Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gone to Carolina

As I write this we're sitting at anchor in, essentially, the middle of nowhere. We're two miles south of Coinjock, NC, and there isn't a sign of humanity to be had. Well, excepting the 14.2 million crab pots around us. Other than that it's nothing but beautiful marsh and woodlands as far as the eye can see. The picture at right is Saturday's sunrise. The people of Coinjock have been very nice. All four of them. There is even a nice little restaurant that serves a nice little 32 oz. prime rib. I had the half-size portion and it still nearly killed me. We polished off a wonderful weekend with Lizz Sr. and Jeffrey and the Bassets, and tomorrow we move on along south. By Wednesday night we should be in Beaufort, NC.

Hey Big Fella(s)

We left Hampton on Thursday morning and shot across Norfolk Harbor with winds gusting over 25 knots (we hit 8.5 knots through the water with just the genoa up!). Just as we're getting near the Navy base, the fully loaded 950 foot long container ship that was anchored in the middle of the harbor weighs anchor and starts steaming toward the channel. The channel is probably about 350 feet wide, but this guy is 100 feet wide himself. Once these things get going in the open ocean, it can take them up to 2 miles to stop. No matter what measure of size you use (length, displacement, etc.), he's an elephant and we're a flea. Needless to say, I stand up and take notice when one of these suckers is moving around in the vicinity. So on down the channel we head, us on the left side near the Navy base, Mr. 800 lb. gorilla on the right. Umm...what's coming at us? Looks like two tug boats and ANOTHER 800 lb. gorilla! The reason 800 lb. gorrilla number one picked then to start steaming in is because his berth had just been vacated by gorrilla number two. So now we're sharing the 350 foot wide channel with TWO 100 ft wide behemoths. Trust me, the picture doesn't do it justice. We can't leave the channel to the left because that would send us into the heavily patrolled security zone around the Navy base (No, sir, we're not terrorists. I swear. I don't care what you've heard about us and the Statue of Liberty). We certainly can't cut across their bows. We just have to stick to our part of the channel. I liken it to walking along the shoulder of I-95 while tractor-trailers whiz by - you're sure they see you and that they aren't going to hit you, but you're still going to need to change your underwear once you get where you're going.

Through the Canal

After Norfolk, we entered the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). Day one saw us into our first lock near Great Bridge, VA. We shared the lock with a tugboat, and the whole thing was a pretty cool experience. They close the lock gate behind you, you tie up to the side, they fill the lock with water from the high side, and you leave three feet taller than when you came in. We spent the night tied up just on the other side of the locks, and the next day motored on down the "ditch", as they call the ICW. We saw a bald eagle, enormous great blue herons, and lots and lots of rain. We'd been damp and sticky for quite some time at this point, and just after getting the anchor down near Coinjock, the heavens really opened up. It absolutely poured!

As I write this, though, a brisk 20 knot north wind is howling through the rigging, cooling things down and drying them out. We're pretty cozy with our propane heater and oil lamps burning, but tomorrow might be a little chilly. Definitely glad to be continuing on south - hard to believe that less than a month from now we'll be anchored in clear blue water, looking at white sand beaches and palm trees. I am definitely looking forward to that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I have several friends who rank the title of this entry as their least favorite word...and to those friends reading, I apologize...but honestly, there is no better word to describe our state of affairs for most of the day. We've spent our last day in Hampton amidst thunderstorms from above and rising water from below. The thunderstorms require no explanation--only description--and only for those of you who've never lived in the south. They are the classic warm, humid rains that leave the air just as hot and sticky as it was before they came, and do nothing whatsoever to cool you off. The only good thing I can say is that the sound of the rain drumming on the cabin top is truly wonderful.
The water from below is a reference to our sump pumps (read: pumps that drain shower water overboard) that jammed today as Kevin was cleaning them out (what looked like a very dirty job from my vantage on the settee). He managed (as always) to get the pump fixed...but things were a little hairy there for a minute...and I think I now truly understand where the term "cursing like a sailor" comes from. The only enduring problem is that we discovered while trying to drain the pumps that the manual pump (what we'd use in a case of real disaster if we were taking on water and our electronic pumps failed) doesn't actually work. Nothing to be too freaked out about now, but definitely something we’ll need to fix before we head offshore again.
At the current moment, though, we are very dry and comfortable and quite enjoying our air conditioning while tied up to a free slip at the Hampton Public Piers. These nice folks are giving anyone who went to the Annapolis Sailboat Show a free night of dockage--which may not seem like a big deal to anyone who hasn't lived at anchor for an extended period of time. At anchor, you need to be vigilant about the amount of power and water you're consuming (which means no A/C, which is a huge power drain), and ever mindful about the fullness of your holding tank (no subtle way to explain this one--the holding tank holds human waste until you can either pump it out or discharge it overboard--which you need to be about 3 miles offshore to do). In contrast, while docked, you can plug into power and turn on lights with wild abandon; you can fill your water tanks at whim; and if the situation requires, you can attach a hose to your holding tanks and suck them clean (it's super gross, but strangely satisfying). Tonight being the last time we'll tie up at dock for a while, we'll be taking full advantage of all of these amenities before we hop into the Intracoastal and back to an existance of fewer lights and less water.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Are we there yet?

