Thursday, December 31, 2009

The ICW just goes on and on

Well I am wondering where I left off. I think the last post had us tied up at the dock in Surf City, NC two days past. So here we go again, I could very well sum up this posting with 3 short words - The ICW Again. But, that would not do the past few days justice, so I will elaborate just a bit.

Wednesday morning was frigid, I think it was the first time the cabin temp was below 40 when I got up. I went in and got another hot shower, then took advantage of a special the Hardee's was having - steak biscuits for 99 cents. Scraped through my change, and got 2 biscuits and coffee. Figured I'd have one for breakfast and one for lunch, since it is kind of difficult to make lunch while trying to make time down the ditch. I left the harbor ahead of Clay and Mary - we are still sailing together right now - and went out to the ICW to wait on an 8am bridge opening.

Bridges have been the trademark of the trip down the ICW so far. I can't even count how many bridges we have been under or draw bridges we have been through, the draw bridges can be especially aggravating, such as the Surf City Bridge that only opens on the hour. At the stroke of the hour the bridge opened, I had been idling in the current of the waterway for 30 minutes waiting, and we were off for the day. Pretty soon Clay outpaced me and I could see them pull away in the distance. It was good that we could keep in radio contact, and had the phone, because every so often Mary would call and let me know what things were coming up that I needed to know about, especially navigational hazards. There were a few sections, mainly around inlets where the ICW met the sound or the ocean, were shoals had built up near the inlet and the channel was not where it should be, or was much shallower than it was supposed to be. At one point, near day marker #150, I bumped over 3 shoals, really convinced I was going to run aground, but I did not. However, the bumping and heaving this caused really scared the heck out of Spook, and she went down below and stayed for the rest of the day.

Then there were more bridges. I just about caught up to Clay and Mary around noon, but I missed a bridge lift and lost a half an hour. Then it happened again about another 10 miles farther on. So here I am, trailing them, and thinking just how much farther do I have to go? Around 2pm I got a call from them, they were entering the Cape Fear River, just south of Wilmington, and had decided to call it a day in a little town ahead called Southport. I was about 10 miles behind them by that point, so I told them I'd be there when I got there, and I'd call when I did.

We had a really good night in Southport, and what a great little town. It is right at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and there is a ton of history here. This is where all the river pilots lived and would row or sail out to incoming ships, to guide them up the river and into Wilmington. It was also a very important spot during the Civil War, as the pilots would get the blockade runners through the shoals and into port with supplies the Confederacy desperately needed. We had an excellent dinner in a local restaurant just up from the boats, and watched the Weather Channel to see how we were going to be with the storm that was coming our way. According to the weather, we were supposed to get drenched Wednesday night, which we did, and have a good bit of rain today, which we didn't. But, we did wake up to extremely thick fog. We put off launching until 930, but then we were underway, our goal was Myrtle Beach for New Years Eve.

All day long we ran through the fog. It wasn't bad at first, and Clay got a good bit ahead of me, but then it got thicker and thicker, and he had to back off. I was fighting the current and only able to average 5 knots, so I did not back off, just kept a very good eye on what was coming ahead. There was a new bridge under construction about 10 miles into the trip, and when Mary called and said they were passing through that area, I knew I was not too far behind. I caught up to them in the fog not long after, and trailed Clay as we wound on down towards South Carolina. Just after noon Clay ran aground on a sand bar at mid channel, and I backed off to see if he was going to be able to get off on his own. He did, and we moved on, and then Clay called and said he was coming along side, Mary was fixing me a sandwich, and we were going to do an underway replenishment. So cruising down the ICW, at just about 4 kts, Clay comes alongside and Mary hands me a hot cheese and bacon sandwich, talk about service.

We had lost some time due to fog and currents, and then we came to the Sunset Beach Swing bridge around 2pm. This was a bridge like no other I have ever seen - it is a pontoon bridge that is motorized, and it starts up and opens every hour on the hour - with the exception of times of extreme low tide, where it opens when the bridge master thinks there is enough water in the channel for boats to clear a cable that spans the bottom of the cut. Guess what? It was just after dead low tide when we arrived at 2, on a day of a full moon, and the low tide for today was forecast to be .7 feet BELOW mean low tide. So what did that mean? We had to wait. And wait we did. I dropped anchor and we rafted up and waited for just over an hour for the water to rise enough for us to get through. One interesting thing we did see though was some poor guy that misjudged the channel at high tide in the fog, ran aground, and the tide left him totally stranded and out of the water for most of the day.

Once this really odd bridge finally opened we knew we were too far behind schedule, so we went to our fall back plan, anchoring out in Calabash Creek, which was not too far away, and just inside the SC line. So here we are, rafted up, the boats tied together,and our anchors out in a type of Bermuda rig - my anchor is at 6 oclock and Clay has his anchor at 12 oclock - so we should stay put in just about the same spot all night. Mary fixed a great dinner, and we had a small celebration early New Years Eve. Tomorrow is a new year, and we are sailing through a new state, and hopefully, if all goes well, we just might make it to Georgetown by tomorrow night. Happy New Years to everyone, and hope all are safe and well, as I am.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the ICW

While I was tied up in Oriental Sunday, I met a whole ton of really nice folks, but most notable were Clay and Mary. They are aboard a Morgan 36 Out Island named Gemini, home port Woodbridge,VA. I met them on the town dock in Oriental, and we chatted for a while, and that was when I found out they are also fellow Virginians. They had been in Oriental over Christmas, and were planning to leave Monday as well. What was really fortunate for me was the fact that they had a rental car to return in New Bern, and were more than willing to let me tag along and take me by Walmart to see if I could get a new phone. The 3 of us talked over a tentative game plan of doing the rental and phone, then leaving Oriental around noon - destination Morehead City.

The rental car and phone mission went off without a hitch, and when Mary and I returned from New Bern Clay had just finished doing an oil change on their generator. We had a quick huddle, and then made for our boats and got ready to cast off. In no time flat the engines were warming up, and we were getting underway - and ahead of the noon goal at that. We motored out of Oriental, across the Neuse river, and then into Adams creek. It was really windy out on the river, but, being as we were so close to the top of the river, the waves were not that bad, but the wind was blowing. Entering the creek gave us both a break from the wind, and after that it was really calm and fast motoring. We passed a bunch of really expensive homes, and chatted over the radio about how ridiculously large they were, and then about 100 yards further on, we were passing a trailer park. That's North Carolina for you I suppose. However, it was probably the first time I have ever seen a trailer on stilts, like a beach home. The trip down the canal was fairly short and pretty quick, 28.6 miles in just over 4 hours. All of it except the last 8 miles was under engine alone, once we broke out into the Newport River I was able to raise the jib and give a bit of an assist to the engine. In this stretch I saw dolphins again, the second pod I have seen since I have started, and I would not have thought they would have been up this far north this late in the year. On into Morehead City, where it seemed the whole town was shut down, save one antique shop and the Chamber of Commerce.

The public docks were nice and brand new, however, these are the first set of town docks that I have been to that charge per night, luckily for me there was no one at the office, and no one came down to the docks, so I was able to spend the night tied up - for free. Mary and Clay were tied up to the dock next to me, so after the boat was secure, and Spook got in a good walk, I joined them for dinner, as they had been kind enough to extend me the invitation. Dinner was great - roast beef, mashed potatoes and green beans, all done well and it definitely was a nice change from the one course meals I usually cook.

Clay and I went over charts, ICW info books and the GPS for a good long while - he has a great chartplotter - and we came up with our game plan. It is 154 miles to Myrtle Beach, and he and Mary want to do New Years Eve there. So, we planned on 60 miles for Tuesday, 60 Miles on Wednesday, and finish up on Thursday with a short day. We found a cheap fuel stop in Sneads Ferry, so we planned on putting in for fuel there.

Tuesday morning was freezing. 35 degrees and very windy, we all hoped that once we got out of the Bogue Sound and into the more protected water of the ditch that we would have a reprieve from the wind. We left the dock at 8 after coffee and bisquits and started out for the day. The plan was for an average of 5 knots, and as we started I wondered if we were going to be able to make that - I was only doing 3.5 against the tide and wind, at 2100 rpms which I knew was burning fuel like crazy.

