Thursday, July 31, 2008

Changing Weather

Rockland Public Library

Yesterday it was beautiful. We had low humidity, blue sky, puffy white clouds, an occasional thunderstorm. Just before sunset we saw a beautifully brilliant double rainbow that extended all the way over to the other side of Penobscot Bay.

This morning, I wanted to go to the grocery store. I went outside. Surprise; the fog had rolled in. Visibility was only 100 feet. No problem I thought. I fished out the hand held GPS and programmed it to lead me to the dinghy dock (and back to Tarwathie for the return trip). Proud of myself for being so resourceful, I set off toward shore. Well, 60 seconds later I heard a very loud and very close fog horn. I immediately regretted not bringing our own fog horn in the dinghy with me. I nervously increased speed while visualizing getting run down by a high speed ferry.

I got to repeat the whole dinghy trip again when I discovered at the supermarket checkout that I had forgotten my wallet. The grocery store people thought it was amusing when I said that I had to row across the harbor to fetch my wallet.

After noon, the fog cleared. Libby stayed on the boat and I went off for some Navy and Coast Guard tours. As a well seasoned salt now, I'm interested in all kinds of boats. The Uss Whidbey Island, LSD 41, was the visiting Navy ship. Her wartime job is to transport US Marines and their vehicles to amphibious landings. She has a cavernous hold that runs for 2/3 the length of the ship. A huge door at the stern opens to admit the vehicles, and the LSD can lower herself in the water enough to flood that hold to allow the vehicles to float on and float off. She carries a crew of 391. That's impressive.

At the Rockport Coast Guard station I also got tours of some Coast Guard vessels. Most impressive is the 36 or 39 foot vessel they use for blue water search and rescue. Perhaps you have seen videos of those boats as they train in the surf at the Columbia River entrance. They can roll right over and right themselves right away. They are very serious, very seaworthy boats. I hope we never need to call any of them.

Tonight, Libby and I treat ourselves to lobster and sweet corn. Luckily for us, this year there is a big lobster harvest but reduced demand. The price of lobster is down to $5.99 in the store. That's less than the price for many red meats.

Today's big news is that we got a call from my son John. He is bringing his son Nick to Maine next week to go sailing with us. Nick will be able to spend nearly a month with us on board Tarwathie. Oh boy. We'll have fun. We may have to cancel plans to sail to Canada though because Nick doesn't have a passport. John is checking the rules now. All I know is that the rules about passports at the border to Canada have changed a lot, and that they are inconsistent regarding travel by air, car, or by boat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pics From Our Trip North

Rockland, Maine
Above. This buoy sits at the entrance to La Trappe Creek on the Choptank River. Year after year, the next on the walkway became bigger. Now is it too big for the osprey. A new nest appears on the top. There are two osprey couples in the nest. We never saw that before.

We are going to go to a SSCA gam this Friday and Saturday. In the New Bedford Whaling Museum, we learned the origin of this strange word gam. When two ships met at sea, they stopped and rafted up for a short time to swap stories and gossip. The artifact above is called a gamming bucket. It was used to lift the captain's wife to the deck of the other boat in a gam. It seems that SSCA found precisely the right word for their meetings of cruisers.

Also from the New Bedford sailing museum. Click on the image to see the large version that you can read. It seems that blogging was not entirely unknown in the 19th century. The media however was the street poster, not the world wide web.

Above is a strange object. If you recognize it without reading this, you're very good. It is a deck prism, seen from below. A deck prism is used to bring light in to the dark windowless compartments of a ship or a boat. From up on deck, the prism is flat and flush with the deck. From below, it is gem shaped to direct light in all horizontal directions. Even modern boats still use deck prisms. They are remarkably effective. Tarwathie has transparent hatch covers so she doesn't need a prism.

Below is a video from New Bedford Harbor. The audio commentary explains.

The Verdean Dancer

Rockland Maine

Here's the video of the Verdean Dancer that I wrote about. Enjoy

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Very Welcome Change of Scenery

Rockland Maine Public Library

Oh we love it here. What a refreshing change of scenery and environment. After almost one year of warm to hot weather and no hills visible since leaving the Hudson River, here's what we experienced so far today.

Last night we slept great. We even used a blanket! This morning at 0600 I woke to the sound of diesel motors and a gentle rocking of the boat. I got up and looked out from the cockpit. In Maine one can hardly go 10 feet in the water without encountering a lobster trap. In the mornings, the lobster fishermen are all out checking their traps. It is wonderfully scenic to watch them move from trap to trap in the fog. Good fishing too. They seemed to have several keeper lobsters in every trap.

It was cold, even clammy as I sat there in the cockpit. How refreshing. Later in the morning it warmed up to about 70. That temperature and the light fog made for very comfortable weather indeed.

When I pulled up the anchor, it was covered in seaweed. Not Chesapeake black mud. Not sand and shells from the Bahamas. It was fresh broad leaf sea weed.

I saw a seal swimming near the boat.

We sailed in to Rockland past Owl's Head Lighthouse. Maine has wonderfully picturesque lighthouses, and today all had their fog horns sounding. We must have passed 50 lobster boats tending their traps on the way.

As we rounded Owl's Head and had our first full view of Penobscot Bay, we saw two giant schooners sailing across the bay. There are lots of those schooners around here. I think they take tourists for day trips.

