Monday, October 29, 2012

Mystery solved

New Bern, NC

Wow! I'm amazed at the encyclopedia like knowledge of my readers. See below.

[regarding the mystery object in the photo from my previous post]

It is the 1 and 1/2" outlet that comes with a Y valve for a holding tank. It is the same brand that I have on my boat. I don't remember the brand but they come with a 2" and a 1 1/2". Hope This Helps
Bruce S/V Mosquito Coast
Bruce is exactly right. I did indeed buy a new Y-valve this year.


By the way, most of the rain and wind for Hurricane Sandy have subsided. The surge of about 4 feet also subsided. Our thoughts now are for those poor people to the north of us.

On the news this morning, the HMS Bounty, a three masted sailing ship sunk off Hatteras. Recue operations are under way. The question I and other boaters have is what the heck was it doing out there? We al had plenty of warning.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mystery Parts

New Bern, NC

Don't you hate it when you put something back together and find that you have parts left over that you can't identify?

Don't you really really hate it when you find a screw or a nut underneath the engine or up on the deck of the boat that you can't identify?

Here's a third variation.  I was searching for stuff in our spare parts bin when I found the object in the picture below.  It is a very fancy piece of plastic.  It has a complex shape.  It has a rubber o-ring near the end.  Clearly it was designed for some highly specific task.  It appears to be very new, not covered with dust or grease like most things in my spare parts bin.  The trouble is that I have no memory of ever seeing it before, nor any idea of what it is for, nor how it got on board the boat or in the spare parts bin.

Libby wouldn't put it there as a joke, but perhaps I should start believing in gremlins.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Future Shock?

New Bern, NC

A luxury of staying at this marina is the free Starbucks Coffee and free WSJ to read in the hotel lobby every morning. It is quite decadent. But on Wednesday, I was sitting there sipping my second cup of coffee when I realized that it didn't taste very good. "What's up," I thought, "Starbucks coffee is supposed to be the best." Indeed, I remember drinking a cup in the Fort Meyers, Fl Starbucks 3-4 years ago that was superbly good. Why wasn't this coffee equally good?

Then i realized that I was applying the wrong standard. Not just a standard of quality, but nearly absolute uniformity. We bought an iPad this year. It is one of millions Apple sold. It is identical to all other such iPads. It was perfect right out of the box. In fact, the idea of getting a lemon iPad is preposterous in this modern world. I was trying to apply that standard to coffee brewing too. Whoops inappropriate.

Years ago, we lived in the analog world (contrasted with today's digital world). Nothing was uniform in the analog world. Even if you bought top quality, a Cadillac car for example, it may have been a Monday Cadillac, or a Friday Cadillac. We didn't expect it to be perfect as delivered. Instead, we expected the dealer to tweak it as necessary to deliver the quality we paid for. No mater what the product, in the analog world there was no such thing as absolute uniformity. In today's digital world, we still have varying quality but we receive, and have come to expect nearly absolute uniformity, in goods if not services.

Not only that, but things that are imperfect are not tweaked, they are discarded. If your pone doesn't work, get a new one. If your TV stops working, don't look for a TV repairman (hardly any exist any more). If your watch battery dies, it would cost less money and much less hassle to buy a new one than try to get a new battery installed in your old watch.

I also got caught by modern attitudes in retailing this morning. I had a flat tire on my bike. This bike is 2-3 years old. I bought it at Walmart for $79. It is very rusty, having been soaked by salt spray when we are out at sea. The fender struts rusted away and I improvised new ones from coat hangers. Libby asked about the other tire, but I said "it could last a while longer.": The mistake I made was to go to the bike specialty shop only 300 yards away for a new tire. I paid $30 for a new tire, plus $5 for a new tube at the bike store (old school) Walmart (new school) would have sold it for half that price. Then it hit me. for the price of two such tires I could have bought a whole new bicycle at Walmart. It was economic nonsense for me to invest so much money repairing my bicycle.

Holy mackerel, things are changing more rapidly that I had realized. Will my grandchildren live to see the day when cars and houses become not economically repairable? That sounds preposterous to me, but until today I would have said that it was preposterous for bicycles too.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Eliminate Argentina

New Bern, NC

South America seems to be about the only place they eliminate from the possibilities of Hurricane Sandy's path.   One model predicts a hit on New Bern, one on Savannah River then Minneapolis, one on Rome, NY, one on Vermont, one that makes a complete loop around the midwest, and one that misses North America altogether.

All these weather models are like the problem of the man with two watches.  With one watch he knew what time it is, but with two watches he never knew the time.  With N weather models, it is the same problem on steroids.   The forecasters can always claim that at least one of their forecasts was correct.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

New Bern, NC

Hurricane Sandy is headed our way.  It's track is very uncertain, but it seems most likely that it will pass far enough east of New Bern that we will see no severe weather.   Even if it comes close, winds will be from the North and these docks are well sheltered behind nearby 4 story buildings that block North winds.

The good news isn't for everyone.   Look below at the forecast for Abacos, Bahamas.  Our hearts go out to those poor people there.  They'll get 72 hours of misery.

