Saturday, June 30, 2012

Praise General Electric

En Route, Erie Canal near Whitehall
43 22.64 N 073 29.27 W

Just a few weeks ago, we remarked in this blog that the bottom of our keel had an unusual number of barnacles because it was so long since we ran aground. Well, we solved that yesterday.  We did it good.

It is the weekend and we can't get the mast stepped until Monday.  Therefore, we were in the mood to do a little exploring of places we haven't been before.   At Lock 7, right next to ground zero of G.E.'s dredging of PCBs in the Hudson, there is a side channel that leads up to the Fort Edward Boat Basin.  We've never been there before.

We called ahead to inquire about water depth.  "Six feet", they said.
OK, up we go.   Well, we got only halfway there when bang, we were high and dry on a sand bank.   We've been aground before but this time Tarwathie was riding more than a foot higher than ever before above the water line.   Uh oh.

Well, first we called for help on the VHF.  The lock keeper thought that he might be able to raise the water level.  He also put in a call to Tug 44, a privately owned vessel the subject of the very popular   In the meantime, I put on my bathing suit and swam a line over to a tree on shore so we could kedge off.  I didn't mind the swim, it felt good on a hot day.

Before we got too far, a skiff with a man and a 50HP outboard came over to help.  The G.E. dredging project had sent him.  Not only that, but this guy knew well how to do it.  Soon he had us heeled way over 30 degrees, then he dragged us sideways off the sand bank.  Thank you very much G.E. and G.E.'s contractors.

The man told us that if we had stuck closer to the green side we would have been OK.  Pilot error, plain and simple.  Libby was very happy that she was not at the helm at that time.

The other good thing is that we no longer get upset or terrified when we run aground on mud or sand.  We just calmly set about the job of getting off.   That attitude must be wiped before the next time we visit Maine.  Running aground on rocks is something entirely different.

Oh well, the Fort Edward Yacht Basin will forever remain just out of our reach.

FLASH: I anticipate getting sight of Vermont within the hour!.  Hooray!!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Vermont Bound!

En Route, Champlain Canal
42 48.01 N 073 40.01 W

We just began the final leg of this year's northward migration == we are on the Champlain Canal heading for Lake Champlain.  :-)

We live pretty good when we visit the Capital Region because we get to visit so many good friends.   Last night, our friends Roger and Carolyn took us out to dinner.   Thank you very much, it was great to see you two.

The dinner also gave me an opportunity to test my new hearing aids.  They worked well in the extreme background noise of a busy restaurant.  I think I'm ready to say that I'm well satisfied with them.  There's a story behind that though.

When I was 19, I worked in a soda factory handling the (noisy) empty cans.  Ever since then, I've had a severe hearing loss.  I tested it many times.  Basically, my hearing is normal up to 2 kHz, and zero at higher frequencies.  It robs me most of comprehension of conversation.  Noisy environments are the worst.  Now, in my senior years, my hearing becomes a bit worse each year.

I've been reluctant to invest in hearing aids for two reasons.  First, I've been told many times by professionals that my type of hearing loss is hard to compensate for, and that my chances of being dissatisfied with hearing aids was very high.  Second, they are unbelievably expensive.  $2000-$4000 per ear, is not uncommon nowadays.  Most insurances, including Medicare and including the new Affordable Health Care Coverage Act, exclude coverage.

Of course when you pay $4000-$8000 for a pair of aids, you get 30 days to return them if you're not satisfied.  Even so, I'm reluctant to take that risk if I expect failure as most likely.

Last year I decided to try an inexpensive ($200) one as an experiment.  If it worked, I would be way ahead.  If not, then I would not lose a fortune.   I bought only one.  It helped marginally, but not much.  Worse, after two weeks I took it off to protect it from salt spray one windy day when I was rowing ashore.  When I reached in my pocket to fetch it, it was lost.  Warranties or insurance do not cover loss.

Last month, I spotted a discussion on entitled, "Why are Hearing Aids So Expensive."  I learned a lot from that.  Most interestingly, someone said, "They sell last year's models as cheap hearing enhancers for hunters."  I went to and sure enough, they advertised a pair for only $50 (camouflage colored).  Those are the ones I bought, and the ones I'm very satisfied with.  Lucky me.

