Thursday, November 30, 2006

Out and In

Blount Island, St. Johns River,FL N 30 23.830 W 81 30.392

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
We got a lot of business done on Monday. We tried (and failed) to make a reservation for a mooring in Marathon for January. We tried (and succeeded) to reserve some time with a diesel mechanic in mid December. I contacted Dave Hackett near Melbourne. Dave told me that the next space shuttle launch is scheduled for December 7. That might work out just perfect for us to see it. Oh boy! I went to the post office and got some presents in the mail, and mailed my broken Acer computer back to Acer for repair. I also picked up the stanchion that Bud Taplin made for us. We ordered that last August. That's how long it takes for snail mail to catch up to us.

But our big project for the day was to go over to Tiger Point Boatyard and have Tarwathie hauled out for one hour and a fee of $140. You remember Tiger Point. In June 2005 that was the place where I painted the bottom. In December 2005 that was the place where we had the cabin heater installed. It is also the home marina for our conflict resolution specialist friend Baird.

While she was out I replaced the propeller zinc (remember when I tried before and dropped it?), and the propeller shaft zinc. I also greased the Maxprop with a grease gun. That prop is supposed to feather when we are under sail, but lately it hasn't feathered and the propeller shaft turned all the time when sailing. That costs us 0.25-0.50 knots. It might have been possible to hire a diver for $50 to do the zincs, but the grease job could never have been accomplished under water.

Today we got fooled by the weather report. We were supposed to have NE 10-15 knots so we set out to sail to St. Augustine, 55 miles away. After getting out past the jetty, we raised the sails, but it was a no go. There was only enough wind to make one knot. Worse, there were close-spaced swells coming from the east that made us roll violently. The sails and the boom just thrashed back and forth, so I had to take the sails back down and motor. Then the choice was to reverse course back in to Fernandina, and then down the ICW, or to stay outside and motor 18 miles to the St. Johns river.

I've never been suspicious, but almost exactly a year ago in almost exactly the same spot, we were faced with a decision of whether to continue or to turn back. A year ago, the problem was that the control line for the monitor self-steering broke and I couldn't repair it in the rough seas. Last year we chose to go back, this year we chose to go forward.

A very uncomfortable 5 hours later we entered the St. Johns river. We're anchoring here for the night rather than pressing south on the ICW. This is the fifth time we anchored in this spot behind Blount Island. It was never our goal any of those 5 times, but rather a matter of convenience. Should we be superstitious?

I have a new criterion for sailing at sea. Suppose we are rolling in the swells plus/minus 30 degrees with a period of 12 seconds. Then the midpoint of the sails about 30 feet over the water, is swinging about 50 feet in 6 seconds, or about 9 feet per second, which is an average speed of about 5.3 knots. Therefore it will take a wind of 10 knots or more to prevent the sails from being backwinded on each roll of the boat. Therefore, my new rule of thumb is that if winds are less than 10 knots in a rolling sea, we should not raise the sails.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Dodo and the Genius

Point Cove Marina, Pablo Creek FL

This morning began as Florida mornings should. It was 70 degrees at 6 AM. We got up, raised the anchor, and set out for Saint Augustine. The wind was against us so we planned to motor the 35 miles down the ICW.

I noted that the tachometer didn't work this morning. Darn. It had stopped working just before arrival yesterday. However I wrote it off to temperature problems. Our tachometer has always been balky when it's warm. It starts jumping up and down, then stops working. When the weather and the engine cools off, it starts working again. This morning was an exception. It didn't work. Darn, I thought, add that to my list of things to do.

I was a dodo. Libby came up in the cockpit and said, "The last time this happened the alternator was broken. Look. The engine is running but not charging. The battery voltage is down to 11.5 volts." Holy mackerel! She was absolutely right. I had forgotten about the connection between the alternator and the tachometer and I hadn't noticed the low voltage.

I dashed down below and opened up the engine compartment. The last time, it was the alternator belt that jumped off. This time the belt was OK. I stopped the engine and stuck my head way in. Aha! There was a broken wire. It was the wire that connects the alternator to the intelligent battery charge control. Without it, the charger would set field voltage to zero and the alternator would not generate.

How to fix it. I was tempted to find an anchorage, but once again Libby was more alert than I. She said, "We may not be able to start the engine again if the voltage is too low." Once again she was absolutely right.

So we put in to the first available marina. Point Cove Marina was about 7 miles from where we started. It was the devil getting in here because the marina's channel is shallow and it was low tide. We ran aground three times before getting in to a slip.

The wire broke at the place where there was an in-line fuse holder. It was a poor design because the fuse holder flopped around in the air and was subject to vibration. The lead was too short to be able to tie it down with a wire tie. No wonder it broke.

The marina has a very small and poorly stocked marine supply store. But surprise, one of the few things they did have for sale was in-line fuse holders. It cost me $2.50. Within an hour, I had the broken wire repaired.

By the time that was done, I was all greasy from working on the engine. So as to not waste a big mess, we went ahead and did an oil change. Then I headed off for the marina's shower.

We're not so unlucky as the 40 foot sport fisherman at the next slip. The men on that boat ran on to the jetty coming in to the St. John's river. They ruined both propellers. Remember how I wrote just a few days ago about nervousness and caution approaching the breakwater (jetty) of a sea inlet? Those guys should have been as conservative as I. Now they have a Navy Seal diver hired to replace the propellers using SCUBA gear.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Turkey Day

Fernandina Beach

Sunday, November 26, 2006
Today we had the turkey dinner feast that we didn't get to have on Thanksgiving. We invited our local friend Baird, and Libby fixed us a proper meal. We had turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, salad, corn bread, plus coffee, apple pie and ice cream for dessert. Yummy. It is amazing what you can do in a small galley on a boat.

