Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Albemarle Adventure

Edenton, NC
N 36 03.352 W 076 36.623

We're taking time to explore North Carolina waters better than before. Several people told us that Edenton at the head of Albemare Sound is a very nice place. However, it is 30 miles up the sound away from the ICW. Further, it is not just any sound but the infamous and treacherous Albemarle. Always before we scooted across the Albemarle as quickly as possible. However, this time the forecast is for four or more days with little or no wind, so the risk is low.

We just arrived here at Edenton at supper time, so we haven't seen the town yet. We did however make some new friends; Phil and Vy on a Catalina 34 at a nearby slip. They live in Columbia, across the sound from here. Chatting with them, I raised the question of Albemarle's reputation. They confirmed it. The sound is shallow, the wind comes from every direction, causing confused seas. and it can come out of nowhere and blow very hard with little warning. Many people have died out on the sound,
and even circumnavigators claim that it can have the roughest waters they've ever seen. Not this week though.

We'll stay here two nights. Tomorrow, I'll let you know what we find here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sit Down For a Spell

Mariner's Wharf, Elizabeth City
N 36 17.922 W 076 13.097

Tarwathie is seen out in the harbor. During our recent visit, I took this picture from the porch of the Oceanic Hotel, Gosport, Star Island, Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire, USA.

Doesn't it make you want to sit in that rocker and while the day away?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Land Cruising

Mariner's Wharf, Elizabeth City
N 36 17.922 W 076 13.097

Last night we took advantage of a strong public WIFI courtesy of Elizabeth City. We got on youtube.com and watched the two main TV events of the year that seeminly everybody on the planet has seen except us.

First, we watched the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Wow was that fun to watch. We were amazed at the creativity in the artistry and by the use of technology. That was surely a great show.

Second, we watched Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican convention. Wow again. She was great. We had heard before watching that the teleprompters had failed in the middle of her speech and how she just kept on without missing a beat. Even knowing that in advance the event was very hard to detect when watching.

On another subject, two of our cruising friends are Stephan and Lori from the vessel Twin Spirits. Those two have been cruising for a long longer than we have. However, they expressed a desire to cruise the rest of the country -- the part you can't get to by boat. This summer, Stephan and Lori managed to sell their boat, and to buy an RV. Right now they are up in Massachusetts fixing the RV up. We hope to see them in Vero this winter.

So what is the difference between cruising on a boat and cruising in an RV? Well, the most obvious difference is fuel costs. Depending on how many miles one drives, fuel costs for an RV could be ruinous.

The really big difference I suspect is the kind of scnery one sees. As I've said many times in this blog, the boaters get to see the thin veneer of the coastline and inland waterways of this country. Very often, the waters and the veneer look wonderful and pristine, yet just behind the veneer is a lot of ugliness. With an RV, one cruises the interior spaces -- sans the veneer. On the other hand, there us much grandeur and much open space remainng in America. If we manage to meet Stephan and Lori after they did RV cruising for a few years, I'll ask them to compare their boating and RV experiences for us. In the meantime, I just think of them as having gone over to the dark side.

One aspect of RV and boat cruising that seems alike is the competition between the right to anchor (or park) wherever we want to verus the pressure from governemnt to regulate everything. Right now, down in Florida, there is a newfound legislative assault on the right to anchor. In the RV world, I know that RVers are often forced into trailer parks or so-called camp grounds that appear to be extremely crowded and unattractive. The competing interests on both sides sound similar.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pictures Block Island to North Carolina

Tarwathie, Tarwathie, Andre on Aruba II,

Aruba II in the sunset, wow great sunset on Block Island, Aruba II another sunset

USS Mesa Verde in Norfolk (very big war ship),
Tarwathie's radar reflector upper left -another reflector lower right (look carefully at the difference)
The local church in South Mills, VA
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In The Storm's Wake

Elizabeth City Visitor's Center

Well, the storm has passed. It was remarkable yesterday morning. I was listenting to the local radio news. The storm was causing havoc in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Hampton. There were accidents, flooding, downed trees, power outages and school closings. However, down where we were in the Dismal Swamp Canal everything was tranquil. It made one want to say, "What storm?" It was so still that the surface of the canal still looked like a reflecting pool even though the wind roared a hundred or so feet above our heads.

Yesterday, Libby made molasses cookies for the nice ladies up at the NC Welcome Center. They have been so friendly and so hospitible, that was the least we could do.

Last night we had a Balderdash Tournoment among the 5 boats that had holed up at the welcome center for the past three days. Everybody screamed and laughed and had a good time even though the others never heard of the game before. Balderdash really is an outstanding game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thank God, Genius Still Counts

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center

My son Dave wrote from Alaska to tell that he bought an AK47 as a toy. He bought it with the bonus Alaska citizens get from Sarah Palin.

I guess that in Alaska there is enough empty space that people can have toys like that. The part that surprised me though is that Dave chose an AK47. He just came back from active duty with the National Guard. He is supposedly fully familiar with the M16. Why didn't he buy a civilian version of that? Price may have something to do with it, but I think that the more important reason is that the design of that gun by General Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov is pure genius. Hooray for genius.