Best of all. As the fog burned off, we could see mountains! Hooray. Not huge mountains but nice rounded mountains. Those are the biggest things we've seen since the Calvert Cliffs near Solomons Maryland. It is so monotonous in the south to not have any hills. We really miss them.

I called my local contact who put in a new radio and our radar two years ago. He's coming to the boat tomorrow to have a look at it.

Still more good luck. The Rockland Lobster Festival starts Wednesday. We had a lot of fun doing that two years ago. After that, it is the SSCA gam starting Friday.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Welcome Back To Maine

Mosquito Point
N 43 56.010 W 69 13.112

The weather gods were kind to us. We had a nice following breeze and we made excellent time for the first 110 of the 140 nautical miles to the destination. Then the wind died. The forecast also called for a cold front heading our way complete with severe thunderstorms. Therefore, we motored the final 30 miles in to the anchorage.

On the way in, we passed close to Monhegan Island. Jenny's friend Mary Ann has a place there. Unfortunately, there's no good anchorage for us to stop there. If we had a big crew, we could leave someone on board on anchor watch while we go ashore, but alas, we don't.

This anchorage looks great on the chart. The water is the right depth. The surrounding scenery is pretty. The name though is inauspicious. The last time we were in Maine we weren't bothered by Mosquitoes at all. Let's hope we can keep that up.

By the way, I neglected to say that ever since arriving at Point Judith, we have not had any more of the oppressive heat like we had in New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. Even when the forecast calls for 90 plus here, Tarwathie sits in the water in much cooler water, so we stay cooler. We especially appreciate it at night when it is time to sleep. Nobody should have to go to sleep in temperatures above 60F (16C) in any case.

Anyhow; we welcome ourselves back to Maine and Penobscot Bay. We thought it might take 5 days to get here, but it actually took only 32 hours.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whale HO

At Sea
N 42 10 W 070 19

Getting up at 0430 is hard. It seems that the alarm went off just minutes after going to sleep. Never mind. We dragged ourselves out of bed, made coffee, and prepared to weigh anchor at dawn about 0500. Our goal was to catch the tidal current in the Cape Cod Canal. The currents in this canal are very swift. Therefore, there is no question that we must have the current with us.

Now for the bitter pill. As we approached the canal entrance, the current was against us. Oh no! I had reversed the ebb-flood direction in the canal in my planning. Instead of getting up early, we should have slept in late. We had to turn around, re-anchor, and try to go back to sleep after drinking coffee. I couldn't have messed that one up more than I did.

After the wait, we started again. The trip through the 7 mile long canal with the current with us took less than an hour. We are always impressed by how nice the Cape Cod Canal is. At the west end, is Massachusetts Marine Academy. They always have some interesting vessels tied up there. After that, most of the canal is screened by hills and trees from sight of any houses or roads. Although a canal is anything but natural, this canal looks like a very nice river. Best of all -- along both
sides are wonderful hiking trails. On nice weekend days, like today, the trails are filled with all kinds of people. Some hike, some jog, many bike, and a few zing along on roller skates. There are benches to stop and enjoy the view. There are porta potties at strategic intervals. One can climb down the bank to the water and go fishing, while others can stop and talk with the fishermen. I bet that the Cape Cod Canal is the best hiking/biking trail spot on the entire east coast.

After getting through the canal, we set a direct course for Penobscot Bay, Maine. It is only 140 miles away and we are supposed to have favorable winds today and tomorrow. Therefore, we should get there by sometime Sunday night. That means that we skip Portland and Boothbay Harbor, but we're trying to take advantage of the wind whenever possible.

A special treat. Libby was below sleeping and I had the watch. I looked over at a whale watch boat not to far away. Suddenly, I saw a blow myself. "THAR SHE BLOWS," I hollered at the top of my lungs (I always wanted to do that. Check off another of life's goals realized.) Rudely awoken, Libby came scrambling up on deck. We saw the backs and tails of at least two, perhaps three, whales as we sailed by. After passing, I could still see their blows from more than a mile away. Poor whales,
if their blows weren't so easy to spot, they wouldn't have been killed so easily in the 19th century.

That is our first whale sighting while sailing on Tarwathie. Years ago in the BVIs, a whale surfaced only 20 feet away from us, but that wasn't on Tarwathie.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Higher Harmonics

Buzzard's Bay, MA
N 41 36.669 W 070 45.373

We had a fun day yesterday. We took a taxi to a place which had a laundromat, a grocery store, and a WIFI signal. (One's ideas of luxury automatically adapt to your life style.) In the afternoon, we went to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. That was very interesting. I especially liked the exquisite scrimshaw pieces on display.

We went to dinner at a near by grill. Libby had their "world famous" fish chowder. It was delicious. I think there's no way around it. For chowders, Massachusetts can't be beat. The best chowder we ever had was at a chowder fest in Boston. The winner was from Turner Fisheries. Libby and I both liked their stuff best and voted for it. The second best chowder ever can be bought at the Friendly's Restaurant chain. Friendly's is a Massachusetts based enterprise.

After dinner, we returned to the museum for a free concert. It was raining cats and dogs so the concert on the lawn was moved inside. The band were locals who played Cape Verdean music. There are strong local presences here of ethnic groups from the Azores and from Cape Verde. They came here to go whaling in the 19th century. Anyhow, the best part of the Cape Verdean concert was a very pretty Verdean mother who danced for us. She was about 30 years old, very pretty, and she had her daughters,
aged 9 and 4 with her. Well, this woman danced so well that we couldn't believe it. Libby said that she never before saw someone seem to get in to an apparent trance state, totally absorbed in the Verdean music.

