Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More more Irene

South Burlington, Vermont

We're heading down to New York for a couple of days. We're going to a send off for our friends John and Mary Ann who are moving to Arizona. (No, not because of Irene.)

I've heard news from other sailors. Staying at a marina has it's own risks. That is part of the reason why we chose Porter Bay. We had only one other boat within a half mile of us.

Up on Champlain, there are several marinas at the north end of the lake that cater to Canadians. One of them sent me the following report. " around our marina it was a disaster many boats dragged their moorings and ended up taking others with them and many boats ending up on shore with at least 3 sinking, many boats with damage to masts from hitting together. " You see one problem often overlooked is that sailboats tied in adjacent slips can crash their masts into each other as they rock violently in bad weather.

Further south is the Blackbeard Sailing Club on the Neuse River near New Bern, NC.   We have several friends in that club. One of them, George, sent the following report.  "But Blackbeard Sailing Club ended up with 13 boats in the trees and two completely lost. It was a tough hurricane for chafed lines as the winds stayed very high until midnight or so Saturday."

For we boaters it is very frustrating to read the news accounts claiming that Irene was a non-event.

Fortunately for Jenny, there is little damage in the Burlington area.  Most of the rain fell on the east facing slopes of the mountains.  There are three major ridges.  One follows I91 near the eastern edge of Vermont.  The next is the Green Mountain Ridge up the middle of the state.  Third is the eastern edge of the Adirondack Mountains in New York.  It was the valleys at the bottom of those three eastern facing ridge lines that experienced the worst flooding.

Below, see the lake level rising as a result of Irene.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Still more Irene

South Burlington, Vermont

I wrote about Otter Creek in Vergennes.  Here is a video from youtube.  It shows the view from the top of the falls.  Down below is the place where we dock when we're there.  Unbelievable.

Below is another video showing other places in Vermont.  It is very sobering and scary.  Our hearts go out to all the people damaged.  Go to to donate.

On the lighter side is something I forgot to mention.   Sunday night as Irene expeneded her fury against us, the wind was blowing us toward shore.  The storm passed more west than expected and we may have been close to the center and thus the wind direction shifted more than we expected.

Anyhow, soon after dark we were huddled inside reading books when mosquitoes started showing up.  How the h* did mosquitoes manage to fly from the sure against a hurricane to get out to the boat?  I sure have no answer for that.

More Irene Aftermath

Porter Bay, Vermont
44 13.79 N 073 18.92 W

As far as we know, all our friends and relatives and their friends are OK.  Thank goodness.  However, we listen to local radio in Vermont and the situation for many people is still grim.  Despite all that's happened so far (You probably saw it on TV.  We, of course, have seen no TV.) the rivers are still rising and wont crest for another day or two.

Yesterday we just sat here in Porter Bay, admiring the beautiful nature and the splendid post-storm weather.   A Vermont State Trooper came by in a patrol boat.  He asked if we rode out the storm here.  We said yes.  I asked him what it was like on Otter Creek up in Vergennes.

If you recall, Vergennes is one of our favorite spots.   It offers public docks at the base of a wonderfully scenic waterfall.  It is surrounded by very high hills that provide extremely good shelter from any winds.   It would be the perfect place to hide from a hurricane except for one thing -- floods.  That is why we rejected Vergennes as a hurricane hole.

Anyhow, the trooper said yes, there are a lot of boats tied up at the docks at Vergennes.  I was surprised.  I expected everyone to make the same decision as we did.  He said that the water was so high that everything was under water except the floating docks where the boats were tied.  One could wonder if the floating docks might break loose.   He also said that the extremely swift currents had pinned the boats against the docks.  They were unable to leave.  

Those boats might be stuck there for the rest of the week until the flood subsides.  The people on those boats may be unable to go ashore all that time and they must deal with debris floating past such as logs, cars, houses, and bridges (just kidding).

Now I'm doubly glad that we rejected Vergennes as a hurricane hole.  Our sympathies go out to those who did.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Morning After

Porter Bay, Vermont
44 13.79 N 073 18.92 W

We are fine.  Listening to Vermont Public Radio news this morning, I think we might have had the safest location in the whole state yesterday.  Flooding in Vermont and Upstate NY is severe.   I just heard the Vermont governor on the radio he said something startling, "Every major road in Vermont is damaged."  Every road; WOW!  Bridges are washed out.  Power crews may not get their trucks to some communities for weeks.   In NY, the Mohawk River (Erie Canal) is flooding.

Thank goodness we did not try to ride out the storm on Otter Creek in Vergennes.