Other great examples of unbeatable genius were the yacht designs of Nathanael Greene Herreshoff. So great was his genius that his arch rival, the wealthy Englishman Sir Thomas Lipton, gave up Americas Cup challenges after several attempts. He wrote a letter saying that it was futile for anyone to compete with the genius of Herreshoff, no matter what the resources.

Some great inventions come from inspiration, such as those mentioned above. Most however come more from persperition. Sadly, in the modern world, I think there is more persperation and less inspiration. Therefore, it is uplifting to see moderns reminders of genius such as the AK47 (regardless of the purposes to which it is applied)

A very modern and famous example of great invention by perperation is the Iphone. Wired Magazine published an recent article explaning how Steve Jobs drove his designers like an evil slave overlord to accomplish the design. Great design yes, but not a product of inspiration or genius.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blowing Off States, and Visa Versa

North Carolina Welcome Center


It seems like every time we visit North Carolina that we spend at least part of the time hiding from gales and storms. That's what we're doing today, and probably tomorrow and Thursday too. Not far from us, at the edge of the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras, the winds are blowing 50 knots (26 meters/second) and seas are 24 feet (8 meters). Here in the Great Dismal Swamp Canal we hardly feel a puff of air. The canal's surface has no ripples. That makes it a fine place to stay.

Here at the NC welcome center we not only have a secure dock, we have bathrooms, and water, and a computer with Internet to use, and very fine NC ladies in the welcome center to talk to. I've said it often before, but it bears repeating, North Carolina hospitality can't be beat.

Today, Libby and I borrowed bicycles from the welcome center and took an excursion down the canal bike path to South Mills. We had lunch there in a delightful, yet disgracefully low brow, lunch counter inside a Citgo gas station. The other patrons were all working men. Libby got a BLT and I ordered the chicken parm sandwitch. They gave me two slabs of chicken on that sandwich that must have weighed close to a pound. I had to take half home in a doggy bag.

Speaking of states, we've been going through them rapidly in recent days. After leaving Maine, we spent one night in New Hapshire at Isles of Shoals, then about 1 week in Massachusetts, then one night in Rhode Island at Block Island. We had a nice view of Montauk Point NY as we sailed past. We saw nothing of New Jersey, Deleware or Maryland. We spent one night in Virginia, and now we're in North Carolina again. Going further south toward Florida it is always our preference to skip South Carolina and Georgia to the extent possible.

p.s. I bought a new radar reflector on Ebay yesterday for $15. I had it shipped to General Delivery, Oriental, NC. Have you ever used General Delivery before? It's a bit fun. Many people suspect that you are some kind of criminal if you use a GD address.

p.p.s. Check out the picture below of the sailboats in Kemah Texas near Galveston. It is a good reminder of why our insurance company wants us to stay away from the hurricane zone. We would be devastated if Tarwathie was one of those boats. Fortunately, none of the boats pictures belong to anyone we know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Mystery Solved

North Carolina Welcome Center

Last week, out at sea, a captain of a passing ship hailed me on the radio. He was very nice and he called me because of concern. He said, "You are almost invisible on radar. You should really put up a radar reflector." I thanked him, then told him my reflector was already up. Very disconcerting.

Last night, a boat pulled up along side of us with the same type of radar reflector that we have. I looked up, and AHA! His reflector had three disks but mine has only two. (see the picture) Obviously, one of the three disks from my reflector is missing; and has been missing since we first bought Tarwathie.

This is yet another example of mistakes being made by having and keeping a faulty base reference point. I thought our reflector was fine. If that captain hadn't hailed me on the radio, I would have continued for years thinking so.

Now I'm shopping for a new reflector.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Time to Relax

Deep Creek, VA
N 36 44.863 W 75 20.300

At the moment we are waiting for the lock to open to let us in to The Great Dismal Swamp Canal. Oh yes, we like that. I'm hard pressed to think of anything more peaceful and more relaxed than put puting through this canal. There could be a hurricane blowing, there could be a thermonuclear war, but nothing is likely to disturb us when we are in that canal.

Fellow cruisers take warning: They are doing construction on the Gilmerton Bridge south of Norfolk. On weekends it only has three openings per day, ??, 1 PM and 7PM. We almost missed the 1 o'clock opening. That would have ruined our day waiting 6 hours in that location. The bridge is surrounded by ship breaking yards, smelly oil terminal and other industrial unniceties. But we did make it just in time. Now we'll pass the lock and tie up on the dock just past the lock. There is a grocery store
nearby so we'll buy groceries.

Last night I surrendered to the tidal current against me and we stopped for the night at the Hamption public dock. Then we got a hot shower, and a pizza, and went straight to bed. You can bet we slept very very well.

Today is a very nice day. Sunny and temperatures in the 70s. It is very pleasant.

