Time to Go! Last Minute Things

Last minute things….

Check on Boat Insurance (Check).  Get provisions (Working). Do oil change (Scheduled). Check on SeaTow membership (until 11 November good).  Add Water.  Add fuel if needed. Wonder what we forgot.

That’s just a small list there.  A lot of other things have happened in the past two weeks since returning to the ship.  Those things included putting sails back up, and unstrapping the in-mast sails from the mast (hurricane preps before we left of course).  Cleaning out items we really don’t need on the boat.

Speaking of that, I was at the storage locker yesterday. Holy cow.  Where did ALL that crap come from?  Why do we have all that crap?  This isn’t a house, it’s a boat.  I don’t have a garage.  I did pay for a storage locker for a full year.  That will give us time to get rid of everything in that locker we decided we truly didn’t need, or at least the big, bulky, heavy items and things that won’t fix or repair the boat.

We ordered a few things too and await their arrival (today or tomorrow I believe).  New bathing suit for JoAnne, some scrabble pieces (as we’re missing a few in our ancient set) and some other items for the boat.  I decided to have someone else do this oil change for me, so I can be sure it’s right this time.  Turns out we were given bad advice about certain oils to use, by a certain mechanic.  The weight of the oil is apparently too high for this engine and causes significant blow by.

I found that the proper oil will NOT make it smoke as much.  We will find that out later today.  I’m not a mechanic, but I do understand the physics of engines like this, and I gather that we’ve had the wrong oil in here since we had the first oil change accomplished.  The other reason for letting someone else do it, is that I do not have the container/pump assembly I need to pull it out, and no real storage space for one if I did.  So, we’ve filled most of our areas with important things like spare parts, some tools, the clothing we need and food.  We should be self-sufficient for roughly three months once we depart, needing only occasional watering.

We will try to do rain catchment and see how that goes.  I’ve tested it at the docks and in theory, and practice it works well.  However, doing so under sail might be a bit problematic.  We will see.

Today I saw on Facebook that it has been exactly Two Years ago since we found ourselves somewhat “stuck” in Norfolk, VA, in a place that we didn’t want to be, and nothing but bad things happened there.  We made friends, and somehow managed to upset some of them over one of my postings on the blog.  I’m not going to reopen wounds, other than to say, two years later, I stand by my original posts on the blog here.  Friends or no friends, one person’s experience may be different from another’s, and my purpose here is not to blow rainbows and BS up people’s butts, but to tell what we personally go through.

Everyone’s mileage WILL vary.  That said, onward.

We’ve set a tentative date of 1 November to pull out, but of course, that will be based on the weather.

We’ve also NOT set our exact course, or chosen the path to take us to the Bahamas.  I did originally plan to sail out of Cape Fear, cross the Gulf Stream and head south to Marsh Harbor, but there is some trepidation on both our parts for doing this.  We’ve not done a multiday crossing yet, and perhaps this is too much until we get in the swing of things.

So, instead, we will probably take a tack southward and stay well off shore for a few days, but close enough to run back in if we get too tired, or have issues.  Boat issues are the one thing that constantly have plagued us, and while we can abandon ship in an emergency and have an EPIRB, radios, emergency ditch bag, and things to keep us alive while rescued, this is NOT how anyone wants to spend their evening, morning, or night.  Instead, we want a lazy sail to the Bahamas, and therefore we’re going to endeavor to do so.  This means we WILL still do a multi-day crossing, but not too far away from being able to get to land if required.  I trust the boat and most of the systems, but I don’t trust the sea and the magic it works on everything.  Like breaking things when you least expect it.

Things break even if you inspect them.  Even if they are brand new.  Sometimes things you expect to break never break.  I’ve come to the conclusion that you can engineer the perfect vessel, at whatever the cost, and eventually, something is going to fail when it ought to have lived a full, healthy life of sixty more years.  Therefore, I trust the boat to float, and me to keep checking on things.  And to be prudent.

Once we get our minds wrapped around multi-day travel off shore, we’ll change the way we do things, but small, baby steps I guess are best.

The best part?  I do NOT have to RUSH myself in a straight line, against the wind on the nose to attempt to beat darkness to drop an anchor to be safe.  I can be safe right on my own vessel, moving however slowly in the general direction I wish to go, without running a motor, creating smelly fumes, heating up everything, and spending money on fuel.

