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USA

New Plan! The Passage to Montauk Lake

storm 58 °F

We passed a milestone of a sort. When we started we carried three "bricks" of books, each brick wrapped in a gigantic ziploc baggie suitable for an ad hoc body bag and each secured with large bungee cords. We have now gone through 1.7 bricks. Since the trip is close to the halfway point that works pretty well. The irony is that we have not been able to off-load the completed books; the recent run of marinas have not had book exchanges. So, the books get read but the cabin does not get any emptier. With the iPads and Kindle we are in no danger of running out of books ... this trip or any other trip.

It's not exactly celebrity alley but, having extolled the virtues and value of the website, ActiveCaptain, we found ourselves, in Cape May, about 5-ft. away from the active captain himself, the guy who owns the website. The website business must be pretty good because he has a pretty nice 53-ft. boat, much to be admired. The website name is on the boat which probably means that he can declare some/all of the boat and related expenses as business deductions. You don't get a boat like that being dumb. We chatted about stuff for a while; he's from Maine, so he passed along some insights and opinions which could be helpful.

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Having put the words to "paper" in the blog about my low enthusiasm and high concern about the route I had planned I spent most of Sunday morning thinking about and trying to give voice to my concerns. One was top of mind, and had been for a while: we were going farther offshore than we had previously been. The distance from shore was not a concern but being that long out of normal VHF radio range was .... big time, although the USCG operates much more powerful units which should hear us if we needed to call. The other came later: that I had no contingency plans on how to bail were that need to arise and we were a long way from any points to which we could bail. From Cape Hatteras to Key West I know the coast and the points of entry from the ocean in case of emergency; here .... absolutely clueless, a very unsettling thing.

So, out came the charts, the computer and related gear to see what, if any alternatives there might be. There was a clear coast hugging route, staying a mile or so off shore, but that's too close in and there would probably be small boat traffic that's hard to see on radar. So, I cobbled together a string of waypoints that kept us 5~15 miles off shore for the whole trip, which attenuated some of the effects of the wind and waves, less fetch. It also added about 10% to the time and distance, but that actually worked better pushing the trip more to 45~48 hrs meaning less chance of going too fast and arriving in the dark. I also noted and planned for all places where the boat could exit the ocean were there to be a problem; there are several on the eastern shore of New Jersey, fewer on the southern shore of Long Island. I guess that I must have liked the new plan because my misgivings evaporated and my confidence returned. The only residual concern, regardless of route, is that we have to pass through the several shipping channels for the port of New York. If we can pick up a cell signal in the area I will be able to monitor commercial shipping traffic on an AIS (Automatic Identification System) website. And, we always have the radar.

Monday was the day; I issued the float plan on Sunday. Then Monday morning broke rainy and the waves were predicted at 7~8-ft. since the water had not yet settled down from all the wind. Carol gets seasick easily, even with the scopolamine patch, and that seemed like it might be a bit much for her. It's hard handling the boat and standing a watch while heaving chunks. I know having suffered greatly on a wooden ship but doing well now. So, a wet Monday rolled over to a nicer, high atmospheric pressure Tuesday.

During planning, I had broken the trip up into four component parts: the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Long Island Sound and the Islands, Maine and the return trip south. Cape May was the transition point between the first two segments. When we left the dock at Cape May we were fully into the second phase. The first phase went little as planned, cool weather mostly, but not a disappointment. It was fun; we got to see and do lots of interesting things; got to see Sean and got to see my cousins. There were no major boat disasters, a rare stretch of good news for us. I had rather imagined that we would have been farther north by June 4th but this was not a problem either. There is no schedule, although I will probably drop a couple of marginal interest ports of call. The big difference will be marinas. South is cheap ..... north is dear. We've paid $1.50~$2.00 per foot so far, not inexpensive but quite doable. In most places we will visit the marinas cost $4.00~$6.00 per foot; absolutely insane! Mooring balls will cost about what a marina costs in the south, $50 and up. So, lots of being on anchor, fortunately, a thing both Carol and I enjoy.

The weather looked pretty good, a rising barometer, not much positive wind for sailing, but not blowing a gale either. We reissued the float plan; did a few chores and errands that morning and got underway before noon Tuesday; the tide was dead low, but slack, not an issue. And, I figured that at a reasonable speed we should arrive very early on Thursday. Leaving the harbor was not exactly daunting, but this was our first open water leg of the trip, something we had not done since October, 2012. And, since everything in this area is new there was an appropriate level of concern.

Jack lines were rigged, once bright red nylon, now faded to a more muted and mottled color from the years of sun and salt; safety harnesses were dug out with tethers for the coming nights under way. We went off shore power and stowed the cables, probably not to be used again for many, many weeks. Securing the pilot's chair is my job since Carol's womanly woman's hips do not accommodate themselves to the space available. Then we too were ready, the last boat to leave the marina on that Tuesday morning.

As we motored to the channel, Carol was busy stowing mooring lines and fenders. The last thing that she did was to close the lifelines where we had been getting off and on the boat. There is an interesting semiotic finality to hearing those two snap shackles lock. Our new world was bounded by white wires, a fence that surrounds 36-ft. of length and 12-ft. of width and encloses a population of exactly two and whatever must to be done will be done by those, we, two. My main concern basically is about us. As our stamina wanes, which appears to be the case, these long trips exact a larger toll on our bodies which seem to recover a little bit more slowly each time.

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The trip from dock to sea buoy was about 30 minutes, not much traffic, plenty of water despite the low tide. We passed a couple of other marinas ... each was wall-to-wall with sport fishing boats. I would never have guessed that game fishing was such a big deal this far north.

It would have been hard to design a nicer first few hours on the open water. The sky was Carolina blue, the temperature was comfortable and the Atlantic Ocean was a most pacific ocean, not a whitecap to be seen. Of course that meant not much wind. So, we put out the sails and motor sailed, taking what the wind would give us, using the engine RPM's to keep our speed between 5.0~5.5 kts. The gentle swell felt good and, hopefully, helped Carol to get her sea legs back.

A few miles north of the channel we saw a huge amusement park, ferris wheel, roller coasters, loop-de-loop rides. It would have been fun to go there if we had known of it.

By 1600 on the first afternoon we were able to see Atlantic City very clearly despite being 10~15 miles south, lots of tall building quite visible over that short horizon. I had hoped to see the city's lights from the water, but we were well past the city by 1900, an hour and a half before sunset. So we saw this instead. Pictures like this give me hope that New Jersey actually could be a garden state.

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We have an unusual watch schedule, unique to us; most boats, I assume, do 3/4 on and 3/4 off. Our watch schedule is built around accommodating Carol's need for sleep, beauty and otherwise. From 6pm to 6am I stay on the helm eight hours to her four: 6pm to 9pm; 11pm to 1am; 3am to 6am. She stands the reciprocal times during the daylight hours. The 3am to 6am just wears on me, but once is survivable; standing the same watch a second night just about does me in. I have been dreading this passage, not for anything to do with the water but because I know how I will feel after the second night: very tired and aware of each of my 66 years.

To my surprise, the first night wasn't quite so bad. I actually got, maybe, two hours sleep of the four off watch, Carol being kind enough to lend me her puce colored sleep mask (it's on her color chart). Given my inclination to blue jeans and gray t-shirts wearing that was probably the most fashionable I'll look the whole trip. The rewards of being up at 0300 were many. A little past 0330 I saw a dim smudge of white to the east, almost overpowered by the bright working lights on some vessels. As I watched the light broke higher and it was the very thin crescent of a waning moon. As the moon rose higher I saw the first hints of dawn's penumbra starting to light the sky. As "dawn's early light" climbed higher in the sky, so did the crescent moon which remained in the dark of the horizon. It looked as if the moon was floating on the sun's light, ever higher as the day started to break. Remarkably beautiful beyond my poor description.

Near some obscure Jersey shore city called Manasquan there was an eruption of fishing vessels headed east well before sunrise. The radar scope got very crowded and these guys really didn't care about stinkin' effete sailboats in their way. A lot of really close calls of 1/4-mi. or less. No fractured fiberglass so it must have ended OK. We passed this boat just as it was between us and the point of sunrise. It's probably some sort of long-line fishing boat, or maybe it hauls a net on the drum; it's after I don't know what.

I was taking pictures to the east and focused on the sunrise, got some good ones, when I decided to put the camera away. When I looked ahead I saw the windows of Manhattan turning red and gold, glowing with the sun's rise. Not the world's best picture but one heck of a sight.

When I got off watch I checked the phone and there was a signal so I looked at the AIS website. There was a lot of activity on the water but from where we were the approaches to NYC seemed not very busy.

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At mid-morning we had to dodge a 1,000-ft. container ship and saw this boat working the harbor. It is, I assume, the pilot boat mother ship, anchored in position and having, that morning, two boats to dispatch and retrieve pilots to and from their client vessels. Seems like a pretty simple program. As we turned East along the southern shore of Long Island we went through an anchorage with 12 big vessels of which one was a container ship and all the rest were clones of this ship, Nord Swan, of the Norient Line. All are oil carriers, all configured the same, all empty and riding high in the water, all with huge No Smoking signs painted across the fronts of their superstructures. My guess was that maybe these are being taken out of service, mothballed due to the increased domestic oil production. I researched the Nord Swan and it was last active in early May, so maybe .... maybe not.

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About a third of the way down Long Island lies Fire Island, a barrier island and recreation area. Robert, on dock #4 at BLM, related how he and his wife used to have a place on this island in the 60's, which he gave up in a divorce. He was a CPA and was auditing a major advertising agency at the time, and his stories about the place might make Mad Men seem tepid. It was sunny, but not overly warm, high 60's, but the beach seemed quite crowded for a weekday. The Fire Island lighthouse is one of several we saw along the southern shore.

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Long Island really is a very long island, at 118 miles; we traveled along 99 of those miles. The westernmost half of the island's south shore is very pristine, being devoted to state and national parks, with little, if any, private development. From a couple of miles out the dunes and sea grasses could as easily been in the Bahamas as this far north. About midway there must have been a line because on the other side of that line were houses, large and larger, literally exterior wall to exterior wall as far as we could see.
The sun went down over the island and after a while we could only see lights but there were a lot of lights.

The trip was pretty boring, not much water traffic of any kind. So, we putted along at 5 knots, executing the plan to hit a waypoint at 0330 and to be settled by 0600. In the event we hit the waypoint at 0335 and were settled at 0615. I have since decided that my plan stunk .... there were many ways we could have done this that would have been better by any measure. However, as every general knows superb execution can occasionally overcome a bad plan. That about sums up this passage.

We saw a great sunset over Long Island, the developed part; and another great sunrise as we turned the end of the island and headed west to Lake Montauk. I had a lot of trouble getting the bird to sit still for the shot. When I arrived on deck for my 0300 watch it seemed as if we were getting fogged in .... very poor visibility. Turns out that was just condensation on the outer strata-glass. My bright idea was to open the panels to equalize the temperature, it worked, but just made it possible for the inside to fog up also. VFR is better than IFR but we really couldn't see very much.

Getting into the harbor was easy enough, save for a tough current right at the jetty's mouth. Carol decided that she wanted to be on a mooring ball rather that anchor out; or, maybe, she thought that I wanted to be on a mooring ball. Regardless, we are very secure at the Montauk Yacht Club, a nice luxury since we will both be taking sleeping aids tonight to try to recover from the sleep we lost.

The first priority: launch the dinghy and replace 20 gallons of diesel fuel, both of which we did. The motor started on the very first pull; I'm not superstitious and don't believe in omens, but that was a very good omen.

We've stayed in a lot of marinas over these past years and I've sort of adopted a rule of thumb that evaluates marinas on their shower facilities, a critical function of which are the number of hooks to hang towels, etc, and general cleanliness. Where we stayed in Cape May .... absolutely the best. This mooring ball gives us access to the Montauk Yacht Club; their showers are great, top decile easily, probably top demi decile. The clincher ..... a sauna bath, something I have not been able to enjoy for over a decade. When I was doing a lot of traveling in the Orient, I started at a loss on how to connect with a people whose customs were so different from ours. Turned out that they like to get naked and go into hot air, hot steam or hot water, and then drink lots of beer. That was an easy connection and something I enjoy to this day. What a luxury that sauna bath was after the two long days to get here.

Irony is an interesting outcome, but less so when you find yourself the object of irony. We hung out in Cape May to avoid a weekend of high winds on Long Island. Having arrived we find ourselves in the midst of a weekend of high winds on Long Island; the weather is almost a copy & paste replica of the days we sought to avoid; there will be winds in the range of 34~40 knots, a gale on the Beaufort scale. The dinghy dock is, maybe, a quarter mile from the mooring, in this weather, a rough and wet quarter mile. The marina will shuttle us to town, too far to walk, but the rain and winds have us comfortably boat bound. We've also given up the first week of June, which will reduce the number of places that we can visit if we still intend to try for Maine. So, we'll use the downtime review the ports of call and to decide which are important and which to abandon.

Posted by sailziveli 10:33 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating Comments (0)

Cape May, NJ

The End of the Beginning

sunny 82 °F

We hung around Delaware City for a couple of days. Rainy and windy, sunny and windy, always windy, approaching gale force windy, a good reason to have hung around Delaware City. We didn't do very much; there's not very much to do here and even if there were, it wasn't the right weather to do it. I cleaned the boat which was badly needed; Carol did some laundry, mostly needed. We went from having the A/C on in 80o temperatures one evening to having the heater on in 40o temperatures the next morning. Go figure! Even Carol found comfort in the covering blankets. Whoever is in charge of weather must also be in charge of the IRS; both seem to be equally dysfunctional. The wind has made the roughest part of the trip here at the dock. When we arrived we were the last boat on the dock; the dock extending a good way past us. In the interim the dock completely filled up, some boats rafted to others, all boaters looking for some necessary shelter from the wind.

The wind blew the last Honey Locust flower petals from the trees, many of which landed on the water where we were. Seeing all the white petals floating on the water was pretty, looking like some sort of Oriental religious ceremony conducted for our sole pleasure. In Delaware City we had our first exposure to fairly big tides, in this case over 6-ft. I expect that we will see more of this as we head north.

