Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Adventure Begins

Final Solomons Sunset

After much deliberation, alot of preparation, and just a little bit of procrastination, I have decided the journey begins tomorrow. I have been watching the weather, and tomorrow is the best day out of the next 5 - supposed to be 61 degrees, mostly sunny, and even tho the winds are not going to be what they had called for 5 days ago, there is supposed to be a good breeze, 5-10 out of the S-SW. I have wrapped up most of the major projects that I needed to get done before I got underway - the windvane is improved and mounted, the whisker pole is now on a track and stows vertically at the front of the mast, the radar reflector is permanently mounted on the mast as well. I have spent the day working, the afternoon fueling, and this evening and tonight will be stowing gear and sorting all this junk out.

I have come to one major conclusion at the end of this day, I have way too much JUNK on board this boat. I think I have room to stow all of it for now, but alot of it has been on board since I moved aboard, and has yet to be used. So, it has got to go. I am a bit of a pack rat, so many treasures, so many plans and ideas, but, I just dont have room for all this stuff. Now the good thing is that I will be off loading some stuff with Beth once I reach Hampton Roads. I will not have any further use (until I sail back north in the spring) for my microwave, the heaters, the hotplate, toaster, and all the electric appliances that take up so much damn room.

So this evening will be spent stashing all this stuff, and trying to get it all put away and ready for sea. Quite a task, and I am sure I will be up til all hours of the night trying to get it all done.

But tomorrow is the day. After months of talk, and planning, and work, I cast off in the morning, by 8am I hope, and begin my journey south. The first real stop will be Hampton Roads, Portsmouth to be exact, and then on to Elizabeth City. A few nights there, and an emptied out storage unit later, and I will push on to Manteo for a few days. From Manteo to Edenton for a day, and then on to Morehead City/Beaufort, where I will head out into the Atlantic for my main run south. With all the stops, and the visiting, I figure I will be in the Atlantic in 2 weeks, and hopefully in Florida waters 5-6 days after that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Blessed Boat

Yesterday morning - thanks to my sister Liz - Arden, myself, and Spook were blessed by Father Dan, Liz's parish priest. I was really glad she had suggested it and organized it, God knows I am going to need all the help I can get over the next few months.

I spent the late evening hours on Sunday, and the wee hours of the morning Monday straightening up the deck of Arden, getting rid of building supplies, packaging, old parts, etc. I found that my milk crates, as great as they are for storing things aboard, would not fit through the lazerette hatches, or the inside doors to the lazerette areas either. So, I skillfully broke out the Skil saw, and made them fit. (as I did so I was reminded of the movie "The Grinch" - the original with Lon Chaney, where he hacks and cuts at the antlers until there is little but a nub on the poor little dogs head) I cut and I hacked, and soon I had a smaller, shorter milk crate that fit just fine.

In went some thinner, a few paint cans and junk. Odd fittings and hoses and an old inflatable pump. The decks had been cleared and the lines were tied tight, any left over messes were all tucked out of sight.

So the best laid plans of mice and men, right? Yesterday started out all gray and overcast, and I knew that rain was in the forecast. Now my vision of blessing the boat took place on the dock and out on deck, Father with the Bible, I had assumed a vial of Holy Water, and a few other items to help Arden and crew make the voyage safely. Say a few words, sprinkle Holy Water, and perhaps even a bit of Latin thrown in. Nothing at all about heading down below, and of course nothing in there about rain either. What I had not counted on was Father Dan.

Did I mention it was raining? I am on the way to the boat when I get the call from Liz that they are almost to the boat. By this time the skies had opened up, and it was really coming down. Liz and Father Dan were there when I pulled in, and after a few greetings, Father Dan just had to joke me about the van. I don't think I have ever mentioned the van on here, but suffice it to say it is a bit of a cross between the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo and the old pick up truck from Sanford and Son. It is a functional vehicle, my shop, wet weather transportation, and a storage unit, but nothing to brag about what so ever. So this is my introduction to Father Dan - who I might mention is about my age, extremely out going, and has an extremely sharp wit. I pick up on all of this in seconds.

I outfit Father Dan with a spare foul weather jacket that is neon yellow, quite a contrast to the clerical clothes he was wearing, and we three head to the boat. I was good all the way until we got aboard the boat - it was obvious we were headed below, which was still a wreck from all the work I have been doing. I had not even touched the interior of the boat, because in my mind we were going to do all of this outside. I could not have been more mistaken. I have to hand it to Father Dan - he took it all in stride, the clutter, the parts, the dishes in the sink and the unmade bed. He was very curious about how I was going to do everything, from navigation, to communication, to sailing alone out on the open ocean. I also think Father was a bit amazed at the fact that I have lived aboard for just about a year, in such a small boat. I kind of compare my living quarters to that of a studio apartment, just on a bit smaller scale. Father then opened a small box he had brought, and gave me a St. Benedict crucifix, and a St. Benedict medallion to wear. Turns out this is the same cross used in exorcisms, and is a very powerful Catholic relic. The box contains a description of the history of the medallion and the crucifix, and a translation of what is inscribed on both. Father Dan said a few prayers, and then sprinkled Holy Water around the boat, and the sprinkled the boat with Blessed Salt. That was a new one to me, I am not sure of the significance of the salt, but I will leave that to the experts. Father Dan left me with the remainder of the Holy Water and salt, and then we talked again for a bit before he and Liz had to leave. Father said to use the water and the salt in times of trial out there when I am sailing, I hope that the need never arises, but it is good to have something to fall back on should things get extremely bad. It was a very interesting meeting, and I am glad I got the chance to not only meet Father Dan, but to have him come and bless my boat and the crew before we head out.