My butt is still defrosting from the last two hours spent sitting on Cielo’s cabin top peering into the darkness trying to make out crab pots in our path. Crab pots are plentiful all along the Chesapeake Bay, and when the boat is under power, it's important to make sure that you steer clear of them, lest you find your propeller tangled up in their lines. Spotting crab pots during the day is easy enough, but in the dark, it's a bit more challenging. Now, I know that some of you are wondering why, knowing this, we’d choose to motor down the Chesapeake Bay at night--and by the end of the day Kevin and I were definitely wondering the same thing.
The idea to keep pushing on to Hampton from where we'd originally planned to stop for the night seemed like a good idea at the time. We'd started the day motoring out of Solomon's, MD planning for a great sail in the 15-20 knots of westerly wind that was forecast. Unfortunately, those monkeys that the National Weather Service entrusts to provide the forecast had evidently been out late drinking again, as they blew the forecast entirely. We ended up with very light wind that shifted around from just about every direction but west, forcing us to motor from about 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Motoring is not the worst thing in the world, and actually allows us to get projects taken care of while underway. It is not, however, sailing by any means, and with the prospect of all the motoring we'll be forced to do once we hit the Intracoastal (due to its narrow nature), we were really looking forward to a day of wind.
Finally, at about 2:30, the wind started shifting around to the desired direction and began to pick up speed, which was great, except for the fact that 2:30 was precisely the time we were arriving at our intended anchorage of Deltaville, VA. We took a look at the charts and determined that there weren't any great places to put in between Deltaville and Hampton, VA, nearly 40 miles away, but with the wind piping up and a favorable current giving us a nice push, we figured we could make Hampton by around 7:30. We knew it would be dark by that time, but noted that it seemed like an easy anchorage to get into, and figured we could use some practice anchoring in the dark.
Well, just as on land, and most likely even more so, things at sea rarely go quite as planned. First, we misjudged our position and realized about 45 minutes later that our current heading had us fast approaching a shallow section of the bay. We quickly turned the boat and headed dead down wind, but the mistake caused us to loose some speed and it took a bit of time to get us back on track. Next, around 6:00 our wind began to die down from the steady 20 knots it had been blowing for the last three hours. We were still getting a nice breeze, but our speed dropped from about 7 knots to right around 6...and then 5...and then which point, Kevin fired up the engine, and I took my butt freezing post towards the front of the boat.
In the end, we managed to log 85 miles (which is a LOT for one day if you think in nautical terms, and not in terms of say, driving that distance, which would take you less than 90 minutes), miss the crab pots, and navigate into harbor and drop the anchor in the dark. I can admit that while we were getting here, I had my fair share of cranky moments, but now that I'm warm and cozy below decks with my glass of wine, I feel rather pleased of the progress we made the same time though, I'm also pretty happy that the trip is behind us and we can spend the next few days exploring Hampton, Norfolk and Portsmouth before heading into the Intracoastal some time next week.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Odds and ends

After leaving Baltimore on Monday, we spent the better part of the week in Annapolis attempting to make headway against our seemingly never-ending list of things to buy and projects to take care of before leaving the states. We're now the proud owners of a spinnaker (used for light air sailing), about 6 yards of SurLast fabric, for making a grill cover, bike bags and lee cloths (
Here's a tip....don't partake of the happy hour ($4) strawberry margarita and ($6) dozen wing special and then go back to your bouncy anchorage...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On the Boat Again...