The question of the hour, the only question, really, was do we leave on Sunday or do we wait until Monday, Memorial Day. The answer came down to inertia: Monday, because it was tough getting going on Sunday. Carol called the marina and changed our arrival date and the marina guy told Carol that we had made a good choice; it was still windy and ugly down there. Staying in Delaware City seemed to be a collective, hive-like decision; the entire marina stayed put, electing for Monday. So, to celebrate we all got together Sunday evening and told tales of brave Ulysses, drank some "grog" and had a good time. The reality of shared experience seems to make it easy for boaters to find common ground, enjoying each others' company, the social process lubricated by alcohol and the fact that all the women seem to get to know each other from the showers or the laundry room or the grocery stores.

Monday morning at first light, well before sun-up, there was a jail break. Boats, large and small, sail and power, exited the canal and headed down the river towards the Delaware Bay, most bound for Cape May, at least one turning New Jersey's corner out into the North Atlantic, headed for New York. Tim, the owner-dockmaster was there to help us off at 0455, the tidal current being uncooperative and unconducive to us shoving off by ourselves. We were the second boat underway that morning. The canal was reasonably well lighted from the street lamps along the walkway. We crept out of the canal, there's a shallow spot right at the entrance, and turned the bow downstream. The combined river current and tidal flow grabbed the boat and hurled it south, going from 2 knots to 8 knots almost in an instant, kind of fast considering that I really couldn't tell what color the channel lights were .... that's Carol's job. I had always thought that exiting a place we had entered should be easy, just do the reverse. It doesn't seem to work like that; visual cues and references all seem different from another angle.

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I was barely awake, brain turned on but not processing much data. I saw a light array ahead that I knew was a tug .... good; I didn't see the huge barge it was pushing .... bad. It looked like we were on a converging course downstream .... good. As we got closer, there was enough light to see that the tug and barge were headed straight across our bow .... bad. Turned out not to be a problem .... good, because I wasn't thinking very clearly .... bad.

There were several similar lighthouses marking progress down, or up, the Bay. This is the Miah Maull lighthouse, fairly far down, toward the mouth of the Bay. It looked to be all steel and had a full complement of birds guarding the railings. It's really hard getting a level picture on a moving boat in the telephoto mode. I don't drink underway, it just appears so.

The reason we left so early was to try to capture as much of the current as we could until the tide turned. It was a little like surfing, at one point the boat going more than 9.5 kts, silly fast. It lasted for about 3.5 hours, about the time that the tidal flow reversed and the Delaware River, narrow, became the Delaware Bay, wide. All the motor vessels that left after us passed us along the way and at some point I decided the push the engine a little harder for more speed. The trip from dock to dock was over 55 nm and we did it in 8 hours flat, something I would not have believed possible. There was a fair amount of big stuff moving, most coming up river, not a concern but interesting to see. The fun started when we entered the Cape May Canal. It was Memorial Day, a holiday, and a very nice day, sunny, bright and warm. Every boat was out and every boat was committed to going full throttle, me first, not quite as bad as our first trip up the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, but definitely a contender. I have taken a markdown on the entire population of New Jersey boaters.

The marina is OK but was a little hard to find, sort of around, down and behind. It has just about the nicest showers we have ever seen, marina, hotel, wherever and I've stayed in some really nice hotels overseas. We may extend our stay here just so I can get naked and shower some more. This row of houses, kinda' interesting, is our view over the stern.

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We are in the same "alley" as the fuel dock and a boat pulled in with this guy on the deck: a mako shark, about 7-ft. long and 300-lb. After fueling up the took the shark to the dock to display it hanging by the tail, of course, also weighing it. Each guy on the boat posed with the beastie for many pictures. It looked just like the dock scene in Jaws except it was real. Sport fishing seems to be an important part of the water scene here in Cape May.

We will have to do some work here; it's time for the 100-hr. engine maintenance schedule which includes the much hated motor mount bolts .... AGAIN!!! Mostly, it's the three F's: fuel, fluids and filters .... topping off, replacing and refreshing. Fortunately, this work does not take a lot of time or effort; a couple of hours here and there gets things done with plenty of time for doing not very much. I had been a little cavalier in my management of spare parts knowing that I should be able to replenish along the way. When I dug through trying to find a fuel filter there were exactly zero on board, a bad number for a part that has the life expectancy of a kleenex. There's a Yanmar dealer just a short walk away so we have been busily getting plenty of replacements for the rest of the trip.

Carol has been preparing for the rest of the trip .... in her own ineffable way, which has nothing to do with the boat. As we head north there will be less crab available, now a staple of her diet. So she selected a restaurant nearby, The Lobster House, to adjust her palate to more boreal waters by having her first lobster, probably anticipating these as the new staple of her diet. We tried some raw oysters from the Delaware Bay and they were very good, almost as good as the ones from the Chesapeake Bay but with a slightly saltier flavor. Probably a 1B to the southern 1A.

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Cape May, NJ, is a resort town, growing around the same time as Newport, RI and the north shore of Long Island. The marina is on a small island, not too much larger than our 18.8 acres, about a mile or so from town. The walk to town, down Washington St. is delightful. Most of the houses along the way were fairly modest as we started the walk and grew larger and more elaborate as we neared town. Per the ubiquitous signs, most dated from about the 1880's and ran through the 1920's, regular houses trimmed out, Victorians and some Craftsman style houses. Carol liked the white house, which was for sale, but not enough, she said, to leave our mountains. A good thing as it was way too expensive. There were many homes for sale, most listed by Sotheby's, not a low ticket dealer. Downtown was pretty neat, the old main street closed off and made into a pedestrian mall with the usual assortment of shops and restaurants, but very nicely done. The beach, sort of the raison d' etre for the town, was spectacular, at least as nice as Miami's, and maybe natural, a claim the Miami cannot make since that beach was trucked in after years of erosion. It was hard to tell how long the beach and boardwalk are, probably a couple of miles, maybe more.

Life on the boat is by its very nature secluded and solitary, not so many folks around. It seems strange, sometimes, to be among so many people as there were today, on a weekend. The last shot, the yellow building, is the original fire department for Cape May, now a museum adjacent to a huge new complex.

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For the first time this trip we find ourselves waiting for the weather to make the two night passage to eastern Long Island. I had wanted to leave Thursday which would have had us arriving early Saturday. But, that arrival would have put us on the cusp of some very high winds in a new and uncertain anchorage in Lake Montauk .... which may or may not have any usable mooring balls, or if they are usable may not be available. Plus the wind, from the right direction for a change, SW, would have been a minimum of 15-kts with lots of wind well over 20-kts and a little over 30-kts. Our boat is too light and, as a consequence, too much to handle under those conditions for that long a passage. So, I bailed. However, in the interim, at least eight sailboats have come and gone while we sat and stayed. The water at the beach today was very calm, not a whitecap to be seen. There's a fine line between mature judgement and wimping out and I hope I'm closer to the former than the latter but I'm beginning to wonder. I'm looking forward to being in the islands off New England but I am also having trouble mustering any enthusiasm for the passage necessary to be there. Don't know why that is. We've waited in Marathon, FL for weeks to get to the Bahamas so I guess a week in Cape May is not a big deal. Monday doesn't look perfect but, 48-hrs. out, it looks like it might be good enough.

Posted by sailziveli 12:18 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Delaware City, DE

overcast 74 °F

We decided to head to Delaware City, on the Delaware River. That location should put us in reach of Cape May, NJ. The transit included the 14 mile long Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. I thought that the tide in the canal might be against us part of the way, slowing us down, so we chose to leave very early, giving us more time. I was up before 0530 and was very groggy, not having slept well the night before. It seemed a good idea to check the engine first thing lest I forget it later. Up went the hatch. Looked at the coolant .... good. Pulled the dipstick to check the oil .... good. Closed everything up and noticed as I headed to my next task that I still had 18-in. of dipstick in my hand. Ooooops! Not a good plan. We were underway by 0615, the sky overcast. the temperature comfortable, and with a haze on the water. Rather than restrict visibility, for some reason, that particular hazy quality of light made it much easier to see things on the water like buoys. Regardless, we turned on the navigation lights just as a caution.

We made good time, taking the same 1-1/2 hours for the reverse trip back to the Bay although at that point it seems to be more the Susquehanna River than the Chesapeake Bay. We had about 8 miles when we turned north, pretty straightforward, a wide deep channel suitable for commercial traffic which left us plenty of room as there was no commercial traffic. There were a couple of long, straight stretches that had lighted ranges, different from my USN days in the 60's when they were painted placards with lines down the center that had to be brought into alignment. The lights were very bright and visible at a distance of well over 6 miles.We passed close enough to one to get a decent look at the light .... a sealed parabolic reflector, probably no more that 6~8-in. in diameter. The light source had to be LED's, based on the quality of the light. I was amazed that something so small was visible at such a distance.

The trip to the canal was quite bucolic and quite pleasant. There were some houses along the way, but not so many and not so big; some barns and an occasional silo made it clear that this was the country not the suburbs. Most of the riverfront land was undeveloped, a startling change from many places where every inch of waterfront has been overrun, auctioned off and built up. There was a sole exception, something Carol and I had never seen in all our on water miles: a modular home park with great water views. And why not? There must have been several hundred of these looking out over the river/bay.

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We hit the canal about 0930 and, sure enough, the tide was slowing us down, way down to about 4.5 knots. The canal is an interesting piece of American history about which I had never heard until we started planning this trip. It first opened in 1829 after 65 years of discussion, planning and financial failure. The object was to get from Philadelphia to Baltimore more quickly and the canal absolutely aces that, knocking well over 200 miles off the trip. I just don't have the sense of economic history that makes that time saving an important goal.

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In its current iteration, the better part of two centuries on, it's a piece of work: 14-miles long, 450-ft. wide, 40~50-ft. deep. The canal is for ocean going vessels, maybe not the very largest, but pretty big. There are six bridges that span the canal. The run of the mill ICW bridge has 65-ft. of vertical clearance; all these bridges have a minimum of 135-ft. The first picture is the westernmost bridge at Chesapeake City. I suppose it is a bit of an artifact, probably built before the days of CAD/CAM, Excel and even calculators. Imagine a civil engineer building something with no more computing power than a slide rule and it remains standing. Of course, the Roman Aqueduct still stands and it predates even slide rules. The other bridge is a very old Conrail bridge; the center span goes up and down with cables, pulleys and huge concrete counterweights in the end towers. 135-ft. is about 2.5 times our mast clearance and neither Carol nor I thought that there was that much space above the mast going under the Conrail bridge. One of the other bridges seemed older and three were fairly contemporary including one that was a concrete suspension bridge similar to the ones in Charleston, SC and Brunswick, GA.

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We didn't pass any large vessels in the canal but we did have to dodge three large tugs with huge barges. Lots of room, lots of depth, no problems although the prop wash and wake ricocheted back and forth across the width of the canal making for a bumpy ride. For this reason, almost the entire length of both canal banks is lined with a rock layer to prevent erosion. Except for the Chesapeake City area the canal was largely undeveloped. It was a pretty and peaceful ride. There is some tree that grows in profusion, mile after mile, along the canal banks that was in full flower; I haven't yet figured out what tree it is but they added some beauty to the passage. I had speculated that when we got to the canal's midpoint that the tide would start to work for us and at 6.8 miles that exact thing happened and we made much better speed on the last leg.

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We exited the canal into the Delaware River and turned north into the tide and the river's current. The last mile was a long one, or at least a slow one. The marina is down a long, narrow channel but the water depth is pretty good. I'm not sure how we turn the boat around to head back to the channel but that's a problem for another day and the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. This marina has one point of distinction: it's the only one we have seen with landscaping and gardening. We noticed these rogue Iris out a starboard port, unexpected along the bank and so close to the water. Iris being Carol's favorite flower, although she much prefers purple ones, she lobbied for their inclusion in the blog. Big pressure on a captain to keep the crew in line.

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After a cloudy, overcast day our arrival at the marina was a shock: the sun came out, it got hot and we were beset with flies and flesh eating gnats, miniature winged piranha, which were having us for an after luncheon treat. We had thought that we had left these gnats behind in Brunswick, GA. Their appearance here was not a welcome surprise since they pretty much make the cockpit off limits. I have been worried about being too cold ... today Carol hinted about the air conditioning. Big Change!

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After several futile hours on the internet and blank stares from some local people I finally cracked and confirmed the code: the trees are Honey Locusts and they are ubiquitous in the area. I was told by Tim at the marina that they are thick along this street and are, now, at the end of their flowering season. A couple of weeks ago he said that the fragrance was almost overpowering. These are really big trees; we planted one at our first house in Chicago but it bore nothing in common with these giants. Maybe it just needed more years to grow; but, had it gotten this large it would have dwarfed the house.

Wednesday afternoon got quite warm by some people's standards. When I returned to the boat from a walk about Carol was splayed out on the settee, gasping, like a fish out of water, sweating, suffering and florid from the 82o "heat." In an act of mercy I turned on the A/C so that the Nordic Princess would not melt into a small puddle, dribble down to the bilge, and be pumped overboard. I thought that the weather felt pretty nice.

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The marina is quite different in one other aspect, there is only one long floating dock along the canal. There is a very nice walk way along the bank of the canal that ends up in the center of a very small town, one main street, one side with buildings, the other having a park that abuts the canal, a very nice effect. The promenade ends at this former and, according to the signs, future renovated and restored hotel dating from about 1830. Hard to see how that will make economic sense, but commercial real estate is not my field.

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I was unable to find when the town was established but it must have been a busy place by the early 1800's since the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal was first proposed in the 1760's These two houses positively reeked of 18-something, perhaps earlier, and look like they were designed by the same guy. The two churches that I saw dated to 1848, Episcopal, and 1852, Catholic.

Tuesday, 05/21/13, was the 49th day of the trip, seven weeks on the water. It has not gone as I planned it at the kitchen table in Spring Creek; in fact the only trip we made as laid out was from Cape Charles to Tangier Island. Everything else has been ad hoc. For all that the trip has gone well enough. I haven't shot Carol .... no guns on board; she hasn't left me .... no car. We had only two dates assigned to any part of the trip: (1) if we make it to Maine, don't arrive much before July 1st; (2) be back in a safe harbor by early August for hurricane season. Without any conscious plan, we have been drawing out the Chesapeake portion of the trip waiting on better, i.e. warmer, weather. My axiom in Chicago was that the weather was never consistently nice until after Memorial Day. We will get to Long Island after Memorial Day and that's probably an OK thing.