We finally made more protected waters around 1030, and as we thought, the wind was dampened by the shoreline, and we actually picked up a positive current. That held until we were at the 18 mile mark for the day, when we got to Cape Carteret, where there was an inlet with a swift current. That slowed us down some, and then it was on to Swansboro. This part of the trip was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, as I was stationed at Camp Lejeune 10 years earlier, and we used to love quite close to Swansboro. I was caught up in memories as I passed through many familiar waterways, the White Oak River, Freeman Creek and Queens Creek, which went right up behind my old house there. I got a call on the radio from Mary, they had dragged bottom right after Swansboro, at the 55 marker, and they adviced I hug the mark as I came through, which I did, to no avail. I draw a bit more than they do, and I not only dragged once, but 3 times on my way through. This scared poor Spook, who promptly went back down below and got in her bunk.
Down past Camp Lejuene, through the Onslow Beach draw bridge, and then I drew up alongside Clay and Mary, and she passed me a nice hot sandwich. Talk about service! Not long after this I saw the second pod of dolphins for the day, and once again I was amazed to seem them this far north this late in the season. I suppose they don't go south, but hang around, I might have to look that up, because for the longest time I just assumed they went south for the winter too.

We fueled up at the New River Marina, where diesel was $2.32 a gallon, the cheapest we could find on our route, and the cheapest I have seen so far. Arden took 28 gallons of diesel, and I got a gallon of gas for the outboard. On the way into the fuel dock there was an uncharted sand bar, and Clay ran aground hard. He did a great job of getting her free, using the Genoa to lift the bow and pivot his boat off the bar. I was impressed, as I thought I just might have to tow him off. We all kicked around the idea of anchoring there for the night, but we decided to push on a bit farther, as it was only 330pm and we were not as far along as we wanted to be.

We pressed on for another 2 hours, until right at sunset, and right about when I was ready to call Clay to see when they wanted to anchor, he called me and said they had found a marina just to the north of the Surf City bridge. Talk about the right place at the right time, extremely protected, nice docks - and a hot shower. We had made 49.3 nautical miles in just at 9 hours of cruising, not too bad for a day. Not the 60 we wanted, but very close. (the ICW mile markers are in statute miles, not nautical miles, so we were very close to the 60 statute miles we wanted to make) I had dinner with my new friends again tonight, and then took advantage of the shower, heck, I might just take another one early in the morning.

So tomorrow we try for another 50 or 60 miles, and hopefully we will be across the Cape Fear River, and just north of the South Carolina state line. I am harboring a hope that there will be a magical temperature change at the South Carolina line, because it has been so cold for so long.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oriental Town Dock

Mom brought to my attention that Arden was on the Oriental Town Dock webcam. Here are a few pictures of her there. I have spent the day cleaning, organizing, and straightening up, and have had alot of folks come by looking at the boat and asking about her - what she is, where I am heading, where I came from, and on and on and on. Feeling just a bit lonely today, despite all the folks coming by, call it the winter blues, hopefully it goes away soon.

Found out from a guy over in Matthews, which is across the river, that the city marina in Morehead City has the cheapest fuel in the area, so I am going to put off getting fuel until I get there, as funds for the month of Dec are running pretty low, and having to buy a phone is not going to help that out at all. I am not sure what I am going to do about keeping the phone dry, but I sure can't afford to have another one get wet. I think this makes 3 dead phones for the year, all due to dunking, 2 went into the drink altogether and were lost, and now this one got wet. I suppose I need a waterproof phone that floats, and is made by Motorola, and is supported by the Boost network. Not too tall of an order, but I know if it exists, it would be damn expensive. But the good news is, once I get to Morehead City, the Boost network has pretty good coverage, all up and down the coast, including the entire state of Florida.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dockside again, at last

The silt on the bottom of Shallowbag Bay is some tenacious stuff, I have spent a good part of the last 3 days cleaning it off of my anchor chains, the deck, and every where it got tracked as I did day to day boat stuff. It is amazing how that stuff seemed to get everywhere, but I think most of it is gone now, or at least it is not nearly as evident and prevalent as it was.

In addition to sailing and cleaning, I have been out of contact for the past 3 days, the phone was working until I lost signal Thursday around 3pm, since then the phone has died, well the keypad has, but from what I can tell, I have had no signal so it was kind of a moot point. I am now in Oriental, NC, still have no phone signal, but I do have great internet courtesy of the coffee house directly across from the public dock. So, here is a recap of the past few days. I wrote some of this at anchor last night, so it should be pretty much up to date, even if it is a bit lengthy.

Visiting is over, and I am underway, really headed south now and truly sailing. I suppose some might say I have spent way too much time dawdling about in Carolina, but there were things to do (making arrangements for my storage unit, doing a bit of resupply) and people to see - Beth, the folks at the Pelican, Ali and her little people, Gary and Alice, Ali and company again - but now I have really begun this voyage of mine, and I am truly on a southerly course.

The morning of Christmas Eve I took my time getting underway, I went in to walk Spook and then grabbed a cup of coffee at the "Coffee House on Roanoke Island" (thats the name of the place, I swear) with Spook in tow. Yes, like alot of places in Manteo, our four legged friends are welcome at the coffee house. I weighed anchor around 945 and by 1000 I was headed out down the channel. After barely avoiding disaster on the way in last Friday in the storm, I marked all possible obstructions on the GPS on my way out. I also made sure to save the track I took, so that returning up that narrow channel will be easier in the future. I cleared the channel through Shallow Bag Bay around 1030, and raised sail. It took a bit to round the island, but by 1145 I was passing under the Manns Harbor bridge. (Rt 64/164 bridge, the locals call it the old bridge) and boy did it look close to the tip of my mast. I checked and rechecked the clearance on the map, the bridge has a vertical clearance of 45 feet at high tide, but my 34 foot mast seemed awfully close from my vantage point.

Almost all of my sail on Thursday was under wind power alone, I have burned up alot of diesel motorsailing so far, so now it is time to let the wind move me for free - no matter how fast or how slow that may be. Under certain conditions and points of sail Arden is a good bit faster under sail power alone, although there are times when that "iron wind" sure does help out. You would think that when the wind is directly behind Arden that would be when she is sailing the fastest, but unfortunately that is not the case. For once the weather forecast was right (actually the NOAA marine forecasts are usually pretty spot on) and the wind was out of the north - directly astern - and blowing pretty good at 10-15. Sailing before the wind, or running, may not be the fastest point of sail, but it does have a few advantages, most noteworthy of those being that you do not feel the wind since you are moving with it. I don't think the temps out on the water reached the forecast high, but at least it was not freezing. All day I ran downwind, only averaging 4.5 knots for most of the day, but then when I started for the place I had picked to anchor I made a 90 degree turn to starboard (right turn Clyde) and that put me on a beam reach, and we really really took off. Arden will do about 7.5 knots under the right conditions, and a beam reach in 15 kt winds is just about "the right conditions".

I picked a small bay on the western shore of the Pamlico Sound for my first anchorage, and it was a really good choice - nice and protected, moderately "deep" water (in the sounds 10 feet can be deep water) and tucked in away from any possible traffic. I got to the marker just at sundown, the timing could not have been better, and motored in to anchor. I may have mentioned this before, but I really dislike day markers. I know that lighting every marker would be costly, but in the dark (it was pitch black Thursday night) it is damn hard to see those things. I had to totally rely on my charts, my depth finder and my GPS, and even then I did not see the day markers until morning. One of my biggest fears is running in to a day marker in the dark, and it almost always seems like I reach anchorage right after sundown. Thursday was a short day, almost 8 hrs sailing, and 43.8 miles, of course not all of it in the desired direction, such is sailing.

