Ready to depart

And then…

Well, nothing really.  We got all excited about departure yesterday, planned for today and little things kept happening.

  1. Our mail arrived
  2. I cleaned under the engine and found things
  3. A water jug broke (brittle from the UV rays of the sun)
  4. No wind today
  5. Haulout

Basically, nothing important.

Mail:  Our mail brought a little surprise.  Not a good one.  Apparently JoAnne’s doctor’s visits in Colorado “weren’t covered”.  So we got a huge bill in the mail.  Turns out, after examining it carefully, they are submititng the information to the wrong insurance provider.  I was military, I have Tricare, and because of our address they use Tricare South (and Colorado was using Tricare West).  So, we have to get in touch today and fix that, have them resubmit the information and use the right ID card etc.

Engine:  We had some water under the engine, it’s really been there from day one.  There was a little oil floating in it. I can’t find any thing other than a few drips on the engine so I don’t think we’re spraying oil anywhere, and again, all of this has been under the engine in the tray that collects everything since we got the boat.  It wasn’t a job I wanted to do, it was not hurting anything, couldn’t go anywhere and wasn’t getting into the bilge.

So I had picked up some of those absorbent cloths to pull out the oil, and man they worked well.  I was above to pump the water (less than a gallon) out after removing the oil.  I found a washer – that looked “familiar” (as familiar as any of million washers I’ve handled, but somehow I recognized it as one I had touched before).

Why it was down there was a mystery and I didn’t see anything obvious, so I set it aside for a bit while I finished cleaning and then began an engine inspection.  Back to front, looking for leaks, wear, tear, chaff, all that sort of thing.  Then when I arrive at the front of the engine, I see a piece of a bolt laying there.  An inch long piece of 5/16th “threaded stock”.  But, it wasn’t threaded stock, it was a bolt, with the head sheered off.  Just laying there.

Now I’m worried.  I start digging around and sure enough I find the head.  All of this was on a small shelf near where the fuel lines come in and go up to the engine, under and behind some valves.  Then I look up and see the culprit.

ALTERNATOR!  Damn it.  It’s odd though.  The bolt head must have sheered off, fell to the side, and the washer dropped straight below and backwards into the pan.  The engine must have been running for awhile after because the screw simple rotated itself out and fell where the head of the bolt was laying.  That means this happened on our way up to Cole’s Point from out last stop in May.

I had never noticed it when I looked in at the engine since we arrived, and I had not really done a full inspection because we really weren’t going anywhere…

After checking and realizing I didn’t have the right size (or if I do, I couldn’t find it right then) we went and found several “replacement bolts”, a few extra washers (because I want to figure out why this is vibrating like this and fix it, as I don’t think it is all perfectly lined up as it should be) and replaced the one and placed the new bolts with the engine parts where I can find them now.

Water Jug: I think these are just “Walmart” specials.  Five gallons.  Blue.  They sit outside normally.  One in and one out really.  The one inside is fine.  They are “emergency” water containers, in case we run out, something happens, we have to dump our tanks, or for hauling water.  I need to replace that one.

Wind: After checking the winds today and tomorrow (Friday) there won’t be enough to move us.  Saturday morning though, we’re suppose to have 15-22 knot winds out of the NW.  Just right for moving us down the river and around Smith Point to where we want to go.

Haul Out:  Something we couldn’t get done here.  So we spoke to Charlie at Jennings Marina down river and he said he could haul us out, as their lift is a 35 ton with bigger arms and extensions than they have at Cole’s Point.  Cole’s Point, as I mentioned before couldn’t do it because they were concerned about the straps being in the right place.

I spoke to him yesterday and he said he could do it Monday morning.

After all that we decided to delay until Saturday morning and beat feet down the river in a good wind on a reach and without wind on the nose (as usual).

Today we’ll head to town one last time to get a phone signal (yep, can’t get one here) and make sure our bills are paid with the medical people, pick up a water jug, maybe some more fresh fruit and then head back.

We are leaving the car with our friend Kurt, who will be down at the marina we’re headed to sometime on Saturday.  We want to finally see Lo-Kee in person so I can pass the keys off to him there I think.  We were going to leave them with the marina here, but I think it might be just as well to pass them directly to Kurt instead of having them pass from person to person.