It's looking like I made a bad call on the weather. We laid over in Delaware City to avoid some weather that was inconvenient. We are now faced with weather that is too bad to head down the Delaware River to the Bay and then into Cape May, NJ. Carol, who can get sea sick sitting at the dock, would not appreciate the prospect of high winds over shallow water with big, choppy waves. The weather forecast has been moving the onset ever earlier on Friday, 05/24/13, the day I had thought to leave, from the evening to the early afternoon, closing the window and raising the stakes. After 66 years I'm pretty well used to doing stupid things but still aspire to avoid premeditated stupid things. So, it looks like we will spend the weekend here in Delaware City and wait for the weather to break fair.

Posted by sailziveli 09:34 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Havre de Grace, MD

sunny 75 °F

We decided to leave Baltimore on Saturday, not having much more there that we wanted to do. Baltimore, like many major eastern US cities has a little Italy. Carol selected an Italian restaurant for Friday evening at which she wanted to eat and that completed her agenda. Mercifully for the crab population in the bay, the Italians don't seem to have any red sauce covered culinary analogues to crab cakes. The marina started filling up on Friday, going from 1/4 full to, maybe 1/2 full. The Preakness was being run on Saturday and that was a big draw; Univ. of Maryland was having a graduation and that was also getting lots of people into town. Plus, the rates went up on the weekend so we left town.

We had thought to go to St, Michaels, a place we had skipped in order to organize the trip to Washington. But, that's south of Annapolis and I didn't want to retrace that much water. Jay had suggested Harve de Grace, as a candidate, allowing that he had not visited the town in 25 years. There are marinas there, they're pretty cheap, so with no better plan in mind we took off for that town since it is north and in the general direction of our travel.

The trip sort of typified a frustration about cruising in the Chesapeake. We were 7-1/2 hours on the water; two were to get from Baltimore to the Bay; 1-1/2 were to get from the Bay to Havre de Grace. We only spent 4 actual hours of covering miles that were new or we would not have to travel again. Almost every place off the Bay requires a hour to reach, most require more. I guess that the silver lining is that the days a getting quite long so this lateral motion doesn't completely kill progress.

The trip was perfectly boring and uneventful and that was fine with us having had a full measure of eventful in the prior five years. As we left the inner harbor we saw two shells, one a crew of one, the other of four. I figured that at 5.5 knots we would overtake both in short order. Not so! Both pulled away from us with the single oarsman leaving the crew of four far behind .... us too.

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We decided to take a shortcut, exiting the main shipping channel in favor of going "off road." When we had made the course change there was an information buoy that labeled the area, "crab lane." I expected the worst but there weren't so many crab traps. Along the way we saw these two lighthouses that aren't lighthouses. The taller, black and white structure is a range light, which, when aligned with another light tells ships if they are in the center of a channel. The other is obviously an old lighthouse but I could not find a lighthouse on the chart. Turns out that it was converted to the range light that complements the black and white structure to create the Craighill Range, the taller light being the upper range and the lighthouse the lower range. This is a range that we had used on the trip to Baltimore from Annapolis. The time in the Chesapeake Bay has been interesting in this sense: we have never been in a place that has such a large population of navigational aids and markers. Regardless of where a boat is on the water there always seems to be some aid visible to the naked eye. The issue becomes not finding a reference point but figuring out what reference point you're seeing because there are so many.

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Baltimore seems to me to be the end of the Bay. Above the city the Bay is more of a river and not a very big one for all that, much less than one mile from bank to bank with the whole area getting progressively shallower. Saturday afternoon the wind picked up a little and there were lots of boats out sailing, nowhere to go, just enjoying the wind. This was one of the boats that we saw, an older boat, probably a yawl. It seemed unusual that a boat like that would have kevlar sails, very pricy, and a spinnaker, but there it was. For all of the money invested in sails, a lot of money, the boat was not going very fast but looked very good regardless.

We arrived at Havre de Grace in the early afternoon, motoring all the way, the last 8 miles or so with a tide pushing us along toward the town up a narrow and tortuous channel. When we were settled I just had to look up the name to see what it means: Haven of Grace. The area is fairly sheltered so I got the haven part; I was not so sure about the grace unless it was discovered in dire circumstances or under divine providence. Turns out that it was named after Le Havre, France an interesting choice since the French were mainly much farther north and this area was assiduously British. After the war General Lafayette visited the place several times and commented that it reminded him of Le Havre in France which was originally named Le Havre de Grace. Improbably, from 200 years on, in 1789 the town was a contender for the site of the nation's permanent capital.

Plan! What plan??? We originally intended to stay the weekend and leave Monday but decided to attack a small boat problem: the strataglass in the center panel of the canvas surround, the most critical view, had become badly mottled making it almost opaque. The trip started with that issue as annoying and it recently became a problem. In bad weather the panel stays down but the boat pilot becomes partially blinded, not a good thing since the obstructed view is where we look for crab pots. So, we found a canvas guy here in town who was willing to replace the "glass" on short notice, a sufficient reason to stay another day.

On Tuesday, we're off for Delaware City. There will be some very windy weather on Wednesday and Thursday and the cruising guide says that the Delaware Bay can be difficult in those circumstances. So, we'll ride it out in shelter.

Posted by sailziveli 20:37 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Baltimore, MD

sunny 69 °F

It was cold, this morning, down in the 40's again. Every nice day has been followed by several extremely cool days and nights, struggling to break 50o at night and 60o during the day. The struggle has rarely been successful.

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It was Monday, and we had to get underway, having been banished from Annapolis. Carol had taken a liking to crabcakes at a particular restaurant. She would say, "I'll fix you breakfast and then I'll take a walk," the walk being to get and eat a crabcake. Or, "I'll fix you lunch and then I'll take a walk," the walk ending at the same place for the same reason; ditto for dinner. She ate so many crabcakes that the town was running out of inventory, sending tourist spending down 11.3% for the week we were there. The city council passed an emergency measure exiling us from the town, so we left.

We saw a couple of neat boats along the way. The first is at least a "go fast" boat, maybe a racing boat. It had kevlar sails, a squared off main, and a small bow sprit to handle spinnakers. There were several people in the cockpit so my guess is that it's a USNA boat that went out very early to return in time for a regular day. The second boat is a schooner that we saw in the Patapsco River, close to the Baltimore inner harbor. In a two masted schooner the rear mast is at least as tall, but usually taller, that the foremast. I imagine that at some earlier time we would have seen these in the dozens between Annapolis and Baltimore.

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The trip was pretty simple: go down the Severn River, turn left for an hour or two; then turn left again at the Patapsco River and go until you cannot go any farther. We passed these two lighthouses just north of the Bay Bridge. It seemed that the upper portion of both structures were brickwork. The white topped one, Baltimore Lighthouse, was, at one point, powered by a small nuclear generator, the first ever to be so powered. There were many more lighthouse, the traditional tower on land, as we neared Baltimore's inner harbor; there are so many that it almost seems like a connect the dots/lighthouses passage.

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Of course, we saw Ft. McHenry, of "O, say can you see..." fame. Without even having a clue, it seems that we are, in part, going over the very same waterways that the British traveled in the Chesapeake Bay campaign during the War of 1812. We first read about that in Solomons, MD. Up the Potomac, up the Patuxent, up the Patapsco went the British and so went we two. The War of 1812 is one about which I have scant knowledge. After the trip I will have to remedy that.

We passed an industrial site on the lower reach of the river, Sparrows Point. It is/was a part of Bethlehem Steel. Not a thing appeared to be happening ... shut down and shuttered. I researched that there is talk of putting an LNG terminal there. There was also a container port above the Ft. McHenry Memorial Bridge. All the boats were brightly painted and only one was recognizable: the green hulled boat is a car carrier with a ramp on the starboard side of the stern that goes down to load and unload cars. The two to the right are container vessels, but of a type I have never seen, maybe half for containers and half for who knows? The red hulled boat to the left: clueless.

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The marina was at the end of the harbor; had we gone another 50 yards we would have hit a sea wall. When we were researching the choices we selected this marina for its proximity to downtown, and downtown is about 200 yards away. What we didn't realize is that walking around the harbor to get to the downtown area is about a mile or so. Taking the dinghy across would be quicker and save a ton of steps.

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We were greeted at the dock by someone from the marina to handle the lines and by a smaller visitor, truly the size of a bathtub rubber duck, no feathers yet. It was either lost, or so small that it could not make headway into a fairly stiff wind, or, more probably, both. I have no clue whether it's a sea bird or some type of duck. Regardless, it was paddling courageously and energetically to no place in particular, generally managing a circle.

This is, more or less, what Carol and I see from the back of our boat. A pretty nice view in the waning light of the evening. The wave looking thing on the right is the Aquarium.

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Our son, Sean, arrived in Washington, DC on Tuesday for a vacation. Mamas love their babies even when their babies are older than 40 and weigh more than 200-lb. Sunday having been Mothers' Day, Carol's "suggestion" for her gift was a visit to WDC to see Sean. Neither he nor I chose to step in front of that truck. The trip was short, not much more than 50 miles. There was an interesting symmetry: having twice passed under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, we twice got to drive over it, Sean's hotel being in Alexandria, VA. We were back on the boat Wednesday in time for lunch. Mama was happy.

On Wednesday we were able to get together with my cousin Sue and Jay, who took us to Ft. McHenry to see the place from land. It was pretty interesting and closed a loop: in WDC we had visited the Museum of American History and saw the actual flag on display that flew that day and night in 1814. We went to dinner at a place that they said has the best crabcakes in MD, which suited Carol. Sue's brother, my cousin Bill, was also able to join us with his wife, Linda. It was a good time it having been a while since we had visited Sue and a longer while for Bill.

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Sue and Jay took us on Wednesday through a very old section of Baltimore called Fells Point. So, on Thursday we decided to revisit the area. We hopped aboard buses, at no charge, that got us there quickly and in air conditioning. The area is mostly gentrified but not quite all the way. Most of the houses were in exceptionally good shape, i.e. very well maintained, at least on the street side. My guesstimate is that most houses date from 18-something, maybe a few from 17-something. It was a great place to walk and rubberneck. There were whole streets where every house had a plaque denoting that it was registered as a historic location. The clapboard houses stood out in a sea of brickwork, notwithstanding the bright colors. There was a third one, but that picture didn't turn out. We passed by a real estate office and looked at the offerings in the window. The old houses, like in the pictures, didn't seem all that expensive; the newly built condos, on the other hand, were very dear. There were lots of places selling beer, almost as many selling food, most doing both. A good place to be hungry and thirsty. Better yet to be thirsty and Irish, about 1/2 the bars seeming to claim genetic descendancy from that emerald isle. I don't know why the Irish are so closely associated with alcohol, but they are.

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We also visited the USS Constellation, a restored vessel from 1854. It seemed unusual in that there was no structure on or above the deck, just the several masts rose higher that the gunwales with a clear view from stem to stern. The openness on the deck made it seem that the Constellation larger that the USS Alacrity on which I served, but in fact the Constellation is about 15-ft. shorter. They both were, however, wooden ships. History has judged which was the more compelling of the two. There are several other ships on display and open for visits in the harbor and we saw them all, a busman's holiday of boats.

Link to USS Constellation

The boat has received small amounts of attention in the morning as we've performed modest maintenance, none of which has required much time or much energy. Mostly we've been enjoying the visit to the place and with family and the .... somewhat ..... warmer weather, a welcome change and, hopefully, a permanent one.

We're leaving tomorrow, Saturday, but I haven't yet decided where. We had thought to go straight on to Cape May, the jumping off place to Long Island. I am reluctant to arrive that far north too early due to temperatures. Marinas are out of the question, costing $5.00 ~ $6.00 per foot, per night, about the expense of a luxury hotel without the room service or the Godiva chocolates on the pillow.

Posted by sailziveli 08:31 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Annapolis, MD

overcast 77 °F

Carol needed a confidence builder so, she got to be Captain for a Day, the title of Queen for a Day being already taken. The plan, get us from the dock in Oxford, MD to the dock in Annapolis, MD, a trip of some 35 nm.

After narrowly avoiding two disasters in the first three minutes she got us out the channel and into the Tred Avon River, heading for the Choptank River. All was relatively uneventful. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the morning. The closest it came was to make the slate gray skies fade to dove gray, but only for a nanosecond; if you blinked, you missed it. Mostly it was overcast, a little rain, very cool, never breaking 60o, a chilly, damp trip.

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There was a fair amount of commercial boat traffic, i.e. really big things, going up and down the Bay, but we were never really very close to their lines of travel. Even in the deepest water, well over 40-ft. we saw crab pots, not so many, and not so dense. All the deep water crab pots seem to have a small flag on the buoy "mast." I don't know whether this is for the crabbers to be able to locate their traps or a requirement that allows other boaters to be better able to see the traps in more navigable waters. Regardless, these ubiquitous boats, running a little over 20-ft., are the proximate cause of all the trouble. There must be hundreds of these things in the Bay, all white, all genetic clones of a single design decades old.

Just south of Annapolis, on the western side of the Bay, is the Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse, a very old original. It was rebuilt in 1877, an earlier version succumbing to ice; it was manned by light keepers until 1986, over a century, then automated. It is the oldest of its kind still standing in U.S. waters. Pretty cool, I think.

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It took just about seven hours to make the passage, fighting the tide the whole trip. The mouth of the Severn River, which the cruising guides say can be nasty, was calm, benign, uneventful. Carol, after circling the harbor several times finally found the marina and tried to enter the slip. This was not going to work so I took over and got the boat into the slip as directed by the marina attendant. Except, the slip was too narrow, so we were directed to another slip, wider, but it required a port side tie and we were rigged for the starboard side. Clear, direct words were exchanged with the attendant who decided at that point to let us go wherever we wanted, a wise choice on his part. So after slip 13 and slip 14, slip 15 proved, mostly, to our liking. We've stayed at many marinas and the clear standard for excellence is still the guys at the city marina in St. Augustine, FL. They are the only ones from whom I have ever asked and heeded advice.

Carol's assessment of her captaincy for the day was, on a pass/fail basis, that she passed; my assessment of her assessment was that I would agree with her. For a guy like me, who has lived most of his adult life at the pointy end of several very sharp sticks, it's hard to understand the feeling of accomplishment and confidence that this "rite of passage" gave Carol.

