Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jackson Creek at Deltaville

We motor sailed to Jackson Creek, which has an entrance channel that seems as though it will deliver you into someone's living room. The channel is deep and well marked and you need to pay attention to it. Last year we had work done at nearby Broad Creek, where we ran hard aground and where there is no anchoring, so Jackson Creek is a good alternative. There is room for 10 boats or so to anchor comfortably.

Many people use the Deltaville Marina for haulout and boat work. We of course would never use anybody but Zahnisers in Solomons, where we are headed in a week. At the Deltaville Marina you can land your dinghy and dispose of trash for $5 a day, or, for $10 a day use their marina facilities including pool, showers, bikes,laundry and a loaner car for one hour. There are many local restaurants who will pick you up for a meal.

Here we met Peg and Pete on Nautilady, and shared their ride into town to visit Hurd's TruValue, Peter's favorite hardware store on earth. There are many great little shops here to browse. (In this picture Peter is chatting with Nautilady.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day with Family

We had an easy trip to Sarah Creek off of the York River, where we managed to find swing room between the crab pots to anchor. Sooner or later this creek will not be usable as the pots are taking over. Anyhow, we got lucky. We spent a few nights with Kathie and Jimmy and enjoyed meeting Jimmy's family who we hosted for dinner. We attended a fantastic Memorial Day Event organized by their friend, Charles, and we entertained by New Horizons, a group of veterans, all of whom are recovered alcoholics or drug addicts and have quite a bit of soul, fabulous. Charles was the father of a concept that was eventually approved by Congress that provided that all returning WWII vets who had been honorably discharged but who had not graduated from high school were awarded their diplomas. Charles is quite a guy.

Peter and I ran around running errands for a day, then headed back to Sarah Creek awaiting decent weather to leave.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Coinjock to Hospital Point

We left Coinjock Marina at 8 am bound for Mile 1 on the ICW, Hospital Point. We dined last night at the marina, opting for their "famous" 32 ounce Prime Rib, which we shared. It is famous the way Charles Manson is famous. Don't do it.

This ride on the ICW is awful, lots of bridges that open only on particular times, operated some times by cranky folks who never smile. The bridges open, usually, on the hour and half hour, and of course, it takes slightly more than a 1/2 hour to get to the following bridge, so you need to dilly-dally. Sometimes this is not hard, but often the current is running fiercely, and boaters behind you may not have the same mission. This year the place was overrun by maggots, guys riding personal watercraft (skidoos), zipping in between all of the cruising boats, going about 200 MPH. Throw in all the guys towing their kids on various and sundry floating devices (there was one that was a rubber chair. jeesh, go to the beach and sit at the shore)and water skiers. All this on the ICW, 1/4 mile wide with one lane of boat traffic in each direction. Then, of course, there is the Great Bridge Lock, where the boats tie alongside the lock and let the water rise or fall to go from a tidal water to non-tidal. This year, no locktender was helping with the lines, so it was pretty interesting.

We arrived at Hospital Point at Norfolk right at cocktail hour (which I am proud to say is now 1700, or 5 pm to you landlubbers). This is not a bad anchorage, although the boats all swing to different directions and there is a lot of boat traffic passing by. But if you are only staying the evening, not much passes during the night.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

G43 on the Alligator River

We had a long day on the ICW (they are always long on this part of the voyage), as we speed to see our granddaughter. Oh, and the rest of you guys too. We put in nearly 12 hours (like work again) and finally dropped the hook on the Alligator River at marker 43, where there is enough room for the universe to anchor. We had plenty of water (over 7 feet), and a peaceful night.

My favorite times on the water are upon rising, when I always hurry up the companionway to see what the morning is bringing, and sunset, with a cocktail in hand and the Captain about to blow his conch horn. The sailing is fun too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Broad Creek near Oriental

We had a nine hour day on Wednesday the 20th as we departed Beaufort with Dave and Wendy on Elysium who were headed to Oriental while we chose Broad Creek nearby. Dave got a shot of First Edition under one of the bridges, most of which can clear 65feet of mast under normal circumstances (First Edition is 62 ½ feet tall, we believe). We have not had normal circumstances, however, as the recent big winds have blown water into the ICW, raising the water level and reducing the clearance under the bridges. As shown in this pic, we cleared with little room to spare.

