Setting Sail

This weekend coming up appears to have SNOW in the forecast.

For all you snow people, that’s good. For sailors, that’s not so good.

JoAnne and I and the good ship Adventure set sail tomorrow in the best 48 hour weather window we’ve seen in some time to head as far south as the winds will take us.

We’re aiming for Charleston, SC (with emergency stopping in Winyah Bay if required) and if weather continues to permit, and the waves/wind and boat cooperate, Savannah, GA perhaps.  Fifty hours roughly from setting sail is Savannah, which Charleston is about 24.

JoAnne is still not “sure” if she can handle a shift, let alone several, but I’m confident we can do it.  We will test it over the next 24 hours and see how we do.

We should have good winds (starting off all wrong at first tomorrow morning) and then turning to give us some Northerlies which ought to take us pretty far south.  The speed and movement of the boat will depend on my skills as a sailor and of course the wind and waves.  But at this point I’m confident I can do it.

Traveling near by us, on their own ship, Bentana, are Judy and Stephen.  We met them about two years ago in New York.  They are long time cruisers (about 7 years now) and they are going to Florida as well.  They came into the docks here yesterday morning to meet up with us.  I don’t really think they intended to travel with us, but it appears since we’re all going the same way, we’re all going at the same time.  That’s cool because we can chat on the radio and keep in contact.

I think we will probably decide once we hit the area of Charleston to go on or stop based on how our boat is doing rather than the other boat.  We really WANT to go on, and try to get more than a single day of sailing in, but by nature no one is really a “sailor”.  You have to learn the skills, you have to learn to live on the water, you have to learn to live on a small vessel going some place perhaps unpredictible and in conditions unknown to you for more than a few hours… and yet, it’s done.

People have sailed for months and months to go around the world, to get to the “New World” and did it with nothing more than a compass and an innate sense of well being (because, you can’t stay on a boat more than a few days at seas, without some kind of “well being” now, can you?) lol

JoAnne doesn’t think she is ready and I know she is, but I also know I AM, but am not ready to do it alone.  So, therein lies the problem.  If she can’t handle a shift for 2-4 hours, I might as well be alone.  But, I can’t do a 24 hour shift without stopping at some point, and I can’t sleep for 15 minutes at a time either. So, it’s complicated.

For all you folks that see your dreams on a boat, and think you can do it – think again.  For all of you that have your dreams on a boat, and think you CAN’T do it — think again.

You CAN do it it.  All you need is careful planning, careful and critical thinking, knowing your weather, knowing how long you can actually sleep for and knowing your boat.

In all honesty, I’m JUST to the point I’ve gotten to know the boat well enough to do the right things with the sails.  I know the weather well, and know what it’s going to be like for 5 hours in the future.  I also know my body’s limitations.  But, I also have a crew, my sweetheart, whom I worry obsessively over, and care for, and don’t want her injured again, so anything I do (as Captain) makes me rethink five or six times what is right and that is a good thing.

Until it isn’t.  In the military, we said “Make a decision or die”. In real life that doesn’t happen to many, but it does happen to those who go to sea.  But decisions MUST be tempered with common sense, good judgement and training.

I hope I have all three of those.  The next 48 hours will determine the truth.

All my best to everyone for a fantastic New Year.  May all your Dreams come True – but, remember, you must plan for them to come true 🙂

Fair Winds all!

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Christmas 2016

Hi everyone.  Thought I’d try to get in one more blog post before the end of the year.

It’s been a long, challenging year for us. In fact, two challenging years.  (I already posted a message for Christmas on Facebook, and will probably restate a few things here so if you think you’ve read it before, you might have).

In 2009 we decided to learn to sail, and eventually to become cruisers.  JoAnne and I have read literally a couple of hundred books over the course of time since that day we made the decision.  While all of them were helpful, some were stories, fiction, true adventure, and books about storms.  All of them helped prepare us for everything we have encountered and a few things we’ve yet to (and don’t want to) encounter.

Last Christmas we were sitting in Colorado with our kids and Grandkids after JoAnne’s back injury.  We thought more than once we wouldn’t get back to the boat and would have to sell her.  But, things didn’t turn out like that.

We’ve traveled back and forth across the country about five times since July 2015, for medical appointments, visiting and due to injuries.

This season we moved the boat to Cole’s Point Marina, where we worked on the boat.  We added solar panels, repaired the refrigeration, I had already added a new stove, refurbished the sails, repaired many little things, added a composting toilet, removed a broken electric toilet and replaced it with a Jabsco pump toilet.  I’ve added strip LED lighting to the main cabin area (and will add some to the forward cabin in time, along with some new wiring I’ll pull in when I have an opportunity).  We’ve eliminated a few things (not enough).  We’ve picked up an inline water filter to remove the bad tastes and to take water aboard.  I’ve made a water catchment device to collect rainwater, picked up a propane heater for the cabin, as well as an electric heater.  We’ve worked out how to make the wood stove work properly.  I’ve rewired the nav station, radio gear (neatened it all up and added a special power strip for DC radio gear.  Eventually all the radio gear will be tied there).  Oh, and I varnished about 80% of the woodwork aboard Adventure.  I have been testing some varnish.

I certainly am missing a few jobs we did.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.

A few weeks ago we ran into some more alternator problems (which I documented) and had that repaired and discovered a LOT of other issues on the engine which we also had taken care of.  During the work, I had the mechanic teach me a few things since I was paying and arm and a leg (I know why pirates have hooks and peg legs now…).

We paid up our bill here through 6th January and decided to stick out Christmas here.  One of the folks sailing down from Canada we’re friends with (Rosemary and Joe, aboard “Winds of Change” were coming down and so JoAnne invited them to dinner.  Turned out other boats were traveling with them.  We thought two, then it was actually four boats total.

