Friday, October 31, 2008

The Fatigue Factor

At Sea
N 28 07 W 080 21

Yesterday we decided to skip the Saint Augustine stop and reset our course for Cape Canaveral, 105 miles away. We continued on that course for a few hours when I noticed a big tug boat coming up behind us on the same course. I hailed him on the radio. No answer. I hailed again 3 or 4 times on several frequencies. No answer. Finally, I had to turn on the engine and take an evasive maneuver to avoid him running us down. He came within 50 yards and I could read the name of the tug. It was
Heron. I continued hailing on the radio. No response. I'll bet a dime to a dollar that there was nobody on the bridge of Heron and nobody listening to the radio. Most likely the crew was asleep in their bunks while the boat continued on autopilot. I said it before but it's worth saying again. Sail boats must keep vigilant watch at all times to avoid being run over.

Around supper time, the wind shifted from NW to NE. It made an immediate and drastic change in the temperature. The NW wind was cold but the NE wind blows over the Gulf Stream near by and was much warmer.

After dark the lighting became peculiar. It was a very dark night. No moon. The sky was black, the ocean was black, but our wake was white with phosphorescence. The horizon was bright gray with the lights of Ormand Beach and Daytona Beach, and later New Smyrna beach.

Around an hour after dark, the wind suddenly increased from 10 to 20-25. We hastened to take down the main sail and continued with the jib only. The wind was on our beam so our speed was fast 6.5-7.5. It was neat. The only bad thing was that every half hour or so a rouge wave would hit us from the windward side and break over the whole boat. Everything and everyone on deck was drenched in the warm salt water. When it was my turn to stand watch I dressed in full foul weather gear and boots.
That kept me dry at least.

I worried the whole night about the Cape Canaveral passage. We would be squeezed between shoals to the west and the Gulf Stream to the east. Cape Canaveral sticks out and the Gulf Stream is only 10 miles off shore. The recommended route on our Maptech chart would have taken us out in to the Gulf Stream. That's a no no when a strong north wind blows. Even huge cruise ships get in to trouble trying that.

I got up at 0600, relieving Libby from her 0200-0600 watch. She said there were two lights to starboard but they weren't moving. When I looked I was amazed. How many landmarks are instantly recognizable from sea at night? Perhaps the New York skyline or Miami, or the Golden Gate Bridge. How about the two space shuttle launch pads, brightly lit, and framing NASA's huge vertical assembly building? That's what I saw. It was spectacular.

At dawn, things got abruptly easier. Just at dawn the wind subsided to 15 knots which was much easier to deal with. I could also see the waves and I could see no big ones at all. Finally, I could see the clouds marking the Gulf Stream, and they were 10-15 miles away from me. No trouble.

Four hours later, I was dead beat with fatigue. I could feel my mind tugging at me. "Turn right. Go in to Port Canaveral inlet. Drop the anchor, and sleep." Was the message. The weather was fine, wind speed and direction excellent, the day was going to be sunny and warm and Fort Pierce was only 60 more miles away. Logic dictated that we continue but the psychology of fatigue worked on my mind. Finally, Libby came up refreshed after her sleep and nixed my idea. We continue.

Right now we are even with Palm Bay, where my brother Ed lives with his wife Sally. We'll be in Fort Pierce and at anchor by 2000 tonight. Piece of cake. It has been a great passage, about 320 nautical miles (363 statue miles, 500 Km), and it took about 71 hours. If we wanted to continue to Key West or beyond we could. This nice NE wind is supposed to last for 3 more days.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Look Out Florida, Here We Come

At Sea
N 30 25 W 081 111

We've had a very nice 24 hours at sea. The wind and waves have been gentle. The temperature last night dipped to only 45 rather than the 35 we had in Beaufort. We've come 123 miles since leaving yesterday. Further, the forecast for the next 4 days calls for somewhat stronger winds, but not extreme.

Last night the sky was beautiful. We haven't seen much of the night sky this summer because on clear nights away from cities, it tended to be too cold to be out at night. Last night, I was pleased to see Orion and The Pleadies, right where I left them last winter in Florida. There were also an abundance of fiery meteors last night to provide for entertainment. We also enjoyed a lack of harassment from ships and commercial boats.

Right now, we're south of Jacksonville and heading toward Saint Augustine. Hooray, we're in Florida latitudes at last!

We have the option of putting in there tonight, or continuing on to Cape Canaveral. I'm of a split mind of whether to stop or not. I need a small bronze machine screw and the Sailor's Exchange store in Saint Augustine is just about the only place on the planet I know where I might find exactly what I need. On the other hand, there is the principle of passa paa (which you know about because I wrote about it recently.) Passa paa is nothing to be taken lightly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

En Route At Last

At Sea
N 31 53 W 080 38

Ah, it feels so good to be out at sea again. It's a beautiful day. The sea is nearly flat; no waves. We are close hauled in to a gentle 10 knot breeze. However, the wind should clock around to come from behind as the day goes on. Still better, we should have moderate winds from a good direction for 4 days. That bodes well for us making a run all the 320 miles from here to Fort Pierce. That should take us 72 hours. At the very least, it sure beats 10 or more days of motoring on the ICW through
Georgia and Florida.

The only down side is that we'll have to put up with a couple of very cold nights. It dipped down in to the 30s last night. Libby and I are dressed in multiple layers with long thermal underwear, wool hats and gloves. I also have hand warmers and foot warmers to use in the dead of night.

Just now, only a couple of hours out, I picked up my glasses and the lens fell out. The screw that holds them together vanished. We do have an eyeglass repair kit, but using in on a rolling boat can be a challenge. What timing; it's Murphy's Law reasserting itself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Beaufort Public Library

If started checking my blog, I might get one of their Liar Liar Pants on Fire awards, right up there with Obama and McCain.

