Sunday, September 28, 2014


The Neuse River, NC
We are sailing to New Bern this morning. Dave will meet us there and take us to his house for a visit. We will leave Tarwathie at the Grand Marina while we are gone.

Of course, family visits are high points of our year. In Florida or in The Bahamas, we see family only. On e in a while. But you must make your choices in life and live with them. The picture below shows Lake Champlain in Vermont today, our choice was to forego seeing that beauty. Too bad.

Forgive me for being uncommunicative lately, I'm still very much rattled by the horrible death of that boater woman. I can't get it out of my mind.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Oriental; Condolences

Oriental. NC
35 01.488 N 076 41.726 W
We pulled in to the new public dock in Oriental this morning.
Normally it is a joyous thing to arrive in Oriental. We like it so much. But today, we heard of the horrible death of a 69 year old woman. and a fellow sailor in this exact spot three days ago. Although we never met, We extend sincere condolences to the family of this woman.
I would love to tell the story as we heard it, but out of respect for the family I won't. They might discover this post via google search and I would. Not want to remind them of a painful memory.
Sometime in the future, I'll tell the story stripped of the name/place/date details. There is a serious safety lesson to be learned.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hunkered Down

Pungo River, Bellhaven, NC
35 31.238 N 076 29.800 W
We haven't posted in several days because whe have been hunkered down and incognito.
We left Elizabeth City on Tuesday (something I regret; bad decision). The weather sounded too rough for the outer bank route and Pamlico Sound, so we followed the ICW down The Alligator River. The winds became very strong and we gladly made the turn at the south end of the river and found a sheltered spot to anchor,
The trouble switch that is that the next day was even rougher, so we stayed put. But what a lousy place to be. We had no cell phone signal, no Internet (boy am I spoiled). Worse, the insects in The Alligator River fly in biblical size swarms. We spent the whole 36 hours with the boat buttoned up tightly without a breath of fresh air.
This morning was calm, but with pea soup dense fog. Oh no; we wanted to leave early. Oh well. We spent some time cleaning insect carcasses from everything above the water line on Tarwathie. When the fog lifted to visibility 100 meters, we left. Thst meant we had to move very slowly and carefully in the narrow dredged channel ipuntil reaching the Alligator-Pungo Canal. In the canal, visibility was adequate to see oncoming boats, and no real navigation was necessary.
We have anchored 5-6 times in The Alligator River and hated it every time. You should avoid it if possible.
P.s. oriental next, then we will try to visit with Jeff&Wendy, then on to New Bern, then off to visit with Dave and Cathy.
We are having engine trouble, but we missed an appointment with a machanic today. We will have to try again later. I'll write more about the trouble later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Uh Oh, Engine Trouble Again

North Carolina

Before departing New York, we stopped in Whitehall to hire our favorite mechanic, Kieth, to do some work for us.  We needed to install a new raw water pump, and to clean the heat exchanger.   He did it, but he screwed up.

During our outside passage, we had to run the engine for 45 hours straight before arriving in Virginia.  Along the way I did a visual check.   I found water in the pan under the engine, but there was no visible signs of leaks.   Worse, the engine and the compartment seemed to be encrusted with salt.  Not being able to remedy it while at sea, I continued running.

Once tied up in the DSC, I inspected closer.   I found that the expansion tank was full of salt water.  Aha,  there must have been salt water leaking from the secondary side of the cooling system to the primary side (where there should be only anitfreeze).  That would not impair the cooling ability short term but it is extremely bad in terms of corrosion.

I drained the salt water,  washed the engine and interior with fresh water, and put in fresh andifreeze (which has lots of anticorrosion stuff.)   However, that does not fix the base problem.  I have no fresh o-rings to redo the heat exchanger installation.   We will stop at Sailcraft in Oriental to have their mechanic do it, and to show me what Kieth did wrong.   I have two more gallons of antifreeze with us, so that each day I can drain water and replentish with antifreeze.   The waters we will be travelling are only brackish, not too salty.

Elizabeth City - We Try Harder

Elizabeth City, NC
36 17.920 N 076 13.09 W

We are all familiar with civic boosters.  That is, those people (and/or governments) who labor to make their locality be as prosperous and attractive as possible.   I have to say, we never saw any place that tries harder at civic boosting than Elizabeth City (EC).

For boaters, it started with "Hospitality Harbor" and "The Rose Buddies."   They installed free docks at the heart of the city waterfront and invited cruising boaters to stop there.   The Rose Buddies were a group of volunteers who greeted boaters, passed on information, and hosted wine-cheese parties every evening if enough boats were around.  Prominent among the Rose Buddies was Fred Fearing; an outstanding personality that Libby and I were proud to call our friend until he passed away a few years ago.