For Libby and I, yesterday was almost normal as a rainy day.   We had normal power, lights, heat, food.  The anchor never moved one inch.  We spent our time reading books and getting email alerts from people in other places. After sunset, the wind clocked around to a direction where we had no shelter and it got much less comfortable.  Still the anchor never moved and inch and we were fine.  Tarwathie is a stout old gal.  She kept us safe.   Sometime after 3AM, the wind stopped.

It is kind of bizarre being so aware of what is happening elsewhere while we sit out a hurricane.  It was never like that in the past.  Also bizarre, as I look outside this morning, the bay and the mountains are beautiful in the sunshine and completely unchanged; yet on the local radio we hear about all the Vermont people still in danger from the flooded rivers.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ready and Waiting

Porter Bay, Vermont
44 13.79 N 073 18.92 W

Well, we're here.  We're securely anchored.  We have good shelter against winds.  The outer bands of Irene are here.  Now there's nothing to do but wait.  The peak should come in about 12 hours.  

Reading the various forecasts is not helpful.  On one hand, Irene seems to be weakening and heading further east than thought.  That leads me to expect less severe conditions.  On the other hand, they just changed the Lake Champlain forecast to double the estimated waves to 12 foot waves.  At a period of 1.3 seconds that would be very nasty.

Anyhow, don't worry about us.

Meanwhile we heard from Jeff and Wendy on Calypso that they are OK and the boat is OK despite damage to the marina and the town.  I heard on the radio of a 7 foot storm surge in New Bern.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Irene

Lake Champlain,
44 28.58 N 073 15.27 W

I got the following from our friends Jeff and Wendy. They are on board the Westsail 32 Calpyso on the Neuse River in North Carolina. Wish them well.

Hope you are doing well and out of the path of Irene.
We are at MCAS Cherry Point.
Tied in well with a spider web of lines.
Tried to Haul on Monday but all yards full by 1200.
Anticipated 10' surge in the Neuse.
Say one for us and we will let you know how it ends.
Jeff & Wendy

We certainly will say one for them.  Also for George and Carol on Traumeri, and Les and Susan on Last Dance, also on the Neuse River. They and the others at Blackbeard Sailing Club has a good hurricane hole plan for their boats, plus places to stay on land, so I presume they won't be on board.  

We also have family, Dave, Cathy and Sara in Zebulon, NC.  The wind and surge should be no problem, but they live near the bottom of a hill so rain runoff might be a concern.  We'll say one for them too.

Meanwhile, we are still on Lake Champlain in Vermont. We are 300 miles from the ocean so one would think that hurricanes should not be a factor. That is mostly true, but not entirely true. The big thing of course is that there is no storm surge on a lake.

On Sunday we'll get 40mph sustained, gusts to 60. Waves on the lake will be 6 feet (Sounds small but waves on this lake have a period of 1.3 seconds. They are very punishing and often make trawlers entirely airborne.) We have ridden out conditions like that several times before.

We don't have any place to tie off like Calypso. We'll ride at anchor in Porter Bay.  That bay has good protection and hopefully not many boats. I'll drop my 80 pound Luke.That won't drag. My main worry is other boats dragging into me.   

You may wonder why we don't take shelter in Otter Creek.  Protection from wind and waves there would be almost total.  We'd hardly notice the storm.  However, after 4 or more inches of rain, the creek will have a flash flood and it will not be nice to be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hunkering Plans

Valcour Island, New York
44 38 49 N 073 24.42 W 

Yesterday I sent an email to my friend Dave in Melbourne, FL. “Time to hunker down for the hurricane,” I said. He replied, “You may see more wind up there in New York than we do here.” Listening to today's forecast, he may be right.

First, family news. Over the weekend at Jenny's house, we had a visit from my son Dave from North Carolina, and from our granddaughter Sara. We had lots of fun. It made a great weekend. Sara rode back to North Carolina for a visit with Dave and Cathy. That puts all three of them in the path of Irene. That is only a slight worry for them however, Zebulon NC is far enough away from the coast that they should not get much more than heavy rain.

Then, Irene may come to land again at New York City and head for Vermont. That's us. Time for us to think about a hurricane hole.

So what is an appropriate hurricane hole for us as opposed to just ducking heavy weather. We are on a lake, so storm surge is not a factor. The main, and telling difference is that if we get a direct hit, the winds may clock around from all directions.

Right now, we are in a marvelously secure place on Valcour Island. What a nice place to be. I've used the phrase “marooned in paradise” too often on this blog, but it applies. We are well sheltered from wind and waves from the South, West and North, but exposed to the East. I think we'll move. Move where? Deep Bay, The Gut, Willsboro Bay, and Porter Bay are my best candidates. Otter Creek offers great shelter from wind and waves, but it will be subject to flash flooding.