Wednesday we finally got off of the dirt and back into the water, bringing an end to our lack of toilet and refrigeration on the boat. After a day at the dock spent completing in-water projects, on Friday we barreled out of Havre de Grace in 25 knot winds with gusts to 35 (technically gale-force gusts)!! My mom was along for the rocket ship ride down to Baltimore. We're currently anchored smack in the middle of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. No city beats Baltimore when it comes to being here on the water. Not Chicago, not San Diego, not San Francisco, not Miami, and sure as hell not NYC. It's calm and protected, beautiful, and we're a stones throw from everything. (That's Cielo anchored just to the left of the tall building in the picture, the Baltimore WTC.)


Baltimore even clears the streets for you to run. At least that's what we thought as we jogged out to Fort McHenry yesterday. Turns out it was the Baltimore Marathon. (Un)fortunately the marathon path was exactly where we wanted to run, so along we went. Our timing was such that we were running past all the late-starting walkers. We tried not to appear chagrined as we looked like the biggest underachievers on the planet, blowing past all these poor walkers, some of them old or somewhat handicapped, on miles 8-12 a mere 3 hours after the marathon's start. Literally hundreds of folks cheered us on and offered us drinks and police officers tried to direct our path (No, thank you, we don't need any water. Or Gatorade. Or gummy bears. Or Vanilla Goo. Thank you, yes, we know we're doing a great job. Yes, we'll keep it up. No officer, I don't want to take a left here. I know the marathon is that way. We're just out for a jog. Really.) We tried running on the other side of the street, on the sidewalk. Didn't matter. At times we just said screw it, and ran in the middle of the pack.

There Be Dragons Here

There are two odd and slightly annoying things about the anchorage in Inner Harbor. One is the USS Torsk, an old submarine docked right in front of the Aquarium. Some lovely and brilliant Parks & Rec employee has decided that an appropriate accessory for an old WWII era submarine is a loudspeaker on a timer that plays, over and over "...BWAAH, BWAAH, DIVE, DIVE, DIVE...BWAAH, BWAAH, SURFACE, SURFACE, SURFACE...". When that started going off at 7:30AM this morning I began rummaging around for a depth charge.

The other thing is that the anchorage coincides with the paddle boat rental area. Yesterday being one of the most beautiful days of the year, everyone in Baltimore decided it was time to rent a paddle boat. I would't mind the paddle boats so much, but these are not your average paddle boats. They are shaped like dragons, with 4' high heads and tails on the front. All day yesterday we looked out the ports and saw purple, green, and orange dragons swimming by, while the USS Torsk played a soundtrack of "Dive, dive, dive...". It's like cruising with Timothy Leary.

Uncle Sam Wants You(r Money)!

All the while this is going on I'm down below trying to finish up our taxes. Six months seemed like a long extension back in April. Not sure what happened. Regardless, they're done...finally! Now we can still say we are leaving the country, rather than fleeing it.

Dereliction of Duty

Also, apologies are in order for the gap in posts. It was nose to the grind stone over the past two weeks, and we didn't figure you wanted to read ad nauseum about sanding, scraping, painting, wiring, etc. Lord knows you wouldn't have wanted to smell us. In the end we got a lot done, and the boat looks GREAT! Still some projects on the list, but it has gotten significantly shorter.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Just wanted to put the word out into cyberspace: the folks at Tidewater Marina may be the nicest on the planet. If you have a boat and you need anything done and you're anywhere in the vicinity of Havre de Grace you'd be an idiot not to get yourself over there. Seriously.