So the dinner turned into a pot luck.  Then more cruisers and liveaboards near by joined into the dinner.  All told, on Christmas Eve we had about 15-18 people (I never counted them up), and one boat’s couple left to visit relatives so they missed the dinner.  Others joined in and everyone brought food, drink and stories.

Over all, a grand success.  JoAnne was worried about putting something like that together.  I’m not sure why.  She has always fed an army (usually doing ALL the cooking herself, raising five children, usually having boarders in the house, and random neighbor children who ALWAYS were there for dinner almost every night).  So, whatever trepidation she had vanished as she turned on her “Chef Skills” and made a giant pot of stew which likely would have fed everyone in the marina that day with a side of rice.  Fortunately, there was plenty more food than we could ALL eat.  Everyone brought something, from sloppy joes to stew, to small “sub sandwiches” to enchiladas and bottles of wine and rum.  I was shocked at the amount and quantities.  I tried a little bit of everything and had two full bowls of stew.

“Winds of Change” happens to have been the name of our first boat, our Macgregor Venture.  So when we saw the name on the group, we had friended them on Facebook immediately.  After all, we share a connection.  The boat name, and now the Leaky Teaky boats, ours the Transworld 41 and them the Formosa 41.   It was wonderful to get to meet them in person finally!

I have to say that I still like our center cockpit a bit better, though I think sailing from the aft of a sailboat this big might have a few advantages over the CC.  I can’t tell you though, what those might be.

All in all, this year traveling from the Potomac in late October to here has been relatively uneventful compared to last year.  Although, we have gone aground a few times, we’ve bumped some pilings, and I have some small damage on the port side where I caught a pole in the water, the engine conking out…. we haven’t really had major issues.

Yes, it was stressful coming down the ICW.  I was at ease going outside and motorsailing at night, but I always worry about all the things that can “go wrong” out there.  I worry for JoAnne’s safety much more than mine (because, quite honestly, I’d done some really dangerous things in my life and while the majority of them I wouldn’t want to repeat, I understood what I was doing, and knew I could die).  Sailing in the ocean is one of those things.

You understand it.  You know you can die.  But you also, always, concentrate on the moment in time, staying alive, staying safe, staying on course, going there you’re going and knowing you have options to handle almost anything.  Even, right down to closing down the hatches and doors after taking down sails and putting out a sea anchor, then hoping the boat will ride out whatever you hit.  In almost all cases, a boat will do fine.  It’s generally the crew who can’t handle it.

We have one issue on our boat.  JoAnne isn’t really able to run the boat alone.  I’m worried she will injure her back again and she has been prone to falling in the past so I won’t put her in danger.  That means I tend to do everything on deck, though I have been letting her toss lines out, and put out fenders to get used to doing it again.  So running a “shift” isn’t too easy, unless I set things up and let her stand watch, let the autopilot take care of things until the wind changes or we have to tack.  Then she can wake me if I’m sleeping and I can do the work.

This basically means for us, sailing straight to Florida isn’t going to be easy.  From here at five knots it would take us about 65 hours (give or take where we pull in).  And just two of us doing it.  Then we have to count on the engine from time to time to charge batteries if the sun isn’t out (solar, remember?)

Therefore we’ve come up with muliple plans to get south now.  From here we are planning to sail straight down to Jacksonville area.  And as we go we’ll make changes to our thinking based on the conditions we encounter and how tired we get.  We’re going to try it in pieces as well.  So, we’ve picked a half dozen distant spots to pull into if need be to anchor and rest.  We’ve also planned part of the route inside as well.

We have many options from here, but the main goal, to “get south and to warm” is the priority.  That and using the engine the least amount necessary, anchoring when we need to, and staying warm.

So as the year closes on us, we are shooting to be in Florida not later than about 3 weeks from now, whether we can move more quickly, or slowly will depend on a lot of factors including the weather and my ability to take us long distances on the boat.

To this day, I am not ready to lie down and sleep with the boat moving.  So, I’m probably going to have to learn that skill next 🙂

I want to wish everyone a “belated Merry Christmas” as I’m posting this the day after.

And I want to give everyone something to consider for the New Year.

Many people make “resolutions” to accomplish or do something important in the New Year.

I made a resolution never to make resolutions a long time ago, so I don’t do that.  But I do make plans, I do set goals, even if they are in my head and not written down.

For the cruisers, the dreamers and the wanna-be cruisers who’ve not quite gotten here yet, I’m going to give you a secret.

The secret to success is “perseverance”.

That is the secret ingredient to “success”.

If you have a dream to move aboard a boat and go cruising, you will have to work at it.  You will have to plan.  You will have to make decisions, some easy, some difficult.  You will have to write your notes down.  You have to learn to sail if you don’t know how.  You have to work your ass off.  You have to practice.  You have to learn new skills.  You have to travel a bit, you have to stay home a lot, you have to spend some money, and you have to save money.

With out laying out a map for you, I’ll tell you this:

  1. Make a plan (Do you want to cruise full time, or part time? Do you want to just travel the Chesapeake?)
  2. Get your skill set together as you go, every day work on it (Can you sail? Learn! Wood work? Plumbing?)
  3. Study hard, study sailing
  4. Save your money.  Spend it wisely on learning, important books you need (Use the LIBRARY, it’s FREE!)
  5. Pay your bills.  ALL Of them.  Eliminate them.  If you use a credit card, PAY it off EVERY MONTH.
  6. Have your goals written down and check them off as you go.  Once you get one, check it off. (Then go back and pat yourself on the back!)
  7. PERSEVERE!  Do NOT give up.  Do it.