*Marine Forecast For Abacos ~ Updated ~ Thursday, October 25, 2012 5:00:59 AM
tstormsOvercast with thunderstorms, then rain in the afternoon. High of 79F. Winds from the ENE at 35 to 50 mph. Chance of rain 90% with rainfall amounts near 0.4 in. possible.
Thursday Night
nt_rainOvercast with rain. Fog overnight. Low of 72F. Winds from the NNE at 60 to 70 mph. Chance of rain 100% with rainfall amounts near 2.5 in. possible.
rainOvercast with a chance of rain. High of 88F. Winds from the NW at 45 to 55 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Friday Night
nt_rainOvercast with rain, then a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 75F. Winds from the West at 65 to 70 mph. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.
chancerainOvercast with a chance of rain. High of 82F. Winds from the WNW at 50 to 65 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Saturday Night
nt_chancerainPartly cloudy with a chance of rain. Low of 73F. Winds from the WNW at 35 to 45 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
partlycloudyPartly cloudy in the morning, then clear. High of 81F. Windy. Winds from the NW at 30 to 35 mph.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Project List, First Draft

New Bern, NC

Here is the first draft of our boat project list. It is still a work in progress. In fact, since printing the list below, we added new items 53-70. No doubt the list will grow to 100 items before we are done.

This morning I completed #18 and #7. Libby is mostly through with #32, #45, and #70.

Yesterday I ordered materials for #30, the non-skid deck resurfacing. Just the materials cost $300; yikes! Ithink that is the biggest of the projects.

ITEM Who Date Started Date Finished
1 anchor pipe replacement Dick 10/19/10 10/19/10
2 Bowsprit & Boomkin paint Dick

3 Bowsprit nut replace Dick

4 Buy a car Both

5 Buy diesel Jerry can Dick 10/19/10
6 Buy stuffing box nut for the head? Dick

7 cabin table piano hinge Dick

8 Canvas – bimini Libby

9 Canvas – cockpit cushions Libby

10 Canvas – dodger Libby

11 Canvas – Jerry cans Libby

12 Canvas – mainsail cover Libby

13 Canvas – tiller cover Libby

14 Clean & paint engine compartment Dick

15 Clean & wax hull Libby

16 Clevis Pins, furler & monitor Dick

17 Furler line cleat Dick

18 Install speakers Dick

19 Interior paint Libby

20 Interior varnish Libby

21 Inventory & prune tools Dick

22 Inventory spare parts Both

23 Linoleum, galley Dick

24 Monitor rehab? Dick

25 Monitor sell? Dick

26 Mount wiring box in the head Dick

27 new cartridges, life harnesses Dick

28 new horn? Dick

29 New lifelines Dick

30 Non-skid Dick

31 organize nav table stuff Dick

32 Polish stainless Libby 10/17/12
33 Re-bed the turtle Dick

34 Repair caprail & hull Dick

35 Repair or Replace Wash-down Pump Dick

36 Repair radar Dick

37 Rewire VHF-AM/FM Dick

38 Rubbing compound, exterior white Libby

39 Sail – clean & mend jib Dick

40 Sail – clean & mend mainsail Dick

41 Sail – clean staysail Libby

42 Sand & Varnish all exterior Both

43 Sell old transmission Dick

44 Take stuff to Dave's Both

45 Wash exterior teak Libby 10/17/12
46 Washer for new transmission dipstick Dick

47 Whisker Pole Dick

48 Toilet stuffing box nut Dick

49 Offload stuff to Dave's house Dick

50 Buy paint supplies Dick 10/20/12
51 Buy solar panel Dick 10/20/12
52 Install solar panel Dick


New Bern, North Carolina

By training and by experience I'm an electrical engineer.  Not only that, but my engineering was more on the theoretical side of things as opposed to the hands-on stuff.  I sat for decades in my ivory tower with my computers and did my thing.   But on the boat there is little need for an electrical engineer.  I'm forced to demote myself to electrician.

Whew, I had no idea that an electrician's work could be so hard.  I worked all day yesterday installing new speakers, and I'll need all day today to finish.  I'll explain.

First some background.  We have an AM/FM/MP3 radio on board for entertainment and local radio.  We bought it from West Marine.  I wanted a marine model made with metal and materials that would not rot in the salt environment.  We got that, but this sucker also came with a remote control that we don't want.  Worse, to allow the remote control to turn the radio on remotely, this thing draws 1.2 amps of power 24x7 while it is turned off.  That would increase our total energy budget for the boat by 40%.   To avoid that, I have to turn off the circuit breaker cutting power to the radio.  But doing that makes it lose memory of all the preset channels.  Sigh -- bad design.

Anyhow, I set out yesterday to do two things.  First, to rewire the DC power to the radio.  It had been piggybacking on the power leads for the VHF radio and GPS.  That's a bad practice, and I shouldn't have done it.  Worse, with that 1.2 amp standby power draw, it doubled the hourly power consumption of VHF/GPS while at sea.  My first job was to run a new wire from the radio back to the power distribution panel, and to put it on it's own circuit breaker.  

The second job was to install some new speakers.  I'm ashamed to say that I bought speakers two or three years ago and they have been sitting in the V-berth ever since waiting for me to install them.  Tsk.  Tsk.

