Monday, November 30, 2009
The weather is warm and the winds 12 - 18 k and we are on a beam reach. It is a bit lumpy with 5 foot seas on the beam with a 5 - 6 second interval.
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We had a motor sail to start the trip, which was predicted by the Grib Files. This lasted for about 12 hours. Last night at about 9:45 PM the wind increased and we have not turned on the motor since. We called Chris Parker the weather guy in Florida on the SSB and it appears that we will have good wind all the way to Bonaire.
We have covered about 160 miles of a 400 mile crossing and it has been great.
I caught a 3 foot baracuda yesterday and let it go. We don't eat baracuda as they sometimes carry a toxin.
It is 88 degrees in the cabin and we cannot leave the ports open due to the spray. This makes it somewhat stuffy.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
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As we have indicated we are heading for Puerto Rico and not straight to Bonaire This is really due to our low fuel supply and poor forecast for the Caribbean Sea. We were hoping to get to Puerto Del Ray Marina tomorrow but the wind has dropped a bit and we may have to anchor out for the night. We look forward to hot showers, a full night's sleep, and clean laundry the most. Once there we will need to clean all the salt off the boat from the pounding we took.
Yesterday I almost caught a Wahoo about 2 feet long but it flipped the hook right near the boat. Today I got a hit but still no fish.
PS. It was 88 degrees at 8:30 AM
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Monday, November 23, 2009
We have now been at sea for a week and would much rather be sailing than motoring. We still have 15 gallons of fuel on deck and some in the tank. That will allow us to motor for an additional 40 hours or 200 nm.
We have out run winter. The temperature at 7:30 was 85 degrees and it will get hotter during the day.
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Yesterday we had a weird experience while motoring along. Between 2 PM and 4 PM we had 6 ships approach within about 8 miles of us. It seemed like a crossroads with all the traffic from all different directions. One ship got our AIS to blink, which shows a possible collision. We called him on the VHF radio and were assured that they saw our AIS image and would pass to our stern.
We have just altered course more south in hopes of finding wind.
We have all the fixings for Thanksgiving in case we don't. Of course we will have roast chicken as a turkey will not fit in our oven.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009
Our current position is 27 degrees 24'N and 068 degrees 06'W.
We are motoring east to get the easting done before the trades fill in further south. If the trades fill in we will need to head south which at this time would bring us to the DR so we are motoring to 065 degrees W.
We are both doing much better but the motoring is not as nice as sailing.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We are doing fine but it is cloudy with some rain, winds around 20 k and seas around 7 feet. It is hard to do anything on the boat with it bouncing all over the place. It took me about 2 minutes trying to pour Moira a cup of tea. I missed the cup with most of the water. I am currently typing at the nav station and bracing with my foot to stay on the seat.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009
We have been trying to hear Herb the Southbound II weather person on the SSB and did not have very good results. We have been able to hear Chris Parker the Caribbean weather person and spoke with him about a window to head from Beaufort to the Caribbean. He advised that we might have a window either Sunday or Monday but the seas might be 15 ft. However if we wait the winds will not be favorable for the Gulf Stream crossing. We are now considering alternatives to our plan as it is getting cold and there is a bridge near Charleston that will be worked on after Thanksgiving which will shut down the ICW for a month if we decide to head the way. While here we met back up with the Dave and Wendy who opted to leave Hampton for Beaufort to wait for a widow for Bermuda. We both ended up in the same marina when the forecast was for winds in excess of 40 knots. We also ran into Brilliant here but they left today to head south down the ICW.