Adversity has a way of weighing people down, depressing them, making them believe they can never get up again and sometimes adversity will literally break your back, bones, make you sick and leave you in pain.

Pain is the one thing that tells us we’re still alive and we should be doing something else.  Find a different route.

If you want to sail, do it.  Start small if you have too (I didn’t, I am glad I didn’t.  I started on a 30′ boat and went SMALLER to a 25′ boat for practice, and the 25;’ boat was like a part of my arm when I stepped aboard).  Getting on to a bigger boat like this ketch at first will be daunting and probably stop one from sailing without a very good instructor.

I’ve been teaching myself how to sail this boat.  She handles differently that a fin keel, from a sloop and from a dinghy.  She handles much differently that my little Venture did.  She has a mind of her own and I’ve had to learn to tame her, and make he go where I want her to go.  It’s difficult to do with no books on the subject and only the meager knowledge I gained from an instructor and sailing my own sloop.

The point, though, is don’t give up.  Continue.  Persevere.

That, folks, is the secret to success.  You just take that and apply it to your set of circumstances.  YOU are the one to make it happen.

All our best for a Happy New Year – and I mean the whole of 2017.

We’ll see you in the Warm.

Rick and JoAnne

(PS I will add images into this a bit later, so check back when you have time)

 

 

Beaufort NC to Wrightsville Beach, NC (Masonboro Inlet)

Last entry, we had planned to continue down the ICW. At some point along the way, we changed out minds for the 20th time. I think the stress of going in the ditch is less than the stress of going offshore at night for a 24 hour run (or in this case, 14 hours overnight). So, we decided, one more time to go outside.

On 27 November 2016 we departed the Morehead City Yacht Basin marina and had a LOT of issues getting out. Currents kept pushing the boat the wrong way and neither bow thrusters, or the prop walked were helping me get out cleaning. And on top of that, I think like a rocket scientist and pressed the WRONG button on the bow thruster. So, for the second time in a month or so, I whacked the bow pulpit. No damage, but it’s irritating as all get out.

Adventure’s bow is long. There’s a 9′ bow sprit and 7′ of that are at the pointy end of the boat, along with the railing, the platform and the forestay, making it difficult (to me at least, I’m sure there are some Gold Star Captains out there who can drive better than I can) to see what I’m doing, aim the boat properly and I’ve just not got much experience with currents. Most of my sailing was in lakes, and places where the winds did what you expected.

Anyway, once out of the dock without smacking anything else, we powered up and headed for the channel, made a call to the bridge. And then promptly made a fool of myself for the second time. The “Beaufort Bridge” answered me. Apparently they handle the Beaufort Bridge (which honestly, I wasn’t suyre where that was located) and the train bridge I had to traverse as I came around the corner leaving the marina’s channel. They told me the bridge opened on the hour and half hour.

So I asked… “We’re talking about the train bridge, right?”

“Yes,” she replied. I was then very confused because I was certain the bridge should be open all the time, after all the chart said so, I’d heard no calls from USCG stating the train bridge was closed and so I reiterated the question, this time more specifically. I could hear the mirth in her voice when she replied, “Oh, THAT bridge is open all the time and should be up now.”

I couldn’t SEE the bridge until I was right at the end of the channel and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if the bridge were down. Long story short, it was opened. I turned to starboard and pushed through – or thought I would. A small boat decided to bust through as I was heading in. So I slowed, to allow the faster boat through. He slowed. Now, I’ve got no steering in a few moments, and he’s taking his time coming through. I call him on the radio and invite him through. SO… HE SLOWS MORE.

Finally, I gave up, gave the boat gas and aimed right at his bow (I’m still a hundred yards away) but I think he got the message and suddenly powered up and got out of my way, because I can promise we weight about 34,000 lbs (dead weight, after being lifted on a lift) and I suspect he wouldn’t have been in one piece after an “encounter”. Finally, through the stupid bridge we were headed for the Beaufort Inlet.

The time was about 2:30PM or so.

The plan was to get out to the sea buoy by 1600, turn on a course to bring us to the sea buoy near the Masonboro Inlet in 14 hours.

It was a long, chilly night. I left the enclosure up and drove through the night, running the engine the entire way. I did have the main sail up for a few hours and reduced the engine RPMs to keep my speed at around 4 knots, which would put me at the sea buoy at about 6:30.

Along the straight line course I drew on the chart was a “Danger Zone”. After investigating I discovered it was a shooting range for Camp Lejune and sure as shootin’ (see what I did there? lol) USCG came on the air when I was just getting to the first light and announced live fire operations on-going in the vicinity. I ensured I cleared the outer lights by a couple of miles just to be sure. I didn’t want artillery shells dropping on me.

I never heard, nor saw any firing but I could occasionally hear the booms of what sounded like howitzers. (Know the sounds well from living in Colorado Springs, and having heard them live before in other circumstances). Never saw any splash downs, thank goodness. haha

Daybreak happened about 5 minutes before I reached the seabuoy (and I had to slow the boat as couple of time to ensure I arrive at the right time to still see the flashing lights and then spot it with my eyes. I actually drove within about 100 yards of the bouy. The Autohelm was running and it is “off”. I’ve since fixed the issue. Something in our closet made of metal was too close (within 4′ of the electronic compass).

JoAnne had been sleeping down below and I called her and woke her up, asking her to join me in the cockpit when we were about 4 miles from the inlet.

We arrived and dropped anchor at 0840. Ten minutes after my calculated/predicted time. We did have some issues getting into the inlet due to winds blowing the tide about, and apparently an opposing current, but once we were actually past the breakwater, it calmed considerably.

