Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Land Lubbers

West Charlton, NY


(6/29/05)  I wish I was back on the boat.  We drove up here on Monday.  Since then I did new gutters, additional gutters, some landscape work, and installed a sump pump.  All this is directed at keeping water out of the crawl space under the house.   


We’ll never know for sure what caused the water to come in while we were gone, but I have my suspicions.  There are several vents into the crawl space at ground level.  Each vent is surrounded by a semicircular well lined with galvanized metal.  The purpose of the well is to keep water out of the vents.   Well, the wells were all filled with dirt nearly to the vent level.  I think the excavator for the masonry work must have filled them in accidentally or via ignorance.  With a big rain event, surface water would run right over that dirt and into the vents. 


Oh well, on Friday we’ll head back down to the boat.  It will be good to get back.  Our house no longer feels like home to me.  The boat is home.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Point Lookout

Point Lookout Marina,  N38 06.96 W76 24.02
(6/26/05) Well it’s settled.  We’ll rent a car and drive to West Charlton, attend to the house business, then return to Tarwathie by Saturday July, 2. 

Point Lookout is almost, but not quite as remote as Onancook Creek.  It is on the point of land with the Potomac on the left (looking north) and the Chesapeake on the right.  It's only 50 miles from Washington but it's a dead end road wise.  The nearest town, Lexington Park MD, is 20 miles away   Cell phones work only 2% of the time.   I’m hoping that Enterprise Rent-A-Car will volunteer to pick me up at the marina tomorrow.  Otherwise, I don’t know how to get there.
It’s very laid back at this marina.   Not much happens here, at least not very fast.
We met a very nice couple in the next slip, Bill and Martha.  They have a beautiful Catalina 40 called Fearless.
Fearless’ jib roller furler fouled and they had to take down the jib the hard way.  I helped them get it back up.   It wasn’t easy.  Roller furling jibs are one modification I’ve been thinking about for Tarwathie.  Handling those big headsails is a tough chore for old folks like us.  However, roller furlers do get fouled and do break from time to time and if one gets stuck in really heavy weather, it would be best to not have them up there.   Headsail furling design needs refinement. 
One of the things I love about sailboats and sailing is that the art and the equipment is so darned refined.  Refinement comes when experience suggests a small improvement in the way things are built or operated.   Further experience weeds out the bad ideas and keeps the good.  Sailing benefits from more than 12,000 years of refinement. Every little gadget, every method and technique one learns represents countless lifetimes of sailing experience. Contrast that with the wild and wooly software industry I worked with for nearly 40 years.  It has less than 60 years of refinement.
Bill has a foundation that runs a violence hot line in Annapolis, and Martha is a judge.  I guess if the bad guys don’t listen when Bill’s hot line tells them “Don’t” they risk standing before Martha to suffer the consequences.   Bill offered us a ride with a friend to Lexington Park today to try to rent a car.   They, like us, have to return to civilization for a while to tend to business, so they’re leaving their boat here too. 
We met another man also named Bill who used to own a Clipper Marine 26’ flush deck model sailboat.  That’s exactly the boat we owned in the late 70s and early 80s.  It was a great boat. I used to take it to Lake Champlain every year for a fall sail.  That’s how we learned to love Champlain and Vermont, and the connection that eventually led us to live in Vermont.
Two slips down is a CSY 44.  That’s a legendary boat built for the Tortola charter company CSY.  We chartered one in 1976.  It was a great boat, and fun to sail.  When CSY went out of business, the used CSY 44s became legendary, like the Westsail 32s. 

Here's what you are expected to do when the red and green channel buoys are reversed. The rule is Red Right Returning. Would you have done the right thing? I almost didn't.


Dear Readers,
Now it's our turn.  We're curious about who reads this blog, so I'd like to take a census.  If you're reading this (duh, self evident)  please send an email to  We'll use your email addresses to build a blog mail list.  If you wish, please include your snail mail and phone contacts too, so we can update our address book.
Dick and Libby


Town of Onancook VA, N27 42.64 W75 45.47
(6/24/05) What irony. The other day the book said we could get into Jackson Creek and we couldn't. Today the book says we can't get into Onancook because the channel is too shallow, but we got there no trouble.
We met 50 or so sailboats leaving Onancook as we came in. It must have been bumper to bumper boat traffic here last night. Some people told us that it was the Alexandria Yacht Club on an outing. I'm glad we were out on the creek last night. This morning we woke to a splendid scene. Blue sky. Still air. Crab fishermen leisurely checking their traps. It was idyllic for we yachtspeople to eat breakfast out in the cockpit.
We motored to the town and took the dinghy into the dock to buy food. No grocery store in town but we did get a pound of scallops at the hardware store (that's right, hardware.) This sounds like a wonderfully laid back little town. I expect Andy Griffith to be the town cop. We asked a man for directions. He looked and sounded just like Bucky Moore, the well driller from Ballston Spa. I bet Mr... Moore must have come from this part of Virginia.
There's a strong WiFi signal as we sit at anchor but no Internet connection. I bet that if I wait till this evening when the owner turns on his computer, that it may work.