You may recall Baird from an earlier blog article from a year ago. Baird is the guy who works at the boatyard. He built himself a home on the water, and near the boatyard, that was just charming. He had a little jungle growing on the property and among the exotic plants and banana trees, it was shaded by overhanging Cyprus trees and Spanish moss. The house was a simple single room. It was built on telephone piles to lift it higher than expected flood level. The bathroom was detached but beautifully finished in colorful Mexican ceramics.

Baird ran afoul of the local authorities. It started when the stuff in his yard interfered with a place in his yard where the local cops used to hide their car in the bushes at the end of a dead end street and sleep. It got much worse when a lineman for the city complained about his electric hook up and Baird told him to F* off. Within the hour, he was besieged by building inspectors, health department, and everything offensive and official. They said that everything he did was not up to code. That was true but Baird offered to fix all deficiencies they pointed out. This continued for months, and Baird put thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of his own labor in fixing everything they cited. But to no avail. No matter what he fixed, they would come up with a new hurdle for him to cross. It was clear to me listening to his story that his efforts were futile -- he made enemies in city hall and they were determined to thwart his every move no matter what. Only a bribe, or kissing ass, or a very intimidating lawyer could have saved him. The finale came when he went to a public hearing to decide about his building permit. At the hearing Baird lost his patience and grabbed the inspector by the collar and dragged him over the table. Wow. He could have gone to jail, but instead he just got evicted.

Now he demolished the house and is selling the property. He said that once the check arrives, he's going to sail away in his boat and head for the Mediterranean.

Last night, as Baird was driving home in his decrepit old Toyota pickup, he was stopped by the cops at a check point. He had no licence plates, no insurance, no ID with him, no papers of any kind, and he had not registered his truck for more than 5 years. Once again he could have gone to jail, but he escaped with just the cost of a tow truck to get him home.

Baird said that a man owning a boat on the same dock was a S.O.B. and they didn't get along. One day, according to Baird, the man bolted a big white fiberglass storage trunk from West Marine to the dock, "one inch away from my boat." That infuriated Baird, so his remedy was to get his sawzall, and to cut the trunk away from its mountings and to dump its contents into the water and to throw the trunk in after. Baird is a sweet guy. Really. But it's easy to see that he is destined to always live in trouble with the authorities.

Our son Dave suggested that Baird should live in Fairbanks. He would hardly stand out at all from the typical Alaskan up there. No doubt David is right, but Baird loves tropical weather so Alaska is not the right place for him. The upper Amazon basin may be more to his liking.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

T-Shirt Weather

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Oh it felt good to strip down to a t-shirt today and to enjoy the sunshine. We spend the day shopping and doing errands. This is the first time since Solomons Maryland that we had the chance to really stock our grocery supply.

I forgot to mention two things about the trip down. Thursday night we were treated to a spectacular meteor shower. Perhaps is was the Perseus Shower, I'm not sure. The sky was crystal clear, except the perpetual clouds over the Gulf Stream 30 miles to our east. The moon set soon after the sun so it was a very dark night. Perfect viewing conditions for a meteor shower. In those conditions I also like standing my watch sitting on the upper deck beside the dinghy. That gives me a great view of half of the sky.

The trip was uneventful, except for the final part. Arriving at the St Mary's River inlet we had to navigate to the end of the breakwater, about 2.5 miles from shore. Although the winds were light, when we dropped our sails and headed in the swell started violently rolling us. It was extremely hard to stand up enough to hold the tiller and see where we were going, even when braced. We arrived after dark, and the lights on the navigation aids were seen against the backdrop of city lights. I could see a light briefly, then the boat would roll and I wouldn't get a chance to see it again for 20 seconds. That made it extremely difficult to tell which light was what. To top it off, my mind was filled with memories of the story our friend Baird told us of counting the buoys wrong and running his boat aground on the rocks of the breakwater. We made it OK, but I depended extra heavily on our GPS.

The value of a chartplotting GPS is hard to overstate. We can't use it for navigation directly. It isn't necessarily accurate enough for navigation. One sill has to see the buoys or other aids visually. Also, the GPS database can have errors. Also, things change. In this case, when we encountered the first red bouy at our intercept with the entrance channel, I asked Libby to check the number with the spotlight. "It should be number ten," I said. She picked it out with the light and called back, "sixteen." Sixteen! I re-checked the GPS, and both sets of chart books we have on board. All three sources said it should be "ten." "Oh well," I thought, "they must be renumbered." It was the GPS that allowed me to be so calm. It is plenty accurate enough to tell me that this is the last bouy before the breakwater, no matter what the number. If we didn't have the GPS, I would have been panicked by the discrepancy. I would have reacted by sailing three miles more out to sea to meet the first bouy and then three miles back in following them all. It would have taken two hours more time. With the GPS, I was confident enough to know we were right despite the discrepancy.

A second major advantage of GPS is that it can be read even at night and even when one's hands are busy steering the boat. At night, and in bad weather, paper charts have to be left below. To consult them means abandoning steering long enough to go below decks. If one is making a near approach to a hazard like a breakwater, that is too risky. Without a GPS, and on a dark night in bad weather, we probably would have had to stand hove to off shore until the following morning before attempting a hazardous entry.