The type of dancing was hard to describe, but it involved a lot of booty shaking. Boy oh boy could she really shake that thing. She shook like I've never seen a human shake before. My friend John Undrill would have loved it. John is obsessed by harmonics. John used to carry a harmonic demonstration made of strings and balls with him to scientific conferences. The conference attendees used to call the demo Undrill's Balls.

Anyhow, this woman not only shook her booty in the fundamental mode (first harmonic), but also in the second harmonic, and (If my eyes were correct) in the third harmonic for a few seconds. BRAVO. Toward the end, she enticed her two daughters to come up and dance with her. It was great. The audience could see that the 9 year old was beginning to get the idea, and that in 9 more years, she too will become a great Verdean dancer.

I have a video of the dance. I'll post it some day.

After the concert, we had to return to Tarwathie in the dinghy. By that time, the rain was really pouring. Even though we both had rain jackets, we got completely soaked. We also had to hold out a flashlight and to bail the dinghy as we went across the harbor. That was no big problem. If we were afraid of getting wet, we certainly would not live on a boat.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Bedford

New Bedford, Mass

We made the right choice for our anniversary. Last night it was cold and rainy. Today it's very rough out there. We even got scared crossing the protected harbor in the dink. The waves were splashing over the side and we were getting wet. We almost turned back. Those aren't the right conditions for an anniversary celebration.

Besides, today there is a farmer's market, plus some kind of downtown festival in New Bedford. There is also a very famous whaling museum that we haven't seen before. We'll have fun.

This is the gate in New Bedford's hurricane barrier. The first time we saw it, both Libby and I pictured an image of the gate closing in front of us and being locked out of the refuge as a hurricane approached. Inside the barrier it should be very safe unless the storm surge exceeded the barrier height.

Yesterday we walked through Fairhaven, just across the river from New Bedford. That was a dissapointment. We couldn't find any kind of store or service other than a Cumberland Farms convenience store. We couldn't even find a decent looking place to eat lunch. One wonders how it could be possible for people to live in a place like Fairhaven if they don't have a car.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Fool or The Foolhardy

At Sea
N 41 22 W 071 17

Well, we sat two days at Point Judith waiting for the apocalyptic weather to pass. Strange thing thought, both days were beautiful with no bad weather at all. Once again I feel the fool because I heeded dire warnings from NOAA weather.

My friend Les Pendleton said, "Anyone who listens to the local NOAA weather will never leave the dock with their boat." There's obviously a lot of truth in that. But then, in his book, Les tells a story of ignoring the weather reports and leaving Beaufort for Charlston just ahead of a major storm. He put his vessel and his crew at risk unnecessarily and even prompted the Coast Guard to send out a boat to make sure he got in OK. In my mind, that's foolhardy.

So how does one steer the narrow path between being the fool or the foolhardy? I don't have a really good answer. One either goes or stays in port. Either way, one can choose right or wrong. I think the real answer is more thoughtful and considered weather reports. In the Bahamas, I got used to listening to Chris Parker's weather service. After listening to him, I felt prepared to make the right choices, neither foolish nor foolhardy. Up here in New England, I don't know of any equivalent.
I'll try listening to the famous Herb Helberger on the SSB, but I believe that his forecasts are more focused on the high seas.

By the way, yesterday I mentioned coming near a vessel that was raising a German U boat. Listening to local radio, I learned that it is not a German U boat but rather a Russian submarine. There must be a very interesting story as to how a Russian submarine came to be sunk just off Newport, but I don't know what the story iz. But just the phrase Russian Submarine makes me smile.
You see; in the years that we lived in Sweden, there were hundreds of reports of Russian U boats (submarine in Swedish is U boat) invading Swedish waters. The Swedish Navy went crazy chasing those reports and sometimes depth charging what they called "definite contacts." One time in July when the Navy was on vacation, the newspaper said that they sent two sailors to Umea on the train carrying a case of hand grenades. They were to throw the grenades into the Umea harbor to scare away the U boats.
(I swear; I did not make that up.) In the end, no Russian sub was ever found (The Whisky on the Rocks incident preceded this whole series of incidents.) After the fall of the USSR, and the opening of KGB files, the truth coming from Russia was that their subs never did invade Swedish waters. The most amusing theory of the Russian U boat incidents came from a professor in Stockholm. He thought that minks swimming under water make a ping ping ping call that sounds like a sonar contact echo. Ha
ha. I loved that theory.

