Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Live Life

Peter and I are staying at the Rosenzweig's while Peter's 99 1/2 year old father is fighting to make 100. There are so many things wrong with Dad that it is hard to fathom what is the right thing for him, although his will to continue is incredible. It is very difficult to be a vagabond in times like this, but because of times like this, it is why we are doing what we are doing. Each day we awake to a mystery.

So, please say a prayer for "Poppa Al", if you are fortunate enough to still have your parents, call them and tell them that you love them. Live life today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Blues and a Wild Ride

Before we left Fernandina Beach, we heard an announcement for the St. Mary's Thanksgiving Net. A Net is like a party line, it is usually organized by one person for a specific reason, all can listen in and contribute or not to the conversation. This net, which we monitored, was all about the plans for the Pot Luck Thanksgiving Dinner being organized by the cruisers. The host asked for boats to announce themselves if they intended to participate, and I would say about 20 boats added their names. The host then asked each participant to volunteer what they would bring to the meal. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights a potluck hors d'oeuvre get together is planned. Unfortunately, our plans were to move on, so we could not join in. My holiday depression deepened. I could have made a great pumpkin cheesecake.

We left around 7 am the following day with a 30 hour overnight trip in store, this time to Cape Canaveral. This port in our past was the origination point for what we refer to as The Sailing Trip from Hell. Six years ago our friend Len helped us move the boat which we had just bought up the Florida coast. He joined us here in Cape Marina, and he and Peter barfed all the way up to Jacksonville on an overnight trip with death-threatening seas and winds (well, at least more than we expected). And all this on a boat with which we were not familiar. It leaked, the engine would not start, the heads backed up. It was horrible. So, the local propensity to mis-state the weather continued with this trip. Winds were big, seas were big, but this time we understood what a great boat we had, and I did not serve Beef Bourgouinonne with a rich wine sauce to stir up the gastic juices. We made incredible time and had a good trip, although sleep did not come easy. Incidentally, following The Sailing Trip from Hell, the boys got off the boat and headed for beers and fried food. Seasickness is soon forgotten once land is embraced.

The weather forecast stinks, lots of rain and thunderstorms predicted over the next several days. So, we have decided to visit my aunt, who is two hours away. Tomorrow we will rent a car and stay with her through at least Saturday. Ahh, home for the holidays with family! Better than a Pot Luck.

Monday, November 19, 2007

At Peace with the Dolphins

On Saturday morning we left Charleston with a 40 hour trip through the night to Fernandina Beach FL ahead of us. We awoke to freeze warnings, but were OK being near the coast. The trip was relatively uneventful although we had to motor except for 2 hours (which time was a gift to my husband so he could sleep without the engine noise pounding in his ears). Forecasted light winds did not happen, instead we had 20 knots which would have been great, had they not been on the nose and therefore not sailable. The wind churned up the seas, also right on the nose, and slowed our progress to a little over 4 knots, while we plan for 5 and hope for 6. At daybreak, the dolphin congregation arrived. Perhaps 10 of them, slowly approaching the boat, under sail at the time, and racing its length to jump at the bow wave. I let the Captain sleep, although I now regret it. But it was my time with these beautiful creatures.

Amazingly, most of them had lacerations on their dorsal fins, likely due to run-ins with boat propellars. Yet, they still do this morning ritual. I am thankful.

Arrived Fernandina Beach in the St. Mary's inlet, and we are now in Florida. Prone to strong currents, we were happy to find the last mooring available at Fernandina Harbor Marina for $15. Many anchor here off the mooring field, it looks OK, but if you don't have to worry about the strong current resetting your anchor, why bother?We have no idea where we will spend Thanksgiving, and I am blue. I miss you all. But we are finally getting into the groove of liveaboard life.

Charleston, SC

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We headed to Charleston to sit out the predicted blow coming through, and took a slip at Charleston City Marina, a first class operation with very scary slips. The current runs around 3 knots and it is crazy watching the boats arrive and depart. Peter absolutely nailed his approach, putting our 44 foot boat in between two others in a 50 foot space. Vickie, you can imagine the knot in my stomach! Spent 3 days here, mostly shopping. Had some good Southern cooking and some bad Southern cooking, the good stuff at Magnolias, where we had a long lazy lunch.