All the aircraft carriers seem to be gone from Norfolk. I remember reading somethinga about moving the carrier base to Mayport Florida. Perhaps that's where they are. Or maybe they're all out fighting wars. I heard Bob Woodward on the radio last week. He said that General Petraus met with Bush last year. The president said, "This surge is double down." The general replied, "No Sir. It is all in." Yikes! General Petraus is a real hero. I read a long article in the Washington Post last
week about how the general personally instigated the strategy changes that turned the war around. The extra troops in the surge helped, but it was Petraus' wisdom that made the big difference. Shame on the left for disparaging that man as General Betray Us.

I checked the weather forecast this morning. Wow, there will be 7 more consecutive days with strong NE winds offshore. If we wanted to continue south in a hurry, this would be the window. We could be in Florida by Thursday if we wanted to. But there's three things that keep us from doing that. (1) Cape Hatteras, (2) Frying Pan Shoals, (3) The fact that we can't enter Florida until November 1 according to our insurance policy. Indeed, instead of being in a hurry, we have 5 weeks to get there.
We have no plans. I suspect that we'll try to find places that we haven't visited before. (p.s. In case you didn't know, both Hatteras and Frying Pan Shoals sometimes extend out to the western edge of the Gulf Stream. Being in the Gulf Stream during a strong northerly wind is something that nobody should do. Even giant cruise ships, like the Norwegian Star, can't handle it. Two years ago, the Norwegian Star (I think that's the right boat) had to turn around with it's 5th deck windows smashed
in by a wave out in the Gulf Stream.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Waves The Waves

At Sea
N 37 07 W 075 46

The wind is still blowing! It has been nearly perfect wind for this passage. 15-25 knots almost all the time, coming from a relative angle of 160 degrees. We really moved. 297 miles in the first 48 hours. That's a new record for us in 2 days elapsed. Now we are just entering the mouth of the Chesapeake and we still have 7 hours before dark. Cool.

What's so different about sailing off shore compared to in shore. I say the waves. Of course there are the tides, the currents, the salinity and the vastness; but to me all those are small things compared to the waves. The waves are what makes the boat rock and roll. I measured it last night, we rolled -30 to 50 degrees. That's a lot and the ride down below can be wild. Right now, as I blog, it is a little calmer and we roll only -10 to 20 degrees.

It is notoriously difficult to estimate the height of waves from the deck of a small boat. I'm no expert. However, I guess that the waves on this trip averaged 5-8 feet with occasional outliers up to 12-14 feet.

The color of the waves and the water varies a lot. Last week we were trying to explain to Nancy about the deep deep wonderful blue of the Gulf Stream. I guess that's why they call it blue water sailing. In the Keys and in the Bahamas, the water is often turquoise in color. Yesterday, the water out at sea, but still over the continental shelf was grey-black. Today, closer in to shore it became gray-green. Green water is a bad thing to see. When a wave looms over your head and is about
to crash down on you, you can see sunlight through the wave and the water looks green. White water means surf, or a really nasty storm, or rapids. We don't want to see any of those while traveling.

I invented a new phrase this morning. How many ways can the jib sheet foul? Let me count the ways.

It fouls on the cleats, on the windlass, on the stay sail, on the chain plate turnbuckles, and on the boat hook, just to mention a few.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Things That Go Bump In The Night

At Sea
N 39 10 W 073 43

A very annoying aspect of sailing off shore is the noise. On days like this the seas are 8-10 feet coming from our stern quarter. Tarwathie rolls a lot under such conditions. Wind pressure on the sail stabilizes us some, but not enough. Last night as we tried to sleep, both Libby and I were bothered by the constant noises. Loose things rattle and bang. They may repetitive noises from all directions, but mostly from the galley. It is the cans and bottles and pots and pans of all sizes and
shapes that make most of the noise. Once in a while, the bottles fall against a cabinet door and it swings open.

Earlier in our sailing career, things would fall on the floor and slide around. At least we learned enough to prevent that from happening now.

In your house, you would never tolerate such noise. You would get up, locate the source and fix it. In a boat, it would be mostly a futile gesture. There is no practical way to silence all those noises. The best way is just try to ignore the noises and hope that they fade into the background.

We're making excellent time on this passage. We completed the first half of the 320 nautical mile passage from Block Island to the Chesapeake Bay entrance in 28 hours. The second half will probably take longer because the winds will slacken some. Two years ago, with Carmello and Diane on board, we only managed half this speed, and we had to motor the last 50 miles.

We saw six vessels yesterday. One ship called us on the VHF radio from 1/2 mile away. The captain was very nice. He wanted to tell us to raise our radar reflector because he says that we are nearly invisible on radar. The disconcerting part of that is that we DO have a radar reflector hoisted. I can't explain how we are still invisible.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sailing Off Shore

At Sea
N 40 50 W 072 00

Today we are beginning a 3-4 day passage from Block Island, RI to Norfolk, VA. We are following a rhumb line course (a straight line for land lubbers). That will keep us 100 miles or so off shore for most of the time. You may be interested in what we do differently to prepare for and to execute off shore passages. Bear in mind that ocean crossing passages, which we haven't done yet, may be something entirely different.