Christmas day came early, up at 5am, washed up, made tea, and actually toasted some english muffins for breakfast. Felt a bit lonely as I hauled up the anchor, but the adventure beckons, so off I go. The majority of the day passed uneventfully - moderate breeze, average wind about 8 kts, speed just about 4 kts, most of it in a southerly direction, and a good bit of sunshine. Sometime around 2pm I took a good hard look at the GPS and the chart, I needed to decide where to head for the night. Swan Quarter was the original goal, and it was 14 miles away, well more like 17 with the course I was on. Ocracoke was 12.5 miles away, probably more like 15 counting on channels and cutbacks I would have to make to get there, but the wind was really pushing me in that direction. Oriental was 32 miles away, or about 8 hrs, so I pretty much eliminated that as an attainable goal. So, Swan Quarter or Ocracoke? In the end I chose Swan Quarter, the channel was easier to navigate, and it looked like the anchorage would be reasonably protected. I ended up batting .500, it turned out to be an easy sail in, but protected it was not.

As I neared the marker for the Swan Quarter channel I heard a very loud "whoosh" next to the boat. It completely took me by surprise - I was occupied reading - and I jerked around to see what had made the noise. I saw nothing, save a very distinct swirl in the water alongside the boat. Seconds later there was another "whoosh" on the other side, and as I turned, I caught a glimpse of a fin disappearing beneath the waves. Then there were more fins, all around the boat. A large pod of dolphin had decided to pay me a visit and play, there must have been 12 or 15 of them, and they swam alongside, and under, and in front for about 20 minutes. They must have circled around, or there were more than I thought, but I would hear them breach behind the boat, and then they would appear alongside, some would swim under and pop up on the side opposite the one they drove from. Quite a distraction, and very entertaining.

As I turned up the channel to head to Swan Quarter, my friends must have had enough, as I did not see them again once I made my course change. Right about then the rain started to come down, slow at first, then really coming down hard, and it continued that way until I quit for the night. The channel in was fairly wide, it is a main hub for the Ocracoke ferry, and the sail in was pretty easy. However, the anchorage was not nearly as protected as the chart showed, but it was a place to drop the hook, so I did and got the boat secured for the night. I made 42.4 miles in about 10 hours. Not too bad for a days sail, but I was ready to relax a bit and bed down. As I threw together dinner, canned ham and rice for Christmas dinner, the wind began to pick up, and the rain came, it rained buckets full, and I think at one point I heard thunder. Needless to say, I spent a very rough night on the anchor, with the wind howling straight up the channel. Bet it was alot calmer over in Silver Lake, the Ocracoke harbor. I set the anchor alarm on the GPS, that way I'd be alerted if I drifted to far from the set point, but I did not realize that the alarm was set from the point I engaged it, not the point I was anchored at. Duh. So, sometime in the night, well 0330 in the morning actually, I was jolted out of a deep sleep, and a good dream, by a shrieking alarm. I scrambled out of my sleeping bag to check the GPS, only to see that I had swung on an arc around the anchor, and I was now 180 degrees from where I had been, and, over 100 feet from where I had engaged the alarm. The good thing was, the alarm worked, and it got me up, but I could clearly see by the GPS track that I had swung a perfect arc around the anchor. It took a bit, but I finally got back to sleep, and my butt stayed in the sleeping bag until almost 7am.

This morning it was very warm, and after all that rain that brought on a very heavy fog. I fixed tea and another english muffin, and cleaned up the boat some more as I waited for the fog to burn off. I wasn't about to get the dinghy inflated, so I got out the puppy training pads and had a go at trying to get Spook to do her thing on the boat. I'm not sure if it was the puppy pad, or the fact that she had not gone in 48 hrs, but after I went back down below to square things away, she christened the foredeck. I came out and she was looking really guilty, and kept looking towards the bow of the boat. I went up and looked, and sure enough, she finally caught on to doing what I needed her to do, and where it needed to be done. I had to really reassure her that it was ok, and finally after alot of "good dog...good girl" and a bunch of scratching, I think she got the message that all was ok and she wasnt in trouble.

Just about 9 the fog lifted, and off I went again. Destination: Oriental. The western part of the Pamlico Sound has quite a few shoals, I dodged the Middle Ground shoals leaving the Swan Quarter channel, and I took a heading for the Neuse River. Just north of the mouth of the Neuse there is a very long shoal, that reaches way down and blocks the river entrance from the west and north. This is Brant Island Shoal, and it is about 8 miles long. However, in the center it is a bit broken up, and there is a mile or so stretch that has a depth of 7 or 8 feet. If I could make this gap it would save me about 12 miles of sailing down and around. So taking really careful bearings, and watching my latitude and longitude really closely, I made for the gap. As I approached I must have second guessed myself a dozen times, but, there are a ton of places I have sailed in the past b2 weeks that are less than 8 feet all the time. So saying a quick prayer, and holding my breath as I crossed, I made my way over the bar. I watched the depth gauge like a hawk, ready to wheel her over and head out if it got too shallow, but I went from 15, to12, 10, to 8, to 9, 10...and I was across! I had made a huge gamble based on the charts, and it paid off. After making the gap I sailed on about another mile or so before changing course and heading for the river. I crossed paths with another sailboat at this point, and raised them on the radio. It was the Eastern Pearl out of Newport, NC, and we chatted for sometime, and they commented on the fact that I was under sail. I bit my tongue, as I have done my share of motorsailing, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have purely motored and not augmented wind power. They had gone over to Ocracoke for the holiday, to see how the islanders did Christmas, and confirmed that Silver Lake was a great anchorage through the storm. Maybe next time I won't second guess my sentimental nature and will go for an anchorage that has personal appeal as well as being practical.

The rest of the sail was uneventful, just sailing up the Neuse, until I got to Oriental. The channel there is very narrow, but also well marked (it is the sailing capital of NC, as all the street signs proclaim) and I made my way into the harbor- in the dark, again - and tied up at a very accessible dock. As soon as I tied up I was greeted by a liveaboard, and after a bit of conversation, she pointed out where the public dock was, and suggested I walk up there to scope it out. I took Spook, and we walked a few blocks and around the corner, and there was the public dock, nestled right in among the local shrimping fleet. Spook did her thing, and back we went to the boat. It was alot closer via water than by land (that has to be a first) and we were tied up to the dock in no time. Out for another walk, and the nearest pay phone, where I called Mom and had her relay to all. 48.4 miles for the day, in just over 10 hours. I think that puts the three day total at roughly 135 miles, not to bad for going from sun up to just after sundown.

I am going to spend a day here in Oriental, and then head for Beaufort/Morehead City, where I hope to be able to get a new phone. That puts me leaving Oriental Monday morning, and hopefully Beaufort that evening, or Tuesday on the outside.

On land for now

John is in Oriental NC.  Mom says he will stay there tomorrow and sail theMonday for Morehead City ETA 2 days?

long time no hear

its hard to go this long hearing nothing, so I decided to take the advice of Dad and look at the map just to see how many miles this stretch from Manteo NC to Beaufort SC is. Turns out if we were driving this distance Google Earth says it would take over 8 hours, so imagine the sail time. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

South Bound Again

Tomorrow morning I set out from Manteo and turn south heading down the Pamlico Sound. My next official stop will be Beaufort, where I intend to head out into the open ocean and make the sail for Florida. It will probably take me 2 or 3 days to transit the sound, and then another day to get to Beaufort. So it is going to be Christmas on the water. Depending on the weather, I may lay over there for a day or so, but if the weather window is good, I am going to head out immediately. I am not sure if my phone will work, or if it does if I will have reception. So far the phone has been kind of hit and miss.

This is the part of the trip that causes me just a bit of anxiety, going out into the open water alone. In reality, the ocean should be much smoother than the sounds, the waves out there have more distance between them, and, a 5 foot wave on the ocean is a smooth rolling wave, whereas in the Bay or any of the sounds, where it is much shallower, they are steep and sometimes breaking waves. The Wikipedia definition of a sound is: "In geography a sound or seaway is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait).
There is little consistency in the use of 'sound' in English-language ."

