A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about sunsets and sunrises

The Long Journey Home

Being There Is More Fun Than Getting There

semi-overcast 81 °F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunrise on the Waccamaw River

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

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

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

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

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

Order of Travel: Charleston, SC to Brunswick, GA

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic City, NJ

sunny 92 °F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Block Island Sleepover

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

sunny 84 °F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to Provincetown

rain 66 °F

It was a vexacious morning, that Friday that we returned to Martha's Vineyard. We both woke up early, too early, and decided to get underway. In the event Carol threw off the mooring pendant at exactly 0500. I put the motor in gear and started to turn. After six years, two with this motor that just celebrated two years in service on 06/11, you accumulate many impressions, observations, sensations, cues, clues signals on how the boat feels, sounds, handles, behaves, performs. It all gets filed away into sort of an unconscious or subconscious marine database with the current accumulation, sensation and observations, being checked constantly against the historical sensations. I doubt that any captain could articulate and define everything that he/she knows. But the unconscious mind quickly isolates and disparities or discondancies. In about three seconds I sensed that the boat "just didn't feel right." Didn't feel right all morning. I was concerned enough that when we moored I donned my wetsuit and went over the side to see if there was anything tangled below. Murky water, very murky if it's hard to find a very large piece of metal, our fin keel. Nothing there, which, of course, doesn't mean that nothing was there. So, maybe the vaunted database had a processing error.

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The other problem was with the VHF radio, which to my mind is the single most important piece of safety equipment on the boat. It seems to work sometimes, other times not and there's no apparent pattern. I'm not sure that we can be heard when transmitting and it takes an extremely strong signal to break through and be heard on our set. I had first thought that the remote handset might be the issue; disconnected it and there was no change. The analysis is made more difficult by the fact that the antenna was changed in January. The old one looked ugly but worked fine. I have no way to tell if there is some problem with the new one. The problem is that the radio always is "busy" a state that can be caused by a keyed mic remaining open. Brought up the standby handheld radio; it may not work as well as the base unit.

So, for lack of a better plan we called Defender Industries to get a new radio and a new remote handset sent to Provincetown. They don't have to travel very far, half of Connecticut, across Rhode Island and out the Cape. Of course, in the way of these things, replacing a Standard Horizon radio with another Standard Horizon radio doesn't mean that the change will be easy. This radio is two years old and the sizes have ALL changed so I will have to recut the opening for the radio in the cabin. The car industry doesn't let manufacturers get away with that type of crap; for them a radio is a radio is a radio. We'll also replace the handheld in Provincetown or Portland, ME.

We were inside the breakwater at 1000, exactly five hours for the trip. We procrastinated with the dinghy; Carol had wanted to do laundry but there is no place available to do so. She had slept poorly last night and didn't feel well enough to go out to dinner. Crustaceans the world over celebrated that decision. So, we're "at anchor" on a mooring ball, a pleasing prospect to us both.

The story is that a man came to this island in 1971 and opened the Black Dog Tavern. Now, 40 years on, it's a business complex with a restaurant, a clothing line with several stores on the island, a bakery and, probably, much more. The much more definitely includes these two schooners, the black one Shenandoah, the white one Alabaster. I'm not sure why the one had sails deployed but both have the Black Dog pennant (a labrador?) flying. (follow on comment: there's even a store in Provincetown)

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The trip to Onset Harbor was fairly short. The rhythm of that trip was governed by arriving at the Woods Hole channel at 1013, the exact minute of slack water after which the tide would start to ebb, moving from Vineyard Sound to Buzzards Bay. There didn't seem to be any particular hurry to get to the starting point of the channel. It was only 7nm, so we left the harbor at 0831, waiting for the ferry that left a minute earlier. Got it right this time. We putted along to the first waypoint making good time, 5.4 kts. at 2,000 RPM's and turned the bow of the boat towards the Woods Hole channel. Almost all forward progress stopped .... we were down to, maybe 2.0 kts., with a big problem in hitting the mark on time. Cranked the engine up, up and up again to 3,000 RPM's enough for more than 6-kts. almost any day, just not this day. It was an interesting dynamic: as we got closer to the channel we came closer to the strength of the current; but as time passed the current was attenuating. Sort of like parsing chickens & eggs. The time component seemed to have won and we got over 4.0 kt.s and hit our mark at 1009 but had to push really hard to do that.

The passage was confusing on the chartplotter, only visible down to the 1.5-mi. scale. So I gave up and did what people had been doing for years: read the chart and keep the red buoys on the right. By 1024 we were out of the channel, much ado about nothing because we did it about right and didn't try to conquer the current and anger the boating gods.

The lighthouse to the left is at the southern entrance to the woods Hole channel. The other is of the Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse toward the northern end of Buzzards Bay. The name, Buzzards Bay, no possessive apostrophe, was given to this bay by colonists who saw a large bird that they called a buzzard near its shores. The bird was actually an osprey. That's what Wikipedia says although how could someone know which bird some Puritan guys saw a few centuries ago.

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From our position, we had about 10-nm to get to the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal, a few miles short of the actual canal itself. No hurry, this time it worked. We ran out the sails, turned off the engine and had ourselves a nice little sail. A brisk, bracing wind of 15-20-kts., a few whitecaps to add some "color to the day," and we were off.