Today is Wednesday the 11th and it has rained all day. This coupled with the facts that we are not seeing a weather window and that our bank has chosen this time to issue us a new credit card which they mailed to Maine and cancel the one we have has made this a truly gloomy day
We planned to leave Sunday, but the winds were high and the bridge wasn’t opening. When it did open later in the day, we watched a sailboat with a much bigger engine then ours struggle to get out of the marina. We decided to stay put one more day. The marina has a wonderful tradition of putting a newspaper under your dock lines each morning. It was fun to have something to read early in the morning. On Monday, the winds are still high but the bridgetender says that he will open when it isn’t gusting. We are the first sailboat to leave and then there are 3 other boats that follow us out. Once we are through the bridge we put out a furled jib and head down the river. We sail until we hit the land cut of the Pungo River Canal. Then the autopilot was started and did a great job steering and giving us a break from the helm. Although it was chilly out we ate a soup and biscuit lunch in the cockpit. Finally anchor in the Slade River for a very chilly, quiet night. Lots of use of the cabin heater lately!
Before leaving in the morning we work on the SSB system and the electrical interference we seem to be experiencing. Dick disconnects everything from the batteries and we still have a higher level of noise then we should. We are finally able to Chris Parker on the SSB for weather, but still have not been able to Herb. Dick is totally frustrated at not being able to solve this and we both worry about not being able to hear weather forecasts. The tropical storm IDA will have an impact on our plans and we will need to see what happens. Our plan is head to Oriental, NC and that puts us only 20 miles from Beaufort, NC. It is warmer today and the sun feels great. Tried to sail downwind on just the jib, but winds are light and variable and we end up motoring. We find a great spot to anchor in the town basin and go into the very cute, friendly town.
Leaving the next morning for Beaufort, we are surprised by the strength of the wind. We only have about 2 ½ mles to cross over the Neuse River but it is harder than we expected. After that we are in land cuts until just before Beaufort. Made it in through a cut that has been dredged since we were last here. Yeah, now we just need the weather to cooperate.!!! We stayed at the Town Dock Marina that night and picked up our mail. We were surprised to find our checks had not arrived from the Boat Show and found that they had been mailed to Maine instead. We then contacted Millie and Greg at our house and they said that they had received our checks. Millie over-nighted the checks to us however we missed our weather window and were now on a holding pattern.
Have made the decision to start heading south. Our friends on Brilliant will pick up the mail for us and forward it to Hampton. Chilly start to the day with winds in the 15-20 knot range with gusts to 25. Motorsailed for a while and then able to turn the engine off and sail. Made it to the Solomon Island area about 47 nautical miles. We anchor in Old House Creek in very still waters. Our friends on Lucky Bird arrived later and came over to Equinox for sundowners. We are in the cabin with the heater on to warm all of us. The next day we are up early and plan to be underway at first light. Plan to head to Deltaville, VA and sail with a reefed sail in winds around 20 -22 knots. Fight current for a while, but still average 6.5 knots covering almost 60 nautical miles. We see pelicans for the first time and checked our log from the last trip and find that we saw them around the same place last time. The entrance to Deltaville doesn’t seem to be as bad as we remembered it to be and don’t run aground this time in, but see depths that drop to 6.5 feet. Dick is nervous about our anchor spot and checks several times during the night to make sure we aren’t near a trawler that is anchored nearby. Rainy and chilly as we start out to go from Deltaville to Hampton the next day. Full foul weather gear on for the day. Downwind sail with only the jib out. Used our new autopilot for most of the day, but at one point went off course and we aren’t sure why. Had to shut off the breaker and start it up again. Another project for the ever increasing list!!!
We stay in Hampton from Tues to Friday – longer than we had anticipated, but necessary because of weather and projects. Hampton is a great stopping place and the harbormaster goes out of his way to make sure that you are happy. We have several packages waiting for us, including our mail. It amazes me how much junk mail we are still getting and it takes a while to whittle the pile down to mail that is really important. The Caribbean 1500 leaves from Hampton and we have the opportunity to see our friends, Rick and Julie Palm. This is the 20th anniversary and they will be doing the rally in their boat, Altair. They are also involved in the rally organization itself, Rick is the Chief Boat Inspector, and both he and Julie are involved in some of the lectures and roundtable discussion. It was great seeing them and we wish them the best on their trip to Tortola. Our friends, Bob and Alice Smith, on Lucky Bird will also be a part of the rally.
