She Said

Week 52 - It's Gonna Get Worse Before It Gets Better

The final sail was from Provincetown to Hull, and I cried.  Dan was surprised at how emotional I was and tried to make me feel better by saying things like "after you climb the mountain you have to come back down" or "every masterpiece is finished at some point"  I prefer to think that our cruising days are not over and we will get back out on the water some day.  My Aunt told me that at the bottom of the mountain are friends, family and home, pretty poetic family.  Even though I knew the weather was going to be perfect I turned on NOAA just to hear that mechanical voice give me the marine observations.

Rounding Pemberton Point we heard shouts from the commuter ferry pier.  Bailamos was flying her hodgepodge random flags and seeing our home for the first time since August 2015 was surreal.  There was a group of friends on the street waiting for us to row into shore, but not so fast.  The mooring ball was not set up properly, the line on the ball was of clothes line weight, not going to hold a 8,000 pound boat.  This was disconcerting because this was the mooring used for the past several months for our 22 foot power boat, really, well things are not going to be exactly like we left therm, we knew that.

Finally packed up with the remaining food and some personal items we row towards our house, to the ladder that goes from the street to the beach, but the ladder is not there, it was washed away in a winter storm we find out later, along with some of the fence that runs along the sea wall.  Our friends and neighbors are wonderful and have made welcome home signs, there are balloons, margaritas, the house is so overgrown it looks like something in a fairytale.  The furniture on the porch is being mauled by ivy, a few beer cans lay underneath, the wicker coffee table is shredding, little piles of white sticks.  I am so overwhelmed with all the people and conversation, questions, I don't remember what we did that evening.  Fundamentally the house is in fine shape and the only real surprise of renting the house to three twenty five year old guys is that there are no towels.  Where did they go?  James came down to take an outdoor shower with a tea towel wrapped around his waist.

Then the real fun begins, the mail, it's everywhere, open a cabinet there's a stack of mail, glance over to various corners there is more mail, piled on the counters piled on the tables.  Most of this was junk, the bills were paid electronically, I contested a large bill from Lawn Doctor explaining our absence and the fact that our lawn was burnt to a crisp and had turned to dirt.  Our mail had been forwarded  to us a few times over the year when we knew for sure that we would be in a set location.   We set up two business centers, I was in the kitchen talking to our insurance people, home owners, health care, Dan was in the dinning room getting the cars registered and legal again.  We got a dumpster, one of those soft sided containers that Waste Management will come and pick up, it wasn't big enough so we got a real one, we tossed the little dumpster into the big dumpster.

OMG.  Living on a 30 foot sailboat changes how you feel about stuff, don't need it, don't want it, even Dan, a former hoarder, took to the dumpster with a frenzy.  Our land line, I know, we have had the number for 20 years, the answering machine had 99 messages, I listened to 4 and then threw the phone into the dumpster, from the porch, bang, great shot.  Our entire street got into the purging act, for 3 days people put stuff in, some folks took stuff out.  When the dumpster was full and taken away things started to get better.

Friends ask the same question, "What was your favorite place"?  I would say, "Well, you can't really compare Georgia to the Bahamas...", etc.  Things look and feel different in the Fall on the way south vs in the Spring on the way back.  In my reflection I would answer that my favorite place is the state of mind.  My favorite place is where sailing takes you, peaceful, simple, freeing.  Try it.

Jackie over and out.


Week 51 - Let's Do the Numbers

With a financial background it is natural for me to want to know how much did it cost to take off and go sailing for a year, so I kept a daily record of what we spent, every cup of coffee, fuel fill up and bag of ice. I calculated an average weekly amount spent and what the total was in 10 week segments which represented the different phases of the voyage.  The Bahamas was the least expensive part of the trip, the North East the most expensive.  We spent less on slips and mooring at the end of the voyage as our anchoring skills gave us more confidence and our harbor master friends gave us permission.  We dined out with friends not seen in years, family, and many new and interesting people along the way.  Dan and I went to everything, from the opera in Miami to church suppers down south and learned much about the history of the East Coast.

We did not come in under budget, we were over by 10% fairly close to the unexpected costs of 2 dark emergencies during the year, a visit to the emergency room for me when I was very ill in Georgia, and the death of my brother-in-law requiring us to fly out to Seattle.  While the budget for the trip was my own, Dan felt no such need, it was a great exercise for the future, future sailing, retirement, planning for the unexpected.  Overall we were pretty on target, especially for people who like to go out to the restaurants, museums, historic landmarks, music venues etc.  We were just having too much fun to do it any cheaper and with the mindset of going back to work, Dan, we felt a little freer with our money.  Here are some of the financial breakdowns for our sailing journey of over 3500 miles August 2015 > August 2016.

Groceries $6,858
Slips & Moorings $5,591
Fuel $354
Ice $163
Uber $361
Tickets & Tours $741
Repairs & Maintenance $6,928
Restaurants & Bars $6,471
Sea Tow $175
Immigration $225

The trip home and what we encountered will be my final installment next week, week 52, "It's Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better".



Week 50 - The End Is Near

This late in the journey it is hard to believe that there is something technical on the boat that is a surprise.  Re-entering Lake Tashmoo  after high tide the shallowness of the channel is a bit of a risk for us, I focus on the depth meter holding my breath as it reads 5.9, 5.6, 4.9 feet deep.  In the past when the measurement of the depth was clearly less then what Bailamos draws, 5.5 feet,  the ability to clear the passage was attributed to a grassy bottom, or technical confusion in turbulent water where the reading was jumpy.  There is an offset to the ultrasonic measurement that was pre-set prior to our owning the boat to 1/2 a foot.  We had no idea there was more wiggle room so to speak, that was a good thing considering all the times we did run aground.

This late in the journey there is some impatience, we talk about going home a lot, visiting friends and family in our home waters is the agenda, not exploration of new places.  The planning, coordination and alignment has not changed however.  High tide in the Lake is at 6am giving us a one hour window to get out into Buzzards Bay, if we do not leave at high tide we are trapped inside until the following morning to align with slack tide in Woods Hole allowing a controlled passage through an infamous trouble zone.  Waking up to heavy fog we leave anyway, a visit with family has been planned.  Ten miles out in the Bay I ask Dan "do you think that we made a mistake" ? "Probably" was his answer.  Rookie bad judgement, the ferry from Oak Bluffs is sounding off their fog horn and I blast off ours, feeling stupid and scared, we would never have left with little visibility earlier in the trip.  I have read about visibility, on a clear day the eye can see far less than you think, about 2 miles, in the fog it seems more like 2 feet.  I would rather sail in big wind on a clear day than creep along with no visibility listening to the possible encounter with a ferry boat.  In trying to judge distance and make ourselves feel better Dan tells me to watch the bird that flies along the water.  I can see our black winged reference point for quite a long way, comforting when everything looks exactly the same, water, sky, air.   Possibly other boats will be able to see us before a bad encounter.  The shoreline of Cape Cod comes into view we are greatly relieved.  Woods Hole is a relative breeze, 8am, ripping through at speed over ground 9.5 kt boat speed 6kt there is no traffic, no rollicking wake, because no fishing boats have set out in these conditions.  We do see a few sailing vessels, tiny engines, approaching Woods Hole in the opposite direction, going towards the islands, a little late, they have missed slack tide, the current is now against them, these sailors are probably not aware of the thick fog that awaits them, nothing smug, we got a break.

Back in waters with a more a local feel we watch the start of the backasswards race.  Sailboats of all kinds lleave Red Brook Harbor against the tide/currents for a painfully, slow as possible race, clearly the after party is a good one, what is the point otherwise?  As we enter the Cape Cod Canal we pass Onset, our first stop on our voyage last August 2015, mixed emotions.  Making a poor decision like setting out in the fog is indicative off our readiness to head for Hull, our home port beckons.


Week 49 - Wild Ride

The charts for Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay are put away adding to the much larger pile of guides that are no longer needed.  Our final focus is on Buzzards Bay, South Cape and the Islands.  We head out from Battle Ship Cove in Fall River to Menemsha Martha's Vineyard on a perfect morning with wind in the mid teens.  I wear a fisherman's balaclava now almost constantly when out sailing because my face has been brutalized by the hot wind and sun for such a long time.  With my blue mirrored lenses and the mask, which is also blue with a white fish motif, I resemble a futuristic pirate.  Who knows what people must think, Dan with his dorky hat and me weirdly undercover.  We pass Cuttyhunk, Nasaweena Islands, the water is dazzling and the terra cotta hued cliffs of Aquinnah are in sight.  Wind picks up, we hold on happy to be back in some action on more open water, then it starts to howl.  Howl, 28, 29, 30 knots and the water is now foaming all around us, we are surfing towards shore and just kind of laugh.

We grab, veer into the mooring field with pounding waves and crazy wind, and tie 2 lines to a pole and ball set up on the out side of Menemsha harbor.  There are only 2 mooring balls on the inside of the harbor and they are full, months ago, three boats to each ball.  It has been a long time since we broke out the bottle of Bacardi Gold for a shot after a sail, as we settle in I hear sloshing around in the bilge.  There is a lot of water under the floor boards, Dan's a genius and fixes the broken pump with lost O rings, we both clean up the boat and do not go ashore.  With no protection on the outside moorings we have a rollicking night, picture sleeping in a hammock that never stops swinging from side to side, the worst ever.  We thread the needle into Lake Tashmoo at high tide the next morning, a tranquil paradise.

Lake Tashmoo is an example of perfect harmony between visiting vessels, and water management.  The assistant Vineyard Haven Harbor master Dave approaches every visiting boat explaining the mandatory pump out, the 3 day maximum stay, obtains our vessel information and gives us a layout of the area.  Clean, welcoming, well run, we know we are close to home when we spot a burgie from the Hull Yacht Club on a sailboat near by. We know it is high summer in New England when a seriously frightening lightning storm hits in the middle of the night, jolting me out of my berth with thunder and 360 degree lightning.  I was too afraid to venture into the cockpit to get a better look, and I love a good storm.

 Nantucket is  the final frontier of our voyage, we never dreamed of sailing to this outer island, too far, too much open ocean, too many obstacles meaning shoals and shallow water. There are 700 recorded wrecks in this vicinity and we are arriving 2 days before the 60th anniversary of the sinking of the Italian luxury ship Andrea Doria.  Coming from the west we pass the middle ground shoal and follow along the cross rip channel lying between 2 other shoals, cross rip and horse shoe.  Wind moves into the low 20s, double reef main sail we cruise over green water at well over 8 knots, this is what it is all about for us, until we get into a fight.  I am the driver coming in or out of an anchorage, port, or slip, because Dan is the navigator, anchor handler, dock jumper.  Arriving in Nantucket harbor in July on a Saturday with a lot of wind and the 3 KT current is not for the faint of heart, it is hectic, steering is physically demanding, (tiller - lot's of pull) and we have never been here before.  I refused to head into the wind to drop the main sail directly into the on coming ferry, don't care how far away the ferry is, my punishment for not heading to captains orders is a lack of further cooperation in finding our anchorage.  We figure it out and land a great spot.  There is always the "good job" mutually acknowledged  after a challenging sail, team Bailamos.


Week 48 -  A Sailing Town

We have a perfect 3 hour sail from Montauk to Block Island leaving at the right time to catch the outgoing tide, 11 months ago this leg took us 7 hours when we didn't know how strong the currents could push us back.  Many of the boats anchored in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island never move.  The home port on most transoms is Block Island, the anchor lines are covered in seaweed and green slime.  Boats are tied up 6 at a time and no one is on them, folks take the ferry over and party on their floating weekend rafts.  A guy on a powerboat near by blows his air horn into the night over and over.  When the harbor patrol boat arrives for the emergency the inebriated Captain said he was celebrating his buddy's anniversary.  We figure it must be nuts come Friday night so we set sail for Newport, maybe not so crazy.

It is an easy 25 mile day big rolling swells push us into the happening harbor, it is exciting to be in a place with so much sailing appreciation.  It is the start of the New York Yacht Club's race week, one of the most elite clubs in the country, the sails on these yachts are black Kevlar and cost tens of thousands of dollars each.  I am not a fan of black sails, like a Darth Vader fleet, it feels sinister.  The America's Cup 12 meter sailboats elegantly race each other with excited tourists, little Optimist beginner boats flop around with their 10 year old junior sailors. Whereas the power boat rules Block Island, Newport is a sailing town with varied sailing yachts from around the world.