In the restaurant, the pair of aids amplified all sounds, noise included, but I was much better able to follow the conversation at our own table.  I even understood what the waitress said without asking Libby to repeat it for me.

This experience only reinforces my bitterness and suspicion of the American health care system.   I have no doubt that if I went to an audiologist, that he/she would have steered me to the $4000 per ear solutions, despite the fact that they are inappropriate for me and unnecessary.  They would do everything possible to discourage me from considering an inexpensive solution.  Their motivation is greed.

Two years ago in Vero I went for a "Welcome To Medicare" checkup.  I found the only GP in town who accepted walk-in patients.  He took my blood pressure, listened to my heart, and looked at my eyes and years.  At the end he ordered me to come back for a battery of additional (expensive) tests.  When I came back, the nurse found out I had signed up for a Medicare Advantage Program instead of regular fee-for-service.  She said, "Go away.  We will not treat you under any circumstances."   Upon reflection I figured it out.  That doctor found nothing wrong with me, and had no foundation to order follow-up tests. He was just trying to run up a big bill.  When they found out I had something other than fee-for-service, they rejected me.  The whole setup was a scam designed to cheat Medicare.  Down  in Miami, some doctors are sending geriatric patients for monthly $10,000 MRI scans, "just as a precaution."  The doctors get 60% of the MRI fee, and several earn more than $1 million per month on this perfectly legal scam.

Sorry for the rant.  I've had that bottled up for a long time.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flame The Band

Waterford, NY
42.79N 073.68 W

I mentioned that there would be a free concert in Scotia right next .   to the dock.   We went over there last night and were completely surprised.  The band was comprised of six developmentally disabled adults.   Their music however was terrific, and there was an enthusiastic bunch of small kids enthusiastically dancing.

Libby thought that she recognized some of the performers.  After all, she worked at Schenectady (and Saratoga) County ARC and this is Schenectady county.   After checking, we found that no, this group was from Fulton County.

What a great idea though.  All of us, Libby and I included, can so easily underestimate what they can accomplish, and what hidden talents they might have.  My sister is similarly disabled.  She lives in a group home near here.  Libby has many years working with disabled adults.  We're both very familiar with their uniqueness and their problems.  Both of us though were dumfounded at the accomplishments of this band.

Here is a picture of the concert.  The web site for the band is here, and the story of their origin is here.  I urge you to read it. Nobel prizes aren't given for such things, but whoever initiated this band deserves some kind of prestigious prize.  Don't you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Man Oh Man, The Nostalgia

Scotia, NY
42.83 N 073.96 W

The first couple of times up the Erie, we stopped here in Scotia.  Then the free docks disappeared for a few years making it impossible for us to stop for a visit.  Much to our delight, newer bigger better city docks appeared this year.  What a treat.  Below is a picture of us at the docks.

You see, we lived in Scotia 1968-1980, just a few blocks from where we're docked today.  That makes it home ground.  Below is a picture I took this morning of our old house.

1980-1983 we lived across the river a few blocks away in the other direction in Schenectady's Stockade section.  Below is a picture I took this morning of that old home.  I also worked, ate and shopped, in downtown Schenectady for 21 years -- half of my professional life.

This morning I walked around Scotia and biked around downtown Schenectady.  Man what a rush of nostalgia that brought.  When you recognize every building, every place of business, and can associate one or several memories with them, that's powerful stuff.  Even when the businesses are new, I know what business was there before, and the one before that.

We have begun to acquire that kind of familiarity-in-depth with Vergennes, Oriental, Elizabeth City, New Bern, Vero Beach and Marathon.  However,  the roots go much deeper here.

I'm sure that in the future we'll find excuses to visit Scotia again and again.

By the way, thank you to the Scotia Fire Department for building the wonderful new dock facilities.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Poor Canajoharie

En Route, The Erie Canal
42 53.72 N 074 30;81 W

I'm sure you have heard the term "Rust Belt"  it refers to a string of formerly prosperous cities that are now in steep decline.  Many of them depended on heavy metal industries; hence the reference to rust.  Perhaps Detroit is the largest and best know Rust Belt city.  The belt continues down through Ohio, and up through Central New York.  Alas one of our favorite stops, Canajoharie, seems to be hit especially hard.

