Thursday, June 13, 2019

Making it to Cape Cod

First of all, I ended the last post with hopes for clear and easy sailing. That is NOT what happened... we had wind dead behind us, wind directly ahead, zero wind, heavy fog, flat calm, ten-foot waves....pretty much every weather (including beautiful weather) except rain.

The boat, with it's newly painted bottom, new cutless bearing on the propeller, and new AIS (Automated Identification System) went back on the travel-lift and into the water as planned on the morning of Monday June 3rd
and, by 10:30, Paul and I were sailing and motoring south on the ICW.

"South? But Cape Cod is north", I hear you wonder. We had a choice: motor for three days north on the ICW to Chesapeake Bay, sail a few hours east to a harbor entrance in shifting sand, marked as too shallow for my boat, or motor/sail south four hours on the ICW, south another half day in the ocean, then turn north. I find motoring the ICW stressful enough that going south seemed well as likely being a bit faster.

Sailing through busy shipping lanes we were SO happy to have had my new AIS purchase on board to tell us what boats were coming and at what speed: VERY helpful for safety as they could avoid us as well as we avoid them.

We expected Wednesday night and Thursday AM to give us rather high winds and large (10') waves and that definitely came true. Unpleasant, but planning, preparing, and and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches saw us through this unscathed and we could see any other ships in the night on the AIS two hours before they came near us rather than ten minutes. Many times the wind and waves sped us along so the propeller shuddered and rattled: yes, the propeller seems to be unbalanced and I have now ordered a new one, hoping it arrives before the nice new cutless bearing is destroyed.... if it is not already.

After a windy Thursday, the wind died overnight and the Friday sun rose (apparently) on glassy waters and thick fog.
I unzipped one of the cockpit windows and it smelled like Cape Cod and Maine: briny, seaweedy, and fishy... I love it. We motored along, keeping an eye on the AIS rather than needing to sound our horn for collision prevention. And dolphins or porpoises visited, a different species than we see in North Carolina and points south.

Saturday night we crossed busy shipping lanes east of Long Island, VERY glad of the AIS as we essentially were crossing a maritime freeway and those vehicles, even though mostly spaced ten miles apart or so, come near deceptively fast.... and really have trouble slowing or turning much. And the AIS tells us exactly what the paths are likely to be and how close we will pass.

Sunday, with a sometimes favorable wind and much motoring, we reached Monomoy, the spur of sand south of the elbow of Cape Cod and dropped anchor at sunset. I had cooked dinner as Paul kept and eye out for lobster pots, so we sat down to a tasty meal of rice/lentils with pasta sauce, enjoyed the sunset, and REALLY enjoyed a full and uninterrupted night of sleep for the first time in a week in calm seas, starry skies, and light breezes.
We sailed into Stage Harbor in the morning where we rented a rather pricey but welcome mooring for a few nights.

Cynthia was due to arrive at the Cape about 9pm. but thunderstorms delayed her flight and she came in in the wee hours Tuesday morning. This morning (June 12) I drove Paul to Hyannis where he rented a car and is driving home to North Carolina.

The only breakage I can recall on our trip?... well, that must have been the loud "BANG" on day 4 when I looked out the portlight and found a section of the bronze traveler suspended from the jib sheet.
Examination later showed the (corroded) bronze bolts broken and the screws pulled from the (slightly rotten?) wood.

The temporary fix saw the car moved to one of the still sound sections of traveler, where it remains still while I consider options.
The cutless bearing and propeller concern me, but the new propeller should be built and delivered by late July and then we shall take a look.

For many years, I have imagined having my boat here. And the night Paul and I spent at Monomoy and the sail I took yesterday with Cynthia and my cousin Lisa surely fit those pictures.
And I love good times with friends and family.

Still, I doubt I will be as bold as I imagined: bringing my boat into Pleasant Bay seems a really good way to run aground, so it probably won't happen. But other things I had not really thought about, like fishing for bluefish (Cynthia caught three yesterday and several in NC) work well and foraging for food brings me even closer to the natural world I love.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Hot, hot, hot... and here I am, on the hard in North Carolina

Here I am, in the boat in the boat yard, up on stands, in incredible heat. The prior couple weeks was much nicer.

Cynthia flew in to Wilmington, NC on the 16th and I picked her up at the airport in the marina courtesy car. Very nice of them and we gratefully took advantage of it to go shopping for fishing gear and groceries. Our trip up the coast to Cape Lookout took about twelve hours and, since we didn't get started until noon-ish (better to catch the outgoing tide rather than fight it), we stayed out for the night.