I’m rather looking forward to a successful, stress-less, sailing excursion.

We have wracked our brains on how to keep dry good, well, dry.  Salt, sugar, flour, corn meal.  Plastic baggies work mostly, but salt is still killing us.  Our friend Mike, in Missouri showed us a handheld device from Walmart that sucks the air out of bags (special bags) and I just got a brilliant idea to try it with containers.  We need something to hold the amount of sugar, flour and such we use on a daily basis so we’re not constantly unpacking everything, taking what we need, resealing everything away under seats and in compartments.

So, we might try that. I’m sure others have come up with methods for combating humidity, but we’re still figuring things out.  Remember, we lived at elevation and in very dry, desert climates for the past quarter century.  Colorado rarely has issues with salt chunking up in the shaker.  Not so, on the coast.

JoAnne will be starting her “provisioning run” in the next day or so.  Everything else is pretty much done (except of course, the Vee Berth is full of loose items again, as I have been working on the boat here and there, have tools out again, and cushions, etc)

Last week, Friday, I removed all of the enclosure from the cockpit, except the dodger, and the upper Isenglas. I want to be able to climb in and out more easily, and of course, there’s that vision thing – being able to see all the way around me at night is helpful, if not critical.  The old Isenglas is in dire need of replacement but I can’t really justify the cost of it.    There are a lot of things that should be “replaced” but none are critical to the operation of the boat.  Except one.  The furling line on the mains’l.  That, I will replace when it needs repair.  I have the line to do it, but I’m not going to pull the sail out, drop the main, unroll everything, reroll everything, and put it all back the way it was before I started. It’s about a ten hour job.

At some point, the furling line will need replacing, and that’s when I will finally drop the main (like a regular main sail, instead of furling) and replace the halyard, the furler and do a few other minor jobs all at once.  Even at sea.  Shouldn’t be much of an issue.  Except storms.  I have no plans to have battles with Mother Nature.  She will win.  I have two other sails I can have up anyway.  So, I’ll leave it at that.

We have gone over things verbally, and on our various lists and I believe now we’re ready.  After the oil change, I’m considering taking the boat out. There’s a race this weekend.  I’m not much a racer, but it’s the Stede Bonnet Race.  I don’t believe we will win anything, and I seriously doubt we will be able to move the boat in the light winds being predicted, but what the heck?  It’s a ketch named Adventure, so why not?

Not sure we want to mess with it though.  We will see.

Today is the 24th of October.  The first is 7 days hence.  Winds are predicted to be (at this time) light, variable, out of the North and Northwest (1-8 knots) and swell from the SW at less than 3′.  A very CALM day for moving, but probably too light to move US.  If we choose that day to depart, we might make more headway in the ICW and head for Little River.

Final decision will be made much closer to the day of departure and when weather predictions are more accurate.

 

Until next entry, Fair Winds to All!

 

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Travel Planning

We’re planning our first major trip right now.

I’m a world traveler, and always have had to do trip planning, logistics, coordination with others, set up hotels, rental cars, quantities of equipment and many other things for entire teams of personnel traveling to other cities, states and countries.

Somehow it seems that the devil is in the details though when it comes to boats.

Safety is the very first, most important, and critical priority so most things have to be considered there first.  But there are so many other things to take into account for a trip involving multiple days at sea – something we’ve not yet done – that I’m getting lost in the planning. (Not really, but it is certainly different when you’re doing all the planning and a lot of the physical labor involved too.)

We are still working on the interior of the boat, to include removing all the extraneous things we THOUGHT we needed, but haven’t used in a year (or two, in some cases).  I never wanted to have to be able to store anything in a storage locker and yet, we rented one for a full year a few days ago.

I’m starting to move things over to it (a car load of larger items that have absolutely no use on the boat under way were moved yesterday).  Today, I’ll be removing everything from the V-berth and beginning a paint job inside.  I want to clean and paint the forward cabin for visitors who may come to stay with us along the trip in the Bahamas.  It will also afford me the opportunity to put my hands on each and every item in the forward cabin and call out “Yep, nope, throw it out”.  lol – to myself anyway.