The anchorage area in Newport harbor is surprisingly large, we have no trouble finding a spot.  We wait out the threat of an overhead thunderstorm with predictions of heavy wind, making sure that we don't drag. We back the boat up hard in tight situations with a lot of boats around but don't take any chances.  The harbor is serviced by the Old Port Launch which will pick you up and deliver you to a variety of docks in town for $3.00, you can ride all day for $10, it goes from 8 in the morning until Midnight.  The public launch makes it easy for us to get around, the port also offers 2 distinct welcome centers for transient sailors.  The Seaman's Chapel and Newport Mariners Center.  We make use of both of these friendly affable places so we don't have to hit up my relatives in town and get set up for our islands leg, Elizabethan, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Dan had been on a quest to find the 2016 edition of the Eldridge Tide & Pilot Book for weeks as we approached these northern waters where timing tidal currents matters, but more importantly the book, which has been used by Mariners on the East Coast for 142 years, provides information to safely pass through places like Woods Hole.  The apps and the chart plotter have the required data too, but the plotter gives specific play by play advice.  We finally got ahold of one, in Newport of course.


Week 47 - Cruisers BF = The Harbor Master

The Maptech Cruising Guides have been a go to source of information every step of the journey providing a basic location overview, things to see, restaurants, provisions, and anchorages.  We know that the editors pay homage to the folks who advertise, mainly boat yards and marinas, so the book is light on where you can anchor or tie up to a public dock, both of which are free.  The book presents a scenario where dropping a hook is a rare exception, "do yourself a favor and reserve a slip or a mooring, be sure you have a place to dock".

 Now that we are in the home stretch we are far more comfortable getting the facts from the the source, the man in charge, the person who can kick you out or make you move, the Harbormaster.  We were reluctant to call the HM in the past for a non essential issue, and also because we felt like we were breaking the rules if we weren't on a paid ball or in a slip.  Once we started reaching out to the various HM's our cruising life became that much easier, we knew where to go, where to dingy in to go ashore, the office knows we are sailing in and would be looking out for us. Why stop there?  With such a welcoming response from the officials we started calling businesses with docks asking if we could tie up for a night.  Absolutely, come on over, we have two docks as a matter of fact.  More privacy, freedom to stay or leave when we want, no reservations, and no paper work.  More money for drinks and food is obvious.

The alarm is set for 5am to cross the sound to Block Island from Shelter Island so that we get 3 hours of current in our favor before it clocks around at 8am.  We wake up to a dense fog and go back to bed. We cannot fight the insane current in Block Island Sound in our boat, plan B is to sail across Gardiners Bay in the afternoon to 3 Mile Harbor.  We anchor then row into the Hamptons, to the culture shock that is East Hampton.  It is amusing to see Dan with his Sea Gear T shirt walking amongst the beautifuls, the blond catch of the day mermaid on the back, so out of place.

A gray chilly Saturday morning, wind in the mid teens on the nose we head to Montauk while most people sleep.  No reading, no talking, kind of miserable, the rhythm of the chop is hypnotic, 10 seconds of calm, bang, bang, bang, 10 seconds of calm, bang, bang, bang.  Montauk does not seem as yachty with our more experienced eye as it did last August.  After being amongst the mega yachts in the Bahamas and Ft. Lauderdale this last port on the Eastern Long Island Fork feels very laid back.  Last time we felt apprehensive in this posh beautiful place and didn't even go ashore, this time we called the Harbor Master.


Week 46 - Electronic Age

All you have to do is take a quick look around to recognize that Stonington Harbor is an elite sailing town.  The boats, many with cobalt hulls, dazzle in the sun the way only new boats can do, expensive new boats.  There are also many older classic sailboats in perfect condition speaking to the resources the owners are willing to spend on their care.  We take a mooring, this harbor is a no anchor area, and use the launch to take care of a host of needs, laundry, fuel, water, propane, fresh fish and wine.  The village is dry so we find out that we can order a few bottles and Cove Ledge Package out near the highway will deliver to the Marina.  I was completely taken off guard reading in the cockpit when the launch pulled up to our boat, we had not called for it, and the driver loudly asked me "did you guys order alcohol?"  I was a little embarrassed with all the passengers looking at me and I was casually dressed, who knew the wine would be delivered to the boat!  We were so happy.

Heading over to busy Watch Hill for the start of the July 4th weekend early on July 2nd channel 16, distress, is crackling with activity.  A prop is wrapped around a buoy line, a Four Winns is taking on water after hitting rocks outside the channel that ripped off the transom.  The Coast Guard requests the boats position, state of emergency, number of people on board, number of children, if there are life jackets, will the boat be abandoned, and then the real weekend saviors come on the radio, Sea Tow.

An all American tie up party off of Napatree Beach for the holiday, mostly power boats.  Of course this crowd is noisy and not just partying, arguments, and fire works, generators are going all the time.  Generators for A/C, flat screen TVs, coffee makers, microwaves, they never stop running.  It makes us crazy and we don't get it, the noise the fumes, but that's okay, how ever you want to enjoy the serenity of a natural harbor. In the morning with the anchorage practically empty we head out into the fog.

Navagation in Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Gardners Bay, .... Is relaxed sailing with lots of ports, relatively calm water but no fun if you don't pay attention to the currents.  Careful planning makes all the difference if you are trying to get somewhere or even if you don't want to be caught off guard in a change of weather fighting a 3 or 4 knot current against you.  We (Dan) uses the brilliant Navionics software on the B&G chart plotter along with its paid app on the iPhone to determine when to head through "Plum Gut"  for example.  The arrows determine the direction of the current, the color red means increasing velocity , blue decreasing, the measurements are reported through the timeline of the tides.  The data moves around, check the flows according to where you are headed.  Oy Vey.  There is more to plotting a coarse here, checking the various cross currents for favorable timing is another layer of study.  Click, Click, Check, go faster.  Not so much, but we are reliant on our electronic devices and the information like every one else.



Week 45 - Scenic Access

A day sail on the Hudson with our friend Kevin makes the decision for us to head to Long Island Sound vs heading up the river.  After the sail we grabbed a mooring ball in the power boat section of the 79th Street Marina because it was close to the dingy dock and we could row in and have dinner.  After bragging to our friend how these municipal marinas are unsupervised and they probably don't have a boat to check who is where, we got kicked off the ball by the manager who was yelling at us from his boat.  A little embarrassing but not a problem, let's go back to the slip, we head over but it's low tide, we run aground, can't make it in for 5 hours, the sailboat moorings are too far for us to row in and Kevin needs to get off the boat.  We head over to the commercial dock to let him off, the wind is in the high 20s, the current is ripping, our friend has to hurl himself onto the dock and we pull away.  Sorry guy, no choice but a sleepover.  The problems that the Hudson presents to a S/V, shallow water, too much current, lots of traffic, prompt us to change our plans and we study up on Hells Gate.

Heading down the Hudson and up the East River at 7am we are doing 10.6 knots with the velocity of the 5 kt current . We watch out for pieces of wood and other debris, we watch thousands of people going to work.  The whirl pools and boiling water from the converging currents don't bother us this time.  All of the bridges in NYC are over 100 feet high and reflect different building periods with regards to style and construction.  The Brooklyn bridge is made of stone and cable, the Manhattan bridge is iron, the Queens Borough is erector- set steel.  After passing under 8 we are in Long Island Sound and the pace slows down.

We anchor in Northport Long Island, then head over to the Norwalk Islands for a day, a friend Casey Pimenta sets us up with a slip in the South Benson Marina. Casey, a life long sailboat racer,  has a S2 9.1 saiboat also and is the reason we bought ours, Casey should sell S2's, he is such an enthusiast on every attribute.  Dan and Casey talk about the boats for 1000 hours.

The entrance to the Connecticut River begins at the two-thousand-foot-long breakwater at Saybrook Point.  The water comes from north of  the White Mountains and the river reaches past Amherst Massachusetts, very familiar places to us.   As we head up river I am so surprised at how beautiful the landscape is.  It is lush and green, the banks are stone, the hills are rolling.  I did not expect the area to be so breathtaking.  I am biased I think.  We are now back in New England, my favorite place,  with the incredible advantage of seeing it from the water, the charming towns, beautiful homes, private schools, a castle even.  While the exclusive properties can shut out the common eye from the land with gates, hedges and fences, out on the river we get to partake.  Everyone on the crowded Essex river boat feels the same way I bet.





Week 44 - Rock & Roll In NYC

We left Cape May at 6am with the dory full of rain water,  it was so early we forgot to check and we were already underway.  The Glouster Gull is tied to the side of Bailamos when we are on a slip so it doesn't bang into the boat next to us or float out into the channel, it was still attached that way, like a side car, as we motored out into the foggy inlet.  Dan had to get into the dory to bail it out while I drove and then climb back up into the sailboat a bit of a circus move, we were now fully awake shaking our heads.  It's Father's Day and every Dad who could is racing out to the fishing grounds off the Jersey coast.

69.7 Nautical miles, 80 statute, 10 hours 25 minutes max speed 9.4 knots, average 6.4 we roar into Barnegat Light.  Barnegat is a challenging inlet because it's busy with a lot of wake from large power boats,  the rollers are 6 to 8 feet from ocean swells converging into the jetty and it is blowing 20mph.  The boat is surfing so hard I am getting an ab workout just holding on trying to stay upright.  Safely anchored it is tight, so we ask the 40 foot sailboat closest to us how much line they have out so we can swing together in the windy conditions, the vessel is from Breckenridge Colorado, I'll never get used to inland home ports.

Another beautiful day with great conditions so we decide to bypass Sandy Hook, the Jersey Shore entirely and go straight to NYC.  This is an exciting day with so much action in NY Harbor.  There is little recreational boat traffic but the Staten Island Ferries, barges and massive cargo ships keep things interesting.  We reflect on how on the way down we got into so much trouble in NJ, losing our anchor in the middle of the night, having to call Sea Tow to pull us off a shoal.  Back then we could never imagine having an 80 mile day, making the CM to NYC trip in 2 days, well we have been doing this for 10 months.

We grab a mooring ball at the West 79th Street Boat Basin on the Hudson River looking out at the upper west side.  The location is amazing and the current rips under the boat, the boat traffic knocks us around like crazy, all night, all morning, I bounce around in the cabin like a ball in a pin ball machine.  If we were ever going to get sea sick from endless rocking this was the time, but we don't.    We don't fall out of our bunks because we sleep in the V berth up front and just bang into each other, everything is tied down as if we were out sailing.  How else could you be at the foot of one of the most exciting city's in the world for $30? So cool.



Week 43 - MPH vs KT

We slammed our way from Tilghmans Island to Annapolis pushing against on the nose wind 15 - 21 because we wanted to see the start of the A2B race.  The Annapolis to Bermuda ocean race happens twice a year and it is very exciting to see the participating boats including 2 26 foot Mini Transit 6.50 racers , very brave crew.  We rigged up what ever flags we had on board to dress the part for the send off.  Annapolis seemed a bit lonely to us not being part of a race or there for the annual boat show so we spent the night and sailed for Baltimore in the morning passing under the dual span bridge that connects the eastern and western shores of Maryland.

Baltimore has one of the most polluted harbors in the country and recently received an F on water quality from Healthy Harbors. It is an industrial harbor, not at all pretty, but the city has invested heavily in the waterfront and we wanted to check it out.  We took a slip at the Inner Harbor East Marina which looked beautiful on the cover of our coastal guide book.  Safety and location came at a big price of $3 per foot, the most expensive slip of the trip, in gritty Baltimore, more than any luxury resort marina we have stayed at all year. Go figure.