Proximity to other boats is also a factor. In tough conditions I worry more about the other boat breaking loose than our boat doing the same. In that respect, Porter Bay is best.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thinking precautions, not panic. We are 200 miles from the coast. Any storm will be greatly diminished in strength before arriving here. Also, chances are that it will go up the coast rather than coming here. In 2005, we sat behind the Statue of Liberty waiting for Hurricane Wilma to hit us. It passed well to the east and we did fine.

We have several friends in Maine this summer including the vessels Carpe Diem and Robin. I expect them to do fine. Maine has numerous hurricane holes, so I'm not worried about them either.

However, I am spooked in one respect. Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina on September 10, 1989. I do not want to arrive in the Carolinas before the 20th or in the Chesapeake before the 12th of September, just to avoid the peak hurricane weeks. We would like to go to a Westsail rendezvous near Annapolis on the 16th. That makes for a narrow window. We'll see how things turn out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Mouse

Shelburne, Vermont
44 25.55 N 073 14.92 W

Last month while we had Katelyn on board the boat, I started to climb up the companionway ladder to go outside. I came nose-to-nose with a chipmunk who was just about to jump inside. I'm not sure who was more startled, me or the chipmunk, but there was no doubt which of us reacted fastest. The chipmunk took off running for his life. I chased after him, not nearly as fast. As I got up on deck, I spotted him running up the rope tying us to shore.

Recently I saw pictures of boats at a marina in California. Every rope on every one of those boats had a rat guard cone attached to their dock lines. We never had those, we never needed one before. Well, a couple of weeks later, our luck ran out. In the evening, we were both quietly reading books when Libby suddenly let out a gasp, just short of a scream. It was a mouse running across the floor.

The next day, I got some glue type mouse traps and we spread them around. They did no good. For several days, the mouse appeared each day. It was always Libby who saw him, never me. We put the traps everywhere he appeared. I even presses a corn chip into the glue as bait. He ate the chips without getting caught. Then, he didn't appear again for two weeks. We gladly thought he was gone.

Then we started hearing strange noises. He was nibbling and rustling close to our ears. We heard him from one direction, then another the next night and another the night after that. Only once did he appear. I figured out that the mouse figured out that he could travel all over the boat under the floor where we have a bilge and water tanks. Under the floor he could reach all the compartments on the boat without exposing himself. All of them have small cracks and holes where stray water (or a mouse) can find its way down to the bilge.

We gave up on the glue traps and bought some spring traps. The first day, Libby opened up the lazarette storage locker in the cockpit and there he sat. She moved a trap to that exact spot. Bingo! The next morning we had a trapped mouse.

Embarrassing as it is to have vermin on board, we did not fare as badly as Scandinavian Airline System. Last week, they had to cancel the flight from Stockholm to Chicago because of a mouse running up and down the aisles upsetting the passengers. That incident made news all over the world. I bet almost as many people saw that on Associated Press as will see our story here on this blog.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Deer

Burlington, Vermont
44 28.12 N 073 13.28 W

We have all seen the devastating effects of deer-car collisions.  They are especially devastating when the deer goes through the windshield of the car.   Would you believe that we almost had such a collision with Tarwathie yesterday?  How the h* can that be?  Read on.

We were motoring down Otter Creek.   That is one of our favorite passages.  We do it a half dozen times per year.  I've blogged several times before about the charms of Otter Creek.  Most of the banks are wetlands.  Have a look on the Google Earth image below.

Anyhow, yesterday we were passing a place where the road passes right next to the creek.  The road is built on a berm that rises about 8 feet above the water.  The far side of the road is wetland.  See the image below.

On this morning, I was at the helm while Libby was below.  I saw a car on the road coming toward us.  Just as he approached, a whitetail deer climbed up onto the road from the wetland side.  Both the car and the deer were startled.  The car braked hard.  The deer took one galloping leap, landed on the creek side of the road, then took a second leap into the air.  From the 8' elevation that deer flew through the air right in front of my eyes and landed in the creek directly in front of the boat.  I was able to put the motor in reverse and slow down enough so that we didn't hit the deer in the water.   It swam to the far side of the creek, climbed out of the water, than fled for all its worth.

I exaggerate slightly when I say it almost came through our windshield.  In reality, it hit the water about two boat lengths in front of us.  Nevertheless, my brain's registration of that even fixed the deer flying through the sky above me, seemingly very close.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Delicate Balance

Porter Bay, NY
44 13.84 N 073 1.04 W

Last night in Vergennes we had another day surrounded by Quebecois.  This time it was a very nice experience.  This group of Quebecois were friendly, and helpful, and could manage with English.  Among them were two we consider dear friends, Pierre and Christina aboard the steel vessel "Anvil of the Sea"  They, and a teenage guest they had on board joined us for dinner last night.  We all had a great time.