Broad Creek has a convoluted channel getting in around Gum Thicket Shoal, but we entered without a problem. This is the type of anchorage that I miss while in the Bahamas, tweeting song birds and green trees swaying in the breeze. Ah, America. Call me corny.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Aqua Restaurant in Beaufort, NC

We visited our favorite restaurant, Aqua, on our last night at Beaufort. We have fond memories of drinking too many cocktails and bottles of wine with Jay and Diana on Far Niente, and we have been back several more times to enjoy the excellent cuisine and wine list.
Aqua is very trendy and elegantly casual. We prefer to eat at a booth which in no way comes close to what you may be thinking of if you are picturing a diner. Aqua serves “big plates” and “small plates”, the latter being similar to tapas dining. Last evening, it was a 2 for the price of 1 big plate night. We had planned on our usual entrée, the coffee rubbed filet, but went for the special, lamb shanks braised in wine. Aqua makes a cosmo almost as good as my friend Donna’s. We had a great bottle of zin to accompany, unfortunately, I have forgotten the label.
On Friday nights all wine selections are 33% off. It is worth driving from wherever you are in the country to go here, especially then.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Clearing Customs at Beaufort

Having arrived on a Sunday, no customs officer was available to check us in. But, we did manage to reach the office and set an appointment for Monday. At 8:30 our officer arrived, too soon for me to seek a hidey-hole for my grapefruit which sat, nicely sectioned, ready for breakfast but now being eyed by Department of Homeland Security, Steve. I was confident I would be asked to ditch all my fresh fruit and vegetables imported all the way from the Bahamas.

I was lucky. Fruits and veggies are not on the terrorist list. This year, opened milk cartons and eggs were the target, unless immediately hard boiled or cooked.

We had a pleasant visit with Steve, who in short order was on his way, efficiently defending our country from the ferocious fried egg.