This was our third trip to Annapolis: once to visit Ron & Shirley, once for a boat show, and this trip. After we had the boat buttoned up and secure, it dawned on Carol that we are moored in the middle of the boat show, at least where it was that particular year. Annapolis the the sailing center of the Eastern US, probably the whole country. I don't know how that came to be, it just is. A trip to Annapolis on a sailboat has some of the metaphysical overtones of a trip to Jerusalem, but without the sectarian bloodshed: THIS IS THE PLACE! When looking at the resident sailboats here it seems that folks here have a different relationship with their sailing their boats than do folks like us who cruise. There are few davits and dinghies; no solar panels or wind generators; no canvas surrounds, many boats with no cockpit canvas at all ....sailing is a wind in the face experience; whisker poles abound; jerry cans .... fuggedaboutit, most boats displaying their sleek, graceful shapes unencumbered by cruising paraphernalia. Even the most modest boats look anxious to harness the wind and to challenge the water.

As always, just when you're having fun .... real life intervenes. Carol had been concerned about some spots on her skin, so part of the reason for being in Annapolis is so that she could see a dermatologist and get some biopsies done. Not overly concerning at this point. We've been talking to friends back home and there are some health problems that are almost dire and some that are difficult in their consequences. We plan on visiting some friends that lived in Chicago and moved here to retire. Found out on Friday that she and I share some health issues, hers being less than a week old, so we compared notes over the phone.

The week, to date, has been quiet. A rainy Tuesday, a good day for reading on the boat, which we did, was followed by clear weather. Carol needed a way to get to the doctor's so we rented a car and spent a lot of time running boat errands getting to two different West Marine stores on several occasions and a couple of trips to Fawcett's the local guy here in Annapolis. The experience of no visibility the morning we left Colonial Beach made an impression. We have a USCG fog horn using compressed air and looking sort of like a can of Cheez Whiz for manhole covers; it will get us past any inspection but the bigger question was, "What happens if we really get socked in up north?" Da' Cheez Whiz wouldn't cut it. So, we cobbled together the parts and pieces to make an electric horn from the several visits to the several stores. The good news: I got it together, and it works. The bad news: rather than having a deep, penetrating, resonant basso profundo sound, it rather resembles the honk of a whining, petulant escapee horn from a Yugo automobile. Better than nothing. ..... mostly.

We were on the ICW for 4 days, Oriental to Norfolk. There must be something in the water, maybe decayed plant matter, that creates an ugly, marigold color patina on the hull. Usually, this is just at the water line; because it had been windy and wavy our entire hull was mottled in different degrees from top to bottom, stem to stern. Most acids seem to cut the crud, including citric acid, but this is slow. We bought some oxylic acid solution that was pretty aggressive, but required eye cover and something to prevent inhaling the aerosol. Acid for the water stains, Soft Scrub for everything else, up one side and then the other; it was like spit shining a school bus. But, work done, it looks a lot better.

Annapolis is a pretty neat place. It seems unusual to me to see buildings from 1790, 1890 and 1990 all in such close proximity. The old stuff is what fascinates me. The town, like many others, has a downloadable app which includes a walking tour. If you scribe a 1/4-mi. radius from the statehouse dome, that pretty much covers the tour; not a lot of walking involved. To me the sense of the age of the place comes from the side streets more than the tour locations. We also walked through the USNA, hard on the banks of the Severn River. It was a wonderful collage of old buildings with new, much more graceful than the U of F. There is a huge "chapel" at the Academy, much larger than most churches. There was a service of some sort today so we did not get to go inside. From the outside it looked amazing, the stained glass windows huge. The two coolest residences in town are both temporary: the Governor's mansion and the USNA Superintendent's house.

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One side street which we traveled had buildings with these great doors.

Friday was the second day of summer, the first being about a month ago in Norfolk. The sliver of water in which we are moored has the name of Ego Alley. The reason for this was not apparent until about 4pm when the alley came alive people at the clubs and boats on the water. Change the Beneteaus and Sea-Rays to Fords and Chevys and it could have been Main Street in Modesto, CA and we were watching American Graffiti. Boats, big boats, power and sail, entered the alley, traversed the length of it and the reversed to exit, some doing it again, seeing and being seen ... Ego Alley. The din from the people at the clubs on the other side of the alley was loud and combined with live music it sounded like a party and we were part of it. There was a lot of "dock & dine," boats pulling in for a few hours and then leaving. The party continued well into the wee hours but being deaf has its advantages and we slept through the rest of the event.

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We're off on Monday for Baltimore.

Posted by sailziveli 14:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oxford, MD

rain 59 °F

We got underway from Solomons at about 0730 on Friday, having watched a steady stream of private and charter fishing boats leave before us. Without exaggeration, each boat carried more than a dozen rod and reel combinations, some having at least 20, maybe more. Each rod was festooned with at least one yellow wiggly looking thing, that being followed by a bright balloon of yellow and gold streamers that could have served as pom-poms for most adolescent cheerleaders. It created a very festive atmosphere, it not being obvious whether the boats were going fishing or were in a procession for a "Blessing of the Fleet." We never saw a priest or any holy water so we guessed that they were fishing.

As we cleared into the Bay an hour later that became obvious. The boats were thick on the water, dancing water bugs gliding about in a curious and complex pavane. We were under sail, headed north, right into the floating mass. It's a close call as to who may have had the right of way. We were under sail, and that usually trumps in most circumstances. However, some of the larger boats had deployed floating paravanes to stream fishing lines to the side. There was a case to be made for those boats having limited maneuvering, causing us to yield to them. Most boats, however, were being powered by a toxic mix of diesel, beer and testosterone, men on the hunt, and they really didn't much give a damn about yielding anything to any stinkin' sailboat.

In the middle of the boat cluster, a near disaster struck. We avoided the problem but the crew did not respond well, at all. We finally cleared the bulk of boats and then headed up the Choptank River, into the wind and waves, a deadly dull, tedious and tiring slog. We finally hit the Tred Avon River and after a few miles on that water arrived at the marina.

Over the weekend it was time for some work attention to be directed to the boat, it being time for the 100 hour cycle of boat, not engine, maintenance. On Saturday I decided to start with the last item on the list. The sacrificial zinc was about 4 months old and I was not sure that we needed a new one but I was sure that I needed to look at the old one. Neither the air nor the water was very warm that day, so we hauled out the wet suit. Getting into one of those things is about like dressing up in a straight jacket except the arms are a little shorter. Being a skinny, scrawny guy, I have a natural flotation index of about: zero. It is amazing how much buoyancy the suit adds in the water. I cannot get below the boat wearing the wet suit without the weight belt, so that went on too, the only time that Carol and I are nearly the same in weight. Fins, mask and snorkel completed the ensemble. It was a good thing that I decided to check; the zinc had maybe one more week before it completely disintegrated and fell off the shaft. The real problem was visibility. Even with my mask the propeller's radius away, 8-in., I could not see the 3/16-in. hex head bolt. The water was some revolting combination of colors in the triangle of yellow, green and brown. Regardless, using the brail method of feeling about, the old one came off and the new one went on and we're good for another few months. On Sunday we did the rest of the list, finding no other issues needing attention.

Oxford is a stunningly pretty little town. The marina at which we stayed is at the tip of the strand, the strand literally being a thin strip of land surrounded by water. The houses facing the street that ran along the strand all have an unimpeded view of the Tred Avon River, there being no houses on the other side of the street. Most of the houses backed up against marinas and boatyards.

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The main street was delightful. There were no Gilded Age mansions to be seen. All of the houses were old, clapboards predominating with some painted cedar shakes, probably spanning about 25 years on either side of a century. They may have started as rather modest two story single family homes on typical city lots: not very wide, but pretty deep. Over time most seem to have morphed into small housing complexes. By looking at roof lines it seems that every house had a least one addition built onto the rear of the house, most looked like two. All the trees were hardwoods save for an occasion renegade pine. What struck me was that the main street could have as easily been in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or upstate New York.

This inn, the Robert Morris Inn, is at the intersection of the two main streets and Carol says that some small part of it dates to the 1780's; the third floor is not one of those parts.

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The town dates to 1683 and water has always been a part of its history. With all the boatyards and marinas there is also a boat builder/ marine architect, a purveyor of high end wooden boats, a rare thing today. And, maybe a trend starting here, another clock.

Posted by sailziveli 15:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New Plan! Solomons, MD

sunny 63 °F

Tuesday morning in Colonial Beach looked pretty much like a replay of Monday morning .... a good day to stay dry and warm inside the boat, tied to the dock. But, we had seen the best that Colonial Beach had to offer and it was time to be quit with that place. It wasn't exactly raining .... the droplets were too small; it wasn't exactly foggy .... the droplets were too big. A Goldilocks water vapor day, it was just perfect for wearing Gore-Tex, invented by Al Gore who also invented the internet, invented global warming and, in his spare time as VP, re-invented our Government.

I checked visibility which, at the dock, seemed OK. When we cleared the short, shallow channel into the Potomac we could see no more than a 1/4-mi. Radar on, running lights on, fog horn on deck, we cautiously crept along. After about 1/2-hr. things cleared up well enough to make normal speed and except for a few incidents we had good visibility the whole way. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the early afternoon; el sol demurred and it was cloudy, rainy, and dank the whole way. We had to open the side panels in order to see and that made the cockpit uncomfortably cool.

Carol spent the entire morning changing her clothes; it was like a game of Whack-a-Mole. We were keeping the companionway closed on the optimistic hope that the engine might warm the cabin .... a little. She would stick her head out the companionway to ask if I needed anything: "No, Carol." Whack! Her head disappeared and in a flurry of flying apparel she molted layers with green uncovering blue. Up she popped again. "Are you OK?" "Yes, Carol." Whack! Down she went to reemerge five minutes later, chameleon like, this time in red. "Do you need me topside?" "No, Carol." Whack! And so it went until she had exhausted her inexhaustible supply of warm clothing finding the perfect combination of warmth and color to match??? Well, I'm a regular guy and partially color blind so I really don't know what she matched, but she did look good.

We had planned to go directly to Oxford, MD. But Carol, who selected the places to visit along the Chesapeake Bay, decided that she wanted to go to Solomons, MD and thence to Oxford. I though that this could work out better. So, there was a flurry of activity before 0900 to make route plans, identify way points and to create them and to select an anchorage for the night. There were two possibilities. One a roadstead anchorage in the lee of Point Lookout on the river's northern side; the other an obscure cove on the southern shore that I found on Active Captain. Given the possibility of uncomfortable winds during the night we opted for the more sheltered anchorage. It added several miles to the trip to Solomons but it was probably the right choice since we moved and bounced around a lot even with the better shelter. The movement kept Carol awake and kept me up looking at our position during the night to see if the anchor was holding. I was concerned because I had shortened the chain's scope from the normal 5:1 down to 4:1 to restrict the swing radius into the surrounding shallow areas. The anchor held like it was welded to the bottom; I'm starting to feel more confident about our main anchor's holding in these waters.

After the anchor was set the crew had a lively evening: eat dinner, put on more warm clothes. Go to bed, put on more warm blankets. Really, it was much more exciting than it sounds.

We woke up Wednesday morning to a cool but not frigid boat. It was 55o in the cockpit and 62o in the cabin, tolerable but far from ideal for the cryophobic captain. The trip was only a little more than 30 nm so we were in no particular hurry to get underway. "No hurry" means the anchor was aweigh before 0730. The cove where we stayed was unusual: either good water or no water. Since the surrounding depths were so shallow there were many crab pots in the channel, that being the only deep water. Usually, this is a major PAIN! In this instance, not so much as the crab pots provided a clear demarcation of the channel. Not sure where to go? Follow the crab pots just like grains of rice.... but try not to foul the prop.

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It took about an hour to get back to the main channel of the Potomac. There was plenty of wind so when we hit the channel the sails went up and the motor went off. It was a simple sailing plan: make a long reach down the river and out into the Bay then make a single tack back toward the Patuxent River. It was working, too. We were sailing hard, probably too hard. My theory is that if we're going to sail, it is better to sail fast than to sail slow. As I'm sure I've related many times ..... with full sail at 10~15-knots our boat sails well and handles well; with full sail at 15~20 knots our boat sails well but is a challenge to handle; above 20-knots with full sail .... impossible. We were in the second mode today with a little less than all sail out and it was still a lot of work. Carol was having trouble moving about the cockpit and managing lines with a 20o heel while the boat was bouncing over and through the waves. I was working overtime trying to keep the boat on course and right with the wind; one spoke of helm-over position became two then three. I think that we both felt our ages a little bit today but we did go fast and it did feel good for the several hours that it lasted.

It lasted until we were hailed on VHF 16 by USN Target Range Ship 302. There is a clearly marked USN target area on the chart and we were on course to sail close by, but not into that area and the USN wanted to talk to the sailboat NE of Point No Point i.e. S/V Ziveli, us! Usually, being in the area, no hay problema; today, hay una grande problema and all boats were required to stay 3.5 nm from the target area. This required that we take in the sails, motor east into the wind until we hit shallow water, more crab pots, and sundry markers on the other side of the Bay, about a 2-hr. digression. But, what's a little sacrifice on the altar of national security.

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So, a little after 1500 we moored at Solomons, MD, a fairly easy area to navigate and we had a fairly easy approach to the dock. This area seems a little like Oriental, NC in that it is probably a close call whether the town has more people or more boats.

We've been monitoring the weather forecasts for several places, home, Chicago, wherever we are and the next few stops along the way. Frequently it has been warmer at our house, 3,300-ft. above sea level than here on the waters of the Chesapeake. Our next planned stop, Oxford, MD, on the eastern side of the Bay, has consistently had the coolest forecasts. No obvious reason for that, it just is. Whenever Carol talks to folks at the next stop, or two, all comment on how cool this Spring has been. When the sun is out, the days have generally been comfortable; no sun .... not so good.

Carol and I walked about on Thursday morning, a trip which included, of course, a West Marine store. They did not have what I wanted but Carol, as always, found something to buy that was mission critical. By accident we passed the Calvert County Marine Museum and saw this wonderfully reconstructed and restored lighthouse that once guarded the entrance to the Patuxent River, some two or three miles away, from the 1880's into the 1960's. It seems a good example of the genre of lighthouses that I have seen depicted in drawings and paintings. The height above the platform is about the same height above the water as the structure once stood. Light keeper would have been an attractive job for about two or three days without HD TV, the internet, etc. If these things still stood they would probably make great vacation destinations like the stilt houses in the South Pacific or the tree houses in Central America.