I do need to go through the through-hulls again, look each one over, and ensure they are good to go, no danger of anything breaking, sticking or being no use when you need it most.  I’ll start in the front.  The paint is to make things “cleaner” and easy to wipe down inside.  Some areas have never had a coat of paint, and some have only a simple primer coat.  Some have nothing (down inside the bow for instance).  Not sure how well I can paint in there, but we shall see.

I have one more fan to install in the forward cabin if I can.  It only takes a few moments, but, it’s a pain with all the stuff in there right now, so it’s not been done.

Once the area is painted and dried, I can move the cushions back, and we can store a few things in there like our extra beer and soda we’re going to provision, paper products (paper towels, toilet paper) and a few small items (a tool bag).

JoAnne hopes to pare down our clothing to necessities and a few nice things, a couple of items for cold weather (*we hope to be leaving before it gets horribly cold in January!) and she’s going to be collecting and going through our clothing, removing unserviceable items and we’re replace as required.  There are two lockers in the middle cabin that bug me.  I have some electronic parts in them which I probably don’t need on the boat for the trip but do not wish to throw out or give away.  I’ll be collecting things together and storing them ashore.  That SHOULD give me a couple of places to store more food for this trip. (Canned food for veggies and things that spoil easily).

I have already looked at our trip and planned a course or two for Abacos.  We have a couple of contingency plans, so that if something goes wrong, we can turn and head back to the States and get into a bay someplace to do repairs or whatever.  But, basically, this should be a pretty straight shot right to the Bahamas from Cape Fear.  About 415 nm from here, straight line distance of course, without tacking much.  If the weather window is right, we ought to be on a pretty good tack anyway all the way down.  I’m still trying to work out the weather patterns for October though.

We are starting to make sure all our required paperwork is in order, I have to renew my insurance about October time frame, I need to make sure we have no outstanding bills, our slip is taken care of for us, and our car is ok to be left alone for a few months.

This is, if all works out, a six month trip to the Bahamas and perhaps the Florida Keys and then back here.  This will be our first major multiday trip.  Neither of us have done it before, but we think we’re mostly ready.  Time will tell.

 

 

On a Happier Note

Last entry I talked about Renata.  I did that because it occurred very recently and more recently than this week.

This week, we took a week off for birthday and anniversary celebration.

I turned 60 this past week, and JoAnne and I have been married now for 40 years.  As I said before, I am not sure how she has put up with me this long, but I’m very happy she has, and proud to be her husband.  I did a quick Facebook post honoring her, posting images and a statement.  I would try to recapture it here, but it will simply repost on FB and I’m sure a lot of people are tired of seeing it now. haha.

We did a little road trip, traveling to Georgia to see Stone Mountain, something JoAnne has wanted to do for some time now.  We spent a couple of days in a very nice hotel there.  We also visited a local restaurant here on Oak Island, called Swain’s to try their sea food.  It was ok, not the best I’ve had, but not the worst.

We found a nice brewery near Atlanta and tested several beers.  All of the beers were very good.  I tried five tasters and wound up with my “standard go-to beer”, an Irish Red Ale, which was so smooth, it made Killians (not my most favorite, but one that most will know) taste like cheap crap.  (Which, I suppose, technically it is after so many craft brews under the bridge.)

The only thing of note on the trip (other than a good time) we had was a massive amount of rain yesterday.  Torrential downpours throughout the day made traveling difficult and cost us about an hour or so of time in going so slowly at times.  At one point, we couldn’t even see ten feet in front of us and were doing 25 mph behind a large truck so I could see his lights and keep an eye on the road lines.  Going off the road would have been very dangerous and probably we’d still be stuck, as there was water flooding the sides of the roads and median.

Eventually, we made it back here, and surprisingly, we had very little leaking going on in the hard rains.  I had placed a large tarp up to reflect the sun off the decks a few days back, when it was choking us with heat and humidity, which actually helped reduce the heat, and apparently the leaks.  So I now know most of them are coming from the top of the main cabin somewhere.  I’ll continue looking for them.

