail on a dark and stormy night.

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This evening, after dinner, as we were walking back to the boat, we saw the fog rolling in, just like in San Francisco Bay. You cannot call Castaine Bay big although it is bigger than the other places we have been. It is a quaint village on a pretty bay.

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They claim to have real elm trees, 300 or so, that have not been infected with the Dutch elm disease. The leaves looked about right; this tree is in the town square next to the library next to which these flowers were blooming.

As we had driven, and now cruised around these coasts of Maine I have been struck by how lush the greenery is. In the woods you see lots of ferns, moss and such and reminds me of the Olympic peninsula in Washington state. It seems to be a kind of rain forest, just skip the word tropical.
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The weather has been a frustration, of course. But after all those years on our boat we know that it is just part of the deal. What has been getting me is the lack of good cellular coverage. Everywhere we have been on the trip has had only 1X coverage. This works for voice, but forget about data, it just cannot happen. I am at the library in Castine using their free wifi and I am greatly appreciative for having it.

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The fog is still with us but the high winds never did arrive. Laying over in this place was a good choice. We get to eat out both night, a haddock fish fry last night, get some ice and other supplies Tomorrow, Sunday, we'll head south to Isle du Haut, a remote island mostly owned by the US Park Service. It is considered part of the Acadia Nat'l Park and has hiking trails. The island actually has a little height, topping 500-ft. I think. There are only three places to anchor, no mooring balls, and all three anchorages have liabilities. I doubt that the cell phones will actually work there, but even if they do, no data so, no blog.

Posted by sailziveli 12:30 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

Underway for Blue Hill Harbor

At Long Last

Things were different this morning, Wednesday, as we awoke to greet the summer solstice; actual sunshine was pouring through the port holes. This was a most pleasant and hoped-for change. As the sun brightened the harbor it also brightened our outlook. Writing off Sunday was no big deal; Monday and Tuesday at the dock was not so great.

The only real task we had to perform before getting under way was to top off the water tank, a five-minute chore. The boat’s owner happened to be on the dock and we chatted for a few minutes and, of course, got the whole story of the name Diane, his wife and true love. I’m happy for him, but not critical information for us.

The slack water for the high tide was at 0842 so we left just about then. The harbor exit, without the fog, was pretty simple. We only had to dodge one small ferry and voila, open water.

I had not been feeling too great, maybe a cold or such; the weather was a definite downer and my mood as we left the dock was lacking in enthusiasm, something that is never true of Carol. There is something magical for me about being at the helm of a sailboat. We had not gone a ¼-mi. and I felt invigorated. We were under way, finally; I had not screwed the pooch getting away from the dock; life in the sunshine was suddenly great, again. Maine was, once again, a great idea.

Our plan was to get to Blue Hill Harbor, about 16 nm north and a little east of Bass Harbor. The cruising guides rated it very high as a sheltered harbor and as a picturesque place. And, why not? A simple, no-brainer is always a good idea for day one.

We motored for a bit to get ourselves in decent position away from any land or shallow water and decided that it was time to hoist the sail. This was a genuine first; we had never actually hoisted a sail before since our boat had in-the-mast furling. This was not quite a complete Mongolian cluster f__k, but it was fairly close. First of all, I had not attached the mainsail halyard to the sail. At the time, it seemed odd to me that they did not do this as a standard procedure. No hay problema and quickly done. The rigging on this boat is way different from that on our boat. It is set up to rig a spinnaker, which we decided not to use. It has a different reefing system than our boat did. The jib furling line is handled much differently than ours was.

After an indecent and frustrating interval, the sails were up and “sorta” trimmed. And it was way cool. We were sailing at about six knots, almost an impossible thing on our boat. A little weather helm but not too bad. Carol was “challenged” with the rigging but we got it done. At one point, we even did a down-wind run with the sails set wing on wing, a beautiful thing to see. It took me a while to figure out some of the intricacies of the chart plotter which is several generations newer than the one we had on our boat when we were cruising.

There were some “holes” in the wind. This is all new to us and it may be that sailing in the lee of the islands affects the wind. I had been looking at the charts for a good while and all the islands had contour lines indicating elevation. In the event, the height of these islands does not get much above 100-ft. On the chart is looks like going through Norway’s fjords; on the water, not so much.