The mayor and former mayor are also actively engaged in making boaters feels welcome.   How often have you visited a city and had the mayor come out to shake your hand and wish you welcome?

It is not just boaters.  the civic boosters also work to keep the downtown alive.   Like most American cities, the downtown is under pressure.  Stores can't compete with big box stores and go bankrupt.  The public's tastes in retail shopping change.   It is almost normal to see downtowns filled with vacant store fronts and to exude the aura of decay.  (Burlington, VT with Church Street is a very notable exception which EC can never match.)   But EC seems to be at least partially succeeding.  It's downtown is hardly thriving; there are some vacant store fronts. But it seems to be succeeding more often than failing.  It is my guess that civic boosting had a lot to do with that.

I think the only opportunity that EC has not exploited is  to promote the fact that EC was the home town of Edward Snowden.   Of course, today Snowden is a highly controversial person with the people viewing him as a traitor and the other half viewing him as a hero.   I remind you that Martin Luther King was once in exactly that state regarding public opinion.  Today, almost every city (including EC) has a MLK boulevard.  If the feds catch Snowden and put him in jail I expect that he would be like Nelson Mandella, growing in stature and power every year he is incarcerated.

Hats off to Elizabeth City.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dismal Pics

We took a hike on the nature trails yesterday. Here are some of our pictures.
Tarwathie and the vanishing point
Tarwathie on the right, vanishing point center
A moonshine still from the swamp
Wow, what a big sycamore(?)
Our finds included black walnuts, paw paw fruit, and grapes.
Strange flowers. All of them had only two petals.
Look close. Ther is a strange black and white spotted bee (hornet?)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Contemplating Infinity

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, North Carolina
36 30.412 N 076 21.359 W

OK, I'll try to set the scene.   It is a nice sunny day, not too warm.   We started moving south on the canal around 11 AM after buying groceries.   Libby was down below putting groceries away.

I moved my folding seat to the ice chest forward of the mast.  It makes a grand throne.  I had rigged up lines running back to the tiller so that I could steer from up front.  Think of the reins of a team of horses.   That practice is illegal in several states because I am not within reach of the throttle. But I love doing it, and I do it only when we will not come close to other boats or personal property.

So, what do I see from that throne?  I see the dead straight narrow canal extending to the vanishing point.  Better, as I look at the still water, I see the dark reflection of trees left and right and the bright reflection of the sky in the middle.  Those also extend to the vanishing point.   What else can one think of in such as scene other than infinity.  The vanishing point in this case is only 1-2 miles in front of me.  I know that with a telescope I could see farther, but there would still be a varnishing point.  But I also know that in mathematics parallel lines never do meet.   Vanishing points are an illusion. An artifact of the finite resolving power of our sight.

Alongside, is the wildlife of the DSC.  Lots of birds of course.  Most prominent today were the turtles.  Every log or branch laying in the water was populated with turtles warming themselves in the sun. I even saw one with 8 turtles very neatly arranged in order of size.  Biggest first, down to smallest last.  What do the turtles do?  They seem intent on imitating turtle statues.  They don't move.  They don't seem to breath.  Their heads do not turn to look at the boat passing by.  On rare occasions, one can catch a deer, or a bear, or a snake swimming across the canal.   Once we saw an animal swimming.  It could have been an otter, or a nutria.

In the DSC all hazards of life on water disappear.  A hurricane could rage and the winds wouldn't touch us in the canal, nor could the storm surge find its way up her.  It is peaceful, tranquil and secure.  Can't you see why we say it is food for the soul?

I should add, that we only see the DSC in the spring and fall.  Robert the lock master, told us that the 6 week annual season for biting flies just ended.  Biting flies are how the swamp got the name dismal. But Libby and I have never been here in the dismal seasons.

We have to get to Elizabeth City soon.  Our supply of clean laundry is nearly exhausted.  But we are in no hurry to leave.  We may walk the trails today.  We'll also spend an evening anchored in the place we call "The Pearly Gates" .  I've blogged about that place before and again.   After that, we still must traverse the upper part of The Pasquotank River; that we think is the prettiest stretch of the whole ICW.   It is best seen in the early morning as mist lifts off the water.   