Monday we left at 7am in very gusty wind, a small craft advisory was in effect, there is always a small craft advisory in the Chesapeake it seems to me.  Our wind gauge is not fast enough to pick up the measurement of the gusts.  If you're going to encounter some blow downs I want to know what the winds strength is, who wouldn't?  With 7 hours to go before getting across the bay to the start of the C&D canal we had the time to figure out how to get the data we wanted using the chart plotter software.  It was this inquiry that made us (I think Dan knew the whole time) realize that our wind speed was being reported in knots per hour not miles per hour.  So what's the difference, 15%.  Knots per hour is 15% less than MPH and that is pretty significant when sailing.  How long had I been deceived?  6 months, ever since the new gauge was installed.  So a few days ago when it was blowing 21 and I was a little tense it was really blowing 24 and back in Eleuthera when the wind gauge read 27 it was really a howling 31.  I couldn't believe It but it made sense looking back when I often thought that the wind was much stronger than what was being reported.    

75 miles from Baltimore through the C&D canal we anchored across from the Hope Creek nuclear power plant, behind Reedy Island, with lots of current.  Welcome to New Jersey.  Dan put out 2 buckets on lines off the stern to keep the boat straight and to help keep the anchor line from wrapping around the keel.  The next morning we flew south across Delaware Bay to Cape May, speed over ground was 8.6 and the wind was 15 miles per hour, back to where we started, where we met, over 30 years ago.



Week 42 - Leaving the Inter-Coastal Water Way Behind

The remnants of tropical storm Bonnie stayed with us for days as we made our way north past Belhaven NC for a drizzly anchorage in the marsh, then to a down and out marina in Coinjock, NC followed by a large working yard in Chesapeake Virginia.  I had been given some flattering complements on my boat handling skills by some veteran sailors which went to my head.  I had been driving into recent docks too "hot" with no comments from Dan until I bent the pulpit and all the life lines went slack after smacking into a piling.   Sorry, sorry, sorry, back to cautious and slow with no damage.  Fortunately for me it was an easy repair.

Norfolk is as crazy and impressive as it was when we saw it for the first time last fall.  It is the largest military base in the world, you don't know where to look there is so much going on and a little like cruising through a Mad Max set.  We negotiate a lock and three bridges that have to be opened for us with scheduled openings every half hour.  The problem is that these bridges are ancient, they need to be replaced with new 65 foot clearance bridges like elsewhere on the ICW, but instead they are being worked on, patched up, and do not open on time, they barely open at all.  When the lift bridge machinery does start to move the massive mid- section high enough for us to get under we have circled around for half an hour or more.  Biding our time in the current in a narrow channel dodging barges is stressful and we wonder is the bridge going to open or not?  Traffic backs up on the roadway, the pain we inflict on motorists is cruel.

Back out in the Chesapeake we put up our main sail and are happy to have a little freedom of movement, a little sad that our time on the ICW is over, we really loved it.  We have decided to explore some new ports in the bay rather than sail overnight on the outside in the Atlantic where our only port of refuge would be Ocean City Maryland.  We head over to Cape Charles where the shallow entry is well marked with range lights 1/2 mile apart blinking at different intervals lining up visually so that you know your boat is on course.  The Marina entry is less well marked, the channel is over marked, sticks, all kinds of private aids, while on the radio with the dock master asking for the best way in with our 5 1/2 draft we run aground hard.  Injury of the week is a strained shoulder from the impact while holding on to the radio handle.

The sail from soggy Tangier Island to picturesque Tilghman Island starts out with rough rolling seas and then the bay turns into a mirror.  It is rare that the wind gauge reads 0.  No wind means a long day and flies.  We don't know where the black biting insects come from out on the water, Dan kills them all day long with a wet dish towel, it's exciting when he nails two of them at the same time, one way to pass the time.  We end the week in a gale, from 0 to 30 knot winds in 5 seconds flat, but we had warning, we have been watching it approach, first the lightning, then a rumble, we quickly dropped the mainsail, then the black clouds reach down.

Week 41 - Bonnie

A good day motor sail and tied up at a dock in Sneads Ferry for $1 per foot including homemade cinnamon coffee cake delivered hot by the owner of the small quirky Swan Point Marina.  This dockage sits on federal military training grounds for Camp Lejeune and sometimes they light up the sky with practice explosions.  Along the banks are old army boats, target jeeps, and helicopters fly low overhead, not exactly apocalypse now but a  little uncomfortable nonetheless.  The only excitement for us was the rugged shrimp boat Sharon Ann that pulled in opposite us on the dock all lit up that evening.  Family members were waiting for their arrival.  There were some newbie fisherman being trained, the next generation, and everyone was excited even thought they only hauled 100 pounds and smashed into the dock on their way in.  Crew members confirmed for us that the clicking sounds we hear all night like fingernails tapping on a table are prolific numbers of shrimp hitting the hull from below.

Our big plans were to head out to the outer bank islands of Ocracoke, Hatteras, Roanoke from Oriental N.C.  We are pumped up.  The Albermarle and Pamilco Sounds are inland seas somewhat like the Bahama Bank in that it is shallow and fairly protected.  A new route on the trip north is also exciting and these islands are only reachable by sea. We buy the chart, plot the coarse on the chart plotter, study the route, prep for an early departure on Saturday and go to bed early.  At 6am the first words out of Dan's mouth are "we can't go".  Acuweather is showing wind at 2:00 that afternoon to be 35 knots in Ocracoke and Oriental increasing to 50 through the night.   The wind apps that we use do not show big wind at all.  Typical.  NOWA reports nothing dangerous.  The 40 foot sailboat across from us on the dock in Oriental is going to make the trip and tell us to follow them.  I say yes, Dan says no.

We get into a squall of our own and part ways for the day.  I get angrier by the hour when there is nothing but blue skis and perfect wind.  I knew that the weather was going to deteriorate due to tropical storm Bonnie off the coast of South Carolina and felt that our only window to get across the sound for days was Saturday.  We had spent enough time in Oriental getting our prop fixed in October, holiday weekends bring me down far from home adding to my push to go.   In the final showdown of the day Dan said "I would rather be bored and frustrated here than getting our arse kicked 20 miles off shore or on an anchor in a tropical storm.  He was right, so we went dancing.  Bonnie's status went from tropical storm to cyclone.

It looked like Monday was our day to go for Ocracoke, 40 miles, and Bonnie would not let go.  Thunderstorms, all day, every hour were predicted, we headed out to see what the conditions looked like for ourselves.  If we were not going Monday then we were going to stay in the ICW continuing north. Tuesday looked worse, the entire week looked pretty unsettled it was getting hotter, muggy, buggy, either way we were going to keep going in a northerly direction.  Down to the very last minuet when we reached the waypoint to turn east we were torn.

It was a huge disappointment to turn in towards Belhaven.  It was no longer the wind that was the problem, it was the threat of lightning that made our decision for us.  Not a possible thunderstorm, but continued hourly risks, for 48 hours or more.  If the boat got hit all of our electronics would be toast in a best case scenario.  We never stopped listening to what Bonnie was doing to the Outer Bank Islands, for some reason that leg was a hard one to give up on.  Some other time.


Week 40 - Carolina Gold

The yard did a great job and the boat looks fantastic.We are so happy to be back on board despite the drizzle, and the flys, gigantic, prehistoric looking things that hang around on our dark blue Bimini for hours.  We anchor 40 miles north of Charleston just off of marker 64 in the Cape Roman National Wildlife Refuge and call home to let James know all is well.  There is a full blown party going on there at The Ave for a friend of mine, Shannon Muhs who is moving to NH.  James offered up our house for the party and many of my friends were there.  What a generous guy.  There is something a little wrong here but there is nowhere I would rather be so I let it go.
Our next stop is Georgetown, we had been here last October while the town was pumping out from massive flooding caused by Hurricane Joquien, some businesses didn't recover.  This area has had many boom bust stories, the rusted out behemoth steel plant next to our anchorage speaks to lost prosperity as do the vast rice plantations along the Pee Dee and Wacawache River.  Back in 1879 there were 9 millionaires in the entire world, 7 of them lived in Georgetown SC.  The only place with more wealth from rice was Calcutta India.  This all ended after the Civil War.

The ICW from Georgetown to Southport North Carolina is bordered by a number of wildlife reserves, state forests and untouched marsh, it is spectacular.  These are easy days winding away the miles and you would never know that madness exists in close proximity.  We rented a car to see some of the interior plantations and real southern countryside at the suggestion of a 3rd generation farmer we met.  We could not believe what we encountered, Myrtle Beach, the vacation bonanza of the Carolinas, has every chain store and restaurant, ever invented, along with goofy attractions, amusement parks and golf courses.  Who knew, not us, no billboards on the W.

We know how fortunate we are to be able to cruise in this beautiful place in perfect weather.  In this calm I choose to read Authentic Accounts Of Disasters At Sea edited by Charles Neider to Dan to pass some time.  Why not.  We are also beginning to plot our trip north taking a different route out to the Outer Banks and make some calls to the Army Corp of Engineers to make sure dredging has been done in the Roanoke Island channel so we can make it through with our 5 1/2 foot draft.  Until then the living is easy.

Side Note: Injuries, I call it the bruise of the week, sometimes I don't know how I got the bruise, for Dan it is usually a gash of some kind.  At the moment Dan has a gash on the bridge of his nose, a fighter's cut that he got when he rescued a guy who fell overboard at the dock in Georgetown.  We heard him floundering around in the water and Dan got into the man's skiff and pulled him back in.  The haul in caused Dan's sunglasses to be knocked into his face.  I am almost completely recovered from a black eye and a cut on my brow bone that I got during a night squall.  When the squall hit I ran up to the cockpit to see what was going on, the sudden downpour had already soaked the ladder and companion way, I slipped coming back into the boat in my bare feet in a slow motion free fall, my head hit the chart table.  I commented that it was a good thing that these injuries didn't happen in the same week.  People would be wondering how well we are getting along.



Week 39 - On The Hard

We traveled 6000 miles this week which included a red eye flight to Seattle and a layover in our home port of Boston.  In sailing terms this would take a year or more traveling through the Panama Canal to have made the same visit to the North West.  This kind of comparison gets laughs from family, who, while very interested in our voyage, are perplexed when we tell them that it will be 3 more months before we arrive home in Hull.  We have to explain that while we could arrive much sooner, in a few weeks, we still really love the sailing, the boat life and the adventure.  I miss Bailamos.  In a typical home environment you simply are not going to catch the sunrise or the sunset, your knowledge of the weather is reported in a dire or bubble headed manner  on TV, the air is closed in and cars take over.  There is a lot of noise on land and traffic and Costco.

We had brought Bailamos to the Pierside Boat Works a week ago to have her hauled, sanded, bottom painted, and waxed.  Pier Side is organized and professional.  A crew of 5 men were waiting for us in the hauling area where the boat cradle is to pick the boat up out of the water.  They were waiting for us !  Within an hour the boat was hauled, pressure washed, on blocks and we were off with our belongings.  Dan had removed the lettering on both sides of the hull along with the home port on the stern with a heat gun so the boat is anonymous for the time being.  The work will take 10 days and we will then be back on the water good as new, probably missing all the great creature comforts of home like hot showers, oven baked food, air conditioning, ice makers......


Week 38 - Heading Towards Spring, Away From Summer

Back inside in the brown water of Georgia we again must manage the crazy currents that come with so many rivers converging at the same time over a vast grassy marshland.  The grass now is green with purple tops vs the golden yellow of six months ago.  At times we are going up stream with the current against us so that we lose a few knots of speed, the boat speed may be 7 knots with the wind but our speed over ground could only be in the 4's. Conversely, down stream with current assistance we will be motor sailing over 8 knots, flying for us.  Within the space of 15 to 20 minuets the current shifts with every twist and hairpin turn of the Inter-coastal Water Way.  It is hard to decide when to set out because tides can run as much as 7 feet, too many currents to calculate and  except for the obvious avoidance of running aground in certain skinny water, push and shove will even out.

We run aground anyway.  The problem we have is that low tide, and it is a negative low tide, is at mid day.  In trying to put the miles behind us to get out of the heat,away from the flies, closer to an airport in case we need to fly to Seattle we have to go all day.  We stayed inside lacking the charts for the Georgia coastal waters.