The bottom line: our GPS allows us to be much less conservative in our navigation without increased risk. The same is true with very many other technical applications of computers. Software allows operators of everything from airplanes to nuclear power plants safely with reduced safety margins. The more ignorant you are of the state of your machine, the more margin you must allow for uncertainty.

Oh, by the way, we were indeed at the correct bouy, and it had been renumbered.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

The Land of Sunshine

Fernandina Beach, Florida N 30 40.470 W 81 28.392

At last. We made it to Florida and it is sunny and warm. I shed my jacket, sweater, long underwear and two pairs of wool socks that I feel that I've been wearing for eternity. It felt so good. Of course it's really not true that we can't have cold weather down here, but we can pretend for this weekend at least.

The passage down here was uneventful and very pleasant. Not much ship traffic. Favorable winds. Not too cold. We did 150 miles in 36 hours. That's just a bit above our 100 miles per day average.

Tomorrow we shower, shop for groceries and pick up mail at the post office. I'll also try to find our friend Baird to invite for a turkey dinner. Remember Baird? We wrote about him last year. He built a non-conventional home near the waterfront here and ran afoul of the local officials. If we're still here Monday we might also be able to say hello to our Swedish friend Ingmar.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving At Sea

At Sea, N 32 16 W 80 10

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

At last! We are at sea and heading for (hopefully warmer) Florida at maximum speed with a favorable wind. It feels really good to be en route. It would feel better if it were warmer.

This is our first Thanksgiving at sea. In theory we could cook a full turkey dinner anyhow, but we don't do much fancy cooking at sea. Instead of a turkey dinner we'll have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Don't worry though, we'll have our turkey dinner after arrival in Florida.

For the benefit of our foreign fans, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American non-religious holiday. I'm not quite sure about the history of how it started, but it has come to be the holiday where the extended family gathers for a feast. The holiday is uncluttered by gift giving, as is Christmas. Just enjoying the company of one's family and close friends is the attraction of this holiday. Unfortunately, this year we really can't enjoy that. John has a sick daughter in the hospital, Jenny is home alone in Vermont, David is in Kuwait, and Libby and I are out at sea. Oh well, we have already enjoyed a good dose of family togetherness this year.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Duck Day

Near Charleston, South Carolina, N 32 46.998 W 79 49.505

At last. Yesterday's weather forecast for an additional day of gales was wrong. We woke this morning to nearly still winds and temperatures 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, but it was raining. We were able to leave and work our way 40 miles down the ICW to Charleston. Tomorrow we plan to put to sea again and work our way toward Florida. We're very impatient to find a warmer climate.

We saw dozens of boats filled with duck hunters this morning. It must be the first day of duck season. Or it could be that many hunters promised to bring back a big fat duck for Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps both. We were amused at the speed at which they zoomed up and down the rivers. It seems like 50 mph is the minumum speed for a hunter. They were all regaled in camouflage. Not just the hunters, but their boats, the outboard motors and even their shotguns were covered in camouflage. They would stop by the side of a river, put out a whole bunch of decoys, and push their boats into the weeds. One even had an electronic decoy that flapped it's wings. We waved at them as we went by but that seemed to annoy them. They didn't wave back, I assume because they were supposed to be invisible. However we could spot them 1/4 mile away by the size of the decoy flock and by the clouds of cigarette smoke coming out of the weeds. I saw only 16 ducks flying by all morning, but I heard dozens of shots. I suspect that these guys just like shooting.

The hunters made me think of the birds around us. I saw 16 ducks, a dozen or so cormorants, countless sea gulls, countless pelicans, a dozen hawks, and one great horned owl. We also had thee dolphins following us for a while.

Around noon we stopped for fuel at Leonard Fuel Company in McClellanville. The man who helped us was very charming. I had a nice chat with him about hunting and modern life. He said that when he was a little boy, nobody had decoys, nobody had camouflage colors. In fact, he said that ducks are color blind and can't see the difference between camouflage and other colors. The secret to duck hunting is to stay very still. "Today," he said, "you can't buy a decoy in any store. They're sold out of decoys and out of three inch magnum shells. Those guys aren't duck hunting, they are duck shooting." Another treat: the cutest canal boat we ever did see was docked there as a transient. I'll post our picture of it. Fellow cruisers: I recommend a visit to Leonard Fuel Company.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Still Here

Mimim Creek, South Carolina, N 33 11.626 W 79 16.670

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Brrr. It's cold,wet and miserable. The weather forecast doesn't promise much relief until Friday.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Holed Up

Mimim Creek, South Carolina, N 33 11.626 W 79 16.670

Monday, November 20, 2006

I understated how bad the weather would be yesterday. Now they are saying that the storm will arrive here then become stationary for an indefinite period of time. Yuck. At least we have a secure place to stay. We are on a creek to the side of the ICW. We are tied to a pier that seems to belong to a plantation and used to load/unload cargo. Fortunately, the plantation seems inactive for the winter. I don't think anyone will bother us for using it without permission.

Last night Libby got sick. She has flu-like symptoms and an upset stomach. That discourages me from continuing on to Charleston because it would have meant that I would have had to stand watch for 16 hours without a break. Instead we put in to Winyah Bay and headed for Georgetown SC. We arrived at the ICW intersection around 0330. I decided not to continue 7 more miles to Georgetown because we would have to wait until 0800 to find out if there was an open space on a mooring or at a slip. Considering how the marinas tend to be fully booked when a storm comes, I wasn't optimistic. We continued down the ICW south 10 more miles before finding this place. Weather permitting, I hoped to move us down the ICW to Charleston on Wednesday and to go outside again on Thursday. Now, the latest forecast says that we have to wait an additional 24 hours. Oh well. The good news is that Libby feels better this afternoon.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Racing the Weather

At Sea, N 33 26 W 78 38

We're still enjoying the memories of the great day we had yesterday with Walt and Terez. We're very glad that that rendezvous was able to happen.