We saw this sailboat crossing in front of three wind generators; only caught it with one. Seemed an interesting juxtaposition of the old and new uses of wind. We also saw this schooner sailing close to the wind, looking good, very good.

We got most of the way north under sail and reached a point where it seemed a good idea to take in the sails ..... and then the day's real fun began! We had a 15-20 kt. wind on the port quarter, sailing a broad reach, making good time, having fun, looking at the water with its picturesque whitecaps. In the space of a nanosecond we had 6-8 ft. waves breaking over our stern, something that we have never had happen before. Checked the wind .... no change, 15-20 kts., still from the SW . Checked the depth ..... no change, still 35-40 ft. Looked around and the waters to the west; looked normal. Couldn't break the code .... until it came: we were in the tide/current from the canal and it was running out and the wind was almost perfectly in apposition to it, maybe to the 180th degree. It was a northerly wind Gulf Stream scenario.

Ran up the motor against the current, but that gave us enough speed, just barely, to keep the waves from breaking over the stern. My butt was getting wet. My definition of boat handling is keeping the bow in a direction and the boat in a place of the pilot's choosing despite wind, waves and current. I've been in some situations where that was hard. This instance immediately broke into the top 10 and then, quickly, retired the trophy. At least, I hope it's retired because I don't want to have to deal with something worse than this .... ever! The boat was really getting pushed around and the pilot, moi, was getting beat-up and my butt was still wet. The worst of it lasted about 20~25 minutes, it seemed longer, but none of it was easy.

Regardless, we were anchored in Onset Harbor by 1330 an easy off-ramp from the "interstate" canal. The anchor dug in easily and well so we settled in the evening and a short night. Sunset in Onset Harbor over Wickets Island.

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Learning new stuff is getting old. If the Woods Hole passage took some thinking, the the transit of the Cape Cod Canal took some planning. The Army Corps of Engineers has a web page with the tidal flows. For Sunday, 06/23/2013, the current starting running East, the direction we wanted to go, at 0333 and would continue in that direction until about mid afternoon. It was fairly dark then so we waited until a little past 0430 to get up. The anchor was up by 0515 when the light was good enough to see the channel buoys. It was no more than a mile from the harbor to the canal. The demarcation between the side channel and the main flow could not have been more plain if there had been a dotted line painted on the water. Instead of dots there was a line of small white waves marking the edge between fast water and slow water. When we crossed that line we were going, maybe, 3.5 knots forward, across the current and 8.0 knots sideways with the current. Brought the bow around and the ride began.

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The canal is about 7 miles long, its width and depth about the same as the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. At the Onset end of the canal were two bridges, three in all for the whole length. The first was a railroad bridge; about a mile on was a bridge for cars with an identical one toward the other end. Since the canal bisects the peninsula, that means that there are only four lanes of traffic, going and coming, to service the entire driving population. That's enough for January but is probably a stretch for July.

We hit the designated canal at 0530 and were out the other side by 0610. It was like a water slide .... except for boats. At one point we hit 11.2 knots. The only way I thought that the boat would ever go that fast was if some giant picked it up and then dropped it. The land around the canal was quite lovely, heavily treed, some rolling terrain to create a little character. We must have seen 100 or more guys along the banks fishing, this was before 0600. Some were even wearing waders which I thought very strange. I have no idea what they were after; we had talked to a commercial fisherman in Nantucket and he said that they were getting flounder so maybe these guys were too.

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It was going to be windy that day, starting about 1100; we were moored by 1000 and had little wind for the 20 miles from the canal to Provincetown. We launched the dinghy and had a walk about town. It was Sunday, and a very nice Sunday, sunny and warm. There are many of the ubiquitous ferries running here, from Boston, and there were people everywhere, very crowded, very busy.

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Of the many places we have been, the commercial strip here was probably the ugliest, no grace, even less charm, although individual places were quite interesting. Newport, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket all did it better. Carol saw a piece of glassware, rather like the one in Risky Business, except that it was remarkably beautiful. Inside the glass was a jellyfish with its tentacles ... sounds ugly, looked great, was great at the nominal price of $3,700. Carol bought a long sleeved t-shirt instead, saving us about $3,680.

While we had the motor running I decided to charge some stuff with a small inverter. Somehow, it blew a fuse, easy enough to fix but irritating to do. I was musing that we haven't had too many big issues. Wrong thinking. If we say that the trip started in Brunswick, GA, which it did, with a layover in Oriental, NC, then the list gets longer: a new autopilot, a new engine tachometer, a new fuel gauge sender, a new VHF base radio, a new VHF remote handset and a new handheld VHF radio. Replacing the toilet pump system seemed optional at the time, but in the end it was necessary. Sounds like a typical trip for us; throw in the near disaster of deep sixing a $2,000 O/B motor and we're maintaining our problem pace, might even be ahead of the pace.

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This building is on the pier with the dinghy dock, in this wind, it's over our stern. It truly looks like it should have been Quint's shark shack in Jaws. The birds on the roof's ridge line add a certain nautical ambience as well as decorative coloration to the dull asphalt shingles.

