Thursday, May 31, 2007


Chick and Ruth's Delly and Scottlaur Inn Bed & Bagel, Annapolis, Maryland

Whoops. In yesterday's blog I said that we were anchored in Annapolis. I beg your pardon. We are anchored in The Maritime Repulic of Eastport, and I would be keel hauled if they found out that I called it Annapolis.

Yet, learning about my mistake brought back a very pleasant memory. In December 2004, Libby and I travelled to Eastport for our first ever look at a real live Westsail 32. It was our first overt act toward adopting our new life style. We had never been here before so we knew nothing. Following directions we came to downtown Annapolis, crossed the bridge into Eastport, and took the first left turn, and followed it to the end. That took us to First Street.

As we got out of the car, the scene was wonderful. The street was lined with historically charming brick houses, and overhanging trees. It looked like the Stockade area in Schenectady. However, as I looked down the street I was stunned to see a sailboat sailing across First Street (see the picture, and study it closely). We walked to the end and found that the street terminated directly on the water.

In the creek at the end of the street there was an enormous sailboat race going on in a brisk 20 knot wind. Wow. We certainly didn't have sailboat races in upstate New York in December. Apparently it was an informal race because there were no buoys. Also apparently, the object was to sail your boat up the creek to the bridge, then back out. However, the end of the creek was very narrow allowing very little room for sailing. Nevertheless, there were hundreds (actually countless) sailboats darting and maneuvering in impossible tight spaces to complete their course without collisions. There were small boats, big ones, sail boats, motor boats, anchored boats. It was chaos. Standing back to look at it reminded me of a swarm of bees at the entrance of the beehive. It was impossible to focus on any one boat for more than a second. The fleet resembled a squirming writhing swarm more than a collection of boats under command. Yet, despite the seeming inevitability of disaster, we never saw any boat collide with any other.

On that same day, we saw our first three Westsails -- Sibiland, Amanda Jane, and Morning Mist. We fell in love with Morning Mist and she was our favorite until 10 Westails and three months later when we first saw Tarwathie.

This morning, we ventured in to Annapolis early in the morning to have breakfast at Chick & Ruth's Delly. It is a delightful bit of Americana. Maryland Governors go to Chick and Ruth's on Flag day to pledge allegiance to the flag. They serve chipped beef on toast for dinner. You can buy a Golda Mier sandwich or a Dick Cheny salad. What a cool place.

Pardon my butt but: Yesterday I tried to fix the radar. Talking with the Furuno technician I learned that the fault was almost certainly that the rubber belt that connects the motor to the antenna had jumped off, causing the antenna to cease to rotate. I though it would be a great thing to fix by myself, despite the fact that it is still under warranty. I got in to our boatswain's chair, and with Libby and our friend June working the winch and tailing the line, up I went. I took off the dome to look inside. Surprise! The belt was in place. I went back down the mast and turned on the radar to see if the antenna turned. It did, and the radar works perfectly. Grrrrr - mechanic's syndrome. I went back up the mast and put the dome in place. The radar still works. No doubt it will continue to work until the next time we have a foggy day and we really need it. Grrrr.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Study In Contrasts

Back Creek, Annapolis, Maryland
N 38 57.496 W 76 29.081

Last night it was particularly nice, and the bugs were not biting, so we stayed up late sitting in the Cockpit. What a nice evening scene it was. We watched the reflection of the 3/4 moon in the water. Soon after sunset, bats began darting around. Then we saw our first fireflies of the season. No doubt, the bats were seeing them too. We love fireflies. At our house in West Charlton, fireflies reached their peak in mid June. We had so many fireflies that it looked like a Disney park.

The wind was totally still so we could hear noises from on shore. First it was the splashes caused by fish jumping out of the water to capture some insect floating on the surface. It would have been a good time for fly fishing. We also heard the Kraak of a great blue heron nearby. Then we heard the hooting of an owl. It may have been a barn owl, but I'm not sure. Then there was a ruckus in the nearby hen house. Perhaps a fox was nearby, or perhaps it was just a rowdy rooster. Later, I heard a duck quacking in the distance. Last, we heard a dog barking from a long distance away. Ah the sweet sounds of summer.

This morning, there was a pleasant fresh breeze, so we set sail for Annapolis. We had a great time sailing, albeit slow progress in the light head winds, up until noon. Then the wind died entirely and we had to motor the rest of the way. In the summer months, the Chesapeake is frequently windless, just like the lakes in upstate New York are.

Right now, on Back Creek, the contrast in the scene compared to last night is total. Instead of pristine nature, we have civilization. I never saw so many boats per foot of shoreline than on Back Creek. Tomorrow I may try to count the masts. There must be thousands.

But our reason for being here is pleasurable. Our good friends Chris and June are here on their boat Albion. They wintered over here in Back Creek, and we kept in touch with them by email the whole time. So we came up here to have a rendezvous with them. They invited us out for a hot shower at the marina and dinner at the local Chinese buffet restaurant. It was a lot of fun and the hot shower felt great. (For the benefit of non cruising blog readers, a hot shower is a special treat for cruisers, and we leap at every opportunity to get one.)

Tomorrow, we go to the post office to fetch the new camera that hopefully, is waiting for us. I also plan to go up the mast in the boatswains chair to fix the radar. Our radar stopped working on that foggy day on the Alligator River. I talked to the Furuno service technician today. He said that the symptoms sound like the rubber belt that makes the antenna go around must have jumped off. I'll try to fix it myself, and if I can't we'll call a local dealer to fix it for us. The radar is less than a year old, so it is still covered by warranty.

After a couple of days here, our plan is to watch the weather. When it looks like a good day to sail from the Delaware River up to New York City 3-4 days in the future, we'll head up the rest of the way in the Chesapeake, and down the Delaware. The point is that between the Chesapeake and the Hudson River, there are no fun places to stop and wait for weather. Therefore, we'll stay someplace fun until the weather looks right.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Goose Creek
N 38 45.032 W 076 15.711

Everybody said we should see Oxford, the charming little historic town off the Choptank River. This morning we went over there. We tied off at the town dock and walked around the town. It was very old and very quaint, but I got the impression that it was pretentious and snooty. My suspicions were reinforced when we found that the biggest business in town was The Hinkley Yacht Company. Hinkley makes wonderful yachts whose main purpose is to allow the owner to announce to the world that they have
a lot of money. In my mind, Hinkley Yachts are like Rolls Royce cars.

We ate lunch on the waterfront, and as we were sitting a sport fisherman came back in. The captain held up an enormous fish, it must have weighed more than 50 pounds, as he went by. All the diners at the restaurant gave him a hearty applause. After lunch, we walked over to the fisherman's slip. He actually caught two of those monsters, they were Black Drums; "Biggest thing in the Chesapeake" said the skipper. He also had a fine catch of Rock Fish. The best part though was that there were two
small boys with him, one about 9 and the other about 112, who had caught the fish. They were busy posing as tourists on shore took their pictures holding the fish. It must have been a great day for those two boys.

It was another hot day and we decided that the most appealing thing to do for the rest of the day was to return to Goose Creek to the same spot we anchored yesterday.

When we got here and dropped the hook, we wasted no time getting in to our bathing suits and jumped in for a swim. The water felt wonderful. It cooled one off instantly, but it was warm enough to stay in the water for an hour without getting cold. I call the act of jumping into the water on the afternoons of oppressively hot days, my "instant attitude adjustment maneuver." It sure works, and the attitude adjustment is truly instantaneous. Libby is an old fuddy duddy. She lowers herself into
the water one millimeter at a time. Me? I just jump.

I forgot to mention something yesterday. On this cove there is one residence -- a typical monstrous Chesapeake house with side additions on each flank and miscellaneous out buildings and guest houses. Next to it is a farm with a chicken coop. The farm also had something quite unexpected -- it has a railroad caboose sitting on two rails, not far from the water. The caboose says "Central of Georgia" on the side. Well, a caboose is quite a prize for collectors. I'm sure that they must be rare
and this one appears to be in mint condition. The mystery though is that there is no sign of a railroad line nearby that could have transported the caboose here. How else would one transport a caboose?