This will be my last entry for a few days I think.  I’m not sure about Internet on the way down.

So… the plan, such as it is, is to try to do this day to day.  Plan short hops, sail as much as we can, drop anchor, plan the next day, eat, sleep, then go some more.

Basically, we are going to head for the ICW, so south to the Norfolk area, swing into the Elizabeth River, catch the canal, dodge the bad timing on bridges and locks and take the quickest, easiest path we can to the south.  I’d personally like to get to St. Augustine, and then decide where to head across to the Bahamas from there.  Marsh Harbor is our ultimate destination to range out of in Abacos for the winter if we can swing it.  Spring we will visit other places and head back this way, or back to Florida.

If we can make it back up this way, we’ll look for a place closer to civilization perhaps (and look for cheaper, but closer, which I know probably won’t work) or come back to Cole’s Point if they have their issues worked out here.  Not sure that’s going to happen at this point.

I’ll be updating the family with more information than I put in here so they have our “float plan” and can look for us if something happens.  But, in general we’re on our own out here and don’t count on others to help most of the time; however, over the course of the last 14 months, we’ve encountered numerous people that were not only willing to help, they have gone out of their way to assist us when it was needed.  We appreciate all the friends we’ve made and all the advice, assistance and understanding many of them have given us.

To our friends at Cole’s Point Marina, and Tim’s on the Shore;  Thank you everyone!


Matthew in Charleston – DAY 13

The front I’d hoped would be pushing Matthew along has become a part of the storm system now.

Matthew’s eye has buckled for the most part from what I can see of the satellite photos but still has over 100 mph winds along the coast.  It is still moving northward along the coast.

I was all but certain it would have turned by now, and apparently so were weather forecasters at the NHC because I heard a bit ago “the Easterly hard right turn didn’t happen”.  Ack.

I put our dodger and most of the enclosure back up yesterday to help keep rain out of the cockpit, off the instrumentation and off my head.  IF I have to take it all down again, it won’t be as difficult this time.  I’ve become practiced in the past few days.  I did leave the head sail off though because it’s a pain to take up and down if there’s even a tiny breeze.  It’s a light, but big sail (about a 130% sail) and it moves us along pretty quickly when it’s up, the wind is to our back or quarter and I let it all out.

Currently there are two hurricanes, Matthew which has been downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, and Nicole.  Nicole has been meandering around with no clear path or direction yet. But at this moment in time it may follow Matthew into the Bahamas in the north.  However, it is almost certain this won’t happen and Bermuda will get the brunt of that hurricane about next Wednesday or Thursday.

Charleston is suffering from heavy rain, major flooding in streets.

Strong winds from Matthew’s eyewall also slammed into downtown Savannah early Saturday, downing trees and sending street signs flying. As the sun began to rise  over the 283-year-old city, floodwaters inched steadily higher. Police reported numerous downed trees and washed out roads. (USA Today)

Here’s the latest National Hurricane Center path prediction:

I still don’t see it doing a complete circle.  Another front is moving through, look at the first map I posted and you can see it.  It will push off tomorrow sometime, from the coast and the hurricane should beat feet to the right.  As to curving south again, it’s already high enough into westerlies that I don’t think that is going to happen.  Of course, that’s just me.

Finally, this is what Monday should look like:

Matthew, Dodger, Sewing…

I’m not in the path.  Didn’t hit me.  Beat the snot out of Bahamas though.

That’s the weirdest hurricane I’ve ever watched.  Hanging JUST off the coast and traveling up it toward NE Florida.  As of right now, watching radar, the hurricane is running off to the NE away from the coast.  I can’t find any of the track information showing how close it came, but it appears the eye remained off shore and came closest at Daytona Beach (in the place I SAID it would land).

Now it’s headed NE and if it continues on this path will touch GA or maybe SC.

There’s a cold front pushing it back and away though.  The hype about this one being dangerous kind of panicked a lot of people though.  Folks around here were rushing to have boats pulled, and removed from various marinas.  We’re a long way from Florida, but they SAID it was going to come right up the coast at first.