The wind arrived and then it really showed up. 25-kts. this afternoon. We took the dinghy for our first trip to town. It wasn't too bad heading downwind. Coming back, into the wind, we got wet, Carol's left side, my right side, based on our assigned seating. Going faster seems to be drier, up to a point, but it all comes down to degrees of difference: wet, wetter or wettest. When we went in for supper that first evening we had the marina's launch pick us up and, later, bring us back to the boat. Absolutely the dryest. Carol, of course, made up for earlier lost opportunities, and caused the demise of myriad crustaceans: she had shrimp for dinner.

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This town doesn't seem to have the historical sense that the islands had. Or, maybe it's buried under the signs for pizza and beer. But there are interesting vignettes that delight on a small scale what the town cannot do in the aggregate. The ship's figurehead, maybe a redhead, looked to be authentic. Most redheads are. Although she may be blond.

Of course, there was also the truly bizarre mega-vignette, this being a town with a bent in that direction, attention seeking for the sake of attention, shocking and exhibitionistic when necessary to garner that attention. I have know idea what inspired this collection of sculpture, statuary and stone along with who knows what else. It's a safe bet that this array is from the post-Puritan era.

I had known that Portuguese were part of the history of commercial fishing in Massachusetts. What I didn't know was that part of that history played out here. The town seems to celebrate that history in its own way: there were many Portuguese flags on display.

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The town and the whole of the end of the peninsula is dominated by this tower: the Pilgrim's Monument, built from 1907 to 1910. In the "I should have known that" category," it commemorates the Pilgrims' first landfall which was here, on Cape Cod, not at Plymouth Rock; that came about five weeks later. The Mayflower Compact, a pretty important piece of American and world democratic history was signed, about where the boat is, in the harbor of what would become Provincetown. The frieze at the bottom of the monument denotes that event.

It is, of course, made of yankee granite from Vermont and stands 252-ft. tall. I walked up most of those feet to the observation deck. No nose bleeds, but tired legs. Along the inside of the tower there were polished granite plaques, looking rather like headstones, from towns that had made contributions to the tower. Many Massachusetts' names I recognized from years of watching This Old House, a poor geography course because I would have no idea where those towns are in the state unless I were to see Norm Abrams and Tom Silva standing by their trucks. The bluff on which the tower stands may be 100-ft. high so the view from the observation deck was very good.

Two other buildings stand out, very notable from the water: the Universalist Church, (left) and the, now, public library (right). I can find no reference to confirm my thought, but the library just had to have been a church in some earlier iteration.

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The radios arrived on Monday afternoon via UPS. Spent that evening looking at the back of the new radio and studying the wires that I would have to connect; lots of wires but nothing that was a surprise. The back of the new radio looked a lot like the back of the old radio, mostly replacing one snarl of wires with a similar snarl of wires in a place that does not much accommodate room for anything.

Come Tuesday morning there was no way to procrastinate anymore; I had read every e-pub that is my wont. So, we started to unpack things with dedicated piles for new, old, trash, save, pretty much filling up the "free space" in the cabin. Having removed the old unit I got my first surprise .... a happy one: the new radio fit easily and securely into the opening of the old radio, something that the online literature indicated would not happen. No cutting a larger hole as I had thought would be necessary.

The power supply hookup was easy, as was the antenna, and the remote microphone; the GPS connections were new to me; I had hired that done to be hooked up the first time on the old unit. In fact, the only installation problem was with the installer himself, moi! This required several butt connectors to be installed, a shrinkable, insulated tube into which the ends of two wires are inserted and then crimped. The GPS wires were very thin and the two connections required six connectors because I was constantly letting one wire end fall out during the crimping. Old hands, I guess.

Did a bunch of checks; only needed one call to technical support to answer an esoteric question. It seems to work, having done a radio check with BoatUS.

I saved the remote handset installation for the next day. There was nothing very complicated about the installation; this was going to be the third time I had done it. The cable is 23 ft. long, and it had to run about 20 ft. along the port side of the boat. To access the cable run we had to empty the port side of the boat: all of Carol's galley cabinets and just about all of the lazarette. That left room to install the cable but not much room for the two of us to move around. Frustrating! I truly enjoy boating but have a growing dislike for the aggravation of boat maintenance.

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This visit has been very different from all the previous ones .... real life intruded. The aftermath of Joan's operation, Carol's sister, has not gone well and she had to be readmitted to the hospital. For now, the trip is on hold while that situation tries to find resolution. Thursday was the last weather window north for several days. So, regardless, it looks like we'll be in Provincetown for a while yet, Carol not wanting to be out of cellphone range for any extended period of time.

Where we go next, who knows. East .... definitely out; it's a very big ocean. West .... we couldn't go very far and it wouldn't take very long to get there. North .... that's the hope. South .... a guaranteed heading, just not a guaranteed date to do so.

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

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)

Allens Cay

sunny 82 °F

Having spent the morning doing boat stuff, we decided to move the boat about two miles north to Allens Cay, a place we had admired on our ill advised dinghy ride to SW Allens Cay. The new anchor windlass worked well both in deploying the anchor and recovering it. So, we decided to give it a try in a little more complicated situation. We had been watching across the water to see how crowded the anchorage was; the previous night it had been very full, lots of masts. We figured that if we waited until about noon, many of the boats would have left but that it would be too early for folks to get there from Nassau. So we had the anchor up just before 1200. Despite the very short straight line distance, we had to travel about 5 nm around reefs and other obstructions to get there.