Bahamas to Beaufort

On May 13th we awoke as we always do at 0630 to tune in to Chris Parker, our weather provider, on our high frequency, single side band radio. We had planned to depart the Bahamas on May 16th, Saturday, based upon prior forecasts. But, with today’s update we mutually agreed we should shake a leg and leave today, hoping for 5 days and nights at sea to get to Beaufort, North Carolina.
I don’t deal well with spontaneity, especially when it involves the possibility of squalls hitting us following a day where we had Mooch, our new Yanmar, sputtering with what we hope was bad fuel clogging the filters. I also don’t like travelling alone, and we had not lined up any buddy boats. But in the interest of relationship maintenance, I agreed. At 0730 we lifted anchor and headed to Spanish Cay to top off the fuel tanks and buy a pint of Cookies and Cream ice cream. We immediately started dodging rain-bearing clouds, clearly visible on the horizon. This became more difficult as we progressed during the day, as along the Lily Banks and Barracouta Rocks your “legroom” is limited. Dodging continued through the night, by which time we had made contact with John on No Smoking, a single handler, and Gigi’s Island, folks we had met before.
Lightning lit up the sky, clouds were high and abundant, but we heard no thunder. Nerve-racking nevertheless. Squalls were all around us, but we continued to evade them throughout the night.
On May 14th, Parker said the squalls would continue but diminish and be gone by midnight. The prior evening’s squalls contained 40 knots of wind, so it was good that we were able to maneuver around them. We decided it was still a “go” to continue sailing to Beaufort, and the Sunday morning deadline Chris gave us yesterday extended to Sunday sunset, as the approaching cold front had slowed down and lost steam.
Mid day on the 14th, we still had not hit the heart of the Gulf Stream. Waves were over 6 feet, hitting us from behind, along with the wind. It was not comfortable. But we pushed on and no one suggested we cut in at a closer inlet. We have lost track of Gigi’s Island, but periodically we spot No Smoking or John hails us to chat.
Later, the seas settle, no squalls appear, but dolphin perform! We can almost hear the NOAA weather report on the VHF. It’s great to be back in the US. With the wind on the beam we are making over 8 knots sailing in the Stream.
Great sailing continued into Friday the 15th, with full advantage of the Gulf Stream driving First Edition between 7 and 8 knots, with an occasional 9 knots thrown in for excitement, and glorious sunshine and blue skies. Winds averaged between 8 and 13 knots and all was well with the world. That is, until the seas started to give birth to 12 foot rollers opposing the wind driven waves. Read: washing machine. Grab the Stugeron. No Smoking suggests he might pull into Charleston if it continues.
Stugeron is a miracle drug. It is not FDA approved, and therefore we stock up heavily while in the Bahamas. So far I have not lost hair or teeth, developed any unusual growths, or lost my eye sight, but neither Peter or I have experienced any seasickness. So, fit for the purpose intended. Don’t leave home without it.
In a matter of minutes it seems the seas drop to 4 feet, and we all decide to continue to Beaufort.
On our third night at sea we finally were overtaken by a squall. Usually, squalls are visible in the daytime and on radar at night, and it is pretty easy to track their direction and head off in an opposite one. I was watching these cells thinking they would pass us by, and reluctant to change course as it would have awoken the Captain from his off-watch sleep. Well, that was not a good strategy. As my off-watch came due at 0400, I called Peter and suggested he hurry it up so that we could release the boom preventer, and take in the headsail. All of this was accomplished in the nick of time, as winds jumped from 10 knots to 40, and it poured cats and dogs. Once again, we lost track of No Smoking.
I slept like a baby during my off-watch but awoke on the 16th to the boom swinging back and forth in confused seas and little wind. We finally had to put Mooch on, and begin motoring. The Captain topped off the fuel tanks from our jerry jugs, spilling not an ounce. Hours later the head sail was taken down, as the slatting thing caused by the wind on our stern moving ever so slightly but enough to cause the jib to tack was making us crazy. With squalls continuing all around us, but little wind to help with our forward progress, at sunset we dropped the main, and continued motoring along. Peter says we have a wheat field growing under First Edition (long strands of yucky grass cascading with us and slowing our speed), and it was difficult to maintain five knots for a while. We had abandoned the Gulf Stream as that was where all the storms were. (The warm water in the stream contributes to the convectivity, and wow, what a light show.) At 0300 on Sunday early morning I record that lightning is all around us, but no thunder is heard. No Smoking does not answer any of our VHF calls.
We hit Frying Pan Shoals off of South Carolina right before sunset and feel like we are back in the States, although we have been for days now. It was right around here that we struggled with our main sail last year, fighting to get it down before big winds arrived, and Rick from Sojourner volunteered to jump from his boat alongside to get on First Edition to help. To wife Linda’s relief, I loudly forbid such assistance. But heh, it is crap like this that sailors do to help each other. We are all nuts, but friendly.
At 0700 Peter awoke me to announce we were approaching the G3 marker off of Beaufort, our goal for the last 96 hours. Fearing arrival in squalls or heavy rain, I stuck my head out of the companionway to bright sunny skies, with clouds in the distance portending the future.
At 0840 we tied up at Beaufort Docks, hauled up the quarantine flag, and congratulated ourselves on a fine passage, slightly less than 97 hours and about 600 miles later. Having never, not once, suggesting that we cut the trip short or divert to a closer port, I feel jewelry in my future.
About 50% of the time we had pure sailing. The rest of the trip Mooch contributed and justified the time and the money expended last year for his purchase and installation. Thank you Captain.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Racing Around the Abacos

On Friday the 8th we left Lynyard to head to Marsh Harbor, seeking provisions and jewelry. To site an infamous quote: "mission accomplished". (What was he thinking?)

While at Marsh, youngsters from around the world were racing their Opti sailboats in the harbor, and Christine shot this pic of them rounding First Edition. (She had to unsnarl two of them that had gotten caught up in Celebrian's anchor rode.)

We headed to Fowl Cay the next day to have some great snorkelling in the ocean, which you usually can only do in the spring and summer when conditions are very settled. I saw a very ugly six foot green moray eel, which sighting fortunately was confirmed by the others, and Christine and I swam for about 5 minutes with a turtle. Very cool.

We then went the next day to Great Guana Cay to get a frozen Nippers, the cause of last year's declaration on my part that I needed to leave the bar to get back to do paperwork. Go figure. We dined at Grabber's where we had a great hamburger and a frozen Grabber, not quite up to Nipper's standard.