Friends that we meet at the SSCA gam, Wendy and Dave, are on the dock next to us and we have dinner on board. They have a Westsail 42, a heavy comfortable cruising boat that they plan to eventually take into the Pacific. They are currently waiting for weather to head to Bermuda. The next day we rent a car to head to West Marine and to do some final provisioning. We bought so much stuff that we didn’t think it would all fit on the boat, but it is surprising how many little hiding spots there are.
In our walks and drives around Hampton, Dick has tried to find places that he remembered from his childhood. His paternal grandparents lived in Hampton and his grandfather taught at Hampton Institute, which is now Hampton University. Due to the expansion of the school, the house that his grandparent lived in had been torn down and it is difficult for Dick to get his bearing on the camps. As we walked through downtown Hampton we came across the 1st Baptist Church, which had been built in the 1700’s. We stopped in the church’s office and were given a history of the church to see if there was any information. His grandfather, Edgar (E.H.) Bentzel, was mentioned about 10 times. He was very active on a building committee, financial committee, and as a lecturer. There wasn’t any mention of his grandmother, though we thought we saw her in a couple of pictures. It was great to find some personal connection to a place.
Dick has been working on getting the pactor modem in place and has been terribly frustrated that he hasn’t been able to get it to work. (Moira is just as frustrated because the noise is driving her crazy!!! And it’s just not the noise that comes from the SSB radio – Dick has added a few words and noises of his own!) At this point he has been in touch with Gary at Dockside Radio and it looks like we need a few more parts and those will need to be shipped to Beaufort. Because he has been spending so much time working on that and with things torn apart Moira hasn’t yet had a chance to try out the new sewing machine. She has spent time watching the DVD about it – can’t believe there is so much to know before starting the machine up!
We leave on Friday to start down the ICW. We’re about 200 miles from Beaufort where we hope to leave for the Caribbean. We reach mile 0 of the ICW in Norfolk about 10 in the morning and decide to take the Virginia Cut this time. Last time we went down the Dismal Swamp and thought we would give this route a try. Dick had also been told about a 32oz prime rib in a restaurant in Coinjock that he would like to see about. We make it to the Great Bridge lock around 12:40 for the 1 o’clock bridge opening. Dick had been here in 2008 when he helped to bring Bob Johnson’s catamaran back to Maine. As we travel down the ICW we are passed by many huge powerboats that don’t slow down and leave us in huge wakes. Many of the boats are calling ahead to Coinjock to make it to the marina there. After being swamped by one more boat, Dick decides that he doesn’t want to go to that marina to sit in the restaurant with all the folks that have blown by us. We decide to anchor near Pungo Ferry and have to try in four different spots. There has been a lot of shoaling and all of the anchorages mentioned in the guides are too shallow for us. In the dark we decide to just anchor outside the channel. By 6:30 all is quiet and we are passed by only barge that night.
We get another early start the next morning hoping to get to Albermarle Sound before the wind really picks up. It’s Halloween and we definitely do not get a treat that day! We had a miserable crossing with winds coming up to 20 knots on the nose. The sound is famous for its short, steep waves and we got to experience them across the whole bay. It seemed like every 4th or 5th wave would completely stop us and we would have to wait for the engine to rev up again. There was no place to turn back to because the last anchorage was very exposed. We kept going, but arrived at the Alligator River Marina in the dark and exhausted. Typically, we don’t go into marinas, but we felt that we had earned this. Dick also had the dinner special of pork chops and collard greens – he said he didn’t miss the prime rib at all!
Still working, but not for many days!!