Driving around the island we saw all the houses of the regular folks. On the water we saw the homes and estates of the not so regular folks. These are impressive, not so much for their size as we saw along the ICW in Florida, but for the setting in which the homes are placed. It would be hard for anyone to say that they are not beautiful. My New England roots seem to run deep and these appeal to me. But, not enough to leave our mountain fastness, a place I truly love.

So, a little sailing and a little motoring and about 1300, we were in Blue Hill Harbor. I’m guessing that the rise in the middle of the picture is Blue Hill; navigation charts are mostly agnostic about land features. In point of fact, the hill looked to be mostly green, although color perception is not my strongest point.

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Today, anyway, it went well enough but I am still concerned about doing this in heavier seas. I suppose I should not worry since it’s not my dinghy and motor.

After getting a mooring ball and taking the dinghy to the marina, we buttoned up the boat and there were some high winds for a bit. Then I saw the reason for removing the main halyard from the sail: there is no way then for the wind to “fill” the sail. So, I removed the halyard from the sail and we settled in for the evening. Since the marina only had cold water showers I decided that I could do that on our boat without the long dinghy ride, so I did. This did not include putting my skinny ass in 500 degree water.

So, on a secure mooring ball, a gin and tonic was the order of the day. We had dinner in the cockpit while this tableau was over the stern.

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We weren't really paying too much attention, but at the time it was about half tide. The next morning as getting ready to leave Carol noticed that the entire rocky outcrop was "gone," buried under a full high tide.

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While we were eating dinner, we saw another couple hunting for their dinner; a pair of seals. It’s hard to see, but the spot in the picture is the head of one of those seals. Those guys can hold their breath for a long while, and they’re quick too.

So, the hard part now: rate the day. While we were not to be confused with an America’s Cup crew, we did OK for our 70 years. The fun is back. We have not forgotten all the moves. We can do this. We are doing this. We can relax and savor the day.

Posted by sailziveli 08:34 Comments (0)

Game Not Quite On

Temporarily Delayed Due to Weather

overcast 66 °F

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We have not seen the sun since we passed through the thin strip of New Hampshire that borders the ocean. Not much of a problem; sun is not a necessary part of cruising although it does make it more fun. No, the real issue has been that ever since we approached Mt. Desert Island the entire area has been shrouded in fog, a real pea soup-er as the say in these parts.

We got on the boat Sunday morning as planned. Zero visibility, not even 100-yards, most of the time even less. Being acutely aware of my limitations, trying to get out of a crowded harbor using the Braille method seems like a bad idea. And even if done and done well, there is the issue of where to go and get there safely in the same fog. It seems that most of the lobster boats are still in the harbor today despite it being a work day.

And to top it off, the Coast Guard put out a small craft warning from Sunday night until Tuesday morning: heavy seas and high winds. I would not have tried getting underway in our boat; in a strange boat in a new place it seems seriously not too bright to try it, so we did not.

When first we boarded the boat it seemed quite commodious, having a very open main cabin. Then we started hauling stuff on board and it shrank a considerable amount. We got everything aboard and Carol, being a serial and unrepentant irridentist, immediately claimed all the storage space as her own. I will be living out of a travel bag for the duration but I do get to control the nav station.

The boat rental manager stayed with us a couple of hours explaining the boat's workings, all of which made perfectly good sense at the time. Everything seems vaguely familiar but nothing, of course, is quite the same. I suppose that we will have it worked out shortly, but there will be a lot of aggravation before that happens. There is so much to remember and it has been a while.

We have gotten a lot of advice on where to go, all of it well informed. I had planned on an loop over to Bar Harbor. That is now out. We will be cruising to the east of Bass Harbor over towards Penobscot Bay. Some of the work I had done on routes and times will probably still appertain, but most will not. The changes should be easy enough to do on the fly, I hope.

This boat was built in 1986 and I was struck by how much it is similar to that of our friend Victoria's. Hers was built in 1980 and is 36-ft. long so this could be its younger cousin. It's almost as if they copied that design.