* Top off fuel and water tanks.

* Do oil and/or fluid changes if they are near do.

* Poop readiness. (Land lubbers – getting pooped does not mean what it sounds like. It means having a big wave come in over the back of the boat. It can fill the cockpit with water in a fraction of a second.) Securely bolt down the cockpit sole. If the floor to the cockpit washed away with a big wave, the boat could fill with water and sink. We have never yet been pooped, but we try our best to be prepared for that eventuality.

* Make sure that the Monitor self-steering system is ready for use.

* Stow away anything on deck that doesn't need to be there. For inland sailing we typically keep our bicycle and our docking lines on deck. Those go below deck for off shore sailing.

* Prepare food that's hearty and easy to warm up and easy to handle. A batch of chili or peanut butter sandwiches, for example. We often forget to do that, including this time.

* Put in the boards in the V-berth compartment so that things can't fall on the floor. The V-berth is sometimes like a cocktail shaker when off shore. As long as the loose things up there stay in the V-berth and off the floor, it does no harm.

* Put lee cloths in the pilot berths. A lee cloth is a piece of strong canvas that one attaches to the side of the bed, and then to the ceiling. The lee cloth in the upper berth lets us stow loose things in the cabin without them getting loose and falling to the floor. The lee cloth in the lower berth allows a crew person to sleep without fear of falling out of bed. Another Westsail owner tells me that he just sleeps on the floor whenever off shore.

* We also use a seat belt at the stove. A rail in front of the stove lets you hold yourself away from the stove, and the belt behind your back prevents you from being thrown backward. That happened to Libby once before we had the belt and it hurt a lot.

* Take seasickness remedies in advance if needed. Libby also wears a back brace when off shore. It helps to prevent lower back pain when we get bounced around.

* Tell family that you will be out of cell phone contact for a while. Some people file a float plan with the Coast Guard. I view blogging while at sea as a better alternative.

* Request weather forecasts needed for the passage. I get weather forecasts at sea on our SSB radio. I requested text-version forecasts to be delivered to my email once per day every day for a week. I also requested a GRIB file (a file that gives a graphical picture of wind direction and speed) to be sent twice per day. When I send out my blogs, the radio automatically downloads any forecasts available.

* Make sure all rechargeable batteries are charged up. We must run the engine while at see to keep the main batteries charged, but the less we run it the better.

* Plan your route. A good plan includes a backup plan in case weather turns bad. Today, we are heading for Norfolk, but we could easily divert to put in at Atlantic City, or Cape May, or Ocean City if need be. Program your route in to the GPS chart plotter. That gives the helmsman an easy quick reference.

* Turn the cell phones off. You won't get a signal off shore anyhow.

* Mark your position on the chart or in the log book every 4 hours. That way, if you loose GPS navigation you know about where you are and your approximate course and speed. Then you can use dead reckoning navigation to substitute.

* Make a crew change schedule that fits you. Talking to other cruisers, we find that very few of them follow strict 4 hours on 4 off schedules. They switch every two hours or every hour. Libby and I switch every two hours during daylight. At night, I watch 16-20, and 00-06. Libby watches 20-24 and 06-10. We found by trial and error that fits us best.

* In the fall, like now, nights are colder. Further, southward passages are done when the (cold) wind blows from the north. Cold night time temperatures means that night watches may need to be shortened.

* Wear thermal long underwear, gloves and hand warmers at night.

* Take aspirin. Both of us experience lots of sore muscles from bracing ourselves against the roll, and from wrestling with the tiller if the self-steering doesn't do a good enough job.

* Bananas make excellent energy snacks.

* Make it a point to kiss and hug when changing watch. Belay that order if the other crew person is not your spouse or at least blonde :) When at sea, we spend almost 100% of the time we are not on watch laying down in the bunks. That makes it rather lonely, leaving very little time for conversation or togetherness.

* Leave time to write a blog. I think that many of my blog readers especially like the articles that begin with the At Sea byline.

* Turn the automatic bilge pump to manual mode. Then remember to pump it with every shift change.

* Keep a sharp eye out for ships. When one is spotted, take a bearing with the binoculars and recheck the bearing every 5 minutes. If it gets too close, get all crew on deck and try to call the ship on VHF radio. Be prepared to start the engine and take emergency evasive action if necessary. Those dang ships just plow on, oblivious to everything in their path and oblivious to calls over the radio. Worse, they might not plow on, they could make a course change toward you.

* Peak fatigue from lack of sleep happens about 36 hours into the passage. Be on guard making critical decisions when fatigued. If you are fatigued and forced to decide anyhow, then choose the most conservative choice as a matter of policy.

* Avoid sail changes at night. That might mean reefing the main sail or taking down the whisker pole before sunset, even if the weather forecast sounds mild.

I bet my cruising friends could add other good points to this list. Feel free to email me suggestions. I work them in to a future blog post.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ready, Set,

Block Island, RI
N 41 11.326 W 71 34.868

Well conditions are right to head south. There is a weather window starting tomorrow. We'll head offshore tomorrow. We'll have strong winds Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. We'll aim for Cape May, NJ with the option of continuing to Norfolk.