Bailamos slides  into the mud at 11:30 dead low, we simply have to wait it out.  The boat however is being pushed by both the current and the wind onto the bank.  Dan lowers the anchor and rows it out to the middle of the channel dropping it to keep us from really getting stuck.   We radio on coming boats of our situation including the fact that not only are we aground but we have a line out.  We also use hand signals to steer them clear, not every Captain is attentive to the radio.  1 1/2 hours later we are on our way.    Little Mud River, Stono River, St. Helena Sound, Port Royal Sound, Cooper River, Calibogue Sound, Savannah River, Beaufort, Savannah, Charleston.

Dave passes away in his deadly battle with melanoma.  We are able to coordinate flights, car, and have the boat hauled for maintenance.  Friends Katie and Mark, residents of Charleston, help us with logistics.  We pack up, give provisions away and fly to Seattle to pay our respects to our beloved brother.




Week 37 - Every Day A Gift, Every Meal A Banquet

How can you not have some boat envy with the never ending parade of beautiful sailing, motor, and fishing vessels is your daily universe for almost 9 months.  What I love most is people out on the water in whatever vessel they have, enjoying themselves.  Hundred thousand dollar fishing boats with their entire hulls painted with graphics like the Sistine Chapel, the subject, a big catch sailfish chasing their jeweled pray, tiny tippy skiffs with fishermen in diaper attire,  two sumo wrestler types in a kayak with 3 fishing poles all participating in the same pursuit, the bite, the haul, the story.  Then there are the yachts, 110 feet with six bathrooms/heads, state rooms, sub zero refrigerators, gleaming on the same sailing grounds as the fixer upper so crammed with junk, the hoarders of the sea.  Love em all.  Go get it, the fish, the wind, the dreamy anchorage.

Bailamos has been a great boat, keeping us safe, dry, moving over 2000 miles.  We have had many discussions on a possible "upgrade" more comfortable, faster, safer?   No benchmark that the S2 has not met for a trade so we decide to have her hauled and painted, an expensive proposition but will last as long as 10 years, make her look brand new and significantly cut down on cleaning and waxing maintenance.

Calling in advance to various boat yards, boat yards vs. marinas gives us many choices in Florida and Georgia. More boats, longer boating seasons mean more yards offering top notch service, cheaper prices, (we checked in Boston) $3000 less if we have the work done in the south.  We make an appointment with a well regarded yard in St. Augustine after speaking with the yard manager for Monday morning.  We arrive in Camachee Island Marina Sunday night and we get a nice welcome package (who cares?). Keith is a no show on Monday, Tuesday we get a visit from the head painter who does not work for the yard (hum, we didn't want a jobber) he tells us Keith will provide the quote the next day.  Keith is going to be out for the rest of the week so we speak with the owner, in person and he tells us he will have the quote that afternoon.  We asked if Keith was on vacation, he tells us "it's more complicated than that". We never hear from the owner, we see him, he sees us, something is wrong, we hear some gossip about personnel problems, there is no work being done.  We leave in the morning after waiting the better part of a week still wondering what went down.   We schedule a yard in Savannah.

A devastating phone call changes everything.  Dan's older brother Dave is in a coma with brain cancer, we will push north quickly keeping in mind areas with marinas where we can store the boat and fly to Seattle when needed.  Boat maintenance, an all consuming obsession, becomes a petty indulgence.  Our decision to take a year off is more profound than ever as we pray for Dave and stay in touch with family on his condition.


Week 36 - Back In The Land Of Plenty

We were tired but feeling great after our successful and blessedly timed crossing.  Our next quick hop was to Vero Beach, a municipal Marina so popular that you have to share a mooring ball with perhaps two other boats.  The thought of no privacy and having to be nice and chatty was bringing me down, Dan was tuned into my mood and got us a slip at Loggerhead Marina further north.  It was Shangri-La.

Back in the comforting protection of the Inter Coastal Water Way we still encountered heavy wind in the high teens with gusts in the low 20s.  Water was coming over the bow on several occasions so we bashed our way north with the dodger closed up.  We were in a wide section of the ICW near Cape Canaveral and it was going to continue to remain exposed in the Mosquito Lagoon so we called it quits at noon and grabbed a mooring ball in Titusville.  We were just not up for a fight after so much adventure in the Bahamas, it was too rough to row in so there we were stranded for the day.  At least since we were back in the States we could call friends and family until heading out first thing in the morning.

We tied up to the free dock in New Smyrna and met up with our good friends Tom and Penny Burns from Hull.  We watched our crossing partner boat Compel cruise under the Coronado Beach Bridge on their voyage north.  Palm Coast, St. Augustine, beautiful weather, nothing exceptional, except for Publix.  American super markets are the greatest in the world and the choices are mind boggling after close to two months in the Bahamas.  It was a lot easier to buy food in the Islands where there was a lonely box of Triscuits, meat from Hormel and cabbage.  We are all done with cabbage for the foreseeable future and have to relearn how to control ourselves amongst so much bounty in the aisles.   First world problems.


Week 35 - Party In The USA

The northern Abacos are an unexpected wilderness and we are sorry to be by passing these quiet island anchorages so quickly.  Second thoughts about leaving the Bahamas too early are discussed but the weather demands decisions, if we don't cross the Bahama Bank and the Gulf Stream now it could be weeks before we have another opportunity.  We are also in good company with SV Compel, a 38 foot Morgan, with Captain Derek and 1st mate Rosie.  They are like minded, conservative, not fond of over night passages, first timers in the Bahamas and have AIS (Automated Identification System) should we need it.  And we do, because instead of having 2 days to cross over to Florida giving us an overnight anchorage in the Bank we have 29 hours before predicted thunder storms hit Ft. Pierce Florida where we are headed.

We had a wonderful dinner strategy meeting on Compel in a sublime anchorage off of Allen's Pensacola Cay and decided that we would leave at 6:30 am and anchor at Memory Rock right at the border in shallow waters before the Atlantic Ocean begins and the much respected Gulf Stream, day two we cross over to Florida.  Those plans changed within an hour of our departure with news of the storm forming as big as Texas, originating in Texas, landing off the coast of Florida the next afternoon.  We communicate on the radio, 1st on VHS channel 16 bumping up to channel 17 where we discuss a new plan, go 24 hours, 150 miles,  or hunker down for an unknown amount of days in Great Sale Cay or West End.  The generosity of buddy boat sailing is beyond Good Samaritan behavior, Compel is a bigger, faster boat with the absolutely necessary AIS tool for night sailing and they don't need us but they are sincere when asking if we are comfortable with the choice of a night crossing, we are so we all commit.

It is so calm in the Little Bahama Bank that I can actually see Compel's reflection in the water, see the V shape ripples the boat creates, there is little wind, no chop.  The sun sets.

Dan and I don't have a scheduled watch because we have not made long passages before. We make coffee, eat stale cookies, cokes for later, caffeine, sugar, hour long alternating naps.  At 11 pm I hear an amazing thing, the US Coast Guard on 16, the US sounds near, but it's not, a long night awaits.  There is a half moon which is a comforting friend and as long as we can see stars we know the weather is clear.  Looking back towards the bank is nothing but a black hole.  You watch the chart plotter, adjust the course when needed on the auto tiller and watch out for other boats.  Fortunately I was napping when lightning was spotted around 3am to the north and never knew there was a possible threat.

At 5am we see the coastal lights of Florida and decide, unlike our companion boat, to slow down and enter the channel in the day light, why take a risk in the dark with only an hour and a 1/2 to go before day break given our groggy state.  Fort Pierce is a wide commercial channel and this morning is busy, as we head in a parade of fishing boats heads out, people are walking their dogs, it looks lush, affluent, familiar.  Shots of rum have been earned, too tired. Great to be back home, checked off the all nighter box.





Week 34 - 6 Degrees of Separation in the Sea of Abaco

A sublime 6 days in Man Of War Cay offers relaxing time off from sailing on a mooring ball and we bring our bikes ashore.  We meet another couple who have been through the same high seas drama and they are happy to hang around and not check the weather for a few days, we are all addicted to the weather so we talk about it anyway and discover a new web site Windyty.com.  This Cay, a conservative dry island beauty is famous for it's boatbuilding.  Albury Brothers builds one of a kind deep V fiberglass boats at around $45,000 for a 19 foot standard center console, no motor.   There is not much else going on and few people live here so when one day we met a lovely lady cruising in her golf cart Shirley Jennings from Duxbury MA, it was astonishing to find out that she is very good fiends with my ex boss and friend John DuPuy, and she worked for Paul McCann of Hull at the BRA who I sat with for 15 years on the ferry from Hull to Boston.   On the dock in this very small place I met a sports fisherman from Virginia and when I told him I had sailed down from Boston he asked me if I had ever heard of a town called Hull, he has good friends there, whom I know.  Small world.

We head over to Marsh Harbor, the third largest town in the Bahamas, for provisions.  It's a large harbor and a party destination with free anchorage and lots of services, we are only staying one night and it is Monday so it is all business.  Our connection with the SV Compel, hum just noticed this, has us thinking, or they are compelling us to consider jumping on a nice stretch of calm weather back to the States in a buddy boat crossing.  It seems a little rushed to leave the Bahamas, but safe conditions have been elusive, I say go.

We rendezvous from different locations to Green Turtle Cay to discuss the plan.  Day 1 will be a 42 mile sail to Great Sale Cay and then we have a decision to make.  Go 47 miles south to West End and then a traditional 55 mile crossing to West Palm Beach or go from Great Sale Cay to Ft Pierce 110 miles a straight shot over the the little Bahama Bank.  We want to go for the 20 hour over night crossing but have to convince our partner boat.  Either way the adrenalin levels are rising.


Week 33 - Don't Look Back

We spent 4 days in Eleuthera on the western side of the archipelago and had a nice experience, I am bringing home some pink sand.  An oncoming weather system had us leaving on Saturday because our anchorage had no northerly protection.  We have a two day leg to the southern Abaco Cays which involve an Atlantic crossing so we were in for some long days.  The trips were made longer as we encountered the worst conditions of the trip.  Once again the wind and weather reports were way off.  The app Windfinder, like all other weather reporting sites, uses weather stations and since we were in an area with no stations within 40 miles I can understand the information being off a little, but not off the charts wrong.

The last cay in Eluthera, Royal Island, was a 45 mile sail north from Governors Harbor, the wind was 23, 24, 25 mph from the south west, not in the low teens as predicted.  Following seas created from the 5,000 foot deep water to the west from Exuma Sound hit the shallow 25 foot deep waters off of Eleuthera creating huge waves with no place to dissipate, facing us with some of the most powerful seas we have experienced.  I could not control the tiller, the auto pilot could not control the tiller, Dan having arm strength from so much rowing was challenged to keep the boat under control.  Panic was creeping it's way around my body so my mind had to keep the lid on my fear.  Looking back to the stern of the boat there was a wall of blue green water so high that the horizon disappeared.  I said to myself don't look back, don't look sideways, only look ahead.  At times, top speed was well over 9 knots.

The following morning was a 45 mile Atlantic crossing going north to the shortest distance to the Abaco Cays, Schooner Bay.  We left Royal Island at 7am and had until 2pm before the wind clocked around to the north, we would be close by then and could motor through light northerly wind.  I was still a little traumatized from the day before but if we didn't go for it we could be in the remote, absolutely nothing there, anchorage for 10 days.

All is well, we are making great time, averaging 7 1/2 knots for 4 1/2 hours, and then I hear thunder.  Dark skies, the wind clocks around and comes from the north, it's noon and we are 20 miles from shore.  We watch the clock, the miles, the wind direction and don't talk much.  Dan reads the History of Rum for a second time and takes notes, "JFK sipped daiquiris at his home in Hyannis on the night of his election."  Distractions are important when there is no land in sight, no other boats, and no coast guarded presence on channel 16.  The rain hits in a torrent and the ocean looks oily.  There is nothing to say, we keep the double reefed main up, motor on.

Schooner Bay is not inside the protected Sea of Abaco where we need to be to get protection from the cold front quickly approaching.   A third long day starting on the North Atlantic with big seas lands us in Man O War Cay, sublime, tranquilo, a dry island with no hotel, no cars, just peace.  The Abacos are called the assisted living for cruisers because it's easy sailing, safe, hard to get into trouble.  Amen.