The weather has not been cooperative this fall as it was last year. Last year we left Cape Fear and made a straight shot to Fernandina Beach in about 60 hours. This year I wanted to try it again. We planned to leave Sunday with a forecast for three days of northerly winds. But then the forecast started showing too little wind on Sunday/Monday, then too much for Tuesday. We left Sunday morning, and we have had essentially zero wind all day. We've been forced to motor the whole day. Each update to the weather forecast makes it sound worse. Now, for Tuesday they say "storm" with winds more than 40 knots and seas more than 20 feet. Out in the Gulf stream the winds will be as high as 65 knots and breaking waves >25 feet. No thank you.

We'll have to put in and lay up Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights waiting for this weather to pass. I have two alternatives for Sunday night/Monday morning. Sail to Georgetown GA, on Winyah Bay, or continue to Charleston. I'll let you know tomorrow which one we choose.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curmudgeon Lunch

Surf City

While waiting out the bad weather here I enjoyed a pseudo Curmudgeon's lunch. I'll explain. During my working career I enjoyed many kinds of lunch breaks.

Many times I had lunch with the boys. That would mean walking to some nearby lunch spot with a few friends. When I worked for GE, we walked up to Maurice's. At PTI we would go to Maurice's, or Morette's, or to the Beef and Brew, or to Lyle's Sandwich Shop. These were very social lunches filled with lots of male-to-male bonding. I can't recall a single time in more than 40 years that we ever invited a female to join us. You could call it sexist. I prefer faithful husband. After all I wasn't supposed to bond with females at work.

In Sudsvik, Sweden, we had a 15 minute walk to the cafeteria and 20 friends would all walk together up to lunch. Along the way we played with a Frisbee that I brought. It was very athletic. I claimed personal responsibility for introducing Frisbees to Sweden.

In Windsor, Combustion Engineering had a great cafeteria and a big pond with a nature trail that went around it. That made for very enjoyable lunches.

Other times we had business lunches. We would take clients out for a little wining and dining. The heavy guns came out when we took customers out to dinner, but so-called power lunches were also common. Our favorite place for this in Schenectady was the Mohawk Club. The Mohawk Club was one of those infamous old men's club. No women were allowed. (Whoops, sexist again.) There was also snob appeal because club memberships were very expensive. GE and PTI paid for memberships for top managers. Those were two martini lunches. The table settings included fat ash trays with a holder for match boxes to light one's cigar after eating. It was fun. Business lunches took at least two hours.

A few times I arranged a private lunch with someone at work to discuss serious business; usually something unpleasant. Those lunches were tense and never worked out very well. I don't know why I thought that it should be easier to say unpleasant things at lunch rather than back at the office.

When working in Sweden, I used to enjoy walking to downtown V�ster�s from Tegn�r, for lunch. It took about 20 minutes to walk downtown, and 20 minutes back, leaving 20 minutes for a little window shopping and a quick bite to eat. It was especially nice in the spring when the weather first turned warm. The Swedes and I all enjoyed basking in the warm sunshine.

If I didn't feel like walking downtown in Sweden, I would just skip lunch and stay at my desk working. I sucked down huge quantities of coffee and cigarettes, and that allowed me to regulate my metabolism. I didn't eat breakfast, nor eat lunch. I would return home from work at 2100, and eat a huge supper. I broke all the nutrition rules but I was healthy and fit and bursting with energy. I dearly wish that I could return to my coffee-cigarette diet.

I also used to enjoy walking lunches with my friend Beverly from PTI. We would walk up the bike path that ran behind Jay Street. The walk took the whole hour and we didn't eat.

Once in a while, we had a going-away luncheon for someone or the annual outing to Jumping Jacks restaurant in Scotia. There I would meet with one to several dozen friends of both genders and enjoy a different kind of social lunch. Those were always fun.

On a very few occasions I would have a one-on-one lunch with a female friend. I met Beverly at the Turf Inn. Beverly again at Central Park in Schenectady. I met Linda for lunch at the Italian-American Club in Guilderland. Tsk tsk, shame on me. I was always conflicted by these meetings. In this modern world, there is nothing noteworthy about having some female friends. But I was raised in a different era and it always felt naughty.

In later years I came to enjoy the lunch hour as a time to relax and depressurize. It may have been as much a product of the stress caused by the relentless go-go pressure of modern American business than my age. Anyhow, I would go out alone, buy a copy of the Wall Street Journal, eat something I like and lounge for a half hour after eating and read the paper. I call that the curmudgeon lunch. It wasn't social, it was private.

If things were going really bad at work, I would take my car at lunch time and find a private place to park and sleep for an hour. That was antisocial and depressing.

Now, in my cruising life, I don't have stress any more. There is nothing to escape from. After a fun morning sailing on the boat, I eat lunch in the cockpit, then have a fun afternoon sailing. I socialize the whole day with Libby and any guests we have onboard. That makes lunch anticlimactic. Nevertheless, I sometimes remember my curmudgeon lunches fondly.

Today, we are stuck at Surf City, waiting for bad weather to pass. (By the way, it was wise to stop. Last night there were five people killed by a tornado near here, and widespread wind and flood damage. We were snug and comfortable tied up here at the marina. The worst weather bypassed Surf City.) I decided to have a pseudo curmudgeon lunch. I say pseudo because the only choices I have for restaurants are a Hardees or a Dairy Queen, both fast food restaurants. Never mind, I bought a Wall Street Journal, and headed for the Hardees restaurant.