We also had a friendly Quebecois couple rafted up with us.  Their boat was roughly the same size as Tarwathie.  

This morning, Libby was on shore and I was puttering when the captain of the rafted boat came and said, "We are going to leave now, can you help us?"  "Sure," I said. As I was helping him remove the lines I began to get uneasy.  You see, there had been rain yesterday and overnight the level of water int he creek rose and the current this morning was swift.   As we untied his lines, I was puzzled at first why his boat did not drift away at once.  Then I understood, we sat at an angle to the current and it was pushing his boat onto mine.  I briefly considered asking that captain to retie the lines and rethink his plan.

It was a disaster. He was tied with his stern  facing the current; (something a experienced skipper would never do, but yesterday there was no current).  To leave and to power himself away from Tarwathie would mean that his stern would have to swing even harder against me.  It did.  I scrambled to push him away but his davit-hung dinghy scraped all along the side of Tarwathie. Fortunately it did no damage.  Unfortunately, it prevented his boat from turning out away from the docks.  Downstream from me were four other Quebec sailboats.  One, then another, then two more rafted together.   He scraped along the side of the first of these, then the next, then he slammed into the sterns of the last two.  

Pandemonium ensued as the women aboard all those boats panicked and started screaming for help.   The men, who had been conferring on shore, came running and so did I.  There was lots of shouting in French.  I held my tongue -- being shouted at in two languages would not help.  After 3-4 back and forth tries, we managed to push that boat out enough so that he could  back away.  No serious damage resulted, but those four boat owners were plenty steamed. 

In retrospect, I now realize that the other boat's situation was hopeless.  With his stern to the current, and with the angle of the current and the docks, there was no safe way for him to depart at at all.  He could not have succeeded no matter what.   Should I have warned him?  I could have asked him to describe his plan, and in discussions of strategy it might have evolved that "abandon your plan for leaving right now" was best.  

Also in retrospect I remembered that all of these lake sailors were like Libby and I prior to 2005.  They may have many years sailing experience but have never navigated their boats in swift currents.  Skippers facing that for the first time tend to be caught unaware and act bewildered because their familiar boat is not behaving in the accustomed way.  

That brings up the delicate balance.  The captain of a vessel is indisputably in command.  He must not be questioned nor disputed.  On airplanes, after some prominent crashes, they evolved a protocol called Cockpit Resource Management (CRM), that encourages the copilot to politely question and even respectfully dispute what the captain said --- that's his job.    CRM however does not apply to bystanders or passengers; even if those others may have superior knowledge.  

On Tarwathie I had to remind Libby of that several times after tense times coming in to and out of docks.  People on shore tend to shout "Do this. Do that."  The captain may or may not appreciate their advice, but the crew must never ever do what the bystanders say instead of what the captain told them to do. If the crew doesn't obey the captain, then they are no longer working as a team.

So, although airplanes have CRM, the protocol around boats near docks is undeveloped and unspoken.  I always hesitate before offering advice to another captain, and frequently that very hesitation decides in favor of silence.  Out in open water there is more time to think and to apply verbal diplomacy to feel out the other captain's receptivity.  In and around docks, things go bad in seconds, and even receptive captains need a few seconds to mull over shouted advice.

To be sure, if someone were about to be killed or injured I would not hesitate to shout STOP!  However, when the danger is just to other people's property, I hesitate to do so.

If any readers have advice on how to resolve this delicate balance, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

She Just Gets Better

Vergennes, VT
44 10.17 N 073 15.48 W

Here are two more new baskets from Libby.  

 Jenny mentioned that one of Libby's baskets made with a walnut slice was particularly popular at a charity auction.   Therefore, Libby made a new one with even more slices for Jenny.  Me?  My job was to go on Ebay and order more walnut slices for Libby.  

I also got to spray the basket with Shellac. That's why it is shiny.  Most of them are not sprayed, but in this one she took pains to use different color needles.  We believe that the needle colors will not fade if sprayed with Shellac or clear Lacquer.

Cruisers As Travelers

Vergennes, VT
44 10.17 N 073 15.48 W

I have been thinking for some time about writing a blog post about us (or all cruisers) being nomads.  Yesterday I ran across the use of the word traveler as a synonym.  I looked it up on wikipedia and what I found opened my eyes to a whole body of knowledge new to me.