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Solomons, MD is a pretty little town. My first choice for "Church of the Day" (actually Church of the Trip, so far) is the Episcopal Church, enough, almost, to induce me to attend and to cure me of my heathen ways. Carol, being a good Christian woman of the Episcopal faith, needs no such inducements. Second place goes to the Methodist Church, John Wesley notwithstanding. It's easy to identify which is which: Methodists would never allow such a sinful color as red on a church front. The clock is an emotional favorite bringing to mind the Carson, Pirie Scott store on State Street in Chicago and the CD Peacock store on the same side of the same street both of which have clocks, respectively with four faces and two faces. The clock is beautiful but seems anomalous as a defining landmark for this place.

Tomorrow we are off for Oxford, MD, a short trip of 30 or so nm.

Posted by sailziveli 19:08 Archived in USA Tagged churches boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

Colonial Beach

rain 57 °F

We stayed in WDC for one week. First, to let the earth's axis tilt a little closer to the sun, hoping for warmth. We got the tilt but not much in the way of warmth. Second to visit the city. Our visit to the city was like a smorgasbord of appetizers; we were able to absorb small bites of many things but there was not much time for anything in depth, no entrees. After seven days I could not have walked another mile nor could I have stood for another hour in any museum or exhibit. It felt good to just sit down in the hand crafted boat chair and to drive the boat, enjoying the warm sun and the panoramic tableau served up by the river.

Most major cities were founded with access to water; in the interior they are on rivers, many at the confluence of two rivers. I was reminded that WDC has this trait when we were exiting the Washington Channel. We were at the point where the Anacostia joins the Potomac, just putting along, staying in the channel, when we were hailed by a barge and tug, the barge being bigger than our house, that was coming down the Anacostia River and wanted us out of the way. We moved! It was hard to believe that I had not seen that colossal chunk of moving metal, but I didn't. The tug was pushing the barge at a pretty good rate and after an hour or so it was not in our field of vision. Other than the tug/barge combo, the 60 odd miles of river were quite empty, only one sailboat headed to WDC and several small fishing boats.

I had rather planned a later start on Friday, knowing that there was no way to make the transit from WDC to Colonial Beach in a single day. The leisurely morning plan changed when Carol decided to open the companionway flooding the cabin with cold air. Given the choice between cold and miserable in the cabin and cold and miserable underway, we pulled away from the dock before 0700. We must have caught the tide just right because we were making monsterly good time. By 1400 we had hit the anchorage area I had thought that we would reach by 1800. A quick look at the charts and we decided to go another two hours to Colonial Beach. We needed diesel fuel and propane, having exhausted one of the LPG tanks that morning. We covered at least 65 nm in less than 10 hours, something that I had thought impossible in our boat.

Sailboaters in inland waters always worry about vertical clearance. Our boat needs about 52-ft. plus a little more for the flexible VHF antenna. Just above Quantico, VA there is a power station with high tension lines that span the river. If hitting a fixed object and damaging the mast is concerning, the idea of the mast engaging power lines is truly terrifying. I can read a chart well enough. After two passages beneath the power lines, done two different ways, I am not sure that we did it right either time. The charts, chart plotter, cruising guides and Active Captain all showed information that was not visible on the water. Obviously, no problems .... enough clearance. I've made navigation mistakes but this is the only instance that I can remember of not knowing how to navigate an area.

The first 50 miles of the Potomac entails well more than 100 miles of coastline. In all of those miles there is only one town actually on the water: Colonial Beach. The town has history as does much of the land in this area: it was founded in 1650. Like many such towns, it had its day but that day is long since past. We caught this sunset the first night there, probably the only sunset picture from the boat over hardwood trees. An unusual one seeing the sun despite all the cloud cover.

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This marina is at the very tip of the isthmus and town is a pretty good hike away so we rented a golf cart for the grand tour. Colonial Beach actually does have a beach, reputed to be the largest around and a feature that was the town's attraction in days past. For all of the age of the town and its Victorian history, there are only two old houses left standing. The yellow one pictured was once owned by Alexander Graham Bell; it is now a bed & breakfast. The area got hit badly by a hurricane in the 1930's so that probably accounts for the paucity. It seems to be a somewhat reluctant tourist town now, having a Steamboat casino whose only connection to the water is a paddle wheel painted on the front facade.

Saturday was an easy day, get a few boat chores done and take the rest of the day off. The marina wasn't very crowded but during the afternoon things picked up. Some boats were down from Washington, DC; some may have come up the river from Deltaville or other places a few motoring miles from here. By evening it was generally full. There is a restaurant at this marina, not unusual, a feature of many marinas, usually a bar that also sells some food.

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This is a real restaurant with very good seafood earning Carol's seafood imprimatur. It seems that the plan is motor to Colonial Beach on Saturday, eat at the restaurant, then stay the night at the marina. Chairs appeared on the dock; dogs wandered about as beers were opened; people joined into clusters to share stories about boats and sundry. Early Sunday morning the boats started leaving with time scheduled to secure things in the home ports; by noon the last one had departed. Not a bad plan. The marina is also unusual in that it has two sets of slips with canvas "covers," protection for larger boats in the 40~60-ft. range.

I am tired of marinas; the convenience is nice showers, laundry, and, most importantly, power to run the heat pump. But, enough, already. The last couple of nights in WDC I didn't turn on the heat at night so that I could track the temperature differential inside the boat and outside. The statistically not significant answer is about 6o~7o warmer inside than outside. With overnight temps in the mid-50's this can work; temps into the 40's, not ever. The forecast is always throwing in a low ball number that makes me worry about freezing my skinny butt off. We even looked at a more powerful Honda generator, one to run the 16k BTU heat pump, but there was no possible match between physical size, weight and power output. So, marinas it will be until whenever the weather starts acting like Spring.

Monday broke ugly: cold and rainy, windy and gray, the perfect day not to be underway. So, we stayed put in Colonial Beach, where we stayed warm and we stayed dry. Tuesday, if the weather looks good, we will start a two day run down the Potomac and then across the Bay to Oxford, MD where we plan to stay through a cold weekend.... in a marina!

Posted by sailziveli 18:00 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating chesapeake Comments (0)

Washington, DC

all seasons in one day 76 °F

Two factual corrections to: Up the Potomac (1) The airport I mentioned on the banks of the Potomac River is Ronald Reagan Washington National, not Dulles. Should have known that! (2) When Washington was President the seat of government was Philadelphia, not Washington DC. He had no reason, as I had mused, to travel by boat between WDC and Mt. Vernon; he died in 1799 before the Capitol was moved in 1800. Did know that; got it wrong anyway!

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After a pleasant Friday, we woke up Saturday morning to a cold boat, not having needed to turn on the heat on Friday. One flick of a circuit breaker cured that problem. Carol let me pick what we wanted to do on Saturday so I picked the zoo, a place we had once visited when our son was still in the 3d grade. The day was clear and sunny, but quite cool, uncomfortable in the wind, very nice out of the wind.

Zoos have changed a lot over the years since we first visited them in the 50's. Those were the days of observation, looking at the beasties; today everything seems to be about conservation, an easy enough position to defend with the current rate of species extinction. The exhibit managers, formerly called zoo keepers, have become so clever in designing the display habitats, creating such natural spaces for the animals that half the time it was impossible to find the animal, a colossal game of Where's Waldo?, the elephants being an obvious exception; it's hard to make an elephant disappear unless you're in Las Vegas watching Siegfried & Roy. But it really didn't matter, the animals became ancillary to the to the day. The grounds of the zoo were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead; the nexus with our home is that he also did the grounds for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. It was simply enough to walk around on a sunny day with trees and flowers blooming; the seemingly empty displays with reluctant, reclusive animals in hiding just added to the natural effect. It was a wonderful, interesting and delightful day and place to walk and to enjoy, which we did.

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There are those who will say that our current president is the rock star in WDC. Not so! The real rock star in this city is Tian Tian. He draws a crowd in a way that most politicians could only envy and everybody likes him. It's an interesting analysis: two pandas, being served and cared for by dozens of humans at an expense of many millions of dollars each year, and all because Nixon went to China. Even the most committed Nixon haters have to acknowledge this legacy. The pandas don't do very much; they just seem to sit around while munching bamboo, but they do look cute and cuddly while doing that. The zoo was interesting beyond that. We mostly hang out with older folks when cruising, most boaters being of an age. At home our county has an older demographic, many young people moving away to find work. It must have been Bring Your Kids to the Zoo Saturday; at the zoo it seemed as if every woman between the ages of 20 and 35, of which there were many, was pushing a stroller, carrying an infant or trying to herd her children. It was different and refreshing to see that much youth on display. Carol, at 67, being well outside that age range only had to herd me, not so hard to do now that I've lost a step or two. No bougainvillea, so Carol with dogwoods.

My favorite zoo picture of this year and any year: Flamingos Rock!!!

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There were a couple of must visit places, first and foremost the World War II Memorial. Both of our fathers fought in and survived the Pacific theater; I had two uncles who fought in Europe. A visit seemed a good way to honor all of their contributions and memories. The exhibit itself was under repair, no water, no fountains, which was unfortunate. The memorial itself did not much inspire. The stars, however, added some gravitas; each star, there are 4,048 of them, represented 100 American lives lost in that conflict. There are lots of memorials, monuments and statues in this city. Some have a natural majesty, e.g. the Lincoln memorial; most don't, each in some way an Ozymandias. The only thing that I have ever seen that has gripped my heart is a national cemetery, row after row of white markers, each an individual story but those stories subsumed into the greater story of national sacrifice and collective achievement to make this country whole and to keep it free.

The other must see place for us was the Holocaust Museum. The day and time that we chose was also when a host of school field trips were also scheduled. Crowded and inconvenient, but few places are more educational and it was good to see so many students there. I had read about the Shtetl of Eishyshok exhibit. That exhibit and the shoes were very evocative to me. It's encouraging that the two busiest places we have been were the Lincoln Memorial and the Holocaust Museum; the priorities seem right.

What has been unsettling, to me anyway, is the level of security we have encountered. To get into the Holocaust Museum, there were x-ray machines to check backpacks and bags; metal detectors and guys with wands; and a dozen armed security personnel, all at the entrance, none in the interior of the museum. The National Archive was almost the same way, except the armed folks were more distributed. I realize that it has only been a week since Boston and that the Holocaust Museum has a definite nexus with Israel and the Middle East's problems, but it just seemed like a lot.

Carol, with some ineffable 6th food sense, chose a marina that is about 100 yards from the Washington sea food market, one of the oldest in continuous operation in the country. It's not a Tsukiji, but they not only sell the raw seafood, there are also several places that cook it. This past Sunday the traffic at the place was intense, many more cars than room for them. The place is much larger than this picture conveys.

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The National Archive was a good visit. I had probably known, but forgotten, that the US Constitution is written on 4 pieces of parchment. Throw in the Declaration of Independence and the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and there are six separate pages. Add the Magna Carta and there are seven pages that literally changed the world, all written in English.

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We also visited the National Gallery of Art. There the security appeared to be much lower. The 2d floor, where most of the paintings are, was just magnificent. There is a rotunda with huge black marble columns; the rotunda dome was reminiscent of the Pantheon; under the dome was a stylized fountain. The galleries seemed to go on forever, a warren of art in which it was easy to get lost, physically as well as in the senses. I had no idea that we had so many pieces of art by so many European greats as well as the American art of folks like Gilbert Sullivan, which I particularly enjoyed. This was a place I would visit again just to be in the building.

Turns out that I was right about the cherry blossoms, but missed the larger point. The peak of the blossom cycle this year was early April, which we missed, as we had thought that we would. But, there are several types of cherry trees here: the Yoshino, which is the most prevalent type, produces a single white blossom, like we saw in Norfolk. The Kwanzan blooms two weeks later, producing a pinkish flower with double blossoms. The Kwanzan trees were what we saw coming into the Washington Channel. There are many fewer of these trees than of the Yoshino but the flowers are quite remarkable.

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More museums, more neat stuff. There is so much that is so interesting that after a while the mind gets overloaded and the senses rebel... just too much to take in. Went to the Museum of Natural History and, surprising to say, Cabela's and Bass Pro do game presentation about as well as does the museum. Washington DC has many large things to command attention, but there are many small delights. Today, just walking from one place to another we saw a sign for a "Sculpture Garden" sandwiched between two large museums. Having nothing better to do we entered, found a nice European style restaurant for lunch, and then sat by a marvelous, large fountain and watched little kids feeding the ducks. My favorite sculpture? Sometimes I cannot see the trees for all the bowls inside them. This tree will not create that problem.

Friday we will leave WDC with the intention, once again, of staying in Colonial Beach, VA. It should be two easy days to get there, arriving Saturday. The stop in Washington has been a nice interlude. We have not interacted with the boat in any way other than as a hotel room... no maintenance, no cleaning, no worrying about boat stuff. We will have to do fuel and water before we leave, but that's all.

Posted by sailziveli 19:35 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Tangier Island

sunny 58 °F

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When we came in to Cape Charles and, again, when we left we saw seven ships anchored, maybe a mile from shore. They were not in a designated anchorage area, but that's not a big deal. What was unusual was that all seven ships were the same, identical, like finding seven white Toyota Camry's next to each other in the Wal-Mart parking lot. All had the same hull configuration, all had the same superstructure, all were painted the same color scheme, all were empty, riding high above their Plimsoll lines. And, there is no apparent reason for them to be here since there's no bulk commerce near.

Everybody on a boat obsesses about weather: too much, too little, wrong kind. We have a nice aneroid barometer mounted in the cabin. I have always paid it heed but it never seemed very informative, always operating in a fairly tight range, rarely below 29.90 and infrequently above 30.30. This trip has put paid to that point of view, the instrument having moved from 29.40 to 30.50. Maybe this was because we were so far south that frontal weather systems were much attenuated by the time they reached us. Now, I reset the movable arrow every morning on rising and every evening when we go to bed.