Anyhow, one day in 1994, I was sailing with my buddies near Stockholm. They were below and I had the helm. I looked ahead and there came a submarine, heading right for us. I called to my buddies, "U boat! U boat! I see a U boat ahead." They answered, "Sure sure Dick. Can't you think of a better joke than that?" It turned out to be a Swedish Navy Sub and it passed within one boat length of us. I waved at the Captain as he passed and hoped that he couldn't see that I wasn't Swedish, because
we were inside a restricted military zone where no foreigners were allowed. I still smile every time I hear the phrase "Russian Submarine"

Today we were heading toward the Cape Cod Canal. The plan was to take advantage of a 2 day southerly wind window starting tomorrow. Late in the afternoon my cell phone vibrated in my pocket. It wasn't a call. It was a reminder that our 43rd wedding anniversary is on the 24th. Hmmm, I thought. It will be windy for the next two days, but also chilly and rainy. I bet that Libby would prefer to not spend her anniversary cold and wet (I'm so smart to figure that out :) What is around us? Aha,
New Bedford is only 5 miles away and that's a nice place to put in for a couple of days. Therefore, we exercised the cruiser's privilege and changed our plans again. To heck with the weather window. We'll find another one.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Port Judith Pond, RI
N 41 24.299 W 071 30.324

Port Judith is not where we planned to be. Here's what happened.

When I post blogs when at sea, my software first sends the outgoing blog, then it downloads incoming weather reports. After posting yesterday's blog, I got a nasty surprise on the weather. The forecast for Monday changed from 10-15 knots of wind to "Tropical Storm Force Winds." That means 45-50 knots if I remember right. On the other hand, I had other weather reports that contradicted it. We decided to wait until Sunday morning's report to decide.

Today at 0800, I woke and before standing watch I got the new weather report. Now, they added more adjectives for Sun, Mon, Tue on top of tropical force: thunderstorms, torrential rain, fog. When I looked up from reading that report, we had just entered a fog bank. Wonderful. Our radar is not working. I still thought that I was being hoaxed by alarmist weather bureau writers, but if even half of what they said came true, it would be dangerous to continue. We headed for the nearest port,
which happened to be Port Judith, 15 nm away.

On the way, I tooted my fog horn every 30 seconds, and listened keenly for other horns or calls on the radio, or the most dreaded sound -- diesel engines. Imagine my surprise when I got called on the radio and told to watch out for the divers diving on a German U boat wreck right ahead of me. What irony it would have been if I ran over a diver while worrying about getting run over by a ship.

Visibility was about 1/8 mile. What are the chances of seeing another vessel in such a small patch of water out in the vastness of the open sea? Would you believe 50 vessels? As we approached Port Judith we saw more an more vessels appear out of the fog. One or two of them also sounded fog horns. As long as everyone goes slow, fog horns are a good way to navigate in those conditions. We could also hear the fixed fog horn at the end of the jetty. Unexpectedly, we also heard a railroad train
clear as a bell. Ah yes, sound travel. The forgotten factor was that this is a Sunday in July. All the yahoos in R.I. were not about to change their weekend plans just because of fog. One more reason why we shouldn't be out there today. It frazzled our nerves.

Coming in, we passed the fuel dock where we picked up Carmello and Diane two years ago. That brought back memories.

If we had been bold, and ignored those dire weather warnings, we might have been able to reach Portland, Maine by Monday night under sail. Now, I'm afraid we'll have to stay here 3 days, then spend 5 more days motoring (with $5/gallon diesel) to get to the same place. Bummer. The motivations to take changes and to ignore weather warnings are strong.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

121 Miles

At Sea
N 40 05 W 072 37

We made 121 nautical miles (140 statue miles, 224 clicks), in the past 24 hours. That's a good day. Anything more than 100 miles per day is good. The weather has been fine, and aside from my error in judgment, the sailing has been pleasant.

My error was that I decided to sail with main and jib through the night, then switch to spinnaker in the morning. That proved to be wrong. First, she was too hard to steer with the wind behind us and with the main up. Therefore, around midnight, I took down the main. That improved things some, but she was still hard to steer. Worse, there was a swell from Hurricane Bertha coming at us from the starboard quarter. That made us roll wildly. Neither Libby nor I managed any sleep during our off
hours because we had to hang on so much. Finally, in the morning, I took down the jib, put up the spinnaker, and changed course to put the wind and the swells directly behind us. That has been more comfortable.

The VHF radio reception out here is extra good for some unknown reason. We are hearing all the Coast Guard traffic from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Mystic Seaport Connecticut. Usually, it is just an annoyance. A warning to keep a sharp eye out for some hazard 1,000 miles away is not very helpful. We did hear one drama though.

A dive boat in Delaware Bay called in an emergency. One of the divers surfaced unconscious, with no pulse and no breathing. The captain went to work with CPR, while an inexperienced diver called the Coast Guard. Good news. In a few minutes, they reported that the victim had a pulse and was breathing on her own. Five minutes later she was sitting up. The Coast Guard send a medivac helicopter to get her anyhow. I'm sure that was just a precaution, and I'm also sure that the captain of that dive
boat saved that woman's life. Hear hear for cool heads and for CPR training.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ah, At Sea Again

At Sea
N 39 03 W 074 32

The simple act of leaving port to put to sea is always so exhilarating. At times the exhilaration is mixed with a bit of trepidation. In all cases though we experience great anticipation.

Today has been an exceptionally fine departure. We trusted the weather forecast and waited until late afternoon. It worked, the still air stirred and turned in to a nice breeze. Now, if forecasts hold true, we have 3 to 4 days of following wind 10-15 knots. That would be ideal. We've been doing a steady 7 knots ever since leaving Cape May.

Where are we headed for? North. We'll just continue until the wind runs out. That's as explicit as we want to be at this point. We've already seen Block Island, and Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay, so we have no special urge to stop there. If we pass Boston without stopping I'll have to patch over family relations with my sister Nancy who lives there.