The reality of my lunch turned out to be less than ideal. The hamburger and fries were awful. (I had to take Alka Seltzer.) Worse, before settling to read my paper, a thunderstorm came by. The winds whipped up to 55 mph, a flood of water came in to the restaurant blown under the threshold of the door, I had my back to the big picture window and I could hear a report on the radio about tornadoes in the area. Then the power went out. How's that for a leisurely lunch?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Good News and Bad

Surf City USA, N 34 25.723 W 77 32.742

The good news is that we had a very nice dinner Monday night with our new friends Dwight and Karen. They had wonderful stories about sailing in the Caribbean, especially about how nice the Dominican Republic is. Libby and I were fascinated and our tastes for heading southward were enhanced. I think Dwight and Karen enjoyed telling the stories as much as we enjoyed listening. Via storytelling to fellow cruisers, they could relive those memories and whet their appetites for becoming cruisers once again.

The bad news is that on Tuesday morning I tried to replace the zinc on the propeller. The water and air were relatively warm. I put on my wet suit, mask and snorkel and dove in to do the job. I was determined to do everything possible to avoid dropping the zinc or the allen wrench. I was impractical to tie safety strings on them. Unfortunately, I never inherited my father's genes for doing fine work with my hands. Despite my caution I dropped both the wrench and the ($35) zinc. I resurfaced spouting a few choice words. I'm very reluctant to pay $250 to have Tarwathie hauled out for 30 minutes to install a zinc. I mean to try again but this time I'm going to rig a safety net below my work to catch the things I drop.

The good news is that we had two splendid days motoring down the ICW toward Southport. Our goal is to be in Southport to meet Walt and Teresa on Saturday. The winds are unfavorable for going out to sea so we're using the ICW. We've never been on this particular stretch of the ICW before.

The bad news is that the weather forecast this morning brought warnings. Tonight we'll have 35 knot winds and tomorrow we'll have 45 knot winds (50 mph, 80 kph) from the SW. There are no good anchorages with shelter against SW winds within reach. I called all the marinas in Wrightsful Beach, today's goal. They were all fully booked. I had to start calling marinas further and further north. Finally I found one in Surf City, about 5 miles in back of where we just passed. We'll be here two nights until the bad weather passes. Friday, it will be a stretch to make it all the way to Southport to meet Walt.

The good news is that our son David is on duty at his base for the next near in Kuwait, near the Iraqi border. David says that it is fairly comfortable where he is. The description of the place sounds fairly safe. Hopefully, there will be no combat nor any bombs there.

The bad news is that our youngest granddaughter Victoria, is in the hospital suffering from some kind of infection. Her parents say that it is not serious and that she'll be out in two days. Still, she has enough pain that they are giving her morphine. Poor Victoria. Our hearts go out to you. We wish there was something we could do.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Shame on Me

Beaufort, NC, N 34 43.580 W 76 40.036

I’m beside myself with remorse and disgust over my actions yesterday.

Our plan was to leave Oriental on Sunday and travel to Beaufort. Beaufort it only 20 miles away. I had told our friends Dwight and Karen that we would arrive in Beaufort Sunday night. In the morning I met a young couple at the public dock. They were anxious to bring their boat in to our spot, and I told them that we would be gone by 10 AM. The weather was not bad, although the sky was threatening.

Weather: The young couple had mentioned something about winds of 40 mph, so I checkes on NOAA weather radio. It said 15-20 knots. Anyhow, for the past 10 days there had been numerous gale warnings for near offshore waters, but considerably less wind inland. Bottom line, I ignored the warning.

We left the public dock at 10AM in a mild breeze. We had to cross the Neuse River 4.5 nm to reach Adams Creek on the other side. Within 10 minutes after leaving the north shore, the winds suddenly increased dramatically. I asked Libby to look at the wind speed indicator. She said, “36 knots.” That qualifies as a gale. The river is shallow and in a short time the waves became big a few of them broke over the foredeck. It also turned very cold. Libby went below.

I stayed on deck and motored us across. It took two hours, and I had to nurse every bit of windward progress I could to avoid having to tack under motor power.

When we got the far side, and just as we were beginning to come under shelter from the far shore, I went forward. To my horror, I noted that the staysail was gone. The staysail and the jib were both stowed in their sail bags up in the bowsprit, but neither was secured. The jib lay on the foredeck but the staysail was nowhere in sight.

It will cost up to $1,000 to replace the staysail.

We anchored last night in Adams Creek, avoiding the need to find a less sheltered anchorage in Beaufort. It was an uncomfortable night and I had to stay awake most of the time on anchor watch.

My decision to leave Oriental was bad. The mistake of get-there-itis is a well known cause of many aviation accidents. Using an outdated weather report was sloppy. Leaving critical items on desk without being securely tied down was a sloppy habit. Never mind that I got away with it for nearly two years.

Shame on me. I should have know better.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Public Dock

Oriental, NC

We are berthed at the ever popular public dock in Oriental. The first time we were here we had a wonderful time with our friends Alan and Laura on Moon Song. This time we've met so many people I can't count. The public dock is a very social place. It seems like every town person visits the dock every day to see who is there, and many of them are sailors. We met Dave and Jackie who have a big trawler. They are heading for Fort Pierce and we made a date to visit them there when we pass through. We also met Scott with a neat South African Catamaran. We also met Tim who was familiar with Tarwathie and was onboard her in the Bahamas when she was owned by Al Hatch.