Right now it is twilight once again. The heron is back, the swans are still here and tonight there are three mourning doves competing with their calls. A few minutes ago something big swam underneath us. The depth sounder reading went from 8 feet to 3 feet, tripping the audible alarm, it lasted for about 4 seconds then went back to normal. Unfortunately, the water is too turbid to see what monsters might lurk in the deep.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lazy Hazy Day of Summer

Goose Creek
N 38 45.032 W 076 15.711

We are on Goose Creek, off Broad Creek, which is off the Choptank River, which is off Chesapeake Bay. It's a lovely spot and we have the whole thing to ourselves.

We started the day in Solomons. The day started with zero wind and with an oppressive haze that had descended over everything. We could not see more than three miles.

Nevertheless, the departure route carried us right past the spectacular Calvert cliffs and they looked lovely. Cliffs of any kind are very rare here. In the first place there are very few and very modest hills of any kind. People from hilly or mountainous areas would call it dead flat. It is slightly less flat than Florida. Next, the cliffs themselves, descend vertically right into the water. That differs drastically from all other shore lines on the Chesapeake. There are three courses of
the cliffs, each course about two miles long, and each course nearly straight ass an arrow. They absolutely must have been created by earthquakes with fault lines running along the shore.

The cliff faces are red on top and white on the bottom. The red is dirt and the white portions appear to be rock. It is said that the cliff faces are abundant sources of f\ossil artifacts and a favorite for archaeologists. Tourists are warned not to touch the cliffs or to dig out any of the fossils visible.

Just North of the cliffs are two very interesting man made sites. The first is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. It has an offshore terminal where the ships tie up and pipes to carry the liquid to shore. On shore, at the tops of the hills are five enormous white storage tanks. Such terminals are very controversial. On one hand, they have a great deal of economic influence, and they allow us to import one of the cleanest, most benign, and most sought after fossil fuels. On the other hand,
a major accident at that site could feed an immense explosion, big enough to blow up half the county.

North of the LING terminal is the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. Ironically, more people are more nervous about the risks of the nuclear plant, although in my opinion, the LNG terminal is much riskier. Calvert Cliffs has one of the most scenic sites of any nuclear plant I know. I visited the plant once on business during my nuclear career. I remember the beauty of the site and I remember the soft crab lunch the engineers provided for me at a nearby restaurant, probably at Solomons Landing.

There were lots of boats on the water today. It is Memorial Day weekend. That brings out everybody including those who only go boating three or four times per year. They don't know the rules of right of way and they don't know about controlling their wakes. What the heck, those people too deserve their day out and this was it. We just kept a sharp eye out and avoided them.

As the day went on the heat and humidity became oppressive. I began to fixate on the idea of finding a remote anchorage where I could go swimming. We took the first creek off the Choptank and headed for the first branch off that creek and the first protected cove off that creek to go to. But as we were entering that creek, I saw three sailboats ahead of us turn for the same cove. I looked behind and saw three more sailboats following me toward the same place. Ah yes. Memorial Day weekend. We
would have to choose a less obvious anchorage. There are lots to choose from. But all it required was to change course for the second branch creek rather than the first, and we have a lovely spot all to ourselves. No other boats are visible.

In this little cove there is an Osprey nest on a post with a mommy Osprey sitting there full time, no doubt sitting on eggs. The father hunts for fish and brings them back to the nest. There was also a pair of trumpeter swans here when we arrived. Just after we dropped our hook, a second pair of swans flew in and landed outside the cove. Immediately I saw the male from the first pair raise his wings and ruffle his feathers in an obvious aggressive display. He and his mate started swimming slowly
toward the intruding pair of swans. After a while, the female too showed the aggressive display. Suddenly, the male took off flying accompanied by the whap whap noise that swans make when taking off. If you've every heard a whole flock of swans taking off at the sme time you know what I mean. That sound can be heard a mile away. Anyhow, this swan flew only one meter above the water and honking madly right toward the intruding pair. The intruders were intimidated, they immediately took off
themselves and flew away. The female swan immediately put her wings back down, but the aggressor male swam back into the cove with his aggressive display still showing. Typical.

Now, near sunset, and the cove is very quiet. I hear only the robins and a mourning dove calling. The forecasted severe thunderstorms will apparently not appear today, so the evening should remain peaceful. As I wrote this paragraph, a blue heron just appeared by my right shoulder. He is doing his thing, stalking the ankle deep water along the shore for something to eat. They are fun to watch because when they do catch a fish you can see the fish wiggle all the way down the Heron's throat.
Herons only seem to appear at the peaceful moments.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Solomons Island, Maryland, Holiday Inn

I rowed over to chat with the couple from Toronto that I mentioned yesterday. They had an interesting story.

They are both Canandians but they moved to the USA some years ago. While they were here, they bought their boat. When they went to document it with the Coast Guard, they were told, "No you can't do that because you are not American citizens." So they documented the boat in Canada. However if they wanted to return to Toronto for a visit, they would have to pay a 26% excise tax to import it. Therefore the boat has never been to Canada.

Now, they have become American citizens and they asked again about documenting the boat here. They were told, "OK, but you will have to reimport the boat to the USA and pay the tariff." Ay ay. They boat remains registered in Canada, so they must continue to buy annual cruising permits from the USA.

If they had chosen to register the boat in Maryland, rather than a federal documentation, they would have had to deal with sales taxes, certificate of title or manufacturer's certificate of origin.

Hearing stories like that make my libertarian blood boil. What a mess [all] governments make of things. We would be better off without them most of the time.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why so white?

Solomons Island, MD Holiday Inn

I usually don't write about heavy subjects in the blog. Today is an exception.

This evening we noticed a nice boat come in to the anchorage. She was from Toronto. On board there was a nice young man (white) and a pretty girl (black). I realized that were only the second mixed couple we've ever seen on a sailboat. The other couple was from Toronto also.

I can't recall ever seeing a black couple or a black familiy on a sailboat, nor asian, nor hispanic. Nothing except white. Perhaps all WASPS, but I can't tell that just by looking.

Why should sailing be such a lilly white sport? Mere socioeconomic status can't explain it. On sees all ethnic groups driving expensive cars that cost more than a sailboat, or owning vacation homes that cost far more than a sailboat.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Washington Pics

Just tourists

Libby checking out the fish market

The Washington Channel anchorage.

Professor Hammam at home

From the steps of the Jefferson Memorial

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Airplane Stories

Solomons, Maryland

N 38 20.220 W 076 27.623

It seems that all today’s bloggables have to do with airplanes.

Last weekend, in Washington, I forgot to mention that there was an air show at nearby Andrews Air Force Base. I love air shows and we would have gone to this one except that we had no way to get out to Andrews. Anyhow, I read a local angle on the show in the Washington Post. They said that the Air Force Thunderbirds would perform at the show doing their famous acrobatics in their F16s. The paper also reminded us that another Air Force F16 was constantly on guard to defend Washington against another terrorist attack. They said that if the Thunerbird F16s (or any other plane) crossed the invisible line, that the defense F16 would scrable and shoot them down. Preposterous but true.

The next story is a good counter to the F16 story. As we left the Smithsonian on Sunday afternoon, we looked up and saw a F117 stealth fighter. Those things are unmistakable in their profile. The F117 flew directly over the Washington Monument, then over the White House, and disappeared. I figure that the F117 pilot did that deliberately to thumb his nose at the defense F16 and the article in the Washington Post. He knew that they could not see him coming on their radar and therefore he could do as he wished with impunity.

Today, having regained the Chesapeake, we were sailing northward at a very slow pace. The winds were very light, SE at 10. We were in no particular hurry and the day was beautiful. Libby had the helm and I sat on the forward deck doing my mending chores on our foresail. We were heading close to the target area in the middle of the Chesapeake. The target area is a group of objects that look like mirrors with cross hairs. They sit on poles and rise about 25 feet over the water. There are several of these things in a circular area about ½ mile in diameter.