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I got up earlier than Carol and used the time to check the weather outlook. The outlook really wasn't that great; a frontal system was moving up the coast and the radar picture for the Chesapeake Bay was just covered up with colors, each pixel a bright harbinger that it was not going to be a great day for a sun tan. I heard echoes of the Clash (1982) singing, "Should I stay or Should I Go?" The case for staying was pretty good except that we had seen all of Cape Charles that we needed to see. By 0630 several working boats had exited the harbor, so, I figured, "Why not?" Why not, indeed? Maybe because about the time we were exiting the channel many of the working boats were returning to port. Undeterred, we continued north, along with the front noting that the clouds behind us we darker and lower than those in front of us.

We passed through the seven freighters, getting a much better look at them than we did entering port. They were, in fact, almost all the same, except .... many commercial lines have a color scheme, like racing silks. These colors and patterns are typically painted on the exhaust stacks of the ships. Each of these had something different on the stack.

We had to go about 45 nm, a good day's travel, so, despite the fact that there was enough wind to sail, speed mattered, so we motor sailed. We have generally been motoring at 2,600 RPM's, enough to push the boat at 5.0~5.5 knots without regard to wind and water. If we are going faster or slower than that range we can make reasonable inferences about the factors that might cause difference. The wind forecast was for 15~20 knots, and once we got away from the lee shore that proved to be the case and we made very good time, even with reefed sails. Then the wind got to be 20~25 knots and we made even better time, even with reefed sails. Our boat is fairly light at 17,000-lb's; so, when the wind got over 25 knots we were heeling about 25 degrees, even with reefed sails. Too much heel ... even the traveller could not compensate. So we took in more sail, the foresail to about the size of a bandanna, the mainsail to the size of some naughty thing from Victoria's Secret. And we still made more than 7.0 knots. I thought that this was way fun, flying across the water, spray from the bow forming its own deluge, the boat heeled over, tracking like the keel was in a slot. Carol, not so much. She loves to rock the carriage on the Ferris wheel, but that much wind is bothersome to her. There were some crab boats out but we never saw another pleasure craft and, certainly, no other sails.

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Regardless, we arrived at Tangier Island much earlier than planned, found the marina, and narrowly avoided a docking disaster due to the wind. Found out that Tangier Island has no cell service, ergo, no internet service for us. A two day stay became an overnight stay. The island's raison d' etre seems to be crabbing. The channel is lined, both sides, with piers and crab shacks, built over the water, no access to land. Presumably, the land is too expensive, too scarce or both. We stayed at Park's Marina and met the eponymous man himself, a very active, spry and nice 82 years old, so he told us. Carol walked about the island; I stayed on the boat hoping to warm up. She didn't walk very far; I didn't get very warm.

James Michner wrote many books with name place titles, including Chesapeake, which followed his predictable formula of describing the development of an area from when to earth was a smoldering rock, 4.5 billion years ago, through the development of the wild life of an area and then the introduction of humans. He seemed to regard the early humans and then newly come settlers as the good guys; subsequent generations he treated as being attenuated in vigor and effete in nature. He probably would have approved of Tangier Island.

Michner's description of the Chesapeake was as a boiling cauldron of life, all connected to the water, including the islands of migratory birds that once covered the water. I recall having read an article about oysters in the bay. Oysters are siphoning creatures and that at one point the oyster population of the bay could siphon all the water once a week, cleaning it in the process; now it's down to once a year, which still seems remarkable. It is something to wish to have been able to have seen.

Tangier Island served a purpose, although not the one we had imagined. It was a Motel 6 on I-80 in the middle of Nebraska. Stayed there, the weather changed, and we then moved on.

Posted by sailziveli 09:18 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

Cape Charles, VA

sunny 65 °F

On Wednesday morning we planned to get underway. The maneuvering space was cramped in the marina and getting out required taking the stern to starboard, something that boat and captain do not do very well. So, I referenced the handy-dandy Annapolis Book of Seamanship for a clue; got a clue, set the lines, coached Carol up and before the motor was even in gear, the wind was doing about ten times better than I ever could have. It's good to be lucky and nice to start on a positive note. Carol noted that in the few days we were at that marina she had the number of irises go from one to many; I saw the first robin of the season, a sure sign of Spring. All the trees are putting out buds so even if we haven't crossed the climatological hurdle, we are over the psychological one: IT'S SPRING!

It was a beautiful day for a "drive down the river," little wind, tide not a factor, sunny, warm and pleasant. If the ride itself was not interesting, all of the stuff that we saw was, to us at least. In sort of order in which we saw things: DSCN2066.jpgDSCN2069.jpgDSCN2074.jpgDSCN2075.jpgDSCN2076.jpgDSCN2077.jpgDSCN2084.jpgDSCN2087.jpgDSCN2088.jpgDSCN2098.jpgDSCN2104.jpgDSCN2099.jpg

  • I did not count the number of derrick/gantries that there are in Norfolk for unloading containers; there must be 50, probably more. It was disturbing to see so much capital deployed and so little of it being used. There was one ship being handled and we saw one more along the way.
  • I had never before seen a hospital ship. Pretty distinctive and easy to spot.
  • We saw the third one of those ships with the two big tower things. From this angle it was clear that they must have something to do with helicopters; the rear deck is open and flat and there is a big "garage" door to put the choppers inside the boat. None of this explains the twin towers.
  • We saw one ship get underway and exit for the open sea. It looked like a war ship, bigger, faster and far more lethal than S/V Ziveli.
  • There were several more of the, seemingly, same class of ship moored; I think I counted more than six. All had a nominal turret and gun forward.
  • There were several aircraft carriers there with no apparent activity aboard, 4 or 5, although one may have been for helicopters. I have read that we don't have enough carrier groups to be able to project power around the globe and all of these things sit idle.
  • When we exited Hampton Roads for the Chesapeake we saw the two markers of 18th century planning: a lighthouse to mark the entrance and a fort to defend it.
  • In our cruising experience, these are unique to Chesapeake Bay. It is a lighthouse, some 55-ft. tall marking hazardous water, Thimble Shoal, out in the middle of the bay. I assume that it is weighted and that it rests on the bottom. I have seen drawing of old ones, maybe 100 years ago, and they were occupied by light tenders. Now, solar panels seem to do the job.
  • Two pictures of some sort of Darth Vader catamaran. A very strange vessel; US Naval color, haze gray, but no US Naval markings and the finish was in a state of disrepair which no naval captain would allow.
  • The last is a USCG vessel called a buoy tender, probably the only USCG ships with black hulls. I have seen many over the years but never one that was actually messing with buoys.

This is an interesting marina, certainly the premier one for sailboats in the area. It's about a 15-min. trip to the point where the sails are up and the motor is off. Today was a good evening for sailing and we probably saw 20 sailboats leave and return. We are used to a cruising world where 95% of the time one boat means two people and most of the rest is one boat, one person.

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The traffic we saw today was quite different. Small day sailers had 4~6 people and larger boats had 6~10 people. The one crew we were able to observe looked quite practiced in knowing mooring procedures which got me to thinking that maybe these crews/friends also race the boats so that they are regulars on a given boat. Anyway, the other weird protocol here is that boats always back into their slips. We are the only boat on this dock that is bow in; of course, we are also the only boat on this dock carrying a dinghy and O/B motor on the stern which complicates things. We watched several boats back down the long runway between the docks and, then, back into their slips doing so, as the French would say, with cran. I would have been intimidated were I concerned about peer pressure. Being old and somewhat slow, I don't really care about all of that and Carol and I were able to look out over the stern and amusedly watch the parade go by. The other interesting thing is that the marina(s) share Little Creek with the US Navy. Private boats enter the channel and turn right; the Navy ships go straight. It may be 200 yards from the end of this dock to the nearest Navy vessel. The Little Creek area is also on the flight path of both the Naval Air Station and the public airport.

In retrospect, we should have headed across the bay on Tuesday or Wednesday, which we could have easily done. But, we were both tired from the trip and the preparation; the idea of some downtime seemed like a good one. Now, in retrospect, maybe a little too much down time. If we get to Maine, the earliest we would want to arrive in 07/01/2013 which gives us almost three months for the Chesapeake and Long Island Sound. That sounds like a lot of time but, probably, will not be.

There is a rhythm on our boat that is familiar to any farmer: early to bed and early to rise. It is a rare evening when one or both of us is not nodding off, book fallen to the bed cover, by 9:00 pm. Carol has, at least once this trip, been snoring by 7:00 pm. Regretfully, we have both been able to watch the first fingers of morning twilight clutch the horizon every day of the trip, so far. Sleeping late, i.e. past 0500, just hasn't been part of any day's planned activities. As for the rest of the aphorism, healthy, wealthy and wise, forgetaboutit!

In the downtime we have been doing tasks, necessary, fairly easy things to accomplish without much investment in energy or time; we're trying to avoid projects for now. While working on a task yesterday, I needed something from the very bottom of the starboard lazarette, which required a fair amount of "digging" to access. When we brought the storage bag up it was dripping, a bad sign because this is an area where I have done some work, and if the work had been poorly done it would have compromised the water tight integrity of the hull, not a pleasant thing to contemplate. The absolute first thing to do in such a situation is to taste the water, fresh or salt. Having the better sense of taste, Carol declared it to be fresh water, the better of the two outcomes. The only obvious source of fresh water there is the swim platform shower plumbing, which we tested, and which did not leak. Everything else in the area was bone dry save this one small cranny. The only other guess is that somehow during a fresh water wash down water got inside and settled there. Several days later came the EUREKA! moment: Carol was the last person to have used the 75-ft. garden hose, topping off the water tanks while still in Oriental. Since she never worked for a 250-lb. cigar chewing 2d class Bos'n's Mate named Nails nor had she ever done any firefighting, she didn't drain the hose before stowing it. A fairly credible explanation that meets the test of Occam's Razor: it's the simplest explanation that fits all of the facts. I hope the hose was the source of the water; the alternative scenarios stretch from bad to terrible.

Friday was rainy, as predicted. Carol did laundry and I decided to do the 100 hour engine stuff 15 hours early; it was just that kind of day. One thing I check during every scheduled engine cycle is the tightness of the many bolts that hold the motor mounts to the stringers and the engine to the motor mounts. A lot of the boat maintenance is fairly interesting; much is tedious and mindless. This job is the only one I hate to contemplate and detest doing. The bolts to the stringers are impossible: three of eight are moderately accessible with enough room to get two wrenches, one for the nut and one for the bolt, onto the business ends and to turn the wrenches. Four of the eight are very difficult, access to the nut or bolt, but not the other. The eighth is simply impossible for me with old hands, a weak grip and an inflexible body. In Nassau, when I had the engine aligned, the guy and I together spent almost 30 minutes on this one nut/bolt combination with only moderate success. The problem is that these nuts always seem to have an eighth of a turn of available thread, so they always demand attention. Yanmar engines have a reputation for solid reliability but also for being vibration prone. So, I always worry whether the engine has gone out of alignment and I become hyper sensitive to the feel of the vibrations through my feet. An issue without any apparent resolution.

On Wednesday Norfolk hit 89o breaking the record of 87o set in 1922 but this efflorescence of summer was evanescent. With the storm front and the rain came more normal, if less appreciated, temperatures in the 50's and 60's.

==========================

I woke up about 0300, the boat was rocking, the lines were squeaking, the shrouds were singing and the wind was still from the south. Got up at 0530 and the wind had shifted about 180o in those couple of hours as the front passed through the area, calmer but still pretty breezy. The 0700 departure plan was tabled in favor of breakfast and a 0900 departure which we made. For all the wind, when the front passed there was not enough to push the boat, so we motor sailed the 20 miles of open water. A cruising guide had cautioned that there was a 1.8 knot current in the Cape Charles area, neglecting to mention direction or location. We discovered both, traveling at an average of 7.5 knots for the last 90 minutes, frequently exceeding 8.0. There was not enough wind, the engine RPM's were too low, the boat's waterline to too short and the captain is not good enough to account for all that pace. Regardless, it was fun while it lasted.

I expected a mad rush of boats exiting the marina on Saturday morning. We were the only vessel underway from the marina; we saw just two freighters and a crab boat underway the whole trip. The marina had told us that we would be the only transient boaters over the weekend but while here three other boats did arrive. Based on the dates of local festivals and events, I guess that we are about two weeks ahead of the normal weather curve.

Cape Charles is the southernmost community on the Delmarva (an acronym for states of DELaware, MAryland and VinginiA, arranged both in alphabetical and north to south order) Peninsula on the eastern shore of the bay. We arrived by boat to what was a railroad town but is no longer that.

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They have the makings of a fairly interesting train museum on site, on rails over which few trains has moved, since all the rails were well covered with rust. The original Eastern Shore Railroad built homes for their workers, in various stages of repair each pushing 100 years old, and sent rail cars onto ferries headed to Norfolk. The Bay Coast Railroad, according to Wikipedia, still operates in Cape Charles; the state of the tracks belies that.

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I had been watching this for many miles as a point of reference for holding course to Cape Charles. From a distance it was "obviously" a lighthouse, one which I could not find on the chart. Turns out that it is only a water tower done up to look like one of the old time lighthouses; from the water it sure fooled me.

What Cape Charles does now have is a cement plant which dominates the southern side of the harbor. The cement is shipped throughout the Chesapeake area for construction.

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No bougainvillea here, so Carol with her favorite flowers, the purple iris.

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We went to a nearby restaurant last night, Carol having her heart and mouth set on fresh crab only to find out that the water temperatures have been so cold that no crab was available. We did have some raw bay oysters, truly delicious, even better than the ones we had in New Orleans in January.

The ubiquitous sunset across the dunes and the bay.

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Today, Sunday, the only task at hand is fueling, no more than a half hours work. We've been testing fuel-filter funnels, trying to come up with a way to reduce the contamination of anaerobic bacteria in the fuel. We've always had some minor issues but the bad fuel in the Bahamas caused us to get serious about keeping any water from the fuel tanks. These filters work very well, keeping out water and other particulate matter. The problem is that they are awkward to use and add too much complexity to the process of transferring fuel from jerry cans to tank; it would have been impossible to use them underway on the open water. So, we're back to the old, reliable super-siphon by itself, straight into the tank. The fall back measure is that we will not fuel from pump directly to tank, always filling the tank from the cans. This way, at least, we can see what's going into the system through the clear siphon tubing.

Tomorrow, Monday, if the weather holds, we will head north to Tangier Island, our jumping off point for the trip up the Potomac River to WDC.