On The Bay
(6/25/05) The stars must have been against us yesterday. After the call from Kathy about the house sale going bust, we debated for a while. Then we decided that the best plan would be for one or both of us to return to West Charlton immediately to resolve the problems with water in the basement and perhaps to rescue the sale with the original purchaser. With that plan, sooner would be better than later. Trouble is the place we were at, Onoancook. The marina was full next week no slips to rent. The only car rental agency nearby rented it cars (car?) The only bus in and out of town doesn't go far enough to reach any other town big enough to rent a car. Alas we were stuck.
We decided to sail to Maryland on the Potomac River on Saturday to find a marina and/or anchorage and a car rental agency. If successful, Libby will stay with the boat while I drive to NY.
I'd like to inform Kathy and the buyer about this aggressive action plan, but the cell phone won't work. I didn't mention it earlier, but 80% of the time on this trip the phone gets no signal, 10% of the time it gets a marginal signal, and 10% good. The signal also fluctuates a lot so we receive a call but may loose it before finishing. We may also be able to receive voice mail but not initiate a call. Singular man, "Can you hear me now?" Home office, "Huh?"
At any rate it is another nice day with light winds. I'm writing in the cockpit around noon. The winds are 7 knots from behind and we're making 2.7 knots toward tonight's destination. It won't be till dark till we get there. Hopefully the cell phone will come alive before arrival so I can reserve a place.
Evening, we're at Point Lookout Marina Maryland. Tomorrow I'm going to try to find a rental car. It was difficult navigating into this place. In most cases inlet channels are marked with red and green buoys. Just navigate between the red and the green to stay in the channel. This evening I saw a red/green pair and started to steer between them. I soon ran into shallow water and I had to hastily turn around and go back. Closer study of the chart showed that I should go around the right side of the buoy on the right, make a 90 degree left turn, go around the left side of the left buoy, then make a 90 degree right turn. Diligent study of the charts is the only way to avoid trouble. Luckily I caught my mistake before running aground again.
I met a man called Bill here at the Marina who used to own a flush-deck Clipper Marine 26. That's the identical boat that we owned in the late 70s called Jennifer. We sailed it on Sacandaga, Champlain, and Main. It was a great boat.
The waters in this Marina were like those in Onancook Creek. The water is only slightly salty and there are lots of jellyfish hanging around the boat. It's almost hypnotic watching jellyfish swim.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Chesapeake Week

To make things easier on myself, I'm posting a week's worth of blogs as one post. Read from top (oldest) to bottom (newest).

Reverse Course
Cobb's Marina, Norfolk VA, N 36 55.40, W 76 11.10

(6/20/05) Last night we got becalmed. We were making 0.7 knots aftward with the current. That's extra stressful on me because I keep trying things to make us go. But the sea was smooth as glass.

I took the night shift so Libby could get a full night's sleep.

While becalmed I was plagued with an out of control tug. At first I thought it was a fishing trawler. But a long way behind the boat I could see a red light. Trawling nets don't trail lights. It looked funny on my radar too. The boat's course kept changing in funny ways. Finally it went away. An hour or so later it came back, and the course was suddenly aimed straight at me. This time I could see that it was towing a barge. When it was about ¼ mile away I panicked. I turned on all our lights, called the boat on the VHF on a couple of frequencies. I grabbed my two million candlepower spotlight and shone it in his window. No effect. To avoid being run over, I had to start the engine and scramble out of there. If there ever was a reason to have someone stay awake on watch, that's it.

In retrospect, I figured out that it must have been a tow boat and barge with the helmsman asleep. It wasn't on autopilot. I didn't get any names or numbers so I didn't report to the Coast Guard.

When I turned over the watch to Libby at 6:30 AM, the winds were 5 knots and the sea glassy. When I woke up three hours later, the winds were 20 and poor Libby was hugging the tiller trying to keep some measure of control. We had too much sail up and it was sheeted too lightly for 20 knots. Libby wore herself out.

I reduced sail and soon we were steering with the Monitor again. I checked our position and progress and the weather report. Yuck. We had about 90 miles to go to the next harbor, but we were only making good 2 knots toward the mark. The wind was directly against us. The weather forecast was for 2.5 more days of the same wind direction, but even higher velocity.

Libby and I were both already tired, and I was daunted by the prospect of 2 or more days of rough sailing. Therefore, I elected to turn tail. We sailed back to Cobb's Marina, arriving 36 hours after we left. The winds were up to 35 knots before entering the harbor. Once again, standing 6 watches per day with only two people is exhausting. A third crew member would make a huge difference.

On the way back, I misidentified a point of land and wound up in a very shallow shoal area. The depth meter said less than 6 feet. Yikes! I turned straight away from shore. We didn't run aground, but I had to sail six miles away from shore to get 15 feet of water under the keel. It seems so counter intuitive for the water to be so shallow so far from shore.

The pattern is clear. When tired we both make mistakes. I must sail conservatively to avoid putting us in danger when tired. It feels humiliating to about face, but sometimes it's for the best.

Misty Isle
Cobb's Marina, Norfolk VA, N 36 55.40, W 76 11.10

(6/20/05) The vessel behind at the dock is Misty Isle. She looks to be a wreck; a wooden boat shedding paint and chips of rotten wood everywhere. The sails are tattered. There are no sail covers. At first glance, one would conclude that she'll sink here at the dock any minute.