I feel that we frittered away almost the whole month of September not making much progress southward. We're behind schedule. However, if we make it to Norfolk next week, we'll be ahead of schedule.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

To Block Island

At Sea
N 41 13 W 71 26

We are sailing for Block Island tonight in the company of Aruba II and her skipper Andre. In the morning we'll decide on our next passage. Perhaps we'll head for Cape May or Norfolk, or perhaps we'll head for Long Island Sound and NYC.

I notice that my energy for doing work and projects on the boat has been flagging recently. I have a number of things that have needed attention for a while, but I just didn't find the right moment to get up and actually do them. Is this a new phase of degeneration from a land-lubber to a seasoned cruiser? Is is just temporary and I'll snap out of it? I can't be certain of either. Perhaps what I need is for Libby to nag me more. That sounds like a dangerous thing to say because Libby reads
this blog too, but she only reads it every other month or so. Therefore any threat to my lethargy is postponed by at least a month.

Andre and I had fun today photographing each other's boats. Despite all the pictures that we take, the rarest of all are pictures of our own boats under sail. The reason why is obvious. There is a commercial firm that sends a helicopter out making aerial photographs of all boats in the area. Then they look up your boat name in the Coast Guard Registry, get your email address from that, and send an email solicitation. The email directs you to boatpix.com. I did that, but when I got there I
found that they wanted me to pay $250 up front for pictures without me even seeing a proof copy first. I'm reluctant to do that. Boatpix.com photographed Tarwathie once in Melbourne, Florida and again near Cape May, New Jersey.

When, as today, we sail alongside a friend, we can photograph each other and then swap the pictures. Andre has a film camera, not digital. Therefore, we passed our camera over to him, he made some shots and passed it back to us. Isn't that very risky? Yes and no. Our camera is waterproof, although not buoyant. I tied the wrist strap of the camera to the painter of a fender, then I passed the fender and camera together over to Andre on the end of a boat hook. That kept the boats far enough
apart to not bump. It also gave insurance in case I dropped. The fender will float and is easy enough to find in the water.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Could We Give Up Cruising?

Fairview, MA Public Library

On the weekend, my sister drove us up to her house in Melrose. Along the way we stopped for lunch at IKEA. Libby and I just love the meal of meatballs, mashed potato and lingonberry that they serve. After eating, of course, we had to walk through the store.

I've bragged before about how liberating it is to own so few things and how we don't need to buy the things in most stores. In IKEA though it is so much fun to shop. It made me think what fun it would be if we quit cruising and had to outfit a whole new home from scratch shopping at IKEA. For that matter, what fun it would be if we were 21 again and starting a new family and a household from scratch.

Then reality set in. Wait, when we were young enough to start from scratch we didn't have any money for anything. Buying new things in a store, even IKEA, was out of the question. And no, we do not want to stop cruising, not even to experience the fun at IKEA.

Back in New Bedford, we met Andre on Aruba II. Andre is a friend we first met on the docks in Jacksonville, then later in the Dismal Swamp, and again in Elizabeth City. Andre straightened us out on Fairhaven. We blogged before on how little we could find of interest in Fairhaven. Well the problem is that we didn't have a guide. Andre let us know that there's plenty of stuff here if you know where to look. Right now, we're at the library and I'm going to show Andre how to create his own blog so that he can write cruising guides about his favorite places like Fairhaven.

p.s. The weather is unfavorable for departure today. Tomorrow we'll sail for Block Island (Sorry Dave Hamby, it seems that we'll miss coming your way once again.)

Libby and Nancy Enjoying The Sail

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Wild Ride

New Bedford, Mass
N 41 38.667 W 70.54.742

First, I learned that our friends in Texas moved their boat, Raven, to Corpus Chrisi and put it up on land well before the arrival of Ike. Then they are hiding out in San Antonio. They should be OK.

We spent Thursday night in very surprising peace anchored off the beach on the north side of Cape Cod. It was calmer than we have tied up inside a marina. I can't remember ever anchoring off a shore exposed to the sea and having it so calm before.

In the morning we set off for the nearby Cape Cod Canal. We timed it just right for the current, and zipped through with big current boost. Top speed, 8.99 knots. Nancy really liked it.

When we exited the canal, it was a different story. The strong SW winds that we hoped to avoid on Saturday actually came on Friday. It was blowing 20-25 right against us and against the current as we exited the canal. Those are the classic conditions for dangerous waves. Conditions were terrible. Tarwathie resonated with the choppy waves pitching up and down. With each swing the propeller would come out of the water. We could only average 1.2 knots, and the interference region at the canal
exit was 2-3 miles long. Every other boat, big and small, passed us and went faster because they didn't pitch.

As soon as possible we left the channel into calmer waters and hoisted the sails. That is the cure to pitching and rolling because the sails stabilize us against the waves. Then we spent the next 6 hours beating up wind. The ride was fast, about 5 knots, but our progress was slow, speed made good was only 2 knots. Nancy really liked it. It was a wild ride.