There are three cays and several rock formations that form the anchorage here, rather like at Warderick Wells. This is more interesting, an exercise in VPR, Visual Piloting Rules, i.e. pay attention and watch where you are going, do not be in a hurry to get there. Follow an unmarked channel through the cays; negotiate a very narrow but very deep channel about a boat length from the rocky shore; drive the bow of the boat out over a shallow sand bar to drop the anchor, allowing for the tide changes; when the anchor sets, let out the rode until the stern of the boat is, again, about a boat length from the rocky shore. The anchor is set in less than 7-ft. of water and there is almost 20-ft where the boat is. And we are on a short scope, needing probably another 15-ft. to get to a standard 5:1 ratio of water depth to rode. And, it's not very sheltered. And it's drop dead gorgeous, worth the time and worry unless the anchor drags.

As per usual, I swam out to the anchor prior to my shower and inspected the anchor. The bottom was very hard under a thin coat of sand. The hard point was dug in, but not very deep. We had backed the motor down hard and the anchor had held well, but it looked, at best, as a marginal set, not too concerning at the time. The left handed good news was that the Danforth anchor would not have set at all in this bottom.

We timed things just about right, there being only four or five other boat here when we arrived, one of which left shortly thereafter. This is Leaf Cay, the eastern side of the anchorage.

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Last night was very uncomfortable, the boat rocking and rolling, never still. Some things that have to be learned, I guess, the words on a chart not conveying the import of their consequences. The channel runs north/south, and indicates a strong current; the wind has been straight from the east. The tidal flow and the wind must work in opposition, somehow, to create all the movement. Despite all the evidence that the anchor held like it was welded to the bottom, the whole thing made for a sleepless night, worrying that the next tug on the chain or the next wave surge was going to be the one that caused the anchor to move.

So, we're going to declare victory, say, "Been there, done that," and move on down the road to a different place where I can sleep well at night. Don't know where, but we will be watching those little arrows that show tidal current with a deeper understanding and appreciation.

Our merit badge was to see this sunrise before we left. The gaps in the islands might also be part of the reason that we had such a rolling night.

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Posted by sailziveli 10:09 Archived in Bahamas Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Staniel Cay

sunny 77 °F

The commute wasn't too bad. We upped anchor at Big Majors Spot at about 0930 because the marina said that slack water would be near 1030 and arrived just a few minutes ahead of that time having proceeded very slowly. The wind continued unabated from the SE at 17 knots. We worked our way to the channel although the chart plotter had a span of water at 5-ft, but the slack water was at high tide so we were OK. There is a nasty shoal/reef between the narrow channel and the marina and a big sailboat was anchored right in the wrong place, the equivalent of a semi parking in the middle of an exit ramp on the expressway. F.... Him! seemed like the best policy so we came very close to his anchor line, closer than was polite, but did not actually cause a problem.

I should have seen this one coming but blew it. We had requested a berth wherein the SE wind would push us toward the dock; an easy landing versus a difficult exit. Things were looking pretty good and then the marina guy said that he wanted us farther up the dock, not at the end of the dock where I was headed. I was screwed; I tried to get some forward momentum by revving the engine, but the requested wind was in charge and only accomplished a game of bumper cars, caroming down the dock until folks took pity on the old guy and tried to salvage the situation. It looked like a 911 call and I know what those look like. 15 people helping to manage 3 lines, trying not to embarrass the captain, moi! We finally got moored and, I hate this part, people came by saying that they thought that I did pretty well CONSIDERING THE WIND! Humility is an earned trait and I have earned more than my unfair share.

When at Warderick Wells Cay we took that dinghy ride to Rendezvous Beach where we met and chatted briefly with David, an Australian, and his boat person/partner/crew, Dana, she being from Washington state, a relationship that Carol and I are too old to understand, if it is in fact even a relationship as we would understand that term. Turns out that we are moored directly behind his boat.

So the four of us headed over to the "store" where Carol dropped off our laundry. She's liking this part, moving from doing laundry to managing laundry; she was an executive and has a graduate degree, after all. There was a thatched pavilion at the store; while the others were doing business I went out to sit in the shade and ended up engaging one man in conversation. It was wonderful; he owns a business in Nassau and was here to visit his mother. One of the items we discussed was all the incomplete construction on the several islands, something that David had also noticed. His explanation was interesting. He said that these are retirement homes on the family islands. The construction is proceeding apace with the plan to be completed in several years. People take time off to work on the houses; this year a foundation; next year a course or two of cinder block and so on until the target retirement date when a lot of stuff gets done all at once. It seemed credible. He also said that lots here, on Staniel Cay, were going for $1 million. The locals can afford housing because their land had been owned by their families for generations.

Talking with David was also interesting both culturally and generationally, he being in his mid twenties. Our governing concept, family, kids, house, career, is alien to him, at least at this point. He's a boat and water guy, and if those two things can somehow give him some sustenance, he seems to be good with that. Aspirations, goals, long term do no seem to be part of the deal except, maybe, getting the boat back to Australia. He mentioned that he had been to Cuba and scuba dived at the Bay of Pigs, seemingly without any sense of the history of that place. Still, he is a very pleasant, very personable young man and we enjoyed the afternoon and we will probably see him again as both boats head south. Hanging out with people young enough to be our grandchildren is interesting.