Yesterday I said we would depart Beaufort this morning. Well, this morning I got up at 0600. It was cold. It was very very cold. The local radio talked about scattered frost. Then I turned on the NOAA weather radio. It was blowing 30 knots our there with 9-12 foot swells. Tomorrow, the winds should decrease to 15-20 and stay that way for 4 days. I had to choose:
  1. Go out to sea in a near gale in the freezing cold.
  2. Climb back under the covers with Libby where it was very nice and very warm.
Surprise: I chose number 2.

It may be just as cold every morning this week, but at least it won't be so rough when we get out there. Once we pass south of Melbourne Florida, the climate changes drastically and we'll enjoy much warmer temperatures.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beaufort Walking Tour

Vero Beach

Whoops. I forgot to post these pictures from last month's visit to Beaufort.

  • Beaufort National Cemetery.
  • The list of Mills' buried there.
  • Tarwathie at anchor behind the Spanish moss.
  • Libby does her part for breast cancer -- a haircut in the park.
  • A great live oak.
  • A yellow butterfly.
  • Lipsitz.
  • A wonderfully shaded street.
  • An orange butterfly.

Cruiser's Privilege

Beaufort, SC Public Library

I was going to leave here yesterday morning, but it dawned as such a beautifully pleasant day that I wanted to stay to explore Beaufort with Libby. I was going to leave here this morning, but when I checked the weather at 0600 this morning, it said gale warning for tonight. It was also very cold with the local radio reporting scattered frost. That was enough for me to roll over and pull up the blanket. We're staying yet another day.

Actually, I heard some nameless cruiser in Vero Beach express it best. He said, "The cruiser's privilege is to decide every morning -- Shall I stay here, or travel to some other place. -- If I travel, where shall I go?" In a nutshell, that freedom we enjoy is shared by very few people in this world. This morning, I exercised my cruiser's privilege.

We did explore Beaufort on foot yesterday. There are many huge, elegant, and stately houses. It would be high on our list of historic and beautiful cities in the South like Edendown, Bath, Georgetown, and Saint Mary's. Perhaps it would be the best of all of them, were it not for one thing. We saw zero of them with signs proclaiming their status on the national register of historic places. I suspect that the explanation lies in an inscription we saw in the park. It said, "In 1893 a great storm came ashore at the high tide, piling water on water until the islands were swept clean of agriculture and shipping. Thousands were drowned." Boy, what an event. It could happen again, but if it did we would blame it on global warming.

We also saw an amazingly large number of cemeteries in the city. One, when we saw it from a distance, looked to us like Arlington National Cometary. Sure enough, when we got close, the sign said Beaufort National Cometary. That is a very historic and beautiful place, authorized in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.

Our current plan is to depart tomorrow. We might have 4 consecutive days of strong (25-30 knot) winds from the NW. That means that we could get all the way to Fort Pierce in about 55 hours and cut out 2-3 more weeks of motoring on the ICW. We'll try for that. As a backup plan though, I charted a route that allows us to stop at Fernandina Beach (111 miles), Saint Augustine (160 miles), Port Canaveral (260 miles), or Fort Pierce (320 miles). That gives us lots of room for contingencies if the weather gets too rough.

Blog reader Mike had invited us to lunch in Fernandina. In case we miss that Mike, I apologize. We'll catch you next time through.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Carolina Scenes

Top: Ocracoke: Corps of Engineers Barge, Our Friends on Viking Rose, The barge in action
Middle: Georgetown, A sailboat in distress - no idea what happened to her, a sea gull hotel 10,000 birds on somebody's dock
Bottom: Progress of a beautiful sunset in Beaufort, SC
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Cold, Grey and Wet

Beaufort, SC

Well, we did stay in the salt marsh behind Fenwick Island all day. The gale event turned out to be more of a rain event than a windy one. We did have some trouble though.

Around 1700 I looked out the window and I could see that we were moving. We were moving fast, about 1 knot. I checked the GPS and sure enough the anchor was dragging. I caught it before the anchor dragging alarm went off.

There was no wind to push us but the current was fierce and the bottom holding wasn't good. We put on our rain gear and went out on deck to set a second anchor. I also increased the scope on the primary anchor from 100 to 140 feet of chain. For 15 feet of water that is sure a lot of scope. We did however drop a second anchor just in case. The weather forecast called for 50 knot gusts in the evening.

This morning we got up an hour before dawn. The anchors held us OK, but now it was time to pay the price. You see, just about every time we set two anchors, the rodes get wrapped around one another and we have a devil of a time getting them up again. It was no different this morning. It took about 40 hours to get both anchors on board again.

Anyhow, we were able to continue our trip at high tide, avoiding the danger spots, but bucking wind and currents today. For most of the morning, our speed made good was only 2.5 knots.

Tonight, we're anchoring outside Beaufort and hopefully tomorrow we'll take another shot at going outside.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Like a Rabbit, Like a Snail

Fenwick Island, SC
N 32 31.543 W 80 24.559

We had a pretty nice day. We motor sailed the whole day, much of the time with favorable currents.

I was very happy to blow through Charleston Harbor with little trouble. We really don't like Charleston. I know that it is a favorite spot for a lot of our friends, and that some people love to anchor there, but we had a couple of our worst days ever at the Charleston City Dock. (See the blogs from 6/10-12/2005 which understated the degree of our distress in that place). Therefore, we never want to go there ever again. Today, we zipped past it in just a few minutes.

The ICW south of Charleston, to the North Edisto River is the only portion of the ICW that we never traveled before. We did it today. That's sort of a milestone for us. We have traveled 100% of the ICW (except New Jersey which doesn't count) all the way down to Biscayne Bay. We have also traveled 95% of the US East Coast on the outside from Bar Harbor to Key West. The 5% we have not done yet is the 6 miles between Port Canaveral and Fort Pierce Florida.

The South Carolina waterway is very pretty. Especially the salt marshes. It looks like the Georgia ICW except that the rivers are wider and deeper for the most part. There are a few places that warn about shoaling, but we managed to pass them with water 2 feet or more above low tide.