Turning 60 sounds awful to some.  Especially you younger folks, right?  I’m sure many can’t even imagine being this old.  I certainly couldn’t when I was 30 and in the military.  I figured I’d never make it out alive anyway.  But, I did.  And I have made it past several dangerous things in my life, including a nearly “heart stopping” heart attack.  We’ve both had our share of dumb and awful things happen to us over the years.  An accident once in Colorado nearly got us both killed.  A guy ran a red light.  My “quick thinking” and previous “training” I’d had years before kicked in and I managed to put more car between me and him, than had been between him and JoAnne split seconds before.

The car was destroyed, as was his own vehicle.  JoAnne was injured but not anywhere nearly as severe as it would have been had I not acted.  We’ve had two “butt kickings” out “there”, neither of which was really all that bad, but it did give us a deeper respect for the ocean, and the weather.  Mother Nature will surprise you when you are not watching closely.  A boat is as good as it’s master.  Sometimes though, a boat is better than the Master’s skills and the skipper can do almost anything stupid and survive.  Except if they don’t care for the boat correctly (as in the last blog entry).  Eventually, doing nothing at all, can kill you.

Cancer tried to get her.  My heart tried to kill me.  Together, we’re stronger than ever before, but also, we’re more wary, we’ve slowed down, and realize that while we want to go-go-go, we can’t-can’t-can’t hurry.  Taking our time and eking out as much from life as we can takes not only courage, but perseverance, and thinking, reasoning and time.  You can’t always just rush in and get it done.  Sometimes, you seriously need to step back and evaluate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and how you’re going to do it.

Setting sail is easy to do.  But, when you live aboard, it’s more difficult, because you become comfortable leaving things laying about, sometimes you don’t take all the precautions you would in a seaway, like wearing your flotation device or keeping your radio on all day/night.  You don’t have your wind equipment turned on constantly and tend to guess the wind speeds from experience.  You don’t always remember to close certain hatches at a dock… until it rains hard and you were away from the boat, and your bed gets wet.

You sometimes get bugs in the boat, even though you try hard not to introduce themselves, or you take precautions against them.  But, you learn, you cope, and you deal with everything.  From an emergency, to simple day-to-day things.  And sometimes, you watch as someone else’s dream sinks beneath the waves, helpless to help them.  And yet, you go on.

As to the boat, and the ants…. they seem to have fled or died finally.  We have tried two different kinds of ant traps, both of them seem to be attracting those left and both having different sorts of poison in them, they have pretty much left.  I have seen no sign of any of them since our return yesterday evening.

Our plan at this point seems to be – because we do not set hard dates now for anything – to try to get a good weather window sometime in October, to depart for the Bahamas.  The plan is to head south, outside the Gulf Stream, and sail directly to Marsh Harbor.  We will probably use that as our hub to explore as much as we can see in three-six months time there, and return to our “home” here by not later than April, to try to catch decent winds and weather.

All of that depends on the boat, the crew, the skipper here, and our ability to accomplish it.  I am extremely confident of our ability to accomplish it.  I’ve seen “Lesser Humans” come through here who’ve accomplished more.  No, I’m not insulting them, I’m stating the obvious.  Younger people with much less experience than we have now, having accomplished wondrous things that we have not. We can, and we will do them though.

At 60 life has become shortened.  Time on this planet is meted out in moments and memories and we intend to make the best of them.  We don’t want to wind up stuck in a dock for the rest of our lives, living like the crew of Renata, watching as our home sinks beneath the waves due to lack of hope, caring or whatever finally took it’s toll on Renata.

While time is slowing ticking away, we are still learning, as are all people, every day.  Each event is a learning event.  Each day is a time to reflect on your skills (or lack thereof) and move forward.  Tomorrow is a new day, with new learning events.

A sailor never becomes a complete expert in everything they do, but they surely have skills that most can only dream about.  Sailors KNOW what they know, and know there is much they do not know.  Sailors are not afraid to test the waters, sail the tides or do without things they would like to have, but do not.  Sailors learn as they go, and they pass on to others as they can.  This sailor never stops reading, never stops learning, and will never give up.

 

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

Extended Cruisers… that’s what we tell people now when they ask us where we live.  We get questions on where our house is (the boat).  Where do we live?  How do you cook? Where do you go to the bathroom?  Where do you shower? What do you do when you get tired of being on the boat?  One person asked us “Do you use sleeping bags every night?” Another asked us about doing laundry.  Everyone asks “Where are you going?”  Even other cruisers ask that question, including me.  We’re all curious about how everyone else deals with life I suppose.