We decided to stay here a few days, as these 24 hour shifts are a little much on me these days. I was grumpy, tired and grumpy. Did I mention, grumpy? JoAnne let me sleep for a couple hours and made a wonderful lunch/dinner. Baked Sweet Potatoes and boiled shrimp. Wish I could say I caught them myself, but I didn’t. I’m still not quite ready to be fishing and driving a boat at the same time apparently. haha Especially not with shrimp nets!

It has been raining on and off now since we arrived. We have plans to depart here tomorrow morning and head for a marina on the ICW to spend about three days, giving us a chance to get internet and do some weather planning.

Our next trip appears to be outside to Charleston (or perhaps a short jump, but I’m not seeing anything very nice for us to work with at this point).

Yesterday, I dropped the dink in the water, got the engine on it, and we puttered into the municiple docks near the bridge and went to a little place called King Neptune’s, a little resturant/pub. Had fish and chips and a couple beers and came back just before it opened up again. I got the dink back on the boat, everything tied down and ready for evening.

The rain came with some wind. And the wind remained. ALL night. I was worried about dragging so I didn’t sleep almost all night. I set two anchor alarms (one on the phone and one on the GPS) but the winds were almost 38 knots at one point. Predicted was 16. I have no idea what was going on. I checked three or four applications on my phone and no where was the wind supposed to be over 16 knots last night. Two other ketches were riding to anchor near by, and one sloop. The sloop was getting their asses kicked by the rolling they were doing. I can’t believe anyone aboard slept a wink last night. But maybe they did. Maybe they are “Saltier” than me?

The other ketches were doing the same thing I was doing. Riding up and down, and turning into the wind against the waves. I tried a few tricks but nothing helped. I gave up and finally fell asleep about 3 AM for a bit. The wind was dying down then and I wasn’t worried any more about dragging at that point.

Right now, I am writing this on generator power, needed to get the batteries topped off, and I need to check the engine for our trip south tomorrow., but JoAnne needed hot water for dishes and such, and I wanted to get this written while I had time and was thinking about it. I’m going to put up a hot spot and post it shortly.

More in a few days!

Fair Winds

Coinjock to Belhaven

Here are some notes I wrote the other day to put into the blog.  I’m just too lazy today to rewrite everything into a different set of notes.  But, it gives you an idea of my thinking a couple of days ago versus today.

Traveling

We departed early yesterday (Election Day, 8 November 2016) morning from Coinjock, at Midway Marina.

We dropped anchor at Tuckahoe Point, directly in front of the Alligator River-Pungo Canal entrance about 1525. JoAnne wrote “Anchor Down” at that time. We found 7-9 feet of water moving out of the channel to that particular spot. We spent the night on a quite anchor, occasionally hearing engines coming through the canal (I believe for the most part they were barges being push by tugs.

This morning (9 November 2016) we up anchored at about 0700. We went back down to the spot I’d entered the anchorage and we turned into the channel right after a barge went through past us in the channel.

Through out the trip we saw birds and occasional fish jumping. Did not run aground (that’s a good thing!) and managed to remain mostly in the center of the channel.

We were passed by mostly power boats, the majority of whom did not call us and ask, just usually blew past us leaving a large wake shaking us up pretty hard and usually before I get get the bow into the wake. A few called us. Every sailboat that passed (three I think) called us and requested permission, and asked which side to pass. A couple of power boats did the same thing, but generally the power vessels ignored us like we weren’t there.

One guy, who passed me as we entered into the very large area just out of the canal had been calling sailboat behind us all day, requesting permission to pass, and was polite all the way through. His boat name was “Trixie”. When he passed us, we had a very wide area and he didn’t need to call me, but I called him and told him to pass, and I’d slow for him. He thanked me and went on around with no wake. He was the largest boat we’d seen in the canal moving.

At Coinjock Marina the morning we pulled out, there was a very HUGE cruise ship sitting there I think called Independence. It was taking up 50% of the docks and honestly, I have no idea how they got in there or where they came from!

I have been checking the engine carefully either the night of the stop or morning before we pull out, and adding a tint bit of oil to keep it at the right level, and checking the belt, the bolt on the alternator, coolant levels and the fuel.

Tonight, we’re at about a 1/2 tank of fuel on one tank. Full on the other. We have good coolant. I’ll probably have to add a tad bit of oil in the morning.

I put up the enclosure tonight, cleaned the deck (mud from anchor), added gas to the generator and fired it up a bit ago so I can run the shortwave, and do this blog. We have no internet or phone service at all here, therefore I’m writing this “ahead” of being posted. I’ll post it as soon as I have service again.

Tomorrow, we will be doing a very short day and stopping in a small creek or river across the Neuse River (away from the “magenta line” and away from the crowd for the most part. A lot of people are heading south and the marinas and anchorages are getting filled quickly (the standard and well known anchorages). We’ve been looking for things slightly off the beaten path because then we don’t deal with dragging anchors and loud noises haha.

Tomorrow, we’re looking at two places. Either a very short run of about 25 statute miles or a 40-something run. I did not find a good anchorage at shorter distances.

I’ll write more later.

Now, is later…. so.

With plans to be out of here this morning I woke up early, and made coffee, JoAnne was putting things away and I went outside to take the trash and visit the head.  And then got to thinking.

Tonight it is supposed to rain.  And tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain all day where we will be on anchor.  And it’s pretty chilly and JoAnne is getting cold and can’t stay warm.  So, debating about getting 25 miles south of here to an anchorage where we sit all night and all day tomorrow in the rain with no internet connection, versus sitting on the dock an extra two days with electricity, wifi, access to showers, head, town (and I need to replace a propane tank) caused a quick discussion, and a go-over of the weather reports.