I'm sorry but we can't photograph salt marshes very well. They impress us because we can see up to 100 square miles of grass all around us. It is not only pretty, but very important to the ecology. Salt marshes are said to be the most productive land on earth acre for acre. If you want an idea of what they are like, I suggest Google Earth. Start at McClellanville , SC, then zoom out until you see all the marshes between the fixed land and the ocean. Up close, it is spectacular. There's also
a scary part. I read a story about Hurricane Hugo and how it plunged McClellanville under 10 feet of ocean because of the storm surge. Take another look at our current location 32.5 -80.5 with Google Earth or with

We are likely to stay here at anchor tonight and all day tomorrow. Tomorrow morning there is a 90% chance of rain, and winds will blow 40 knots. That's the gale we were worried about encountering at sea. Anyhow, Friday does not sound like a good day to travel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Passa På


The Swedes have a very good expression; passa på (pronounced pasah poe). Its meaning is similar to the English aphorisms, "Strike while the iron is hot." or "Make Hay while the sun shines."

Today our plan was to passa på and to go offshore and make a bee line for Florida. It's only 200 miles away as the crow flies. There was a weather window with favorable winds starting this morning that should have gotten us there in 48 hours or less. I even made an appointment to have a mechanic do some work on our boat in Florida next Tuesday.

Actually, it may have become a little rough. Tomorrow the winds were to kick up to gale force (maybe) and the seas would (maybe) increase to 12-15 feet. However, we've been stung so many times with overly scary weather forecasts that we decided to take the chance.

We got up at 0600 this morning, one hour before first light. However, before leaving I downloaded the weather forecasts for the regions between here and Florida. The conditions were deteriorating. Each successive forecast called for the strong weather to arrive earlier and to be stronger than the one before. I agonized over the decision. Go off shore or stay on the ICW? I finally decided to go, but by that time it was nearly 0800.

We pulled anchor and headed for the ocean 15 miles away on Winyah Bay. We had the wind and a very strong tidal current with us. We flew down the river at the breakneck speed of 9.5 knots! That's a record for Tarwathie except when we sailed in the Gulf Stream.

When we got to the end of the river however, the entrance turns NE for about 3 miles. As we approached the entrance, the wind increased a lot. It was blowing from the NE, right in to the entrance. We rounded the turn facing NE. It was too much for us. The wind was so strong that we lost steerage way even with full throttle on the motor. Loosing steerage means that the boat moves too slowly through the water and the rudder becomes ineffective. We couldn't steer. That means we were out of control. That's not a good situation with rocks and jetties, and wind, waves and currents all around us. As a matter of safety, I made a command decision. Turn around and go back!

We turned around. After making the turn on the return trip, we had the wind and the currents against us. We could only do 3 knots at full speed.

For Tarwathie to loose steerage under power means that the wind had to be blowing more than 33 knots. That's a lot more than the 10-15 knots forecast. There was one more factor to consider. If we had reached the end of the jetty with 2 knots of tidal current going out and 30 knots of wind blowing in; there would have been mountainous waves. Those conditions are very dangerous and certainly not the time to be out of control. Sigh.

How frustrating. We only needed 2-3 miles more out that channel before turning to the SW. If we had made that, we could have been in Florida in 2 days. Now, we are back on the ICW. It will take us at long as 10 days to get to Florida this way and we'll have to motor and to use 40 gallons of fuel en route. Dang.

If we had left 2 hours earlier we could have gotten out before the strong winds started. If only I hadn't waited to check the weather report first!! Double dang.

Of course, as I write, we are back on the ICW. The sun is shining and the wind has reduced to 10 knots. That's just the elements conspiring to torment a captain who made a choice. It seems that the grass is always greener with the choice not taken. Triple dang.

By the way, last time we decided to passa på was when we sailed from Block Island, RI to Norfolk, VA in 2 days. Our friend Andre on Aruba II was with us in Block Island. He decided to n0t passa på. He had business to do on Long Island so he didn't depart with us. Poor Andre, it took him a whole month of waiting and motoring to get to Norfolk. Such is the incentive for sailors to passa på.

Dang dangedy dong dang dang dang.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Georgetown Welcome

Georgetown, SC Public Library

We enjoyed a unique happening yesterday. Tommy Howard, editor of the Georgetown Times, found our blog while Googling. He read our opening article, The Story of Why We're Here, and found it interesting. He contacted us and invited us to stop at the newspaper's office when we came to Georgetown.

Tommy interviewed me for a feature story. I'll post a link to the story in the blog when it appears.

In reality, Tommy spent as much time educating me and Libby about Georgetown and the region's history. We learned a lot of things we didn't know. Thank you Tommy.

Georgetown is a delightful little place. It has quiet streets lined with colonial houses and shaded by live oak trees. The wealthy people of the 17th and 18th centuries knew a lot about gracious and comfortable living -- things that remain true even today.

Georgetown reminds us of similar 18th century towns that we've visited while cruising. Edenton and Bath in North Carolina come to mind. So does Saint Mary's Georgia. If you have the chance to visit any of these places, I predict that you'll enjoy it.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Georgetown, SC
N 33 21.169 W 079 16.816

Perhaps you've heard the phrase microclimate. It refers to the special conditions one might find in a place like an indented pock on the face of a cliff. Today I'm writing about climates another order of magnitude smaller -- just an inch or a couple of centimeters in diameter. Therefore, I'm coining a new word to go with it: nanoclimate.

Here's what made me think about it. This morning, we had to turn on the heat in the boat. It was exceptionally clear last night and the temperature plunged. When I first opened the hatch and looked out this morning, the scene was beautiful. The air was still. The surface of the water was like a mirror. Beautifully, clouds of mist were rising from the warm water into the cold air all around us. Even more amazing; I could see miniature whirl winds. The mist rose up in tornado-like columns up to two feet high. Each tornado lasted only a few seconds.