I think all of us in the cruising world have these questions asked at one time or another and very likely as we were entering into the world of cruising, we all might have asked the same questions of others, or of ourselves.  At first, it’s fun explaining it all to people.  Eventually though, it can be tiring.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that shows you’ve answered the question a thousand times and you get the point you try to reword it more efficiently, using less words, or just simply shrugging your shoulders when you haven’t the energy to respond again.

It isn’t that the questions are stupid, inane or silly.  They want to know, and you have to tell them. So you do.

One day perhaps, I’ll write a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Cruisers to pass out to anyone asking them questions.  Or maybe not.  Because everyone is different.

Speaking of “different”.  JoAnne and I started this “journey” almost 10 years ago – actually, I don’t remember the exact date or year any more.  A lot of water has gone under the keel since we started.  For the past two years we’ve cruised “Differently” than others.

Most people pick a destination and go.  They get there as fast as possible, barring difficulties, and they stay long enough to enjoy the scenery, a pub, a beach bar, a beach, fishing, or simply meeting new people.

For two years we’ve “cruised” down the coast, running into trouble – we might call it “Adventure” but most call it trouble.

From broken engine parts, to broken engine, broken halyards, dead and dying batteries, leaks, busted hoses, pipes and lines, getting hit more than once by other boats (one time being rigging and bow being severely damaged), to getting beat by the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Fear River Inlet we’ve persevered.  We’ve gotten up each time and kept going, albeit, slowly.

Plodding along at a snails pace from New York to Norfolk, Norfolk back to the Potomac River and then Potomac River as far as North Carolina.

We’ve been here in Southport for about eight weeks now.  On 6 February 2017, it will be just over eight weeks.  Throughout the time on the boat, we’ve also been off the boat traveling around the country.  We’ve made trips (several) back to Colorado.  We traveled from Colorado to Missouri, Tennessee, Florida down one coast and back up the other.  We’ve traveled around the DC area, throughout Virginia, back and forth and up and down.  I am guessing because I haven’t figured out the distances yet, but, we’ve put on 25,000-30,000 statute miles traveling by car and boat so far.

We loved the Northern Neck of Virginia – but it was remote.  We made good friends there.

Southport has been different though.  Not just the people.  Not just the place.  A combination of everything.

We have fallen in love with the place.  That doesn’t mean we want to live her forever.  But in the two months we’ve been here, we’ve made a lot of friends, met a lot of cruisers passing through, including some friends we’ve met elsewhere.

For the past few days we’ve been debating moving on.  We are here late enough in the season that if we depart now, we can still get to the Bahamas for the Spring.  Do we stay or do we go?

Yesterday, I went through Active Captain, sent emails, made phone calls and wrote up a budget based on our cruising kitty’s contents.

We can move on and still have enough money, assuming nothing goes wrong from now until we locate a place to go.  But every marina we contacted gave us “No room at the inn” or were willing to ask us for more than normal to hold a slip for us to use.  One of my fall back plans was mooring balls.  I found some, very inexpensive places. No living aboard allowed though.

The cost of staying at a slip here versus Florida is a shock.  Double in almost all cases.  Except certain places on the West Coast of Florida. But, there are a lot of places we won’t “fit”.  Can’t get in.  Canals too shallow, fixed docks to climb out of the boat at low tide (JoAnne simply can’t do that now).

Last night we talked about staying for awhile, enjoying Southport, and perhaps even working a bit to regain some missing cash from the Kitty.

I had three job offers yesterday in the space of an hour, without even asking.

Yesterday afternoon, the dock master told me he “found me a slip if I wanted it”, and told me if I was interested, he was looking for another dock hand.

This morning we made the decision.

We are going to hang out here a while longer.  Enjoy the beer over at Check Six Brewing Company, our friend’s company and probably try to throw a few bucks back into the bank.  The health insurance is (pardon the pun) bleeding us dry at this point and working to offset it even a little will keep us floating (another pun?) for awhile.

This is not truly what I wanted to do, but it seems to make sense.