She's about 40 feet long, ketch rigged. For the first days we were here, there was no sign of the owner(s). Today the captain (suitably old and weathered) and a crew of 3 young guys showed up and started working.

We learned that Misty Isle sailed here from California, and she's setting sail tonight for Newcastle Mass. The captain has been sailing her for 13 years, and the young guys have been on board for 7 years. Wow. I think Libby and I have a wild dream. What about young guys say around 18 who decide to live the life of cruisers for 7 or 10 years. They could write a book, "Ten Years Before the Mast." Indeed, if they're smart they must have a book draft in progress.

They borrowed some gear from us to rig a boatswain's chair and filled us in a little on their adventure. I'll be they came around the Cape. I admire them greatly.

We called Steve Lambert and invited him down to have dinner onboard with us. He came and we had a great time. Alas, Susan was out of town so we didn't get to see her. Steve always has good courtroom stories about his exploits as an expert witness. Come to think of it, Steve seems to be a good storyteller no matter what the subject.

Flash: just before dark two more crewmembers showed up for Misty Isle. One of them is a babe, a foxy babe. Now I admire them even more.

I had a conference with my crew (Libby). We decided to sail up the Chesapeake and down Delaware bay. It's 300 miles out of our way, but there are lots of nice anchorages along the way and it should be enjoyable. What the heck, I'm not a project manager with a deadline any more (so I remind myself once again.)

Slow Start But A Good Day
Chisman Creek Chesapeake Bay, N37.11 W76.25

(6/21/05) We left the marina before 9AM. Winds were very light. The whole morning we sailed port tack and by 1PM we were near the north end of the Bay Bridge Tunnel.

It is fun listening to the chat on the radio. Recreational boaters are constantly getting in the way of merchsant ships, and (worse) warships. Also, it seems like every day there is a new bogus distress call to the Coast Guard. Today it was a call that said, "We're abandoning ship," but it didn't say who or where. The Coast Guard had to scramble for 4 hours trying to find the caller, to no avail. I bet they aren't soft on the pranksters when they catch them.

About 1:30 the wind died entirely and the ebb current was flowing fast. I started the engine but we couldn't make any way against the current. We dropped anchor and just hung around waiting for slack current at 5:30. I still don't make enough allowances for the tides. I have a thick book with tide tables. I just never think to use it in advance.

Around 5:00 the wind came back at 13 knots and the current had dropped off a lot. We raised anchor and sailed directly to this Chisman Creek place. It was about 20 miles and we got here just at dusk. Perfect timing. It looks like one of those charming Chesapeake places. Nearly perfect full moon tonight, Sunset at 20:28 and Moonrise at 20:32. Only once in my life have I seen Moonrise and Sunset occur simultaneously. That was a spectacular sight.

Our plan is to get up at 6AM tomorrow and take advantage of the flood tide in the morning. We should stop and find anchorage before 3PM to avoid the ebb tide.

One Month Onboard
Fishing Bay VA, N37 32,17 W756 20.20

(6/22/05) Libby asked me this morning, "How does it feel now that you've been one month on the boat?" That was an excellent question. On one hand Tarwathie is my home. Feelings of West Charlton being home are fading. On the other hand, time kind of flies on the boat. One doesn't think in terms of days, weeks or months, but rather in terms of places and experiences.

Our knowledge of the boat and boat handling, repair and maintenance is much improved. Also our knowledge of the ways of things nautical along the coast is much better. Tides and tidal currents, as I've mentioned, are still on my remedial list.

Have I learned to relax more? Maybe some. The idea of going back to work is anathema. This morning we grounded again leaving the anchorage. Once again I wanted to leap into action to remedy the situation. However it was low tide and chances were if we waited it would float free by itself. I went below and ate breakfast. Sure enough, within 15 minutes it floated free by itself.

This afternoon we tried to get to a charming sounding place called Jackson Creek. We grounded twice trying to get in there by the marked paths. We had to give up. It's impossible to get there from here.

We played scrabble in the cockpit after supper tonight and listened to what sounded to be a senior prom nearby onshore. The Chesapeake really is beautiful.

Your faithful blog reporter (Q:) hereby interviews
Libby (A:)

Q: When did you come down to the boat?
A: Three weeks ago.

Q: So what's your reaction to boat life?
A: Since it's the first three weeks, I feel like a student on overload. I'm assuming that it will get easier as we go.

Q: Are you tired out?
A: Not physically, no.

Q: Are you looking forward to your nautical life?
A: We'll see.

Q: What's your confidence in the captain?
A: Complete.

Q: That doesn't sound candid. Are you biased?
A: Yes.

Q: What can we do to make your life easier?
A: More teaching and practice in non-threatening situations, and less on-the-job training. The fear that a mistake may jeopardize our safety stresses me.
End of interview.

To The Eastern Shore
Onancook Creek, N37 43.73 W7548.54

Becalmed again today starting around noon. A purist sailor never uses his engine except to dock, but we've been forced to use the engine for hours and hours three days in a row now. We've used 17.5 gallons of fuel since Fernandina Beach FL. That seems like ancient history.