I recall two other times on Sacandaga Lake being fascinated by the physics of early morning mists near the water surface. The first time, I got up and looked out to see nothing but pea soup fog. However, bending over to get a pan of water from the lake, I was amazed to see that there was a layer of clear air about 6 inches (15 cm) high above the water. I could see a clear area perhaps one square mile in extent by only 6 inches tall -- amazing. The second time, many years later, I could see the mist forming as the air rose from the lake surface. It was clear at the water surface. Mist formed about 1 inch (2 cm) above the surface, then it evaporated again 3 inches (7 cm) above the surface. Therefore, there was an extremely thin layer of visible water mist. In that thin layer I could see all sorts of slow moving horizontal air motions and vortex whorls. It was amazing.

In my professional life I was an engineer. I specialized in modeling physical processes. I would dearly love to make a detailed simulation of the nanoclimate in the first 10 cm of air above a water surface. Alas, I think I would have to learn a lot more physics an chemistry, to be able to do it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Kilopost

Osprey Marina
N 33 40.866 W 79 02.481

If I counted correctly, this post is the 1,000th article to be posted on Dick and Libby's Tarwathie Cruising Log. That makes this the kilopost. That's quite a milestone, so I thought that I would write a little about the blog itself.

What a wonderful media blogging is. It allows me to indulge in writing to my heart's content without having to deal with editors or publishers. It allows you to visit and sample the blog as much or as little as pleases you. It also reaches out to friends, relatives, acquaintances, and complete strangers alike. I have no idea how many people actually read the blog. I get hit counts and reports but that is of little use.

I get a kick out of it when I hear others give their opinions on blogging in newspapers or radio. Some love it, many hate it and think that it is a scourge on society. Neither view is correct. Blogging is just a new form of writing. Bloggers are able to do anything on the web that a writer can do with paper and ink. One can not say that one loves or hates all written things.

Sometimes it seems that I write far too much. Consider Raden Ngabahi Ranggawarsita who published the Javanese Book of Kings in 1869. The Book of Kings is said to be the world's longest book. Ranggawarsita was said to have written three pages per day, every day for thirty years, totaling six million words.

Let's compare my blog to the Book of Kings. I write less than three pages per day. In fact, I posted about 817,000 words in 1,000 posts so far. I don't expect to live another thirty years, but if I continue for another ten years, the blog will be only 3.5 million words long. [It will be a real challenge to do that without the prose becoming repetitive and boring. I have to delve deeper and deeper to keep things fresh and to not forget subjects that I've written about before.] By the way, Ranggawarsita was also said to have made up most of the things he wrote about. I don't. The things I write are true, taken from our everyday life. I have maybe embellished a few times, but not a single blog article here is made up.

Several people have written to tell me that after becoming acquainted to this blog, they got hooked and went back to read the entire archive. Wow! I can't believe they read the whole thing. One man said that he printed out the archive from 2/2005 through 6/2007 on the color printer at work and that it took 500 pages. Double wow! I hope his boss didn't learn what he was doing.

Several people ask if I'm not going to turn the blog archive into a book. Yes. I've always had that thought, although I never took any concrete steps towards doing so. One obstacle to doing that is the length. The blog might make an interesting book at 200 pages, but it would be a door stopper at 1,000 pages. Yet how could I edit it down? I understand that the appeal of the blog to many readers is the fact that it is a daily journal. I write almost every day, and I post immediately after finishing writing, even while at sea. (Yes, I know. Sometimes I need a copy editor to catch my errors -- too bad.) Only a handful of the posts were written on days different than the post date. It is even more rare that I go back and retroactively correct and error or alter a post. That is important because contemporary writing is inevitably different than ex post facto writing.

What is this blog about? Yes, it is a journal, but journals can be slanted in many different ways. The mental model I carry is that I write for readers who dream of being sailing cruisers themselves and who want to know what it is really like. Most of the posts are not advice on how to fix things, or how to provision or how to become a cruiser. Rather, they relate Libby and my lives contemporaneously as we live the dream. Living the Dream would be a perfect name for this blog or for a book, but unfortunately it has been used very many times before by others. I believe that writing contemporaneously is what helps to make this blog different than other blogs and other books. That is what makes this blog so voluminous and, I hope, so interesting.

I often write about the very friendly and interesting people we meet along the way. I don't ask their permission to use their stories. Therefore, with a few exceptions, I only use first names. I also discipline myself to not write things that might be offensive or embarrassing to those people. In a nutshell, if my subjects Google search their own names, they should not find this blog. But if they do, they should not be angered or embarrassed by anything they read here. I'm admitting a bias here. You'll have to take my word for it that the self censorship is rarely needed. The overwhelming majority of people we meet and our experiences with them are very positive.

I regret that I can't convince Libby to write blog articles more often. Readers have repeatedly asked for it. In reality, only a minority of people enjoy writing and are good at it. Obviously, I enjoy it. Also obviously, I keep in practice. I intend to continue as long as I can.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Entering South Carolina

The busy junction at Calabash Creek. An example of what I think are spectacularly ugly luxury homes being built along the ICW in Myrtle Beach. The cypress swamp lining the banks of the Wacamaw River.

Both the Posquotank River north of Elizabeth City, NC, and the Wacamaw River North of Georgetown, SC, wind their way through cypress swamps. The nature is very beautiful. As you can see, the river banks are indistinct because the forest floor is under water.

Above is an aerial view of Osprey Marina.


Osprey Marina
N 33 40.866 W 79 02.481

We don't stay at marinas very often. To do so would put a serious strain on a cruiser's budget. Nevertheless, we do need to take showers and do laundry every once in a while.

We heard good reports about Osprey Marina from other cruisers. The marina sits in a cut to the side of the Wacamaw River near Myrtle Beach. My charts and the GPS show the cut to be less than 6 feet deep, but in reality there is more than 9 feet of depth at low tide. We have passed by this place 3-4 times before without considering a stop. This time we decided to give it a try.