Canajoharie's enjoyed its former prosperity as a company town.  The Beech Nut Company (makers of baby foot and life savers) was the major benefactor, and Beech-Nut's owners The Arkell Family.  Many formerly grand homes remain, of which the Arkell's is most prominent.   Clearly, at one time Canjoharie enjoyed the high life and benefits of great local wealth.

Now, Beech-Nut has finally moved the last of it's operations out of Canajoharie, leaving behind the massive and ghostly white painted concrete buildings of the factory complex.  Sucked of it's life blood, the rest of the village seems to be just crumbling away.

A vestige of the good times is the wonderful library and Arkell Museum in the center of the village.  The museum has wonderful art on display from Winslow Homer and other American artists.  I spent quite a bit of time there, and at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington DC.   Let me say that the Arkell can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Smithsonian.

Sadly, I saw a notice in the Library/Museum yesterday.  It said that the community recently voted "no support" for this institution and that it's future is in doubt.   I'm not sure exactly what "no support" means, but it sounds ominous.  If you haven't seen the Arkell Museum before, I urge you to do so before it's too late.

Curiously, different rust belt centers have very different outcomes.  Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady and Albany were all in the rust belt.  Rochester took a double hit with Kodak down and out, and Xerox way down.  Schenectady's GE employment went from 28,000 to 3,000.   But Albany seems to do fine based on government money as the state capital.  Syracuse and surroundings seem to be supported by universities and hospitals.  Schenectady's downtown had been force fed to survival with government and health insurance service workers.  It suggests a massive shift from private heavy industries to public (or quasi-public) services.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Look Out World, Here She Comes

Canajoharie, NY
42 54.56 N 074 34.24 W

It was a great family weekend.   Dave and Jenny weren't there, but everyone else was.   Sara graduated with honors from Adirondack High School in Boonville.  Judging from the awards handed out, she had lots of competition.  Now she's ready to take her place in this world as an adult.

Just like at Nick's graduation two years ago, this one started out on the track field under a spendid blue sky.  However, about halfway through handing out the diplomas, an intense thunderstorm suddenly bore down on us.  On the orders of the principal, everyone had to dash for the gymnasium.   The ceremony was finished inside.

After the ceremony, we all retired to Sara's home where we had a daylong party.   It was great fun.

Sara surrounded by her siblings.
Sara has always been good at art.  However, when we got do see what she's done in 12th grade, we were stunned.  Her creations are amazing (no bias there).  See the slide show of 8 of her paintings below, or look at them individually here.

These family get togethers are important for Libby and I.  Of course, part of the price we pay for choosing the cruising life.  We have less frequent contact with family.  Most of our cruising friends do better at that than we do.  Many of them fly "home" for Christmas.   Our budget is too limited for that.

I must admit that family contact is an important factor in our choice to cruise the US East Coast.   If we ranged further, we would have still less contact.   In 2005, we realized that if we traversed the Panama Canal, that we would be sailing around the world and would probably have no family contacts for five years.  That was too much.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beating the Heat

Erie Canal Lock 20
43 08.63 N 075 17.50 W

There's a heat wave underway here right now.  Yesterday was about 95F and humid.  Today will be more of the same.  That makes a good time to talk about beating the heat while on the boat.  Need I mention that Libby and I are both very intolerant of hot muggy weather.

First and foremost, half the boat is in the water all the time, so interior temperatures are mitigated.  That means it is cooler in summer and warmer in winter inside the boat than outdoors.  Therefore, for all but the most extreme weather events, we don't need to do anything special.   The best summer location is Maine in summer.  The water there is very cold, thus keeping the boat very comfortable.  The winter water temperature in the Florida Keys and The Bahamas is also very warm because of proximity of The Gulf Stream.

Second, we migrate North and South every year specifically in pursuit of temperate  weather.  You won't find us in Vermont in winter, or Florida in summer.  In the fall and spring, we're most likely spending time in North Carolina.  We do that to avoid those extreme weather events.

Third, we circulate the air.  We have a half dozen or so Hella muffin fans.   On low speed, they do well at circulating air without making much noise.  It is amazing how much a tiny bit of breeze helps.