Friday, September 19, 2014

Study In Contrasts

Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, North Carolina
36 30.412 N 076 21.359 W
The contrasts are so stark. First, two days out at sea. There, most of the time one has the feeling that we could be the only people on Earth. It is spendid and frightening at the same time.
Then amazingly, the lights of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel appear on the horizon. This 20 mile long structure is so big that from one end, you can't see the other end. Libby spotted it first. She said the experience was eerie because as we aprode up each wave and down in the trough, the lights would appear, then dissapear. Not just one light but a chain of lights miles long.
A few hours later and we were entering Hampton Roads, one of the busiest shipping locations in the world. It was 5AM when we entered. The good part of that was that the ship/tugboat traffic was very light. The bad part was navigating in this maze of crossing channels with lights of many colors in every direction offering confusion. We would not have dared try it except that we know the way by heart.
Two more hours and we were tied up at the free public docks in downtown Portsmouth. We hoped to meet friends who live there, but alas they are in Sweden this week. We don't like that downtown. It is sterile and feels hostile. So we only stayed there an hour or two before leaving for the Dismal Swamp Canal (DSC).
An hour more and we were in Deep Creek, away from the hustle and bustle. Libby took the helm as I went below to eat lunch. Suddenly, OH NO! We were aground. Libby want on the wrong side of the first red marker she came to. She would never have done that without double checking which side was which if she was not so fatigued. Another hour and Tow Boat US had pulled us off. Normally, we would have gotten ourselves off (we are expert at thst by now) but we were both too tired for that. We had started launching the dinghy, then we looked at each other and both said simultaneously, "Hell, just call Tow Boat US." Libby felt guilty about the mistake, but she was almost too tired to talk. No blame assessed.
Another 30 minutes and were were back in splendid isolation on the DSC, ready for a peaceful and very long night's sleep.

Today. I started with coffee and donuts courtesy of Robert, everyone's favorite lock master. Then we replenished the larder with groceries at the Food Lion store only a few hundred meters away.

Then for the real treat. I sat for three hours in the bow, steering the boat with my patented remote steering system, as I enjoyed the scenery and contemplated infinity. It is balm for the soul. I'll write about it tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good Morning Virginia!

Portsmouth, VA
36 50.302 N 076 17.777 W
So, here we are. Two very weary sailors in from the sea. We got here a few minutes ago. Naps are our first order of business.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Barnegat Inlet, Tom's River NJ
39 45.546 N 074 07.016 W
According to plans, we should have be passing Ocean City, MD right now headed for Norfolk. Instead, we are at anchor in Barnegat Bay. What happened?
To make a long story short, we were defeated by a strong swell from the East with a short period. Combine that with strong winds, and Tarwathie (and her crew) were pitched and rocked violently. Sea sickness set in, followed by fatigue. Very quickly we wanted refuge. Barnegat was the first safe inlet we encountered. We came in here Saturday afternoon, and the forecast shows that we won't resume the trip until Tuesday. .
So, we are 56 nm from our previous anchorage at Liberty Island, and 200 nm from Hampton roads; we traveled 20% of the passage. Plans go up in smoke
This is the reality of cruising for two old folks like us. The Westsail 32 can take us anywhere on the globe, but the crew has limited capabilities; and the crew is aging one year per year.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ready-Set ... Soon Go.

Croton on The Hudson.
Everything is ready for an ocean passage, we wait only for the tide to turn. How ironic that the tides hamper us from getting to the sea. But remember your literature, "we sail with the tide"is a very common phrase.
Actually, we welcome the delay. We got little sleep the previous two nights because of railroad noise and because of strong wind. We actually dragged anchor a little last night in only 10 feet of water with 80 feet of chain out. I put out 120 feet of chain and it held. But the night was bumpy. Our fault, we made a poor choice of anchorage.
The radio says we might get to see an aurora tonight. That is very rare at these low latitudes. Being out to sea gets us away from light. If only the clouds will hold off. We should also have a 3/4 moon rising 3 hours after sunset. It may be a very beautiful, but cold night at sea. I'm going to get out long underwear.
Winds sound favorable for making it to the Chesapeake in 48 hours. At that end, the forecast says thunderstorms every day for a week. I guess that's normal for that region, this time of year. I recall tha last time we make this passage, we arrived in the middle of a real cloudburst. It rained so hard visibility was almost zero.
Wish us "fair winds." That is the traditional parting salutation for sailors.
Don't look for more blogs until Monday.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thwarted In The River