Some work did get done. We cut my hair again, no pony tails for this sailor despite how cool Mel Gibson looked in Mutiny on the Bounty, greasy hair! And, I cleaned the cockpit which after about 10 days looked pretty much like a land fill. I'm not sure how that area gets so dirty. Maybe it's windborne. We will have to get used to a dirty boat, or one cleaned only with buckets of salt water. At 40 cents a gallon, or more on some islands, if I don't get a fresh water bath then the boat doesn't get a fresh water bath.

Friday being January 27th, our anniversary, we think, we went out to dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club; it sounds better than it actually is. Carol has bought two new dresses this trip and tonight she wore the first of those, purchased in Ft. Lauderdale. It must have been a big night: she washed her hair and made a point of mentioning that she was actually putting on eye makeup, a first this trip she said, as if I would have ever noticed.

To get to the restaurant area we had to walk through the bar which had the ubiquitous large screen TV's showing sports. So, what's on TV? Cross country skiing -- blond, Scandinavian white guys named Anders and Bjorn wearing Lycra suits and sweating on the snow. Go Figure. Cool Runnings is alive and well on a small island in the Bahamas.

Dinner was nice; they started with conch chowder, which I actually tried. However, when we got back to the boat I felt an almost irresistible impulse to put a fish hook in my mouth and to flop around on the deck. Carol had lobster and was glowing and radiant, as all women are on special occasions when they feel special. I liked the Key Lime pie and complimented her eye make up.

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One of the reasons that I was eager to come to Staniel Cay was,"Bond, James Bond," this being where the grotto scene from the movie Thunderball was filmed. Every skinny, goofy, dorky guy like me wanted to Sean Connery, pretty much the epitome of cool in that role.

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I had hoped to snorkel into the grotto which is just part of a chunk of rock out in the harbor formed by several islands including Staniel Cay. That is best done at the slack water following a low tide which this day will be after 2200, 10PM; so, that is not going to happen. Disappointing, but only a little bit. I'll just have to keep trying to find the bikini babes from the poster, a pretty good consolation prize for an older guy. The grotto is in the right hand most of the three islands.

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I saw this in the bar last night when I wasn't watching cross country skiing. For me it was like a magnet; for most others, white noise, a part of the background. The flag in the shadow box was the one carried and used by Henry Stimson, Sec. of War, at the 1945 Yalta conference, that conference being an important part of history for the 20th century. Why it should be in a bar on Staniel Cay instead of the National Archives or the Smithsonian is a mystery to me and almost all others on the island.

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Carol had her walkabout this morning ... less sun, cooler temperatures; I had mine this afternoon, more sun, warmer temperatures. I walked over to the windward side of the island to Ocean Beach. So far, all of the windward sides in the Exumas have been intimidating for sailing vessels. This one also had pretty water.

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There is a much used fish cleaning station here at the marina. Predictably, marine animals have figured this out, in this case, nurse sharks. They are not the most dangerous of the breed, and the largest of these was probably no more that 5-ft.; but each does come equipped with a standard set of very sharp teeth and a big appetite. It's hard to see but there were about 25, maybe more, in the area and perhaps a dozen in the picture. These guys were fairly polite about the whole thing -- no feeding frenzy, no eating each others tails, but petting and wading was not advised. We also saw several rays or skates in the area, some commingling with the sharks. These were, at most, 3.5-ft. across.

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Our last night we saw this sunset (oh, no Mr. Bill, not another sunset) and life is still good. Tomorrow, Sunday, we head south to Blck Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay, maybe 10~12 nm.

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Posted by sailziveli 18:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises fish beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Warderick Wells Cay

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

semi-overcast 83 °F

We called the park on Saturday and asked to be put on the waiting list for a mooring ball; the park does not accept reservations. Carol called at 0915 on Sunday to see where we were on the list and they told us to "come on down." So, we did, leaving at about 0930 with a flotilla of other boats that, we guessed, were also going to the park. Actually, none of them were. Boats are like herding cats: if they go the same direction it's an accident and doesn't last very long. (We were subsequently told that getting a mooring ball this quickly never happens. Things are slow in the Bahamas now)

The trip was about 30 nm and took less than six hours but there were a lot of way points to get here. The front portion of the Explorer Chart books have a page with lots of pictures on how to read the water. I never gave this much concern and told Carol, the self professed color queen, to learn the techniques. It didn't take either of us very long to notice that when the sun went behind a cloud reading the water got harder and we really missed the color clarity.

The color issue could not have been more clear than Sunday, when we entered the park. The channel is very narrow but fairly deep; the channel was turquoise surrounded by almost white sand bars. We, actually me, had to turn the boat around to put the bow into the current to approach the mooring ball. Once again I thanked Joe V. for teaching me the trick for turning a sailboat around in very confined spaces. It has saved my bacon on several occasions including this one.

I would have loved to have made a video, shot from our bow, of entering the park; I cannot image prettier imagery. Unfortunately, I was busy driving the boat and Carol was on the bow engaged with reading the water. So, in lieu of that our offer is these panoramas courtesy of my new Nikon camera:

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Quite by accident, Ziveli is almost in the center of the second picture.