So, tomorrow, Tuesday, we should get underway for somewhere if the fog will cooperate and the Coast Guard has lifted its advisory. My two most immediate concerns are: getting off the dock since the boat is, more or less, parallel parked and pointing the wrong direction; then getting out of the harbor to open water. At that point we will try to get the sails up. This boat does not have a anemometer so it will all be guess work about how strong the winds are. Reading the surface of the water and the waves provides a decent estimate but only after moving from a sheltered anchorage to open water.

So, we are hopeful for tomorrow, but who can tell?

Posted by sailziveli 16:24 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

Game on

As Yoda said,"Do. Or do not. There is no try."

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We had dinner here, the night before we left. By accident the restaurant is only a 100 yards from the dock from which we will leave. It shouldn't be surprising, I guess. There are no pizza joints around, no burger havens, no taco stands. There are many places that kill and cook great quantities of lobster, along with sundry clams and assorted mussels. So, it is good to like lobster. I had my first lobster roll today and it was good. They cook the lobster and then chunk up the meat and put it in something that resembles a hot dog bun, add a little mayo and some secret seasonings and you have a meal. There may not be quite as much meat as in a whole lobster, but it is about 10 times easier and 100 times less work than cracking a lobster and digging for the meat.

On our last trip, Carol's plan was to "Kill a Crustacean Today." Which, of course, she did wiping out the entire crab population of Chesapeake Bay, an unreported ecological disaster. On Friday she was at it again, lobster this time. It seems that crustaceans, like Montezuma, can extract their revenge. She got bad sick, but recovered quickly the next day. I have got some sort of insidious summer cold that will not go away. It has not blossomed but it just drains and makes me drag. No so much fun.

Mt. Desert Island is quite beautiful. It would be an easy sell to get anybody to spend a couple of summer months here. But, the same thing can be said about Spring Creek and we do get to spend more than a couple of months there. We do seem to be ahead of the vacation crush, at least so far.

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We have glimpsed one or two estate homes on the island. But, mostly it seems that there are lots of regular people living in normal houses with muddy pickups parked in the yard. There is no industry that we have seen; there seems to be the usual gaggle of artists and artisans; Bar Harbor has lots of places to drink beer and buy t-shirts. But every cove or harbor seems to have its own fleet of these craft from which lobster pots are set and gathered. That is probably a hard life. But, looking at the boats and their upkeep, things must be pretty good now for the lobster men.

Cell coverage on the island is very spotty except around Bar Harbor. ATT may be better here than Verizon, which we have. I am not sure how often I will be able to upload the blog.

Posted by sailziveli 16:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

If It Itches

you just gotta scratch!!!

rain 57 °F

I have a friend who, among other things, writes songs. My favorite from his portfolio is, "I Get That Itchy Feeling." Well, I have had an itchy feeling for a while, a very long while, and it involves sailboats and Maine. On our last trip in 2013, Maine was in the float plan. In fact, Maine was pretty much the object of the whole trip. We made it as far north as Provincetown, MA, on the tip of Cape Cod. From there it was a only a 182 nm overnight run to Bar Harbor, ME.

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As is so often the case, life intervened, bad stuff happened, and we never made that run to Bar Harbor. Our last blog entry showed Carol on the bow of our boat with a for sale sign; the sale closed in November, 2013. Without a boat Maine was, seemingly, an itch that could not be scratched, but definitely unfinished business.

And, that's why the internet was invented. With too much time on my hands one evening, I Googled boat rentals in Maine and, voilà, endless possibilities. We can still do this, we said. It's only been 4-years, we said. Red buoys are still on the right hand side returning to port; starboard is still that side of the boat; the points of sail have not changed; a bowline knot is still made the the same way.... we said. Or, maybe, we said all that, hoping that the saying would make it so.

So, last June we contracted to rent a boat this June and the itching stopped and a plan started to form. We had seen New England after the 4th of July .... not pretty. Entire cities seem to disgorge their populace; that populace then is ineluctably drawn to beaches, parks and coastal climes. Too many people, too close together in too few small places, the exact opposite of Spring Creek. So, part one of the plan was to be off the boat before 07/04/2017.