I still think something is up with these people running the models.  I think they are scared after Sandy and won’t tell people the facts.  They blew Sandy off and it made a mess.  Katrina too before Sandy.

So, now is the M.O. to panic the public to make them “prepared”, so they buy everything out of the stores, go out of their way to spend money on things they won’t actually need (this time around)?

Not sure.

I put my enclosure back up today.  I think we’re safe enough now, and I doubt we’re going to have another one like Matthew this year.  It’s getting chilly at night here, and I don’t want the rain that’s going to hit us tomorrow soaking the cockpit and equipment.  So, I made the decision to put things back to normal.

I also spent part of the day sewing my dodger windows back in. The canvas is getting old and will need replacing soon.  The threads are rotting and coming lose.  I managed to rip it taking it down, and didn’t realize how badly it was messed up.  So… a few hundred stitches later, and the isenglas is back in place.  I’m getting a lot better at stitching too.  I was impressed.  I didn’t even stick a needle into my hand once, and the thing is solid now.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain.  If it’s not too bad I might reinstall the head sail.  If it rains too much I’ll wait until Monday. I think we’re going to see some strong winds on Sunday.

I’m still watching the hurricane, but that front is really playing hell with it, so I think it will push off to the east never to return.

USS Forecast Map

Hopefully, it keeps going….

Fair Winds All.


Winds of Change

When we made the name of this blog originally, it was “Winds of Change”.  Then our first boat became Winds of Change.  It’s a line from a Jimmy Buffet Song.  And Winds of Time is another line from the same song.

This boat was supposed to be called Winds of Time.  But she because Adventure.  Her lines, and beauty spoke to us, and told us about the Adventures we’d have by calling up on her magic.

She has indeed turned out to be a magical Adventure ride for the past year.

Adventures, though, are rarely perfect examples of a perfect life, with perfect views, perfect weather, perfect mountain climbs or perfect ocean crossings.  In fact, a true adventure is one that places the adventurer out there in the forefront of exposure to weather, wild savages, raging rivers, earthquakes or ocean storms.

And our Sailing Ketch Adventure has been nothing less for us.  We’ve only lived aboard for a year, with a break because of a break.  JoAnne broke her back, so we had to leave.  When we returned, Adventure had “calmed down”.  She took to sailing like a champ, and I remembered some techniques I had forgotten.

For the past few days we’ve watch a massive hurricane grow in the south Caribbean Sea and build up to a Cat 5, then back to a Cat 4.  It started a meandering path northward and crossed the tip of a Colombian peninsula, the western tip of Haiti, passed with in 80 nm of Gitmo in Cuba (RIGHT where I said it would go, my exact words on Facebook was 90 nm East of Gitmo) and has proceeded to cross into the Bahamas and turn slightly towards Florida.

I have been using a combination of the Euro model and US weather forecast maps, along with a bit other data and a little bit of guestimation based on my years of storm chasing.  This is like storm chasing on a giant scale though.  It’s not as precise as I’d like to be, but so far it’s working.  I started tracking and doing my own work on hurricanes a few years ago because I knew one day I’d be sailing a ship.  I want to be SURE.

Now… I’m going to say something that might make people mad, so be warned.

The National Hurricane Center is great at what they do, but they’ve been WRONG since Katrina.  Katrina was a terrible disaster.  And they mispredicted it, didn’t warn people properly and later George W. Bush was “blamed” for the hurricane’s damages.  Kind of stupid if the forecasters didn’t do it right.  And rightly, people who SHOULD KNOW and didn’t give warnings shouldn’t be working in the NHC any more.

Today we watch as Matthe is being projected to turn east shortly and head south and east.  Back to the Bahamas unfortunately, but, out to sea eventually.

Right now, if you take a close look you will see a front moving offshore.  It’s been there all along, it’s been moving across the country all along.  If they aren’t plugging that data in, they aren’t doing it right.  I can’t say what they are doing with the data they are using or how they entered it.  But I suspect the NHC isn’t using the right data at all.

Why has the EURO model been consistently right, and the NHC has been consistently wrong, and going to extremes to scare the public into being “prepared”?  I mean, I agree they should warn the coast, they should tell people to prepare and that’s what FEMA is there to do.