What a delightful place this turned out to be. It is marvelously sheltered. Very peaceful and beautiful. Their prices are very good, and the people here are friendly. We have clean showers, laundry, WIFI. Life is good. I recommend this place.

I also want to recommend a competing cruising blog. Pat and Ray on Reflection write an excellent blog. I enjoy reading it and you may too. Their style is different than mine and they can't compete with my number of posts, but they do an excellent job. See it here. By the way, you can see Ray and Pat and Reflection today on the Oriental Harbor Cam.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Busy Junction

Calabash Creek, SC
N 33 52.328 W 077 34.184

We crossed over the North Carolina, South Carolina border sometime today. We had a great three weeks in North Carolina Waters this year. Still, there are interesting NC waterfront towns that we have yet to visit.

We also crossed over the dreaded shoal at buoy 81A near an inlet this morning. We timed it just right, and the tide was 6 feet above MLW when we passed. The minimum depth I saw was 10 feet. That means that we would not have made it at low tide. We have had very good luck with the timing of the tides this week.

For a while this morning I was worried. From the time we left at 0630, until 0930, we saw no other cruising boats at all. Typically, on the ICW we are passed by two or three other boats per hour. I was afraid that perhaps the ICW was closed and that everybody but me knew about it. No problem. At 0930 we saw two other sail boats behind us. Both of them were boats we have seen every day for the past three days. That's typical of ICW travels. Although each boat travels at it's own speed,
the faster boats tend to stop earlier in the afternoon and start later in the mornings. Therefore, we get passed by the same boats day after day.

We are anchored in Calabash Creek, right at the junction where the creek meets the ICW and also where Little River Inlet meets the ICW. I would have thought this to be an isolated spot. Not so. There are three tug boats that hang around this junction like taxis waiting for a fare. We even saw three cruise ships pass by. Two of them were casino boats. The third was a day trip boat from Calabash that went up the creek past us. The junction is also a popular spot for local fishermen. At one
point there must have been a dozen of them anchored near by to fish for an hour or two. There are also shrimp boats that come up and down this creek at all hours. It is hardly an isolated spot.

The past two days we started before dawn, and we were treated to spectacular views. In the pre-dawn twilight, the nearly full moon shines with intensive light. Then the dawn itself has been signaled with lovely red skies. Even an hour after sunrise, the moon still shone with intense brilliance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Provision Company

Southport, NC
N 33 54.976 W 078 01.395

Well, we're lucky enough to get the free dock at The Provision Company tonight. Thank you Provision Company.

For those of you who don't know, The Provision Company is a somewhat legendary waterfront casual restaurant in Southport. They have delicious food at reasonable prices and great atmosphere. On certain days, this place crawls with customers.

They didn't let us down. We went in for dinner and Libby ordered the yellowfin tuna sandwich. It was succulent. Wow what a great sandwich.

By the way, I forgot to mention that we got past the two deadly shoals in the ICW without incident. In both cases, we got lucky and crossed the dangerous parts at high tide. Tomorrow, we cross yet another one. Again, with a little luck, we'll get there about at high tide.

Does anybody want to do a good deed for the day in Oriental? Do what I did. There is a tiny museum in Oriental that has artifacts from local history. It is only open for 4 hours, twice per week. The lady host on duty most of the time is ancient. She looks like a raisin. Look carefully at her face though, then look carefully at the pictures on the wall. She used to look like Jane Russel. I asked her if she was really the beautiful woman in the picture. It made her day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back to Her Birth Place

Wrightsville Beach, NC
N 34 13.298 W 077 48.554

We're sitting here in the ICW idling as we wait for the Wrightsville Beach bridge to open for us. Just now a man came by in a small power boat. He recognized Tarwathie as a Westsail 32. The man asked if she was made here. "Yes, she was!" I had forgotten that Tarwathie was built in the Westsail factory in Wrightsville Beach in 1975. Welcome home old girl.

We won't be able to meet up with our friends Tom and Kathy in Southport this week. Tom just called. They are in Schenectady, at the Riverside School on Front Street. They just bought a small condo there. What a coincidence. That school is where our son David started kindergarden.

I also talked with my sister Nancy. Another surprise. Nancy and my niece Lena had dinner with my daughter Jeanny and her boyfriend Christian last night. Today, Nancy and Lena are in Montreal, visiting McGill University. Lena sounds interested in McGill. Sounds like an excellent choice to me.

No wind, sunny and warm today. It was a lovely day but kind of boring. The best part was where we sailed through Camp Lejune. There is a huge salt marsh between the ICW and the ocean. It it the northernmost one I reacall seeing. Unfortunately, it is the target area for marine live fire practice. Tsk tsk.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bad Planning

Swansboro, NC
N 34 41.128 W 077 07.098

Yesterday I was guilty of all sorts of bad planning and fuzzy thinking. I thought that we could leave Oriental in the afternoon, anchor in Adams Creek overnight, then today go out to sea at Beaufort Inlet and sail to Masonboro Inlet. My excuse is that it was blowing hard yesterday, rather rough, and I was so relaxed sitting at the Oriental City dock.

We did leave in the early afternoon. Our son John and his family saw us depart on the web cam. Cool.

Well, I was wrong on all accounts. It was too far from Adams Creek to Beaufort Inlet to get an early start. The tidal currents were against us. The distance from Beaufort to Masonboro is longer than a day sail. Finally, the wind died today to almost zero. My plans were completely demolished.

No great harm so far. We stayed on the ICW and we are motoring toward Masonboro. It will take 2 days to get there. Tomorrow might be dicey because we have to pass two spots on the ICW where a lot of boats have been having a lot of trouble running aground. Watch tomorrow's blog to see how we did.

Depending on weather, we may stay on the inside all week long and go to Georgetown SC. That's a place we never visited and we hear that it is very nice.

By the way. We refueled yesterday. We used only 30 gallons of fuel since Block Island Rhode Island, nearly a month ago. That's pretty good considering the distance and the time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friends Everywhere

Oriental NC

The other night we were pleased to have Richard and Penny from Viking Rose for dinner. The four of us had a great time. Richard and Penny are also close friends with David and Hilde on Raven, other favorites of ours.