Week 32 - Against The Wind

A long slog from New providance Island, Palm Cay, to Highbourne Cay in the Exumas as the wind was in the high teens on the nose creating very short pounding chop.  We anchored off the Cay with the other mega yachts, at least 6 of them 100 feet plus in length, who are these people?  I really wanted to call over to Mustange Sally and see if they wanted to have a sun downer but didn't have the nerve.  These yachts are lit up like Christmas and I felt like we were in a small floating city not in the isolated Exumas Cays.  

We pounded so hard into the wind and nasty chop the next day on a motor, reefed main,  and jib sail to Shroud Cay I thought the hull was going to shatter.  Dan wears a harness attached to a life line when putting up or reefing the main sail during conditions like these.  We have made it to the Exumas Land and Sea Park, a pristine, spectacular, marine protected 176 square mile area set aside by the Bahamian government.  Coral reefs, sugar sand beaches, subtropical waters teeming with fish, grateful to be here.  The park actually has moorings so anchorage anxieties are abated.  The water is insane, it does not look real, a luminous sea mirage too many hues of blue to describe.  Dazzling. 

As we continue to head south, southeast, and the wind continues to blow south, southeast I have an epiphany, a result of being pounded day after day.  Enough.  How about going with the wind, where the wind blows us so to speak, north, from whence we came.  It's all beautiful after all. Eleuthera next, then on to the Abacos. This is a sailing trip and fighting the wind which we have done for months is not necessary.  

A few more days enjoying Shroud Cay and Normans Cay where we snorkeled around a crashed DC3 airplane once belonging to a drug runner in the 80s.  We have decided that we have reached our southern most anchorage and will head east to Eleuthera, north after that.  We have a very calm crossing of Exuma Sound 45 miles to Rock Sound, it was the weather window to be taken advantage of so we had to say good bye to sailing friends who continue south.  It feels good to cooperate with the wind Gods, they will turn on us but for now it is smooth sailing.  
 

    Week 31 - VPR = Visual Piloting Rules

The Berry Islands offer the extremes of  Royal Caribbean  Cruise lines conjured island escape and the remotest anchorages that we have experienced.  Rounding the northern tip of the Berrys is Shrimp Cay owned by Royal Caribbean, we pass 3 cruise ships each larger than the next with fast shuttles taking passengers back and forth to "Coco" Island.  The parasailing boats fly their customers right over our boat for a photo op., we are part of the scenery.  We anchor in Great Harbor Key in an amazing crescent  beach, jeweled waters,  for a day of snorkeling.  Not to be believed but I was targeted, chased and leapt at by a 4 foot bull shark.  Dan is my witness, I only heard the splash at my leg running out of the water.  We move on.

Little Harbor Key is as remote as it can get , breathtaking coral framed beach, a caretaker on the island who's family has owned the land for generations, more sharks, solitude.  We decide to stay another day and while spying on some local fishermen with the binoculars they wave back, kind of embarrassing.  The three men in a 20 foot fishing skiff approach us as they need some fresh water for the day.  We oblige and they offer us either a fat hog fish or lobster.  We opt for the lobster because we are afraid of ciguatera poisoning. Eating certain Bahamian fish can cause sickness and paralysis and we have met a victim and don't know which fish are carriers of the disease.  The lobster is at least 5 pounds maybe more, the locals refuse any money and cut and clean the monster for us.  The brotherhood of the sea.


Our next stop is in New Providence Island, better known as Nassau, we are headed to the Exuma Island chain and have a new nemesis, coral heads.  The coral heads, especially in the yellow bank between New Providance Island and the Exumas are keel threatening boat stopping obstacles. The biggest heads are charted but most are not and are detected through VPR, simply stated eyes peeled, polarized sunglasses on, sunny day, right time of day, fairly calm, watching out for changes in the color of the water.  Those ideal conditions will come around, eventually, in a few days, hopefully.  Until then, we wait.


Week 30 - The Great Bahama Bank

We had to sit in Bimini for more than a week because the prevailing easterly trade winds would not let up.  Not a bad situation and plenty of time to become educated on sailing in the Bahamas and watch the Bull sharks swim around the Marina.  Yikes.  There is an overwhelming amount of navagational information to go over and we buy 3 sets of paper charts covering our cruising grounds, Near Bahamas, Far Bahamas and the Exumas.  The electronic chart plotter is essential, however we like having the additional backup and big picture charts also, we stare at them for days. There are no markers in the Bahamas, none.


The initial leg requires that we cross the Great Bahama Bank, a  table of shallow Aqua water in several shades that is 75 nautical miles across, this is greater than our achievable day time range so we will have to essentially anchor out in the middle of the ocean.  We need a generous weather window, we need to leave when the window is opening not when it is closing, we need 4 days to sail to the Exumas.

 We head out on Sunday afternoon even though the wind is in the upper teens for a short 10 mile jump to Cat Cay just to get started and out of the Marina.  The trip is terrible.  Giant ocean rollers, 8 feet high, the waves pick us up like a paper boat pushing us sideways.  The seas had not had time to calm down after 9 days of winds in the high 20s and 30s.  The trimaran in our group wants to turn back, we say no and are safely anchored by 4pm with time to visit with a dozen sting rays as large a 6 feet across.  They can kill you I found out later.

We have a perfect sail from Cat Cay to the North West Passage, 64 miles, 10 hours, anchored in 12 feet of water in the middle of the ocean, it is surreal.  Millions of stars, beautiful sunrise, we have decided to leave the group.  The original threesome has swollen into around 10 boats, not our thing.  We are headed north east to the Berry 
Islands just us while everyone else goes south.  We are not alone for long, a lost shore bird has landed on our bow for a free ride to the Berrys.  

* Water is $1.00 per gallon
* We have yet to figure out how to get the weather with no U.S. VHF or cell service.  The single side band radio just does not work.  This is priority #1.

Week 29 - Bahamas Bound

This is it. Years of dreaming about it, months of preparation, weeks of the wrong conditions, days of sailing to the starting line, hours of provisioning and the day arrives.  Dramatic but accurate and the excitement is electric.  We finally have a calm sea and light wind none of which is from the North which is critical.  The Gulf Stream runs North at up to 5knots and wind from the north colliding with the stream creates dangerous seas.  There are countless horror stories about crossing the "stream" and we have heard too many of them.  Cash, food, water, prescriptions, cell service, insurance, single band radio, fuel, engine check, navigation review, calls to the kids, charts, guides, weather = check check check.

 No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne is a popular launching point to cross over to the Bahamas and you are bound to find boats to cross over with if you want.   We talk to 2 other sailboats that are going to make a mid-night run but we have decided to go in the morning. 1. We have yet to sail at night 2. We had been sailing for 4 days non stop and spent that 5th day on our bikes getting all the provisions and Dan cleaned the bottom of the boat (snorkel, mask, suction cups, rags) we are beat and have made our own plan.  That is until it rings midnight and I hear the anchor chain being pulled up on the trimaran J.A.Z, and then look out the companion way and see SV First Born preparing to leave.  I know Dan is awake, we both are and I say "should we just go?"  Let's do it! We can't sleep and it is safer to go in a group. Within 10 minutes we were following the 2 boats in our small flotilla out into the dark, out of the channel looking back at the lights of Miami, it was 1am.

Both captains, Chris and Diego have crossed before and brought their own extremely valuable skills to the journey.  Chris on J.A.Z. was the leader and had AIS onboard (Automated Identification System). The software identifies other vessels in the area, name, course, speed.  Chris would contact the captain of an approaching ship to communicate our location, whether or not we were on an "interception" coarse, and what we planned to do, change coarse to pass behind for example.  We saw 3 cruise ships all blinged out, 9 cargo ships on their way to Freeport or Nassau and in the one case where the captain spoke only Spanish we had Diego ( from Argentina) to let the ship know we were out there.  We could not have been luckier to have been part of this group.  We stayed together, kept in contact on channel 16 moving to 17 to say non essential things like "good morning" and arrived in Bimini 10 hours later.  We had a bit of surfing, nothing too uncomfortable or spectacular, until we arrived about a mile off shore then there it was, the infamous turquoise water so beautiful you really can't believe your eyes.

High Fives, Immigration, Rum drinks, Conch salad.  We were thrilled. The Berry Islands are next, after this latest front moves on.



Week 28 - Reuniting with the Black Line

We had a bumpy salt sprayed sail back to the Shark River from Marco Island, 58 miles. It was a following sea which I hate the most and after a long time on land the boat feels heavy, sluggish and a little unruly.  I am wondering if there are a lot of barnacles and growth on the bottom of the boat?  I probably just forgot how much the boat can roll after some time on a dock staying put.  This is the first time that we are retracing our exact path which makes navigation a breeze so to speak because we just follow the black line of our prior coarse on the chart plotter.  We are making a big push to get back to Key Biscayne for our Bahamas crossing.  The following day is another long 9 hour day to Islamorada leaving as early as possible and again we retrace the black line.  We don't sail at night due to the mine field of crab pots in Florida Bay.

We head out to the ICW for the Islamorada to Key Largo leg and run into trouble.  The black line is gone, when we need it most, apparently it doesn't last forever as we thought but deletes itself hitting memory overload on the navigational software.  This is thin water but we made this trip a month ago and are surprised to run aground, over, and over, and over again.  We get caught on high sandy spots and muscle through, run aground again and back off, really run aground and sail off with the aid of the jib, run aground for real and call Sea Tow.  Sea Tow tells us that first they have to contact the Florida Fish and Game Warden because we could be in serious s if we have done any damage to this sensitive natural resource area.  Whoa. Dan jumps overboard and pulls the boat right off the shoal with a bow line.  Not really but sweating we try again to get off the sand bar and succeed.  Cancel the Sea Tow request, retraced the newly created black line back to Islamorada and decide on plan B.  We are going outside to the Hawk Channel.

We have lost the morning and get through Channel 5 at 12:30 with 25 miles to Rodrigues  Key where there is an outside anchorage.  We have enough time, there is light wind, 8 to 12k and we have more experience having completed outside legs at this point. The sail from Key Biscayne to Rodrigues was too daunting for us 6 weeks ago and we enjoy a beautiful sail in proper depth.  We couldn't really figure out what had so dramatically changed with regards to the uber shallow channel that we encountered this time going the same way on the inside to Key Largo?  It was not the phase of the moon because I checked,  it has something to do with the wind pushing the water out of the bay.  In any case, the path wasn't working and we had to change course.  A good lesson, change course, find a better way, maybe the path has shifted.

* Bailamos/We did not harm the "particularly sensitive sea area" with our fin keel, we were never out of the marked Chanel, which on the charts reads 5 feet at low tide.  Our experience was 4.3, 3.9 at mid tide. = ? WTH


Week 27 - "This is not the Atlantic"

We crossed Florida Bay to Flamingo, an entry way to the Everglades National Park and tied up at the rustic marina.  We were lucky to make it in with depths registering less than we draw, scraping through the mud.  Lots of wildlife and even more mosquitos.  Swarms, clouds, army's of mosquitos, we have never before experienced such a relentless onslaught so we piled on the DEET, which actually took off the nail polish on my toes, and had to close up the boat.  We had planned on staying for two nights but couldn't take it. With screens only on the front hatch and side portholes it was claustrophobic so we left and headed to a wilderness beach on Cape Sable 15 miles NW at 1 in the afternoon the next day.

It's rare for us to leave mid day but it was calm and the destination was close.  After motor sailing for two hours the wind was at 17 knots and the anchorage was not protected so we decided to go further up the coast to the Little Shark River.   I was busy down below when Dan made a decision to turn back, the wind was stronger than predicted, we had no experience in the area, arriving at dusk is pushing our luck.  I disagreed, I thought we could make it and hate turning back.
We anchored back near Flamingo in the vast Florida Bay, all by ourselves and miles from shore and civilization.  The next morning we headed to the Little Shark River at first light and it was a lot further than we thought, the only communication is the radio, it is truly the wilderness and we are now in the Gulf of Mexico.  There isn't even land, all mangrove swamp with gators, snakes and sharks.  Dan made the right decision by turning back and I let him know.