Then along came a vessel with flashing red lights. He came along side and said that he was the range safety officer and that there was a practice bombing planned for today. He directed us to detour far to the east. We had to go about 10 nm out of our way to make the detour. That was substantial on a day when we were only making about 3.5 knots.

Anyhow, after a while we heard a roar of engines, but no planes could be seen. This happened several times. One time, we spotted a B1 bomber very high up in the sky. At our closest approach to the targets, we could hear the wump sound of impact of practice bombs as the hit the water. There were no explosions, just the impact wump. It would have been very hazardous to our health if we had been too close. When the bombing was done, two B1 bombers came down to within tree top level of the water and flew a semicircle around Tarwathie. I waved to the pilots. I’ll wager that as I envied them flying in those expensive toys, they envied Libby and I for being able to sail on such a nice boat on a beautiful day.

After passing the target area, we next passed Patuxent River Naval Air Station. That is the home of the Navy test pilot school. We expected to see nothing but the latest cutting edge technology in aircraft being tested as we sailed by. After a while I heard the noise of a propeller airplane. I grabbed my binoculars and looked up. To my amazement I saw a B24 Liberator bomber. It circled around three times doing touch and go landings. Next, I heard another sound and looked up again. This time I saw a soviet SU 29 aerobatic airplane. I remember in the late 1980s, this was the most advanced aerobatic plane available anywhere in the world. It was not what I expected to see here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Held Up

Canoe Neck Creek
N 38 15.589 W 076 43.734

We had a great time in Washington. We could have done more; much more. We could have gone to the mint, the archives, the Supreme Court, or even the zoo. 30 plus years ago, we had a wonderful time at the Washington zoo with our kids. But fatigue caught up with us. We're tired of so much walking. Therefore, following our custom, when you have had enough of one place, pull up the anchor and go someplace else. So that's what we did. As an additional incentive there was a nice breeze that would
move us right along. Farmers must make hay while the sun shines, and sailors must make way while the wind blows.

Our departure though was much slower than we thought. We had to wait until 10:30 to connect with the dock master at the yacht club to pay our bill. Then we had to buy fuel ($2.99/gallon for diesel. Wow!) Then we moved down the river toward the Woodrow Wilson bridge. When we got close enough to see, we spotted a construction barge moored directly under the bridge span. Oh no! I got on the phone and talked to the project engineers again. I learned that we could pass under only after 17:30,
at the end of the day when the work was done and they had time to move the barge. Oh well. We dropped the anchor and waited for five and a half hours. We had no choice.

After passing the bridge the wind was gone, so we just motored until it was getting dark. The winds were so light that we didn't need to find a real anchorage. We just dropped the hook where we were right in the middle of the river. Tonight we are at yet another one of those wonderful little side creeks. By tomorrow night we'll be in Solomons Maryland, a place where we can get WiFi, and buy groceries, and to get a mail package that Jennifer mailed to us (general delivery) a while back.

We only manage to connect with mail once every 4 to 8 weeks. The problem is our vagabond life style. Most of the time we don't know where we'll be 5 days in advance, nor do we know if we'll stay where we are more than 24 hours in advance. That make it hard for Jennifer to know where to forward mail to or when. She generally pays extra for priority mail but even that takes 3-5 business days. Once we had to wait for mail to arrive, and that annoyed us greatly. Another time we didn't wait and departed
before the mail arrived and thus lost the mail forever. It would be much easier if we still lived in Sweden. In Sweden essentially all mail (at least 97%) posted before dinner is delivered before noon the next morning. It is as if all mail were Fedex express.

Today, Tuesday, is also a sunny light-wind day, so we're motoring the whole day. We've seen only three other vessels the whole day. I took advantage of the lack of traffic and our distance from shore to take a sun shower. We have a device called a sun shower that I bought in Alaska. You fill it with water and let it sit in the sun and bingo! in a couple of hours it's delightfully warm. It was about 42C (114F) and it felt wonderful.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tourist Day

Capital Yacht Club,
N 38 52.817 W 77 01.607

Our brunch didn’t happen today so we had the time free to just be tourists. We had fun.

We went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Even though we saw it once before, the historical significance of the artifacts stored there inspire awe. One startling addition that I never expected to see was a Soviet SS 20 ICBM, rigged for multiple warheads.

We had another surprise. The museum of American History was closed until 2008, but it’s most popular artifacts (like Archie Bunker’s chair) were moved to the Air and Space Museum in the interim.

I was also greatly impressed by the A300 Airbus cockpit simulator. I didn’t get to fly it, but they were replaying takeoffs and landings. I was stunned to see that during landing the nose of the airbus is so high that the pilots never get to see the runway. Not until after landing, when the nose wheel comes down, does the runway appear in the window. Wow!

It was particularly fun to watch and listen to the tourists, putting aside agoraphobia for the moment. We heard so many languages. It makes one proud to be an American.

After that we walked down the mall to see the memorials. We saw the WWII memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the F.D.R. Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. All were impressive. The Vietnam Memorial in particular was very emotional and we left that with big lumps in our throats. The memorials of dead presidents reminded us of what superb statesmen and orators we had in our history. It makes the absence of such characteristics particularly glaring. Unfortunately, the way that the media and politics work in this modern world, I doubt that we’ll ever see those talents ever again. How does one reach the youth with oratory today when they are all consumed by text messaging conversations in bites of 160 characters or less?

Anyhow, when we got back to Tarwathie we were both worn out from all the walking. It’s not fun getting old.

By the way, we learned who owns the other boats anchored here. They are all semi-permanent residents. It is entirely possible that of the millions of tourists here in town that Libby and I are the only two to arrive here by boat. Cruisers take alert: Washington DC is a very rewarding place to visit by boat, especially if you hit it at a non-crowded time. Next weekend is Memorial Day and the yacht club people expect to be mobbed with boats.

Some recent pics when Pete was with us

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A Capital Day

Washington DC
N 38 52.612 W 77 01.545


Well, it was quite a day. The high point was our visit to my mentor and college professor, Dr. M.S.A.A. Hammam. He remains as he always was, a very kind and generous man dedicated to the welfare of his students. His home is filled with mementos and gifts from grateful students past. He is kind of a legend and his story is very interesting.

Shawky Hammam, a native of Egypt, was educated in England. He first came to the US to teach at Kansas State in Kansas City, Kansas. His specialty was electric power, a disciple that was and continues to be one that gets very little glamour or support from most universities. He gave a lecture in Kansas City and in the audience was the president of Niagara Mohawk, an electric power utility company headquartered in Syracuse, NY. The president said that NiMo had tried to get a program for power engineers working at Syracuse University, but that it didn’t work. Would Professor Hammam be interested in moving to northern New York to start a power program at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam? A deal was struck and off he set with his family in the car to drive to Potsdam. On their first trip they drove right through Potsdam, not even noticing that there was a town there.

Dr. Hammam’s power program did get established, and among his very first group of students was me and my buddy Jerry Allen. The bonds have remained strong between us for all those years. Paternally, he placed Jerry in Niagara Mohawk, and me in General Electric. He had the knack to know which type of job would be most fulfilling for all of us. I personally owe him more than I could ever repay, because it was he who inspired me and set me on the path to a career that I always loved.

It didn’t stop there. Throughout the years, Dr. Hammam produced outstanding power engineers copiously. He also assisted in their job placement. Jerry told me that he would receive annual calls from Potsdam informing him of the number of graduating power engineers that would be placed in NiMo.

A few years ago, I arranged for a visit by Dr. Hammam to NYISO, where I was working. I was surprised to find 23 of his students working at NYISO and in the nearby Albany and Schenectady areas to come an greet him. Last year, Jerry arranged a reception for Dr. Hammam in Syracuse, and there were 60 of his students who showed up.

Anyhow, we had a delightful visit, and we met his daughter Sonia who lives nearby. Today, we plan to meet with them for brunch.