First, the synonyms:
  • Drifter, a person who is continually travelling without a home or job
  • Rogue,Vagabond, Vagrant.
  • Itinerant, a person who travels from place to place with no fixed home
  • Nomad, a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer 
  • Perpetual traveler, a traveller/migrant who is not considered a legal resident of any country 
  • Tourist, a person who is travelling or visiting a place for pleasure 
  • Migrant (or migrant worker)
  • Transient, that is what we are called when we stay in a marina. Hotels call us guests but marinas call us transients.
  • Here's a complete list:  adventurer, barnstormer, bum, commuter, displaced person, drifter, excursionist, expeditionist, explorer, floater, gadabout, globetrotter, gypsy, haj, hiker, hobo, itinerant,jet-setter, journeyer, junketer, migrant, navigator, nomad, passenger, peddler, pilgrim,rambler, roamer, rover, sailor, seafarer, sightseer, tinker, tourist, tramp, transmigrant, trekker, tripper,trouper, truant, vagabond, vagrant, voyager,wanderer, wayfarer
Wow, what a load of judgmental baggage associated with those words. Some laudatory and some derogatory .  

Everyone is a tourist once in a while.  Few of us wish to be called rogue, vagabond or vagrant.  We met a man once who was a real drifter.  I greatly admired him and wrote a blog about him.  We also met a tinker and wrote a blog about him.  Do you imagine Libby and I to be like the the Rainbow Coalition?  That just makes me giggle.

Second, there are so many kinds of travelers, many of which I never heard of:
  • English Travelers
  • Scottish travelers, nomadic or itinerant people of Scottish origin 
  • New Age travelers, groups of people who often espouse New Age and/or hippie beliefs, and usually travel between music festivals and fairs.  Includes Rainbow Travellers 
  • Indigenous Norwegian Travelers, itinerant ethnic minority group in Norway 
  • Irish Travellers or Pavees, traditionally nomadic people of Irish origin living predominantly in Ireland and Great Britain 
  • Norwegian and Swedish Travelers, a traditionally nomadic people in Scandinavia, sometimes related to the Romani people. 
  • Romani people, ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to medieval India.  Commonly called Gypsies in the USA.
So, should we include cruiser as a kind of traveler?  What do cruisers have for similarities and differences compared to travelers?

  • Travelers travel a lot, mostly with the seasons.
  • Travelers have their own language.
  • Travelers associate most with fellow travelers (another burdened phrase)
  • Travelers often educate their children outside of public schools.
  • Travelers they like to squat, or a least to camp for long periods on places they don't own.  (Think of the legal battles over anchoring rights in Florida)
  • (some) Travelers tend to be lawbreakers and anti-social.
  • Travelers travel mostly with relatives and tend to marry relatives.
  • Travelers live their whole lives as travelers, cruisers tend to do it only for a fraction of their lives.
  • Travelers are poor.
  • Travelers are the targets of scorn and discrimination.  Unlike other minorities protected by laws, people and governments openly discriminate against travelers.  In the United States, the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs issued a press release on March 14, 2007 titled "Irish Travelers Perpetuate a Tradition of Fraud". Imagine if a government said similar things about blacks or Muslims?  Cruisers on the other hand, are widely admired.
So what's the bottom line, are cruisers travelers or not?  At the risk of sounding pedantic, I would say that we are nascent travelers.

What about the joys of being a traveler?  That's what I write about day after day year after year.  However, I do not always make it clear that the joy of continuously moving from one place to another is separate from the joy of sailing or the nice things about the places we visit.   In that sense, we are truly travelers.

p.s. The debate over anchoring rights in Florida is directed at bums who live on boats but who don't travel.  Some land lubbers have a hard time distinguishing bums from cruisers. Although the difference is plain to us, I can understand the ignorance and confusion of the land lubbers.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    The Perfect Sail

    Porter Bay, NY
    44 13.84 N 073 1.04 W

    OK, the other day I chickened out on telling how great it really was. Partly it was because of an embarrassment of riches. Also partly is was because of an embarrassment of superlatives. You see, I learned a long time ago that good writing was made better by eliminating superlatives. I learned to review my writing and to strike every other superlative. For important things, I would go back and strike half the remaining superlatives. Last Thursday, it was so nice that nothing came to my head but superlatives, and that paralyzed my writing hand.  OK, here goes:

    Picture this scene. It was Thursday. The wind was blowing 10-20 from the West. Since Lake Champlain runs north-south, a rare westerly wind is ideal for going places in a sailboat. We left the perfect shelter of east-facing Sloop Cove around 0800. As soon as we got away from the island a bit, I could see all the whitecaps. We were in for a nice day.

    We both needed jackets. It was cool in the morning; about 60 degrees. The wind was also cool. That sure felt good after the hot hot days we've suffered this summer.

    Up went the mainsail. The wind was stiff. I elected to use the smaller staysail instead of the larger yankee jib. With the larger sail we would have been overpowered. The combination of main and staysail was just right. Tarwathie flew down the lake at 6.5 knots with the wind on her beam.