By the way, our fridge is working fine now. I think that ever time we turn it off and let it warm up, it leaks refrigerant gas. As long as it stays cold, it doesn't leak. Now, I have cans of refrigerant and the tools to inject it on board. Yet one more step towards self sufficiency.

Earlier in the day I felt like I was going to have a heat stroke. We needed some critical groceries immediately. All right, I'll tell the truth. We needed spaghetti sauce. There is no greater panic on board Tarwathie as when I hear the dreaded words, "We're out of spaghetti." It seems that when we stocked up on food in Solomons with the specific intent of going a month without a grocery store, we missed buying spaghetti sauce. I won't say who forgot, but it was a crew person and it wasn't

Buying groceries in Cape May is a pain. We launched the dinghy, took down the outboard, then I motored 1.5 miles to land at a beach. Then I was supposed to take a bus to the store. A kind man in a local store had a bus schedule. I would have to wait 2 hours for the bus to town, then another 4 hours after that for a bus to return. Yuck. What poor service. I walked the 1.5 miles to the store. The temperature was 95F, the heat index was 105F, the sun was relentless and there was very little
shade en route. After buying spaghetti and ice cream, I planned on riding back in a taxi. No dice. The taxi company said 25 minutes wait. The ice cream would have melted. So I walked all the way back, retrieved the dinghy, and motored back to Tarwathie, and lifted up the motor and the dinghy. The whole exercise took 3 hours. Whine whine whine.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Cape May, NJ

I generally don't like saying bad things about places we visit, but the Delaware River is *boring*. Our assessment seems to agree with just about all the other boaters we have talked to about the subject. There is nothing to see, there are no places on shore to put in, there's lots of ship and barge traffic to watch out for, and there are nasty little shoals to run aground on if you don't pay attention.

One bright spot though; the Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant was especially beautiful today. They have one of those giant hyperbolic cooling towers. Today, as we sailed past, there was zero wind. The plume of water mist coming up of the tower gave evidence of that as it lifted about 1,000 feet in to the air almost vertically. By the time it reached 1,000 feet, all the mist evaporated so the plumes at the top just disappear. With a bright blue sky behind it, the white plume looked great. (Jeez, what a geek I am. I think a nuclear power plant can be beautiful.)

This morning was also quite pretty. We got up at 0500. It was cool and a bit foggy. Soon, we had a strong tidal current with us and we zipped past Chesapeake City doing 7.5 knots. By the end of the day though, the wind was against us, the tide was against us, and progress was pitifully slow. Boring.

Tomorrow after lunch, we put to sea heading for New England. Our plans are no firmer than that. Hopefully, the window with 10-15 knot winds will last long enough to get us there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Fixed, Or Is It?

Bohemia River
N 39 25.570 W 075 56.309

We spent two days on a mooring at Georgetown Yacht Basin (GYB) to get our refrigerator fixed. Ken, the repairman, tested the thermostat and confirmed that it was bad. So they ordered a new one from Technautics, the manufacturer, and it took only a few minutes to install it. As soon as it was done, we departed.

The weather forecast calls for a window of 10-15 southerly winds offshore for Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We really want to take advantage of that. To get to Cape May by tomorrow morning, we need to enter the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at first light tomorrow. On simply never fights the +/- 5 knot current in this canal. It's much too fast.

Now, having motored for 4 hours with the fridge running, the plate is frozen only halfway up. Uh oh. I just put some more coolant in it, to chase out a couple of air bubbles I see in the sight glass. If that doesn't fix it, then we have still another problem. I sure hope not. We spent more than $400 in the past two weeks trying to fix it so far.

Our fridge problem illustrates one of the pitfalls of a nomadic lifestyle. In normal circumstances, when one pays a repairman to fix something, and it still doesn't work, one takes it back to the same man. In our case, by the time we figure out that the repair didn't work, we have moved on and we aren't about to turn back. That behavior can add greatly to the expense and the time to get things done right.

In any case, GYB has a very nice swimming pool, and we made good use of it the past two days. Just now, I jumped in to the river to cool off. The water is fresh and no stinging sea nettles live this far up the bay so swimming is nicer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Yard That Time Forgot

Georgetown, MD

In the Bahamas we met a nice couple, Leon and Kim, on their boat Gypsy. We also met their friends Ron and Jethro on Ron's Westsail 42, Another Place. They said, "If you ever come up the Sassafras River, look us up." Well, today we decided to do just that.

We sailed up the river and past the bridge at Georgetown. Soon, we were at the end of the navigable river, and we spotted the two boats, Gypsy and Another Place. I went ashore in the dinghy to see if we could contact them.

When I stepped in to the boat yard, I immediately had the feeling that I had stepped in to a scene from Twilight Zone. There were some people around in the remote corners of the yard but I couldn't see them. The air was still, the ground was dry and dusty. With each step I kicked up a cloud of dust that just hung there. A few of the boats were new, but many were old boats, beaten up, and appeared to have been sitting there for years. Most erie, a car sat by itself with the door open and the car radio blaring out Chet Adkins music. It felt like the boat yard that time forgot. I went in to the office but the only person there was a little boy who had no intention of turning away from his video game to talk to me. He could have been bald and playing a banjo to make the scene complete.

Soon, I found someone to talk to and the Twilight Zone feeling went away. Alas, Leon and Kim were not there today, they are away on a trip somewhere. Too bad.