Posted by sailziveli 11:06 Archived in USA Tagged boats bay boating chesapeale Comments (0)

Still in Norfolk

sunny 83 °F

One of my main on board responsibilities is checking the weather: move or stay! There are lots of sites that predict the weather and, I have always assumed, they all pull from the same NOAA data bank and reformat the data in different ways. If they all use the same data, then all the weather forecasts should be generally analogous in outlook, which is, of course, never the case. Like the compass, what do you believe? There seem to be a lot of guys who think that writing a check to buy a boat instantly makes them master captains and PhD. meteorologists. I can only wish! My preferred method was borrowed from Rock/Paper/Scissors, the best two of three, or three of five: find some sites that seem to agree and go with the majority report. This usually works well enough until it doesn't, always an unexpected surprise; more wind, higher waves, different wind direction or becalmed. Surprise always works on the downside, rarely to our benefit. There was a whole lot more wind in the inland waters we just traveled that any forecast predicted. Now I am trying to figure out when it will be OK to leave here for Cape Charles. There is a front passing through sometime late Thursday or early Friday that will make the Chesapeake Bay a little bit frothy and the temperatures a bit cooler.

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In 45 years together I have discovered that there are three things that Carol cannot do: turn off any light, close any window or lock any door. I have not yet figured out whether these non-actions are the result of emotional, psychological, physioligical or genetic barriers, probably never will. It has been interesting to see these same things play out on the boat, just in a different context: port holes remain open, even in the rain; the companionway "door" is left open even in freezing weather, air circulation don't you know; the all time favorite is the electrical panel. My job is to be the power miser, minimizing all extraneous amp hour usage so that the refrigerator does not wipe out the batteries. The power panel is pretty obvious, if red LEDs are on, circuits are live, consuming power. There are just a few patterns of the 14 lights on the panel that should be seen in different situations. Our favorite on board pastime is for me to look at the panel and see unnecessary LED's on and ask, "Why is the _______ (fill in the blank) on?" Hers is to say, "Oh, I'm done with that, I'll just turn it off." If we were to keep the boat another 5.5 years I will still be asking the same question and she will still be making the same reply, one brick wall, two heads banging against it several times a day. Sounds like a marriage.

We visited the Gen. Douglas MacArthur museum; it was sort of like reading American Caeser but with the real artifacts instead of just pictures. He was a fascinating individual, one of two men, the other being Huey Long, who, in my opinion, might have been able to disrupt the political process of this country. One a populist, the other a nationalist, both would have had to struggle against long but not impossible odds.

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Some time in the 90's Chicago and had an unusual art deal. Someone had the idea of taking life sized fiberglass cows, having the cows sponsored and then the sponsors having the cows decorated by local artists in a theme that might reflect something about the sponsor. It was called: Cows on Parade. So, for instance, the Chicago Bears commissioned a cow as did museums, businesses, professional groups. The decorated cows were put on the sidewalks, in lobbies, parks, places where something that big and that colorful would surprise, even amaze. It sounds goofy but it was really pretty cool and the cows were later auctioned off for big bucks. Norfolk must have done something similar with mermaids except that the city kept the mermaids on permanent display. We must have seen at least a dozen as we walked the downtown area. This seemed too good to pass up: two red headed mermaids; in memory of Patty G, who Carol loved, and all of Patty's mermaids. Can it be anything other than a cosmic non-coincidence that Carol was color coordinated with the red headed mermaid?

Link to Pictures of Cows on Parade

Link to Pictures of Mermaids on Parade...

Carol and I lived in the area in 1971. At the time downtown Norfolk was dying commercially and the city was being hollowed out, people and businesses moving out to areas like Virginia Beach, where we lived. There is little here that I recognized or remembered; the old downtown Norfolk Sears store is long gone. I did recall the Virginian-Pilot newspaper building and the Scope arena, at the time the home to the Virginia Squires where I got to see the all time great, Dr. J, play before he went to the 76er's. What a difference four decades makes. This downtown area, at least the part which we can cover on foot, is new, vibrant, busy and interesting. There is a an unusual mix of commercial and residential properties in close proximity and it seems to work.

Having missed the blooming trees at home, I had thought that we might see the cherry trees in Washington, DC. That looks doubtful since the cherry trees are in full blossom here. I have only seen cherry trees in bloom one time, in the early 90's in Osaka. There is a walkway near the Japanese mint that I visited which is quite famous, rightly so, for its cherry blossoms, Sakura. I'm not sure quite when churches got serious about spires, probably early in the 2d millennium CE. Church spires should seem anachronistic today when buildings routinely erupt 1,000-ft. or more from the earth, but to me they don't. The best of both.

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Had a bit of a walk about on Sunday, a sunny, warm, perfect day, the first in 2013 for which a t-shirt was appropriate; had a gin & tonic to celebrate and we ate dinner in the cockpit. What a nice surprise that was. The marina has generally been devoid of human activity except for us and the young man that tends the dock. Today was so nice that many people came down to their boats just to sit in the warm of the sun near the water.

Four days underway and already we have a list of things to change, repair or replace. No trip on any boat is complete without a trip to West Marine, this one being no exception. On Monday Carol wanted to rent a car for a trip there as well as to the Portsmouth side of the river, so we did. Weather-wise it looks like we will be unable to leave until some time this weekend. Norfolk had not been a part of the trip, a destination; it was simply a gateway to the Chesapeake Bay through which we had to pass. It looks like we will be doing the lemon/lemonade thing and finding ways to enjoy the sojourn here. This is where Carol is at her best, she being an irrepressible, unapologetic, incurable optimist able to find the good in a glass that is 2% full, especially if the 2% includes restaurants and dining out; I tend to get grumpy when the glass is 2% empty.

Got to West Marine, got what we needed, for this stop, anyway. We decided to drive to the Pembroke area where once we lived and worked. The apartments, built in about 1960, looked better than they did when we lived there. The Sears store, where I worked, also built in about 1960, not so great. It looked like a two tone, deserted warehouse, a sad sight to me. It was interesting all the various memories that came back to us both; things that we would never have recalled without the evocative side trip. It was kind of fun sharing that history. Carol wanted to go to the beach, a trip we had made on bicycles several times with 4 year old Sean loaded in a seat on the back of my bike, well before the time when helmets were required for anyone. Got there and had a ride on a ferris wheel, then walked to the boardwalk. We decided to use the new iPhone for direction to get to a place to make a minor repair to our canvas. The first time Apple maps put us closer to our house than to Mike's Marine Canvas. The second attempt at least got us into the same area code, but not the same zip code. Google Maps .... dead on. All the criticism I have read about Apple's mapping software is correct; it's junk.

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We made it to Portsmouth on Tuesday, taking the ferry across the river. Got another good look at the work being done in the yards.

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It's hard to tell these days what purpose a USN ship serves; is it part of the tiger's tooth or the tiger's tale? Things used to be simpler; if a ship had a lot of 16-in. guns it was a battleship; a bunch of 8-in. guns and it was a cruiser; a few 5-in. guns and it was a destroyer. Subs and carriers were self explanatory and everything else was about logistics, moving stuff across the water. The ship in the tent in the background must be some sort of carrier; it has a sign about jet blast and rotor wash. The one in front looks like something a precocious 4-year old would have built with Lego blocks; what is with the two towers? On the far right, hard to see, are several ship's bows that look like they belong to predators not cargo carriers.

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Right at the ferry disembark pier was the fresnel lens from a decommissioned light house. It was not lighted, of course, but it was turning and the lens acted like prism which I found fascinating. Portsmouth was pretty interesting, many old churches, pre-1800's with cemeteries having similarly old head stones. There is also an "old town" covering several square blocks. It is not as big and dense as Charleston's but it covered a larger span of years with houses into the early 1900's. It was a good visit, worth more time than we were able to give it.

The past several days have just been delightful, closer to summer than Spring. T-shirts during the day; heat off at night. It's been sunny enough to get Carol back into her SPF 50 mode, hanging towels in the cockpit to keep out the sun and, of course, buying new sun hats. Given her history it is hard to take issue with any of this.

So, we have a sort of plan. I had thought to anchor in Willoughby Bay and to leave from there. The coming weather makes that a bad idea. Leaving from here adds almost 12 nm to the crossing, too many for one day. On Wednesday we'll switch marinas to one that is outside the main harbor with a straight shot across the mouth of the Bay to Cape Charles. We hope to leave on Saturday when/if the weather has settled down.

Posted by sailziveli 19:42 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

On to Norfolk

sunny 43 °F

Nautical questions on an early morning:
• The person at the helm of our boat has three devices indicating the course on which the boat is traveling. The analog compass, of course; the chart plotter which uses GPS and trigonometry to calculate the heading; and, the autopilot which uses a flux gate compass to calculate the heading. The latter two can be set to true north or magnetic north and we use magnetic. None of the three ever agree; it always takes at least 5 degrees to span the difference between the three headings and, more often, 10 degrees is required. Occasionally the auto pilot compass gets stupid, being kind of close on one heading and then being 20 degrees of after a course change. It's not important to know why but I'd like to understand. The magnetic compass is the default device; it got us from the northern Berry Islands to Nassau when not a single electron of electricity was flowing on the boat. But, which reading is most likely to be the nearest to correct?
• One of our yellow Marinco power cords failed so we replaced it. The new one had an LED at the boat end indicating whether the cord was powered or not. This is such a great safety feature that we bought another one just like it. The subsidiary issue is that they pack these things into coils the size of beer cans for shipping and we haven't had any warm weather that allows the plastic insulation to lose this "beer can" memory; they're hard to coil and store. In addition Marinco changed the coupling on the boat end from threaded to something else. The population of 30 amp threaded Marinco fittings installed on the sides, sterns and cockpits of American boats has to number in the hundreds of thousands. Why would they do this?
• Carol and I are both early risers and usually get underway with the first light, now before 0700. Part of our discipline is to do a VHF radio check, usually around 0630 or so. We have yet to receive a response any time this year. Are we the only guys up?

Mornings on the boat when underway are quite different. No iPad reading of the WSJ, a quick minute for email and no relaxing. Get up, get dressed, get systems up, get the weather, get charts and guides positioned, get things stowed and plan the departure. My mornings now, again, include keeping the log in the book Stan and Connie gave us for our first trip in 2008. The page on which I started 2013 had this citation from a poem by Keats:

Much have I traveled in the realms of gold
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen ...

The real estate along the ICW really is a realm of gold.

Day one started ugly and ended fair; day two was the obverse, fair to ugly. When we left Belhaven I was looking at a weather system moving north from the border between the Carolinas. We had all our foul weather gear laid out and ready. The clouds arrived at 0900; the wind at 1030. The rain was forecast to start at 1100 but, thankfully, held off until after we were moored. It's good to be lucky.

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Most of the day was driving the boat through the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal, a 22-mile ditch carved out of the south annex of the Great Dismal Swamp. Most of the way the canal is fairly narrow, lined with the stumps of cypress trees, seemingly close enough to touch from the boat. The canal is almost without human habitation, completely undeveloped. I suppose that there is beauty there, but if there is, it's not a very interesting kind.

This was our third transit of this canal, having gone north to Norfolk and back in August, 2008. We were returning south to Oriental from Norfolk and got about a half mile into the eastern end of the canal when the engine oil pressure alarm went off. We had the music cranked up and almost did not hear it, the alarm sounding like an instrumental part of whatever song was playing. We shut the engine down and looked in the motor compartment to find one gallon of oil on the deck, one gallon coincidently being the total capacity of the engine. We were too far away to reach any station on the VHF so we tried the cell phone; there was a hint of a signal but we could not connect. A small sailboat passed us so we gave those guys our position and Towboat US membership number and asked them to call on VHF when they could get a response. A good idea except that their boat broke down about a quarter mile from ours. Desperate, I went I went up the mast where the cell signal was stronger, but only for about two minutes. Called Towboat US and gave them our position to which the young lady replied, "But that's on land!" Since we had drifted onto some cypress stumps at the very edge on the canal that was just about correct. The signal then faded, the call was dropped and I wasn't sure if things were set in motion. Luckily for us, they were. The unnamed Belhaven individual in addition to running the marina, restaurant, B&B, and boatyard was also the Towboat US guy which is how we initially met him. There are many legitimate criticisms which can be made of us as boaters; no one can criticize our time on the boat as having been boring. (We also have never again played music or the radio when we are underway with motor or with sail.)

Given this history, Carol's mission on Thursday was to call someone every two miles through the canal to see if there was cell coverage; there was, the whole way but only for calling, not for data transfer. It was really just an excuse to call all her friends and talk.

When we hit the open water of the Alligator River there was a 10 mile straight run with the wind in a useable position. So, we put out a sail and Carol took the helm to get the feel of the boat with pressure on a sail. She did well enough. I have to give her some credit; if she cannot handle lines well, it is, at least, her job to rig the lines and fenders for mooring. Today was a particularly unpleasant day to do that, the day being cold, windy, bouncy and wet with spray from the bow. She schlepped around the deck in a life vest and safety tether and got lines and fenders out without complaint even wearing a knit cap for warmth at the risk of crushing her curls and "depoofing" her hair, a fashionista catastrophe. For decades in Chicago Carol wore no hat; she was always cold but her hair looked great.

The weather must be a factor in peoples' plans, or maybe we are just stupid. We saw two boats underway yesterday and two boats underway today. We were the only boat at the marina in Belhaven; we are the only boat in the Alligator River Marina. In fact, this marina isn't even open but they accommodated us because of the bad weather. Very nice!

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This picture was taken on our trip to Norfolk in 2008, no more than two miles east of the Alligator River Marina, the other side of the river in East Lake. The lake isn't much deeper than our boat's draft and there must have been a few thousand crab pots between us and our anchorage. I like the picture even if it is not contemporary.

The second day was neither taxing nor demanding. But at day's end there was little difference between a boat with a mast or a cave with a fire: an elemental satisfaction that the labor had ended, we were sated, we were safe, we were warm and we were dry. Maybe that is simplicity after all.

We, read I, had thought that we might lay over for a day and wait for the weather to break. We had a leisurely morning but by 0800 I had the travelin' jones. It seemed that the wind had calmed a bit. There are two ICW locations that are notorious for bad shoaling: Ft. Matanzas, FL and here, where the Alligator Rover flows into the Albemarle Sound. I went on Active Captain and some cruising forums to get advice on how to navigate that 0.5 mile of water. All agreed: throw out everything you know about reading a chart and honoring navigation markers; do a specific thing a specific way for success/survival. So we did. And, it worked never saw less than 10-feet of water. Ain't the internet wonderful!