    Whoops, the wind stopped abruptly. I was thinking about taking down the sails and motoring. Before I could, the wind came back. It was like that the whole day. Strong winds, moderate winds, no winds; abrupt changes came every few minutes. However, the westerly direction of the winds didn't change.  What it did do was to make us adjust our course and sails constantly.  We had to use our best sailing skill and had to stay on our toes the whole time.

    We had the option of going to Burlington, about 12 miles or to Vergennes, about 30 miles. It didn't take time to eliminate Burlington.

    Burlington's exposed shoreline on the west side of the lake would have been too bumpy to anchor on a day like this. Besides, why would we choose a 12 mile trip when we could go 30 miles instead.

    Libby and I swapped places every 30 minutes or so. Each of us felt guilty standing at the helm. We felt like we were hogging all the fun. Strangely, even in such nice conditions we are in the habit of one person at the helm and one below. We almost never sail far with two in the cockpit.

    There wasn't much traffic.  Only about six other boats sharing this 200 square mile part of the lake.  

    Soon we were south of Burlington in the broadest part of the lake. Then, the weather had changed enough that all haze and most clouds evaporated, leaving spectacular views of the mountains on both sides. Clear air, free of haze is unusual, and the mid line of the broadest part of the lake affords the best vantage point to view the mountains. To the East we could see Mount Mansfield, Camel's Hump and Mount Abrahms, To the west we could see almost all the peaks in the Adirondacks. I can't identify most of them. However, I did recognize Whiteface Mountain (1980 Winter Olympics) and Mount Marcy. Marcy is the highest peak in the Adirondacks. It is 150 miles away, way over near Marcy, NY and Lock 20 where we recently visited John's family. The tip of Marcy's peak is barely visible from one spot in the middle of the lake.  

    I kept wanting to take a series of pictures to form a panorama to share with you on this blog.  I've learned however, that such photos are almost always disappointing.   Better to forget the camera and focus on the grandness of the moment.   

    Well, we covered those 30 miles in about 5 glorious hours. What a sail. What a perfect sail. Boy am I glad that I lost the argument about putting the mast up. A day like that is enough to justify the entire trip up here from the Florida Keys and any expense. A perfect sail is priceless.  So far, every sailing expedition to Lake Champlain going way all the way back to 1977, has provided me with at least one perfect sail.  One perfect sail per year is enough to rekindle the soul and spirit of any man.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    At Rest

    Vergennes, VT
    44 10.17 N 073 15.48 W

    Dick at rest on Valcour Island.
    The hammock was slung in a unique place.  A little point, almost a separate island, connected to Valcour by a very thin strip of rock.  From the hammock I could see nothing but water on both sides.  We are in New York but Vermont's Grand Isle is visible in the background.    Libby rowed the dinghy around to get this snapshot.

    Tarwathie at rest on Valcour Island.
    In Sloop Cove. We have her stern tied to shore.   That backs her up to a cliff that provided shelter from forecasted 30 knot winds from the south.  (p.s. The forecast was wrong.  No strong winds appeared.)

    Thursday, August 11, 2011


    Lake Champlain

    Good advice I got once is that a blog filled by too much "Here we are having fun while you're stuck at home," is a recipe for losing blog readers.  I'm afraid we've been doing too much of that this summer.  Especially considering the plight of others.  For example, our friend Randy in Dallas Texas is about to suffer his 40th consecutive day with temperatures over 100 F.

    So I won't write that we're sailing down the lake right now with 15-20 knots breeze on the beam.  Instead, I'll write about a hazard -- snags.

    The word snag has many meanings.  In life it can mean any unexpected obstacle.  When anchoring, it can mean any object on the bottom that your anchor might catch on.  In this article I mean a solid object with one end stuck on the bottom and the other end at or near the surface.   Most snags are formed by logs, but really nasty ones are made by sharp spears made of iron.

    When under way, we are used to hitting floating pieces of wood or other debris.  That's pretty common.  For a boat like Tarwathie with a solid hull, and a skeg rudder protecting the propeller, such strikes are usually no problem.   However, power boats and some sailboats are more vulnerable to propeller damage.  For them, floating debris is a worry.   For example, 90% of the north-south traffic in Virginia refuses to use the Dismal Swamp Canal route because of worries about floating bits of wood.

    On the other hand, a snag is a much more serious threat.  If you hit it, it will not simply be pushed aside.  Because it is embedded in the bottom it acts like a spear with the butt end stuck in the dirt.  Think of Hollywood movies where the great hunter kills the charging lion or elephant by simply sticking the butt of his spear in the ground and aiming the point toward the attacker.