The Power Boat Show ended on Sunday with some improvement to the weather. The docks started breaking up about 6:30 that night and Dick worked only a couple of hours. He finished up on Monday. Moira’s last day was Tuesday late afternoon when she finally said she couldn’t do any more. Her arms are now rock hard from all the hard manual work she has done over the past 3 weeks. Both of feel that this has been a great experience, especially with meeting lots of great cruising folks. The pay is very low, but with all the overtime we were able to pay for almost everything we purchased. Dick would love to be again on the water crew, but Moira would want to do something different.
Wednesday was wonderful – no work and should have been a lazy day, but laundry and food shopping needed to be done. We took care of that and then gave ourselves some free time. Thursday saw us looking to find some stainless steel for the solar panel. We found it by taking a bus and then walking to one of the marinas on Back Creek. You can be amazed by how far you can walk when you need to find different items! That night was the No Mo Boat Show party held at the Annapolis Yacht Club. Great food and company!!! Some of the cruisers that had worked the boat show had already left and many were preparing to leave in the next day or two. We were waiting for mail and one item we had purchased from the show and hopped to leave by the weekend.
Saturday was Moira’s sister’s birthday – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEANNIE!!!
More WORK, WORK, WORK!!!
The Sailboat Boat Show continued on Sunday and Monday under warm temps and beautiful, clear skies with huge crowds attending. Monday night was a special show in itself as the water crew began to open up the docks and the sailboats started to stream out – some putting on impressive maneuvers getting out of their spaces. As soon as the sailboats were all out some of the power boats started to come in. Dick worked very late that night changing docks and bringing in new power boats. There was a move to try to bring in the boats as quickly as possible because the weather was changing and strong winds were predicted. It also got very COLD! The Power Boat Show was very windy, rainy, and cold. We dragged out long underwear, long sleeved shirts and fleeces and winter coats to wear during the days of the show. Attendance was way, way off but there were people that did come and brave the weather. Standing outside all day long wasn’t fun at all! Getting back to the boat wasn’t any better. Drippy wet clothes were hung all over the boat and moisture dripped off all the ports and hatches. Running our heater may have warmed up boat, but increased the moisture dripping on our heads! Where were those warm tropical breezes when you need them??? On Saturday we finally had our 1st day off. It was miserable both in the boat and outdoors, so we decided to take the bus and see outside of downtown Annapolis. We ended up in a mall and went to see the movie, Where the Wild Things Are. Great movie, as well as, a place to stay dry and warm for hours.
WORK, WORK, WORK!!!
This week was a blur since we both worked many, many hours –both leaving and returning to the boat in the dark. Dick put in a little over 80 hours, Moira over 72. During the set up of the show we were fed 3 very good meals at a small restaurant, but during the two boat shows we were responsible for our own meals and usually came back to the boat for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or bowl of cereal and would promptly fall asleep. Although we didn’t have a day off during the Sailboat Show, we still managed to find time to spend lots of money getting big items like a solar panel, AIS, pactor modem, and a sewing machine in addition to many, many other things. Never got a chance to see any of the boats, but that is a maybe a good thing since we always end up comparing them to our boat and find out what we might be missing!
We did manage to put on our show for some folks. On one of the evenings after a long work day when we were heading back to the boat, Moira lost her balance while getting into the dinghy and managed to knock Dick’s glasses off. We both watched as his glasses arched up and plopped into the water and sink rather quickly. The murky water didn’t allow us to spot them, but Dick thought he had a good idea where they had landed. Returning to Equinox, we tore it apart looking for his other pair, but weren’t able to find them. Not haven’t planned for that expense, Dick decided he would tried to dive for them the next afternoon. He first used a lead line and thought the water was about 4 ft. He returned to the boat and put on his wet suit and then came back to the dinghy dock. At this point the Pride of Baltimore is right next to the dinghy dock and people are starting to get interested in what we are doing rather than then lecture happening on the deck of the ship. Dick used our small dinghy anchor as a weight to get him down, but it wasn’t enough. We just stayed on the surface kicking his feet. Moira went to get some additional weights from the boat show work space and returned with some large weights. Lifting all those floors came in handy!!! Dick slipped those down the string and used that to guide himself down. By now the tide was rising and the water was at least 6-7 feet. Dick couldn’t see anything on the bottom until his nose was almost in the muck so he started feeling around. As he started coming up and down for breaths of air, more folks started to watch from the deck of the Pride. Dick was getting exhausted and said he would try one more time. Unbelievable, he was able to find them by touch that last time!!! Needless to say, both the crowd watching and we were thrilled!! After that all Dick wanted to do was to take a shower to get rid of all that horrible water he had been in. Of course, we also found his other glasses about a week later.