For everyone wondering about it… no we’re not staying forever.  I told the Dock Master that October we would leave, or November.  But we might come BACK as well the following season.  He thought that was a good plan.

So, not technically “swallowing the hook” yet.  Just going to test the air and see how it smells for awhile.

Anyway, my son, Nick reminded me this morning – Life is not a destination, it’s a journey.  He’s right.

We’re Free People.  We do not have anyone to tell us what to do, when to do it, where to go, or how to accomplish what we do.  We CAN come and go as we please, when we please and where we want.  Complications are something that life throws at you constantly (case in point, running north to get my car from Virginia, going all the way to Detroit to see my brother in the hospital, even if he couldn’t see me).  That along with our own personal medical histories, we have to be sure we’ve got insurance for a bit longer.  Boat and car insurance.  Money to eat…. yeah, life’s complications.

To all our followers (I think there are three of you now) no worries.  I’ll still write here, I’ll still keep you all up to date.  And let me say something about why I actually do this blog.  Please follow along a few more minutes.

Why do I write this blog?

For all the years prior to actually doing this I read everyone’s blog.  I sat sometimes awaiting a new entry on a few of them.  I read EVERY book I could get my hands on, either buying, borrowing or shopping them online on Kindle.  I read grand tales of Blue Waters, great fishing stories, scary weather stories, and I read every thing in Cruisers Forums, Sail net (I helped start Sailnet, did you all know that?  Then got kicked off of it because some people didn’t like my political views, haha).

Through out it all, I found very, very few stories of what REALLY happens to people or the gory details of daily life on a boat, hanging upside down in the bilge with a finger blocking a hole while trying to reach back up to get a mallet to pound in a wooden plug.

What I DID encounter on the forums was a smattering of good, quality information interspersed inside of a lot of hollow knowitallness from many armchair sailors.  Oh, I am sure they weren’t all arm chairing it.  Many did live on boats in marinas and I found most RARELY ventured from the docks.  They polished their boats daily, cleaned the stainless steel, painted the bilges, and plumed the depths of their Sundowners in the evenings.

I look around at my ship – and ship she is, big, beautiful and ungainly in a marina, but wonderfully agile and quick upon the sea under sail – and look at the dents, dings, weird, dirty spots I can’t seem to clean off, a few gel coat spots that probably need redoing and see the Dock Queens in this place (most of the boats haven’t left in months or years) and wonder what I am doing wrong.

I’m on the boat working on this or that ALL the time.  JoAnne broke her back on a dock, slipped and fell on another and lost a pair of glasses.  I’ve cracked my head on things and drawn so much blood, my long bones and marrow are having troubles keeping up the replacement blood cells.  No one else writes about these things.

No one tells it “like it is”.

I find that both appalling and fascinating.  Over these last few years of doing all the reading, I rarely came across a story or blog, book or tale of all the terrible things that happen to people.  When I chose at one point to tell about the things that happened in one certain marina, I lost friends over it.  They misread into my words that I was complaining and believed I was denigrating the marina and not telling the story.

I’ve had a difficult time putting some things into words since then because, frankly, I don’t like upsetting people and especially not real, true cruisers.  But, telling this story is my way of leaving something for my kids to read and think about long after we’re all gone and dust (or fish food).

I write because I have a passion for writing.  I don’t do it for money (ok, I have one published book.  Makes me about 3.75 a month….) and I have other books waiting in the wings for publication, but it’s not about money.  Never has been.

I don’t advertise on the blog like so many do.  I don’t think it’s fair.  Advertising permeates everything. Our phones, our Facebook accounts, email, television, radio, in-your-face in the stores, malls, on the sides of the roads and for cruisers to plaster their pages with “ads” to “Buy our book!” irritate me I guess.

I write because I like to, I like to tell the story.  I want people to know, beyond any doubt that anyone can cruise.  Anyone can become a sailor, and a good one.  But you have to work at it, and it is NOT easy.  It’s NOT going to come to you like magic.  And no destination is as pristine as made out by many books and articles.  There are problems ANY where you go.

Human beings are simply put, pigs sometimes.  They throw crap everywhere.  The water is full of plastic and junk and I daily pull things out around the marina.  But, humans can be kind, considerate, helpful and just all-around, wonderful.  They don’t have to throw junk in the water and pollute, but they do.