Yesterday, we had a visit from Ken C. Ken is a college buddy of Dean C, and Dean is an ex work colleague from NYISO. Dean is a blog fan and he turned Ken on to our blog. We have been trying to get together with Ken since last spring. Yesterday it worked out. On his way to Beaufort, Ken stopped in Oriental and had lunch with us. Libby made her famous chili so we all ate good and had a good time.

This morning I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned around and it was Les P. Les is another blog fan who invited us to come to Blackbeard Sailing Club in New Bern last spring. It was good to see Les again. He was also hunting for a 3/8 inch fine-threaded nut for a repair he was working on. I was able to find one for him in my junk parts collection. No matter whether you own a house or a boat, one of the most valuable possessions a man can have is a box full of old nuts and bolts and
miscellaneous metal parts.

*p.s. It is my practice to not use the first and last names of my subjects in my public blogs. I'm not trying to conceal their identities, but if they egogoogle (i.e. to search for one's own name on Google), they should not be surprised to see my blog post unexpectedly at the top of the list.


Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sad End To The Radio Drama

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search today for a missing 35-year-old man off the North Carolina coast.

Harvey Jones, of Beaufort, was reported missing Thursday morning off the Shelley, a fishing boat, 27 miles off Cape Lookout, a Coast Guard news release said. He was last seen on board the boat at about 8 a.m., a news release said. He was not wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard continued the search for 30 hours.

Guest Blog II

We are at the Oriental Public Dock. See us on the web cam. You can see Tarwathie's bow sticking out toward the right side.

We'll be here two days. Meanwhile, my brother Ed wrote the guest blog post below. Since it is very flattering, we're publishing it :)


This is Dick's Brother (and Libby's Brother-in-Law), Ed. I'm sitting in my office on Florida's east coast, waiting for the rain to subside enough so I can go home. I love Dick's blog, and decided to read it. It's been most entertaining lately with drunk skippers and inept power-boaters (as I would categorize myself!).

Anyhow- it got me thinking about Dick and Libby's retirement choice. Mine seem more limited day-by-day, as I watch markets dive, but reading Dick's accounts always lifts my hopes that perhaps, someday, Sally (my wife) and I can find a retirement lifestyle full of new sights and activities. I admire them, and all you *cruisers* like them, who have traded convention for voyage; safety for adventure. Bravo!

It's even MORE striking as I come to this same office every day, working at the same desk, on the same computer, on the same software. What small forays I have into intrigue would be to learn a fancy new Perl (my programming language of choice) guru-trick. Not very exciting to most, but the *true engineer* inside me sees it as Art, not Science. In fact it was Dick who introduced me to "The Art of Computer Programming", our Bible of sorts, and I never looked back.

Curiously it was also Dick who interested me in engineering in my youth, and now, having spent 30-odd years in the profession, I can BLAME him! Ha! But its also curious that as retirement looms for me, again, I look to Dick as a beacon. I know I'd never drag [my wife] Sally onto the water as a lifestyle, but there are still other adventurous avenues open to us beyond days of Oprah and The early bird special. We'll just have to figure out which work for us.

And some struggles Libby related- moving away from Grand kids, I can see popping up for us soon, as I'm about to be a Grandad. I can now grasp the courage it took for those two to venture out when life said STAY PUT. I feel that exact same struggle within me emerging. It's most disconcerting because already, even before baby is here, we're busily readying her room. Getting entrenched, as it were. I feel like I waited a lifetime to see the world but a tiny slice of the world will be the only real option. But I hope that's not so.

In the end, I may be relegated to living vicarious adventures through this blog, and only allotted occasional adventures. Sally, being the consummate homemaker, would be a tough nut. And adventures without her are not adventures. We'll see.

Keep up the blog Dick- well done. You're inspiring me (again!)..

Brother Ed
October 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Another Radio Drama

Oriental, NC
N 35 01.404 W 076 41.981

In past blogs, we wrote about real life and death dramas that we heard on our VHF radio. Today we heard another one.

A fishing vessel called to report that one of their men was missing and presumed overboard. Their call came at 0945 local time. They told the Coast Guard that they had last seen the man at 0700 as they left Beaufort Inlet. He was first missed nearly 3 hours and 35 nautical miles later., SSW of the inlet. The 35 year old missing man did not have a life jacket and it was unknown how good he could swim.

The Coast Guard responded with a search helicopter and a C130. Also a nearby war ship volunteered to help and joined in the search. Now, as I write this, it is nearly 10 hours since the man was last seen and he has not been found yet. How sad.

Anyhow, we sailed from Ocracoke to Oriental today. Tomorrow, we'll fetch mail waiting for us General Delivery, Oriental. This is the first time we've received snail mail since, Boothbay Harbor Maine. That sure seems like a long time ago. Jenny collects our mail and forwards it to us when we know where we'll be. I suspect that the next mail stop will be Fernandina Beach, Florida sometime in November.

We requested an absentee ballot from Vermont. They haven't even come to Jenny's house yet and I have no idea where to tell her to forward them to if they came today. We may be disenfranchised because snail mail is so slow for cruising sailors.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ocracoke 2

Ocracoke Island, NC

This is the second time this year we visited Ocracoke Island.  The first time, last May, we stayed here four days seeking shelter from a gale.

I know many of you have been here as tourists.   Ocracoke really is a delightful tourist stop.  I'd say it must be the jewel of the outer banks.   It certainly beats the hyper development of places like Roanoke Island.    For example, look at the picture below.  As I ham it up on the stage where they show the Lost Colony Pagent, behind me is an area so developed that it looks like downtown Philadelphia. 

By contrast, Ocracoke appears to be developed just enough (As of today.  I have no idea what their future holds.)   It retains a small town atmophere and outer banks culture.   I tried talking to the ferry captains on the radio a few times and their brouge is so strong I could hardly understand them.  See Hoi Toide.