The next part of the plan was harder: which boat? No boat would compare to ours; we spent the several years we owned her adapting the boat to our cruising needs. Any other boat would be a compromise. The boat on which we settled was the Diane, a 30-ft. Sabre.

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This is 6-ft. shorter than out boat but the same size that Carol and I trained on in May, 2007 at a sailing school. It's only for two (2) weeks so we think that we can live with this. Plus, Sabres have a reputation as being very good boats under sail. This boat has a fully battened mainsail. Ours had in-the-mast roller furling, a good choice but not a great sail. And, it has a 135% genoa, the same size as ours. This boat should really move.

It also seems fairly well set up and has radar and an auto pilot. This area will get fog and our experiences with fog on the last trip made radar a must have feature.

The third part of the plan was helped by blind, dumb luck. This boat is home ported in Bass Harbor, ME, on the same island as Acadia National Park, exactly in the middle of where we want to go. So, if you find this harbor and scribe a 15-mile radius, this is where we will cruise. No long runs; all pretty easy day cruises from one point to another; no merit badges, we have enough of those.

The last part of the plan was hard: what's the least amount of the right stuff we can bring onto a small boat and be both prepared and comfortable? I should also mention, in my case, being skinny and old, comfortable means warm. The June temperatures run to 55o for a low and 74o as a high. The water temperature right now is 50o and only 1/2-in. of non-insulating fiberglass is between us and the water. Cool nights will be the deal, of course not a problem for your average Nordic Princess, like Carol.

So, we made our choices and decided that the car would not be big enough. That's easy, just throw the stuff in the back of the truck. Ooooops! We filled that up and the overflow now takes up all of the back seat. Too late for a bigger boat. And Carol, well you have to appreciate the amount of stuff she needs to be her. I had told her she could only bring as much clothing as would fit into the canvas boat bags that we have used for years. Today, at an L.L. Bean outlet store she found a bigger canvas boat bag, probably big enough to hold a VW beetle; she's happy. The only things we saved from our boating days was our foul weather gear. I'm not sure why we did save the jackets but I'm glad we did. We seem to be in the middle on Maine's monsoon season. Today looked and felt like October: very cool, windy and rainy, not exactly what we had hoped the weather to be.

The trip north has been uneventful but expensive; every road is a toll road. We went over the George Washington bridge, from Ft. Lee, NJ, the place that got Gov. Christie in trouble; that was $20. We went through the "Big Dig" in Boston, probably the most expensive public works project ever. The romans spent less time and money on their aqueduct and it's still moving water two millenia later. Every toll booth has an outstretched arm since we do not have an EZ Pass.

Anyway, on Sunday, June 18th, we will board the boat. This will be our Fathers' Day gift to me. The adventure will begin. It will be fun, or not. We will be wet, or not. We will be warm, or not. Regardless, we will have dared something different, again; we will have refused to act our ages, again; we will make memories together, again. And, the itch will never be scratched, again.

Posted by sailziveli 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

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

sunny 84 °F

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)

Newport Isn't So Bad, Really

storm 73 °F

When getting ready to get underway, I decided to do the necessary, but recently useless, radio check. Sea Tow has an automated system that works in many areas. I had checked with them earlier and was told that channel 24 was at some remove from Provincetown but that it might work. Tried it .... got a response. So, maybe, the time, effort and money that went into replacing the VHF radio system was worth the investment, a rare nautical ROI.

Neither one of us was feeling very perky, both tired, both worn out. Carol had been understandably stressed for the three or four weeks since her sister's operation, something that takes a toll on her system. But, neither one of us was interested in hanging around Provincetown another day. The simple idea of being in motion, regardless of direction and destination, seemed therapeutic in itself.

So, we were underway that sunny Monday at 0730 for the Cape Cod Canal. The cormorants were lining the breakwater to see us off as we passed out of the harbor ..... maybe to wish us well, maybe to wish us gone. It's hard to tell with birds and cormorants are very tricky that way.

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If Cape Cod is a fishhook, then a brace of identical lighthouses mark both the ends of the barb, this one being the easternmost of the two. We passed both exiting the harbor and heading south.

I had thought that these square, not round, lighthouses were a modern addition to the Cape. Not so! They date to the 1870's. I'm not sure if they still work; I do not recall seeing this light in the harbor, although it may only show to the open water. I could check the chart, but some mystery is better.