Sorry gang, although I added a few items to Willow's holiday bundle, my usual exchange of clever :) gifts ain't happening. This picture is from the market in Charleston, local crafts reasonably overpriced. I really would have liked a seagrass basket, but passed due to fear of mildew.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cape Romaine Wildlife Refuge

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On Tuesday we had an intentional slow start out of Georgetown, after we had a long walk and bought fresh shrimp in town. (There are a lot of shrimpers calling Georgetown their homeport.) Then we picked up a weather report, and heard gale force winds being forecast. Not wanting to be at an iffy anchorage, we were lucky to pick up a phone signal, and made slip reservations in Charleston for Wednesday and Thursday.

Tuesday night we anchored in Awendaw Creek on a Wildlife Refuge. This night, no winds were forecast thankfully since marshes provide little protection. We saw tons of birds which our daughter in law Lisa could name for you, and had dolphins dipping off our stern for our cocktail hour entertainment. Peaceful night in a lovely location. We have just arrived in Charleston where it is 75 degrees!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lap of Luxury post Overnight

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We left Beaufort on Sunday at 9:45 in the morning and had figured we would reach Charleston two days later. About 12 hours into the trip, the Captain announced that "we" had made an error in our calculation, and we would arrive early, but in the middle of the night. We had been in Charleston before, but always prefer to approach an inlet in daylight. But, oh well.

We later figured out that we could enter Winyah Inlet near Georgetown, SC in daylight, and indeed, we chose that option. We knew we would have current against us slowing our trip in, but we did not bother calculating this, and a trip we thought we take 2 hours took five. Have you noticed how sloppy one gets in retirement?

From our books we chose to stay at the Harborwalk Marina, because: 1. it had a nice name; 2. it was closest to town, and 3. it had newly renovated docks. THEY LIE! The picture shows the Georgetown waterfront from our dock. Georgetown is a nice little town which we really did not have enough time to explore (recall the error in calculation of our time). We had a great dinner at an Italian restaurant and went to bed really early since we slept little during our 26 hour trip here. It is hard to sleep when you are motoring, which we had to do for about 24 hours, lacking wind.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Giving Up the ICW

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We left the South River on Wednesday and motored to Oriental, nicknamed the sailing capital of North Carolina. What a great town, everyone is our age, walking around with a purpose but nothing important to do. We had lunch with a bunch of other gray hairs and felt right at home. We could live here. We docked at the Whittaker Creek Harbor Marina, a top notch operation which we highly recommend. We borrowed bikes and toured the town, and when we needed to provision, the dockmaster took us to the grocery store (sic) and came back and picked us up.

Today, Friday, we motored to Beaufort and are once again in a slip. We have decided we are tired of running aground or having the potential to run aground, and worrying about whether or not our 63 ½ foot mast will clear bridges with 65 feet supposed height but high water shortening that coverage. So, we are going offshore and will have to sail for 24 hours straight, through the night. We have been offshore a sufficient number of times that this is not necessarily a big deal (forget that, for me it always is). However, it is usually in the 80’s without a chance of ice forming on the deck. So, we give up the comfort of our bunks along the ICW for the ability to sail, knock off the miles, and get to WARM WEATHER faster! We are monitoring the weather to pick a warming trend with good winds and no chance of rain. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Brhh, Ice on the Deck

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On Nov 5 we awoke to find a misty marsh at Broad Creek. This picture was taken just as the mist had lifted. From here, we transitted to the Alligator River, but did not see any. We passed through the Albermarle Sound, notorious for its choppy seas as in Cape May. Fortunately, the water was nearly flat and we actually sailed for a short time. On the 6th, winds were howling as we mostly motored to Belhaven, which sounded like a lovely place to visit. Our marina included a Southern inn and featured fried oysters on their buffet; it sounded so charming. I am still looking for the promised chunks of lobster in my seafood diablo, there were no oysters but a limited amount of hush puppies. It took several attempts to get my drink right, even with a lot of coaching. The staff for some reason was so over worked this night that the owners had to help serve. When clearing our table, the Mrs. said she was not sure how to do it. I suggested she approach it just like home, she looked me in the eye and said, "I have others do this for me at home". A power boat approached us as we were leaving, asked our opinion of the River Forest Marina, and gave his: "the place is a dump". When we awoke the next morning our rickety dock and our boat deck were caked with ice.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Donna, We're in NC!