Fourth, we have a wind scoop that can bring air in via the forward hatch.   The problem with that is that it only works when we are at anchor and the bow faces into the wind, and during heat waves there tends to be no breeze to catch.

Fifth, I once bought a battery-operated hand-held fan that includes a water bottle and a fogger nozzle.  You spray your face, then blow air on it.  Ir really cools, but the battery compartment soon fell apart so I can't keep it running.   Such a device violates the KISS principle.

Others who are tied up to a dock all summer, can use window fans and even air conditioners.  They make marine heat pumps that work very well both winter and summer.  However, without shore power, they are useless.

A frustrating component is mosquitoes.  When the sun goes down in the Northeast, air temperatures cool rapidly.  That is the same time when interior temperatures reach maximum inside the boat.  We would go out for a walk at dusk except that mosquitoes are most voracious exactly then.

When we get to Champlain, we can use a better method -- jump in the lake.  A quick plunge causes an instant attitude adjustment, and it can be reapeated as often as necessary.

When all else fails, I do what I'm doing today.  I'm hiding out in a public library during the hottest hours of the day.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Along The Way

Erie Canal Lock
20 43 08.63 N 075 17.50 W

We're here; the westernmost extent of this season's trip. We'll spend most of the week on family stuff getting ready for Sara's big high school graduation party on Saturday.

Here are some recent sights;

  1. Flood damage: the grey painted I beams are replacements.  The old beams were bent like pretzels.  Lock 10.
  2. New species?  Libby spotted this lone plant growing out of a crack in a lock wall, 10 feet below the surface when the lock is full.
  3. Flood damage: All that crushed stone to the right of Lock 9 shows where the river went around the dam and took out the bridge and road.  It has all been rebuilt.
  4. Libby made this pine needle basket on a gourd as a present for Sara.  Sara is very talented artistically, so we're waiting to see what she does to finish it.
  5. Tarwathie, a trawler and Pogo Pelli at the city dock in Canajoharie.
  6. We encountered a group of Jesuit youths rowing from Buffalo to Albany for charity.

Above: on previous trips up the canal, we never found the time to stop at the Herkimer homestead.   It sits right beside the river and there's a short dock for boats.  This time we stopped to look around.  General Herkimer was the hero of the revolutionary Battle of Oriskany, (the turning point of the war according to a sign on site.)  The mansion and grounds are nice, but the mansion is not open for tourists to see inside.

All of my other flood damage pictures, turned out to be uninteresting and difficult to see the damage at all.  This testtifies to what I said before about the remarkably fast and complete restoration and repair.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Day of Surprises

Canajoharie, NY
42 54.56 N 074 34.24 W

We had a great dinner with Pete and Mary Ellen in Troy last night. Yummy.  Thanks much Pete & Mary Ellen, that was fun.

This morning we got off to a late start, but the day was splendid.  My goal was to make a photographic blog post of the remnants of the Hurricane Irene damage at locks 8-12 on the Erie Canal.  I was quite curious as to what it would look like.

Surprise number one.   The damage has been repaired.  Everything looks spendid.  True, there are some follow ups and some earth moving still to be done, but everything is fully functional.  This applies not only to the NY Canal properties, but also to the private homes along the river banks.

In Rotterdam Junction, last year we saw the household debris piled high at the highway curb from all the houses that were flooded.   Today we could see their back yards facing the river.  Everthing looked to be in Bristol shape.  The lawns were lush and well manacured.  The houses looked freshly painted.  Lawn furniture sat there perfectly placed.

I took a bunch of pictures, but there's nothing dramatic to see.  I'll post them soon.

Even more amazing, the NY Canal Corporation managed to complete most of those repairs by November 2011.  Very impressive.

Surprise number two.  We passed a Westsail 32 going the other way.   It was Second Wind, out of Cleveland, Ohio.  In 2010 I swapped some emails with Tom, the owner.  He told me that in 2012 he would sail his W32 to Florida.  That was so long ago I forgot.  What a surprise to see him today.   We didn't think fast enough, we could have turned around, backtracked a little and had a mini rendezvous with Second Wind.  Too bad; missed opportunity.