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The wind, on the other hand, had just had a brief time out making Friday morning pretty much an instant replay of Wednesday morning but, with one critical difference; instead of going directly into the wind and waves we were running at an oblique angle. The wind did attenuate to 15~20 knots after a while and we made the run across the Sound motoring with a reefed mail sail. I had wanted to work on our weather legs and this run seemed engaging without being threatening. It was good to have the boat running hard with a sail up knowing that we could bail at any time. Carol is in danger of losing her title of Nordic Princess. Here she is huddled under a blanket while I, the king of cold weather weenies, tough it out.

The crossing took a couple of hours and was fun but bouncy. Here is a few seconds of video with Carol at the helm and, yes, I was having trouble standing up and holding the camera. Carol at the Helm

After that it was a quiet few miles to the marina. We have been watching birds, hoping to see an eagle, something we did on the trip north in August, 2008. There have been lots of sea gulls, quite a few pelicans and every single cormorant in eastern North Carolina. Today was a serious raptor day, but without the eagle. This is a pair of ospreys and the other is most likely a red tailed hawk, or some other hawk, although there is about a 1 in 100 chance that it is an immature or juvenile eagle but, even allowing for distance, it seemed too small for that. I don't know why raptors hold such a command of our, and my, fascination. They are some of nature's perfect predators perfectly adapted to the ether; maybe it is the grace which they exhibit in the air and on the hunt, appearing to defy the laws of mass and gravity, seeming weightless as they float on rising thermal currents. Maybe they hold the embodiment of mankind's desire to, "slip the surly bonds of earth." On the last leg, to Norfolk, we saw several dozen osprey nests all with white heads tucked low into the nests. We assume that there were eggs being tended, soon to hatch.

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The last day was a fitting finale. We had about 15 nm of open water to cross and did it into winds that were 20~30 knots. Dull, tedious, boring but also very tiring. When we were into sheltered waters the muscles of my neck and shoulders were badly knotted and very tight; I had been gripping the helm so hard for so long that my hands were numb.

In Coinjock a lady asked for help in very poor English, she being French; maybe she picked us because we have a Beneteau. Anyway, the last 15 miles into Norfolk has several swing, bascule and lift bridges; they were concerned about conversing with the bridge tenders to arrange passages. So we traveled together, our boat handling the communication chores, in this case Carol doing the talking. Listening to Carol on the VHF radio is painful; terse and telic are not words that immediately come to mind.

Carol and I have been reminiscing about this same trip some 4.5 years earlier. We have recounted the Belhaven imbroglio; there was also the Norfolk electrical problem and the Norfolk incident where Carol literally walked off the dock into the water with our only cell phone. We had had the boat one year and we were so naive and inexperienced despite having worked so hard to learn about boats and boating in that year. We are still naive but less inexperienced having put some 5,000 miles of water under our keel. Not a lot by some cruising standards but a lot for us.

The last 10 miles, or so, into Norfolk are fairly industrial, interesting but not engaging. The last two miles are heavily invested in USN ship repair. It's not easily apparent from the picture but there are whole US naval vessels inside the tent like structures; plus there were several that we saw to the south that cannot be seen from the marina. What I have recently read is that we are down to about a 300 ship Navy. If that's the case, then several per cent of that Navy is under repair here in Norfolk & Portsmouth.

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When we arrived in Norfolk, and had the boat secured, I decided that I needed a beer to celebrate. The first place we found that served Newcastle Brown Ale was a Hooter's restaurant. This was the first time that Carol had ever visited such a place, naively believing that the chain exploited women, not wanting her dollars to support or continue that exploitation. Sadly, it is the other way around; the guys are exploited by paying too much for bad food and poor service, tipping too much for the privilege sitting in the midst of tight orange shorts. The beer, on the other hand, was frosty and went down easily and quickly. Carol got to pay the bill and to calculate the tip.

We haven't thought too much about next action steps. The trip destinations are planned and routed. What's missing is the weather to enjoy the destinations and the travel. Nights are going to be in the mid-40's for at least the next week, maybe longer. The jet stream continues to be intent on its southerly course. Right now it is warmer in Chicago (47o) than in Norfolk (43o). Go Figure! There is some stuff we can do, e.g. it's almost time for an oil change, but nothing pressing. So, after almost three solid weeks of getting ready to leave, and then the trip to Norfolk, we might just hand out for a few days; one marina is pretty much like another as long as there is shore power.

Posted by sailziveli 08:15 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Aim for the North Star

sunny 49 °F

Well, that's a bit, actually a lot, over the top but it conveys the general concept: we're underway in a northerly direction.

The last few days at the dock were very focused and very busy. In boat terms, everything went well meaning only the usual amount of aggravation. The new head went in well enough; but, then the bright, clean parts made the other old parts, neither bright nor clean, look very dingy which, of course led to a concatenation of replacement so that now the whole thing looks pretty good. The old one must have needed replacing because the new one performs way differently which is, I assume, way better. We cleaned and mounted the dinghy and tested the O/B motor. The motor worked great but a perpetually recalcitrant hose coupling became impossible. Easy enough to solve with a credit card and a short drive to West Marine.

As we have been testing the equipment we have also been testing ourselves. Does the SSB radio work: yes. Did I remember the Mhz for Chris Parker's 0630 broadcast: no. Was I able to tune to that frequency: yes. Did the O/B motor start: yes. Did I remember how to start it: yes, but I had to think about it. There will be more stuff like this as we move on a regular basis, engaging more equipment, old patterns remembered through fog and haze. Having come to boating late in life we are not practiced in the rhythms of the boat.

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Most of the boats here are for local use, maybe a weekend trip to the outer banks or Point Lookout. As we have begun loading our cruising "stuff" onto the boat our vessel has become the marina's ugly duckling as we have added lines, fenders, jerry cans, etc. to the deck. The sleek, graceful lines have become hidden under the accretion of necessary cruising essentials, barnacles for the topside. This trip is going to be different from any of ours to the Bahamas, successful or not. The mentality for cruising there was: bring enough of it if you're going to need it; spare parts as well as consumables. Cruising domestically we ought to be able to find extra virgin olive oil, Colgate tooth paste even if we have to rent a car to find the nearest Walmart. I don't think that either one of us has yet internalized this distinction. I was looking at our Rotella motor oil and we have only two gallons which almost brought on a panic until I rationalized that any place that we bring this boat on the east coast will sell Rotella oil. Water will be the big difference. In the Bahamas if water was available at all it came at a price. I assume that we will be able to get free water anywhere so that absolute water conservation will not be very important this trip.

The inside is getting filled also. Thoreau's admonition was:simplify, simplify, simplify. I suppose, life on a boat is simpler in many aspects. There are no cars or TV's, fewer distracting possessions in general but it's no Walden Pond. We seem to have become a digital Noah's ark having a pair of cell phones, a pair of iPods, a pair of iPads and a pair of computers. We may not be able to see the shore but life on land will never be very far away.

We were discussing our plans with a friend in Oriental and he asked me if I subscribed to Active Captain, a web site, with which I was completely unfamiliar. So, I joined and what a deal it is. It has some aspects of a wiki, boaters updating information in real time about navigation, markers, marinas, anchorages, etc and displaying that information on a chart facsimile. I don't know if this can replace a cruising guide but it is a great complement to one. On this trip we should have decent cell coverage most of the time which means internet access to this website underway. This web site paired with Google Earth may make new places somewhat familiar before we depart for those destinations. Stress reduction is good!

We like the place and the people but the slip in we are is just too small for our boat. We're about 4-ft. too long and at least 1.5-ft. too wide. To go bow in and have access from the finger pier we had to allow the bow to touch the dock with a flat fender between the two. Stern in is a little bit better fit but backing a too wide boat into a too narrow slip seems like threading a needle and my marginal boat handling skills diminish to zero in reverse.

On the Friday evening before we departed it seemed as if the whole trip had become undone. We had gone to New Bern for dinner and a new 12v charger for the computer since the old one, apparently, had stopped working and the battery life of this Dell is about three hours, at best. The new one didn't work any better than the old one which is to say, not at all, and the battery was still draining. Not yet time for panic. In lieu of a working computer, I decided to enter a new way point in the the nav. system. The system would not power up. Time for panic! The system is 11 years old; since boat years are longer than dog years, that's way, way old. Because the nav. system is integrated with the radar unit, the replacement cost with installation would be north of $4,000, much further north than we had planned to go on this trip.

I opened the electrical compartment to feel for a loose power supply cord to the back of the unit. Nada. Working back there is always a problem; the wires are many and it's like trying to move through 500 years of accumulated spider webs without breaking a single strand. I didn't succeed; I managed to rip out a pair of wires for the nav. station lamp. There were no nav. system wires loose, so I took everything apart. Nada! Tried the unit on the binnacle. Nada, but this was good news, maybe. Seemed like a power supply issue to the system not a problem with any particular component, an interesting insight but one for which I could not imagine any useful application.

Decided to work on the computer problem, and in doing so, shorted out a fuse and simultaneously contrived to have the ground end clamp of the continuity tester fall into pieces. What I discovered with the computer was that the 1 socket to 2 socket adapter was bad. Replaced that and the fuse. The surprise was that when I fixed the 12v outlet computer problem the nav. system started working again, radar too. These are on separate circuits and should not interact in any way; and, maybe they didn't. But it seems to me that there must have been an unholy imbrication in the electrical system well beyond my understanding. Of course, people have believed many strange things such as devils and dragons being the "logical" explanation for events; I'm willing to believe that there is/was a devil somewhere in those wires. I suppose that it's not important that I understand as long as things work and I'm relieved that they do. I love the boat and cruising. But, this was one of those several times in the past five years and eight months when I have felt totally overwhelmed, inadequate for the task, frustrated beyond measure and a complete idiot for ever thinking that boating is something that we could reasonably do at our ages. For someone like me, that is a crushing way to feel; never liked it, never will.

On Sunday, leaving the shower room I saw two familiar faces, Bruce & Rosie, Bruce having been a colleague at Sears during my last several years there. They live about an hour north (by car, farther by boat) of Oriental. Bruce had picked up the blog, knew we were in Oriental and, having no way to contact me they drove down to see us. This was a total surprise and a great treat for me. Bruce also likes our mountains so maybe they will accept our invitation for a visit in the Fall.

We were in Oriental for two weeks prior to leaving. If the trip down was bleak, Spring has finally sprung here. The redbuds are in bloom, trees are putting out new leaves, forsythia are in flower and the iris are up and open. The pine trees are prolific in their germination, the nascent cones putting out layer upon layer of yellow pollen, coating cars and boats and everything else. Wash any surface and within 24-hours it is back to school bus yellow.

We got underway on Wednesday, 04/03/2013, planning a three day trip in four days so that we could stay in a marina every night with electrical power for the heat pump. Spring may be in the air but winter has not yet released its grip on the overnight temperatures. The plan was to use the last few days of unpleasant weather for the trip to Norfolk, only a transit, not part of the trip, so that we could be there, at the mouth of the Chesapeake, when the weather breaks fair. We saw this scene over our stern as we headed to the pump out dock on Tuesday evening.

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Tuesday looked pretty good; Wednesday, not so much. It was raining as we disconnected shore power and made ready to leave. There was a brisk wind, but not concerning. As we headed out Pierce Creek into the open water of the Neuse River the wind picked up. By the time we hit Pamlico Sound it was blowing 20~25 knots on the bow and we were getting beat up heading into the winds and waves. Since the river and sound are fairly shallow, +/- 20-ft., the water gets choppy with a very short period between waves. Our boat doesn't handle chop well. After a certain number of waves the bow digs in and speed drops to not very much. We made 3.5 kts. while the engine had RPM's for at least 6.0 kts. The first three hours were very long, unpleasant, uncomfortable and cold without much apparent progress north.

A larger boat, motor sailing, passed us so I decided to give the sails a try. Looked at the mast head fly and the wind was coming over the port beam which, had I been thinking I would have known was impossible. Set and trimmed the sails accordingly and we slowed down. Wrong answer! Gave up on that and headed into irons to take the sails down, checked my heading into the wind and it was still over the port beam. That registered but we were too busy with too much wind to worry about the anomaly. When I did pay attention it was simple to understand the problem. In January we had a new VHF antenna installed, at the top of the mast. The antenna was mispositioned and was blocking the fly from turning, stuck on the port beam. A rookie mistake by the yard.

When we hit Bay River and turned away from the wind we put sails up again and made almost 7.0 knots. The rest of way was sails down but with a clean, newly painted bottom we flew right along and hit Belhaven, NC about 1500. Then it was Carol's chance to shine. The approach to the dock was not difficult but the wind was pushing the boat away from the dock. Carol's job was to get a spring line to Eddie on the dock so that I could bring the boat alongside and moor. First throw ... straight into the water and we're getting farther away from the dock. Second throw, after slowly, meticulously, maybe even aesthetically, coiling the line ..... worse than the first and just as wet. Finally I got the boat to where she could hand Eddie the line; that worked. Then it was up the mast to deal with the antenna: 30 minutes of preparation for 5 minutes of work, but it's fixed, sorta. I just hope that I did not screw up the antenna.

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Carol and I were stranded in Belhaven in August, 2008, when we had an engine problem that turned into an electrical problem due to a bad shore power supply. A very long story with a very interesting character who will not be named in the blog but whom many boaters seem to know. It seems that this marina has fallen on hard times. They still have golf carts that boaters can drive around town. When we went out for dinner it seemed that the city itself was doing less well than in 2008. This wonderful old mansion is the one in which the unnamed character grew up, a legacy from earlier generations whose fortunes were built on railroads, pine trees and turpentine, in that order. In 2008 it was a bed & breakfast with a large restaurant and bar. Now it's for sale, a sad testament to the times. If someone had the time, money and inclination to restore it, it would be the jewel of much of eastern NC.

Anyway, it was an interesting first day out, sort of an immersion course in all the weather elements of sailing to remind us that we're not in the sunny, serene, warm Bahamas. I think that we'll both sleep well tonight.

Posted by sailziveli 18:54 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

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