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We had cocktails and potluck hors d'oeuvres last night at the Pungo Ferry Marina with a group of boaters who had anchored out or been at the marina for the "hurricane". Bay Wolf and Sitzmark III are both headed for the Bahamas for the first time, so we hope to see them again along the way. Today we had an uneventful trip to Broad Creek, where we are now anchored. OK, I ran aground but it was not my fault. This picture shows the ICW as we know it so far; tree stumps blooming along the sides, tall trees or marsh grass, and look closely, a bridge in the distance.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Long Night

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The night has come and gone. On the urging of our friend Len, we placed a second anchor out using our dinghy (a lot more artfully than our first and only other attempt in the Caribbean). This was pretty uneventful but after letting out it we realized we had not bothered to check the depths where we put it, and we suspected it was in too shallow water, and that we might run aground trying to retrieve it. Add to the list of worries for when we needed to retrieve it. We took below most everything that we could, life rings, fenders, BBQ grill, flags, anything that might increase our windage.

We gazed longingly at a couple of masthead lights sitting in a creek a few miles away. We wondered if they were snugger than we were. We had thought about going there to anchor but concluded we might have issues as one of the books said if you boat was longer than 35 feet you might not have room to swing. As we are 44, we stayed put.

To pass the night we watched an awful movie (The Break Up with Jennifer Anniston, please don't bother). When we turned in, winds were forecast to blow in the mid 30's gusting to mid 40's starting about 1 am. The Captain arose to take the anchor watch at 12:30 while I nestled snug in my bed, unable to sleep. I could tell by the level of the howling that the winds were not reaching forecast levels. Peter slept in the cockpit and took the entire watch, turning in around 4 am when it looked like those big winds were not coming. He did see 30, which now on our revised scale is no big deal.

Upon arising we found that the winds had blown the water out of the waterway. In this picture you can see a dark river bank where none existed the prior day. Fortunately, the wind shifted a bit and put us in deeper water but a little bit in the channel, not a great thing, especially as revenging power boats drive by and cast us a great wake. We had no issue, though, retrieving our second storm anchor.

One of the boats anchored in The Creek of Our Desires stopped by to tell us all of them were now aground, having had their water blown out as well. Tonight we will all gather at a marina up river to tell our tales and tip a few.

Another experience under our belts. We are still not coming home.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day One, The ICW

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We left York Haven and anchored in Willoughby Bay by Hampton Roads, Virginia. On November 1 we headed down the Intracoastal Waterway. The ICW, nicknamed “the Ditch”, was constructed “to provide a protected route for vessels that otherwise would have to travel on more exposed bodies of water”. From the author’s lips to God’s ears, read on.

On Day 1 of our ICW passage, we needed to pass under 13 bridges and through one lock. We had good training for the bridges at our former marina, as we had to pass through two to get to the Raritan Bay. Those bridges are very close together, and we often got caught in between the two as one would close as the other finished its opening, and I swear, the bridge tenders got their jollies watching way too many boats trying to avoid each other in very close quarters. Add in high winds and the stress level increased ten fold. On the ICW the bridge tenders give anyone hanging back (to avoid crashing into other boats in similar tight quarters) major crap. One guy upon answering the tender that he was only trying to navigate safely was told to get a motor home. We frequently were chided, but most everyone was so we didn’t feel too picked on. Our locking was uneventful; we had locked before on our friends Shar and Bill’s boat in Seattle. N.B., Uneventful does not mean stressless.

We had planned to spend our first night at a marina, as there seemed to be no suitable anchorages that we could get to by nightfall. The intended marina did not take reservations. Upon contacting them this day, we were advised every single one of their 140 slips were taken, and the dockmaster was kind enough to tell us that all the marinas within traveling distance were booked. Why? Hurricane Noel.

We improvised an anchorage by Pungo Ferry, Virginia. We have a scope out of 7:1; 10:1 would be better for the conditions to be described, but there is insufficient depth to permit that. (Scope is the ratio of anchor rode to water depth.) Hopefully Buster, our Queen Mary-sized anchor, will do his job well.

Apparently there is some fluky combination of cold front and high pressure system combined with the offshore effects of Noel passing through that it going to cause winds gusting to 50 knots today and this evening. Last night neither of us slept as winds were forecast to blow 35; anything over 20 can be unnerving at anchor.

Having said all this, it is beautiful here. It is swampland (and thus very little in the way of trees to block the wind). We helped two other boats anchor last night, as we had tested the water depths all around. They have weighed anchor but we could not reach them on their radios to find out if they knew about a better anchorage or had slip reservations. So we decided to sit it out right here in Pungo Ferry.

I am scared and keep trying to remind myself that no matter what happens, it is not likely I will die tonight. I just might want to, though.