In the morning, we wended our way through a thicket of boats fishing for cobia and anchored in Lookout Bight, surrounded by national seashore. Beautiful area: we all loved walking the beaches (Lucy most of all) and the shells lay in great windrows.
The weather stayed cool enough to cuddle at night and windy enough to sail well. Cynthia, although disappointed to have missed out on fishing the Gulf Stream, really enjoyed the little bluefish and Spanish mackerel that schooled in abundance in the bight. And, of course, there were sunrises and sunsets...

On the 22nd we made our way up the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) from Morehead City
to the Neuse River and, in the morning of the 23rd, squeezed into the creek at Sailcraft Services where I, adjusting to the situation, unexpectedly told Cynthia to take the helm as we attempted to back the boat into the lift bay.

Now, although this sounds mad (and left her rather "uneasy" to say the least), I needed to run about and fend us off from other boats and, with no wind to push us about and nearly no boat movement, the fellows on shore could push us with boat hooks and tell her what to do with no great rush or repercussions. And all was well.

Cynthia departed the next day, sad to leave but glad to avoid the oncoming heat wave. The boat sits on stands as we (my friend Paul, various neighbors, and I) work to set her back in the water Monday 6/3. In addition to the bottom paint I'm applying,
we discovered several issues that are being addressed: the cutless bearing (a bearing that helps prevent vibration of the propeller) needed replacing, the rudder turns 15 degrees one way and 45 the other (should be equal!), scars show that the propeller has been "cleaned" with a grinder and it also shows corrosion, and salt water leaks from the rudder. I'll deal with the rudder tomorrow, the cutless bearing is now installed in the housing and bolted into place,
I'll probably order a new prop in a couple weeks, and the rudder is a bigger project I'll tackle in a year or two when I pull the boat next. And, of course, there is a multitude of other little jobs to work on...

So... I plan to splash the boat Monday 9am, motor down to Morehead City and into the open, sail around Point Lookout, and head north to Cape Cod. I cross my fingers that water will be high enough to motor out of here into the Neuse River, that all our repairs and improvements will delight us, and that we will have fair winds and kind seas for the 500+ miles of sailing.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Underwater photos: basket star

Cynthia really enjoys her underwater camera, but has found that the best way to spot new and interesting things is often to read about them. I, too, found in my youth that this worked: if one is prepared to see something, one will see it.... and if one is not, the eyes and mind will entirely miss it. So, Cynthia read her reef creatures series of books and then sees these cool creatures.... like the basket star.

This critter feeds at night, crawling about and snagging little animals from the water and dragging them into it's mouth: a definite candidate for a horror film! During the day, it crawls onto a gorgonian and curls up into a tight knot, looking like a bit of rotten netting or plant material tangled in the plantlike animal.... and this is exactly what Cynthia spotted. Very cool.

PS: these pics were taken when we visited the Exumas back in February, I believe.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Heading north from Bahamas to NC.... and getting another visitor

My visa ran out and, given that it was about that time anyway, I headed north. I anchored a couple days at the very north-westernmost point of Grand Bahama to wait out a strong blow, then set out. A couple days into the sail, this little critter visited. I suppose it must have seen the "welcome aboard" plaque given to Cynthia and me by her sister and thought correctly that it applied.

The bird checked the boat, including inside the cabin and various perches outside..

..including my big toe
and an insulated mug,
took a good nap,
and disappeared.

I had a few good blows on this trip, including one in which I simply heaved-to for the night with a bit of jib up and all other canvas tied down...
and was about a hundred miles from shore when the bird arrived. I hope it just needed a rest and then continued and survived the spring migration north.

I am currently anchored at Wrightsville Beach, NC, working on fixing and improving the boat (painting, electrical work, fixing leaks in the deck), cleaning up, and otherwise preparing for Cynthia and Lucy to arrive on the 16th. Cynthia wants to go fishing and sailing and soaking up sunshine and I think Lucy wants to bite any fish Cynthia catches.

On May 23rd I am scheduled to pull the boat in Oriental, NC and then Cynthia heads home on the 25th...I think. I hope to put the boat back in the water on the June 3rd and head north for the summer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Kapok! It sounds like a noise made in a Batman fight in the 60's, but is, in fact, the name of a tree and the fuzzy material it produces. I've heard of kapok for years, used in old-fashioned life jackets and in couches and never knowingly saw one, but noticed this tree when walking through Current Settlement in North Eleuthera, Bahamas. 

The oily fuzz seems to act as a way to help the seeds blow around and become dispersed.

Big thorns resembling those on a rose or blackberry adorn the branches and trunk and make me think there must be some part of the tree tasty enough to require protection from browsing animals. 