Oh well, the Chesapeake really is beautiful. Tomorrow morning we're going to follow this creek 4.5 miles up to the town of Onancook (VA? MD?)

Mid afternoon I was kind of dozing on watch while Tarwathie motored on autopilot. I woke a little, saw an enormous ship really close to us, and had no trouble at all staying awake the rest of the afternoon.

By the way, forgot to mention the story about the destroyer. On the day when we approached the bay from the sea, there was a navy destroyer hanging around the entrance. I guess he was guarding. Anyhow this destroyer was dangling his anchor almost all the way down to the water. It looked like very bad seamanship. I considered calling the captain of the destroyer on marine channel 16 to helpfully inform him (and everyone else within 30 miles) that he was dragging his anchor. I asked Libby, "Should I?" She said, "No." Good advice.

Town of Onancook VA, N27 42.64 W75 45.47

(6/24/05) What irony. The other day the book said we could get into Jackson Creek and we couldn't. Today the book says we can't get into Onancook because the channel is too shallow, but we got there no trouble.

We met 50 or so sailboats leaving Onancook as we came in. It must have been bumper to bumper boat traffic here last night. Some people told us that it was the Alexandria Yacht Club on an outing. I'm glad we were out on the creek last night. This morning we woke to a splendid scene. Blue sky. Still air. Crab fishermen leisurely checking their traps. It was idyllic for we yachtspeople to eat breakfast out in the cockpit.

We motored to the town and took the dinghy into the dock to buy food. No grocery store in town but we did get a pound of scallops at the hardware store (that's right, hardware.) This sounds like a wonderfully laid back little town. I expect Andy Griffith to be the town cop. We asked a man for directions. He looked and sounded just like Bucky Moore, the well driller from Ballston Spa. I bet Mr. Moore must have come from this part of Virginia.

There's a strong WiFi signal as we sit at anchor but no Internet connection. I bet that if I wait till this evening when the owner turns on his computer, that it may work.

FLASH! Kathy, our real estate agent just called. The deal on the house fell through :( The buyers thought that things weren't getting addressed enough by the absentee owners (us.) We're assesing what to do about that right now.

BTW: I went into town to try to find a WiFi spot. I stopped at a bench outside a hotel to turn on my laptop and try. Just then the hotel owner walked by, asked "Did you find my WiFi?" and invited me in. What a friendly place. This is how I'm getting to post these blog backlogs.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Next Stop Statue of Liberty

At Sea Near Cape Charles, MD
(6/18/05) This morning we finally caught up with our old friend Dave Hamby. Dave came over and had coffee and donuts with us just before we cast off. Dave is working for a company that does simulators for the military. He's up to his ears in military technology and jargon. It sounds like he's quite happy doing it.
We're setting sail again. In theory 2.5-3 days from here to NYC. However, the winds are forecast to be light and blowing against us, so it very well might take twice as long.
I bought a bottle of Cascade dishwashing detergent and put it in the primary cooling system coolant. Then I ran the engine for 10 minutes and let the stuff sit overnight. This morning I pumped out the old coolant and refilled it with fresh RV-type coolant. Going out today I could run 2000RPM, whereas before I could only get 1750 RPM. It's an incremental improvement but a welcome one.
Late afternoon we came to a shallow area near Cape Charles, MD where there were lots of dolphins cavorting. I mean lots. It was impossible to count of course, but there were somewhere between 50 and 250 of them. They were in pods of four to six each spread out over about three miles. They didn't seem to be going any particular direction, just jumping out of the water a lot. Alas, none of them came to swim alongside us.
Around the same time we began seeing pelican patrols. They looked like Army patrols. Groups of twelve to twenty five pelicans would come flying by in a single file formation, about 18 inches apart. They flew just inches above the water, and now and again flap their wings and gain ten feet of altitude to convert to airspeed. For some reason they seemed fond of swooping up and just in front of Tarwathie's bow. Made a nice show for us.
It's nice out here, but we won't rack up very many nautical miles today. Nearly zero wind and currents against us. Who cares? It's beautiful, and a great privilege to be out here observing.
I just read in Soundings about the Norwegian Dawn, the 905 foot cruise ship that was supposedly hit by a 70-foot freak wave near Hatteras last April. According to the article, some investigators suspect that there was no freak wave, just bad seamanship on the part of the captain. The cruise ship reportedly changed its itinerary and steamed north into the face of the gale to make a date for filming an episode of Donald Trump's TV show onboard. The lawyers for the passengers are sharpening their swords.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Day of Rest

Cobb's Marina, Norfolk VA, N 36 55.40, W 76 11.10
(6/17/05) Last night, after our nap, we walked a mile to a Chinese buffet restaurant and had a leisurely dinner. Today we didn't do much more than hang around. It's deathly hot here (as on the whole east coast we understand). Up in the boatyard, there's lots of people working on their boats, sanding, scraping, painting, sandblasting. It's beyond me how anyone can work out in the sun in such hot weather.
Late in the afternoon the weather changed and it got cooler. We did laundry, and shopped for food and I posted my blog backlog. We needed surprisingly little food after two weeks. I guess our appetites are less at sea.
This is a nice marina. It has lots of facilities but it is not so formal as Charleston City Marina. It is in a dead end channel, and there are another 6 marinas in here with it. In the evening we sat in the cockpit and watched the many varied boats go by. It's like the people watching we all do in the concourse of the airport while waiting for our plane.
Met a couple with a huge 50' Le Choy ketch. They're cruising also, down from Boston and heading for the Bahamas. I hoped to get an invite onboard their yacht to see what it looked like, but no cigar. They were nice though and offered to let us use their car to run errands.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Touchdown Victory Dance!