All I know from my experience that here in NC they are relatively large, shallow bodies of water, most are not deeper than 25 feet, and many parts of all of them are much shallower, and not navigable by my boat. I am all topped off with water and fuel again, the pantry is full, and my clothes are all washed and clean. Gary and Alice had ordered me a pair of waterproof sailing gloves from Defender Marine, so between those and the gloves Beth gave me I should be able to stay much warmer than I have been so far.

Last night was frigid, when I got on board it was 38 in the cabin, and the temp was falling. When I woke this morning, the cabin temp was around 36, outside temp was much lower, there was a very thick frost - and - there was ice on the water here in Manteo Harbor. I took Spook in for a walk and to get more kerosene for the stove and heater, and I noticed as I dinghied in that there was a nice thin film of ice from about 50 yards out on into the dock, and it got thicker the closer I got to the pier. I walked about 6 miles today going out to see if I could find a burner for the stove, as before, no luck, perhaps I can find one in Florida.

Right now I am in the Coffeehouse On Roanoke Island, using their net, enjoying a cup of really good coffee, and getting a bit warmed up. My friend Ali and I have been here a few times, and in addition to good coffee they have just incredible hot chocolate. I've had just a few cups of that since I have been here, does wonders on cold days. The clerk here has been extremely helpful, after hearing of my tale of walking all the way to the other end of the island, she started to call around trying to help me find the stove burner, again, with no luck. The thrift store here had a stove, but no burners, so close, but.....

Today I made a few repairs to the stove and heater, and cleaned out all the burners. God knows I am going to need them working well tonight, but I think this is the last bit of really cold weather for a few days. But, in a week or so cold weather will be mostly a memory, and I will be in a much warmer place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

High tech...Low tech...No tech...

I made it through the big winter storm of '09 fairly well, but it has been slightly costly - my cell phone and the remote internet antenna were victims of water damage, and not even damage of direct rain or spray. So I apologize to all that have not heard from me, I try to do the best I can with what comm systems I have that work at the time. I tapped into the internet right now, and I suppose I am going to have to try and get a new phone, since after 3 or 4 days of drying out my phone is still not working right.

I left Edenton on Friday, Dec 18th, knowing there was a developing low and cold weather on the way. After watching the weather channel at Gary and Alice's, I decided that as bad as it was going to be, it was not going to be as rough, or probably as cold as that storm I rode out in the bay on the way down, so I set out fairly early, after Gary and Alice brought me coffee and biscuits for breakfast. The option was to set through some extremely cold weather at the dock in Edenton, probably having to pay for the next few nights being tied up, or head towards the Outer Banks and hopefully a bit warmer conditions. (the public docks at Edenton are good for 2 nights tied up for free, after that there is a charge) It had been cold that night previous, around 32 in Edenton, but the morning was warming quickly as I cast off docklines around 0730 and motored away from the dock.

Gary and Alice saw me off as I raised sail and headed down the channel. The wind was coming out of the Northeast, and I suppose it was right around 10 kts. I was making good time out of Edenton Bay and out into the Albemarle sound, about 5.5 kts, 6 kts at times, and I cleared the Sound Bridge right at about 0930 or so. Gary and Alice were on shore at the base of the bridge as I got ready to slide through, and as I came out of the bridge abutments, I heard a horn blow and assumed it was them. A call interrupted by bad cell reception confirmed this, and I set a course as tight to the wind as I could manage, trying to make the best time I could down the sound. Knowing bad weather was coming, I took a gamble, and tried to make my tacks as long as I could at the best speed I could muster, my logic was that a moderate speed in the right direction was better than blazing speed tacking back and forth. I am not a sailing tactician, so I don't know what course of action is more productive, but I feel I made a pretty good choice, as I made just over 60 miles in just over 12 hours.

As the day wore on the wind changed direction and gained velocity. At times when that happens the wind velocity can offset a slight change of wind direction, giving the boat what is called "a lift". For me it worked out, and I was able to just about hold my original course, and was still making good time. The wind was pretty much coming out the East now, and as such the waves were beginning to build, having 40 or 50 miles of open water to gather height and strength. By noon I was beating to the windward pretty well, and plowing into some pretty good size waves. The wind was continuing to increase, and I put a reef into the main, leaving the working jib up. I started to pound pretty well into the waves, some burying the bow and completely washing the deck. It was at about this point that I decided that the conditions were bad enough to warrant putting my phone below and out of the weather. What I didn't count on was the slight leak that I have sometimes around the companionway soaking my phone.
I made 4 tacks total during my trip down the sound, and by 1530 I was on a lay line (direct course) for the Roanoke sound. I had about 16 miles to go, and was making between 4.5 and 6 knots, so I figured I'd get into protected water just about 1800 or shortly there after. The rain began right after that, and I sailed on in the spray and rain, which had started pretty lightly, and then began to come down. Funny enough, it was still fairly warm, and with the Kokatat suit on I wasn't too uncomfortable. I was just about on my marks, and I got into good water, with fewer and smaller waves just after dark, at about 1745. The rain cleared off right about that time, and I began to pick my way into the channel after dousing the sails. It was then that I went for the phone to notify everyone I was ok, and I realized that the phone, although inside, had still gotten soaked. I got out one call, which was interrupted, and then it died completely.

The trip through the channel was pretty daunting, I knew it was a tight channel, and was marked fairly well, but, a lot of the marks were day markers (not lighted), and there was a fish trap extending into the channel at one point, that I did not see in time and plowed right through. Fish traps are a series of posts driven into the bottom, that suspend a net, which leads to a "corral" formed out of net and many posts. Luckily for me I was just below the corral when I saw the posts appear out of the darkness, but by that point I was unable to avoid running through the line of posts and the net I knew was strung between them. A few tense moments passed, and then I was through, fortunately the shape of the keel prevented the prop and the rudder from getting fouled, which would have been disastrous. After I safely cleared this hazard, I checked my position, and my charts, and the trap definitely did extend into the channel.

I made anchorage around 2030 or so after making a slow journey down the channel, from marker to marker, and set out a Bahama Rig with my anchors, knowing that the weather was supposed to deteriorate and get worse, and that the bottom of the sound was silty and had not provided good holding previously. A Bahama Rig is when you set out one anchor, and then move the boat, or dinghy out a second anchor at about 180 degrees in relation to the first anchor. I wasn't comfortable motoring the boat with an anchor and anchor rode in the water, (a fouled propeller is no fun to clear, and I didn't want to chew up my anchor line) so I got out the dinghy and inflated it. The wind was up to about 25 or 30 kts by now, and the dinghy was bucking around like a kite as I pumped it up. I got out the second anchor and got it set, and found that this rig worked quite well, as the boat held position and did not drift about at all, despite gusts that topped about 50 mph. After anchoring and securing the boat and gear on deck, I checked the barometer, which was down around 29.25 inches, I think the lowest I have seen it go while I have been actively observing it. The storm passed straight over Roanoke Island, and it dumped a ton of rain, filling the dinghy easily with 3 inches of water. I am glad I was no further north than I was, or up in Solomons, as it seems everyone back home and up in MD got pounded with snow. (see Liz' post with the snow pics) I am waiting for some gloves Gary and Alice ordered to arrive, and then I head south again - Thursday the temps are supposed to rise, and the nights will not be below freezing as they have been, and the day time temps will be in the upper 40's and low 50's.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

O Brother Where Art Thou?

If you are out there and can read this then you know that you are in real trouble for not letting me know how you are.  Meanwhile, here's what you are missing in Calvert County....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Polar Express....Here We Go

I am leaving Edenton this morning in freezing conditions, 32 degrees here and the threat of a winter storm on my heels. I hope to at least make Manteo today, it seems that a gale is going to develop later tonight, and I'd like to be in a nice protected area if it comes. Gary and Alice are coming to see me off, I think they would really like to see their old girl under sail. Can't blame them for that at all, she is a beautiful boat.