As a consolation, I called the nearby Georgetown Yacht Basin to see if there was any chance of finding someone who could fix our fridge. Surprise! The man I talked to said, "Sure. How about 7 oclock tomorrow morning?" That wasn't what I expected to hear.

The Admirable Optimist

Georgetown, MD

Anoymous commenter blasted me for a recent post in which I used the adjective pitiful to describe the Optimist. Actually, I was trying to compliment the Optimist and the young people who sail them. I thought that they looked pitifully small. I wish I had said it that way.

Regarding anything else to say about Optimists, the commentator's words say them best.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A Fellow Blogger":

Pitiful little Optimist sailing dinghy???
What may look pitiful, ugly, or like a bathtub to many is THE most popular sailboat in the world, especially for kids!. The reason they can manage it at such a young age and in such high winds is because it is as near perfect a sailing dinghy as was ever designed for children. The very best sailors the world over, age 15 and under sail and race the Optimist Dinghy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chesapeake Bay past Annapolis

Still Pond, MD
N 39 12.927 W 076 08.499

Nature was kind to us today. We had great wind (and the last wind for the next 5 days according to the forecasts).

We left LaTrappe Creek (our favorite anchorage) around 08:00. By 11:00 we were through Knapp Narrows. By 13:00 we were flying past Annapolis. There were lots of sailboats out for this fine Sunday. Annapolis sailors are admirable. I think they sail more and leave their boats at the dock less than just about any place I know. Annapolis sailors also own many very beautiful boats and they sail them very well. We were treated to a fine show today.

We arrived here at Still Pond (our second favorite anchorage) around 19:00. That was a very fast passage for those 55 nautical miles (102 Km). Actually, we got here only in the nick of time. About 3 miles out we heard a warning from the Coast Guard on the VHF. "Seek shelter immediately," it said, "there is a severe thunderstorm over Baltimore and heading your way at 23 miles per hour." Boy those things sound scary. The sky did look pretty ugly to the west, so we hurried in here to the anchorage
under sail and motor. Now that we're securely anchored, it appears that the storm is going to miss us.

Still Pond is the place that we took David and Bobby to 2 years ago. Come to think of it, there was a big thunderstorm that passed over us on that day too. Anyhow, Dave now you know exactly where we are. According to the GPS, we are 240 feet from where we anchored when you were here.

We're controlling our fridge manually. On hour on, four hours off. Last night I happened to wake up about the right time to cycle it at 04:00. Don't know who (if either of us) will do that tonight.

High Street, Cambridge

Cambridge MD

N 38 34.330 W 076 04.445

We did the walking tour yesterday and we had a lot of fun.   Our tour docent was Carol.   We were also joined by Renee, a local girl who works for the UofM at Horn Point.

Carol explained that James A. Michener who researched his book here, said that High Street is the most beautiful street in America.  It sure deserves the accolades.    The wonderful old revolutionary and Victorian houses, the sycamore trees, and the magnolia trees combine to make it look like a 19th century fairyland. 

We especially enjoyed the story of the MD Attorney General's house that was moved to High Street from Annapolis by barge.   It seeems that when the movers put it down at it's new home, they had the back side of the house facing the street.  

The Anglican (Episcopal) church on High Street is especially beautiful.  It is built with serpentine stone, an extremely rare and prized building material.  It also has the most stury slate roof and some of the most beautiful stained glass windows we have ever seen.  It is a picture perfect church.

One of the grand old houses is a victim of arson.  Cambridge is suffering from a serial arsonist in recent months.   

Another good story.  One of the houses was built as a 20 room hotel.  Later, the hotel went out of business but the owners kept it as a family home.    At one point, they cut the house in half, moved one half fifteen feet to the right, and made it in to two homes for two branches of the family.   Remarkable how 15 feet and two new walls can influence familial relationships. :)

Above are some scenes from High Street.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cambridge Life

Cambridge MD
N 38 34.330 W 076 04.445

We like Cambridge. It is a favorite stop whenever we are in the Chesapeake region. It has two minor attractions. First, is the magic of being central in Michener's story Chesapeake. Second, is the free dock offered by the city. Boats are allowed to tie up on the wall in the harbor for 4 hours.

However the real appeal of Cambridge is that it is such a charming little city. In my mind, Cambridge is very much like New Bern, North Carolina, which is well known to cruisers as a charming place. We like walking the streets to see the majestic Victorian houses. In fact, after posting this blog, Libby and I are going to take a guided walking tour of historic Cambridge.

There are also two court houses near to the waterfront. In the past, I enjoyed observing some real life trials here in Cambridge. That's very intellectually stimulating. This trip however, there were no courts in session. I guess all the judges must be vacationing in France or something.

Finally, there is a public library right next to the water front. On oppressively hot afternoons we can take refuge there. I post blogs and I can read the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday I also found a way to export my entire blog archive to a data base file on my hard drive. That's not only a good back up, but also the first step needed to convert the blog archive to book form.

One thing was not so nice. The free wall that we tie up against is rough finished. There are square beams that stick out yet do not extend above the wall. Yesterday, when both Libby and I were away from the boat, our rub rail caught on the top of one of those beams in a falling tide. Despite the numerous fenders we had out, the beam got under the rail. As Tarwathie fell with the the tide, her whole weight pressed down until the teak rub rail shattered and broke loose from the hull. Now I have a new project -- repair the rail. If I can't repair it, I'll have to find a carpenter to make a new one and that will be expensive.