The final decision?  We didn’t leave.  We will wait out the chill and rain here on a dock until Tuesday.

Tuesday through Friday should be 60s (warmer than the frost last night for sure), no rain, plenty of sun, light winds (for crossing the next two large bodies of water) and we will have North West Winds on Tuesday for the Neuse River which should be pretty ok, since we will be motoring anyway.  The winds will be too light for us to sail starting today for the next week anyway.

So – comfort has been a major determining factor for us.  If it’s kicking up and good sailing weather, we’re ok with that, as long as it’s kicking up in the right directions.  Why go out and get our asses kicked trying to hold a course under sail when there are channels to worry about?

A friend asked me the other day, “In a do-over, would you chose a different boat?”

I believe at this point the answer is a resounding “YES”.

To travel the ICW in a full keel, deep draft sailboat isn’t fun or easy, and nothing about it has been simple.  I’ve had more white knuckle moments than sitting in a Jungle in Central America getting shot at caused me.  I could at least shoot back.  I can only adjust the sails in changing winds – which is great if you’re not constrained by the channel….

I’m certain that, somewhere down the line we will wind up sitting on an anchorage, in the wind, rain and hail or something and waiting out another weather condition.  So, why bother putting yourself in that situation?  When it comes right down to it, we’re honestly not in a huge hurry to go anywhere in particular.  We just want to eventually get someplace warm.

What is funny is, when I ask “Where are you headed?” to the other cruisers, all have the exact same response, “Someplace warm… south….”

We have met some very nice people so far along this part of the trip.  All of them save one or two are like us, first timers.  Many have only been at cruising for two or three months.  One person has been sailing forty years, but this is his first trip down the ICW.  Another retired a few weeks ago and started down.

In general, ALL of them have had almost the exact same thinking processes as we have.  Make a plan, get the plan in motion, move the boat south – and every one of them have had the same thoughts of “quitting”, going back home, the boat was wrong for the journey, and a host of other tid bits about this trip.

In other words, all of the people who’ve gone before us who had no issues probably had the same issues and they didn’t consider them to be “issues”, or just problems to be solved.  I think that is perhaps the best attitude.  Everything is a problem to be solved, and solving it is what comes to the forefront when dealing with moving the boat.

Whether it is plumbing, engine issues, alternator issues (as in our case), fuel problems, electronics malfunctions or simple failures, we all have the same problems with which to deal.  In my case, it seems like there are more problems to solve at once probably because I let them get to me and worry about them too much.

One problem we had was the charts we have.  For some reason, I don’t even recall why now, I picked up ALL the charts for the east coast.  And yet, did NOT pick up all the charts for the east coast.  I was missing a rather important set.  Florida and the Keys.  How I did that, I’m not sure.  Perhaps because I took one of the chart titles at it’s word and didn’t actually open it up and look inside until much later.

That chart (Maptech) says “Norfolk to Florida”.  I made a dumb assumption I suppose and thought it contained Florida charts.  Nope.  It should really have said “Norfolk to Florida: Not inclusive of Florida” haha.  Anway, I mentioned this and Judy Long and Stephen who were in Washinton offered to come and bring the chart.  When I said I didn’t want them to make a special trip, they said they were coming anyway.

Turns out, and I had not quite put the puzzle pieces together yet, Bentana, their boat is sitting nearby!  So they were coming to deal with some problems too, on their ship.  So we had a get together on our boat, with some wine and nibbles.  And they brought the missing chart for me.

I still need the one for the West Coast of Florida, but apparently Maptech is phasing them out now.  Everything is going digital.  Mark my words, that’s a BAD idea…. but that’s another discussion for another time.

Alright, time to get going to get some propane.  The hardware store opens at 1300 today.  I’ll take a golf cart into town (it’s four blocks, long ones, but I don’t want to carry that tank back all the way)!

Lastly, I’ve uploaded some images of things along the way.  Hope you enjoy the image dump!

Here’s some pictures of places along the way:

Sunset over Cole’s Point Marina before departure

ICW Canal

Norfolk Naval Station

Two very large ships… Aircraft Carriers (Don’t know which ones)

The same A/C carriers in the above picture, from Willoboughy Bay.  Adventure in the foreground.  We were aboard the s/v Acadia visiting and going over charts with Marcia and Jon

Behind us somewhere a couple of days ago

The Sailing Ketch Adventure in the back, Sailing Schooner Adventure in the front

Sailing Schooner Adventure

(Our neighbors one night)

The Great Bridge Lock

Great Bridge Lock, looking back

Taylor, from Atlantic Yacht Basin, Great Bridge

(Thanks for everything, Taylor!)

Me, JoAnne and the USS Sequoia – Presidential Yacht, Fishing Bay Marina

Some Right Piraty Looking Rigging

A visit to the Reedville area, and we discovered this ketch waiting for Kurt to come and get her in the water 🙂

Lo-Kee

Lo-Kee

ICW – Willoboughy Bay, VA to Coinjock, NC

When last you tuned in, our intrepid band of Adventurers found themselves in Willoboughy Bay.

We hoisted anchor and headed out intent on making it to the Great Bridge.

We were all nervous about the bridges and lock. Both the boat crews, Adventure and Acadia are pretty new to this stuff and we were buddy boating together for moral support I suppose. And I wanted some assurance of the depth so I let them go first to call out depths if it got to shallow. We saw no stuck boats along the way, so obviously it wasn’t too bad. I’m SURE there were boats with deeper drafts than ours passing through before us.