I think I would rather sail in freezing precipitation than cold rain, but I think if we get precip today it is just going to be cold cold rain. I am making a huge thermos of hot tea, and then going to go shower and get the boat ready to go. Check back in later when I have net again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Edenton by last

Tuesday dawn came socked in with fog, it was much cooler, around 54 degrees and I started the day by taking Spook over to the little park on the Manteo waterfront for her morning walk. We walked about downtown, and then headed back out to Arden to get ready to get underway.

I have to back up a bit, I think I had reported earlier that there had been a few problems with my little Cruise and Carry outboard - yes that is the brand name - and it was not working right. Monday was plenty sunny and pretty warm, so I sat out in the cockpit and tore down the little outboard while I waited for my friend Ali to get off of work. Turns out my fear of a destroyed lower unit were unfounded, there was a bushing that was worn and had allowed one of the gears to slip, but by shimming out the bushing I was able to get it all back together and working. The outboard is pretty simple, Cruise and Carry uses a Tohatsu (ok I am sure I spelled that wrong) weed eater motor for the power plant, and a very simple gear set up for the lower unit. Problem is, they are no longer making these outboards, so if the actual engine goes I could probably put any weed eater engine on it, but I don't know where I would get parts for the lower unit. (gearing that drives the propeller)

Ali came down to see me off, and I weighed anchor and set out in the cool foggy morning. Once I got out of the channel in Shallowbag Bay, I raised sail and began my journey across the sound to Edenton. It was very quiet in the fog that morning, just me, the pelicans, and the water. A very different day and a very odd feeling, being out there and not being able to see a single thing. As the day wore on the fog burned off, and by noon it was fairly clear. I was followed by a lone pelican for a while, he startled me at first, gliding in and splashing down right beside the boat. Out there sailing most of your attention is focused forward and on your sails, you expect to hear anything approaching from the rear, so visual scans to the rear are not near as often as to the sides and front. So here comes this pelican, out of no where, splashing down beside me and scaring the bejesus out of me. I sailed on away from him, and when I was about 100 yards or so away, he got airborne, and flew up beside me, and splashed down again. This went on for about 30 minutes, I would move forward, he would catch up, and then I would leave him again. Kind of like a game of leap frog.

The wind on Tuesday was about as contrary as can be, I needed to go west across the length of the sound, and wouldn't you know it, the wind was out of the west. I made very little headway, tacking back and forth, as usual I sailed way more than the ground I made in the direction I wanted. I think I did just about 40 miles in a bit over 8 hours. Not bad speed, just not where I wanted to be. I anchored in the mouth of the Little River on the northern edge of the sound, maybe 5 miles southwest of the Pasquotank River, and about 20 miles west of Manteo. I was really protected there, and I suppose I anchored right around 6pm. Dinner Tuesday was a version of Potato Soup, minus the cheese, so it was good and warm, but a bit plain. However, it was simple to fix, so I didn't have to wait too long to eat.

I was awakened on Wednesday morning by a halyard slapping the mast at around 0430. It was cool on the boat, around 40 degrees, but the sleeping bag was mighty warm. However, as hard as I tried I could not get back to bed after taking care of the line, so I fixed breakfast (hot tea and a bagel) and brewed a thermos full of tea for the day's sail. I had about 28 miles to go, but the weather radio said I was looking at winds from the north/northwest, the right direction finally, and it was going to blow around 15-25. Perfect wind for a quick trip to Edenton! I motored off anchor, as I needed to charge the batteries, and as I raised sail, the sunrise was phenomenal. One of the best I have seen so far.

Out on the sound I raised sail and motorsailed for a bit, and by the GPS I was doing well over 6 knots over ground. Once I shut down the engine I still held a solid 5.5 to 6 knots, and I made the 28 miles in just about 5 1/2 hours. If only all sailing was like that, the direction you want to go in, at a decent clip. I was sailing under the sound bridge at 11:00, and by 12:00 I was slipping into Edenton Bay. Gary and Alice were at the waterfront as I pulled in, and I tied up to the quay wall as they were walking up. I love the little town of Edenton, and they have a very protected small harbor. The cool thing is that 2 nights on the quay wall or a slip are free, and you can opt to pay for electricity, and there is a nice little shower facility there as well. As I was filling out the paperwork for the dock master, he asked my home port, and I kind of hesitated a moment, before I thought, "well, right here, Edenton, NC." Arden has never been in the water here in Edenton, even though this was where I got her, where Gary and Alice had her for many years in the back yard, on the hard. So in ways, this was a homecoming for my boat, and that is why I had to come here.

As usual, Gary and Alice are great hosts, and we went directly to lunch as soon as Spook did her thing at the waterfront. We went over to Mamacita's, a Mexican place right here in town, where we have eaten so many times before, after days spent working on Arden before she went into the water. It has been a nice visit, and a bit of a stroll down memory lane. Tomorrow is forecast to be plenty cold, somewhere in the low forties is the high, so my sail back down the sound is going to be a bit brisk to say the least. From Edenton I am going down the Albemarle Sound, into the Roanoke Sound - which separates Roanoke Island from the mainland, and then into the Pamlico Sound, which will take me to the Neuse River. From the Neuse I take Adams Creek Canal down into the Newport River, which will lead me to Beaufort and then out to the Atlantic. I suppose in a week or so I will be there, Christmas will be in Beaufort, or just off the Carolina coast, weather permitting.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Manteo, NC...the real Mayberry

Here I am in Manteo, NC, I suppose the first stop where I am truly being a tourista. I have never sailed to Manteo, have never been here-period-even though it is just of the path I beat down the Outer Banks for so many years heading to surf spots or vacation times in Ocracoke. I arrived after an exciting sail across the Albemarle Sound Thursday, just at sunset, and in time to pull in just before dark. I had left Elizabeth City at about 930, and made a 40 mile sail in about 7 hours, 56 minutes. The winds were right around 25 kts, and the sound was stacked up to about 2 feet, with a few 3 footers thrown in as well.

Manteo is a great little island town, some say that it was the inspiration for Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show. Whether or not that is true, Andy does have his primary residence here in town. The town is situated on Roanoke Island, the site of one of the first English Colonies in the Americas. The colonists had a hard go of it, and this is where the "Lost Colony" was. There is a long running (years and years and years of summer performances) play here chronicling the Lost Colony.

I am anchored out just off the town waterfront, and I have really enjoyed my stay here. My friend Ali met me and has taken me around her little town, showing me the sights, the little museum on the waterfront, the theatre where they do the Lost Colony play, and just around in general. I have had a great time here with her and her kids, Elias and Celia. Spook has enjoyed it as well, playing with them, getting out and running, and leaving her mark all over town. I went with them over to Nags Head for Celia's play - Babe's in Toyland.

I plan to leave Manteo on Tuesday morning, and head over to Edenton to see Gary and Alice. I have been to Edenton plenty of times by land, but never by water. So that will be a new thing for me, and Spook has never been there at all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nautical speak translated - you rock!

Ok i'm the sister Liz (usually people shudder when I arrive but I have a sweet heart) and I keep the blog going while John has all the fun on the Arden.  It just so happens that i'm in grad school studying Library and Information Science at Catholic University and I would like to give my yo bro a two thumbs way up for adding the glossary.  Granted, most readers of sailing blogs will already know the meaning of boat language, but for us family/hangers-on wish - we- could- be- on- the- boat- but -have- other -types- of obligations, it sure is nice to have a handy translator for the salty-speak.

Hi Spook - make sure he pulls over for you more often!  