Norfolk Virginia, N 36 55.40, W 76 11.10

(6/16/04) We nailed the approach to Norfolk today. I’'m bursting with price at how well we did today.

After all the hand wringing yesterday I let Libby take over from 03:00 AM to 4:30 AM. When she awoke me at 4:40 AM the breeze had returned and we were in a perfect position to enter the bay at first light, just as I hoped.

We sailed skillfully, communicated on the radio fine, navigated perfectly. We earned A’s for seamanship today. We were treated to close up views of numerous big ships, plus one attack sub and two boomer subs.

We arrived at Cobb Creek Marina about 12:30. The distances are deceiving. Even though the Marina is just inside the Chesapeake Bay entrance, and even though we started just outside the entrance, we still sailed more than 40 miles to get here.

Now, it’s time for well-deserved afternoon naps. We worked hard for 24 hours to provide a chance to rest. So rest we’ll do.

Crowded Seas

At Sea, N36 43.95 W 75 45.15
(6/16/05) Once again I’m writing in the cockpit on watch at 2AM. The past 12 hours were hard. First the wind died. Then we were invaded by very pesky biting flies. Then I realized that we were stuck in a bad place to wait overnight to enter the Chesapeake.

We were too close to the shipping lanes to ignore e the ships, and there are lots of them here. We were too far offshore to anchor at a decent depth and too far to motor in before dark. I moved us 8 miles from the buoy marking the Chesapeake entrance, in an attempt to get away from the ships.

I was caught in indecision. First I decided to drift all night and stand watch. Then I thought about tidal currents and decided it would be best to anchor. The depth was 80 feet, and I had foresworn never to anchor offshore again after the experience in St. Augustine that broke the anchor roller.

Nevertheless, I dropped anchor, went below and went to sleep.
After about 3 hours sleep, the boat started rolling a lot in the waves. That meant that there had to be some wind. Paranoid about raising the anchor in big waves, I changed my plan. I woke Libby up and we raised the anchor, and set the sails. Now I feel better. I’m sailing toward the entrance buoy at the breakneck pace of 1 knot. I should get there around 6AM, just when it’s light. Then I can motor us into the bay, and through the bay tunnel-bridge entrance. The tide should be with me, it will be light and I hope to be able to avoid getting run over by any ships or warships.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Schroedinger's Flies

At Sea, N 33 38.21 W 077 37.81

(6/15/05) The weather was splendid when we passed Cape Hatteras. There is some kind of structure there. It looks like a 200 foot high Trojan Horse. Close up it looks like a lighthouse on an oil drilling platform, but it doesn’t make any light.

Overnight was another great one. Good wind nice weather. We made 119 nautical miles noon-to-noon. Today I tried for the first time to shoot the sun at noon to determine position. Someday, we have to lose the use of all GPS for some reason or another. I have a cheap second-hand plastic sextant that I bought on Ebay for practice. My first attempt gave latitude wrong by 3 degrees, and longitude wrong by 1 minute. Three degrees is a huge error, but for first try …

Today the wind ran out of steam. Not a total calm but we’ve been moving only 2 knots.

Suddenly two houseflies appeared onboard the boat. Where the dickens did they come from? We're too far out to sea for them to fly here. Now it’s four flies, eight flies, more. We’re invaded! The only explanation I can think of is that the flies were spontaneously created from the vacuum of space. Instead of electron-positron pairs that immediately self-destruct, flies are created in male female pairs that immediately start reproducing.

Or perhaps alien beings are salting the earth with their life form. "Flies in space." Yuck.

We decided to put in at the Chesapeake for a rest. The other choice would be to press on for Ocean City or Cape May, or to just press on to New York. It’s only 287 miles to NYC from here. But we need a rest. This business of 24 hours of watches with only two people is tiresome. We’re operating on a sleep deficit.

It’s too late in the day to make it to a marina near Norfolk. We’ll heave to off shore tonight and tomorrow at first light we’ll head for the bay bridge-tunnel. We’ll get there around low tide. We’ll find a place to stay in Little Creek Virginia, a suburb of Norfolk.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cape Fear to Cape Hatteras

At Sea

(6/14/05) It was tough sailing last night because our intended course had he wind dead behind us. I rigged the whisker pole to hold the jib out.

At midnight I relieved Libby and found that she was sailing out of control. The forced on the boat were unbalanced and had forced her 60 degrees off course. I decided to take down the mainsail and sail with jib only overnight.

At 4AM, when Libby relieved me, I had to tack the jib. Tacking is a big deal when using that whisker pole. I have to lower the sail, move the pole, and then re-raise the sail.