We motored the entire distance from Willoboughy Bay to the various bridges. The first one was easy. The next one was fixed. Norfolk and Western was open. Gillmerton was one we had to wait for, no problems, except we had to wait for 30 minutes because we arrived too soon I guess.

Then we got to the lock. We had to wait at the lock. A long time. Anyway, the lock turned out to be NO problems at all. We got to the Great Bridge, everyone waited, they opened it, and we pulled over at the Atlantic Yacht Basin for the night. Acadia got fuel, we docked. The next morning I pulled the boat around and fueled up and then we left after both boats were ready to pull out.

Again, Acadia led. When we arrived at the Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge I remained behind Acadia a few dozen yards. Our boat takes awhile to get up to speed, and it takes awhile to stop. If the wind isn’t on the nose (and even if it is) inertia on her is tremendous. Takes sometimes 5 or 6 boat lengths to come to a stop. There was no wind. And it takes a few minutes even at full throttle from a dead stop to get up any speed.

We all started through (after being admonished to “GET CLOSER” by the bridge master) – a large power boat, Acadia, then us. Then as I’m coming up on the bridge the guy on the radio starts yelling at me for being “slow” and tells me, while yelling into his radio, “I should CLOSE this bridge on YOU NOW”.

He didn’t… and to my own credit I didn’t tell him what I thought of him. I “thanked him” politely and went on and let it roll off my back.

I know these guys are government workers. And I know that some can be assholes. This guy was an asshole, and a jerk to boot. I hope someone reads this and says something to him, but probably not. (And I’m sure someone else will say I was in the wrong, even though they weren’t there, lol). To prove I was not wrong, here’s the regulation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/499

I understand there are cars, I understand it “holds people up”. But, I ALSO know the history of bridges, and boats DO have right of way. We were within 100 yards of the bridge (It was a swing bridge and swings to the north). We were behind another sailboat, neither known for their maneuverability in close quarters with full keels – us, and them with a full keel and a board that was up). We moved as SOON as the bridge opened, and it took time to get up to speed, and NOT make a wake because we’d been admonished NOT to do that either….. Finally, the bridge was opened for less than 4 minutes from the time the first boat shot through, to the time I plodded through. And it was well within the normal opening time (about 10:30, and in fact, 3-4 minutes late).

Here’s the rub though. Federal law (33 U.S. Code – Regulations for drawbridges) mandates boats have right of way at bridge crossings. Yeah, several states have adopted rules on busy bridges and won’t open at all during certain times, and only open maybe on the hour or half hour during daylight hours. Or they open on signals from the boats passing them. So, why is a bridge tender screaming at a slow moving sailboat whose top speed is rarely more than 6 knots under engine power (with the wind behind it mind you)? Good question.

But, oh well. That was the beginning of my day yesterday. The first day out of Willoboughy Bay went fine. Even passing giant ships, cargo vessels, aircraft carriers, and two ships coming out about the same time as we were passing, we negotiated things fine.

When we got to the first sound, it was hairy. Wind was blowing pretty hard and apparently causing a current, which I didn’t realize would happen. I expected long fetch to generate waves… but not necessarily current. I manage to get pushed out of the channel 2 or 3 times towards the end of the run, to the point I was seeing 7 foot depths and at 6 feet, I was going to hit the ground, probably hard. The wind was either on the nose sometimes or just off the starboard bow and helping kind of push us sideways as well.

It was nerve racking knowing that hitting the ground there was going to stop us cold and we’d likely have to get towed out of it.

When I arrived last night I was short tempered with everyone and upset at myself because it wasn’t going smoothly, I’d been yelled at for no real reason by some “authority” who really shouldn’t be doing that anyway. I was hungry, tired and literally exhausted. I made the decision to stop here at Midway in Coinjock (JoAnne had called and gotten a reservation for us) and the Acadia – who thought they had a reservation at Coinjock across the way, didn’t have one and moved on to an anchorage.

So, Jon and Marcia went on ahead and we said good bye over telephone (because we had 4G and 5 bars, how cool is that for the first time to be able to actually communicate using a phone in damned near a year?) and hope we cross paths again.
They are pulling out someplace near Raleigh-Durham to visit grand kids I think. We’re headed as south as we can get in the next couple of weeks.

Last night I decided we’d remain on the docks here for a couple of days. There’s a good blow coming tomorrow, 16-20 knots I saw on one report, maybe rain later tonight and perhaps tomorrow. Saturday MIGHT be a good day. I’ll look over my GRIB files in the morning and decide if we will leave Saturday or Sunday morning. Since we’re motoring, NO wind would be the best thing I can hope for.

But, I took the time to pull the aft compartment apart, open up the batteries, check everything, and run an equalization on them, which seems to have helped them a bit. I’m hoping to get the batteries to go back to float again on the meter, but not sure if they are damaged or not. My hydrometer is hokey and I’ll have to get a decent one (I have two, one is really old and it doesn’t seem to work either.)

At this point I think I have the batteries, and the charging system “synced” finally. I still don’t think the main system batteries are holding a charge right though. I’ll check things once more in the morning.

The other issue that boat Acadia and Adventure had seems a little odd for fiberglass boats. Rust spots. Millions of them. They appeared out of nowhere and we discovered them a day or so after we were in Fishing Bay. At this point we suspect the lift (we were both lifted, we were cleaned and they were worked on for battery replacement, and a serious leak at the rudder post). We considered the cleaning might have done it, but they weren’t cleaned I don’t believe. Just hoisted up and worked on. So I think that the steel cables (which were rusty) or the engine (diesel, with a large flapping exhaust pipe) might be the culprit.

It is most likely the engine was blowing exhaust out, along with water, and rusty from the old lift engine and splattered both our boats.