Whatever: I'm simply delighted to have come across this tree from my childhood in real life. 

And no, I will not try to grow the seeds or use the fuzz.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

One good tern...

A few days ago, as I sailed along SE from Current Cut, Eleuthera toward Rock Sound, Eleuthera a twittering caught my attention. Two terns swooped around, inspecting my boat. “Hello, you beautiful creatures!” I sang out.

Within a minute, both landed on my lifeline, one right over a stanchion and where some extra line made a good solid stand. The other landed two feet back, in mid-span, where the line has maximum freedom to move, sway, and hop...and his legs stayed in constant quivering motion to preserve his balance. This and the motion of the boat did not keep them from madly preening and scratching, dealing with itches and other items that couldn't be done mid-flight.

Over the next hour, I watched as they sat, aft bird occasionally chirping, gradually shifting position closer and closer to fore bird until she left her perch and shifted farther forward, perhaps uncomfortable with the crowding, perhaps feeling discomfort with not having enough room to spread her wings unconstrained (a possibly fatal issue if it leads to a wet landing).

Aft bird finally departed his perch and swooped around, chirping loudly in a way I interpreted as “Enough of this! I'm bored! I'm hungry! Let's go find some fish!”

Fore bird did not budge and, after a few minutes of cajoling failed, aft bird landed on top of the dinghy and waited with apparent patience.

After about an hour, both departed.

I certainly DO love wildlife visiting, whether a remora that stays with the boat for a week, birds that land and relax and use the restroom, or dolphins who play around us for ten minutes before exhausting the play possibilities of this solid intruder in their domain of water and air and light and darkness.

Life seems chock full of good moments.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Travelling here and there

As Lori reached the end of her vacation time, we sailed north to Hatchet Bay so she could catch her flight.
We made it a night sail for various reasons, three of which were sunrise, sunset, and phosphorescence. Timing and wind also factored in and all five worked out well.

Once we reached the bay, Larry rowed her ashore
and she flew back home, leaving Larry with me. We prepared the boat for wind and water, moved the anchors to keep up off shore in the changing winds predicted for the night, and loaded the dinghy and kayak and tied them securely.

Morning brought strong winds and we made our way out of the harbor, holding our breath as we threaded the needle eye of the entrance of Hatchet Bay (too tight for me to take pics), and exhaled once we reached the open water.

The winds took us swiftly to the west, toward Current Cut, a notorious passage between Current Cay and Eleuthera (and another place that kept me too busy to take photos, but you can certainly google it). Pretty darned cool....and the high tide was just receding and sweeping us west with it. Soon we entered the open Atlantic, threaded our way between a few last rocks, and entered the deeps well before sunset.
Strong winds were forecast, but we reduced sail to mizzen+reefed jib and stayed fairly comfortable the whole trip, through the night, the next day until the wind reduced and we raised all sail and continued the following night, across the Gulf Stream.

Wind died ten miles before we entered Fort Pierce and we didn't start the engine soon enough to beat the turning tide, so had to fight the current the whole time we motored and sailed toward Vero Beach City Marina, but we arrived, signed in, and moored before dark.

One of the coolest things we used was a US Customs app that scans our passports and takes boat and other data, then allows Customs to do a video interview! Very nice and convenient!

Larry and I discussed things (I need to return a car from NC marina to MA, he was ready to head home, Cynthia's schedule, work required on the boat) and decided the best option would be to rent a car and head north asap, pick up the car in NC, and drive Larry home to NJ. Then I'd drive to MA, visit relatives there for a day, fly to CA to see my folks, then back to FL where Cynthia could meet at the airport and share a car back to the boat. Then we could spend ten days or so working on the boat and seeing David and Georgia (we enjoy them and Cynthia would like to learn from Georgia)

Great plans, but as soon as we made all reservations Cynthia called to tell me her work schedule had been changed without discussion or telling her about it until she told them of her plans. She is not free until the 4th, so this lays waste to our idea of doing one nice period together in FL and a later one in the Bahamas. Now we are busy refiguring our return to the south... maybe I will do a few essentials on the boat, sail out to the Bahamas, and she will meet me there.

So, Larry and I have driven to NC where we got in rather late, but (to my delight) found three of my friends and three of my favorite dogs enjoying a chat and some wine in the lounge.

The next day we drove to Larry's place in NJ,
where I have just finished a delicious breakfast of their free-range chicken eggs, scratched the horses, and beaten the dogs.

And soon I will continue on... MA tonight, CA Thursday night, back to FL March 26, and meet Cynthia in the Bahamas after April 4th.