Now for the rub.  Pulling wires though walls and other invisible places is a dirty difficult job which electricians have to do.  Engineers never even think of such things.  On a boat, it is 1000% more difficult.  On a live-aboard boat with every cubby filled with stuff it is 10000% more difficult.  Pulling wires is what turned this two hour job into a two day job.  I'm only 60% done.  However I've seen places on Tarwathie that I've never seen before.

Boy that ivory tower looks good in retrospect. :-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day Sail

New Bern, NC

One of the benefits of wintering here is easy access to the Neuse River and day sailing.  Unless it is very rough, or very cold, the Neuse is a nice place for easy day sails.  I've blogged before that I'm a bit dismayed that as cruisers, we have lost the pleasures of day sails.   Cruisers are always going from place A to place B.

Yesterday, George and Carol took us for a day sail on their boat Traumeri.  It was very nice.  Gentle winds, and comfortably warm inside their enclosed cockpit.   Libby and I were both surprised at how much more comfortable it was with an enclosed cockpit.   Libby also tried a hand at the helm.  She didn't do well.  Libby has become so accustomed to a tiller, and a heavy boat with full keel and skeg rudder, that she was caught off guard. She oversteered with the wheel, and Traumeri slewed all over the place.  The rest of us all had a laugh at her expense.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here is the story.  Boats like Tarwathie are optimized for so-called blue water sailing.  That means ocean crossings.  Several factors go into blue water design, but the biggest one is that the boat design is optimized for going in a straight line.  At sea, one typically steers a straight line for weeks at a time.  It helps a lot if the boat holds a straight course by itself.  The design tradeoff is a very big turning radius and a slow response to steering.  Racing boats and light weight boats, by contrast can turn on a dime and are very responsive to steering.  The downside is that they won't hold a straight course easily without use of that steering.

Thanks much George and Carol.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Down, Umpteen to go

New Bern, North Carolina

We haven't finished our to-do list yet. I'll publish it when we do. Nevertheless, I finished at least one project.

We have a deck pipe in the bow under the windlass for anchor chain. From the deck, one simply lowers the chain into the pipe and it disappears. On our primary anchor, Betty, we have 220 feet of chain. Down below there is a chain locker under the v-berth to hold all that chain. All that chain is very heavy, so it should be stored as low, and as close to the boat's center of gravity as possible. Therefore, the lower chain locker is 3 feet lower and 3 feet aft of the deck pipe. There is a chain pipe system to connect the two. On Tarwathie, the pipes were made of sch 40 PVC. It was comprised of a series of rigid pipes, elbows, and a floor flange, all held together with screws.

You can see part of the pipe angling down in the middle of the V-berth in the picture below. Behind the wall is the forward chain locker (for the rope/chain danforth anchor rode) Under the cushions is the lower chain locker. The steep angle assures that the chain feeds itself down by gravity.

Recently, we started having trouble with the chain getting stuck in the pipe. Investigation showed that friction from the chain had worn grooves in the plastic pipe. In several places the grooves cut all the way through sothat the pipes were U shaped rather than round. They all had to be replaced.
Above: I decided to use PVC flexible pipe to replace it, rather than rigid pipes and elbows. I found this 10 foot by 2 inch piece of flex pipe on EBay for $30. No elbows, no screws needed.
Above: you see the underside of the deck with the old damaged pipe. See the chain inside the pipe.
Above: parts of the damaged pipes after removal. The brown is mud. The chain is usually muddy when put away. The chain had been getting stuck in those grooves.

Above: the underside of the deck with the new flex pipe in place. I was able to keep the old flange.

Above : The last step was to add a short elbow on the bottom end and a strap to hold the bendy pipe in the middle of the locker. You can see the pile of chain underneath in the lower chain locker. The view is from the V-berth.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Local Delight

New Bern, NC

We haven't seen amateur theater for a while, so when I spotted a play bill today I bought some tickets for Friday's performance of "Bugsy Malone" .    Libby and I walked 4 blocks to the Masonic Theater, and waited for the show to start.

Surprise!  It was indeed amateur theater, but the cast was entirely comprised of children age 6-16.   What a delight!  This was not like a school play; it was much better. What a great job these kids did; they are already on the road to being professional thespians!  What fun it must have been for those young girls to dress up as 1920's flappers and strut their stuff!

The River Towne Players, is a local institution.

We had a great time.  Throughout the show, I kept thinking of our youngest granddaughters Victoria and Katelyn.  Boy would they have had fun being a part of something like that.

Unfortunately I could not take pictures during the show.  Below is a picture I snagged from their web site.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Advice Sought

Hancock Creek
34 56.22 N 076 51.48 W

One of the biggest projects I plan to do this winter is to resurface the top decks.  Regular readers know that I've completely bungled the non-skid areas of the deck.  I've resurfaced them 5 times now, and we are left with two major problems.  1) Adhesion.  The paints keep flaking off.  2) Dirt.  The aggressive non-skid properties of the paint attract and hold dirt and are impossible to clean.

I realize now that what I should have done was to resurface the gel-coat on the non-skid areas.  But now it is too late.  Too much sanding has occurred   I need to sand it down to bare glass and to resurface it.  I would also like to put a new overcoat on the smooth areas too for better cosmetics.

There are two approaches.  1) Use special deck mat materials glued on. For example seadek 2) Put down new gelcoat, using waffle patterns for non-skid areas.