When we bought Tarwathie, her hull was unblemished, shining with a beautiful Awlgrip finish. Now, I'm ashamed to say that she has numerous dings and scars and dock rash marks. I always suspect that I could be more vigilant and cautious in avoiding such damage, but in reality I don't see how I could do it much better.

We are also having trouble with our refrigerator/freezer. The motor runs almost all the time. I called a repair man in Solomons, but he still has not returned our call. I presume that he's so over booked that he doesn't want new customers. I bought a can of refrigerant and an adapter hose for $16 in a hardware store, but I had to return it because it wouldn't fit the service port. I ordered an adapter hose from Technautics, the manufacturer. That way it was guaranteed to fit. I had it shipped to Cambridge. It came along with an invoice for $179. (WOW what markups these people impose!) I used it to recharge the fridge and get all the bubbles out of the circulation loop. However, the motor is still running all the time even though it's plenty cold in there. It must be some other cause.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Fellow Blogger

LaTrappe Creek
N 38 37.903 W 076 07.131

We are back in the place that we said before is our favorite anchorage on the whole east coast. LaTrappe Creek seems to embody the best of Chesapeake charm and beauty. The anchorage is in a little cove near the mouth that is well sheltered from all directions. The holding is good, the surroundings are beautiful. What more could one ask for.

Yesterday, we had a very interesting visit with Doug Campbell on board Doug's Westsail 32 Ranger. Doug is a blog fan who contacted us a while back. As it turns out, Doug is also a writer for Soundings Magazine, and he writes the blogs on the soundings web site. So, in addition to this blog, you can read Doug's blog about our visit.

We have a lot in common with Doug in our outlooks, ambitions and past experiences. However, he's still not a full time cruise. Doug's wife isn't quite ready for that yet. We also had fun discussing the ins and outs of W32 ownership.

However, Doug does have one thing that we and all other cruisers can envy. He earns his living writing for Soundings from his floating office on board Ranger. That's what I call a dream job.

Ranger is docked at Oxford Boat Yard in Oxford Maryland. Doug didn't choose that by accident. For obscure reasons that date back to the famous Hinkley yachting family, Oxford is the home port for all kinds of celebrities and sea farers just bursting with interesting stories to tell. For example, Walter Cronkite's boat was in the slip just across from Ranger. No doubt, whenever Doug comes up dry for ideas for his next article, he can just hang around the docks and pick up a good story in short

Leaving Oxford, we had a very brisk 20 knot head wind. That makes two days in a row with strong winds on the Chesapeake in July -- a rare event. Luckily, we had lots of room to maneuver so we beat our way upwind all the way here to LaTrappe. However, we reluctantly had to intrude Tarwathie in to the middle of a Oxford Yacht Club youth sailing race. I usually like to keep a long distance from such races so as to not disturb them. However, our intrusion to the middle of the race gave us a close-up
view. The racers were 10 year old boys and girls, each single handing a pitiful little Optimist sailing dinghy. These kids were so amazingly skillful and obviously confident in their abilities under difficult weather conditions. One can not help to admire those kids and the youth sailing programs that teach them. On Lake Champlain we've seen 14 year old kids sailing tiny boats in 30 knot winds and steep waves, and doing it so skillfully that they demonstrate complete mastery of the situation.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Half Wait, Half Sail

Trippe Creek
N 38 42.646 W 076 07.890

We're having trouble with our refrigeration system. It was running too many hours per day and causing the main batteries to run down overnight. I checked it and sure enough, there are bubbles in the coolant. It needs to be recharged with gas. I walked up to the hardware store and bought a can of R134A coolant gas, and an adapter hose to connect it to the service port of the fridge. The hose didn't fit. I got the number of the local regrigeration guy in Solomons and left a message for him.
He was supposed to call back this morning. He didn't. We waited until noon, then gave up and left. Oh well, if he had called it probably would only be to let us know that he's booked 3 weeks in advance.

We wanted to cross over the Chesapeake to Oxford on the Eastern Shore to meet with Doug. Doug is a blog fan and a Westsail owner who contacted us. It seems that there are three W32s in Oxford.

Surprise, the weather cooperated. Today is the first day with wind since we got to Solomons a week ago. We were able to sail almost all the way over here. Just before arriving, the wind freshened to 20 knots. So this has been a nice day. Any day in the summer when there is enough wind to sail in the Chesapeake is a nice day.

I'm going to call the manufacturer of our fridge and order an adapter hose from them. I'll ask them to ship it overnight or 2nd day air. The only problem is to find an address to ship it to. UPS and Fedex will not ship to a general delivery address, and most businesses won't use USPS to ship packages.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Not Chance Encounters

Solomons Island, MD
N 38 20.161 W 077 26.114

Today we ran in to George and Jackie from Sea Otter II. They are good friends that we've seen in Vero Beach every year that we've been there. George and Jackie's stories about visiting Washington DC is what convinced us to go there this year. And we're very glad that we did. This year, George and Jackie are staying here. They found a very good deal, $320/month for a slip at the Holiday Inn here complete with free coffee, free papers, and pool access. Not bad.

We also ran in to Brian and Jan from Wind Chaser. Wind Chaser was a boat we met in the Bahamas. We traveled back to the USA from the Bahamas together.