Finally we rounded the point and headed downwind to New Bedford, passed in through the hurricane barrier, under the Poole's Island Bridge, and to our anchorage. When we got here, Surprise! We anchored right next to Aruba II with our cruising friend Andre on board. We haven't seen Andre in 18 months.

Today we're leaving Tarwathie and we'll head up to Nancy's house north of Boston for a day. It should be fun.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cape Cod

Cape Cod
N 41 55.023 W 070 30.984

We have a guest crew person on board. My sister Nancy met us in Marblehead and she'll sail with us to New Bedford. It's a real treat having her on board. In normal circumstances we could never get Nancy away long enough to sail with us. Besides being a soccer mom, and an electrical engineer (like me), she is also a business executive. However, just now Nancy is between jobs, so she took advantage of her rare freedom to join us.

The weather forecast called for SW winds at 5 knots. Fortunately, they were wrong once again. We had 15 knot winds, mostly on the nose, but just perfect to sail close hauled the whole day and most of the night. It was a fun day and a great experience for Nan. She had never sailed at night before. The lights of Boston on the horizon at night looked especially nice.

Finally, at 0300 this morning, the winds dies out. We motored only one hour to reach shore and now we're anchored a few miles away from the north end of the Cape Cod canal. This morning, when the tidal current reverses, we'll traverse the canal.

I had an encounter with a tugboat towing a barge last night. It wasn't a close call, he never got closer than 1 mile. The problem is that I have a devil of a time interpreting the navigation lights they carry. It looked to me like he was heading directly at me. I called on the VHF and asked the tug captain. No problem, he could see me and his heading was 90 degrees away from me.

Now there's yet another thing to worry and fret about. Our friends Dave and Hilde on Raven are holed up in San Antonio Texas hiding from hurricane Ike. They should be OK, but I think that Raven is still tied up at the dock in Kema Texas, near Galveston, and right in Ike's path. We'll cross our fingers on their behalf.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reality Check

Marblehead Mass Public Library

I had a call last night from a dear friend. He and his wife just learned that she has advanced lung cancer. They haven't yet heard of the treatment plan or the prognosis, but it sounds grave. This woman is much too young and too alive to be ready to die. The call was a reality wake up for us. Libby and I are living such an idealistic life, bouncing from one nice experience to the next with hardly a care, that we tend to forget how harsh life can be to people less lucky than we are. Our hearts go out to our friend and we wish his wife all the best.

Today was much nicer than yesterday and we zipped down to Marblehead with little trouble.

I got passed by a fishing boat that was trawling. Behind the boat was a flock of perhaps 1,000 sea gulls. I'm not sure how the boat raised food for the birds, but they were feeding somehow. The gulls landed in the wake of the boat, then sat feeding on something. Then, when the boat was nearly a mile ahead, they took off and flew to catch up to the boat and land once again. Their was a continuous line of gulls, not quite single file, stretching at least a mile behind the boat. The line of gulls followed the path of the boat's wake perfectly. Quite a site.

I also saw a helicopter making repeated trips to the so-called Dry Salvage Islands about two miles off Cape Ann. It was obviously delivering some cargo to the island. My guess is that the cargo was wet concrete. The chopper dragged a bucket, and it paused less than 30 seconds at each end of the trip. It was very efficient, taking only 3 minutes and 10 seconds for each round trip. At 19 trips per hour, the cost of delivering a bucket of concrete to the island could be reasonable even with the high operating cost of a chopper.

I recently published some political comments about Sarah Palin on this blog, and I got a few feedback comments which I just published. I regret posting my comments on this blog. Sure I have political opinions and passions just like everyone else, but this blog is not the appropriate place to vent them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fair Weather Sailors

Isles of Shoals
N 42 58.695 W 70 36.649

We set out this morning bound for Marblehead, about 30 nm away. The weather called for an afternoon cold front passage with thunderstorms, but otherwise 5-10. When we got out there it was blowing much harder. We had 23 knots of wind, directly on our nose. The short chop resonated with Tarwathie's pitching and slowed us down to less than 2 knots. I decided to sail, so we raised main and jib. Even with those, we weren't able to to more than 3 knots made good. I calculated that we probably
wouldn't arrive before dark, and thus might not get a mooring. Anchoring is not allowed in Marblehead. Then there were the thunderstorms, some of which could be severe, and the NOAA radio saying that winds would increase to 25-30. "Enough," said the captain, "We're turning back."

At least that's the best rationalization I could come up with. Although true, I think the real reason is that I've become a fair weather sailor. I no longer enjoy beating to windward against strong winds and choppy seas. I longed instead to get back to a place where I could have a nice nap after lunch. Is that despicable, or understandable?