Marlborough Boat Club, Hudson River
41 36.641 N 073 57.544 W
Our mast is up, and we are a sailboat once again. Hooray.
It was our intention to move downriver to NYC today and put out to sea tomorrow. We were also going to have company on board today to traverse the prettiest part of the river with us.
Well, we cancelled the company, and now we've cancelled the travel plans for this morning. What went wrong? We planned our departure to catch the outgoing tide. But today there is a very stron wind from the south, opposing the current. That builds up waves, just like at an ocean inlet. Smashing into those waves bounced us violently and slowed us to 3 knots with a 2 knot current pushing us! Knowing that the current would reverse in an hour or so, our progress would have been terrible.
We decided to grab a nearby mooring until this afternoon, then continue is the winds subside. I tries calling the yacht club for permission. I called by VHF and by phone, but there was no answer.
A Westsail 32 can take us around the world, but it can not get us down the Hudson River this morning.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

New York Is A Jewel

Troy, NY
42 44.046 N 73 41.496 W
We just exited our last lock, the Troy Federal Lock. We are back in the Hudson River where there is 4 feet of tide. First tides we've seen since June. It is bittersweet. We have the beautiful Hudson Valley before us, but we have the beautiful upstate NY and VT behind us. Sigh.
Mechanicville, NY added very nice free showers, to aff to their free pump out, electric nod water. What a great place. We spent the weekend there. And rented a car. Saturday we visited we my sister Marilyn, and Sunday we traveled to Rome and visited John and Becky
Monday we moved to Waterford where the tugboats from the Tugboat Festival had just departed. The weather has been excellent.
We could stay here anothe pr 5 weeks and experience the nicest part of the year. But if we did so we would regret it later because cold and stormy weather would chase us all the way south. Life is a compromise.
We watched the film "All Is Lost" last night. It was about a cruising sailor, and should have been of prime interest to us. We found it wildly unrealistic. This morning we compared notes about all the technical errors in the movie. Libby and I each has a long long list of errors.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Taking Care of Your Stuff

Mechanicville, NY
Some people are very good at taking care of their stuff. Not us. We put a lot of effort into maintaining Tarwathie, but otherwise an objective observer would call us lazy and careless.that applies to nearly everything from computers to clothing.
Case in point, ear buds. I use ear buds every day. I carry them in my pocket. They don't last long. Usually within a few weeks, one ear or the other stops working. I tried expensive buds, paying as much as $25; no better. I tried buds with a sring loaded wind-up reel; no better. I got tired of searching for replacement ear buds when in need and being forced to pay $8-$10 per pair. I found 10 pair for $10 on amazon. You see them below. For me, that's the better solution.
P.s. We rented a car for the weekend, and we are visiting family and friends. Travel resumes next week.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Bessy Ready To Stow

Whitehall, NY
We are installing a new raw water pump, and cleaning the heat exchanger today. Preventative maintenance.
We are also rewiring the anchor light and stramong light. The wires that ran up the mast went bad. Now, with the mast down, is the time to,do,that work.
Above is our Luke anchor Bessy, disassembled and ready to stow away.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Southward Migration Begins

Lake Champlain
44 06.713 N 073 24.832 W
The summer went past so fast. We really really don't want to leave the lake, but it is time.
We could wait until mid October and experience the best part of the year here. But if we did that, we would freeze our butts going south, and leave. No time to stop and visit Dave and Cathy in North Carolina . So we march to the only drummers song that we pay attention to any more -- the seasons.
It has been a great year on Champlain. The weather cooperated well. Libby had a ball seeing Jen and working in Jen's garden. And we greatly enjoyed the company of Jen and Pete.
So, here's the plan:
We take the mast down at Chipman Point Tuesday.
Wednesday-Thursday in Whitehall. There we will have Keith Longtin do some engine maintenance for us. I'll also rewire the mast. After putting up the mast last time, all of our lights, and the wind meter, and the radar stopped working. I presume thst we pinched the wires somehow. I think I am also going to remove the radar and store it at Dave's house. Given AIS, we almost never use the radar any more, and it is trouble to keep it functional.
Friday in Mechanicville, NY. We will rent a car over the weekend and visit with my sister Marylyn, and with other friends.
Perhaps Tuesday next week, we will raise the mast again in Catskill, NY.
By Friday next week we will be ready to put to sea heading for Norfolk, Virginia with the first weather window.
A week afte that, we should be in New Bern.
By November 1, we'll be in Florida.
Sigh. It feels wrong to leave. There is no place better than this place. But alas, that applies only when this place is not frozen solid; which is coming sooner than we like to think.
(When living in Sweden, I used to have fantasy dreams about floating the Scandanavisn Penninsula to tropical waters. I should start dreaming that about Vermont.)