I knew that if I could get some oxalyic acid I could likely get the stuff off. JoAnne found a solution, she handed me a can of stuff that looks like “Ajax” in a can, but is called “Bartender’s Friend” which is used in bars and restaurants to clean stainless steel, apparently. She had purchased some so I could use it on the old stainless grill we have. Which I did and it worked, and I’d forgotten all about it. It also worked on the stains too. I didn’t get them all off but I did get the worst of it gone.

The boat top is in dire need of paint. One day, I’ll paint it. Mean time I have to keep washing her down.

Now to the not so good part. Pulling up to the dock I lost all steerage. I knew that I needed to come in slow, as there was a boat in front of me, and one behind. I slowed too much. I managed to not get the boat turned in time and though we were moving at fractions of a knot, I caught the bow pulpit against a dock post. The post remained undamaged, but the pulpit steel bent a bit. I tried today to engineer a fix, and succeeded in pulling it back a small amount. But the starboard side is push back an inch or two. I’ll fix it.

So, batteries seem to be doing ok. Got the little rusty spots off the plastic (haha). Got through the first stretch of the ICW. Got some sleep last night, and planning to sleep well tonight.

Oh… best part of today. We are the sailing Ketch Adventure. I was told by the owner here that it was funny, another boat named adventure was coming in. Sure enough, today, right in front of us, the sailing schooner Adventure shows up. A large, steel ketch, complete with ratlines up the rigging, shorter masts than we have, but a wider behind. The cockpit is huge and she’s over all a beautiful boat. But, of all the lookie-loos today, most of them stopped here to look at us, and not at the other boat.

I was proud 🙂

(then again, they could have been staring at the horrible paint, my bent steel, the dirt on my hands and feet and knees from cleaning, and sniffing the smell of sulfur as the batteries cooked below… who knows?)

Willoboughy Bay – Elizabeth River, Virginia

We spent the night of 30 October 2016 in a little river called the Poquoson River. Last year on the 17th of October, we were up that same area, but in a different creek. The next morning we had prepared to wait out some chilly weather and some stonger winds when the marina I’d planned to go to for some assistance on the rigging finally called back with the words, “IF you can get here TONIGHT (it was a Sunday), then we can look at your boat tomorrow.”

Against my better judgement, we pulled anchor and made for that marina. We didn’t really have a choice (we did, but we were led to believe if we didn’t hurry we were going to be delayed) and we did it anyway.

Yesterday, we looked at the weather and headed down the bay. It was nice, cool, but nice. Crossed into the Elizabeth River and made it a short hop to Willoboughy Bay, just past the bridge Tunnel on the Elizbeth River. We anchored out last night, and today was supposed to bring winds. And about 2-3 AM this morning, the weather reports came to fruition.

A Nor’easter like last year, slammed the Bay. Listening to weather reports there were 4-5 foot waves, and gusts at 30 knots from the NE all today. The warnings are in place until this evening. Several sailboats, including one traveling with us, wisely remained on anchor this morning. In checking my GPS settings, it appears we’ve not moved at all, no dragging last night or today.

Thankfully, the winds have somewhat simmered down and the waves have stopped slapping us. We’re still rocking and rolling a bit, but I have the mizzen sail out a bit to help point us into the wind. Works pretty well. Winds are currently out of the NNE at about 15. Gusts are about 19 now, instead of the almost 30 knots they were earlier this morning.

Our companion boat, “Acadia” with Marcia and Jon were ready to head for a staging at Hospital Point this afternoon. I pointed out that though I haven’t been there, it appears unprotected from the north and in the river, so besides currents there are wakes from passing vessels. Everyone opted to stay put here. Since this is the first time for all of us to traverse this area, we all felt it prudent to wait a little longer. We’re all “novices” at something. I’m not a sailor novice any more, but I’m a “cruiser novice” and I’m still pretty timid about driving this monster. She’s got a full keel, doesn’t turn rapidly unless we’re moving quickly. The rudder and keel combination just doesn’t bite quickly at slower speeds.

Our next destination is somewhere around the Gillerton Bridge and/or the locks. Or something. I’m unclear at this point on what our decision was yesterday because mostly it was the ladies looking over the charts and telling us where to go… which is typical I suppose. 🙂 Honestly, that’s not the case, it’s a joke; we all know where we’re headed, we’re just not SURE where our destination will be due to the large number of cruisers passing through.

We tried the Atlantic Yacht Basin south in the channel near (past) the locks and they “couldn’t guarantee” anything for us, except they MIGHT have docks with no water or power… of course they cost the same as those with water and power…. ok. I guess we will play it by ear at this point.

While a nicer day might have more boats headed south with us, I think that’s ok. I also think I really need the “practice” in busy areas. I was white knuckling it through the river at the bridge tunnel before I figured out everyone wanted to go fast, faster than me and I mostly let them, except for the barge whom I cleared almost 2 miles in front of him and he was only doing about 4.5 knots anyway. I was going faster.

One sailboater was coming from my starboard side while I was traveling a channel under power (now I’m a power boat, and he’s obviously a sail boat perhaps under power, perhaps not, so I gave him benefit of doubt) on a crossing path. Cool. But he maintained course and speed. According to the rules he was wrong on two counts. Yes, he was a sailboat, I was under power. But a sailboat approaching from a “behind position” which he was doing, gives way to the motorboat – and I was in a channel (shallow I might add, and we were in an area where had I gone out, I could have gone aground with my draft). However, I gave way as a “power boat” because he did not appear to be doing anything and I couldn’t go any faster. Going slower was rather difficult too in the location based on the winds on the nose as it would have slowed me significantly. Which it did.