Even before our meeting, we had an eventful day. I got up early because I wanted to do an oil change on the engine before going ashore. I discovered that it was leaking salt water. Upon investigation I found the source of the leak. The exhaust hose was laying against an engine bracket, and the engine vibration had caused the hose to chafe. It had a hole in the side shooting out water. I repaired the hole and installed chaffing gear to protect it in the future. Then, before changing the oil, I had to run the engine for 15 minutes. During those fifteen minutes, Libby gave me a haircut. (Send Senator John Edwards to me. I’ll teach him how to live like a common man.) Fifteen minutes after that, the oil change was complete with hardly a drop spilled and no mess made. Amazing.

Next we went ashore to do laundry, showers, and Internet at the yacht club. I ordered a new camera on the net (imagine being tourists in Washington D.C. without a camera, we bought a disposable one.) The new camera should catch up to us by mail in three or four weeks.

We also found ourselves in the middle of the patriots party being thrown by the Capital Yacht Club. They had disabled and active duty military people arriving in droves. The club graciously invited us to join them for lunch and we did. They served great burgers and hot dogs and fixings. While we were eating, the D.C. fire boat pulled up in front of the club and saluted the soldiers by shooting all its water cannons up in the air. What a spectacular sight that was, (sorry, we had no camera). Three cannons, pumping 1000 GPM each, shot the water almost 200 feet high. The wind then caught the water and spread it into a spectacular shower of sparkling droplets. The fire boat, drawing 3,000 GPM suction from a well mid ship, sank 18 inches into the water from the force of the suction and from the reaction of the jets squirting up. As a former fireman, I greatly appreciated the fire boat show, as a boater I appreciated how much force is required to make a large vessel sink 18 inches into the water.

The next task was to get to Dr. Hammam’s house. We elected to use the subway, Washington Metro, to get there. The subway was a bit disappointing. It was not as clean as it was years ago. It was also expensive, costing us $7 because we didn’t understand the fare machine system. It was also crowded because some tracks were shut down for maintenance. It was also slow. By the time we walked to the subway station, and found the correct train, and waited for the train to show up, changed stations, and rode to the destination we had traveled only 4.9 nautical miles in two hours. Despite the breakneck speed of the trains in motion, our average speed was only slightly faster than walking (:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sunset on the Chesapeake

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Hello Washington

Washington DC
N 38 52.612 W 77 01.545

We got here around noon. We saw no other boats on the river heading North. We were half frozen though, it was cold and damp this morning. I even wore gloves while holding the tiller. Weather aside, we're in the heart of the country (at least government wise). I think we'll stay here several days.

After lunch we went ashore and landed the dinghy at the Capital Yacht Club. Calvin, the dock master, welcomed us. They charge $15/day to use the dinghy dock, but we get to use their shower and laundry and WiFi so it's not a bad deal. From there we walked only 10 minutes and we were at the national mall, between the Washington Monument and the Capital building. On the way we passed the headquarters for USPS, DOE, FAA, and HUD. It is sure a strange place to visit for people who don't like feds
or bureaucrats. We're in the lair of the beast.

The botanical gardens around the Smithsonian buildings are exquisite. Jennifer would love them.

We wanted to do Smithsonian, but which one? There are so many. Well, 30 years ago we took the kids to the air and space museum, so we chose the Natural History Museum instead. That's the one full of fossils, dinosaur bones, and gems. It was a bit of a shock for me. It was mobbed with tourists, 50% of them school kids, and the marble walls and floors echoed all the noise of all those voices. For people used to living on a boat and talking to our nearest neighbors from three boat lengths away,
it was a bit of a shock. After only 90 minutes I asked to go outside again.

On the way back we discovered that there is an outstanding fish market right next to the yacht club. There you can buy all sorts of fresh seafood or cooked meals for take out, all at fairly moderate prices. We'll have to visit that.

Tomorrow we'll do laundry and showers and then visit Professor Hammam. Sunday we'll be tourists again and look around and do more Smithsonian Museums. We've never been to the Lincoln Memorial or the Jefferson memorial. It would be a good time to have two bicycles, the walks are long ones.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Mattawoman Creek
N 38 33.788 W 077 13.212

Well, here we sit at yet another delightful anchorage. Mattawoman Creek is across the river from the Quantico Virginia US Marine base. It's very peaceful and quiet. That is except when a marine in his souped up motor boat goes roaring by at 60 knots. I guess that marines belong to that class of people who have never tested on thing on their vehicles -- half throttle.

The Potomac is still very nice, even this close to Washington. 95% of the river banks are still wild, not populated. That's remarkable. It also supports my favorite theory, that I've blogged about several times before. Boaters get to see the best face of America.

Soon after anchoring here I saw a pair of bald eagles swooping nearby. I also heard a Coast Guard alert on the radio saying that a whale was sighted entering the Potomac River. That would be quite an experience having a whale surface beside us way up here. It could happen. Yesterday there were two whales reported in the river in Sacramento California 75 miles upstream from San Francisco BaY.

Also, after several phone calls and radio calls, and help from Jennifer, I found out the real scoop on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. That bridge is infamous in the minds of many. For motorists is was a point of congestion impeding people's daily commute for many decades. For sailboaters it was a nightmare to get past. They would only open after midnight and then only after advance negotiations. It sounded almost as hard as passing the Panama Canal. Now the old bridge has been demolished, and
the new bridge is a draw bridge also. However the new bridge clears 83 feet when closed. The only problem is that the new bridge is under construction and construction crews hang below the bridge. To make a long story short, I got in touch with Mr. Baxter, the project engineer, and he said, "Those guys should be cleared out now. You have 83 feet. No problem." That sounds great to us. By tomorrow night we should be anchored within a few blocks of the capitol building. Cool.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Deep Creek

Deep Creek
N 36 16.256 W 076 43.349

We are in a delightfully picturesque and well sheltered little creek. The creek is off St. Clements Bay which is off the Potomac River. There are thunderstorms passing by so we are glad for the shelter. There seem to be endless creeks and bays and side rivers in the Chesapeake. It would indeed take many many years to see all of it.

We are about 50 miles from Washington, but the scene around here is very rural. St. Clements bay is sparsely rimmed with farms and Deep creek is spasely rimmed with apparent vacation houses. We only saw three other boats all day on the Potomac. It's great.

We bad a brisk sail up here today. Winds varied from 20 to 30 and we sailed most of it with foresail only. Alas, at the end of the day Libby spotted a rip in the hem of the foresail. It is in the same place where we had it mended last year. When I picked it up last year, the sail maker expressed doubt about how much life it has left. I'll try to mend it by hand this time but we better start looking for a new sail. Ay ay. After all the expense for the repowering, money for boat accessories is
sparse. We also need a new boomkin, and new bowsprit, and a new EPIRB. Our EPRIB (the radio beacon that sends homing signals to a satellite when it is immersed in water) is obsolete. The government decided to change radio frequency, and everyone must buy a new EPIRB with the new frequency.

By the way, I heard two great jokes on NPR. First, two Jewish grandmothers sat. One said, "Oy." The other one said, "Oy." Then the first one said, "OK, that's enough talking about the children."

Second, two snails were robbed and mugged by a turtle. One snail said to the other, "It all happened so fast!."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Up the Bay

The Great Wicomico River
N 37 49.428 W 076 18.649

Oh boy is it nice to be on the Chesapeake again. I happen to be reading Michener's great novel Chesapeake right now, so it fits nicely. Michener describes the beauty and I look around and see what he talks about. Alas, the birds are no longer so many that they blacken the sky and the fish are not so many that one can reach in and pick them out, nor are oysters so plentiful that they grow in huge mounds. Notwithstanding the above, there's plenty of beauty and nature to satisfy this 21st century

Yesterday Libby wanted to go the the bank and I wanted to shop for a new camera in Portsmouth. We googled both destinations and were disappointed to find nothing nearby. However, a suitable bank and a camera store were within a couple of blocks of the anchorage at Hampton, so we left Portsmouth and went to Hampton. On the way over a big aircraft carrier backed out of its slip and steamed away. That provided our entertainment. The weather was splendid.