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Warm weather....and dragging anchor

This morning I woke up being tossed about on the Pasquotank River- we had just the right wind matched with the right swell to make for some very good chop here in Elizabeth City. I crawled out of the sleeping bag to find that the weather forecasters were right on the money, it was almost 70 degrees out at 5am. Wow what a change. Then I popped my head out of the companionway hatch, and got a complete shock - I was MUCH closer to shore than I had been the night before when I went to bed. Very much closer. So close that I immediately donned foul weather gear (did I mention it was pouring down rain? They forecast that right on the money too.) and headed out on deck to start the engine and reposition the boat. After getting the engine cranked up, I went forward and hauled up the anchor, not an easy trick in the 40+ mph winds we were having at the time. I usually haul up the rope by hand and use the windlass to pull up the chain and anchor itself, but not this morning. My main concern was that as soon as the anchor broke free from the bottom, I'd drift even closer to shore, so, with the anchor just barely holding, and the chain taut, I ran back and put her in gear, and then pulled the anchor up the rest of the way. Whew, what a job that was. I motored out farther than I originally was, and dropped anchor, this time letting out 10 fathoms. (I was only in 10 feet of water, and a fathom is 6 feet) Once the anchor grabbed and the boat came into the wind, I backed down on it, and pulled the anchor free, again! So, I had to pull it all back up, and start over. Now there are 12 fathoms of rode out (6x12....something like 72 feet) and it seemed to hold. Well it has held all day, we will see what tonight brings, but I think the winds are supposed to die down a bit over the course of the evening.

Being rocked around like that can make for some very good sleep though, I think I have forgotten to mention that here in the blog. Being tied up to a dock can sometimes lead to some very odd motion in the boat, if the waves are coming from the side, or on the quarter, the boat gets this unruly motion to her, very unnatural and very unsettling. On the hook it is a more natural motion, the boat is usually bow in to the waves and wind, providing they are coming from the same direction, and current isn't an issue, and there is a really nice forward to aft rolling motion to the boat. Makes for some really good sleep.

Beth came down today to help me pack up and clear out the storage unit here in town, the last task I needed to finish before I headed out. She couldn't get the horse trailer out of the mud with her truck-it has rained a ton over the past 2 weeks, so she is going to come back down next week and clear it all out.

I managed to get a few things done on the boat today as well, she is completely topped off with fuel-and-I have a spare 10 gallons on deck as well. The compass has a new light, the bottom was always lit, but there were no lights on the top. That has been remedied with a red LED, we will see how that works out, because before it was very hard to view the compass card and see where you were actually heading at night. Tonight I stow gear, put up the lee cloths for the berths, and then I am out to Coasters for a few beers with my friend Ted.

After beers it will back to the boat to rack out, and then reveille at 5am...and off to Manteo shortly there after. Departure time: 0800.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

View of the Territory covered so far....

Follow this link to view the trip and the sunrise sunsets thus far geospatially.

Sunrise and Sunset, Cold Weather, Getting Set To Sail Again

Time for another installment of Sailcloth!

Just what you were all waiting for right? For the past few days I have been "on the hook" at the Pelican Marina here in Elizabeth City, it has been pretty relaxing so far, so much so that I am not nearly getting as much done as I should-I am feeling a bit anxious about getting things done. I suppose a bit of this comes from me being a bit hyperactive - I suppose now-a-days it is called ADHD, but back in the day it was diagnosed as being "hyper", and I don't know if there was medication for it then as there is now, but I have learned to deal with the urge to be permanently busy - I just roll with it and pretty much stay busy.

Yesterday was spent modifying the spare flag that was given to me by Eric back at Calvert County Marina. The flag I was given was meant to be flown with the pole through the header, kind of like a yard banner, not like a flag hooked to a halyard or flagpole. I had to sew in reinforcement to the header of the flag, for which I used some of the 2 inch polyester webbing I had leftover from an earlier project. I sewed this onto the header with some of the sail thread I have, using my old Brother sewing machine. I reinforced the areas where I was going to install grommets with additional stitching, and then installed some 1/2 inch brass grommets. I also reinforces the fly, so that hopefully, it will last a bit longer in higher winds than the other flag did. All of these alterations made the new flag ready to be hoisted. I also have on board a much smaller flag, that I will fly as a storm flag, as it has less surface area and is less likely to be shredded.

I also made lee cloths for the berths, I used some really heavy weight canvas I had gotten at Lowes, sewed it up with a bolt rope, and I will install it using some stainless steel eyes that I have in one of the hardware boxes. The purpose of a lee cloth, for the uninitiated, is to keep people, bedding, or gear in place on the bunk when the boat is heeled over and that berth is on the "high" side, or windward side as it was. When you are on the "low" side (leeward side) you are smushed up against the hull, and have no worries on tumbling out of the rack. I suppose one of these days, perhaps some lazy, sunny, sun drenched day in some southern anchorage I will take the time to create a sailing terminology dictionary, so that all the land lubbers that actually put up with my ramblings will understand just what it is that I am talking about sometimes.

Today I went out early to Lowes to get a few things, that turned out to be a few more things, and then I made a mad dash to the register to get out of there before I spent too much. Sometimes in home improvement places, hardware stores, ships chandlers, and gadget stores I can get a bit preoccupied, distracted and overwhelmed, and spend WAY too much. Today's trip was for repair parts for the windvane, that I should be working on right now.

My mom was asking about the heater on board, so this section is for her. I have a Taylor kerosene cabin heater on the boat, and it used to work fairly reliably, but not reliably enough for me to trust it when I am sleeping. Now it seems to be working better, after the cleaning I gave the burner parts and the tank, but I am still hesitant to use it all night, although my confidence in it may grow. This heater was designed for use on boats, and so it has a flue and a charley noble (flue cap) just like your heater at home, and if I am not mistaken this pretty much eliminates the worry of carbon monoxide. Again, I don't leave it on as I sleep, and, I ventilate the cabin when I use it, so for now the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is not that big of a worry for me.

Lastly, there is a feature on the blog here that allows readers to make comments on each blog post. I am going to start adding those comments to the blog, so that readers can see what other readers have said. If you make a comment, please let me know if you don't want to see it show up for all the world to see. I welcome all comments, and those that are appropriate I will publish.
From Capt. Glenn up in Maryland:
Dude, love the blog but not sure this entry will work. I'll give it a shot. Colder? I made another delivery today. From Mear's Marina, Annapolis, MD, to California, MD. This morning was 30F and boat was covererd with ice and snow at the start. It was blowing 15 out of the NW.....I hope you and Spook are warmer!!!Capt. Glenn
Definitely sounds like I scooted out of Maryland just in time!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Can it possibly get any colder?

It has been a busy weekend so far here at the Pelican Marina-lots of old friends, a few new friends, lots of beer (and I am by no means an accomplished beer drinker) and the annual Lighted Sail Parade.

When Spook and I were caught out in that storm a few days ago, the entire contents of the cabin seemed to end up on the cabin floor. No matter how well you think you have stowed everything, something gets over looked, or something breaks loose and invariably it ends up on the floor. During that last storm lots of things ended up on the floor, and I had to rethink how I was storing things. One thing that I had thought I had tucked away quite well was my spare change cup - it was in a cubby hole in the galley, with the other cups and dishes, and previously they had all stayed pretty much secure and in place. Not this time though, the rest of the dishes remained stationary, but the change cup seemingly exploded, sending nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies everywhere. It seems that every time I look for something, or clean a bit, I find a bit more change. At first obviously it was lots of change in large deposits, now it has tapered to a dime here, a penny there, but I think there is a lot of unaccounted for loose change loitering about in nooks and crannies. I know the cup is not nearly as full now as it was before.

Saturday (yesterday) was cold, dreary and wet, it rained almost all day, and when it was not raining, it was still almost as miserable as it was when it was pouring down. I took the time yesterday to totally tear down and clean out the components of the cabin heater, which had burped, fizzled, smoked and made a complete mess out of the cabin on Friday night. I cleaned the heating element, the nozzle, blew out the fuel lines, drained and cleaned the fuel tank and cleaned out the fuel filter in the line. I found a bit of junk in the fuel tank and lines, and I hoped that I had at the least done something to improve the performance of the heater. I did. Tonight it is extremely cold, well - very cold, ok - just downright cold for me. I suppose the thermometer is hovering right around freezing, but that is just too cold for my taste. I refueled the heater, and fired it off, and it is performing spectacularly. I am under total kerosene power tonight, with the exception of the computer and the anchor light, all the cabin light is being provided by kerosene lantern, and the heat is by kerosene as well. Quite cozy on here to be honest, is much warmer inside than out on deck.