They both sit near the beach by the open water, backed by natural dunes, uncluttered by any development. The land here is pretty low, the dunes, maybe, topping 20-ft. above mean low water; the rest much less. This portion of Cape Cod must certainly be awash when there is a storm surge of any note.

For all of the original art that we saw on display in town, I do not recall any devoted to this pair, which seems an oversight given their natural and beautiful surroundings.

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It was a simple plan: time the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal for a westward current, starting at 1043, go about another 25 nm from the canal, anchor for the night near New Bedford, then get to Block Island on Tuesday.

The plan was working, too. We hit the canal a little after 1100, zipped through in not much time, and then the frustration began. The wind forecast for the day was under 10 knots, a lousy day for sailing but a good day for motoring and making time, which we needed to do to get to New Bedford. We knew that the exit from the canal would be about like the entrance two weeks earlier: rough as a year old cob. This didn't disappoint. The wind in Buzzards Bay was a shock; once we left the canal it rarely was less than 25 knots, three times the prediction of eight knots. 25 knots directly on the bow is not good for motoring and making time. In fact, at the rate we were going it was problematic as to whether we could get to New Bedford before dark since we were generally running less than 4 knots into the wind and waves. I think that I may start to use kilometers instead of knots. 4 knots is very slow but 7.4 kilometers per hour is much faster.

About the waves .... they were breaking over the bow with such force that water was coming in through the canvas surround at the back stays, probably 33-ft. behind the bow of our 36-ft. boat. Haven't had that happen before. Not an easy day. There was another sailboat in front of us, less than 1/2 mile. It was larger, probably 44-ft., and, as a consequence, much heavier. It was amazing to watch that boat get tossed around, at times looking like it was going airborne, some inconsequential toy being enjoyed by a cosmic 3-year old. I could not imagine how we might have looked from a distance. We've been through gales on the open water and these waves were trifling by comparison. What is always the issue is not the size of the waves but the period between them. In the open water in bad weather there may be 10 seconds between waves and the boat can ride over them as it was designed to do. The period that day was, maybe, 2~3 seconds, just impossible for the boat, just impossible for the captain and the crew wasn't having any fun either.

When I had originally planned the transit from Provincetown to Block Island, I had broken it up into three days. I was cursing fate, and every named boating deity, while looking at the chart when I noticed that we were very close to Mattapoisett, MA, the place I had originally thought to stay at the end of day one of the three. We were both physically tired, the planned anchorages were OK for not much wind but would have been marginal for these winds, so we retired from Buzzards Bay for the shelter of a safe harbor in Mattapoisett. That's not quitting .... it's being a practical captain, the only kind that there is at 66 years of age. A warm shower, a cold drink and a hot dinner seemed like a good end to a difficult day. On my way to the warm shower I met another couple who also decided that Mattapoisett seemed like a better deal than getting beat up out on the Bay. So, maybe it wasn't a total wimp out.

Along the way, Carol, who had been feeling poorly, got full time sick .... stomach, intestinal, the whole magilla. Getting sick on the boat is ugly, any way, any day. The afternoon was so rough that it could only have made an already bad deal even worse. How sick was she? No interest in leaving the boat that evening for dinner. Poor baby!!!!

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I wasn't sure where we would stop on Tuesday; it might have been possible to get to Block Island from Mattapoisett, but that was not a given. What is usually a given is that I will have a firm navigation plan before we get underway, just not that day. Regardless, the earlier we started, the better the odds of reaching Block Island. Up at 0430, I was confronted with (a) a heavy fog, (b) the entire crew was very sick. I checked the weather forecast ... fog burns off by 0800; I can handle anything by myself for two hours.