When we got there, I went to the camera store. They didn't have anything suitable to sell me. His inventory was very sparse. With all the competition from the Internet, it must be nearly impossible to run a specialty store for things like cameras today. Anyhow, the proprietor did give me two tips. Olympus makes a water resistant and shockproof camera. Pentax makes one that is waterproof, and can be used for underwater photography. I got on Ebay and bid on Olympus cameras. I hope to win

This morning we left bright and early at 0630. I'm ashamed to say that we had to wake up an old man on a neighboring boat to move because our anchor was directly under his boat. As we got out into the bay, it became apparent that we would have plenty of wind from the port quarter to go full speed. Indeed, we averaged 7.1 knots with a peak speed of 9.75 knots (over the ground) in the morning, sailing with a reefed jib and a reefed main. That's fast.

Our original plan was to sail to Deltaville, but soon we were making such good progress that we thought what we would go to Urbana instead. Then we revised it again to try for Smith Point and the mouth of the Potomac. Then again to try for Smith Creek partway up the river. But in the afternoon, the wind slackened some and the tide turned against us, so we had to settle for this place. We are just south of Smith Point and we dropped anchor around 1700. It was a great sailing day. Early tomorrow
we can enter the Potomac and start sailing upstream.

I contacted my old Clarkson professor, Dr. Hammam, today. He lives in Washington DC. Jerry Allen and I have remained close to Dr. Hammam since graduation 41 years ago. Anyhow, we're going to pay him a visit in Washington; hence the side trip. Besides, we've never been up the Potomac before and it sounds lovely.

The Coast Guard had a busy day today. We heard emergency calls for a boat sinking by the James River Bridge, and of a man in the water waving his arms near Cobb island, and of a sailboat capsized near Solomons Island. The best entertainment though came from a radio exchange. We heard a woman's voice on the VHF sounding very stressed, near panic. She said, "Fishing vessel fishing vessel. This is Mirant. PLEASE RESPOND." She repeated this several times getting no response. She never identified
which fishing vessel nor her location. There could have been thousands of fishing vessels hearing the call. Then she switched, "Sailboat sailboat this is Mirant, PLEASE RESPOND. Sailboat sailboat please respond. We are 5 miles off Cape Charles." At least this time she gave a location, sort of. Her voice conveyed more and more stress with each call. Then we heard another voice. "Mirant, this is the Coast Guard. Are you in any kind of distress?" There was a long pause. Then a man's voice,
completely calm and collected saying, "This is Mirant. No we are not in distress. We are in contact with Sea Tow and they will tow us in." It reminded me of the story of the vessel Satori in the Perfect Storm.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The North Basin

Porstmouth, Virginia
N 36 50.299 W 76 17.785

Yesterday, we finished the Dismal Swamp canal yesterday in cold, rainy, weather. We got to the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth around 1300. Previously, our friend Andre recommended using the free dock at the Portsmouth South Basin. We decided to try it. The South Basin was crowded. There was a arts festival going on there. I looked up at the north basin and we spotted Bon Lass, the CSY 37 that belongs to Bob, a new friend we met in Elizabeth City. There was an empty spot behind Bon Lass, so we went in for it.

Portsmouth is a delightful city. We had no idea. It is very friendly, modern and clean. We walked around the downtown area and the arts festival and had a great time. When we got back to the boat, we invited Bob for dinner. That turned out to be a good decision.

Bob has been cruising on Bon Lass for 21 years. The CSY 37 is a truly classic sailboat. They are considerably larger inside than Westsails, and even more overbuilt (solidly built) than Westsails. In our former life we had chartered a CSY 44 in the BVIs once and a CSY 37 on another occasion. When CSY went out of business in the 1980s, there was a frenzy of yachtsmen to buy the used CSY boats. They are legends.

Bob is a very interesting fellow. He sailed Bon Lass single handed around the east coast and the Caribbean for more than 20 years. He even sailed her through Hurricane Hortense 100 miles off Puerto Rico. Bob said that all things considered he would rather see another hurricane, or to ride one out on shore, but doing it at sea was OK. The primary fear doing it at sea is colliding with another boat. If there are no other boats around an if one's vessel is sound, then the danger is much reduced. Bob said that he experienced a rush of exhilaration when the storm passed -- "I survived." I know what he means. I too have felt exhilarated after facing, and mastering, heavy weather or other great challenges.

Bob earns his living as a captain. He does boat deliveries and he was captain on a dinner cruise excursion boat in Long Island. He sure looks the part, and that the the second interesting part of the story. Bob claims to be 72 years old, but he looks to be no more than 40. He is handsome with a neatly trimmed beard. No trace of gray hair is visible. We saw Bob in the Dismal Swamp Canal lock without his shirt on. That way he looks to be only 30, with a triangle shaped body like Jack LaLane and a marbled belly. Bob should be a poster boy for the heath benefits of the cruising life. (Sorry ladies, our camera is broken so I can't take a picture of Bob.) Bob says that he loves being dressed in a captain's uniform with gold epaulets on his shoulder. I agree that he would readily be cast for the part of Captain of the cruise ship in any Hollywood production.

Bob says that when sailing offshore single handed that he stays awake all night and cat naps during the day. I wish I could do that. Cat napping something I have never been able to do. He also says that when hailing ships at sea on the VHF that he is persistent and, if necessary, rude on the radio until someone replies to his calls. He puts the blame on the ships who are required to have someone on the bridge who speaks English, but who often don't. If he is rude and insistent enough, they go wake up the English speaker. I'll have to try out his technique.

All in all, Libby and I were greatly entertained by Bob's stories. We surely hope to meet up with him some other time.

This morning a policeman came by and reminded us that overnight dockage was not allowed. He sounded apologetic for having to do it. He said that the real problem was boats that come and stay for weeks and months leaving their boats unattended. I told him that we are planning on leaving today.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nothing Could Be Finer

The Great Dismal Swamp Welcome Center
N 36 30.39 W 076 21.34

Six thirty in the morning. We slipped the lines and backed out of the slip at Elizabeth City. The sun had just come up. The sky was clear and the air was totally still. The bird chirping was the loudest noise around.

We called to the bridge tender. "Elizabeth City Bridge, this is northbound sailing vessel Tarwathie requesting an opening." We had to wait more than a minute for a reply. Finally a sleepy voice answered, "Yes sir captain. I'll open it right up." I reved up the engine to 2000 RPM and we glided through the open bridge. After passing the bridge, I checked the GPS. Oops, our ETA at the south lock on the canal was 0930. The scheduled opening wasn't until 1100. Therefore, I backed off the engine
speed to 1000 RPM; nearly idle. No use getting there faster than necessary.

In the still water and still air, Tarwathie still made 4.5 knots. The spring scene was idyllic. The trees were decked out in fresh spring green. Osprey and geese flitted back and forth doing their morning errands. I suspect that these geese were laggards -- they missed the migration and would stay here all summer. I wondered if the Osprey were migrating or already in their summer home. We saw the Osprey in the Chesapeake in the summer and Osprey in Florida in the winter. The ones here are
potentially still migrating north for the summer.

Most of the Posquotank River is wild. It is rimmed with swamps. We could peer into the forest along the banks and see that the shore was indistinct. Water continued far under the tree cover making a true swamp. There are less than 20 houses lining the rbetween Elizabeth City and the Dismal Samp. They are very far apart. Some, but not all, are upscale. However, they all share one key thing. They have beautifully peaceful back yards facing the river. I expect that most of the residents have
small fishing boats that they can use to explore the river and the side channels and abandoned canal cuts that we see from time to time.

We passed through the railroad bridge. This swing bridge stands open unless a train is passing. The Rose Buddies told us that it is one of the last hand-cranked draw bridges left in America. Cool. There's a canal in Sweden where the boaters have to operate the locks themselves by hand cranks. That would be fun.

One spot is marked on the chart as Shipyard Point. They used to build ships there using the nearby native cedar and cypress trees. They sailed the ships down the river, out the sound to the ocean. Then they sailed them to England. When they got there they were broken up. The wood was more valuable than the ship. Those ships were built only good enough for a single one-way voyage.