As it turns out, two severe storms came, one south of us in Plymouth, and one north of us in Penobscot Bay. Tomorrow we're supposed to have sunny weather and NW 10-15, that's much more pleasant for southbound cruisers.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sadly, Southward

Isles Of Shoals, New Hampshire
N 42 58.760 W 70 36.797

Well we left Maine. The Maine border is about 100 feet behind us as we anchor for the night. A year ago today, we were preparing to leave Lake Champlain for another trip southward. I predict that we'll come back to Maine again and next time we'll stay longer and explore even more places. It is a place exceptionally rich with unique places and great nature.

The trip down the Saco River this morning was a bit adventuresome. Our paper charts show nothing about navigation on this river. Our Lowrance GPS does show depths. However, today the GPS charted data and the actual depths seemed wildly at odds. We left at peak ebb current, and those currents were swift indeed. Four times as we came down the river the water got so shallow that I feared running aground. The hazard is increased in a swift current because one can't stop or slow down the boat very
fast. In each case, I had to guess whether turning more to port or to starboard would lead us to deeper water. In any case, we made it without an actual grounding. Oh by the way, the scenery along the was was spectacular. I recommend the Saco River and the City of Saco for cruisers. Just don't attempt it at low tide.

Today, before supper, we arrived here at Gosport, Isles of Shoals. We've been here before, but today for the first time I went ashore and explored the Island. The most prominent feature here is an enormous resort hotel. It is owned by some religious group, I don't know witch. The island itself is stark in its austerity and beauty. It's actually the perfect place for a religious retreat. After several days of such beauty and austerity, one could hardly help but to turn one's thoughts to the
meaning and purpose of life. There were only a dozen or so resort guests that I saw today. If their attendance stays at that level, the resort can't last long. If you're interested in a magnificent spot for a spiritual retreat or the most relaxing vacation imaginable, I recommend this place. You should be able to Google it for details.

On the radio news today I continue hearing the liberal Democrats continue their amazingly mean-spirited and viscous attacks on Sarah Palin. It is really shocking. Those people sound just a hate-driven as the Klu Klux Klan was. As I listen to that stuff, my mind keeps remembering a phrase that I invented to describe Alan Chartock's fund raising rhetoric for WAMC in Albany, NY. I used to call it hate-based-public-radio.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Visit

Saco, Maine

Last night's "hurricane" turned out to be a non event. We had about 5 hours of heavy rain. The wind never blew more than 12 knots. That was it. This morning, the sky was blue again. On the other hand, if we put out to sea today it would be very bumpy because off shore Hanna blew a lot harder and it stirred up the seas.

Today we had a very nice visit from my cousin Brian and his dad, my Uncle Art. They drove up from Portsmouth to see us and to spare Libby and I the need to deal with the river in Portsmouth with Tarwathie. The Piscataqua River had very fast currents and navigation is tough.

Art is 93, and he's not what he used to be. However, he is still alert and fun loving and nice to be with. Brian is a real gentleman and always fun to be with. Two years ago, we all met at Brian's camp.

Since the visit, I've been walking around Saco and Biddeford. What a nice city Saco is. It is filled with beautiful historic residence and commercial buildings; most in excellent shape. It would be fun to learn more of the history of Saco. Also, it is not a tourist trap like so many other places in Maine. If you visit Maine, I recommend Saco.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Adventures Ashore + The Sailor's Toolbox

Saco, Maine

We met up with our friend Gerry today. Gerry and Phyllis come to this area every year on vacation. It just happened to be a happy coincidence that we met up this year. The unlucky part is that Phyllis was under the weather and didn't join us.

Gerry knows a lot about this area, so he gave us a tour by land. We drove up to South Portland and saw Portland Head Light. Then we drove to Portland to go to the Portland Public Market. Alas, the Portland Public Market doesn't exist any more. We went to the farmer's market instead.

Then we drove down the coast, South Portland, Saco, Kennebunkport and all the way to Kittery. It made for a fun day.

On the weather front, Hanna is expected to pass over us tonight, but maximum winds should be no more than 35 knots here. No problem. We spoke to Ray and Pat aboard Reflection today. They fled up the Chesapeake away from Hanna and were holed up in Baltimore's inner harbor. That sounds safe. June and Chris on Albion were still in Marathon in the Florida Keys as far as we know. Haven't been able to raise them by cell phone today. Perhaps that means that they evacuated before Ike arrives.

This is proving to be quite a year for storms.

The other day, as I pulled out my tool box to fix something, I realized that I can't remember a day ever on Tarwathie when I haven't reached for a tool. No doubt there were such days that I don't remember. Nevertheless, the point remains. If you want to be a cruising sailor, you better choose your tools carefully and be ready to use them often. If you have to pay other people to fix things for you, the cost is ruinous. And believe me, things break all the time on a cruising sailboat. It
has nothing to do with age. It is because we own very few things and we use them so intensively. That means those things wear out and break on an accelerated schedule. Some day I'll write a blog about what tools and spare parts I have on board.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Saco River

Biddeford, Maine

We like rivers. Today we sailed up the Saco River to Biddeford. What a pretty trip it was.