After checking in and, Carol electing to join the park, basically make a donation, we hiked across the island to Boo Boo Hill. The etymology of that name is: a ship wrecked on this island and all aboard perished with no bodies ever recovered for burial in sacred ground. Now those uninterred shades wander the island making the boo sound heard best on the hill. A good story! But when we looked at the windward side of the island it's easy to see how a ship could founder and wreck with no survivors. The rest of the story is more problematic.

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Life on the island is tough for plants. They all seem to have developed some similar traits: they can deal with salt in high concentrations; many have thick leaves to reduce moisture loss; they do not grow very tall because with the thin top soil tall things topple in high winds.

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Only the strong survive and, sometimes, not even them, or not for very long.

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I guess that I had always assumed that "tropical islands" would be lush and verdant, and many are. These islands are dry, arid, very few having any naturally occurring fresh water. I have read that in earlier days the islands were more wooded than today, those trees having been harvested for fuel. On the out islands we have seen only a few palms and an occasional rogue Australian pine standing taller than about 15-ft.

One different thing we have noticed here is the average age. Most cruising locales look like AARP conventions; here there have been many boats with younger folks, say 30's~40's, some with their kids. We're too old to feel guilty, but we never took Sean on any island hopping boat trips. We have met several "cruiser kids" and observed many more. What has struck us is that they are the nicest, most polite, most well mannered kids around. They also seem very well adjusted socially, able to interact with people of all ages, young to old. I have thought about this but do not yet have an idea about why this should be.

Here we are in a remote island paradise; we are on a boat not tethered to shore; we cannot make a phone call because BaTelCo has no cell towers within 20 miles. There's no water, fuel or food available. And yet -- there is pretty good internet service, not cheap but something is better than nothing. And, in addition to the ubiquitous book exchange they have about 200, or so, DVD's that they rent for not very much money. So, we rented a DVD for the evening just to try to stay awake past sunset. It probably won't work but it's worth a try. (Post Script: we did watch the video on the computer and played the sound through the FM radio. Big mistake! We used over 10 Ah which shocked me. The computer DVD drive must require a lot of power. No more DVD's unless we are on shore power.)

It's clear to me that some boat owner would have benefited from having my computerized maintenance checklist.

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This skeleton of a sperm whale that perished near by is on the beach close to the office. It was 52-ft. long before its untimely demise from having ingested some plastic. The skeleton, I think, does not do justice to the bulk and mass of the animal from which it came.

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And this is just about one of the coolest boat toys -- ever! If we had the room, which we do not, this would evoke a major case of boat envy. It is just a kayak with outriggers and a sail. The owner is on a large motor yacht, maybe 60-ft. The sad story is that he has probably done more real sailing in the past two days than we have in the past two months. Oh well, the park has a few kayaks that can be used for free; one of those will just have to do.

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We had dinner in the cockpit tonight, and like the several that preceded it, watched another unique and glorious sunset. I was struck that we live in a beautiful place, Spring Creek in Madison County, NC, and we are traveling in a beautiful set of islands. It may be easy to become inured to all of this and to accept the beauty as commonplace, normal, and not to respond with awe to the miraculous sights that our eyes behold. Carol's pretty good at this; I may need to work at it some more. This was our view on Tuesday morning when we had a few minutes of rain. It was worth at least a little bit of awe and wonder; unfortunately the camera did not capture the richness of color in the rainbow. To my comments in an earlier blog about the horizon, we have seen lots of rainbows but not so many where the whole 180 degree arc was visible.

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Ed Sherwood died a year ago this month, an event which jolted me at the time and must continue to engage me at some level since he has been much on my mind recently. It might just be the fact that this is January, the month of his passing; it might be that there is a boat moored 100 yards away that could be Da Vinci's twin; maybe it has to do with him wanting to come to the Bahamas but not having the time to overcome his hurdles and obstacles while Carol and I, facing our own set of hurdles and obstacles have, finally, made the trip. I do not suppose that it is important to know the why of these things and I hope that it is enough to cherish the memory of a man we both liked, enjoyed and miss and to count the blessings and good fortune that has been given to Carol and me in our lives and in each other. On January 27th, we think, we will have been 44 years married.

We took the dinghy down to Rendezvous Beach to check out the ruins of the Davis Plantation. There's not much in the way of information about the place, just a land grant to 1785. There's not much to see, just the ruins of a few stone huts, no Tara-like manses about. It's hard to imagine what they might have planned to harvest other than rocks, a crop that would have done very well.

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Another bird invaded the cockpit of our boat, probably finding crumbs from cereal that I spilled. I think that the specific breed is: yellow breasted cockpit scrounger. Or, maybe, it's a Bananaquit (Coereba Flaveola) but I'm just guessing at this. If nothing else this just goes to show that I need to clean the cockpit. This bird was persistent turning up again and again, seeming untroubled by our presence other than the fact that we interrupted his food search. Several times he flew into the cabin.

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Narrow Water Cay is the western boundary of the cove that holds the mooring field. It is not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but it does a pretty good imitation.

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On our last day here this huge catamaran, maybe four stories high came in and secured itself on a mooring ball. I thought that this would be way too much weight but when I checked with the office the lady said that they could accommodate boats up to 150-ft. long, something that I would not have guessed.