I gave Libby the helm and then I went below and toasted myself a bagel. I took my bagel and coffee a good book and two cushions up to the foredeck. Then I just enjoyed the scenery and the nature. I spied a snake swimming across the river. He made an abrupt halt and looked around as Tarwathie's bow wave swept over him.

I couldn't help myself. The lyrics of the song kept going through my head. "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning." Soon, both Libby and I were singing it.

We didn't see a soul until 0800. Then we were overtaken by a fast power catamaran. As she passed us, the captain called on the VHF radio, "Sorry to disturb your tranquility," he said. Indeed.

I wondered why we're always in transit when passing the Posquotank River. We've never made it a destination. I think that it would be great to spend a week or so exploring the nooks and crannies of the Posquotank and to fish in the dinghy.

Eventually we got to the lock. We were still an hour early. We just spend the time enjoying the peace. By 1100 about 8 boats caught up with us. One of them was the CSY 37 that belongs to Bob. I met Bob two days ago on a park bench. He told me that he survived Hurricane Hortense in that boat 100 miles south of Puerto Rico. That made a very interesting story. Bob travels north every year. It takes him four days in the Gulf Stream to go from Palm Beach to Beaufort. Three days on the inside
to Norfolk, then three more days offshore to Fire Island. He moves fast.

At 11:00 the lock opened and we all went in. Just as things were ready to begin the cycle, a call came on the VHF radio. Three more sailboats were on the way but late in arrival. The lock tender agreed to wait for them. That took 20 minutes to get them in the lock. Then the gates failed to close. The lock master had to repair them before the cycle could start. We weren't out of the lock until 12:20; a record slow cycle. But, you know what, we didn't care a bit. We were in no hurry and we
made new friends chatting back and forth between the other boats in the lock.

Yes indeed, it was a fine fine morning to be in Carolina.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Oops, forgot the grounding

Elizabeth City Visitor's Center

I forgot to write about our latest grounding in yesterday's blog.

It happened at the mouth of the Alligator River in the same place we went aground two years ago. It's very frustrating. The problem is that the charts are out of date. Our paper charts and our GPS charts both show that one has to make a slight dog-leg turn to get out of the river entrance and to avoid shoals. However the shoals moved and the correct route is to go straight through the markers with no dog-leg.

We are well aware of this problem. We ran aground there our first time through two years ago. Now it is our third or fourth time through. On those other trips we always saw other boats grounded in the same spots. In fact we've never been near this point without seeing some boats aground. All we had to do was to not go where those boats were and we were fine. The boat towing services must make a fortune from that spot.

Yesterday we had the handicap of fog. We couldn't see the red and green markers. Therefore I tried to steer a compromise course halfway between straight ahead and the dog-leg. It didn't work. Bump bump and we came to an abrupt halt.

Fortunately we were able to back off again without getting stuck, but before we did along came a motor boat that ran aground too. I got a little disoriented and was confused of which way to go to get back to deep water. Luckily for me, two big power boats came around me and then suddenly stopped dead. They were nearly grounded and did panic stops. After that, the two big boats crept ever so slowly northward and I merely followed them. 30 seconds later I could see the red and green markers ahead.

I made a trail of saved waypoints on my GPS to guide us through this trouble spot on our next time through.

Another subject. This must be the season bad for electronics. My portable radio/mp3 player died. Our digital camera also died and our radar stopped working right in the middle of that fog. The marine environment is tough on electronics, especially consumer electronics. The mp3 player was only a year old and the camera two years old. Our radar should still be under warranty, so I'll contact the dealer on that. Anyhow, frequent replacement of electronic gadgets is just part of the price of our marine life.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Return to Elizabeth City

Elizabeth City
N 36 17.807 W 076 13.103

We're back on familiar territory. Namely, Elizabeth City, the place that we've written fondly of before. We just returned from the Rose Buddies' daily wine and cheese party. It was held at Fred Fearing's house today. All the sailors (men and women) were treated to a tour of Fred's house and outbuildings. Wow does he ever have a fortune in antiques! Apparently Fred began collecting antique items a lifetime ago. Now he's 93 himself and the antiques are even older and more valuable.

At the factory we met another cruising couple from Gloversville NY and a second couple from Cobelskill, NY. Both of those places are close to Schenectady, so we felt very much at home.

This morning on the radio we were saddened to hear that the search for the sailing vessel Flying Colors is still on. I think the rumor I heard yesterday that the boat was found was untrue. We also heard that most of the North Carolina ferries were closed yesterday. The water was too shallow because the wind had blown the water away.

At the party, we also met the couple who took our spot at the Oriental public dock when we left. They stayed there four days because of the weather. The told us that the wind blew the water in to Oriental. The water covered the dock and the street and the properties one or two blocks inland. The Bean coffee shop across the street was closed because of high water. The coffee shop itself is up on stilts, but no customers could get there except by swimming.

Another juicy bit of gossip heard on the radio this morning -- a collision between boats on the canal we just passed yesterday. Apparently a power boat up on full plane ran into some other boat, and the other boat was taking on water. The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue team. It's hard to imagine being rescued while on a canal.

The weather has been great today. Morning fog, soon burned away, then blue skies, gentle breezes and moderate temperatures. I loved it. There were no blimps on the tarmac as we passed the blimp factory. Too bad, I like to see the blimps up close.

We'll stay here two days.

We ate southern cooking in the Colonial Restaurant tonight with our Canadian friends Dave and Karen from Summer Salt. It was great. I had chicken livers; the first chicken livers I've seen since eating chicken liver sandwiches with Russian dressing at Maurice's Lunch Counter in Schenectady sometime in the early 1990s. These livers tasted almost as good as Maurice's. By the way, a couple of years ago I went to the new Maurice's on Wolf Road in Colonie. I asked if they had chicken livers. The
proprietor said, "No. All our customers who ate those are dead." Whoops. I guess I should be glad that I didn't eat that often. Notwithstanding heath hazards, they were delicious.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Adventures In Boating

Eastham Creek
N 35 17.821 W 076 36.341

Well we woke up this morning to much milder weather. We resolved to leave today, despite the continued gale warnings on the weather radio. Our friends on the power boat Summer Sea left before us and they promised to radio a condition report when they got out in the river. When they did call, they said it was very rough but that they were going to continue on.

I had planned on waiting until after noon to leave because the winds were supposed to subside. However, flush with cabin fever for having waited nearly three days already, away we went.

The plan was to motor out past the shoal guarding this creek, about 2.5 miles out into the river. Then we would turn left, into the wind, and motor another 5 miles NE to the end of the Neuse River. The ICW at that point makes a nearly 180 degree turn up the Bay River. Then we could sail the rest of the way. For those who don't know. The Neuse River at it's mouth is nearly 15 miles wide and very shallow.

Everything went OK until we got out past the shoal and turned left. The wind and the steep waves together made it almost impossible for Tarwathie to make way. After 5 minutes of motoring we were still about 100 feet from the marker. We hadn't moved at all. Then, the engine abruptly died. It stopped so suddenly, there was no possible explanation except being out of fuel. Oh no! Why do things like this have to happen in adverse conditions and when we're only 100 feet from a shoal.

The depth was only 20 feet so I could have dropped the anchor immediately. Instead I elected to have Lib by take the helm while I tried to restart the engine. She steered us downwind under bare poles. Fortunately, we were blown away from the shoal, not coward it.

I opened up the engine compartment and looked inside. The port side sight glass was empty. "How the heck did that happen," I thought, "I checked the fuel just two days ago and there was 3 gallons in one tank and a full 20 in the other." I looked in the bilge. There was no spilled fuel. Then I turned and looked at the starboard tank sight gauge. It showed full. Then I looked at the fuel transfer valves. They stood in the port position. Aha! I had changed the fuel filter in Oriental, and
when doing so I fiddled with the transfer valves. When I was done I forgot to move the valves back to draw from the full tank. My fault. (of course, what else?)