We had a great surprise when we arrived here.  In the harbor was Viking Rose , a Westsail 42 (not 32), with Richard, Penny and their dog Otis aboard.   They are great cruising friends and we're delighted to meet up with them once again.

On the down side, this island and this week is invested with the most voracious mosquitoes I've ever seen.   During a 10 minute walk back to the boat yesterday I had to kill up to 20 of those things on my arms and legs.  Worse, every one I killed was full with my fresh blood.   The little buggers could land and bite in just seconds.    At night, we kept the boat shut tight except for the screened hatch in the companionway.   Dozens of mosquitoes butted their heads furiously on that screen trying to get at us.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Emergency! Emergency!

Pamlico Sound
N 35 41 W 075 39

During my years as a volunteer fireman, I learned that emergency alarms sometimes come in clusters. Such has been the case for the past 36 hours and the reason for this extra long blog post.

Yesterday afternoon was a quiet lazy day. The sun shone. There was almost no wind. The temperature was about 80. Libby and I had done our hiking for the day. Now, Libby was taking a nap while I wrote blog stuff. We could hear tourists walking by on the river walk right next to us. Many of them stopped to comment on the obviously sea going sailboat. Sailors among them explained the various boat parts to the others. Non-sailors speculated and guessed at what the purpose of the parts were.
Like I said, a quiet lazy day. The time was about 1500.

Suddenly, we heard a very loud roar of an outboard engine at full speed. Less than 2 seconds later we heard a big crash. It sounded like a boat had rammed us. We scrambled out on deck. I got there first. What I saw was a 30 foot power boat stopped about 50 feet away. Then I realized what had happened. That power boat went past us at high speed, and very very close. He didn't collide with us but he made an enormous wake that crashed us against the pilings of the wall. Our teak rub rail
and teak cap rail were crushed where they hit the piling. I yelled at the boat to come back. He didn't come.

Looking around, I saw that there was another boat tied up to the wall in front of Tarwathie. That boat too had sustained significant damage. I yelled again at the power boat to come back. It started moving away from us.

More people came running up, including the dock master. The sound of the engine roar followed by the crash had been heard 40 feet away. The dock master got on his VHF radio and called the power boat. He got contact. The dock master told him to come back to the dock. The power boat claimed that he couldn't hear the radio, and it sped up moving away. The dock master tried again. This time, the power boat asked for a cell phone number. He got the number and he called the dock master.

The boat still refused to return to the dock, but he did leave his name, address, phone number and email. When asked for his boat registration number, he claimed that he could not see the numbers. I was highly suspicious of his behavior. I thought that the only reason he would not come back to the dock was to prevent anyone from smelling his breath.

I called the Coast Guard to ask them to intercept this boat. They had no vessel close enough. The Coast Guard then called the Manteo Police. Soon a policeman arrived and took a report. He also ran the man's name and got the registration number. The police promised to make contact with this man, to get his insurance information and to pass it to me and to the owner of the other damaged boat. He said that if the man does not pay for damages, that my only recourse is to return in person to Manteo
Magistrate Court and sue him. That would be very impractical for us. The law for boat accidents and insurance is not the same as for cars.

About three hours after the incident, the guilty man called me. He apologized profusely. He said that there was no alcohol involved. He also promised to make me whole financially. We'll have to see if he keeps his word. The man also offered an explanation. He said that he was attempting to pull in to a slip. His boat drifted to one side and threatened to run in to the back of a boat in the next slip. He said his passengers failed to fend off the other boat. He panicked, hit full throttle
and spun the wheel to make a tight turn to avoid hitting the other boat. As he accelerated with the wheel full over, his engine created an enormous wake that hit me. I must say that his explanation does seem to fit the facts as I observed them. However, he could offer no explanation for his failure to return to the dock to face me an the others.

I think we'll wait until we get to Ferandina Beach and to get the rail repaired at Tiger Point where we've been before (See this blog, May 2005)

Now for the second emergency. We departed today at first light, bound for Ocracoke Island. To get out to the open waters of Pamlico sound, we first had to traverse about 20 miles of narrow dredged channels. We also had to pass Oregon Inlet. 3/4 of the way through this passage we come to a point where there are two intersections of 5 channels within a 1/4 mile of each other. The area is constantly shoaling, so the authorities keep moving the markers and buoys and putting out temporary ones.
There are so many markers that it looks like a forest of red and green trees. It is extremely difficult to figure out which channel which buoy belongs to, and therefore on which side of which buoy to pass. To make things worse, there is an intersection where the color convention flips from red-left to red-right.

As we approached this intersection both Libby and I were trying to be as careful as possible. We tried to reconcile four sources of information. (1) What our charts showed. (2) What the GPS chart plotter showed. (3) A verbal description in our Claiborne Young cruising guide and (4) what we saw with our eyes. We approached the intersection where the colors flipped from red-left to red-right. But there was still one more negative factor in the mix. Two big dredging barges sat in the middle
of the channel blocking our way and blocking our view of the buoys and markers ahead. We tried to read the number of the marker ahead of us, but it was almost in line with the sun and we couldn't read it.

Just then, a motor boat came zipping past us, and past the next marker and headed around the barge. I thought that was the clue I needed and tried to follow him. Well, he ran aground about 200 feet in front of us, and before I could stop, we ran aground too. The motor boat returned and took a line and helped pull us off. We thanked him, and he left. Then I tried to call the barge on the radio. As I did that, I asked Libby to keep us out of the shallows. Libby's instincts in such situations
is almost 100% bad. I should have remembered that. She turned us back and within seconds we were aground again. The barge captain called and told us that we were trying to go on the wrong side of the red marker. Oh.