We wanted to go to the Indian Key Pass channel 5 miles out from Everglades City but heard a bad weather report from NOAA, the dreaded small craft advisory.  Rough water, wind picking up from the north, cold front moving down.  We can't get off the boat except to row around, can't swim, might be stuck here for days, so when two sailboats arrive from Mississippi we figure they know the Gulf waters, Dan rows over to get some local knowledge.  The boat Hobo (no kidding) and the Tartan 37 had sailed 350 miles across the Gulf of Mexico and convinced us that the Gulf an't no Atlantic Ocean and we would be fine in the reported conditions.  All 3 boats, including us, left before the sun rose, we flew past Indian Key Pass 10 miles inland and headed to Marco Island instead, record distance of 57 miles, record top speed of 8.5 knots, we beat the Mississippians but caught up to them later for beers and stories. They were a Grand Dad, his grandson, a park ranger friend and a grumpy guy who never got off the boat.

Fantastic wild coastline sail.





Week 26 - Go West

We spend hours and hours plotting our next move.  Where is the wind coming from, how many mph for how long, where can we expect to get and is there a safe anchorage given the conditions?  We need 2 good days to back track to Islamorada on the inside if we actually do back track, but there is only going to be 1 good, safe day.  Staying another 4 or 5 days in Stock Island brings us down, it is hard dealing with the mile row and we don't want to be stranded on board again.  We come up with a new plan, take off on Saturday with the lightest wind we have seen in months and go 50 miles to Marathon Key and get inside on the bay there, under the 7 Mile Bridge.  Go to a marina.

We are fired up ready to go at 7:30 and then we can't get the anchor up.  Like everything else on Bailamos pulling up the anchor is a manual or rather a Danual process.  It's caught on something and even flooring the engine to force it free is not working.  I am afraid of damaging the boat and obviously don't want Dan hurt.  Way too much work I am thinking, All of it.  Dan puts on his swim mask, jumps in, the water is only 7 feet deep and crystal clear.  The anchor chain is wrapped around an abandoned homemade anchor ......... Dan gets us free.  A good thing that we have a lot of chain, rope could have easily chafed and broke in the winds we sustained during the week that we were there.

 We have an amazing sail to Marathon, it's a payoff experience.  We take a slip at Faro Blanco, an upscale Marina and safe harbor, more big wind from the north is coming on Sunday.  After 26 days on anchor stepping onto a dock is like a spring day after a long winter, okay, it's a relief and much appreciated.  What's next?  We take a break for 2 more days and stare at the 15 day forecast which shows no window to cross the Gulf Stream.  We don't want to hang around in Miami/Key Biscayne for what could be 3 weeks or a month.  We saw what happened to the Anthem-Of-The-Seas in making a very bad decision to go to the Bahamas in dangerous conditions.  Impatience could lead us to trouble.

Jim, a 77 year old seasoned mariner in the Florida waters, happened by our boat and suggested that we head over to the west coast of Florida while waiting for the winds to shift and calm down.  We haven't given up on our Bahama dream but right now we are on our way to Flamingo to explore the Everglades.  Plan B feels right.

*Especially reading about the tornados that hit Miami yesterday!


Week 25 - Early Installment

It is only Friday and not even evening but I have enough material for my weekly post and am going crazy because we have not been able to get off the boat today, we cannot until tomorrow, and may have to spend the entire day on Sunday holed up on board again.  The reason is wind, 35mph + gusts up to 57,, wind from the North and a mile row in against it.  I think Dan is being a baby but he won't do it, get us off this boat.

We had our fastest and most successful sail ever on Wednesday, sailing 30 miles in 4 hours from Bahia Honda to Stock Island.  It was exhilarating going 6 to 8 knots and being pushed around a little but feeling completely in charge.  The wind was expected to be 15 to 18 mph dying down in the early afternoon so we left at 9:30 and when the wind was at 23 and increasing at 12:30 it seemed normal that NOAA was wrong, again.  We had already decided to go to Stock Island vs Key West on this leg. 1. Because it is cruise ship day in Key West , don't' want to face those vessels in the channel 2. No cruisers have been able to get to Cuba or the Bahamas because of the heavy winds so the anchorage is mobbed 3. The anchorage area in Key West is a mile row in and the location has no north wind protection.

We "drop the hook" next to some very neglected sailboats but all is great, feeling accomplished and our spot is tranquil and protected.  We were initially surprised that there was only 1 other sailboat here seeking refuge from the current wind outside but also the predicted heavy wind coming our way from the north later on.  Rowing ashore we soon understand that Stock Island isn't necessarily ghetto, but more of the working Key of the Florida Keys.  Stock Island is where the service workers live, where cars are fixed and where industry happens, with Caribbean music and generators blasting from trailer homes or the mangroves,  more garbage than you normally see and roosters.  Roosters as in chickens and roosters in the street, like in the DR, Caribbean, or Nicaragua.

We tuck the dory in some vegetation, decide that it is not the kind of boat that will get stolen,  get some dinner, head back out to Bailamos.  It is dead still, no air, hard to sleep, then the front moves in at 1 in the morning.  Powerful stuff, 35+ wind in an instant, sounds like 1000 ghosts haunting our night between the high pitched whistling rigging, the assaulting sounds of the wind and the rushing tide below us.   Dan & I are both dressed for action, watch a small 26ft sailboat seek protection in our area, we understand that our safety is not at risk but are on alert for dragging into other anchored boats around us or the coral shallows. It goes on forever, the relentless wind.

I don't know what I am going to do on Sunday to pass the time on our anchored island.  Play  rummy 5000 with Dan for big stakes, join facebook, become a bird watcher?

Or go to the Marriot for 2 nights which is what we did with still no weather window in sight to cross the Gulf Stream.



Week 24 - Outside In

We spent much of the week in Tarpon Basin at Key Largo where we encountered a well organized group of boat Hobos.  Boat Hobos (my term) are everywhere in South Florida and what distinguishes them from other people living on their boats, "live aboards" is that they have no services or facilities, no water, no electricity, no internet or laundry.  No Problem, except for water. There is wind and solar power, laundromats and the library for internet.    This group is almost always male and often are war veterans, loners who want some peace.  When a community wants to run the Hobos out it shuts off the water supply in the park or municipal building, wherever people are filling up water jugs for free.  It's bad PR to  shut off the drinking fountains in a public park and leave it to veterans to figure out how to tap into this source.  They jam the on button with a stick to keep the water flowing then attach a clear plastic hose to the fountain head and on Sunday everyone fills up their jugs for the week, us included.

We set sail for a two day leg to Key West and our first venture "outside" in a long time.  It was going to be windy but we were not concerned because we would be sailing outside the Florida Keys but inside the Florida Reef in the Hawk Channel, creating what the fishermen refer to as Lake Atlantic.  Because of the barrier of the reef this body of water is alway flat calm even when it is blowing 20.  Except when the wind is blowing 20 from the east, which it was.  It is surprisingly easy to forget what 4 to 6 foot rollers feel like in a 30 foot sailboat.  Feels like the Jersey coast.

The following sea hits us from behind and spins the boat around from the back.  It is very challenging to control the tiller with the powerful force of the waves, like trying to hold back a big dog on a leash going after another dog while on a moving platform, for 6 hours.  The dory which normally  tows like a shark through the water surfs and slams into the stern, so we let out more line, as much as there was.  We had a double reef in the mainsail and a small amount of jib,  it was a beautiful day and I couldn't really decide if I was afraid or if I had just forgotten what it was like to be out in open water.  I guess I'll figure it out today because we are going back out there in the same conditions.  That rum runner in Key West is going to taste sweet.



Week 23 - Drag Queen

We didn't venture far with the continuing unsettled weather and very few protected anchorages on the outside of the Keys, Hawk Channel, where we have to go due to our deep draft so we tucked into No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne.  No Name Harbor is a dream location and lots of boaters feel the same way.

The harbor is very small with enough room for 20 good size boats and 6 more on the wall where you can tie up for the day to enjoy the .... state park, the beach, or fish off of many piers on Biscayne Bay.  Lot's of day trippers especially power boats from Miami come to eat at the small Boater's Grill restaurant.  The sailboats come in to anchor for the night and in bad weather you are lucky to get a spot, anchorage is tight, better know what you're doing.

It's pretty easy for Bailamos to squeeze in being only 30 feet, 30 feet means a 100 ft diameter circle when you allow for the scope of the anchor line which varies according to conditions and being a light boat with a fin keel we swing around a lot in the wind, in the current, so obviously we pay attention to the circumference of our swing area.  When we arrive at our anchorage area we spend a good 10 minutes scoping it out, better to do some surveillance and get the right spot rather than have to pull up the hook and do it again.  We have anchored too close to boats and gotten an ear full to be polite.  Our routine is that I drive, we agree on a spot, Dan lets out the anchor, chain, line, we back the boat up until it sets and then hit MOB (man overboard) on the plotter so we can tell if the boat is moving.  Don't want it to move.

We are good to go, we have a peaceful night and wake up to the fact that the boat has moved slightly and we are too close to the cement wall.  We pull up the anchor, go through the process and go ashore for a bike ride.  It's blowing hard so we don't venture too far and round back on our bikes on the other side of the harbor to check on things.  We had heard warning horns blowing and it only registers when we see our boat rapidly dragging across the water about to hit another anchored sail boat.  We hadn't let enough "scope" out so when the tide came in the anchor let go.  We race back to our dory, row out to the boat, climb onboard, fend off, start the engine.  The French people on the boat we are threatening to damage are yelling that our anchor lines have been fouled up in theirs, this was not true but caused precious seconds to elapse where we did not power away.   I didn't want to put the engine in gear if we were not free.   We were about 2 feet away from the French boat when it was determined that the lines were clear so I pulled a 180 to starboard, in the direction of the French boat, missing it by inches.  The wind was 34mph  pushing us towards the French boat and I thought the best way to escape was to use wind and engine power.  IDK Lucky our boat can turn so fast, no harm, no foul, I guess.

I am extremely shaken as we try for a solid anchor spot, the harbor is now full, the wind blows us backwards faster than Dan can get the anchor down, I don't like it.  We decide to tie up to the wall, there are folks there waiting to help us, many spectators have watched this scene and suggest we have a drink.  We stay on the wall for a week as the storms raged across the East coast.

* Drag Queen is an app that tells you if your anchor is dragging.  Pretty cool unless your phone is in your pocket and your on a bike ride.


Week 22 - A Slip Story

There is no question when it comes to  money over safety, safety is paramount, but there is hesitation.  We found ourselves lucky to get a mooring ball in the municipal marina in Coconut Grove Miami for several reasons.  The weather has been out of sorts everywhere and in south Florida this has produced stormy windy weather preventing cruising sailors from crossing over to the Bahamas.  Cruisers have had to hold out for a weather window resulting in packed anchorages and marinas.  Coconut Grove is home to the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and several other marinas. Mega yachts, sports fishing boats, and sailing yachts stay here all winter long so there is little room for the transient boat.  Finally, the international olympic sailing trials for the49er sailboats were being hosted in Coconut Grove adding to the demand for a spot in this area of Biscayne Bay.

The problem for us arises when the weather report predicts a storm approaching with east winds in the 20s then 30s gusting to 50 mph.  Our mooring location is completely exposed to east winds and we are 1/2 mile out from shore with no protection.  In addition to being vulnerable to a wild ride the bottom of the bay where we are is a grave yard of debris only 6 1/2 feet deep at low tide (we draw 5 1/2'), which could cause a lot of damage if the boat is bouncing heavily in a storm.  Finally, we are too far out to row into shore and the launch will not run in winds over 15 so we could be stranded on the boat in bad conditions for days, very bad for our relationship.  We have got to move, or do we?   There is nothing available in the municipal marina in the form of a more protected location or a slip, there is nothing available at the next 2 marinas that we call, we could go back to Miami and consider it.  We call the third marina in the area and they have a slip for $100 per night, we have been paying $25 for the mooring.  Understand that the weather has not hit, can easily change, there are plenty of other sailors hanging on these moorings and we are assured by the professional seasoned staff that the boat will be fine.  $100 a night is a budget killer.  We move.

At 9:30 am we head over to Bay View Marina.  There literally is electricity in the air which a legitimate storm brings to a water front community in high preparation mode.  While we know what slip is ours we will have no assistance getting into or finding the slip because the staff is too busy, boats in Bay View are in the millions of dollars range and all hands are on deck securing those beauties.