When the light had gotten better I cast us off and headed out with the radar going. The question for the day was: what kind of fool would believe a weather forecast about fog burning off when the prior forecast did not even predict fog? Answer: one that looks a lot like me! 0800 came and went; the fog remained. Ditto 1000, 1100 and 1200 and 1300. Not much good in that situation except for this: I was concerned about a very empty radar screen so I started messing with settings and found a bunch of stuff that I had not much used. Changed the gain, changed some other stuff, changed the fine tuning settings and, voila, lots of stuff about which to be nervous, so I was. After having been surprised by four sailboats appearing like some Romulan warbird uncloaking next to us, all within 1/4 mile, i.e. very close, I had the eureka moment: very few sailboats up here have radar reflectors to improve their radar signatures. They spend hundreds of thousands on boats to sail, spend thousands on radar to see, but don't spend $50 to be seen. I would say that that makes them dangerous to themselves and to others, an abrogation of captains' fundamental responsibilities. But, I'm old and stupid, so what do I know?

Given the fog I decided that another stop in Newport, RI, seemed like a good idea. If Nantucket was my BA in fog, this trip was my graduate degree, well over 40 nm in a heavy fog. It wasn't until we were well into the main channel, approaching the inner harbor that things thinned out, maybe the last 2 nm. It was less fun than it sounds.

The other reason to stop in Newport was to get the bottom cleaned. In Provincetown we had picked up a hula skirt of bright green aquatic grass along the water line and I was concerned that the bottom might be getting covered too; plus the zinc needed to be replaced by this time. And, I knew it was about time for an oil change. To my disappointment when I checked my maintenance schedule, it was also time for the 250 hour engine service, a long and complicated list. The general boat maintenance list was 50 hours overdue. The two night stay in Newport became three nights to accommodate all the work to be done. I didn't know it at the time but the other "other reason" to stop in Newport was to get some Yanmar parts which we normally carry but had used the entire supply. There is a Yanmar dealer about three minutes away by dinghy and that business had all that we required.

I am truly getting to hate boat maintenance; on August 1st I will have been doing it for six years. It's ironic, I suppose, that at this point I actually mostly know what I am doing and can do it well enough having the right tools, the right parts and enough repetitious experience. But I'd rather take a whipping than change the alternator belt again.

I considered blowing off the list and just doing a minimum, like the oil. But, the sad fact is that there are untimed bombs on the list that can explode at any time. Having seen some of those bombs go off I get nervous when I break discipline. To wit, I always check fairleads and running rigging. For 5 years and 49 weeks, always the same thing: all is well, except during this inspection I found a fairlead that was badly deteriorated and, as a result, was sawing the main sheet in two, a situation most sailors would try to avoid. I carry spare fairleads but had to work to find a store that could replace the 70-ft. long 7/16-in line. All the running rigging is now as it should be.

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There is weather coming through, again; Carol is still feeling poorly, better but weak. So, rather than travel to Block Island as planned, we'll spend the weekend in Newport. Hopefully, she'll feel better. But, once again, we're sitting somewhere we don't want to be .... not moving, burning away the month of July to no particular end. Maine is gone, and it feels as if everything else is slipping away, too. Life on the boat, I guess.

Posted by sailziveli 14:25 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating lighthouse Comments (0)

Da' Blog .... Back on Line

sunny 75 °F

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Carol returned on Saturday, on the 1900, 7pm, ferry having left on Monday on the 1030 ferry. Things went well enough, her sister was well enough, enough of the right stuff got done that she was able to return to the boat. Her return was a good thing; the circumstances that allowed her to exercise the choice to return were good things. Those with very sharp eyes may be able to do the "Where's Waldo" thing and pick her out from the many passengers on deck.

Things always change. After eight days of unrelenting rain, bailing the dinghy once or twice a day; after eight days of unending winds, winds so strong that many days the wind generator had to be shut down and secured; after eight days where the sun never broke through the clouds .... the low pressure passed and was replaced by fair weather. In fact, the fair weather seemed a lot like actual summer ..... hot, way hot, with only desultory breezes to stir the air. Maybe it wasn't so much hot as it was the contrast, the contrast between cool, windy, rainy days and hot and still air that followed.

We talked on Sunday about the options: Maine remains an impractical option; it's too early to head back; so, we decided that we'll try to make lemonade of the situation by going to Block Island and then heading slowly West through Long Island Sound, topping along the way, then taking the East River through New York City and then hopscotching down the Jersey shore.

When we arrive back in Norfolk, VA, we will be in the boat delivery mode, headed south. That will probably entail a stopover in Charleston; Carol has an affinity for Hyman's restaurant, a purveyor of Carolina low country cuisine that seems to consist mostly of grits, grease and gravy. She likes it.