We wanted to stop for the night at lock 12.  The Lock 10 master told us that lock 12 was a poor stop.  We resolved to go 5 miles past lock 12, to Fonda NY where there is a terminal wall.   When we got there, it was right next to a stock car race in progress.  The noise and the dust were terrible, so we moved on.  Another 5 miles and we got to lock 13, just at dusk.   Alas, the lock master said that they were under construction and we couldn't stay there.   So on we went, another 8 miles in the dark, picking out the red and green buoys with a flashlight.  That's not the recommended way to travel.

Anyhow, we finally got to Canajoharie and tied up at the city dock. Surprise number 3.  Also at this dock was Pogo Pelli, with Bob and Trish on board.   That couple we've met in several other places, incliding Vero, Marathon, and perhaps Oriental.   They trailer their 23 foot sailboat around and make shorter cruising trips.  This time, they splashed the boat in Buffalo and they are heading for New York Harbor for the Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Motor Vessel Tarwathie

Athens, NY
40 36.58 N 074 02.96 W

It's always a bitter-sweet moment when we take the mast down in preparation for transiting a canal.   On one hand, it is a milestone en route to where we're going.  On the other hand, it demotes Tarwathie from a sailing vessel to a motor vessel. :-(

We did the deed yesterday in the usual way.  We stopped at Riverside Marine Services in Catskill, NY.   We like that place, and the proprietor Mike and John who knows how to handle masts.  They do a good job, and a safe job at a reasonable price.  We could save money using a do it yourself crane at the Castleton Yacht Club, but we could not do it anywhere close to as safely.

By the way, by my calculations, this is the 24th time we have stopped to have the mast lowered/raised.  Wow!  No wonder we're blase about it, and very experienced.  One of the helpers at Riverside yesterday remarked, "Wow! I've never seen a skipper better prepared before."  There's a reason for that.

After de-masting, we moved up to our favorite Hudson anchorage at Middle Ground between Athens and Hudson, NY.   When we stopped to anchor, I saw that I forgot how very difficult it is to anchor with the mast down.   The wooden A-frame we use to support the mast on the fore deck blocks access to the windlass and bowsprit.   We changed our minds about anchoring, and instead tied up to the nearby brand new municipal dock at Athens.

This very nice picture shows Motor Vessel Tarwathie this morning, shortly after dawn, at the Athens Dock.  Look carefully and you'll see one of the four famous mid-river Hudson River Lighthouses.  This one is the Hudson-Athens lighthouse.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rest Days

Saugerties, NY
40 36.56 N 074 02.73 W

We made it from Oriental, NC to here in only 8 days.  That was pretty good progress.  Now, we're ready for a couple of down days to rest up.  Espous Creek in Saugerties is a great place to do that.

We are in a superbly sheltered anchorage.   We are anchored at the base of a cliff higher than the mast.   We are surrounded on all sides by steep hills several hundred feet high.  This is a great place, except in the event of a rain storm such as Irene last year that turned these creeks into surging rages of white water.  See the picture.

Saugerties itself is a village that somehow escaped the fate of most NY rust belt cities.  It thrives.  Perhaps it is an artist colony.  Perhaps it benefits from proximity to the site of the 1960's rock concert at Woodstock.  We really don't know.  We just enjoy being here; it's fun.

We are preparing the boat to take the mast down tomorrow at .   Iin Catskill.   Our friend Lyle who works there has been reading this blog for the past year.   When the year comes that we choose to go elsewhere in the summer, Lyle will be disappointed.

Today, I'm going to work on the June issue of Windblown, the Westsail newsletter of which I'm editor.  It isn't due until next week, but next week will be busy.  In 10 days we need to be in Rome for Sara's graduation.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Oh The Beauty

En Route, Hudson River
41 12.77 N 073 56.84 W

Oh how lucky we were to choose to continue last night instead of anchoring at Sandy Hook.

We hit the Verrazano Narrows just before sunset.   Soon thereafter, the sunset was glorious over (inglorious) Newark NJ.   It was a Saturday night and we figured that there would be less ship and ferry traffic than usual.  That was true, but it was also a balmy night in June and party boats loaded with revelers were everywhere.

As if to greet us, just as we approached Governors Island, a big fireworks show started on the Brooklyn shore.   We had a grandstand seat for that.

The night was especially clear, and downtown NY looked wonderful.  That's especially true for the new tall buildings being built at Ground Zero.  I don't know what they're called, but they look nice, and the tall one redefines New York's skyline.