Just now we returned from a musical jam session at Bean's, a coffee shop just 20 meters away from us.

Before coming here, we had a great two days in New Bern. We were even tempted to sign up for a month at the Sheraton Hotel's very reasonable marina, but alas, they were sold out.

In New Bern, we met some new friends, Dave and Hilde on SV Raven. They, like us, are just getting used to the cruising life style. They, like us, sailed in Penobscot Bay Maine and they spent a week in Rockland Harbor. They started out from Kemah Texas (Kemah seems like the only place in Texas that has sailboats.) When we went to Beans tonight to hear the music, the first people we met inside the door were Dave and Hilde.

There is a man who runs a web site here. He writes stories about the people who tie up at the public dock. I recommend the story about the poor hapless man on Caryatid. It is a gem of a story.

Friday, November 10, 2006


One of the great pleasures we found in Urbanna VA was meeting Gary.

Gary is retired from 25+ years in the US Coast Guard. He lives in Urbanna near the water, and he goes down to the docks three times a day for (in his words), "my salt water fix." That's how we met Gary, was down at the docks. He knew all about Westsails and he knew the pedigree of the W32 design. Gary said that he was building his own boat and he invited us to his house to see it.

It wasn't until a couple of days later that we got the chance to go to Gary's house. We walked around back to a large garage and the found Gary working on her.

Wow! What a solid boat he is building. She will be a 34 foot long schooner copied from one of Nat Herreshoff's designs. She is not unlike Joshua Slocum's Spray, but smaller. She sits upside down in Gary's garage while he works on the frame and the hull. When that's complete, he'll roll her out and flip her over.

We also went inside Gary's house to meet his wife Nell. In his workroom we saw some of the models of wooden boats that Gary was working on. They are all exquisitely beautiful examples of boat modeling and of wood working. Gary's current project is to build one to present as a gift to the new hotel in Urbanna. The walls in Gary's workroom are lined with hung models of hulls. It looks very much like Nat Herreshoff's model room in Bristol RI except that Herreshoff worked in half-hull models.

Gary invited us back to the launching of his boat in about two years. I would love to be there to see it. Gary already has a plan for her. He will use this boat to give deaf and handicapped children the chance to enjoy sailing. I think that is a wonderful ambition.

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We were about to leave and we invited Gary to sail with us from Urbanna to Deltaville; about 20 miles away. He accepted and off we went. We had very strong following winds and I set only the foresail. Gary took the helm and it only took him minutes to get the feel of Tarwathie. Gary has been sailing all his life in the local waters so he was familiar with the area, and with the weather, and water conditions. However I don't think that he ever had the chance to sail a heavy rig with a full keel like Tarwathie. Tarwathie was perhaps an inkling of what his own boat would be like. It took Gary only a few minutes to remark that he was glad to have planned for wheel steering instead of the tiller, and a schooner rig rather than a sloop or cutter because he would have a much smaller and easier to handle foresail. I'm sure he was right on both counts.

Good luck Gary. We wish you fair winds and safe voyages.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Trans Atlantic Diesels

Here is another story from our time in Urbanna.

If you recall, we were stranded in Urbanna because the starter on Tarwathie's engine failed. On the 4th day stranded, I managed to snag the mechanic from the nearby boatyard. His name was Scott. Scott came over to Tarwathie and fiddled around for only seconds before confirming my diagnosis. "Yep. The starter is dead." He said he could see the scratch marks where I had shorted the starter lead to the 12 volt supply with a screwdriver. The fact that that didn't produce and motion or sound was proof positive. Nothing more was needed.

Next I feared the really bad news, expecting that a new starter for such an old engine would take weeks to obtain. After all, the Perkins 4-108 hasn't been manufactured in 25 years. But I was wrong. Scott made a phone call and he said that the local Perkins dealer had a starter in stock. Wow. That was good news. The only trouble was that Scott could not find the time to drive over and pick it up until the following day. Since the Undrills were with us and had a car, we volunteered to go fetch the starter.

Gary and his friend at the boatyard said, "OK, but we better give you directions to where it is in Cambridge, VA." They fiddled with Mapquest on the Internet for a while with no success. I was getting impatient so I said, "Why don't I just drive to Cambridge and ask the locals?" Scott said, "Because the locals will never know where Trans Atlantic Diesels is." Scott drew me a map and gave verbal instructions, and off we went with John driving with me and Mary Ann as passengers.

Cambridge was about 20 miles away from Urbanna and finding it wasn't difficult. It was the last stretch that got interesting. We turned right at the new WaWa gas station. Then we were supposed to turn on to the second tarred road on the left. We went on for several miles and saw several roads, but most were not tarred. (Translation: tarred means asphalt in post WWII lingo) We then turned right on the first tarred road on the right. Then we drove to the end of a cul-de-sac. There was supposed to be a dirt driveway there straight through. There was one, just as Scott said. Now we were driving on a dirt track that went out into the corn fields. It would have felt very wrong if Scott's directions had not been so explicit. After a mile or so, I was surprised to see a big sign saying "Trans Atlantic Diesels" to your left.

She said, "Oh yeah, the Perkins 108 starter. Follow me." Jennifer led me down the stairs and up an aisle lined with shelves. At the end of the isle there sat a spanking brand new Perkins 108 starter motor. I recognized it instantly because I had been staring at Tarwathie's broken one in recent days. Jennifer snatched it up without hesitation and carried it over to a workbench. I was impressed because it weighed 30 pounds but Jennifer handled it like 3 pounds. She said, "It is missing a nut on this lug," and she found a matching nut and screwed it on.