    A Westsail 32's hull is so thick and strong that wooden snags should not be a mortal threat.   Hitting a snagged tree at full speed might cause quite a bump, but I don't think it would hole the hull.  Such is not true though in less well founded vessels.   It is also not true in the case of a sharply pointed steel snag.  Last spring we heard of such a steel snag which was the remains of a broken day marker pole.  It was up by Coinjock NC.  A big and well founded sailboat hit it and was holed.  The skipper managed to steer for shallow water and ground the boat before she sunk.   We feel for the skipper, there was no reasonable way for her to anticipate and avoid that hazard.

    So, what should you do to avoid the hazard of snags?  If the tip is invisible, there's very little you can do. If it is visible, the tip-off is that the log or the spear will normally tip at an angle of 45-75 degrees from horizontal.   A floating log, not snagged on the bottom is likely to float either horizontally or vertically.  A vertical tree stump may also stick more than a foot above the surface, but a vertically floating log will not.

    A similar hazard, crab/lobster traps I'll address another day.

    Snag Lake California, Source, Free Campgrounds

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Dick in the hammock on Valcour

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    Alone Again

    Valcour Island, NY

    Inexplicably almost all the other boats (both Canadian and American) have left the island. As far I can see, there are only two other boats on the west side of Valcour. Good. That's just the way we like it.

    I'm sitting now on our front porch. By that I mean a shelf of rock on the shore facing SW toward burlington and the Green Mountains. It is part of a camp site where Libby and I and our dog Pup liked to camp in October months during the years we didn't own a boat. Just being here brings back fond memories.

    One of the nice things about Valcour has always been the prolific, varied and colorful fungi. Not just mushrooms but also fungi growing on the sides of trees. This year they are all gone. Is it because of weather, or some fungus disease, or vandals? I have no idea. I hope they recover by next year.

    Meanwhile I can't get over how nice this island is. Even in winter as we slumber in mild subtropical breezes down South, my dreams often return me to Valcour Island.
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    Tuesday, August 09, 2011

    Return to Valcour

    Valcour Island, NY
    44 37.35 N 073 24.45 W

    Regular readers know well that Valcour Island is our favorite place on this planet. Each year, the high point of our existence is when we return to Valcour. Today we get to walk the trails and explore the shorelines once again. Then rain will move in. We don't care. Even wet, Valcour holds great charms.

    What contrast. As we bask in the pleasure of peace on Valcour, news from the outside world is all bad. Markets are going to hell destroying our savings. Senseless riots are spreading signifying what? If I weren't such a news junkie, I'd turn off the radios.

    Meanwhile, I got up at 0530 this morning to watch the sunrise. It was delightfully pink. I know of no place other than Sloop Cove on Valcour Island where one gets such wonderful views of sunrises. The sun comes up from the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It's just beautiful. Why is it that the world affords us so many more views of sunsets than sunrises?

    Monday, August 08, 2011


    Willsboro, NY 
    44 27.82 N 073 23.17 W

    We have come to realize that one of the great blessings of retired life in general (and the cruising life in particular) is the freedom to be spontaneous. This morning we planned to sail to Valcour Island. The weather isn't the best. Therefore we delayed departure to this afternoon, or perhaps tomorrow or the day after that. Weather above all other factors, is what steers our decisions. As my friend Bob on Carpe Diem said so elegantly, “We don't live in a boat, we live on a boat.”

    The value of spontaneity however, extends far beyond weather. It is a major factor in allowing us to relax. To enjoy life. To stop and smell the roses so to speak. When everything is planned and scheduled, our lives are robbed of the ability to be spontaneous. We become less the masters of our own lives and more slaves of the same.

    Is it true that the lives of all non-cruiser modern people of all ages are becoming more planned, more rigid, less spontaneous? It seems that way. We are poor judges though. We can not see with the clarity of un-involved outside observers.

    In our first years of cruising, Libby reminded me often. She said, “Stop thinking like a project manager – hurry hurry hurry all the time.” It took me several years, but gradually I changed. Now, I think the transformation is complete. Our only unyielding imperative is to migrate with the seasons. Indeed, when we must commit to being in a certain place at a certain time more than 48 hours in the future, our stress levels raise noticeably. We observe that is a characteristic shared by most long term cruisers. They hate the idea of promising to be a specific somewhere at a specific time in the future.

    My favorite expression of the feeling is as follows. “365 days of the year we get to decide whether to stay here, or to go some other place. If we do go, we get to decide where. Who else on this earth enjoys that freedom?” In other words, we are nomads and we enjoy the spontaneity of that life style.
    p.s. We've been offline for the past few days.  We may be offline more the rest of this week.