At 8AM when I relieved Libby, I resolved to raise the main again and get set up for today’s wind direction. I bungled it badly, fouling both halyards and just about every line onboard. I found poor Libby lying on the cockpit floor trying to duck the swinging boom and flying ropes. It took me 90 minutes to square away everything.

The difficulty was not lack of knowledge in how to handle sails and lines, but rather the difficulty of executing any plan when standing on a wildly rolling deck. Do a job with one hand while holding on with another and tripping over my safety tether all at the same time. It’s hard to do things right in those circumstances. Oh well, eventually it will be second nature.

This afternoon has been splendid sailing. Bright blue sky, no clouds, very nice breeze, whitecaps and waves from behind rather than from the side. Tarwathie zooms through the water sometimes surfing down the front side of a wave.

Once in a while we see tiny flying fish appear, fly for about 20 feet, then dive back in.

This evening we’ll pass Cape Hatteras. Not just any cape, Hatteras weather is dreaded and treacherous. Actually, by reputation I fear this place more than Cape Horn. My original plan was to go back to the inland waterway and motor 200 miles from Beaufort to Norfolk, just to avoid sailing past Hatteras. We’re blessed however by splendid weather and this way is at least 5 days faster than by using the waterway.

The forecast says Wed and Thu will be more of the same, then Friday no wind. I guess we’ll sail up to Delaware Bay and find a place to anchor Friday for a day of rest.

Our appetites onboard are reduced, so food stretches long than expected. We spend less than 45 minutes per day preparing food and washing dishes. That’s a small burden.

In the sailing books we read about how the salt crystals get into all your clothing. Because salt is hydrophilic, everything feels wet all the time. We’ll now we feel that truth directly against our skins. My jeans are clammy. Only fresh water wash will solve the problem.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Cape Fear

At Sea,

(6/13/05) We’re passing Cape Fear. We decided not to put in at Beaufort. Instead we’ll head directly for the Chesapeake. In an emergency we can run for Cape Hatteras Inlet.

Winds varied from 6 to 25 knots and boat speed from 2.3 to 6.7 knots. Gotta be careful about sunburn out here. Even SPF 45 isn’t enough.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Editorial Note

On Sunday my PC refused to boot. When I powered on, it made a squeak and powered itself off again in less than 1 second. None of the BIOS screens or anything appeared on the screen. I feared a disk crash. But there was no trauma and I suspected that it might be nothing.

Now, two days later, I took out the PC and it (gladly) started right up. Mystery unsolved.

Anyhow, the next 5 blogs were written longhand. My friends will know how painful that was for me to write with a pen. My writing skills were always bad, and I switched to only keyboard 30 years ago.

Enroute to Cape Fear

At Sea

(03/12/05) We left the marina at high tide about 13:00. I was scared to try to maneuver out of the docks in such close quarters against a strong breeze. It wasn’t pretty. Lots of rhumm rhumm with my engine but no collisions.

Got stopped by the Coast Guard near Fort Sumner for a safety inspection. Didn’t have a NO OIL DUMPING placard, but otherwise everything was OK.

We sailed and motored poorly trying to get out through Charleston’s 2.5 mile stone jetties. But once past the jetties, we could set course, raise all the sails and Tarwathie took off.

Now it’s 2100. I’m standing the 2000-2400 watch. Light winds, and light winds forecast for the next 6 days. Just hit some floating debris in the dark. It’s going to take a lot of work to keep Tarwathie’s upper hull shiny like a mirror.

Should be great stars tonight.

ETA at Cape Fear is 1300 tomorrow. We’ll decide then whether to head for Beaufort or Cape Hatteras next. We could sail 6 days on starboard tack, making as much as 700 miles.

Temporary 'Blog'ability Issues - FYI

Note from Jen:

Per dad's request, I am submitting a Cruising Log posting to let everyone know that his postings will be delayed a bit. The laptop quit and dad is now writing his blog the old-fashioned way; with pencil and paper. Until their computer is fixed or replaced, blog updates will be posted only when resources are available on shore.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bad Night

Charleston City Marina, N32 46.52 W079 56.95

(6/11/05) The first night here was very unpleasant. We were tied up on the outside of the dock exposed to the tidal currents. Around 3AM Tarwathie began getting squashed against the dock. I put out extra fenders. One fender burst. I adjusted the rudder and the lines to balance the forces. Finally the tide turned, but I got no more sleep.

Today I moved to another spot inside and sheltered from the currents.

Went to West Marine and bought new clevis pins and “super” fenders guaranteed for life to never burst.

The marina caters to the rich. The staff acts like servants willing to do any favor. “Drive me the aquarium.” “Bring 7 bags of ice immediately.” “Send the golf cart to help Aunt Agatha get to the restaurant at the end of the dock.”

Libby and I walked in the old part of Charleston. The neighborhood is very much like Schenectady’s Stockade. The trees and plants are much more lavish than those in NY. Charming. One sour note. We passed a hundred or so houses, and saw only one of the residents outside. Most houses had doors and windows firmly shut. The don’t appear to be fun loving people. No double WASPS rather than Italians.

We met an English couple who just sailed in from the Bahamas. They’ll fly back to England for a couple of months to tend to business, then it’s back to their boat and the tropics.