We drove to the left into what appeared to be a junkyard with salvaged engine parts piled up toward the sky. It looked like the perfect setting for junkyard dogs and for a toothless bald boy sitting on a box playing a banjo. There were two men working outside. I asked them where the office was. They pointed to a door. "Trough there and up the stairs," they said. With a little trepidation, I entered the door.

Stepping through that door, was like entering the Emerald City. The place was spotless, and huge metal racks held numerous sparkling brand new diesel engines of various sizes. I walked up the stairs and found a modern office complete with computers, fax machines and the like. There I met Jennifer and I gave her the secret code, "Scott sent me." We left the starter downstairs and went back up to the office to do the paperwork. There, Jennifer surprised me with some new payment technology that I have never seen before. I was going to write a check but she said, "No need to fill it out." Instead, she fed the check to a machine that scanned the account number, printed the word VOID on the check and then printed a debit transaction chit with the correct amount (about $360) for me to sign. I never saw that before.

Here I emerge with my prize in hand.

Finally, the picture above shows the butt of Scott's assistant mechanic lying down on top of Tarwathie's engine installing the starter motor. He didn't need any special tools or special knowledge, but he was young enough and limber enough to get the job done. John and I are both too old for that kind of work.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The Nuese River, N 35 04.172 W 77 00.681

We don't have a lot of gadgets and conveniences that many other people have on their boats. When I'm feeling deprived I remind myself that simplicity is a virtue onboard a boat. Gadgets break. Complexity works against you. The other day we witnessed an excellent illustration of this principle.

We were negotiating the entrance to Goose Creek on the ICW. The channel marker buoys forced all the traffic through the same narrow bottleneck. We were being overtaken by a large power boat called Fat Lady. She was about 60 feet long, which makes here a super yacht in my book. According to me, 30-50 feet is a yacht, 50-90 feet is a super yacht, and bigger than 90 feet is a mega yacht. Fat Lady was one of those big Chlorox bottle types of super yachts, that probably cost less than $3 million.

I was watching Fat Lady overtake us when she suddenly veered toward me. I could see the helmsman up on the flying bridge trying frantically to turn the wheel the other way, but she wasn't answering the helm. Just then the captain came rushing up on the bridge and took control. He cut the engines, stopping her dead. Then he restarted the engines, and fiddled with the control panel, and once again everything was back to normal.

Curious, I hailed Fat Lady on the radio. I asked the captain what had happened to cause her to not answer the helm. His reply was, "When we took her out of autopilot that tripped the steering pump." I chewed on that piece of information for a few minutes then I thought how lucky I was to not have $3 million to spend on a boat that I would entrust my life to.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Bath Culture

Bath, NC

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Boy do we like this place. If we were not enjoying the life of cruisers, this is exactly our kind of ideal place to retire to. Bath is small, perhaps 500 people. No part of the village is more than 10 minutes walk away.

This morning I went to the marina and paid the man $10 to let us use his showers. Libby was very glad for that. She is less than a slob than I when it comes to showers and changing clothes. My tastes are more akin to those of the mountain men in the 19th century.

The Bath Town Hall is a little building 15x20 feet. It holds a single desk, a chair, and a rack of notebooks with the town records. Behind the hall connected by a gangway is a gazebo by the water. It looks like the town council meetings must be held there. That is the kind of government bureaucracy that I could live with.

We walked to the local grocery store. Along the way we stopped an asked a man in his front yard for directions. He offered to give us a ride. We declined.

The store was a combination gas station and convenience store. However, their selection of goods was odd. There was a mostly empty bin for fresh vegetables, but the only thing left was a couple of tired looking sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes here are called Swedes). Next to the vegetable bin there was an expensive looking wine cellar. There wan an isle for bread and Twinkies and beer, one for canned food, one for dog food. The meet section had pig jowls, hog backs and, knuckles. Then there was an isle with hardware. There were five big bins with several hundred pounds of nails of different sizes. There was a box full of slip joints and another with slip nuts. There was radiator stop leak and rubber cement. Up front near the cash register there was a rack with the biggest collection of snuff (snus) that I've seen since living in Sweden. Also at the front there were three wooden chairs filled with three farmers swapping stories about goober peas. In reality we didn't know what they were saying because we couldn't understand them. They sounded like the fishermen on Tangier Island speaking Eliabethean English.

In rural upstate New York, we used to see a country store that had a sign saying, "Beer, Bait, Ammo." The store in Bath should have a sign saying, "Nails, Snuff, Wine."

Speaking of stores. In Belhaven, Libby found an Ace Hardware store that (in addition to hardware) sold Christmas decorations, used books, videos, used videos, cheese, wine, nautical charts, road atlases, Carhart clothing, long johns, snack food, jewelry, plus much more.

If we really did move here we would probably discover that it is like Vermont. In Vermont, anyone who has been there for less than three generations is a "flatlander" and is not admitted to the inner circles of society.

On the way back from the store, the man we asked directions from came out and asked us if we could tell him how to sell his house. He also said, "When I offered to give you a ride I wasn't going to rob you or anything." We were a little taken aback about selling the house. He said, "Should I put an ad in the Raleigh newspaper?" and we eagerly said, "Yes." I foolishly continued to advise him to advertise the house on the Internet. He gave me a blank stare. Then he said, "We have to get out in the country. We used to be able to hear the music of the halyards on the masts of the sailboats, but no more. Now its so bad that someday I'll even have to stop at a stop sign." As we walked away, I said to Libby, "I really really like North Carolina and its people, don't you?" She answered, "Yes I do but I wonder about inbreeding."