With the mats, I worry about the edges if the matting does not cover everything.  There  might be a tendency for the edges to curl up.  I also don't know about ease of cleaning.

With the gelcoat I worry about my lack of skill and experience working with this sensitive material.  However, a nice high gloss gelcoat surface is by far the easiest to keep clean.  Advice from readers would be much appreciated.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thanks for the Comments

Hancock Creek
34 56.22 N 076 51.48 W

Thank you for the many warm supporting comments to yesterday's blog.

I promise.  I'll keep the blog going in some form.  Perhaps not as often but I'll try to keep it interesting and fresh.

Did you know that in the sidebar on the right there is a place for you to subscribe to this blog via email?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stand Down

Hancock Creek
34 56.22 N 076 51.48 W

We're spending a couple of days visiting with our friends Jeff & Wendy and their W32 Calypso on our way to New Bern.   Jeff & Wendy are leaving for The Bahamas this weekend.   For us, the goal is different.  It's time for me to fess up on a decision we made last summer but not reported on the blog until now.

We plan to spend the winter in New Bern, NC.   Next spring, we'll put Tarwathie up on the hard for several months to let her dry out.  While she's on the hard, we'll do a bit of land cruising with a car and camping gear.  All in all, it will be roughly a one year break in our normal north-south cruising routine.   We are not, repeat not, abandoning the cruising life. We couldn't afford the non-cruising life permanently anyhow.  We're just going to take a break after 2,743 consecutive days of non-stop cruising.

The motivation of this decision came last summer up on Lake Champlain.  I grew alarmed at the frequency of mistakes, blunders, and the pile up of maintenance problems.   Some of those blunders, but not all were reported on this blog.   The trend forced me to introspect.  No single technical cause was behind all those things, nor could a tweak or bright idea solve them.   I finally decided that the common problem was that too often our heads were on land while we were on the water.  We had become complacent and overconfident.  Pilots have a similar expression about those whose heads are on the ground while they are up in the air.   The remedy for a chronic problem like that is to stand down temporarily.  

Stand down is a military term, I think.   It means stopping what you normally do and to focus on retraining of some kind.  For us, it means more of a break in routine.   We'll catch up on those maintenance projects, and we'll do some of those land-based things.  In theory, we'll return to cruising next near refreshed and hopefully renewed vigilance and caution regarding boat operations.

A side story played out this week. had the news that a marina near Brunswick, Georgia was seeking a dockmaster.   The job brought with it use of an apartment on-site.  That would fit our needs very well.  Boat projects, especially interior projects are much easier if you have someplace else to sleep.  We got to the point where we were about to rent a car and drive to Brunswick for an interview.   However, the travel expenses would have been $700 or more, so we asked more questions first.  We learned that to make it work we would have to invest in a vehicle, and furnishings for that apartment.  It didn't make sense, so we declined.

We also considered wintering at the City Dock in Charleston, SC, or further south in Florida.  New Bern fits us better.  That is it fits provided that the coming winter is not terribly cold.  I worry about the cold.   We are both adapted to perpetual warm after 7.5 years full time cruising.

What about this blog?   I know that many readers of this blog do so because they never know what new adventures that crazy Dick & Libby may have found today.  I'll do my best.  I won't write about boring things just to make a daily post, but adventures will be fewer and further between.  Perhaps I'll take a different approach and write more cruising guides and/or advice for would-be cruisers.   I'll welcome suggestions from readers as to what they would like to have me write.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Alligator-Pungo Wildlife

The Pungo River
35 31.29 N 076 33.90 W

The Alligator River and Pungo Canal are VERY remote parts of North Carolina. The waters are surrounded by swampland. Highway bridges cross the waterway about once every 20 miles. No houses, farms or structures are visible. No cell phone signals.

 It can also be very beautiful. We had a great sunset last night and a spectacular pre-dawn scene this morning. Today the wind is still so the waters make a reflecting pool. It was fun going down the Alligator-Pungo canal becuase we could peer at the shores and into the woods looking at the detail. Part of the reason why we like cruising on rivers is that one is closer to shore and sees more detail.

I thought that on such a calm day we would see alligators, turtles and fish. Nope; not a one. Nor did we see deer or bear or a snake. Nor did we see any soaring birds or even gulls. The only animals we saw were one kingfisher, two cormorants and one horse fly. That is curious. I would expect such a remote are unspoiled by man, to be thriving with wildlife. It if was there, it wasn't visble to us. One thing, the animals do not need to come to the shore to drink water. They can stay deep in the swamp and drink the same water.

Even though there is a paucity of wildlife, we are still surrounded by Quebecois. It seems that 2/3 of the sailboats we see are from Montreal. One must give them credit -- they really love their boats and they really use their boats.

Pre-dawn on The Alligator River

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Elizabeth City Rocks

Abemarle Sound
36 04.66 N 076 00.80 W

As always, Elizabeth City was a pleasure.  We went to a Rose Buddies wine&cheese party sponsored by the CofC and Steve, the former mayor.  We showered, we laundried, we took in some local color.