In Florida the tide runs only around 2 feet so the marinas can get away with no floating docks like we are accustomed to in New England.  When you get a slip up north the boat is surrounded by docks, easy to jump off and tie up lines to cleats and no concern for hitting the boat in the next slip. There also seems to be a lot more room.  A slip in a Florida marina is essentially 4 telephone poles outlining a slim parcel of water.  There is a plank runner getting you to the main dock once you tie up the boat. Do they teach lasso technique along with the bowline knot in Florida?

Bailamos is a sleek maneuverable boat with a steering rudder hung outboard on the stern, no 30 foot sailboat can turn on a dime like the S2 9.1, good thing because here is the situation, lucky to get a slip, no assistance in tossing a line out to tie up or direct the boat, slide the boat into 12 feet of space with a 10.5 beam, don't scratch the big money yachts, lasso cowboy style 4 lines practically at the same time over the 4 poles, pay $100.

It was a good decision, it blew like hell and we stayed for 2 nights.  We're still together and off to explore the Keys.



Week 21 - Hey Bridge Tender

There is a not too subtle battle going on between the anchoring sailing community and waterfront homeowners.  We arrived in Miami to yet another land locked anchorage, Sunset Lake, and one in which the homeowners have gone so far as to anchor 30 little de-masted sunfish in front of their homes trying to prevent cruising sailboats from spending a night or two, Flocks of seagulls now hangout on these boats turning them into guano islands, is this preferable? Maybe birds getting a free float and view are not as offensive as Canadians (just kidding). There is such a vast network of sailors and published guides on anchorage areas from Maine to Texas  I can't help but think that these homeowners must scratch their heads wondering how do all these boats make their way HERE?  We almost always find a way to get to shore without trespassing on private land and thank the technology gods for Uber.

Our journey to Miami was a game of bridges.  There are 23 bridges between Hobe Sound and the southern end of Miami,  and our first big brideathon was an exercise in missing the openings by minutes as we watched them close for another 1/2 hour.  When you are trying to get through 13 in a day (our record) this makes for a lot of time motoring around in circles waiting for the next "lift".  The way the bridge openings work in South Florida is either upon request by a boat who, due to mast or flybridge height, can't make it under, or the openings are restricted to specific times.  Most bridges are restricted opening up only on the hour, half hour, or quarter hour, and these times are detailed in our ICW guide.  The system is designed so that a sailboat going 6 knts can make all the bridge openings, the one at noon, the one at 12:30 3 miles away, the one at 12:45 one mile further.  This is a dream when this timing actually works and it is a great game of synchronicity.  I want to express great gratitude to all the Floridians sitting in their cars during these incessant openings.

Another great part of the fun is talking on the radio.  I'm not sure who enjoys this more, the women or the men.  When else as an adult do you get to say things like "Roger That"  "This is south bound sailing vessel Bailamos standing by for your next lift, Over"  Whoever speaks on the radio to the bridge tender is called "Captain". I appreciated this and Dan and I debate over who has a more engaging voice over channel 9 (long days people). The bridge tenders all wish us a safe trip after we thank them for letting us through, one tender said "enjoy the dance"  (Bailamos) We loved that, and we are. Copy that?





Week 20 - The Complacent Captian

Read all about the land lubber on the He Said Page.


Week 19 - Happy New Year

After 10 days on land and a wonderful time with our kids, family and friends we came back to a very moldy boat.  It has been unusually hot in central Florida so closing up the boat without a dehumidifier caused the problem.  Bleach, laundry, and K2 to the rescue.  Dan is hard at work replacing hinges on our broken table, installing new depth/wind/compass gauges, fixing the leaking stuffing box (I don't really know what that is).  Claustrophobia is an issue with  newly acquired Christmas gifts.  I go especially crazy and we argue about what to get rid of trying to out do each other on picking things the other person could not possibly part with, like my mini flower plastic fan.  Dan examines the garbage bag making sure that I didn't accidentally put something in there.

Part 2 of the voyage begins on Tuesday when we give up the slip in Fort Pierce and head to Miami and the Florida Keys.  Woot!

New Years resolutions:  Clean up the salty language, drink less rum, do pushups everyday.  Ha Ha Ha



Week 18 - You Get What You Pay For

Left a day ahead of schedule for our slip in Ft. Pierce to make sure everything was in good order before leaving Bailamos for the first time in a unknown marina.  Ft. Pierce is only 16 miles from Vero Beach, Dan and I had mistakenly arrived at a place where we thought the big misjudgments concerning cruising were behind us.  The basic facts about a boat are always relayed to any marina where you are pulling in, boat length, draft, beam, sail or motor.  When we made the reservation at Riverside marina weeks ago for Christmas break they knew we drew 51/2 feet. The marina pros let us know to come at high tide and the slip depth was 5 feet at low tide.  We could let the boat sit in the mud for a few hours each day and for $25 per day "winter storage"  we signed on.

Well the depth was 3.6 feet at High tide. This place does not answer channel 16 marine radio, or the phone, important communication  assistance when pulling into an unknown area that is tight and shallow.  We knew our slip was next to the black "Treasure Hunter" power boat with large metal blowers on the stern and spotted the location.  You know that really bad feeling right before an accident of any sort, your intuition tells you to stop, we had it but didn't react which would have been to turn back.  Not enough water,  no assistance, decrepit floating wrecks every where, even by Florida standards.   Not only did we run aground, but the current was ripping and we were  pulled into the metal  dredgers and put a big gash in the hull.

We found out later the Riverside marina is the place to go for free entertainment as far as local marinas go.  Stabbings, unhinged crazys living on boats that are not even floating, they are on stands with ladders, no legitimate electricity just miles of extension cords, this place was like a Pirates of the Caribbean nightmare.

We left, we escaped, before there was no water under the boat.  Ft Pierce is a big place, a major inlet to the ocean with many marinas, 12 to be exact with close to 900 slips.   On the phone, on the radio, pulled into marinas hoping  for a slip and some pity.  The place was booked solid, with one exception.  Harbor Town marina, which had been full weeks ago when we first made our reservations, had a slip available because a 40 ft sail boat just left for Cuba 3 days before.  It was not cheap and we could not have been more fortunate.  We had a D&S after we secured our lines in one of the classiest marinas we had ever been to.  Assistance with securing the boat at the time of arrival and for future conditions, negotiated a monthly rate, immaculate facilities, a great boat neighbor, a pro to repair the gouge, and most importantly peace of mind.  What's it worth $? Going cheap cost us far more than securing a spot in a first rate place, especially when leaving the boat unattended.  That's why this is all so fun, a good lesson around every marker.


Week 17 - Slow & Easy

With only 135 miles to cover in an entire week to arrive at Ft. Pierce where we will leave the boat for Christmas we meandered down the Florida coast 20, 30 miles at a time.  Daytona, New Smyrna, Titusville, Cocoa, Eau Gallie, Vero, each town with its own character, a few we will never step foot in again.  More dolphins that we never tire of watching, they swim so close to the boat that it's startling when they come up for air.  We encountered our first Manatees this week, gigantic and lethargic, not half as fun as the dolphins.

We continued our investigation on why there are so many sunken boats in the water in Florida.  Many of these boats can not be traced to the actual owners because most have been sold several times without changing the registration.  The towns do go after whoever legally owns the vessel on paper but it is miserably time consuming.  Even if someone is interested in salvaging an abandoned boat the cost and the red tape make it not worth the effort.  The biggest factor is the transient population of boat owners.  In Hull, for example, people know what boat belongs to whom, not the case in FL where derelict boats appear and the owners disappear up north.  Every 3 years in Cocoa the town hires a barge and a crane to sweep the harbor clean of the wrecks, some towns have more resources than others.  

Off to the west coast to Tampa and Venice, in a car traveling at 60 mph, to sleep in a bed for the first time since Cape May, and see our kids who we haven't laid eyes on since August 17th.   Gonna be great!


Week 16 - Florida Style

We spent a rainy windy majority of the week in slips in St. Augustine & Palm Coast.  I wasn't up for the row in from the mooring field to shore in the bad weather so we spent the cash for the marina and it was worth every penny.  We spoke to other boaters who opted for hotel rooms or wound up sea sick or just worried sick with the 30-40 mph winds.  We had a great visit with my Aunt B & Husband Dave whom we also met up with in Newport making them our first North/South familiar faces on the voyage.  We also met up with our British friends who we met during hurricane Joaquin in Virginia, saw again in St. Mary's GA and were in St. A at the same time as us.  This happens quite frequently that you see the same boats along the way.  The Brits have a new 47ft Jenneau Ocean.... and it does not get any nicer than that on a sailing yacht.  I keep my envy in check thinking about how overwhelming a boat that size is to handle, at least for me.  A boat that size also has limitations with a 67 ft mast that can not go under the bridges on the lCW and their draft keeps them far away from shore in places like the Bahamas and Chesapeake when anchoring.  Little Bailamos has served us well.

They do the best they can at Christmas time in Florida.  Lots of white reindeer below the palm trees, light up figures of people ice skating, snow men, blow up holiday characters that lay in deflated piles in the wind. Kind of like Hull.   The golf cart trains that run around the city with carolers drinking, children on their laps were interesting.  Feeling a little home sick not gonna lie.

The most interesting boating event of the week came on our way to Palm Coast where we received frantic arm signals & radio contact from sailboats going by telling us to turn around.  We had seen the confusing sight of a sail boat with it's head sail out not moving beached on a shoal.  Apparently a run away catamaran had been captured by modern day pirates who tied the boat onto the channel marker ( illegal) and were cutting off pieces of the vessel with saws.  The sailboat therefore did not see the marker and ran aground, then attempted to sail off the shoal, warning those of us rounding the bend to steer clear.  We ran aground anyway but only for a short time.  This was not the first story that we heard of boats being stripped when broken free in a storm.  Pretty disconcerting and disappointing from a likeminded community of boaters.  We have only heard of this happening in Florida.

The Florida waters are also littered with decrepit, abandoned, half sunk boats who take up valuable anchorage and are eyesores to the home owners along the shore.  Sailboats with no masts, boats that have been struck by lighting, anchor lines covered in oysters, who are these owners?  I think the attitude adds up to a bit of disrespect and that's too bad.  I don't know what I would do if it were my home waters.....flair gun to the hull? No.



Week 15 - Crossing into Florida

We finally left St. Mary's after our longest stay in any one port, 9 days.  We were surprisingly anxious leaving, there was a strong current, but more than anything it had been a while since we were out on the water making decisions.  We were only going as far as Fernandina Beach 15 miles down the ICW but it was a milestone arriving in Florida, our 10th state.  Typical to the Maptech Cruising Guide, Fernandina has "a lively art scene, victorian architecture,  cafes, boutiques etc".  What it fails to mention is that the town, and such the anchorage, is sandwiched between two 24/7 gigantic paper mills.  Are cruisers not supposed to notice the paper mills that dwarf everything else in sight?  We don't get it but it was great to be back out on the trail.

We continued our industrial part of the journey to the Jacksonville public docks with great views of the nuclear power plant.  Jacksonville (twice the size of Miami, 3rd largest city on the East Coast, covering more square miles than LA)  is actually 10 miles up the St. John's river and we had no desire to venture there.

Tomorrow begins our 4th month on the voyage.  We are in good shape with a reserved slip in Ft. Pierce only 200 miles away where we will leave Bailamos for a week at Christmas.  We have decided to head to the Florida Keys after the holidays and wait until I have shaken the ER dust off before heading to the Bahamas.  All Great.