Because cruising today is NOT what it was twenty years ago, we are not on the “cutting edge” of visiting places.  Boats aren’t any longer seen as “strange, new visitors from a far away place”.  Boats are, unfortunately, considered a “Cash Cow” and the inhabitants are considered “wealthy”.  Except those on derelicts.  Who are considered by everyone to be “scum of the earth”.  This is a wrong assumption, but sometimes it’s true.

The truth about cruising is there are good and light things, and deep, dark secrets.  Some places we’ve seen have people doing drugs, drunks everywhere (I suspect those are the cruisers actually haha) and dirty, sinking boats. Other places have beautiful, spotless Dock Queens who never move.  Wonder why they look so nice?

Then there is us, and Adventure.  And almost EVERY OTHER extended cruiser we’ve met.  All of our boats aren’t the best, well kept.  They are sometimes messy inside.  They are sometime dirty outside.  We have too much crap.  Too much in the lockers, too much in the forward cabin.  Too much on the deck.  Lines everywhere.  Old lines. Not new, pretty braided stuff.  Junky “look what I found in the trash” lines sometimes.

This is the stuff I write about.  I do it because… honestly, I want people to see what it is like.

I don’t always tell the whole story either.  There are no words for some things that would not offend a lot of people (try talking about composting heads in mixed company and you will grasp what I mean!)

I hope that folks enjoy what I write, and I’ve had a few tell me they love it.  I’ve had a small number that hate on me.  That’s ok.  Everyone has an opinion.  Some are just wrong, that’s all 🙂

I will let you all know in a few days how it’s going and whether or not we can “hang” at this for awhile in Southport.  If you get here, let me know.  We’ll meet you on the dock and greet you!

Fair Winds

Rick

 

Cape Fear

In 1962 a movie was made about Cape Fear.  Saw it as a kid.  Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Telly Savalas were in the movie.  It was a thriller type movie.  Criminal, murder, stuff like that.

Yesterday we could have starred in our own thriller movie.  Or horror movie.  Or just a documentary about puking.

We left the docks at 0900 on the way out the Cape Fear inlet.  We were supposed to leave at 0700 and JoAnne listened to the NOAA weather, and said “Not going out in 9 foot seas” and she was right.  Completely, totally right to trust her instincts on departure.  After discussing it with Judy and Stephen for a few minutes, we all agree a couple more hours sleep might be prudent.

We pulled out on time, at 0900, and headed back to the inlet.  Tide was just starting to come back in and we slogged a bit through it in places.  Bentana had little trouble with a newly repowered boat, brand new engine.  We, on the other hand couldn’t make more than about 4 knots maximum most of the time and that was pushing the engine.  I almost turned back and said “Nope”.  But I didn’t.

We got out to the channel and dodged a ship.  He called me and asked if I’d be polite enough to step out side the markers for him, to which I replied that he could have the entire ocean should he desire it.  We moved outside the channel in 40′ of water and his bow bulb was as big as my whole boat.  After he passed, I called him and “thanked him for the slow pass” and I think I made his day, he laughed and said “Good travels”.

No more incidents for a bit.  Then the shoals came into view.  And the water turned into a rocking wash tub.  I almost turned back…. but I didn’t.

We called Bentana who was now gaining ground and moving at a quick pace out to sea.  Judy said that they were going past marker 6 I think it was and then turning to 180 degrees to catch the wind, get out to sea and then would tack back later.  I followed her lead.

We didn’t make it to the mark she turned out at.  We were taking a pounding by then and the wind was wrong, and so were the waves.  Making a decision to stop taking a pounding, I checked depths, and objects in front of me and turned to 180, raised sail and steadied the boat considerably.  I consulted with JoAnne about turning around.  She said “I want to go to Charleston.  We’re already out here.”  She had a point. I could have turned around… but I didn’t.

We sailing relatively well at that point going up and down the waves, and not getting slammed now, things somewhat smoothed out.  But JoAnne kept getting sick.  At some point I had to go below to check on something.  What it was, I don’t even remember now.  That’s when I started getting sick.  First time ever being “seasick”.  When we took a steep wave and most of the ocean washed over the foredeck and back to the cockpit coaming, it was at that point I thought “We should turn back…”.  But I didn’t.