Next, I had to get the engine restarted. I remembered what the owner's manual said about the fuel system being self bleeding. I sure hoped that was right because right now it was full of air. I set the fuel transfer valves to the correct position and cranked the engine. It started but died in just a few seconds. Then I worked the fuel lift pump manual valve 100 strokes, to pull fuel into the system. I cranked again. It started again but stalled immediately. I opened up the fuel filter.
The whole filter bowl was empty and full of air. At least it was clear why the engine wouldn't run.

I got a disposable cup and opened the fuel drain spigot at the bottom of the sight glass. That allowed me to fill the cup with diesel fuel. I poured the cup into the fuel filter. Worked the lift pump lever another hundred strokes, and cranked the engine again. This time it started and stayed running. Hooray! It ran rough for a little while, but within a minute it was running smoothly. Total time from engine stoppage to running smoothly again -- 10 minutes. Self bleeding is a wonderful invention.
With my old Perkins engine it would have taken 40 minutes to bleed it manually.

We turned back into the wind, but we still couldn't make any way. In the steep waves, our propeller would lift out of the water about every fourth wave. I hate doing that and I worry about cavitating the propeller. I decided to give up and turn back.

We started back, but I could sense the wind speed slacking. Therefore I changed my mind again and dropped the anchor right where we were, 2.5 miles from the shore in the Neuse River. I figured that we could judge conditions better from there.

We went below and rested for about an hour, and sure enough, the wind and waves slacked noticeably. Therefore, we set off again. This time though we were under sail. In conditions where we can't motor into the wind, we can sail. We left the motor running though to give us a speed boost. It worked OK. Within an hour or so we were up at the corner and ready to turn downwind. The rest of the day was uneventful. Now it's 19:00, an hour until dark, and we're comfortably at anchor. The wind is
down to 6 knots. The gale is well past.

Along the way we stopped at the Mayo Company to buy a fish for supper. The Mayo Company is a rather run down looking place where commercial fishermen put in to unload their catch. Sometimes they rent spare dock space to boaters.

The last time we stopped there we were impressed by the local color and interesting people. On a sailboat near us was a one-legged one-eyed man sipping whisky. This time I asked Libby to go and buy the fish but she said "no." "No," I said, "its a colorful place with characters straight out of a John Grisham novel." She replied, "If I remember right it was more like characters out of the Deliverance novel." So I went in alone.

The people in the office were very nice. A lady was about to throw away the past few day's newspapers and she asked if I wanted them. "Yes, thank you," I said. Inside there was only one man sitting in front of the pot bellied stove. Last year there were three men. I said I wanted a fish and a worker the took me out to the cold room. I picked out a $6 to but a fish, but this one cost $15. Oh well, she sure is a beauty and she'll provide us with several meals. Before leaving, the man by the
pot bellied stove asked if I would like today's Wall Street Journal. He was finished with it. "Wow! Yes thank you very much," I said. I love reading the WSJ. Deliverance characters indeed. Libby had no idea what she missed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rough Sailing Out There

Broad Creek
N 35 04.418 W 76 37.416


We're still here waiting for the gale to subside. Perhaps tomorrow the winds will be only 20-25 and we can leave, even though we normally hate motoring into 25 knot head winds. There is a vicious rumor around that says that this storm, off to our southeast, may turn around and come back. That would be nasty. Would we have to call it a sou'easter? I've never heard of such a thing.

In the meantime, the sky remained clear and sunny all day. Last night the stars were brilliant in the clear sky. Also in the meantime, the barometric pressure is now low but high (at least not here). Freaky weather. I'll have to blame it on that super duper nova that erupted. They say it is five times brighter than anything ever seen before.

For those boaters still sailing it was not a nice day. Listening to channel 16 on the VHF we first heard a 54 foot motor vessel on the Neuse River seeking haven. He said they were getting beat up out on the river. Soon after we heard a Coast Guard vessel call in saying that they were bringing in a survivor. We listened to the news and heard that the Coast Guard picked up three people from a sailboat on a makeshift raft 160 nm east of Hatteras. Soon after that, we heard Coast Guard "pan pan"
calls about the sailing vessel Flying Colors. Flying Colors is a 64 foot sailboat with a single mast. The Coast Guard said they were receiving signals from an EPIRB registered to Flying Colors.

I took the screen on my laptop apart attempting to repair the cancer of vertical black lines that are multiplying. I sprayed the ribbon cable connectors with Corrosion Blocker and put it back together. It was no help. When I had it apart, I could see three small rusty spots on the frame, just below the lower edge of the screen. I bet those spots got wet on times when I wiped the screen with a damp cloth to clean it. The spots were nowhere close to any electronics or functional parts, but I'm
convinced that they were what allowed the warranty company to deny my claim for a repair. On reflection, I realize that third party extended warranties are a bad idea. The warranty holder is not involved in marketing policies to the public, but they control the costs for repair claims. That gives them every motivation to find flimsy excuses to deny all claims.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gale Wait

Broad Creek
N 35 04.418 W 76 37.416

We are sitting, on the hook, in Broad Creek. We sailed up here last night from Oriental in a rush to avoid the coming storm. The evening sail up was very pleasant. There were lots of sailboats our here when we started, but by the time we pulled in, we were the only vessel in sight on the Neuse River or on Pamlico Sound. Once at anchor, the air was nearly still around sunset and the whole scene here was very reminiscent of the Chesapeake.

This morning they upgraded the weather warning. They are saying winds to 50 knots, gusts to 60 knots, and seas 18-21 feet (higher in the Gulf Stream). Of course, that's offshore. Its much milder here. In our sheltered spot here in the creek, we haven't seen any gusts more than 34 knots, and only one foot choppy waves. That is not to imply that it is safe to go out there sailing on the ICW. Pamlico and Abemarle Sounds are big bodies of water and they are very shallow -- 10 feet or less in many
places. That makes for very close, very steep waves that can be quite dangerous. We'll have to be content staying here to wait it out. The rest of Sunday, and probably all day Monday also. After that we'll still have North winds against us, but not so strong.

It's funny. The word gale suggests a raging storm -- dark and rainy. Actually, it is partly sunny, cool and very pleasant outside as long as one isn't standing exposed to the wind. Outdoor activities such as hunting in the forest would be great on a day like this.

Our friends on Summer Salt left Oriental this morning on their Chris Craft cruiser with the intent of motoring another 20 miles north of here to Eastham Creek. However, they found it so rough out on the Neuse River that they put in to Broad Creek, the same place we are. I think our decision to leave last night was a good choice.

p.s. No cell phone signal here. Sorry.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Oriental High

Oriental Public Dock
N 35 01.49 W 76 41.74

What's not to like about Oriental? We meet more new people per hour here at the Oriental Public Dock than anyplace else.

We made new friends, Dave and Karen on board Summer Salt.

I found a new Oriental Museum with artifacts from local history. One of the artifacts, who once looked like Rita Hayworth, is now the curator. She doesn't look like Rita any more but she does look good.

Last night we went to the amateur theater and saw a play. It was great fun. The play was written by a local author and played by local actors and actresses. We recognized some of them from a play we saw here two years ago. So it was like the home troup for us. The play was called Life Goes On, and the theme was somewhat like the movie "Weekend at Bernies." We laughed a lot.

After the play we sat up talking with Dave and Karen until midnight. For people like us who go to bed at sunset, that was unusual.

This morning, I had breakfast coffee at "The Bean" across the street, and I got my ear filled with all the dirt about local politics. (It sounds like local politics anywhere.)

Today, we went to the Oriental community yard sale. It was fun and the local people are fun to watch. This is a retirement community and it seems like all the retired folks here are ex sailors.

In the afternoon we played scrabble with Dave and Karen. They are good players. Very good. Too good for us. The first game they trounced us, but on the second game they beat us by only a point or two, so we felt better.

We decided to leave tonight. There is a gale forecast for tomorrow. We used up our 48 hours here at the public dock. Therefore we're headed for Broak Creek, only 8 miles from here. We'll hole up there for 24 or more hours until the gale subsides. Today, the winds are <10 and it's nice. Tomorrow morning it will be raining and 20-25 knot head winds; much less pleasant. Hence the decision to leave now.