Here's a charming illustration of how niece Elizabeth City is.  On Friday afternoon, the police started barricading the downtown streets and Eringhouse, the main commercial thoroughfare. I thought it must be preparations for a parade so I sought out a city truck to ask about it.  The man in the truck said, "No, it is not a parade.  There is a Ghost Walk tour going on tonight and i those people over there in the cemetery are listening for the sounds of ghost voices.  They can't hear the voices over the noise of traffic."  Can you imagine Mayor Bloomberg of NYC closing Times Square to make it easy to hear ghost voices?  In NYC and any other city we know, no, but in Elizabeth City, yet.

We left there this morning, headed down the ICW toward Oriental and New Bern.   Our plans for the near future are all in a tizzy.  We'll keep you posted.
Maybe no Internet, no blog on Sunday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Interesting Sights

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

36 18.81 N 076 13.10 W

Today is laundry and hot showers day for the crew of Tarwathie. I thought I would post two of the more interesting things we've seen along the way recently.


This is the rooftop garden on the airport parking lot building in South Burlington, Vermont, near Jen's house. Jen and Libby are inspecting it. The garden is very pretty and seemingly free from the need for maintenance. Very skillful gardening suitable for the application. Maybe Jen will comment telling us the species.



That car with the Jerilea Zempel Homeland Security Blanket is certainly strange and curiious. We found it beside the public dock in Athens, NY. Google it to learn the strange and curios story behind it.

P.s. reader Summer Wind Suggests that we take a side trip to Edenton. We were there once before. It is a jewel. I think maybe we will do that tomorrow.


Thursday, October 11, 2012


North Carolina Visitors Center
36 30.41 N 076 21.35 W
I was surprised to find the following in my inbox today.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Thank You George Washington": 

While your're at the NC Visitors Center please remove your graffiti from the benches.    Please don't spoil it for the rest of us. 
Posted by Anonymous to Dick and Libby's Tarwathie Cruising Log at 10/11/2012 7:20 AM
Here's the back story.   In Marathon, they started a cool tradition.  They have multiple signposts where cruisers can hang their personal signs.   It has become part of the local culture. Indeed, our friend Dick DeGrasse used a photo of the signposts on the cover of his new book Short Stories.  You can even see Tarwathie's sign above Dick's Head.

I thought it would be cool to spread that to all our favorite cruising spots. If others did it too, it would be fun to see the names of friends who had passed that way.  We bought a dozen oval stickers saying Tarwathie Was Here.   We haven't done well in placing them; I keep forgetting to place the stickers until after we depart.  After three years of visits to all 12 places, we only placed 5 of the stickers.

At this Visitor's Center last year, I had a hard time finding a suitable out of the way place to put a sticker.  I finally put it on a park bench near the water. It never occurred to me that anyone would view those stickers as graffiti or react negatively.  I apologize to Anonymous and others who may be offended.  The sticker on the bench is gone.

On a lighter note.  I normally don't re-post news items in this blog, but I'll make an exception today because this one is too rich to forego.

The Emperor's New Tone - ""A local teen's horseback riding lesson ended abruptly after she was hit in the head by a foot-long hunk of raw chicken that fell out of a cloudless sky," the Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., reports from Assawoman, Va. (yes, that's a real place):

Fortunately, what hit Cassie Bernard was the smallest of three or more poultry parts that rained down on Queen Hive Farm around 6 p.m. Wednesday as owner Jennifer Cording was giving a lesson to a group of advanced students while several parents looked on.

"Three objects fell out of the sky in front of us, two larger and one quite small," Cording said.
The chicken is falling! The chicken is falling! It reminds us of a children's story--you remember, the one about the wolf who cried boy."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thank You George Washington

En Route, The Great Dismal Swamp Canal
36 42.91 N 0776 21.16 W

My, the contrast is striking.  Just yesterday I wrote of being terrorized out in the harsh sea.  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, we're surrounded by supreme tranquility, beauty and security of the Dismal Swamp Canal (DSC) and the Pasquotank River.

Last night, we had dinner at La Famila Restaurant in Deep Creek.  It was excellent.  It was our first time there, despite having spent many nights nearby.  The reason was that we heard early that it was a terrible and unsanitary dive.  That scared us away.  Since then, though we heard more and more reports from cruisers saying the opposite; that it was nice.  We are happy to learn that the later reports were correct.

This morning, Libby went out to gather pine needles.  She knows of two trees near the Elizabeth Docks that have, "luscious" needles.  Now she's at the level where she seeks out individual trees, not just species.  Today, we'll be at the NC Visitor's Center.   We used to think of that as Ground Zero for pine needles.  That was before learning of still better places at Deep Creek and at Carolina Beach State Park.

This is our 14'th time through this canal. We love it.  It is our most joyful place in our entire north-south annual migration. Indeed, we have never been through the "main" ICW route which bypasses the canal.  Reportedly, more than 90% of the boaters choose the main route rather than this one.  I believe that it is because they hear reports of sailboats bumping bottom; that the water is too shallow.   We never bumped.  We leave our depth alarm set for 7 feet, and it almost never beeps.  I believe that those stories are false.  Instead of bumping bottom, those boaters bumped short logs floating in the water.  There are many such logs and they go "thump" when they hit the hull. Boats with very tall masts, say 55' or more, must also watch out for overhanging branches.  They are easy to avoid, but it does take a bit of attention to watch overhead and to steer around the lowest branches.