I called Bentana to check in at 1230 as we’d planned.  They were “doing ok” and we all exchanged encouraging words.

By 1300, JoAnne was doing all she could to keep from throwing up, and I wasn’t.  It was my turn.  I got so sick I threw up for five solid minutes.  I think I nearly passed out from it.  I had heart surgery last year in May.  I still have pain in my ribs and back from where they cracked open my chest.  All my ribs crack like knuckles.  I think they all popped yesterday.  It was right about that moment in time I realized just how stupid this was.  I stopped and considered the situation carefully.  We could go on and we didn’t know the sea state would settle for sure, or we could go back, reverse course back through the washing machine, tides, current and winds all from different directions, we could heave too (we were about 8 miles out perhaps by then) and hope things settled.

At that moment, I made the “prudent” decision to turn around.  Finally.  All DAY I had not listened to my inner voice telling me “Today is not the day!”  Please note I called it a “Purdent Decision”.  It truly wasn’t a prudent decision.  It was a mistake to go out when I had thought it wasn’t a good day.  And to be clear I DO know weather conditions pretty well, and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable, but we were tired of being here, ready to go, ready to roll, get going, go somewhere else.  All the way around “prudence” was jumping up and down trying to be noticed and I was ignoring “her”.

I called Bentana and told JoAnne, Judy and Stephen at the same time we were headed back in.  I can’t bear to see JoAnne sick like that, and if something had happened to me she’d have been helpless at that point to do anything about it other than call for evacuation.  That wasn’t going to happen.

We rode the waves back in, partially under sail, trying to keep the winds right and give us some speed.  We made 4-5 knots back in, until the channel, where the waves were crossing us, and hitting the side of the boat.  Not that we had a LOT of choice in which way to go.  Shoals were coming up and waves were big, ships were headed out, and winds were still only 20 knots maybe.  Not enough to bother the boat.  It was the wave action that was sucking bad.

We passed three more, outgoing ships, I gave them wide berth and even used their wash to get into smoother waters for a bit.  That helped.  I had long since stopped being sick.  Nothing left.  JoAnne was settling down too I think by then.  I occupied her with helping watch for markers and ships.  (Hard to miss a ship, though, you really want to miss them….)

We hit the junction of Cape Fear River out going current, the incoming tide, let a giant cargo ship pass, and a tug pulling a barge, and I made it to the ICW cut headed back in with little difficultly.

The engine was still running so that was a good thing.

After we docked with help from Norm from the Marina, who was kind enough to stay on the dock until we arrived, Jay from Knot Working and the folks from the power yacht Chrysalis, I discovered the water pump running down below.  I killed the breaker assuming the worst.  A bit later, I discovered all the water in our main tank was pumped out (probably to sea) and the pump was running for awhile I guess.  I’m surprised it didn’t burn out.

This morning I heard Judy and Stephen got beat up pretty badly as well, Judy was also, apparently ill as well.  They made it as far as Georgetown.  Far short of Charleston.  I believe they said (JoAnne reported) they are on anchor now and resting, well and safe.

I have work to do on the water tank.  I’m going to extend our visit here at least a week.  I have work to do on the ship, repairs to make and I’m going to have a little chat with a few local business establishments around here…. because I came back to a message about my credit card being compromised (AGAIN) and five transactions for 17-28 bucks occurred yesterday in Raleigh, a good distance from here… but there are three suspects who could have used my number (having all three taken my card out of my sight to take a payment, or getting the number some other way).  The rest of the places I used it, the card was never out of my sight and they swiped it into a machine so they couldn’t have easily gained the information from the card).  I’m NOT happy about that happening either and if I discover for a fact who did it, there’s going to be consequences.  I HATE thieves and I won’t hesitate to take whatever action is required to prevent them from stealing again  (legal or otherwise given the right circumstances).

Today, JoAnne gets to relax her back and rest, I’m tearing things apart, making coffee and preparing for the cold weather coming.  We are discussing giving up and quitting, selling the boat, getting an RV, going back to Colorado defeated, going on down the ICW, or choosing better sailing days on the outside.

Stay tuned.  We will let you know what’s next.

Fair Winds!

Rick

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!

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