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Tomorrow, Thursday, we will head south toward Staniel Cay. If we go directly there it's only 20 nm.

Posted by sailziveli 13:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

Highbourne Cay

semi-overcast 77 °F

On Tuesday, after much anxious thought, I decided that our weather options were not working. We are at the extreme fringe of the XMWeather satellite coverage: the wifi antenna needs a fairly tight radius to work; there is Chris Parker SSB reception and sometimes not. So off to BaTelCo go Carol and I to get some sort of cell antenna for the laptop that will allow internet access. No such deal. But they did have 4G phones with a data plan that can also produce a wifi hot spot. Carol has been wanting a smart phone and has a birthday in not so long, her 66th for all who count these things. She is now the proud (and clueless) owner of a really sporty Samsung smart phone that we will use through the Bahamas and then will become hers when we return to the states. The only problem was: slower than slow download speeds when we had be promised 8Mgbs --- we were more than 100 times slower than that. So, rather than leave on Wednesday, as planned, there was another trip to BaTelCo to get an explanation. An arcane setting, one that I could not have known about but that the salesperson should; it's always so comfortable to be able to blame others for our own failings. An easy fix and things work fine. This also gave us a chance to refill an LP canister, not critical but nice to have done. A left handed benefit of this: much lower power consumption with the phone and iPad than with the laptop which won't get nearly as much usage.

In a way of thinking, the trip actually starts now. To date, on this trip, we have always had tethers to the shore: lines to secure us at marinas; electrical cords to power us at the dock. Now, we will start to sweat those not being at hand. Will the anchor drag? Almost certainly, at some point, yes! Will power consumption be an issue? A given with our refrigerator. Will I go nuts worrying about these? You betcha'.

As I was configuring things for the second anchor on the bow, I made a note to reread the section on anchoring in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, a practical reference we keep on board. There were, as expected, well illustrated and described maneuvers for setting two anchors; not a thing on how to recover two anchors. Maybe that's supposed to be common sense but it doesn't seem very common to me.

This got me to remembering our first and only time we tried to set two anchors, that being during our first trip south. It was in Awenda Creek, in SC, an experience I have not yet forgotten and was recounted in some blog entry during Nov/Dec 2008. Since that event we have covered several thousand miles and have accumulated three more (checkered) years of experience. It's hard to connect the dots between then and now. We have learned so much and have so much more confidence, if not in ourselves, then, at least, in our decision making. The simplest lesson seems to be this: Do not knowingly put ourselves in a situation we are not sure we can handle. Those situations will happen often enough without any extra help. But, the simple fact is that however much more we may now know, it's not enough and will never be. We started boating too old and too late in life to be able to develop the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would like to have.

So, when Thursday morning came we were way past ready to leave Nassau. Not, maybe, so ready to see if the nav plan to skip the Yellow Bank and to skirt the White Bank would work. Coral heads v. white sand seemed like an easy choice since the water depths were about the same, minus the height of the coral heads, of course, but it added several miles to the passage. But, Bruce & Dawn had done something similar so we weren't the first to jump off that edge.

We left the marina at 0715. There is an inconvenient shoal that guards marina row and we wanted the maximum water during the falling tide. No problems there, plenty of water if you mind your location. As we were leaving we finally got to see Fort Montagu, apparently undergoing some restoration or renovation. It's tiny, maybe bigger than our garage but probably not as big as our house. It's hard to appreciate the fort as an impregnable redoubt holding pirates and the Spanish at bay for a century or two.

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The non-Explorer Chart nav plan worked out great; we never had less than 13 feet of water and saw no coral heads which, of course, doesn't mean that they were not there. About an hour before we hit the anchorage a modest front blew through -- a band of clouds, one minute of not very much rain, an a wind shift from 270 to 010. We were anchored by 1430, putting out more than 100-ft. of chain, and we were only the fourth boat in the anchorage which seemed fine to us. At about 1630 the action got a little more intense, with about 10 more boats pulling in and doing so in a way that seemed a lot like amateur hour bumper cars... anchoring too close, anchoring in a way that could foul another boats anchor line. I thought about getting on the VHF to say something and finally decided that this is life in the Bahamas: mostly adults and a few figurative teenagers. In every anchorage there has to be a last boat in.

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That evening came some ugly news. The promised high speed internet does NOT work in the out islands; this was a question that I specifically asked. It does work at speed maybe 10% better than dial-up, so a problem but not a deal breaker. I downloaded Android apps for the WSJ and the Economist. The WSJ is a big change; two years ago I was reading, maybe, six square feet of news print, now eight square inches of OLED screen.

On Friday we went to SW Allens Cay, a separate blog entry.

On Saturday we went ashore on Highbourne Cay. It's a smallish island, maybe two miles long. The marina facility and its store are about as nice as any we have seen. We replaced my shredded reef walkers; who would thought to have found those here. We went down to the beach, less idyllic and much angrier with some weather coming through.

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We were concerned about the weather so we headed back to the boat, stopping only to appreciate that the Bahamas are a mindset as well as a place.

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After lunch we decided to reanchor the boat. The wind had shifted almost 180 and that could be bad for anchor holding. After we did this, several other boats made similar adjustments.