We left the Gam full of ideas and excited to have met so many folks that we hope to see again during our travels. Motorsailed back north to Annapolis. We had earlier arranged with the harbormaster to rent a mooring for the month that we would be here and were told to pick up a mooring right outside of Ego Alley in downtown Annapolis. From our cockpit we were able to watch all the comings and goings in this very busy harbor. On Wednesday, Dick’s brother, Paul, came down to spend the night with us. He arrived very early in the morning and was able to join us for the Cruiser’s Breakfast at Chick and Ruth’s Deli. Later that day we spent time exploring Annapolis and the Naval Academy. The next day Dick and Paul went out for a sail while Moira used Paul’s car to get some shopping done. Being together 24/7 can be wonderful, but it’s also great (and necessary) to have time apart!
Our time working for the Boat Show started on Friday afternoon with an orientation. At that time we got our red staff hats and our assignments and work schedule. Dick was to work on the water crew – moving and putting together the docks, helping move boats into positions, and then taking them apart both during the changeover between shows and at the end . Moira ended up on the floor crew. She was the only woman and ended up moving large wooden platforms into place, shimming them into position and working with a forklift driver. We both had some great folks on our teams, but knew that it would be really hard work.
Very, very long 45 mile all day sail around Kent Island instead of using the 10 mile short cut through Kent Narrows after we heard the 3rd sailboat radio that they were aground. We anchored in St. Michael’s right across from the Maritime Museum. Celebrated our anniversary at the Crab Claw Restaurant with a traditional crab dinner complete with paper table cloths, mallets and beer. Had fun smashing and picking through the pile of crabs heaped on the table. That night we also tried our first video Skype call with Chris, Gretchen, and Ramona. We were able to see them very well on the computer screen, but the lighting on the boat where the computer is located is poor and we used a flashlight to illuminate our faces better. Hopefully, Ramona won’t be scared for life as she got to see her Gram and Pop Pop’s grinning, floating heads on the screen!
The next day we provisioned at local supermarket and then left for the Rhode River. Moira is gathering quite a collection of supermarket courtesy cards to benefit from their specials. Since we’re never sure which store is in the town, she carries all of them with her weighing down her pockets. Great sail to Rhode River under a variety of wind strength and direction. It never fails that when there are two boats out sailing it becomes a race. Dick was thrilled to blast past a Catalina 36, especially since we were dragging our dinghy behind us.
The Rhode River was the location of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) Annapolis Gam. Almost 90 cruising boats filled the anchorage outside Camp Letts – the site of all the activities for the gam from Thursday through Sunday. It’s a wonderful time to catch up with friends, meet new cruising folks, and listen to some great speakers. We went to a cocktail party on a small island and also visited the Smithsonian Research area in the northwest corner of the bay. A highlight for Moira was to get to meet and talk to Beth Leonard, author of several cruising books. We brought in from the boat a copy of Following Seas that has been with us on several of our trips and Beth autographed it for her. After listening to her talk about the Chilean Channels we both agreed that, although the area is breathtakingly beautiful, it isn’t anyplace that we wanted to cruise to!!