But, honestly, they are scaring people across the US Coastline with hurricanes and then at the last minute they are turning off the shore and mostly missing.  I don’t get it.

I spent yesterday removing all the canvas on the boat.  People are screaming to have their boats removed from the water.  Panic, chaos, confusion….  No need.

So today, and through the weekend I’ll watch more instead of preparing to head south and wait and see.  Because the NHC has cried wolf so many times now.

Do I trust my own predictions?  No, I’m an amateur, but at least my last dozen or so storms I’ve tracked have turned out exactly like I thought.  Whether that is lack of confidence in my own work, or the lack of confidence in the NHC now, I’m no longer sure.

A prudent sailor won’t head out into a storm like that.  And luck is not “found”, it’s created.  You don’t put yourself in a position to get your self killed.  So, I’ll wait.

Ten Hours ago

Ten Hours ago, I made a decision to remove the canvas and crap on the deck.  I took down the foresail, all the dodger and most of the stuff on the deck.

I still have a bicycle, generator, some gas and fuel cans up there, and minor stuff.  I’ve mostly tied down the bimini and solar panels.  But I’ reconsidering those things, and taking them down come Thursday.

We should know more tomorrow about the direction of the hurricane.  At 1700L time they said it was likely going to slam into the coast of Florida.  Florida and South Carolina Governors have put National Guard on Alert, something like 1500 in each state.  They are going to require evacuation tomorrow.  Those states want people moving 100 miles off the coast starting tomorrow.

OK, we’re a LONG way from South Carolina, and Florida, and no one seems to be sure about Georgia.   No one really, and I’m talking important, intelligent, well-trained, well-educated meteorologists.  (Somehow, I have this distinct feeling that since the Katrina screw up, NO ONE wants to make any sort of definite prediction, because you know, Bush got blamed for Katrina even though he (or Obama) have nothing to do with the weather…. So they don’t want to be definite.  Yeah, it’s a COP OUT, you idiots, you KNOW where this thing is going without a freaking Computer Model, even I can see it.)  Given that we’re able with 72 hours ahead to predict the possible paths within a few hundred MILES and without knowing what’s coming offshore from the US, we should be able to predict within 200 miles the exact path of the hurricane.

Why computer models suddenly became the most important predictor, I’m not sure.  What happened to good old human intuition?????  Oh well.

I’ll tell you this. I STILL say this thing will turn East.  Long before Virginia, and probably before it gets to North Carolina.  Why?  Because there’s a low and a “stationary front” sitting JUST off the US coast.   Behind it is a High.  Behind that, and three days from the coast is another Low Pressure/Cold Front moving through.  If anything the hurricane will meet with some “resistance” and push off shore.  Might not be perfectly timed, but from my position sitting here up the Potomac, just off the Chesapeake Bay, I see nothing getting here.  MAYBE some rain.  But nothing significant.

Then again, my weather training is from the National Weather Service, about 20 years of it, plus my own studies of the atmosphere.  Never been “tested” on it, except in storm chasing and I’ve generally be right, I’m alive to talk about it and tell stories, and I’ve been through two hurricanes and lived to tell about them as well.

What’s ALL this mean?  Nothing, to anyone really, except me and my boat.  I have NO intention of putting us in the path of a storm and if I have a chance to sit it out, a good distance away,  I will choose prudence over heroism.  What is there heroic about going to meet a hurricane face-to-face? Nothing.  It’s stupid.  Sitting tight is better.

Of course me, and the other guy on the dock, Pete, are the only captains here worried about our boats.  Everyone else isn’t here most of the time.  He lives aboard, and so do we, so the two of us have discussed who is going to anchor out and who ain’t.  He chooses to drive over and anchor out.  I’m staying on the docks.  No real choice, but I’m taking a lesson from the Bahamas and going to pull the boat up between two slips, sting my many lines out, and I’ll drop an anchor off the front of the boat at the last minute to keep the boat, and docks breaking apart in one spot if I can.  My boat isn’t going to sink, unless it goes aground on the far side… which it won’t.   And if I can hold things together, I will.

Truth is, I suspect the hurricane will hit Florida and turn right and head to sea, rather like Joaquin did with the Bahamas.  But, then, they predicted Joaquin would come up the coast and into the Chesapeake Bay and right over Galesville Md where we were hanging on a mooring ball last year.