In the next day or two we hope to be able to move down to Warderick Wells Cay and get a mooring ball there for a few days. This cay is the center piece of the Exuma Park, more or less the Bahamas equivalent of Yellowstone.

Posted by sailziveli 14:08 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

A Little Bit More of Great Harbour Cay

sunny 68 °F

A lot of restaurants on the island have gone under, no longer open for business. Carol and I had dinner here, the Rock Hill Restaurant. It looks better in the picture than it does on the ground; the food was mediocre and too expensive. The setting was great, almost like a Graham Greene novel.

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Our last evening on the island we saw the moon rising in the east and reflected on the water while the sun was setting over the hill in the west.

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Posted by sailziveli 19:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Getting to Marathon

Or, Not

sunny 62 °F

We got underway from Dinner Key Marina will before sunrise on Sunday morning. It's 7~8 miles to the open water through Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne Channel, which we have always used. This morning, our luck was not so good, making very poor time against strong headwinds and a filling tide. In almost three hours we were still a short ways from the open water. Along the way we heard some talk on VHF 16 between sailboats that had tried to go outside and had said that the weather was just too much, very high seas, and those boats were bigger than ours. I was less concerned about the waves than our speed. There was no scenario that got us to the next anchorage in daylight; some had us there well after midnight. So, we turned around, doubling our speed, and headed through the Cape Florida Channel, something we had never done, and checked out No Name Harbor; having seen and heard that several boats had left, we thought that there might be room for us, which there was.

Anchoring in this small place is like anchoring in a Wal-Mart parking lot without the benefit of white lines and arrows. You have to swing on a short scope, not ideal, in order not to bump into other boats, poor boating etiquette. As soon as we had anchored, and I thought a good job, the four boats closest to us left leaving us with, relatively, an embarrassment of room. I doubt that this place is as large as our 18 acres but, being small, there's no need for the motor on the dinghy; we just rowed the 100-ft. to the sea wall. It is also a very sheltered anchorage which is unusual in these parts.

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This has been an interesting, unplanned stop. We knew about No Name Harbor as a departure point for cruisers going to the Bahamas and had assumed that cruisers were the only visitors; not so. There is a small restaurant, where Carol had lunch, and we probably were the only people there using English. There has been a constant stream of local boaters over for the day, to eat at the restaurant, to go to the park, just to hang out. There must be 30 or more boats tied to the seawall, and several more rafted two and three deep to those boats. There were some sailboats that had spent Saturday night before leaving on Sunday afternoon. Lots of families with kids. We would not have guessed that this place was as popular a destination as it seems to be had we not been here on a weekend.

The other thing that was novel was to be around this many casual boaters. Our whole experience has been interacting with dedicated sailors, either serious boaters with lots of experience or, folks like us, who want to learn to be serious boaters. There was no damage done that we could see but there could have been a lot of funny videos of the clueless and the incompetent. I was probably the only nervous guy around. For all the traffic during the day, when the restaurant closed at 9 pm, there were only 7~8 boats that stayed the night in the anchorage.

A front is due through the area later today which will shift the winds from south to northeast, perfect for sailing to the Keys from here. Maybe Monday will be the charm. That does not, however, mean that we can expect any room in Marathon. The Gulf Stream has been in a boil for over a week now and there is little prospect that boats will have been inclined to leave.

On Monday, before sunrise, we had the anchor up and were underway for the keys. The day was delightful; sunny and calm, placid, i.e. no wind. So we motored the 40 miles to Rodriguez Key. Two other sailboats from No Name Harbor, as usual, passed us along the way. If our boat ever had to develop a descriptive motto it would be: First to Leave, Last to Arrive, but Who Cares. It was interesting. On Sunday night all three boats were anchored within 100 yards of each other; ditto for Monday night as the three of us all anchored in the lee of the island.

As is our wont, we were the again the first to leave on Tuesday and were rewarded with this beautiful sunrise. It was a little disorienting after the other anchorages to poke our heads out in the morning and to see at least half of the horizon as open water; it really felt like were were on a boat.

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Tuesday there was wind, the sails were all the way out and no other sailboats overtook us. We made it to Marathon in good time and there was room at the inn; maybe more like the stable as we are at the end of the mooring field, a long way from the the showers. But it's secure and the dinghy ride is no big deal.

The Tuesday leg of the trip was notable, for me anyway, in that I overcame a bete noire. For three and a half years there has been water accumulating on the port side of the engine compartment; the sources have been deviling me. The first layer of the onion was a seeping through hull; fixed that. The second layer was the leaky shaft seal; fixed that, too. I could find no hose or connection that was leaking until Tuesday when I finally saw the drip. This is like a headline saying, "Wile E. Coyote Finally Eats the Road Runner." The problem flowed from an antisiphon valve through a small hose, so buried among other hoses and power cables as to be invisible. A new valve is going to arrive today, maybe, and I'll extend the hose several yards to the bilge sump. After three and a half years .... a dry boat.

We have yet to see Sue and Jay; they are both under the weather and it sounds a lot like what Carol and I had in January. I really hope that's not the case so that they can enjoy the rest of their stay in Florida. We have projects galore, stuff for the boat as well as doctors and tax preparers, so we'll be here a while longer. If the weather permits, we might be ready to leave mid to late next week.

Posted by sailziveli 09:32 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating Comments (0)

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