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bath NC

Bath NC, N 35 28.597 W 76 48.917

It is amazing how a few degrees change in temperature makes to our attitude. Yesterday morning we got up at 0730 and left Belhaven. The temperature was 39F (4C) and the 25 knot wind coming across the water cut into the core of a man's soul. The only thought on our minds was to abandon all plans and head south as rapidly as possible. Nevertheless, we decided to take a side trip up the Pamlico River to Bath. By noon we were tying up at the free state dock in Bath, the wind had stopped, the sun was high and strong, and the temperature was in the 60s (>17C). It felt wonderful and we wondered what the rush was to head south. Last night, after the sun set we had a glorious full moon in a crystal clear sky and it turned bitterly cold again. Like magic we again considered a panic flight south.

Sailing down the Pungo River yesterday morning, we became part of a large conga line of boats sailing southward on the ICW. We saw 30-50 other boats similar to Tarwathie all heading the same way. I recognized one of them from Charlotte Vermont. We met him in Solomons. He had our friend Don Lacoste from Maine onboard, and I think I saw Don waving to us. It's neat to think that if we continue this migration for several more years, that we will see people we know almost every day. Don't read that as a prediction of our future.

Bath is much nicer than Belhaven. Belhaven was a sort of impoverished place full of empty abandoned storefronts. Their fate will soon change though because they are building a huge waterfront condo complex. When that is occupied the population of the town may double and the average wealth of the citizens will grow by 1000% or more.

Bath is completely different. Bath is North Carolina's oldest city, incorporated in 1705. It still has many buildings remaining from the 18th century that are in remarkably good condition. The trees and shrubbery show the kind of discipline that 300 years of refinement can produce. The bank of the river is lined with a narrow park filled with bench seats where residents can sit in peace and watch the sunsets during summer. The only commercial place in town sells pizza and Italian ice. The place once called Swindlers Cash Store is filled with delightful antiques that you can see through the windows. Things like snake oil remedies.

We called our friend Walt Novinger, who now lives in Raleigh NC, to see if we could meet him for a little sail on Sunday. Alas, his phone message makes it sound like he's out of town. In any case, at the moment of this writing it is becoming warm and pleasant once again so I suspect that we'll be content to stay here another day.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006


Belhaven NC, N 35 32.196 W 76 37.623

I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog about the entertainment. Sailing down the Alligator river, we were passed by a Coast Guard helicopter flying at mast height. A few minutes later there was a large
roar. I quickly pivoted my head and I saw an F18 fighter jet passing only a few hundred feet away at masthead height. I could see the pilot eyeballing Tarwathie through the glass bubble.

For the rest of the morning F18 jets provided continuous entertainment. The must have been from Camp Lejune. They were practicing ground support attacks at the Marine's Practice are in Pamlico Sound. Pairs of F18s would fly out to the Alligaror River, then make a 180 degree turn and fly back to the practice area at treetop height at 400 knots. It was a great show. We saw the sights and sounds of being in a combat zone, but (of course) not the fear.

Last night we stopped at a Skipper Bob recommended anchorage just 30 minutes before dark. I was surprised that we were nearly the only ones there, but my surprise was premature. In the next 30 minutes about 30 other boats came out of the canal and anchored near us.

Coming into Belhaven this morning I was motoring up the channel when we spotted a good dinghy dock. I tried to circle around to see it better and bam - we were aground. Oh no! It has been a long time since we were aground last. I hoped to go a whole year without a grounding. I did not expect a grounding as a present for my birthday (today.) Oh well, I overspeak. We're no longer scared by groundings. It gives us a chance to demonstrate our seamanship. In this case we launched the dinghy, rowed out the Danforth anchor and 150 feet of rode and kedged ourselves off the bottom. The whole operation took less than 15 minutes.

"Are you speaking English?"
I said something this morning that made me realize how far we've descended into cruiser's jargon. I told Libby, "Slimy Grimy the ring around the dink." For the benefit of my landlubber and overseas blog fans, here is the explanation. Slimy Grimy is a cleaning liquid. It is the only thing we've found that easily removes the brown stain that grows around the waterline of Tarwathie when in salt water. The dinghy also had such a brown stain. Dink is sailor's slang for dinghy. Further, the sentence was a throwback to a TV advertizement that was common in the 1970s in the USA. The ad pitched a laundry soap that would remove "ring around the collar." There you have it, idoms and jargon three layers deep in a single sentence, yet Libby understood me perfectly.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More Local Knowledge

The Pungo River, N 35 33.578 W 76 28.035

Today must have been rough offshore. We heard two distress calls from vessels 30 miles or so off the outer banks. The Coast Guard told one of them to anchor and to wait for a tow boat. It seems bizarre to anchor that far offshore.

We just passed through the Alligator-Pungo Canal. It's a rather boring canal.

I was reminded of the first time we passed this way. It was a day with strong north winds and as we approached the end of the Alligator River, the route passes through some zigs and zags and narrow channels flanked with very shallow waters.
I was feeling at risk because we had too much sail up and we were overpowered, but the channels didn't provide enough room to drop the sails. The worst part was the last 1/2 mile of the river to the entrance to the canal. The entrance is invisible from 1/2 mile away as are the day markers at the entrance. I had to have total faith in the GPS to guide me correctly and I was rather scared. Today, at the same spot, I had local knowledge and we had the sails down so there
was nothing to be nervous about.

I hoped to make Belhaven today. We should get there by noon tomorrow.