We also met “Bud.” Bud is alone, retired, in his 60s or 70s. He lives on a catamaran. He just sailed in from Key West. Bud is a very nice guy. Reminds me of Bud Dobbert. He needs a woman. Any wannabe “Mrs. Buds” out there?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Charleston City Docks

Charleston, SC, N32 46.52 W079 56.95


(6/10/05) Whew, it was a tiresome day.  We spent the whole day close hauled to make Charleston.  For those of you who aren’t sailors, close hauled means sailing as close as possible into the wind.  The boat heels over a lot, and really pounds into the waves.  It’s exhilarating and fun but after a few hours it wears you out.


When close hauled, about one wave out of 10 spilled some water on deck. The water runs out the scupper.  About one of 100 of the 1 in 10 brings so much water that it comes back in the cockpit. On one hand, that means the scupper design in 99.9% efficient.  On the other hand it means that just as soon as the seat of your pants and underwear dry, they get re-wetted with salt water.


Today marked the first time we sailed more than 24 hours without a pause or a thunderstorm.  We made 127 nautical miles from 12:30 yesterday to 12:30 today.  That’s excellent.  100 miles per day is considered good.  160 miles in a day is a once in a lifetime achievement.  We spent 33 consecutive hours on starboard tack.  32 of the 33 hours were on self-steering.


The entrance to Charleston Harbor is marked by a channel and submerged stone jetties.  It is vital to enter the channel past the end of the jetties.  I had three chart sources, and all three disagreed on the buoy numbers that mark the end of the jetties.  That made me very nervous.


The only mishap this trip was a jibe that broke the sacrificial clevis pin on the mainsheet traveler car.  The pin is sawed halfway through to assure that it breaks before anything else.   Now I have to buy more clevis pins and saw them to make replacements and onboard spares.


Alas, the engine cooling system work improved things, but when fully warmed up, I can only run 1700 RPM without overheating. The Perkins spec says I should get 2200 RPM.  I’m going to have to find a way to improve the cooling system.

Charleston City Docks are very nice.  We’re tied up among the mega yachts, so I feel Lilliputian.  The marina had to loan me a 50 amp to 30 amp shore power adapter because they don’t have any outlets smaller than 50 amps.  Naturally they have WiFi here, so I’m catching up on email.


I saw one mega yacht here with fenders 5 feet in diameter and 15 feet long.  Each!  He had about 4 of those deployed.  Unless they deflate, where in the world would one store them onboard, in the fender hanger deck?


I’m going to try to look up an old friend, Dave Hamby tomorrow.  He lives near here somewhere.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ah In Our Natural Element

At Sea N31 33.89 W 080 54.96

(6/9/05) What a pleasure. We left the marina about 10:30 and we reached the end of the St. Mary’s river inlet around 12:30. We hoisted sails, stopped the motor, and reentered our natural element. We’ve been on starboard tack ever since. Tarwathie glides along at about 6 knots. I need to tweak the control line for the Monitor self-steering every couple or hours or so. Otherwise, she handles herself until we run into land. Sailing doesn’t get much better than this.

We could make a straight run to Charleston and the GPS says we’d get there around 15:30 tomorrow. I’m taking a more circuitous route and I’m not sure of the ETA. It’s 22:35 now. I’m alone in the cockpit blogging in the dark. It’s great. Haven’t seen any boats or lights since it got dark. It’s lonely out here.

If we had this weather in March, we would have been able to sail to the Chesapeake. 15 knots easterly wind, seas 2-3’. Most important, the winds don’t die at night. The forecast calls for 5 more days of the same weather. I reefed the main and the yankee jib before sunset. Its wasn’t necessary, but I think it’s good policy. It’s much easier to shorten sail in daylight, and the night watch won’t have to worry much about wind shifts.

We saw a sea turtle coming out. Libby saw something big and black that may have been a whale. I saw some luminous critter in the bow wave.

We could easily set course for Buford NC instead of Charleston. However, Al Hatch told us that the Charleston City Dock is one of the nicest places around to put up for a night or two. I want to try it.

I decided not to try the 4 hour watch cycle this time. I’ll take us from dusk to dawn and sleep in the morning.

As I write, the crescent moon is about to set. The sky is overcast, so there are no stars. It’ll be really dark out here then.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

At Last

Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/8/05) The engine is fixed again. All projects are finished and we’re ready to pay the bill and set sail tomorrow morning! The weather sounds great. We should have 10-15 knots wind for 1.5 days followed by 15-20 knots for another 1.5. Very smooth sailing. Hooray!

I also stopped in the boatyard office today to find out how much smelling salt I’d need when paying the bill. I had visions of $6,000 to $10,000 considering all the expensive workers doing stuff for me. It will only be about $2,300, more than fair. No smelling salts needed. Overall, the people here at Tiger Point Marina were great. They are friendly, knowledgeable and hard working. Best of all is the owner and boss, Bill Kavanaugh. Bill knows all aspects of the business and he hands out very high quality advice to the boat owners and to the boatyard workers. Here’s the cast of characters from Tiger Point.