Despite being cold, it was a beautiful day today. Very sunny, quite a contrast to yesterday. I got a few things done on deck, but mostly it was a day of socializing and planning: comparing notes and ideas with some of the folks here that have made the trip south, and I have solidified my plan and my route. I have to stay in Ecity until Wednesday, when Beth will help me close down my storage unit here. I will weigh anchor, and sail out of Elizabeth City on Thursday, destination Manteo. Depending on the wind, I will make Manteo on Friday. Friday and/or Saturday will be spent being a tourist, as I have never been to Manteo, and then possibly having a cup of coffee with my friend Ali, who happens to live in Manteo. I will leave Sunday open, but when I leave Manteo, I think I will make a fast trip up to Edenton, see Gary and Alice once more, and then a day later, I will head back to Manteo, where I will head down the Pamlico sound to the Neuse River. Up the Neuse to Adams Creek Canal, down the canal to Beaufort/Morehead City, and then out into the Atlantic to the Florida coast. This route will eliminate miles of motoring down canals and rivers, and will allow me to sail most of the way - conserving quite a bit of fuel.

Tonight was the annual Lighted Sail Parade, as usual it was a cold night on the water, but this year I did not sail Arden in the parade, all my strings of lights are in storage, and even though they are Christmas colors, I don't think that red, green and white running lights count as sail parade material. Because it was originally scheduled for last night and wast postponed until tonight due to weather, the sail parade did not have nearly the number of boats in it as it did last year, and the number of spectators was lower as well. Of course, the very low temperatures may have had something to do with that as well.

I also made a new discovery by accident, and it did involve an accident as well. When lighting kerosene cabin lights on cold nights, keep the flame low initially, or you are liable to overheat the cold glass chimney, and cause it to break. I made this discovery the hard way, and am now going to be looking for a new chimney for a little Perko cabin lamp.

So here it is, Sunday night, the temps in the lower 30's, and I am nice and warm on the boat. Not a bad weekend, but a definitely a busy week ahead.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Time and distance

One thing I have forgotten to add to the posts are the times and distances I have travelled. I will try to incorporate them in each post as I go, but here are the legs I have made so far:

Sunday, 29 Nov 2009 - 45.6 miles, 13.45 hrs, avg speed 3.39 kts
Monday, 30 Nov 2009 - 89.9 miles, 19.56 hrs, avg speed 4.59 kts
Tuesday, 1 Dec 2009 - 15.8 miles, 3.2 hrs, avg speed 4.9 kts (motoring only)
Wednesday, 2 Dec 2009 - 14.2 miles, 3 hrs, avg speed 4.73 kts (motoring only)
Thursday, 3 Dec 2009 - 44 miles, 8.5 hrs, avg speed 5.17 kts (motoring only)

So, all told I have sailed for 209.5 miles, in about 48 hours time. Not too bad, just about the 100 miles per 24 hour average I'd like to see underway.

In the Swamp

Its early Friday morning, and I have just a bit of catching up to do. I am now back in Elizabeth City NC, where I was moored 8 months ago at the Pelican Marina, prior to heading up to Maryland. I lived aboard at the Pelican for about 5 months, it is a great little marina, in a pretty nice southern town, that is hailed as "The Harbor of Hospitality." I will spend a few days here with friends, and then head on further south. Just a note: the colored text highlighting some of the words are links to sites about that particular business or place. Some of the links are extremely interesting, giving insight on the history or purpose of places, such as the Dismal Swamp Canal.

So to catch up on the past few days:
Tuesday morning came much too early. After getting into Ft Monroe at 3am, I woke around 730 or so. Breakfast was hot tea and peanut butter sandwiches, and it looked like it was going to be a really nice day when I peeked out of the hatch. I made a ton of phone calls, letting everyone know I was ok, and then I weighed anchor around 9, and began to motor over to Portsmouth, where I would anchor in the little cove off of Hospital Point.

I made the anchorage around noon, and then bailed out the dinghy. It must have had 30 gallons of water in it, it seemed like it took forever to bail out. Once that was done, the first item on the agenda was to get Spook to land, where she could do her business, having gone about 48 hrs or so without making a mess, and the next thing was to get some fuel and some items I had forgotten to get before setting out.

Beth came and picked me up at the Tidewater Yacthing Center dock, and ran me around on errands. We went out to the farm to feed her horses, and then it was out again on Wednesday, I got an eye exam, some new contacts, new gloves (which I found out later were only water resistant, not water proof) and a trip to Jeannie's Used Books. I got some training pads, a new brush and an extra bag of food for Spook at Petsmart. Hopefully I can train Spook to do her thing out on the foredeck, so far she has yet to do so on the boat. The idea is to have a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet up there that has a line attached to it, once she uses it, I can heave it all overboard, and drag it for a mile or so and let the ocean do the clean up for me.

I motored up the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River on Wednesday around noon, past all the shipyards, the old neighborhood, and what is left of the Jordan Bridge. The Jordan Bridge was a lift type drawbridge linking Portsmouth and South Norfolk, which is actually in the city of Chesapeake. It was the oldest drawbridge in Virginia, having been commissioned in 1928. Now its lift span is gone, and it does make the trip up river a bit different.

I made it through the scheduled lift of the Gilmerton Bridge not long after, and then it was up a small leg of the Elizabeth River to the Deep Creek Locks, the start of the Dismal Swamp Canal.

I was passed by a Mainship Trawler on my way down the Elizabeth River, and I radioed him to see if he was going south via the Dismal Swamp Canal. If your destination is Elizabeth city, it is by far the shorter of two routes, but many sailors are fearful of transiting this really nice scenic passage. He had heard there were snags and blow downs in the canal, and was going via the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal.
When I got to the Deep Creek Locks, I was let in almost immediately, and as I tied up, the lock master recognized me from my trip north a few months ago. Robert, the lockmaster, and I talked for a good bit while the lock filled, I learned that it is the lockmasters duty to not only operate the lock, and the bridge at Deep Creek, but also to maintain the proper water level in the canal as well. He explained that the water level varied by only about 6 inches throughout the year, and this was controlled by a spillway at either end of the canal. I motored out of the lock, and then through the Deep Creek bridge, where I turned Arden around and tied up at La Familia restaurant. I had tied up here before on the way north, but for years I had passed this spot, thinking to myself "one day I will be on a boat tied up there, heading south to warmer waters", and lo and behold, here I am, tied up, on my trip south. I had dinner there with Beth, Steve and Scotty Ray, and then it was time to unload all the stuff I had gotten while in town, and time for bed. Yes, more stuff to be stored on board the boat, where in the world am I going to put it all?

Thursday morning came early, a nice warm day, not nearly as windy as forecast, maybe it was but down in the canal it was not bad at all. I started out at around 0645, destination Elizabeth City via South Mills.

Motoring along the trip was beautiful. I only passed one other boat, and that was a work boat from the Army Corps of Engineers, which operate the canal. He was out checking for logs and downed trees, and I let him know I had passed a few floating logs a mile or so back. As long as you are fairly alert and stay pretty centered in the canal, there aren't many dangers to worry about in the canal.

I passed by the visitors center at the NC rest area, and motored on in to the South Mills area. The bridge lifted not long after I got there, and then it was into the South Mills Lock which lowers you into the Pasquotank River. The normal operating time for the lock is 1130, but as I was the only boat there, north or south bound, the lockmaster let me into the lock and began to lower me right around 11. He said they normally get about 30 boats through a month, The day prior there were 4 boats south bound, but today I was the only one.

I continued to motor south, through the meandering Pasquotank River, this section of the river curves back and forth and around, it is just over 9 miles to Elizabeth City as the crow flies, but just about 17 miles on the water. Quite a relaxing trip, the river is extremely peaceful, and I was just kind of laying back, making great time heading in to town.