So it comes down to two things… why aren’t they predicting what they SHOULD be?

And why do they THINK it MIGHT come as far north as Norfolk?

Got me, but we’ll see.

Obviously, I’m not a professional.  But, I trust me more than more TV weather guys, and especially The Weather Channel People who have proven to be wrong more than right.

Tomorrow… we pack our bags.

Thursday I decide about the solar panels.

Friday we depart and stay on the site in a house here, or we bail out and run for the cover of Richmond, VA.

Tomorrow is a new day…..

Fair Winds.

Hurricanes and Boats

Simply put, hurricanes and boats don’t mix well.

Matthew is proving to be a pain in the ass for a lot of folks right now.  People in Haiti, soon Cuba and then the Bahamas.  After that, according to the models (which I want so desperately to disbelieve) Florida, and most of the East coast of the United States will be in for a bit of roughhousing as well.

Latest Tracks for Matthew

I’m far enough north that it should break up and just be a tropical storm by the time it gets to us, especially if it hangs over land for any length of time.

But for whatever reason (I can’t see the reasons) the models have pushed over to the west and it’s promising to be a beast.  I see a front coming through, and pushing out, and now there’s a dry, low pressure system in the middle of the US which may reach the coast about the same time, and that might be pulling the hurricane in somewhat.

On the other hand, there’s a mess of rain and another front west of that high.  It usually takes 3-4 days to cross the states with weather systems.  Hmmm.  MAYBE it will get to the coast in time to push some more.  I don’t know.  I’m not a forecaster, just a storm chaser that looks at the data and predicts local mesoscale conditions.  Hurricanes are big, bad, Red-Spot-on-Jupiter things to me and are as distant as that planet is from Earth for me.

I’ve been in two.  One hit DC a long time ago and water levels came up 8 feet up the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.  The second was in Jamaica in the 2ooo, when it missed us by about 90 miles on the north coast of Jamaica. But… it RAINED like the ocean was pouring over us.  I’ve never seen so much rain for so long in my life.

The plan today is pretty simple.  Down comes the headsail and sheets.  I’ll remove everything off the deck and bring it below today and tomorrow.  And we will bring our tarps (we use as tents topside) below to cover things down here inside the boat.  JoAnne will pack and we will be ready to bug out sometime on Saturday morning most likely, because the predictions are showing it coming up this way Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The last of the preps will involve moving the boat out, adding lines and hoping for the best.  We’re not going to stay aboard the boat if the hurricane approaches us.  We’ll head inland and stay out of the path as much as we can.  I’m planning to take most of our clothes, our foulies, food, water, electronics, important papers, car and our mortal bodies away from here.  We went through a Nor’easter in the Bay… and that was not good, with the shallow Bay, short chop, poor JoAnne getting sick.  Staying in a Marina is not going to be much better.  And there’s little here to keep us safe, and in fact, it might be pretty unsafe to remain here.

I maybe take one of the ham rigs too, just in case.  We have terrible luck with the phones, so a ham radio might come in handy.

So, all my hoping and my “estimating” isn’t coming true.  All I can say is that the hurricane tarried a bit too long in the Southern Caribbean Sea and the weather that would have push him off is long gone now….

This sort of thing is, by the way, why I have been a “prepper” most of my life and even wrote a book about it.  I sure hope it all works right this time.🙂

I guess that’s it for now.

If y’all believe in prayers… better get busy.  The entire coast of the US, Bahamas, Haiti and other poor people in between are all in danger’s path.

Hurricane Matthew

Against the odds, against the forecasts, and against the models a massive hurricane has formed in the Caribbean Sea.

This morning when I checked it had been upgraded to a Category 5.  It is sitting in the southern Caribbean Sea, south of Jamaica and appears to have taken a slight left turn, and will probably, quite suddenly swing northward on a collision course with Jamaica, the across Cuba, and onward into the Bahamas.

The conditions were really NOT all that conducive for forming such a massive hurricane which is why I said “against predictions” above.  But, predictions, humans and computers programmed by humans are fallible.