The "main" ICS route also bypasses the Pasquotank River, which in our opinion is the most beautiful place on the whole ICW, and Elizabeth City which is simply a delightful stopping place for cruisers.

Anyhow, I'm glad to keep it they way it is with only 10% of the traffic coming this way.  It would be too crowded if everyone came the DSC route.

The Great Dismal Swamp Canal is a product of George Washington.  General Washington owned huge tracts of swamp land near here.  He figured out that by draining the swamp, those acres could be converted to prime farming land.  He set his slaves to the job with picks and shovels.  They succeeded, and the lands to the east of the canal did indeed become prime farming country.  Most of the land west of the canal remains swamp, so large parts of that ecosystem were preserved.  It seems that we have many things to thank George Washington for.

p.s.  Libby's comment to yesterday's blog was, "If our first offshore passage had been like this one, I would have left the boat and sworn to never sail again."    So once again, we have been lucky.  Most passages are nice, not nasty.  We were fortunate enough to build early experiences with the nice kind.  At least that's the spin I like to use.  In reality, Libby's memory is a bit faulty. or selective.  See the posts, Chesapeake Week from June 2005, and Hammered from November 2005 those were both nasty passages in our first year.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Nasty Passage

Dismal Swamp Canal, Deep Creek, Virginia
36 44.73 N 076 20.47 W

Imagine this.   It was the last offshore leg of our passage.  7 miles heading mostly West from Cape Charles to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  The wind had become fierce blowing 30-35 from the north.  Worse, a frigid rain was falling heavily.   Although we still had an hour of daylight left, visibility dropped to a half mile.  Tarwathie handled fine.  I had a double reefed main, and a small staysail, and the wind was on the beam.  Even with the reduced sail, she heeled over at 30 degrees and plowed through the water at 7 knots.   At first the following waves were big, about 9 feet, but as we entered the bay, they reduced in size.

My biggest fear was missing the entrance, where the bridge becomes a tunnel and where boats could pass over.  If I missed it, we would have a devil of a time making way to windward again to fix it.  There is a second entrance I could have tried as a backup, but if that was missed too, the alternatives would be bleak.  Onward we pressed.  Libby was down below and I shivered in the cockpit, drenched with cold water.  I kept checking the AIS for ship traffic.   Luckily there was none.  The 10 AIS targets within 5 miles were all anchored.  Suddenly, something appeared dead ahead.  It was the entrance right in front of me.  Thank God.  I really really love GPS.

The above was the climatic end of a passage that had more breakdowns, mishaps and close calls than any other I remember.

Up in the Hudson, I restored the wiring that comes apart when we take the mast down.  I was unable to make the wind instrument, or the radar work.

Near Sandy Hook NJ, I struck an unlit buoy at night.  It damaged the teak caprail up near the bow.  It was in a busy area with lots of shoals buoys and range marker towers all around, dangerous to do on a dark night.

We put in for fuel at Atlantic City. We've never been there before, so we learned a new spot.

Cape May, NJ was our decision point for the rest of the passage.  I checked the latest NOAA weather reports.  They continued saying 15-20 knots NW.  I grumbled because they had been saying 15-20 for two days now and we saw only 5-10.  I decided to continue to Norfolk.

6 hours later, I woke from a nap with a feeling that we had too much sail up.  I can't explain how, but I knew.  I went up to relieve Libby.  I found that the wind had increased from 5 to maybe 35.   The wind was dead behind us.   We had only the jib up.  Libby had it sheeted in as tight as drum.  That means that it was showing only a tiny cross section to the wind from astern.  Still we were flying at 7.5-9 knots through the water under control of the autopilot.  White spray was shooting off the sides.  Libby was happy as a clam, thrilled by the high speeds. Oh my God, I thought, if we gybe now, or if the autopilot fails, we'll broach broadside to the wind and the cross section of that sail to the wind will increase 10-fold.  We'll be knocked down in an instant.  Libby didn't realize how precarious our situation was.  I put up the staysail and reefed the jib 90%.   Then we were no longer on the edge of disaster but still we made 6.5 knots.

I relieved Libby but soon after we came to an area with extreme confused waves.  I think it was the outgoing tide from Delaware Bay mixing with the ocean waters.   We were tossed around more violently than ever before in past 7 years.   Libby got sea sick, which left me to single hand it.  Libby wanted help with her sea sickness wrist band at the same time as I was negotiating a close pass with the captain of an incoming ship.   Stuff inside that had been secure for 7 years started flying around.   The shackle at the base of the jib popped open.   The cleat in the caprail where I secure the roller furling line pulled the screws out.   God, what failure would come next.

It only lasted 30 minutes.  Then we passed the confused sea area.  Also the wind slacked quite a bit.  Still, I had to let Libby sleep off the sickness, so I stayed on watch another 6 hours.

I heard a loud noise behind me and we lost steering control.   I checked with the flashlight.  The blade in the water that is part of our Monitor self-steering had broken loose!!! Fortunately, it was tied to the boat with a line, so I was able to pull it on board rather than loosing it.  Also fortunately, the electronic self-steering was able to take over the job.  I had believed that the Monitor would last a lifetime without malfunction.