A passing tug boat tried to help us by making a big wake. Nice try, but it didn't work. We had to kedge ourselves out of there. We launched the dinghy and I loaded it with an anchor and 200 feet of rode. Then I rowed it out to the channel and dropped it where I hoped it was deep. I then returned to the boat and we used the windlass to pull in the rode inch by inch We had to drag Tarwathie through 75 feet of shoals before she broke free. It took us about 45 minutes.

After that, we learned the real secret. We called the dredging barge on the radio and he moved the barge out of the way so that we could pass. We were thankful for that.

We still weren't out of trouble. Past the barge was one more intersection and two buoys with positions and colors and numbers that made no sense at all. I asked the barge operator which way to go around those buoys. He was helpful and gave me guidance. That was nice, but he turned out to be dead wrong. We nearly ran aground two more times trying to get past those buoys. Worse, we had no clue whether to turn more to the left or the right to find deeper water.

Now we're past all that and out in the open waters of Pamlico sound. Whew. The day's not finished though. We still have to navigate the dangerous channel in to Ocracoke. There is serious shoaling reported in that channel and one must be very careful to navigate with precision. Because of the delay due to running aground, now our estimated time of arrival at that channel is sunset. If we are delayed even a little bit, it will be dark. I don't want to try it in the dark.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Drunk Drivers

Manteo, NC
N 35 54.528 W 075 40.102

We have been very lucky over the years. Despite the number of times we tied up to very public places, there have been very few incidents where we were bothered by bad people. Last night was one of those few.

It was First Friday night in Manteo. That means the shops stay open late, the streets are closed to traffic, and there are bands playing in the streets. We walked around and enjoyed it for a while.

First Friday also attracts some locals who come by boat and who tie up at the public dock. One of those in a party barge tied up about 50 feet away from us. Soon they were cooking BBQ on the stern for about 12 people. Cool. Then apparently those 12 people got into the sauce. As the night progressed they got louder and louder. Then, one of them found the compressed air horn which is very loud and blew that until it ran out of air.

We elected to not interfere so we went to bed. A half hour later I woke to the noise of a nearby engine. I looked out and saw the party barge leaving. The guests were leaning over the side screaming obscenities. Bear in mind, these were not ignorant kids, but elderly people of retirement age. Good, I thought, at least they're gone.

An hour later I woke again to the sound of more engine noises and loud voices. It was the same party barge, and now it was heading toward us, apparently out of control. My heart was in my mouth. I thought we would be rammed. Well, to make a long story short, they missed us and crashed in to the dock 6 feet away. I would have jumped out to yell at them or something, but a nearly naked man running around in circles and cursing wouldn't help the situation. Finally, they backed out and disappeared in to the dark. Good riddance.

Grrrr. Anger

Seriously, let me repeat. The truth is that such unpleasant experiences on the water happen less often than one would expect.

Friday, October 03, 2008

First Friday

Manteo, NC
N 35 54.528 W 075 40.102

We're back in Manteo where we stopped last spring on our way north. We are on Roanoke Island right next to the place where they show the Pagent June through August.

We are also within sight of Nags Heat and Kitty Hawk. This area is a magnet for tourists and even in October there are plenty of them around.

The weather today is especially delightful so we hope to see a lot of people out on the street for tonight's First Friday celebration. That's something they do here every month.

Last night, prior to the debate we watched the stars and tried to spot a passing sattelite. Being anchored out in the sound exposed to wind and waves, we had a very bumpy time while we were listening to the debate. OK, I'll confess -- we fell asleep about 60 minutes into the 90 minute debate. The truth seemed to be that if the candidates are not going to risk screwing up, then they recite talking points thus making the debates very boring.

Out of the 26 debates so far this election season, the only one that seemed to provide information that an ordinary citizen would like to hear was the one hosted by Reverend Rick Warren. The other 25, all run by professional journalists, were boring and uninformative. I swear that today's journalists claim to be serving the public but they act as if their only audience was other journalists. They claim to ask what the American People want to know, but I suspect they ask whatever gives them brownie points with other journalists, then they falsely claim that is what the public wants.


Maneto, NC

Whoops, a recent post "Sit Down For a Spell" talked about a picture that failed to post. I repaired it. Please go back and have a look at it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

All For Us?

Albemarle Sound
N 35 57.944 W 075 48.389

As a write this, there is a stunningly beautiful sunset sky. We see Jupiter, a sliver of a waxing moon, Venus the red sky and the tree tops of the cypress swamps all in close proximity. Wow.

Once again we are reminded of how lucky we are. All day today we sailed down Albemarle Sound while seeing only one or two other vessels. We pretty much have the whole place to ourselves. The Albemarle is about 5x40 miles in size which makes it very big. Still, we are almost alone out here. It was the same way sailing up the sound two days ago.

Tonight we're being very bold. We are anchored near the shore but in an exposed place with no shelter. The weather report promises that we won't have much wind for the next few days, so we are emboldened. It is generally a bad policy to anchor in exposed places and we regretted doing it last spring on the Chesapeake. However, darkness outraced us to the sheltered anchorage tonight. We are in shallow waters that are sometimes chris crossed with gill nets that are not lit, so it would not be
good to sail at night.

We have one more thing to look forward to tonight -- the Biden Palin debate. It sounds like it may attract a huge audience. We'll be among the radio audience.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Claims To Fame

Edenton, NC
N 36 03.352 W 076 36.623

Elizabeth City claims to be the Harbor of Hospitality. Edenton claims to be "The Prettiest City in the South." From what we've seen recently, both claims are substantially true.

Above, the Rose Buddies commemorative stone, dedicated 9/18/08. We've written many times in this blog about the Rose Buddies. Fred Fearing will be much missed.

Below, the many many pretty scenes we saw today walking around Edenton. Edenton was North Carolina's first capitol and it must have attracted the wealthiest citizens who build wonderful homes and churches. Many of them still exist in pristine condition. We recommend Edenton as a very worthy destination for a weekend trip if you are within range.

Bottom pic, top left and center. The lower panel in the back door of the house has a geometric pattern. The garden behind the back door has the same pattern, see the top center picture.