Right now, the various models show the path taking a plunge to the north, through MOST of the Bahamas and on up the coast.  Since yesterday evening, that has changed slightly and models are showing it moving north and then pushing eastward.

I’ve been watching some fronts moving across the states which might prove to save the day.  If the timing is right, and I say IF, the two fronts should converge around Tuesday and push the hurricane east ward.  Unfortunately, there is also a pretty big High sitting off the coast and that might cause some problems.

I’m not a meteorologist but I’ve studied it enough over the past 40 years to have a bit of knowledge on the subject.  JoAnne and I storm chased and spotted for the NWS in Colorado for about 20 years.  So we have a bit of background in mesoscale events.  This is not meso.  This is massive.  Synoptic observations and data are easy to get these days, but I’m again, no expert in reading it all.

My “take” on this hurricane is that it WILL blow out over the Atlantic after reaching the Bahamas.  It will weaken after hitting Jamaica because going over land reduces it’s power.  It will build a bit, but hit Cuba further weakening it.  By the time it hits Bahamas I think it Cat 3 or even a Cat 2 is all it will be.  With LUCK and timing, the fronts should be above it and pushing outward to the East.

The Earth’s rotation as it travels north will also cause it to spin out away from the US.  And prevailing westerlies.

At this point, I HOPE I am right.  And I hope that the folks in Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica all fare better than a category 5 will give them….

In other news, we’ve had rain, rain, rain for the past week.  Either in Richmond where we visited a couple of days for my eye check up, and all the way here to the boat.  Lots of rain.  We had super high water a couple of days ago, washing over C Dock and some of the others.  We’re on a floating dock, so the only issue we had was a dinghy full of water because SOMEONE forgot to pull the plug when he hoisted it onto the davits.  Fortunately a kind neighbor noted something amiss and went over in his dinghy and pulled the plug for me.  Normally, I remember to pull it, but for some reason I just spaced it.  THAT is the kind of thing that sinks boats.  Not remembering the little things.  Live and learn.

Windows still leak somewhat, here and there.  I think I have discovered one of the major leaks though.  I believe at this point water from rain is coming in through the traveler area in front of the cockpit.  I can’t pull out the stuff due to the building of the boat.  I think I can seal it though.  As to the windows, I don’t have the right gasket material and not too sure where to get it. So, I thought I’d do an experiment.  I cleaned out the old, dried up gasket from one of the portlights and used RTV in the place where a gasket should be.  I let it cure and sure enough, it works.  Not the best thing, not permanent, but it DOES work in a pinch.  So…. I’ll keep a few tubes of that stuff around for emergencies.

Front area cleaned up, and I can walk in there, I can access the anchor locker if needed, I can move stuff out of the forward head easily now and we can use that bathroom if necessary too.  Hung our walking sticks, and some other long items up front from bungie cords.  Tools accessible now.  Front name plates are varnished, the red paint is on them, and at some point I can paint in the name of the boat on the forward plates…. maybe it will quit raining for a few days this century….

Plans now include a trip to a military commissary for paper products (TP, paper towels, plastic trash bags to store things) and of course “boat alcohol”.  LOL.  Cheaper, no taxes, but it’s a long drive.  While we still have our car.

Our friend Kurt has promised to store our car for this winter/spring coming up until we come back this way.  So we have that going for us.

I have a radio modification to perform on one of my rigs before we bug out.  And I’d like to install the vhf/uhf rig some where in the boat where I can get power to it easily and get an antenna up on top somewhere.  Might put that off awhile.

Eyes were pronounced “awesome” by the Doctor.  I am 20:25 unaided by glasses, but do require reading glasses for up close.  Can’t focus that close now.  I can free dive soon if I want, or use a mask.  So I’m good again, and I can SEE.  Wow.  Just wow.

Basically, all the BIG jobs are done.  Just the little stuff.  And waiting out hurricanes.  I recall at this time last year, we were sitting in Galesville, Maryland awaiting Hurricane Joaquine which was making a bee line up the coast…. and was very similar to this one, except it started further north, went west, and then turned suddenly out to sea and never threatened the coast at all.  Almost exactly a year ago today….interesting isn’t it?

Fair winds.  Catch you on the next update.