It should be fun; there are some good places to visit; we won't be under any particular time pressure to push a schedule. We'll have a chance to enjoy boating which we both dearly love.

Posted by sailziveli 19:03 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Still in Provincetown

storm 69 °F

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It has a certain beauty, I suppose, if beauty can be austere, maybe ascetic, without becoming an oxymoron. Days cast in shades of gray. The water ... dark slate punctuated with white froth. The sky ... charcoal, sometimes, low clouds thick, heavy and gravid with rain. The horizon .... light gray, sometimes, as low fog ebbs and flows, pushed and pulled by the wind, shrinking our visible world to just the few boats that are closest. That 252 ft. tower on the 100 ft. bluff ... might still be there, can't really tell, doesn't much matter anyway.

I thought it beautiful. This duck, however, seemed quite unimpressed with the aesthetics whole deal, more concerned about the immediate, practical implications of the weather, having to work quite hard to make headway against the wind and waves, a serious journey eclipsing our modest endeavors.

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We had had a couple of cloudy days, not much wind and the batteries were draining. Not serious, yet, but always a concern. Got up Friday morning at 0600 and we were down 75 Ah (amp hours), not quite 1/3 of the available power until the critical 50% point that should never be crossed. Battery central is on the rear bulkhead in the galley. No particular reason for it to be there. The top panel, for the solar panels, was there when we bought the boat. It seemed reasonable to put the, then, new Xantrex unit near it. Before 1800, 12 hours, the wind generator, BY ITSELF, had completely recharged the batteries, unprecedented during five years with both supplemental power systems. That is by way of saying that it has been windy averaging more than 20 kts., very steady, and well over 30 kts. in gusts.

Carol, generally unaware of such details, will be pleased, since we will probably be able shut the generator down for the night, to the benefit of her beauty sleep, and count on the wind to perform a similar miracle tomorrow.

It has rained over the several nights, once again filling the dinghy and floating the gas can. We have bailed and pumped the dinghy dry more times since we arrived at Lake Montauk than we have in all the years prior to that event. A dinghy ride to the dock to take a shower .... Fuggedaboutit‎! Clean and dry, I would quickly have become a wet salty dog if the dinghy made it back to our boat without capsizing. Had I tried that I would certainly have worn a life jacket, usually a needless appurtenance, despite the several laws requiring their use.

The harbor here is inside the "hook" of the Cape. That hook has truncated the fetch to about a mile and made the waves somewhat less severe. There is not enough height to the land to do anything about attenuating the wind, so it rumbles past us, and the duck, unabated. There will be more Magic Fingers Mattress Massager nights. You don't really need a water bed if your bed is on the water during nights like these.

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Everything is damp, the humidity at 100% although the Dew Point has not caused a problem; the inside walls of the boat are not dripping with condensation as happens occasionally. The fog outside the boat must also be inside the boat .... it's the same moisture saturated air, I think. Towels don't dry; cotton clothing left out wicks the moisture from the air and the clothing feels dank, clingy and unclean when worn. There has been enough rain that the cockpit is quite wet, high winds pushing the water through the openings in the canvas that accommodate the two backstays and the solar panels.

The barometer has been falling steadily for several days, now down to 29.56 inHg, the needle seemingly stuck there for the duration. The problem is that the entire East Coast is under the influence of a low pressure system; it's been there for a while and is forecast to hang around for a while yet. It is hard to see but there is a rainy section right over the tip of Cape Cod.

I have many failings as a human being; high on that list is patience, the lack of it. Boating has tried to train, encourage and foster patience, but that seed has fallen on barren ground. We waited for ten days in Bimini to head east; I think that we were almost three weeks in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL, waiting for the right weather to cross the Gulf Stream. There have been opportunities to travel; for some reason the effects of the system are less troublesome in Maine than they are here. The governing principle is that Carol says when we leave based on her assessment of Joan's situation. We will not leave Providence until Joan leaves the hospital and that is still a date uncertain. So, as Milton posited, "They also serve who only stand and wait."

Posted by sailziveli 08:36 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

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