    Friday, August 05, 2011

    Day Lilies

    South Burlington, VT

    Another joy returning to home ground in the Northeast is the sight of day lilies.  They are prolific.  They bloom from June through September.   Wild lilies are prolific everywhere you look.  They thrive along the sides of roads and rivers.   Most of the wild ones are orange. Below is a collection of other color lilies that we encountered recently.

    Thursday, August 04, 2011

    Overrun, Overwhelmed, Overheated

    South Burlington, VT

    We're spending a few days at Jenny's house.   Libby gets to binge on gardening while she pals around with Jenny -- a very nice solution.  Meanwhile, Tarwathie sits at anchor near Burlington harbor.

    My subject today is something else.  A prominent feature of summer visits to Lake Champlain has always been the fact that most boats on the lake are manned by beckers (The word Vermonters use to refer to people from Quebec).   Many or most of them speak little or no English.  It has been that way for many years.

    This year the population of beckers seems to have doubled or tripled compared to previous years.  That means the number of all boats has also nearly doubled or tripled.  We are caught unprepared.  It doesn't feel like a surge, it feels like an invasion.

    I'm trying very hard not to be a bigot.  It is so tempting to resent having your back yard filled with foreigners who don't speak your language.  But the shoe has been on the other foot when we were English speaking tourists invading some other country's turf.   Americans especially are unaccustomed to non-English-speaking tourists. The real problem is that some of the beckers act like jerks.

    Minor infractions raise one's temperature but don't make one boil over.   People saving places for their friends at public first-come-first-serve facilities is a violation of etiquette.  When you're heading for a parking spot in a car (or a boat) and some jerk zooms past you at high speed and zips into the spot right in  front of you, it makes you want to shout JERK (or worse).   When a visitor to USA displays the American Flag in a disrespectful manner, that's a direct affront, probably a deliberate affront.  (i.e. Fleur des Lis on top, Canadian Maple belief below that, and Stars and Stripes on the bottom).   Frustration in all these cases is increased when you can't curse at them because they don't understand.

    In other cases opinion splits.  Attractive becker women sometimes run around naked or nearly naked much to the amusement of American men and the irritation of American women.

    I saved the worst for last.  Libby and I are both pretty even keeled.  Very seldom am I aroused to the point of rage.  Even less often for Libby.   The other day was one such case.    We were at the public dock in Vergennes.  Libby was on the boat and I was up in the village.   Libby suddenly sensed the boat moving.  She looked outside.  She found a man (a becker) had untied all our lines and was moving our boat.  He didn't ask for permission.  He didn't even knock on the hull to warn occupants.   Such a monumental breach of etiquette calls for a punch in the nose.  Libby became enraged and jumped out of the boat to verbally carve the guy a new one.  He just gestured that he didn't understand what she said.  Double rage.  As she returned to the boat, another becker who witnessed the whole thing put it all in perspective.  He said, "It's not all of us."

    It's not all of us is right.  We've met some wonderful beckers.   Even the majority are nice people if you give them the benefit of the doubt. (What doubt?  We suspect but can't prove that most of them understand and speak much more English than they let on.)   It takes great will power to not be xenophobic.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2011

    Everything A Nail

    Vergennes, VT
    44 10.17 N 073 15.48 W

    Have you ever heard of the man with a hammer in his hand?  He saw a world made of nails.   The scene below reminded me of that.  

    At the public dock this morning appeared this large ladder truck from the Vergennes Fire Department.  I was surprised to say the least.   Soon the truck set up its outriggers and extended the ladder.  I asked, "What are you up to?"  They said, "We have to replace the flag line.  The last storm blew it down."   They went about doing exactly that as I watched.   When they were done and as they were tying the new halyard to the base of the flag pole I went up and said something that marked me forever as an enemy of the Vergennes Fire Department.  I said, "Do you know that the base of this pole is hinged to allow it to be lowered?"

    Tuesday, August 02, 2011

    Vermont Scenes

    Vergennes, VT
    44 10.17 N 073 15.48 W

    A very happy argument winner preparing to sail for the first time in 2 months.

    A weed cutting machine unique to Champlain.
    Two have been working there as long as I remember.
    Strange permanent job.

    From the hill behind the docks at Vergennes.
    Both near and far Adirondack Peaks visible.
    Green Mountains visible over my shoulder.
    The only thing missing from this perfect view is the lake in the middle.

    Another scene from the hill behind the docks.

    Vergennes Falls directly in front of Tarwathie.
    Where else can you anchor at the base of a waterfall?

    Monday, August 01, 2011

    Libby's Latest

    Vergennes, VT
    44 10.17 N 073 15.48 W

    This basket is destined to hang in the house of Libby's best friend, Mary Ann.  Mary Ann just moved to a new home in Sedona, Arizona.  Below is a picture taken from her front yard.  Libby wanted colors harmonious with the setting.