Despite all that, we completed the passage successfully   After passing through the Bridge-Tunnel around 1830, the rest was easy.   However, I was so pumped on adrenaline that sleep was out of the question.   We continued all the way through the bay, Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, taking advantage of no ship traffic at night and no delays at the bridges.  We had tide against us, but a strong wind behind us and the sails were still up.  We made it all the way past the Gilmerton drawbridge, and tied up for the night at the entrance to the Dismal Swamp Canal at 2330.

64.5 hours from anchor up at Kingston, NY to docked at Deep Creek Virginia.

Today, we are taking a down day.  The tranquility, beauty and security of the Dismal Swamp Canal is the perfect therapy.  By the end of today, I expect my pulse to return to normal.  It is still cold and rainy here today but we don't care.   Tomorrow it is supposed to be sunny and 70+ degrees :-)

Summary: I really really love GPS, and I really really hate the poor quality weather forecasts we are getting from NOAA.  I'll also confess that this passage was not fun -- it was scary.

Monday, October 08, 2012

In Safe From The Sea

Chesapeake Bay


We are inside the bridge-tunnel, 6 miles from the Hampton Roads harbor entrance. What a hairy passage this was. Hair raising! Details tomorrow.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Escape From New York

At Sea
39 34.80 N 074 10.48 W

Well, we made it out to sea again.  We are en route, about 20 miles north of Atlantic City.  But it is not the fast passage I hoped for.  The winds are very light and we manage only 4.2 knots.  Still, we are southbound and will soon find warmer weather we hope.

The passage down the Hudson was really something.  We departed Kingston at 0700, just in time ti pick up an ebb tide.   That tide carried us all the way until mid afternoon.   But then as we passed Stony Point, a NW wind picked up.  Boy it sure did pick up.  A cold front passed, and for about 30 minutes it blew 25-30.  That cleared the river of other small boats pretty quickly.

The best was yet to come,  as we passed under the George Washington Bridge around 1900, the air was warm and very clear.  Manhattan on our left and Hoboken on our right sparkled in the dark.  We were rushing to ride the next ebb tide.  With tide and wind and motor all pushing us the same way we flew.  Passing Harlem we were doing 9.5 knots, and at one point 10.2 knots.  Unbelievable.  It took some fancy maneuvering to avoid all the river traffic and anchored ships, but we were still making 7.5 knots passing through the Verrazano Narrows.  The ebb tide was slackng but we rounded Sandy Hook NJ around 2200 still doing 5.8 knots.   Past there we were frre of the tidal tug.  I shut down the engine, and we sailed along quietly at 4.5 knots.

We can vouch for one thing.  The new One World Trade Center Building is a very prominent landmark.  Even from 20 miles away, it and The Empire State Building seem to anchor each end of the island.

No SSB Internet.  I'm able to post this because we're close to shore and I have a cell signal.  Maybe no blog tomorrow.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Go Right Now!

West Point, NY

41 22.20 N 073 57.43 W


I finally checked for a weather window. WOW, it says leave right away or wait 7-14 days for another window!!! OK, after due consideration, my command decision is to go now.

Actually, now is kind of a fuzzy term in these circumstances. We are still 45 miles from the Verrazano Narrows. We had tide with us all morning, but now it is turning against us. We also have a 15 knot breeze on our nose. We will gets slowed to maybe 3.5 knots. But the wind should shift to NW, and then we can motorsail against the current. My best guess is that we pass Manhattan around midnight.

Hopefully, this could be a repeat of our best passage ever. One year we made it from Poughkeepsie NY to Deltaville VA in 52 hours! We had NW winds like tonight. Offshore winds bring us speed but only little waves; that's ideal.

By the way, we saw a new sight at West Point. The rod of the football stadium says BEAT AIR FORCE. In the river in front of West Point there are a half dozen mega-yachts anchored in 100 feet of water. There are also three NY Water Taxi boats anchored there. Must be something big happening. I wonder what? ;-)

One bad thing about being out on The Hudson on weekends is the number of rude boaters we meet. If one measures rudeness by the number of power boats passing close by at 25 knots, this place rivals Cape May Inlet NJ. The jerks ignore calls on the radio to slow down. They will not even pass 100 feet away. No, they pass 25 feet away throwing up huge wakes. I fantasize about having agin to launch floating rope in front of their paths to foul their propellers and bring them to an abrupt halt.


Friday, October 05, 2012

A Sailboat Once Again

Kingston NY

41 55.12 N 073 57.89 W


Ah, it feels good to be a sailboat once again. The picture shows Tarwathie today at about noon with the mast up. We departed the boat yard at 1330 and we reached this anchorage 5 minutes after sunset. Not bad.

It didn't come easy though. It was a greuling days work. Well sleep well tonight and we will feel the aches tomorrow. Despite having done this a dozen or more times before, I screwed it up. When the mast came vertical hanging from the crane, the bundle of ropes and wires did not sort themselves out. Instead, they formed a snarl 30 feet above our heads. Eventually, we got it sorted out. What a mess!

I continued working as Libby navigated us 20 miles to Kingston. A few more hours of that tomorrow, and we will be nearly shipshape again.

Tomorrow, we will try the longest Hudson leg down to Haverstraw Bay. I should start looking for a weather window right now but we are tired and hungry --- tomorrow will do.

Considering how deep we were in trouble two weeks ago, we've come a long way.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Deck Clutter. To Do List.