Just about 1430 I had the Camden Causeway bridge in sight, and the bridgemaster opened the span as I came through - I didn't even have to slow down. I called the Pelican, and anchored off the marina just about 1500. A quick motor over to the dinghy dock, and I was back among friends, the crowd in the marina office had changed little in the months I was gone, and I was greeted by "look whos back" and "where did you get off to". I wasn't fast enough on getting Spook outside for her walk, and I was totally embarrassed when Mike Taylor, A live aboard and one of the guys that works at the Pelican said "hey, I think your dog is doing her thing on the floor" as Spook christened the floor of the store shortly after we got in.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Casting off...I am south bound....

I am south bound at last!

This post is probably going to bounce around a little bit, I have had a very full past few days...typical sailing...85% relaxation and boredom (good for book reading), 10% absolutely perfect conditions to sail how and where you want, and 5% absolute terror.
As Liz posted for me, I cast off Sunday 29 November. For starters let me say, what a beautiful day to sail. Late November and it was sunny, clear skies and temps in the upper 50's and low 60's. I spent the first part of the morning launching the dinghy, removing the gangplank, and getting the boat ready to sail. Unplugging the shore power, topping off the water tank, pulling off sail covers...etc. Around 9 John came over and he helped me retrieve the last dock lines and cast off, I was finally underway and sailing south. I left the Solomons harbor area just at about 0900, and by 0930 I had sails up and I was underway. I think I had cleared Cedar Point at the mouth of the Patuxent River by 1030, and it was then that I realized the weather guys had the forecast totally screwed up as far as wind was concerned, not 6-10 out of the west northwest, try 5-8 out of the south, south west. The westerly wind would have been great for a straight shot down the Bay, but the southerly wind was coming from the direction I wanted to go in. Not all that good. I knew I was in for a long day, probably a good day, but a long one as I was going to have to do quite a bit of tacking to get south.

I sailed and I sailed, I tacked and I tacked some more, for every 5 miles I had actually covered I had only made about 1 mile or so in a southerly direction. I passed the Pax River Naval Air Station Targets around 1400, they are roughly 8 miles or so below the Pax River, I don't think I lost sight of the Calvert Cliffs until 3 or 4 pm. The boat was sailing great, under a full main and Genoa I was making 4-5 knots and she was balanced enough that I was able to use the tiller lock as an auto helm, the windvane was not needed to hold course. I put on the Kokatat suit Mike gave me sometime around 5, and I was amazed at how warm it was. The temp had dropped off a bit, but the suit kept me warm and dry from the spray. I really had hoped to make better time and at least make Gwynn's Island by late evening this first day- that is about the halfway point down the Bay - but that obviously was not going happen. I made up my mind that no matter what, I was gonna make the Virginia border, and anchor in the lee of the southern shore of the Potomac River. I finally got into the Potomac River about 10pm, and anchored off of Ophelia around 11pm. Nice calm night, lots of stars, full moon, and a nice light breeze. It wasn't too cold on board, and I finished off the night with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Spook and I racked out for the night, and I really didn't use any heat on the boat other than the stove for cooking, and the sleeping bag proved to be easily warm enough for the conditions. I had sailed a total of 48 miles in 13 hrs and 56 min, and had gotten about 25 miles south.

I woke on Monday around 0600, and by 0630 I had made hot tea, some oatmeal, and sailed off the anchor. I was heading down the Potomac as the day broke with a beautiful sunrise. I had sailed up the river slightly the night before, and as the Virginia shore juts out into the bay farther than the southern tip of Maryland does, I had about a 7 mile sail just to get into the bay and around Smith Point. I got past the Smith Point Light around 0900, and it looked like I was still going to have the same wind as Sunday. Back and forth across the bay I went, for a little while I had the company of a Cape Dory 36, I was under a full main and working jib, and he was under a main alone, but he was still a little bit faster than I, and in 3 or 4 hours he and I parted ways when he tacked and I continued on my course. I made PB&J for lunch and had hot tea in the thermos from breakfast. I was way out near Tangier Island around 1200, when I was buzzed by 2 of the US Airforce's finest-2 F16's loaded for bear and bombing the target ship just north of where I was. Quite a cool sight, and I was ticked because I could not get the camera out fast enough. Around 1230 or so the wind began to shift, and I started to be able to sail in a more southerly direction, by 1400 I was sailing a bit southwest and making great time, around 4.5 to 5 knots. It started to sprinkle on and off around around 3, but the wind was holding and it wasn't too bad in the Kokatat suit. I began to think about the feasibility of making Hampton that night, if the wind held speed and direction, I would be there around 11 or so, and would be in a really nice anchorage at Ft. Monroe.

Around 1700 (5 pm) the wind began to pick up and I clipped in to the jacklines and went forward to put a reef in the main, and by 1730 the rain had started to come down pretty heavily. I put Spook down below and closed up the cabin, and that is when the wind really picked up. I went forward again and dropped the jib, and minutes later we were hit hard. Driving rain, really high wind and it was blowing to beat the band. I ended up pulling down the main and lashing it down, and then the full force of the gale hit. I had estimated that the wind was around 50 knots, and later Liz looked it up and told me 50 Kts with gusts of 70. All I know was I couldn't bring Arden into the wind, as hard as the wind was blowing it was all the boat could do to round up within 20 degrees of the wind. So I had to come up with a new plan. With all the rocking and rolling I looked at the GPS and the chart, I had plenty of room ahead south of me, about 30 miles until the Norfolk coast, and the Bay Bridge Tunnel just past that. If I could hold a course of 210 degrees I'd end up roughly in the Hampton Roads area, and I might just be able to turn up into the James River, where I wanted to be anyway. It blew and blew. The seas grew and ended up stacking to about 5 feet, I had 2 or 3 waves break over the stern and flood the cockpit, and one of them broke the windvane. Here I am fighting the tiller, doing all I can to keep her steady, and the next thing I know, the windvane rudder is in the cockpit with me! I was making 4.5 knots under bare poles (no sails) and was surfing the oncoming waves. That is quite an odd feeling - first you get lifted and pushed, like a big hand is under you. Then you drop off the back of the wave, and the boat wallows around in the trough a bit, only to be picked up again and have it start all over. With Arden's transom hung rudder this really has a tendency to give the helmsman a good working over, you end up working the tiller alot, and then the tiller ends up working you even more.

I fought my way across the bay in this storm for about 5 hours, we were rocking and rolling a great deal, and I had to remind myself a few times just how sturdy Arden is, and that we could take this, and probably much more. We ended up getting hit broadside by a few waves that were out of sequence with the others, and we rolled hard, about 45 degrees I would guess, and I have to guess at it because the inclinometer stops at 40 degrees. All I know is the leeward rail was well buried and the decks got washed pretty good. Finally the rain let off around 9, and then the wind abated a bit and I was under partly cloudy skies, and it was pretty damn cold. I was glad to have the Kokatat on, I was dry, and therefore I was reasonably warm. My hands were cold because the gloves I had were not waterproof, something I need to take care of when I get to Chesapeake. I made the western shore (mainland) side of the bay just at the mouth of Mobjack Bay right at about 2300 (11pm), but the waves were driving too hard for me to make a hard turn to the west and get in. So back we are again to plan "A", Hampton Roads, in specific, Ft. Monroe.

With the wind and waves still hard at it, I followed the Poquoson coastline down until I reached the Hampton Roads channel, complete with 3 freighters, some in bound and some out bound, and 2 fishing trawlers headed out as well. I did the best I could to fight the current coming out of the James River, but I was only making about 2 knots. I was not out of the wind yet completely, and I was taking the waves broadside trying to get into Hampton. Not a fun ride at all. Finally, around 2am I was completely in the lee of Ft Monroe, and I was in calm waters at last...quite a relief that was. I managed to find the channel into Ft Monroe despite my fatigue, and I dropped anchor just at 3am. I did the best I could to tidy up the decks and rigging, and then went below to straighten u down there.

No matter how well you think you have everything secured and put away, it seems that in a good blow everything that is not nailed down manages to find its way to the cabin floor. What a mess I had down there. I put most of it away, made the calls I had to make to let folks know I was safe, and I packed it in for the night. I slept for a few short hours, and I was up to take off again and head for Portsmouth.