We cruised up the river close to the NY side.   We had thought before that all those cruise ship piers along the west side were abandoned.  Not on a Saturday night they're not.  We saw a half dozen or so night spots and ball rooms all packed with elegantly dressed young people.  Some were leaning on the rails enjoying their view of us as much as we enjoyed our view of them.

The Empire State Building was bathed in a red-white-blue lighting scheme.   It sure looked unique, but we agreed it was ugly.  That grand lady looks much better in traditional light.  By the way, there are numerous new buildings in uptown, and many brilliant and creative uses of light on the NY and NJ sides.

To us however, the classiest view of the whole darn city is that of the Chrysler Building at night.  She is the perfect icon of NYC.  Pray to the stars that light emitting diodes shall never befoul her face.  We could only see her peak. Libby remarked, "She is beautiful all the way down to the ground."  That made me chuckle and think of Victor Borge's jokes about Beethoven and his busts.  He said, "Not Mrs. Beethoven.  She goes all the way down to the ground."

The night was still and stiller still north of the George Washington Bridge.   It was also close to slack tide and the whole river turned into a reflecting pool. We had a wonderful view of the bridge and the bridge's reflection in the water as we passed.  What a wonderful night.

Libby takes the cake though for the best remark.  She turned to me and with great emotion she said simply, "This is home."   How true. No matter what our connections to other places, including Vermont, in our hearts we will always be upstate New Yorkers.  For Libby, the feeling washed over her as we passed under the George Washington Bridge.   For me in past years, it hit about when we pass Athens, NY because there the nature and shapes of Central New York take over.

We continued our leisurely night cruise all the way up to Haverstraw Bay.  The elation of all that beauty banished our fatigue and sleepiness.  We finally dropped anchor at 0300.

All that begs for pictures and videos.  Alas, I'm afraid that we have never been successful at night photography from the deck of a rocking sailboat.   I'll have to leave that to others.  Besides, fiddling with cameras would have detracted from our immersion in all that beauty.

Today's another day, but the beauty is not over.   In the next few hours we'll pass the Hudson Highlands, Storm King Mountain and West Point.  That beauty knocks the socks off of everyone who sees it.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Close Call

At Sea
39 49.35 N 74 03.87 W

Well, we picked up a fresh West wind at 0400so we were able to turn the engine off. It looks like 53 hours total passage time from the Bay Bridge to Sandy Hook NJ; 20 motor sailing and 33 under sail.

We have not been harassed by traffic this passage. I think we are better at using and interpreting the AIS warnings. That's good.

What's bad? Last night at midnight we were just changing the watch. I just came up on deck and Libby was going below. Just then we both saw a big steel buoy go past our port side only *INCHES* away. Man oh man, if we hit that square on at 4 knots it would have been bad. A W32 is rugged. It would not have holed the hull and risked sinking. Still, it could do damage.

The buoy was unlit. We could not find it on any paper or electronic chart. At night, there is no way to see and avoid unlighted buoys like that. What a hazard.

I guess the best defense is to stay farther off shore at night. The farther out, the fewer hazards. Forget clever strategies such as catching an offshore wind (which did not work anyhow)

We just passed Barnegat Bay. Our ETA at Sandy Hook is 2200. That is also the start of flood tide. We can continue, riding the tide past Manhattan at night, or anchor for the night and continue tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

Friday, June 08, 2012

NYC Bound

At Sea
38 13.25 N 074 52.52 W

So far so good. We are about 40% of the way to NYC. Right now we're about 10 miles off shore from Ocean City Maryland.

Things started out brilliantly. Clear sunny skies, and a nice fresh breeze, and the tidal currents with us. We passed Portsmouth and Newark with no problems. The feared million person crowd wasn't there on Thursday because we passed in a lull between Wedneday and Friday events. We did get to see more warships than usual plus one of the tall ships (this one from Deleware).

Sailing out through the bridge tunnel, we were doing almost 7 knots. If that held up it would have been a very rapid passage indeed. Such was not to be. Around sunset a weak cold front approached bringing overcast skies and disturbing the wind. Still we managed to maintain 4-5 knots progress.