En Route, Hudson River

42 44.21 N 073 41.26 W

Welcome back to sea level Tarwathie. We are done with the NY Canal System for this year and back into the world of tides and tidal currents. But still a few days away from salt water.


We will Both be very happy to get the mast back where it belongs. As you can see in the photo above, our top decks are fouled and cluttered in this state. It seems very unseaworthy, which of course it is. It makes both of us uncomfortable, but it is unavoidable with the mast down.

Most inconvenient is the dark red wooden frame that holds the forward end of the mast up. You can see it in the picture. It blocks access to the windlass which makes anchoring with the mast down very awkward. However, on the canals we never need to anchor. Tonight we hope to tie up to the Athens, NY public dock to avoid anchoring again. Tomorrow morning the mast goes back up at Riverview Marine in Catskill.

To finish our preparations to go to sea we have a short list:

  • Leave the red wooden frame behind in Catskill.
  • Honda generator and diesel jerry jug stow away and lash down in the engine compartment.
  • Gasoline jerry jug lashed on deck. Water Jerry jugs have permanent teak chocks and ties to secure them.
  • Dinghy stows under the boom in its own teak chocks.
  • Canvas tarps, drop cloths, and oars stow under the dinghy.
  • Bucket, and docking lines all stow in the lazarette.
  • Danforth anchor detaches and stows in the lazarette. Only Betty, our CQR plow anchor, stays mounted and lashed fast to the bowsprit.
  • Bicycle lashes to the side of the dinghy. Up there it is out of the way of all lines and it does not hinder crew movement.
  • Bolt down the cockpit sole.
  • Mount the wind vane on the Monitor self steering.
  • Raise the lee cloths in cabin bunks.
  • Secure latches on the cabin sole hatches.
  • Rig jacklines port and starboard to clip our harness tethers to. Bring out harness/life jackets and tethers.
  • Prepare a route plan and enter it in the chart plotter. For this passage, we plan to go New York City to Norfolk, Virginia in 48 hours. At the 24 hour mark we pass close to Cape May, NJ and have the option to put in there if necessary. From Cape May, we can choose to go offshore again (the outside route), or go up the Delaware and down Chesapeake Bay (the inside route).
  • Start checking 3 days in advance to find a weather window.
  • Top off the fuel and water tanks.
  • Lash down the outboard motor on its brackets.
  • Lower flags and pennants.
  • Raise the radar reflector.
  • Check function on VHF, AIS, GPS, SSB, and radar. (Whoops, I need to reinstall the airmail software to post blogs with SSB. I had a disc crash this summer. The software allows us to get weather forecasts and to post blogs while at sea. )
  • Do an oil change if within 50 hours of the due time. Check water levels in the batteries. Check filters. Check coolant.
  • Position the boat to a jumping off point; likely the Statue of Liberty or Sandy Hook, NJ.
  • Prepare a big pot of chili or goulash in advance. Those dishes are easy to rewarm, filling, and good. That minimizes fancy cooking while at sea.
  • Since it is October, we will dig out long johns, gloves, wool hats, long pants, flannel shirts and foul weather gear. The only other time we did the Jersey coast in October, it was bitterly cold in the open cockpit at night. (beautiful though; those conditions make lots of photo-luminescent bacteria in the Jersey Shore waters, leaving a glowing train in our wake) Remember, we go only on a north wind. By the time we approach the Chesapeake, it should get warmer.
After writing it, the list does not look short, but it all takes less than an hour to do (except software installs)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Lock 9's Claim To Fame

Waterford, NY

42 47.22 N 073 40.76 W


We made faster time than expected yesterday. We got all the way to Waterford before 1700. We will reprovision today and be on our way tomorrow.

Lock 9, near Fort Ann, is in a very rural location. There is not much remarkable to comment about it. That is except its unique approach to unisex bathrooms below. The signs say hers and his.



Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Happy Travelers

En Route Warmward, Champlain Canal
43 20.48 N 073 30.09 W

We are so happy to be en route once again.   Yesterday around noon the new damper plate arrived.  Kieth Longtin, our trusty mechanic, came down, put everything back together, we made a few adjustment, and everything worked.  No parts left over.   We heartily endorse Kieth to all cruisers who need mechanic services near Whitehall.

We got underway around 3.  The canal locks close at 5 this time of year, but we did make it 13 miles down to Lock 9 before dark.  Lock 9 is  a very rural location, totally quiet and still.

Today we hope to make it as far as Mechanicville and then on Wednesday to Waterford.  Waterford will be our major provisioning stop between now and Deep Creek Virginia.  As you can imagine, our provisions are a bit depleted after 2.5 weeks since visiting a supermarket.

The weather is a bit milder than recent days and the fall colors are beautiful.  That's a side benefit to our delay.  However, the forecast calls for 4 more consecutive days of cold and rain.  In this case though, I don't think it will dampen our spirits.  

Best case scenario, mast up on Friday, Statue of Liberty by Sunday night, and departure for Norfolk on the first window starting Monday morning.  Arrival in Virginia's warm weather, 48 hours after departure.  The wait time for a window though is indeterminate.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Escape From Whitehall

At 1500 today we are underway once again and heading south.  Hip hip hooray!!!  Details tomorrow.

By the way, that is two weeks to the hour since our engine failure.