The six of us, George and Jackie and Brian and Jan and Libby and I all went to happy hour together at the Holiday in, then some of us went to dinner the Buccaneer BBQ restaurant nearby. That's the same place that our friends Gerry and Phyllis took us to 2 years ago.

It's fun to meet people that you know when traveling.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More DC Pics

Solomons Holiday Inn

Above Left-to-right top-to-bottom
  • Coat hanger art - Hirshorn Museum
  • Bert Rutan's Space Ship One
  • A chair to remember, American Art Museum
  • America's sweetheart, Katherine Hepburn, American Art Museum

  • Hanging out with a buddy at the National Science Academy
  • Best statues in town at the Library of Congress
  • A bust of JFK at the Kennedy Arts Center
  • An African woman, Kennedy Arts Center

  • The beauty of the National Building Museum. Those columns are made of brick.
  • The Iwo Jima Monument
  • The Old Supreme Court room at The Capitol
  • Libby at the knee of another of her relatives -- Robert Fulton

  • Exquisite bead work in the Amerinan Indian Museum
  • Libby and Jenny in the prism light at the American Indian Museum, noon on the solstice. The prism lights did not line up as promised on the solstice.
  • A butterfly in the Natural History Museum
  • Not artwork but natural stone in the Natural History Museum
Solomons Island, MD
N 36 20.257 W 076 27.614

Last night a big rainstorm came by. It stopped just before time for the 4th of July Fireworks, but our dinghy was full of water so we decided to cancel out sojourn to watch. Surprise. A well to do neighbor on Mill Creek put on a fireworks show in his back yard that was almost as big as the city display. We had a front row seat from 100 meters away. We could also see the city fireworks in the other direction. Stereo booms. Great.

Today is chore day. Curt very kindly lent me his truck this morning so that I could go and get a new bottle of propane. Libby is doing laundry while I do other chores. We also moved Tarwathie over to near the Holiday Inn so that I can get WIFI and post this blog.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Overboard Drill

Solomons Island, MD
N 38 20.162 W 76 26.116

We had a rare summer treat for the summer Chesapeake yesterday. A very nice 15 knot breeze came up. That allowed us to weigh anchor, set sail and take off at a fast clip. We sailed the 45 miles from the St. Mary's River to Solomons in just over six hours. That was a fast passage and very pleasant.

As we approached Solomons, we had a moment for minor panic. A bath towel hung to dry on the life line had fouled on the jib sheet. In the blink of an eye, the sheet flipped it off the life line and in to the water. "TOWEL OVERBOARD," I shouted. We spotted the towel in the water, turned around to try to rescue it, but to no avail. By the time we got back to that point, the towel sank.

We're anchored in Mill Creek this time. It's quieter here. Besides, we ran across some friends. Kurt and Judy from SV Decoy have a house along Mill Creek. We met them at the public dock in Oriental this year. Last night we enjoyed the sunset sitting on their dock.

Tonight, we plan to seek a 4th of July fireworks show. What else?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Naval Bombardment

Potomac River
N 38 12 W 76 45

Well, in the past this blog has discussed aerial bombardment and hostile Indian attack. Today, we add naval bombardment, to Tarwathie's list of adventures. Naval bombardment? Really? Well, sort of.

Here's the story. As we cruised down the river today, we were hailed on the radio by a US Navy boat. They wanted to inform us that we were about to enter a firing range and that a live fire exercise was about to begin. The navy man gave us directions for how to skirt around the periphery of the fire zone. Needless to say, we were happy to comply.

As we did skirt the periphery thought, we were treated to a grandstand seat to sights that most people never get to see. BOOM would sound an explosion from near by. We would whip our heads around to look at the sound and we saw an enormous fountain of water thrown up in to the air by the shell. Five to tens seconds later we heard another, duller, BOOM as the sound of the cannon reached us. I should point out that "near by" meant about three miles. That's where the shells fell. The cannons
were about 10 miles behind us. Clearly, the shells traveled much faster than sound coming up range.

So that was our rather unique form of entertainment for this morning. Think of the people who live along the river bank near the target area. I imagine that those people and their pet parakeets and pet cats must really appreciate the BOOMs.

Going downstream on the Potomac, we're trying a navigation policy that we never tried before. We move day or night when the current is with us. We stop day or night when it is against us. Mentally calculating the times between tides though is making my head hurt. I'll try to explain simply.

Think of a tidal surge like a wave approaching a beach. Tidal cycle here come 11 hours apart. The tidal surges(waves)also travel up the river. It takes 6 hours for a tidal surge to move 100 miles up the Potomac to Washington. When we travel down the river, we meet one tidal cycle every 5.5 hours. When stopped, the tides pass every 11 hours as normal. We leave at high tide and stop at low tide, 2.25 hours later. Then we sit at anchor until the next high tide 5.5 hours after that. So on the
average, we are stopped 2/3 of the time and moving only 1/3 of the time. It all sounds counter intuitive. But it saves us a lot of fuel. With the current with us, we travel at 6 knots, with the current against us we only do 3.5 knots. Given a 10 knot wind with or against us, the two speeds become 7 knots and 3 knots.

It is easier to think about traveling up stream. If we could move 15 mph, then we could ride the same tidal surge up the river, just like a surfer on a wave. Then we would meet zero tidal cycles per hour.