With gradually clearing skies we started heading further south down the Chesapeake. In Wharton Creek we were anchored in 5 ½ ft – have to get used to the very shallow water depths again! Left there for a nice, easy sail to Baltimore. Found a great anchorage just outside the inner harbor in Canton. We were very close to a major supermarket – always a bonus when cruising since we have to carry everything back to the boat. Spent the next 2 days exploring downtown Baltimore and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. Visited the National Aquarium and had lunch one day in the Little Italy section and the next day at a great hamburger place called 5 Guys. You got to munch on peanuts in the shell until your order came up. On Tuesday, we motored to Swan’s Creek and started seeing jellyfish for the 1sttime. Although small, the sea nettles can give you nasty welts. We then decided to take some time and explore the Chester River, which is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The 1st anchorage on the river was up Langford Creek by Cacaway Island, a beautiful, quiet anchorage. We were invited to the boat, Hurrah, for cocktails. They are from the Magothy River in Maryland, but have moorings for their boat in 2 locations in Maine. We had a wonderful time with them and enjoyed hearing about their travels and wine collection. They usually carry about 8 cases of wine on board – what a difference 10 ft can make on the storage capabilities of a boat! We usually stuff and cram in bottles wherever we can find some space. Our bottles typically wear some of Dick’s old socks to help protect them and muffle some of the noise of them rocking and rolling!
The next day we continued sailing up the winding river to Chesterton. In the river and along both sides were numerous duck blinds. We were told that this is a prime duck hunting area and that during hunting season most boats don’t travel on the river. Thankful that is still a few weeks away!! Both of us loved Chesterton and we spent 2 days here – lots of historic beautiful homes and very warm, welcoming folks. Had a great lunch outdoors at a small tapas restaurant. Our last anchorage off the river was on the Corsica River. Another beautiful anchorage across from the summer compound of the Russian Embassy. This area was a very active crabbing spot – both for commercial and recreational boaters. Many folks threw out small crab traps that were checked about every 20 minutes or they used a trotline, where the boat goes back and forth rolling on the line and scooping up the crab with a net. Interesting to watch, but difficult to sail around because it isn’t always clear what the buoy is attached to.
The trip from Cape May up the Delaware Bay to the C & D Canal is one that many cruisers dread if wind direction isn’t right. We left at 5:15am in the dark to catch the current and hoped that the predicted wind direction was correct. The one bridge that you need to go under from Cape May to get to the Bay is 55ft high and our mast is 53ft. Moira doesn’t look up as we go under the bridge because she is sure we will crash. Once out of the canal the winds were stronger than predicted – around the 20 knots – but from a sailable direction. Put a reef in the sail and had a great time heading up the bay seeing speeds around 8 knots with help from the current. We were the first boat from Cape May to make it to the small anchorage in Chesapeake City. Had sundowners with several other boats in the anchorage. The next day we toured the small Canal Museum and then later took off and headed to the Sassafras River. The current again helped us and covered the 23 miles in a little over 3 hours. High winds and heavy rains over the next few days kept us on the boat for the next few days.
Preparations to leave Atlantic Highlands for the overnight to Cape May started early in the morning. We went into town for some last minute items and found some great produce at the local farmer’s market. On our way back to the boat we bumped into someone that we had had last seen in Trinidad.
It was a really lumpy sail out around Sandy Hook and it didn’t smooth out for until we had gone over 5 miles. We were disappointed that the wind never came in the direction that had been forecasted, so we ended up motoring most of the time. This time we followed the coastline much closer in and Moira was thrilled that she didn’t have to worry about all the freighter traffic in the shipping lanes. On their watches during the night, Moira got to see firework displays in 3 different locations while Dick slept down below and he later got to see the bright lights of Atlantic City. Arrived in Cape May early in the morning and anchored near the Coast Guard Station. In the anchorage we meet up with friends, Pete and Stephanie, on their boat, Brilliant. We knew them from meeting in Antigua and Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands. It’s amazing how small the cruising community really is!