There was a spectacular lightning show over the Delmarva Penninsula. From our vantage point at sea we could see countless flashes of cloud to cloud and cloud to ground strikes. Most of them were too far away to hear the thunder. We hoped that all the storms would stay over land, but such was not to be.

Twice in the dead of night we sailed abruptly into one of those thunderstorms. It's hard on a night like that because we could neither see nor hear the storm approaching. We were forced to heave to and go below decks to sit out the storm, but not before our clothes got soaked. After those two storms passes, the sky cleared up, the wind resumed and we had a brillian moon-lit night.

Since dawn, the wind has almost completely died. We have been motor sailing all day long. The forecast promises a bit more wind tonight. I'll also head us in close to the New Jersey shore so that we might catch onshore-offshore winds.

One added benefit. There is an air show in Ocean City tomorrow, and we have been seeing some of the fighter planes practicing over the water. They are really fun to watch.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Tarwathie? What Does That Mean?

Deep Creek, Virginia
36 44.85 N N 076 20.50 W

A name like Tarwathie we get to repeat over and over again on the radio, and to spell it when understanding fails.  The most frequent question we get is, "How do you pronounce that?"  The follow up question is usually, "What does that mean?"

We answer, "A town in Scotland."  That's true, but the more truthy answer is that she is named after a song.  The song is "The Ballad of Tarwathie."  Judy Collins did the best know performance.  You can see her perform it in the embedded video below.  It really is a lovely song, and Ms. Collins' voice is so pretty.

p.s. Going out to sea tonight.  Hopefully 48 hours to New York City.  Our biggest obstacle is to punch through the estimated one million people and countless boats in Norfolk watching Opsail 2012.  Wish us luck.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Hiding Out

Deep Creek, Virginia
36 44.85 N  N 076 20.50 W

We got up early so that we could have a long, slow, liesurely ride up the Dismal Swamp Canal all by ourselves.   It was great.

Now we are just inside the fringe of the very dense urban area of Portsmouth/Norfolk Virginia.  

We're going to hide out here for two days to avoid a big festival going on in Portsmouth/Norfolk Harbors.  Opsail 2012 is a very big deal with tall ships, all the US Navy boats in the area, and thousands of spectator boats.  

We avoid all festivals, and boat shows because of the crowds.   We learned that local people who planned coming months in advance find all the good spots, and reserve anything reservable.  That leaves poor cruisers like us who just come in happenstance with little to choose from.  Best to avoid it.

We'll stay here at the Deep Creek Lock for two nights.  On the second night however, Karl and Laura from SV Ekotopia are going to join us for dinner.   They live nearby in Portsmouth.

On Friday, we'll move to Hampton, VA at the city dock where I managed to snag a reservation for one night.  

On Saturday, we hope to meet with Bob and Sandra from Carpe Diem.  After that, the plan is to go out to sea and to be in NYC before Tuesday night when the winds shift to the north again.

FLASH: I just rechecked the weather.  Everything has changed.  Now it seems that we should leave Thursday night and be in NYC before sunset on Sunday.  Ay ay ay -- we may have to junk all those plans.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Froggy Telegraph

Great Dismal Swamp Visitor's Center
36 39.41 N 076 21.36 W

We spent the afternoon and last night at our favorite anchorage on the whole East Coast.  It is a place we've been before, and which I've blogged about before.   I'm going to start calling it Pearly Anchorage because it is as nice as the Pearly Gates to Heaven must be.  I'm also going to start being selfish and not revealing its location.  A big part of the appeal is the total isolation.  If we were to go there sometime and find another boat anchored we would be very disappointed.

One feature of the Pearly Gates is the froggy telegraph.  Things start perfectly still.   Then one frog starts croaking.  Then a second frog joins in.  Within seconds, an entire frog clan of a dozen or more members in a small area are all croaking.  The sound is deafening.   It lasts for about two minutes before abruptly ceasing.   However, before it finishes, it triggers another bout of croaking from a rival frog clan down the river bank.  That triggers a third clan across the river, and a fourth further away and a fifth and so on.  We figure it carries the froggy message down the river, across the bay and down the Mississippit to the Gulf of Mexico.   What might the froggy message be?  Your guess is a good as mine.