Maine continues to impress me with how much there is. We have seen only a tiny portion of the Maine Coast. There are 3,300 miles of coast line here. That compares to 6,000 in the Chesapeake and 4,000 in North Carolina.

We're holed up here for two days until Hurricane Hanna (or tropical storm Hanna) passes.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jewel II

Jewel Island
N 43 41.274 W 70 05.469

We decided to spend a few more days to enjoy Casco Bay with this spendid weather. We're back at Jewel Island. This island is so nice, that it's hard to imagine any of the other ones being nicer.

The cliffs on the edge of this island are of some kind of very hard stone. It could be granite, but I think of shist or flint instead. The stone flakes. Bushes along the tops are rose hips. Millions of rose hips. The trees are very big and very old.

I hiked today to the south end of the island. I climbed the two big lookout towers. In WWI and WWII, Jewel Island was set as a defense post against German U boats. They actually fired on a U boat one day. The tallest tower is 7 stories high and the view from the top is great. On the ground are numerous ruins of buildings. I also found a circular gun mount for a very large gun, perhaps 14 or 16 inch gun. It reminds me of the movie, The Guns of Navaronne. I also found underground passages to
the ammunition magazines. It was very interesting for me as an engineer to see how the magazine passages are designed to conduct blasts away from other munitions, and how there are places for people to duck in to in order to survive a passing blast wave. Boy, that's a scary thought having to make use of those in an emergency.

We were here last week with Nick, but I couldn't motivate Nick to come ashore with me to explore. Too bad, he would have loved the things I found today.

Tropical storm Hannah is supposed to pass here Saturday night. We're looking for a safe place to put up for that night. We're also going to meet our friends Gerry and Phyllis on Saturday and to meet my cousin Brian in Portsmouth, NH next week, and to pick up my sister Nancy in Marblehead after that. Nancy will sail to Cape Cod with us. We've really had a great year with family and friends.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Jake and Sheila

On Tuesday we spent the day with Jake and Sheila. They are the parents of Christian and Christian is the significant other of our daughter Jennifer.

Ireally hate that phrase significant other, or even worse, the vernacular SO. I can’t pronounce it sew. I can’t pronounce it sow. The Swedes have a much better word: sambo. It has the same meaning as SO. Sambo translates to live in. It is an excellent word. However, due to American cultural differences, the last thing in the world that we can do is to run around calling people sambos.

Jake and Sheila are Mainers. They live near Portland now, and they know the area from the point of view of sailors. The four of us sailed north in Casco Bay past Falmouth. Those waters were as familiar to Jake and Sheila as Lake Champlain is to us. The winds were very light but we had a good time.

In the evening Jake and Sheila gave us a little tour of the area by car, and then treated us to dinner. Thank you Jake and Shelia; we had a great day.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Compliment for Mom

I'll share with you part of an email that our son Dave sent from Fairbanks. Libby is walking on the ceiling from the superb compliment she got from Dave.

Please, please, please don't vote McCain in November. Sarah Palin is BEST thing that has ever happened to this state and we don't want to loose her. IF however you feel compelled to vote for the best then it's an easy choice. I can't stress enough how much we love her.

The very first thing she did on taking office was sell on EBAY the Gulfstream jet that her predecessor bought for himself on the states tab. She bullied the oil companies to start building a gas pipeline (the largest construction project ever in North America) to the lower 48 that no governor or legislature has been able to do for the last 15 years. She is absolutely transparent and holds everyone in her government to the same standard.

She does NOT teach creationism in Alaska schools, that's just crap, don't know where people got that, and her pro life stance is personal, she has never tried to push the issue and I bet one day ago not 5% of Alaskans could have told you if she was pro life or choice.

She is absolutely 100% a class act and she's sharp as a whip. Basically she's mom.

Tourists In Portland on Labor Day

Portland, Maine

We're back from our trip to return Nick to his family. It was fun having him. He had fun too and surely has a lot of new experiences to tell his family and friends about.

We also visited my sister Marilyn. We hadn't seen her in more than a year, and she had been complaining about how much she missed us.

The weekend side trip was much more expensive than we expected. $180 for the mooring rental, $200 for the Avis car, $120 for fuel, $50 for taxis, then food en route. Quicker than we thought, we spent $600.

Today, we decided to stay on in Portland to see what we could see. After all, we haven't been to Portland before and it is supposed to be a really nice city. Portland is the home town of our cruising friend June and she speaks warmly of this place.

Unfortunately, we didn't reckon with the Labor Day. I returned the Avis car to the airport, then after waiting a half hour for the bus, I learned that buses don't run on labor day. It cost me $20 to get back in a taxi. Libby joined me and we walked around downtown Portland. Oh no, on Labor Day everything in Portland is closed. The stores, the restaurants, and the public buildings are all closes. The only thing we found was an L.L. Beans outlet store, and the bagel shop where I'm writing this blog. We couldn't find anything else to do, so we're returning to the boat.

Being relaxed and adjusted to the cruising life means, among other things, that one doesn't pay much attention to the calendar. Oh well, there are exceptions to that rule and today was one of them.