Here is the inscription on the crucifix:

Around the circumference of the medal are the letters VRS NSMV SMQL IVB
which are the intial letters of a Latin exorcism:

Vade Retro Satana
Nunquam Suade Mihi Vana
Sunt Mala Quae Libas
Ipse Venna Bibas

Which means-
Get behind me Satan
Don't try me with your stupidity
What you are pouring is evil
Drink that poison yourself

Like I said, very powerful stuff, and dating back many many years. Again, I can use all the help I can get.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting Ready To Go On Down South

So here we are on another Sunday evening, time for another edition of Sailcloth. This week went by extremely quickly, seems like they all have been as of late. I had a fairly productive week at work, and a good week working on Arden.

I finally got the water pump in for the engine, and although the service was prompt, the pump came in a day, I was not overly impressed with the pump I got, or the way I was led to believe I would not be charged a core charge, and only found out the next day when I checked my account that I had paid a core charge. However, I have the pump, and it is on, so I suppose I can't complain too much. I also gave the engine and transmission an oil change, always good to start out with fresh fluids, and changed all the filters as well. I took the time to plumb in an oil pan drain hose this time, that way I won't need to use a pump to drain the oil from the engine, that is always a problem on boats - if you dont have a drain you have to pump it out through the dipstick tube, there is never enough room to reach the oil pan plug, if there is one.

I am trying to wrap up as many projects as I can, and it definitely seems like the clock is against me, some days I look at the time and swear those hands are just moving 100 mph. One new project I did start though, and plan to complete tonight, is a search light that will mount on the bow pulpit, it goes on a piece of plywood that can be installed or removed as the need arises. I have installed a 12v plug forward to power it, and I am running wires tonight to have that tied in to the bow lights. The 12v plug is weather proof, and installed in a compartment Gary had built into the capstan mount. It all worked out very well, and should be pretty corrosion and water resistant. I figured I really needed the search light for my run down "the ditch", I plan to make the stretch from Chesapeake to Elizabeth City in one day, and I know once I clear the South Mills lock, it will be just about sundown. We will see how that works out, and if it really can be done. I hope so, don't really feel like making the canal a 2 day event.

I have also been going over the stuff I have on the boat that makes dock life so good, that won't be making the trip with me. The list started off pretty small, but has grown considerably. The hot plate, toaster, coffee pot and microwave are all getting loaded into the van. The electric heaters, alot of supplies I haven't used so far, and knick knacks are going as well. I have not installed the Treadmaster nonsklid yet, and I doubt I will over the winter, so it will probably come off the boat and get stored as well. My library is coming off, but that is getting replaced with new books - the ones onboard have all been read, or it turns out I didn't want to read them anyway. When I am in Portsmouth and Elizabeth City I intend on hitting my favorite used book stores, Jeannie's Used Books in Ptown, and The Recycled Reader in E City. I discovered Jeannies back when I was working in Iraq, I would buy about 15 books per trip there, and Jeannie always had a good suggestion for my travels. The Recycled Reader was a recent discovery, I found them not long after I moved to E City, it was good to have another used book store not too far from where I lived, I go through so many books that I'd go broke if I had to buy them all at list price.

Party Time!
This weekend was also the time for my going away cookout - all of the marina regulars, well the folks on the 3 docks next to me, came and we had a really good season ending bbq. Chip and Jim cooked while the rest of us ate and drank, those two guys are really hot on the grill. Jim brought some marinated venison, it turned out extremely well, and I was hoping to have some left overs this morning for breakfast, but there were none to be had. The night got pretty damn cold, and of course I didn't need to remind everyone that I was heading south, where it is WARM! It is nights like the ones we have had lately that really reinforce my need to migrate. We did have a migratory visitor join us at the party, a really really big swan paddled his way over to the bulkhead near us, and of course everyone had to feed him. I dont think I have ever seen a wild swan, it was really a neat thing having him show up. I suppose there were about 15 people or so that showed up - Jim and Sue, Mr. Jim (Jimmy the Greek), Chip, Eric and his family, John Baum and his girls and girlfriend, John's friend Keith and his wife, who just moved a new boat into the marina, Steve and Mitch from Cimaise, and I think there were a few others as well. We all had a great time, and it was a really good send off. I received quite a few going away gifts, mostly of the alcoholic variety, most notable was the bottle of Ouzo from Mr. Jim. I think my wine cellar is pretty well stocked now, and with the way I drink, it will last a very long time.

So here we are, Thanksgiving coming up, and my departure from Maryland just around the corner. As it stands, my goal is to sail on Saturday or Sunday of next week, Monday on the outside. right now the forecast is clear, with winds out of the Northwest, hope that forecast holds and I will be on a beam reach down the bay.