And being a sailboater, I gave way anyway to avoid a collison. Now, I’m sure there are some out there that might argue that I should have given way as I was motoring, and I’ll point out now, you weren’t there. I was. He was approaching from the rear (off the starboard quarter) at a pretty good clip and COULD have passed easily behind me, but CHOSE to pass me and cut in front of my bow. I honesty would never have tried that with anyone, or any boat unless traveling at a significant speed faster than the boat being approached and even then would have passed him father forward, changed course to parallel the other boat or passed behind.

Am I complaining? Not at all. Pointing out what we saw. The boat behind us thought we should have kept going instead of coming almost to a dead stop. I didn’t want to risk a collision (which was becoming rapidly apparent at that point). I will point out that the other boat was sailing with two sails up on a starboard tack, and we were driving into 24 knot winds at the time. I couldn’t have sailed there to save my life due to the depth challenges in that area. Oh well.

Today it is chilly. In the mid 50s. I ran the generator for a couple of hours to ensure charging of the batteries, and shut it down a bit ago, leaving the solar panels working and the refigeration turned on to chill things back down.

I’m about to go sit at the table and go over the charts carefully, so I know the charts, the course, what I can expect and where the bridges are located. We already know there are two railroad bridges we should be able to traverse easily. We’ll need tides/times tomorrow, and to know the exact bridges/lock, times for those and approximately how quickly we will get there and can traverse the area, and finally where to stop tomorrow night.

We all have our own ideas, and as long as those ideas somewhat jive and don’t put anyone in danger, a handfull of Noobs should be able to accomplish what thousands of others have done routinely. (That’s the best part about books, and knowledge from others, you aren’t doing it FIRST, just the first time for you.)

Engine:  The engine in this boat is a Perkins 4-108.  Nice engine.  Leaks though.  Found it’s dripping oil (finally).  Can’t find the location though.  Had the alternator bolt loosen yet again.  Tightened it up.  Checked new belt, it’s fine.  Added a little over a pint of oil this morning.  Need to watch this thing carefully from here on out.

My friend Jeff Ryan (@K0RM –  Former ARRL section Manager) in Colorado has a mechanic/boater friend down range from here.  Gave me his name, over in Washington, NC I think he said.  Supposed to send me information to contact him.  He’s a master mechanic, and a boater, lives aboard.  Probably understands what we’re going through too.  I’ll give him a call passing through just to say hi if nothing else from Jeff.   Either way, babying the engine will likely turn into a full time job for me.  It’s another reason I chose to remain at anchor today instead of pushing the limits through waves I didn’t want to deal with (and currents, and wind, all of which were in opposition this morning).

Man, I’m learning some of this the hard way (by reading about it, then experiencing it first hand) lol

I will add to this, or edit it later. Right now, I only have a hot spot to access the Internet and have to turn it on and off as necessary to prevent wasting the data. I can’t type this on my telephone, the tablet or hand write it to the Internet.. so that’s the way it is for now. LOL

Safe at Fishing Bay Marina

Safe and Sound at Fishing Bay Marina.
 
Bit of an issue today.
 
Started up, everything was fine, got out of the dock with no problems, turned the boat around and started out. Got about 400 feet and something didn’t smell right.
 
Took boat out of gear and drifted a minute while I stuck my head into the engine to look at the belt on the alternator (because it smelled like alternator belt, but “not quite”).
 
In the 23 seconds it took me to drop below, look and clamber back up, the wind pushed us into the mud. (No sail, just freeboard).
 
Spent the next hour trying to get off the mud.
 
A “nice man” named “Clyde” came by and offered to assist. Tried pulling us off with his little skiff. I made a suggestion as to the direction because of the keel and he wasn’t so “nice” any more. lol
 
Told me “I do this shit for a living, what the hell do you do?” I replied “I’m retired, typically I sail this boat into the mud”.
 
He then said, “Well, I have the equipment to do this, but it doesn’t come cheap…”
 
“That’s fine, I’ll do it…” and he told me my “tiny anchor wasn’t going to help at all”.
 
And left.
 
I took my “tiny anchor” (it’s a 13 # Danforth) put 50 feet of line on it, had JoAnne tie it off to the winch on the port side and rowed out to the end of the line, dropped the anchor, rowed back and climbed aboard.
 
I started winching the backend out of the mud at a slight angle, had JoAnne straighten the rudder and when a power boat came near I yelled “Give us a BIG WAKE” – and they laughed and DID.
 
JoAnne hit reverse, I winched and the wake hit us, and the boat lifted, moved, dropped, lifted moved and swung around to meet the line which I grabbed by hand and hoisted aboard as fast as possible.
 
We got into 12 feet of water, ran forward and dropped an anchor when we’d moved back about 2 boat lengths. Tied a fender to the little anchor, dropped that, ran back to the dinghy and hauled in the kedge and then put everything away.
 
So my little anchor that wouldn’t work, worked fine. 🙂
 
The other issue had to do with the alternator. At this point I THINK the alternator diodes have cooked for some reason. This is NOT the first time, and there is no reason this should be happening.
 
Since we’re here, I’ll see about the haul out and see if the electrician can assist on this issue.
 
Need to wait until at least Thursday for mail anyway.
Addendum: We DID sail a lot of the way today. in fact I had up all sails for part of the time and due to the engine issues, I was concerned the engine wouldn’t restart so I left it running.  Best speed today was 6.4 knots.  Our best coming down the Potomac the other day was 6.8 with 22 knots of wind on the starboard quarter (NW winds).
Today the winds switched from NW to SE apparently as we crossed over the Rappahannock.  I say “apparently” because it was dead on our nose and slowed us down to 4  and then 3 knots under engine alone.