Then, next day to Baker's Bay where we snorkelled again in the ocean, shelled without great success, and had drinks aboard Cloverleaf with Celebrian. In the morning we rounded The Whale, the cut into the Northern Abacos that very often is so rolly and choppy that it cannot be passed. It was flat as a pancake. Off we went to Manjack, the home of the World's Best Free Internet Signal, which, this year, disappeared at sunset with a notice that it had been shutdown. Apparently it was turned back on in the morning. As we planned to leave the next day to get to Great Sale Cay to stage to get back to the States, we had our last pot luck dinner with Rob and Christine, and said our sad goodbyes to these terrific friends.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Return to the Abacos

After dropping Beth off we high-tailed it back to First Edition for a 50 mile trip to Ship Channel Cay to reunite with Celebrian. Although we had good winds we motor-sailed to make time, arriving 8 ½ hours after departing Staniel.

The following morning we had another 8 hour trip to Royal Island, with both boats failing to catch dinner although we did hook 3 barracuda (we got even Beth!), releasing all 3 back to Neptune. We had great company along the way with several dolphin visits.
Just so remind ourselves what work used to be like, we continued the long trek on the third day, leaving Royal at 7 am, motoring for 10 hours to reach the Abacos, entering the cut at Little Harbor. The whole trip I kept thinking it was going to be an interesting entry, as we had a constant six foot swell on the trip there, and I was not wrong. Although it was really no big deal, in this picture you can see the waves breaking at the entrance, with the anchorage behind the breakers.

We now start the complicated re-entry to the States, trying to calculate when to leave, how long it will take, how many nights to be at sea (1-5)setting variables for weather. Once this is guess-timated we need to figure out how to get phone service to set up appointments for boat work (mostly improvements as opposed to repairs, thankfully), doctor visits (annuals with the trillions of docs we see), and quick visits with family and friends. Then, hopefully to Maine…
This boating life can be complicated.

A Visit from Beth


On May 1 Beth’s plane arrived at Staniel almost on time (she was co-pilot), with totally excellent weather forecast for the duration of her visit. Accompanying Beth were several pounds of coffee and cheeses, bagels and lox, a new camera to replace the one still floating around in the Dominican Republic (thanks Beth for a great birthday present!) and six months of mail. We quickly hauled out to get to Pipe Cay before sunset. In the morning at low tide we hit the flats, and between the three of us probably got about 40 sand dollars of various sizes. Beth successfully managed to get 15 back to New York, where I expect to see a sand dollar mobile during my next visit to her office.
From Pipe we had a 3 hour motor trip to Exuma Land and Sea Park, where we took a mooring at Emerald Rock. Beth and Peter hardly waited for the prop to stop turning before jumping in for a snorkel on a reef less than 25 feet from the boat. We then took an hour and a half hike up to Boo Boo Hill so that Beth could see the sites and place our latest art work to commemorate her visit. At cocktail hour, we journied to Celebrian, moored next to us, so Beth could meet our friends Rob and Christine. After introducing Beth to the banana quits, we picnicked on the beach and then headed back to the dinghy in order to hit Kelly’s Reef at low tide. We had a great snorkel there until a barracuda chased Beth (this is a common occurrence every time we snorkel with Beth, I wonder why she attracts them), and then Peter and Beth dived Judy’s Reef, where Beth and Peter saw a huge eagle ray (with a 15 foot wing span, so they say), incredible coral and many, many fishies.
The last day we headed back to Staniel to stage to drop Beth off for her flight. We had a great sail, and then a terrific 4 course dinner at the yacht club.

On May 5th at around 9:00 Beth’s little commuter airplane took off, nearly on time. Cudos to Flamingo Air! We had a great visit, and congratulated ourselves on postponing her trip, as the weather was nothing but magnificent. I finally got to show Beth many of my favorite spots here in the Exumas with a jam-packed itinerary. Beth probably needs a vacation to relax.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Piggies for Prunie

This is a special post for a special friend. Lots of piggies this year at Big Major's Spot. In this picture you can see Peter's knee to show how close these guys can get to you. This year they ate everything we offered: apple cores, celery sticks, carrots; I did not provide any meat products because, heh, that is what I am to them and why whet their whistle? The local yacht club, though, shows up two times a day with a little skiff and bags of scraps and I doubt they pick out the left over chicken.