  • Bill is the owner. Bill was a river pilot for many years, and he says that owning a boatyard is his retirement activity. He also said it brings a lot more worries than as a pilot. When the pilot steps off the ship he guided, all responsibilities are discharged, leaving nothing to worry about.
  • Kelly is the sexy office girl. She handles the bills and the Internet research for parts and technical info and ordering parts. It’s remarkable how much an operation like this depends on the Internet. It’s a very good match for small businesses.
  • George and Nick are the general yard hands. They do most of the lifting and moving of boats, painting, sanding, and so on. George is a Vietnam vet. I think he lives in the boatyard. Last week, someone took George’s mast, laying on the ground and sold it at the local scrap yard for $10.
  • Ernie is the new engine man. My engine was his first assignment at Tiger Point. Ernie recently retires from an aircraft engine maintenance business he owned at JAX. He said that after a couple of months, he realized that work during retirement would be necessary. Ernie has great stories. Unfortunately, his wife has cancer and that’s not pretty.
  • Ingemar (and Bert and Staffan) are the metal work subcontractors. They run a little machine shop across the street. I’ve written about them before. Those guys have learned to live a relaxed life style. Good for them.
  • Baird is one of the sailboat owners who docks his boat here. He does carpentry work for Bill on demand. Baird had a lot of repairs to do on his own boat after he ran it onto a jetty coming into the St Mary’s inlet last year. I’ll try to avoid doing that as I sail out.
  • David and Tess Thomas were neighboring cruisers in the boatyard. They have a Bayliner 43 with lots of troubles. They only owned it a short time and neither has much boating experience. David hopes to charter her. It is reputed that the local West Marine store staff all know David by sight. That’s not good for one’s wallet.
  • Limo is the boatyard dog. He’s a beagle who plays the part perfectly. During the day he moves from one shady spot to another to lay down. He howls when his master Bill is away..

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Be Patient

Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/7/05) Did I say patience is a virtue? I’d like to retract that. The new bleed valve assembly didn’t come today. It was a disappointment. Sat around reading books once again. Sigh.

I calculate that we can make Charleston in 2.5 days or NYC in 10.5 days. The forecast winds are only 5-10 knots, so the going will be slow either way.

Monday, June 06, 2005

So Very Close

Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/6/05) The water pump came today. The last project before we launch. After installation, the engine didn’t start. There is air in the fuel lines. No problem, the diesel mechanic set out to bleed the fuel pump once more. Alas, he broke off the bleed screw, disabling everything. Can’t obtain a replacement till tomorrow.

Despite that problem, we launched Tarwathie anyhow. She’s back in the water albeit at the marina.

More good news. We sold the house by accepting an offer today. We got a full-price unconditional cash deal in less than 7 days on the market. Pricing right for quick sale was the right thing to do for us. Attention WCFD, the new owner Jason Nemec is in his 30s, and able bodied. He grew up nearby on Maple Avenue so he knows about country living.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Preparing for the Next Chapter

Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/5/05) This morning I reassembled the bowsprit and anchor rollers. That project is complete. We’re now at a point where Tarwathie is in better shape than she was on the survey day. At the start, there was the scratch in the side. Then the anchor roller. We were on a downward trend. That has been overcome now. Tomorrow I get the boatyard bill and maybe it will be me who’s overcome.

It was very helpful to have Libby as a second hand helping out. One thing. We are both acclimated to northern climates. Working out in the heat and humidity is hard. I found that my glasses would get covered with sweat. Even with my glasses off the sweat stung in my eyes so I was reduced to squinting out one eye at a time. I need a sweatband.

We had a luxury lunch at B.A. Pig BBQ restaurant. Then Libby did laundry. Last night we bought provisions for 2-3 weeks. Libby said we will have to learn to shop and eat smarter to keep within budget.

Our plan is to launch Monday, after the water pump is fixed. Then we’ll either head out to sea tonight or in the morning, depending on timing and weather.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/4/05) Poor Libby was very glad to be here but very exhausted after her efforts at home and the trip down.

She looks better now. Or what?

Friday, June 03, 2005

My Lonely Days are Nearly Over

Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/3/05) Hooray. Tomorrow Libby flies down and I’ll pick her up. It’s been a long time away.

The part I need for the water pump won’t come until Monday, so we’re stuck here over the weekend anyhow.

I ordered a repair kit for the marine toilet. Should have done it a week ago. I’ll try Sunday and Monday to replace the parts and overhaul the head before we leave the marina. It’s much nicer to repair one head while you have use of another.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Minnesota South

Tiger Point Marina, N30 41.50 W081 27.25

(6/2/05) This morning I did fika with Ingmar and friends. I met Staffan and Bert. We had coffee and a coffee cake and we conversed in Swedish. It didn’t take long though for them to tire of my poor pronunciation and we switched back to English.

All three men have interesting backgrounds. Indeed, I think I’m going to meet many Hemmingway characters in the coming years. Ingmar started in the merchant marine, then he built nuclear plans in Sweden and California. Bert served in Vietnam and he built a pylon racing airplane from scratch and races it. Bert also has a peg leg. Not a wood one but a stainless steel one with knee and ankle hinges, but sans the flesh-colored exterior.

I finished my painting today. The other projects may be finished tomorrow. Libby arrives in Jacksonville Saturday. Life is not so bad.