Navigating a cruising boat needs diverse skills.  Everything from offshore techniques, to coastal navigation, channels, busy ports, meandering creeks.   Simplest of all though is vanishing point navigation such as on this canal.  See the picture that we took early this morning.  Just keep the bow pointed at the vanishing point and you're all set.

Monday, June 04, 2012

So What Really Happened?

Elizabeth City, NC
36 17.92 N 076 13.09 W

I promised to write more about our expensive heat exchanger problem.  Here goes.

The short non-technical answer is that it was my fault; my negligence.  The more technical answer follows the pictures.

The assembled heat exchanger.

Aft end with cap showing attached flange
End caps, note the pencil zinc sticking into the left cap.

Compare the two brass caps, What's the non-brass metal?

The aft end of the water box showing missing flange

See how the rubber O-ring can separate the brass from aluminum?
The damage to the water jacket was more extensive than I thought. The aft end cap actually has a flange that was part of the jacket stuck to it.  Looking at the metal in the flange, I see unmistakable signs of galvanic corrosion.

There is a pencil zinc that screws into the assembly.  It's function is to protect against galvanic corrosion.  I've replaced this zinc often in the past; several times per year.  However, no matter how many times I changed it, I never found more than a stub of zinc remaining.   I'm afraid that the answer is that I didn't change it often enough, and during parts of the the four years that we've owned that engine, the aluminum water jacket, not the zinc was being sacrificial.

The things I said before about the proximity of brass and aluminum, and of the difficulty of getting the O-rings exactly right are all true.  This is not the best design.   However, those things are secondary.  The primary cause of the failure was not keeping the zincs replaced sufficiently.

Oh well, it is always easier to find an explanation that puts the blame on someone else.   But as captain and owner, one simply can't hide from the truth.  It was my fault.

p.s. My friend Doug, posted a comment on the earlier blog saying that he made the same mistake on his Beta Marine engine and he also had to replace the whole expensive assembly.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


Elizabeth City, NC
36 17.92 N 076 13.09 W

The delay caused by our heat exchanger caused and is still causing frustration.   If we left on schedule, we could have gone out to sea Friday night and we would have been in NYC by Monday.  

Today especially would have been a glorious day at sea.   Blue sky, great temperature, and great wind speed and direction.  We might have had a shot at matching our best day ever -- 180 nautical miles in 24 hours.  As is was, we had a very nice day motoring Saturday and a great day sailing today, albeit on the ICW.   It was perhaps our fastest transit of the North Carolina ICW.

Enough whining.  There were two very good reasons why we should not be out at sea today.  

First, with all the work and all the modifications we did on Tarwathie, a good trial run was needed before putting out to sea.   Others call them sea trials, we call them before-sea trials.  So far so good, everything seems to be working as it should, including the new engine cooling system.

Second, I'm a bit sick.  For the past 5-6 days  I've had gastric distress and diahre dyrea direathe the shits.  Given that, it was probably best not be offshore.   We just put in to Elizabeth City and my first stop was a drug store to buy Pepto Bismo.  Hopefully, that will fix my problem.

The frustrating part is that it looks like a whole week before favorable winds come again.   We're running short of time to make it for Sara's graduation on June 23 in Boonville, NY

Friday, June 01, 2012

Three Steps Forward Again

Sailcraft Boatyard, Oriental, NC
35 01.97 N 076 41.11 W

On Thursday, Tarwathie was on the Travel Lift on Thursday, ready to splash.  See the picture.  You can almost see her smile.  15 minutes later she was frowning mightily because of our heat exchanger problems.

Well, we waited two antsy days for the replacement parts to come from Beta Marine.  They came today at 1830.   I was doubly antsy because darkness was approaching and so were some severe thunderstorms.  My plan was to install the new stuff, put everything back together, put in new anti freeze, then see if the engine would run with cooling and without leaks.

Well, it is 2030 now, and all those things are accomplished.  Tarwathie is smiling once again. So is Libby.  So am I.

Darkness will  be here in 15 minutes, and the the thunderstorms in another hour.   We'll stay at the dock tonight and tomorrow resume our northward migration!!!!

By the way, I think I figured out the real cause of the trouble.  It was not what I said the other day.   I'll post more details later.  Right now, a  belated supper should be waiting.