Friday, May 04, 2007

See us on the Oriental Webcam.

For the next day or so we're in sight of this webcam. I'll ask Libby to stand on the port side deck and wave at the camera continously for the next 48 hours.


The Neuse River, North Carolina
N 34 58.16 W 076 41.285

Friday, 9AM
Well we did it. About 14:00 yesterday afternoon we made landfall in Beaufort, NC. Our third day at sea, we made 120 miles, although I confess that we used the engine and sails for the last 100 miles.

The night before, after passing Frying Pan Shoals, the wind died to less than 5 knots. Not being patient enough to just sit and wait, we used the engine for a boost. Normally, I don't use the engine at sea because the pitching caused by waves causes the propeller to lift out of the water. This time though the waves were so small that it worked OK.

As it turns out, it was a wise decision. Just 30 minutes before entering the Beaufort Inlet, the wind abruptly came up at 20 knots from the NE. It is going to stay that way for three days. If we had been caught 100 miles out in that wind it would have taken an extra 24 or 36 hours of uncomfortable sailing to get back in. (Gee don't we sound spoiled and timid.)

After entering the harbor, we passed the docks in Moorehead City. There was an enormous aircraft carrier there with unfamiliar lines. I think it might be the same unfinished carrier we saw first in Newport News, then again in Norfolk. She was christened last year. I don't remember her nam.

By 18:00 we were anchored in Adams Creek. The totals for our voyage, 78 hours anchor-to-anchor, 366 nautical miles (421 statue miles). By going outside, we avoided 505 statue miles of Intra coastal Waterway, and 10 to 15 days of motoring on the inside, and the death of 50,000 horse flies that we would have swatted passing through Georgia. We also avoided the states of Georgia and South Carolina,and half of North Carolina.

Davy Jones & Murphy cheated: Yesterday morning while on watch, I heard a strange noise. I looked around and I found a shackle and it's screw-in shackle pin sitting on the cockpit cushion beside me. Investigating, I found that it came from the topping lift. The topping lift is a line that runs from the top of the mast to the end of the boom. It holds the boom up when the sails are down. The end of the boom, fastened to the topping lift by this shackle and pin, hangs out over the water when
the wind is behind us. Against all odds, when the pin came loose, the shackle and pin must have flown horizontally back into the cockpit and landed nicely on the cushion beside me. Dave Jones was robbed of another prize for his locker. Mr Murphy, of Murphy's law, must be rolling over in his grave. On the other hand, I recall that in 40 years of engineering, I was always fond of saying, "Murphy's Law is recursive." (Computer types love and kind of humor that includes the word recursive.) What
it means that just when Mr. Murphy depends on Murphy's Law to spoil everything, the same law sometimes spoils Murphy's fun.

Just in case we are in any doubt about having left Florida, we are presented with two stark reminders. First, ITS COLD! We had to seek out long pants and flannel shirts yesterday, for the first time in many many months. True, the thermometer says that it is in the 60s, but our Florida-conditioned bodies know better. ITS COLD. Second, as we weighed anchor this morning, I found the anchor chain covered by globs of black sticky Chesapeake mud rather than white Florida sand. Ah yes, I remember

This morning we're going to Oriental to hang out for a day or so. We have no particular mission. We just like Oriental.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


At Sea
N 33 29 W 77 39

Well we got into a good rhythm at sea. We're settled into pretty much four hour shifts, changing at the classical times, 12:00, 4:00, 8:00. The only exception is on the graveyard. Then I take midnight to 05:00 giving Libby and extra hour of sleep. It makes a big difference for her.

Our progress for the 2nd 24 hours at sea was 118 nm, beating our exactlhy nominal 100 nm from the day before. What's more, yesterday I said that if we could make 120 nm in thee next 245 hours we could pass frying pan shoals buoy at sunset. That prediction appears to be exactly right. We had good winds and Gulf Stream push last night for about 9 hours and we made about 60 nm in that window.

This morning the winds died a lot and we had to depart the Gulf Stream to head in, so progress was a lot slower.

Worse of all, 15 minutes ago, at 19:00 I threw in the towel and started the engine. The winds had died to less than 5 knots and the forecast called for 5 knots and variable for tonight, so we would not have gotten far by tomorrow. Another motivation, the forecast calls for three days of rain and variable winds starting tomorrow afternoon. I'd just as soon be on the inside for that. I considered turning left to motor in to Cape Fear tonight and then motoring up on the inside the next two days,
but no. Why take 3 days to accomplish what you can do in one day?

Ironically, just as I'm writing about finding rhythm, running on motor power broke it. The seas aren't big but they are rolling us around a lot. That always makes Libby a little queasy. Oh well.

Perhaps this spot is a jinx for us. Blog fans may remember a blog article from 2005 entitled "Hammered" where I described our worst day at sea ever. Well the hammering started just about here, the place where we were when I just started the engine.

Actually, our record is two for four in passing Frying Pan Shoals. The very first time was when we sailed from Charleston to Norfolk around Hatteras. That trip was fast and very pleasant. The second time we got hammered. The third time, last spring, we passed through the buoy marked short cut through the middle of Frying Pan Shoals without incident. This is the fourth time, and the wind died just as we got here.

I hailed three more vessels today on VHF, using both the hand held and the fixed radios, and got no response. Can it be that I need a new radio with DSC (Digital Selective Calling) to ring their bell and that they don't just monitor channel 16 any longer? That sounds crazy, but so do all the other theories I have. To be sure, when we get to Beaufort I'll do radio checks with both radios.

The sky has been especially clear and cloudless today. It must have been a maximum UV exposure day. However, 15 minutes before sundown, the sun disappeared behind a very opaque could in the west. I figure it must be smoke from that fire in Georgia. Wow! That fire is 300 miles behind us. I did not expect smoke this far away.

p.s. Trivia department: I learned from my son David that hedgehogs run around in the Kuwaiti desert at night. I would have never guessed that. I wonder what else they have for flora and fauna? At a minumum, there must be hedgehog food.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On the Fringe

At Sea
32 01.11 N 079 25.43 W

Tuesday 20:00
By 13:00 today we had 155 miles to go for Frying Pan Shoals. That's exactly 100 miles progress in 24 hours. We may not do as good for the 2nd 24 unless the wind picks up. We spent the whole day making only 3.5 knots. Right now, at 20:02 it is sunset and we have 120 more miles to go to Frying Pan Shoals.

We passed a couple of stationary towers today (not oil platforms but looking like radio towers) those and a handful of vessels were the only thing seen.

Right now we are about 50 nm due east of Hilton Head Island. That's SE of Charleston, SC.

All afternoon I could see the clouds marking the center of the Gulf Stream about 50 miles to the east. I wanted to get into the GS to get the free boost in speed, but 50 miles out (and 50 more miles back in at the end) would be too much. However I wondered where the inner edge of the GS might be.

I studies our Reeds manual, and our charts. The edge of the continental shelf is about 20 miles east of us, so I figured that it might be there. However, the chart showed the approximate location of the inner edge at just about our current position. I began to look around some more. I saw a big sea turtle (about 4 feed in diameter). I saw increased numbers of flying fish. I saw baggie things (Portuguese Man of War). Those were all positive signs. I tried to measure the water temperature with
an electronic oral thermometer from our medical kit. No good. It would not measure a temperature that low. However, when I looked up again after fooling with the thermometer I noted that we had picked up 1.2 knots in speed and changed track by 30 degrees with no change in wind and no change in heading. Wow, that was abrupt. We are in the Gulf Stream. If we can stay here, we might be able to make 120 miles by sunset tomorrow. That would be cool.

It has been so calm and gentle out here that Libby and I have not been getting as tired out as on previous offshore passages. That's good.

I tried hailing another passing ship today on channel 16. No answer again. Huh? I'm sure that our radio transmits OK. I can theorize about nobody on the bridge but it is a stretch for three times in a row two at night and one in mid afternoon. I'll keep trying with every ship I see tonight, using both the fixed VHF and the hand held VHF.