Week 14 - Giving Thanks

We had recognized several weeks earlier that we were not going to make it to Ft. Lauderdale before Thanksgiving where we had a slip for the boat allowing us to fly home for 10 days for a much anticipated holiday with friends and family.  We had lost 3 weeks of sailing time with the troubles in NJ, the hold up during hurricane Joaquin, and the prop replacement.  Plan B was to join a large cruisers Thanksgiving pot luck in St. Mary's GA which gave us a lot of meandering time to enjoy the Golden Isles. We spent 3 days anchored at Jekyll Island which had been the winter home to a small group of the mega wealthy families: Morgan's, Vanderbilts  Carnegies, etc where they would hunt, golf, fish,enjoy the beaches after leaving their summer homes in Newport RI and hectic lives in the largenorthern industrial cities. The island is now owned by the state of Georgia so us regular folk can enjoy this beautiful island the same way, bike swim fish, walk on the pristine beaches. Cumberland Island is completely unspoiled and magical, the largest and southernmost of the Georgia Barrier Islands  Wild horses do roam freely, live oaks are drenched in moss. It feels a little bit like Jurassic Park.  Unfortunately I was coming down with something so Dan was on his own to explore while I slept. Selfishly I was not sad that the weather was gray.

The wind was going to blow hard so we left the secluded anchorage in Cumberland and headed to St Mary's on Sunday.  We figured it wasn't a bad idea to get a slip early for the Thanksgiving festivities.  St. Mary's has been hosting a cruisers Thanksgiving for 13 years, 60 to 80 boats and some people come now who don't even have boats anymore and stay at the hosting hotel.  There is something going on pretty much every night, a cocktail reception at the St Mary's Yacht Club (a floating party boat on the dock) an oyster roast at a local tavern and then Thanksgiving pot luck at a local hotel and a final fair well party on Friday.  All of these events are free, bring a side and enjoy all of the local roasted oysters you can eat, bring a side and the turkey and ham has been locally cooked and donated.  Great times.
Unfortunately I was not experiencing my normal 3 day bounce back from whatever bug I had.  Day 5 in addition to the aches, so bad it hurt to open and close my hands, splitting head ache, unrelenting fatigue I now had coughing fits so intense I couldn't sleep. We bought some Robitussen and I got sicker. I needed to see a doctor, easier said then done without a car. St Mary's is a generous place for visiting boats and the local hotel owner gave us a ride 35 minutes away to the clinic. 45 minuets later she picked us up at Winn Dixie where we were picking up antibiotics, probiotics and MucinexDM for my quadruple infections : double ear, throat and sinus.  At last some drugs to put me on the path to wellness.

Antibiotics, the miracle drug, gave both Dan & I complete confidence that I was 48 hours away from recovery so I went to work getting better and Dan went to work on becoming the most popular guy at the cruisers Thanksgiving.  I had my 6 hour drug schedule with lots of hydration making sure to eat.  Dan went to every party, set up tables, met up with friends we had met on the journey and was asked to be the next commodore for the St. Mary's Yacht Club.  Only problem, I wasn't  gettting better, I got worse, the drugs had made me nauseous and it was Thanksgiving day.  I knew that I had to hold it together, I didn't even scream or stab Dan when he made creamed leeks for 100 in the galley, or asked me if I wanted to try some, I didn't cry because it was my favorite holiday and I would spend it alone sick as I had ever been in my life.

The next morning I was even worse off so we took a cab to the clinic the following morning. I was having a terrible time breathing, the Doctor  immediately  sent me to the ER at the local hospital.  Miracle #1 the ER was 5 minutes away, Miracle #2 there was no one there.  Within an hour I had met with the doctor, had a chest x-ray, an IV steroid to clear up my lungs, a breathing treatment, an EKG, a second breathing treatment because the first one didn't work too well, bloodwork to check my oxygen level and a warm blanket.  I wanted to stay there all weekend.  I didn't care what they did or how much it was going to cost and at the end of the afternoon I was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Thankful, for Dan who was by my side the whole time, for high quality accessible medical care with my newly issued Mass health card, for the easy inhale. With the new antibiotics I did get better, in one day, and I was grateful. Off to Florida.



Week 13 - Georgia Low Country

We spent the week winding endlessly through snaking rivers, creeks and sounds in the Georgia backwater.  Dan's Captains log will attest to just how vast this salt marsh watershed is and many cruisers miss out on this beautiful serene country because they are in a rush or their masts are too high, over 65 feet or the boat draws too much depth. This stretch of the ICW demanded all of our attention, no auto tiller here, careful navigation to avoid shoals, strong currents and an ever winding course.  There is very little development and some days we would see only 1 other boat.  Dolphins and birds kept us company, alas the alligator remains allusive much to Dan's disappointment.  In order to bring in cruisers the town of Darien, the oldest town in Georgia, settled by Scottish Highlanders, offers free dockage including water and electricity.  The history in this part of the South is fascinating.  Fort King George, a British outpost set up to keep the Spanish out of the territory, and the Hofwyl Broadfield rice plantation were both a bike ride from our dock.  Jumbo shrimp sold from a back of a pickup truck were $8.00 a pound, turnips, collard greens, mustard greens, mountains of them from another side of the road farmer for $4.00.  They couldn't believe we were from Boston, My God.  This is Forest Gump territory.

We anchored in front of Fort Frederica, an abandoned settlement established to keep the Spanish out, they welcome boaters with a dingy dock.  This is a beautiful property run by the National Park Service,  the only folks there now are a ranger and some volunteers.  My favorite esthetic here in Georgia are the live oak trees, some hundreds of years old, dripping with Spanish moss.  They give the area a fairytale like feel and are very grand.   Nature shined this week and I am sure we will look back with even more affection as we head into the uber developed Florida east coast.


Week 12 - Takes All Kinds
We spent most of the week in Beaufort, I recovered from the flu and Dan took the opportunity to instal a shower in the head.  This is a very exciting addition to our floating home and something that I had been complaining about for a while.  Now we don't have to pay for a marina or use the camp shower, meet 3rd option = Privacy ! We also spent most of the week soaking wet and damp.  It poured, torrential rain, for hours and days.  It was truly astonishing how much it rained, and the amount of water that came down.  More flooding for the beleaguered South Carolinians.  When everything is damp or soaked the boat feels really small, so when I was feeling better we went out.  We rowed in in the deluge from a mooring that we took for $20 per night to the town dock and met fellow soggy sailers Nickie and Peter from Halifax.

 These people amazed us.  They sailed a really old Tartan 30 with only a hand held GPS, tired lines, flabby sails, no dingy, no canvas (Dodger or Bimini for weather protection) from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Provincetown, Massachusetts.  It took them 56 hours sailing around the clock, they were 100 miles off shore at times.  They then sailed to Beaufort in the following 5 weeks.  Their boat, Old Sting, did not have a furling jib which meant that one of them had to go up to the bow and take down the sail and hank on a new one depending on the wind conditions.  Each night they would sail into unknown ports in the dark, the Coast Guard made them move one night in Norfolk because they were anchored in a restricted military zone, they tried to get into Beaufort Inlet but the weather was so bad they had to go to Savannah 50 miles away, they never wore PFD's because Peter said if you fall over it's over.  OMG.  N & P are our age, retired from the Canadian government and it seems like they have about $10.00   Dan & I for days looked at them and pondered how did they pull that off?  Are we wimps or are they crazy?

Here I was whining that I didn't have a proper shower (read: kitchen sprayer on a long hose & a floor drain) and their boat's V berth, where Dan & I sleep, was full of dirty head sails and other sailing gear, they had a cooler that plugged into the 12 volt charger for their food, the boat motor could only go forward.   Each morning they pull Old Sting up to the town dock where they would leave it until 10pm and then anchor the boat 30 feet away thus avoiding any fees.  Turns out that they are crazy.  In telling us their tales Nickie, really spacey, really funny, very attractive, would laugh and recall how she thought they were going to die, how she would sleep during her watch, how she screamed that they were selling the boat as soon as they got into port.  She told me that the frightening experience was like child birth in that you forget about all the bad stuff the next day.  Hummmm
We have meet a ton of sailors from all over the world in all kinds of boats.  People sail alone or with their cats, they have cashed in their 401ks or are recovering from bad breakups.  I guess the thing about N & P that threw us is that they are the most cavalier couple that we have come across and we were questioning our bravery.  In the end I think they were really lucky, I hope it continues.  It's all ego questioning our cautious approach and there is no room for ego on the water.  We're good, but we are going outside soon *
* back out on the ocean


Week 11 - Into South Carolina

S.C. is the most beautiful leg of the ICW.  I have a cold ya'll so see Dan's - He Said page for this weeks entry.


Week 10 - New Prop.

Waiting around in a boat yard for parts and repairs is a bit of a game,,, with gossip, whisperings, and tempers, like any painstaking project where there is competition for talent (mechanics) , time (who gets worked on first) and space (there is only 1 lift and if more repairs are needed when the boat is hauled out an entire day can be lost).  Add to this the fact that everyday you & your boat are in the yard costs money, by the foot.  Meet the players, Bailamos waiting on a new prop. to be delivered on Wednesday, already diagnosed, easy job.  C-Port 40 ft old power yacht  owned by an older couple, Joe & Joyce needing transmission seals, they had been there for 10 days.  Kamalot a 40 ft Pace Maker , with such an extensive list of repairs that they have been there since July with only 1 out of 6 crew members left, Mike on a 34 ft sailboat recently purchased in Elizabeth City for short money with a host of issues towed in that day, and finally Frank on a 42ft Zeelander 4 damaged props. from running aground off of Cape Hatteras.

So how does it work?  Local boats with seasonal slips get attention ASAP when trouble hits, parts come in and they're wrong , mechanics take lunch, some of them are not as experienced as others, workers knock off at 4 and factories repairing parts work Monday through Thursday.    All of these factors cause delays and put people on edge.  We wonder, does the Zeelander get ahead of us because it is a yacht worth 1.4 million dollars, will Mike get out 1st because he has to be back at work in a week, Kamalot is practiclly family by now. We go out for beers & pizza with all of our fellow cruisers and talk stupid rumors on how the yard works slow on purpose, we have tifs over the communal tv, laundry and curtesy car.  (Okay we did take the car for 8 hours to go to the Outer Banks on Sunday - whoops)  Deaton is a sophisticated marina & we all wait our turn patiently.

Except on Wednesday, when UPS is scheduled to deliver our new propeller.  Dan goes into action.  Several of us are on the look out for the Brown truck expected to round the corner at noon delivering the escape.  I see it first, we meet Mr. Brown together, confirm the prop is in the delivery, wait for lunch break to be over then Dan sets out to make sure every key person knows that our equipment has arrived. Dan also makes clear that fixing our boat will take no time at all compared to the expensive yacht from Holland.  The yard needs space and we are the obvious choice to be picked for repairs 1ST.  Mike is already gone.  A bit of conniving, lots of sales experience works and.we are waving goodbye @4:00 just before closing time.

Porpoises surround the boat on the way out back to the ICW escorting us, it feels so great to be on an anchor vs tied to a boat yard.  The new prop. has given Bailamos new life, a big lift of over 1 1/2 knots motoring.  Joe & Joyce will pass us several times in the days ahead, good to know they got all fixed up, we wave and reminisce on Joyce's rant over the car.    Zeelander, the slickest boat we have ever seen, passes us and heads out to sea.  Mike became one of our best ICW sailing friends warning us often of shoals where he ran aground,  sharing information via email that saved us much time trouble and damage.   Guess it's a good thing that he got out before us.




Week 9 - Waiting on Repairs
The bent propeller causes the boat to vibrate while motoring, which in the ICW we do most of the time running the engine with the jib sail.  The damaged prop also means that we have to go even slower to avoid further damage or wear on the entire propelling mechanism.  We send the prop back to the Martec in California and It can not be fixed, it has already been rebuilt 5 times, so we order a new one.  Expenses like this, repairs, new equipment, are expected and have been factored into the expense of the voyage.  We will be calling The Deaton Yacht Yard, Oriental N.C. our home for a week.   So we make the best of it jumping into the local scene.  Ol' Porch Music Festival, BBQ fundraiser, chicken dinner at the Woman's Club & local dining spots.

The only food worse for you than American Southern is in Scotland.  If Scotland & N.C.had a contest on fried, hight fat, fake salads & mountains of sweets as the only food options it would be a draw.  Great seafood is fried or in a cream sauce with cheese.  They start the meal with hush puppies, fried corn donut like tidbits you smear with butter.  You can get collard greens made with bacon fat & sugar, okra is deep fried.  You can get broccoli or squash....casserole = cheese! sour cream, bread crumbs, the vegetable makes a small appearance. Dan ate all of it and said all I did was Complain.  He has even taken to eating Carolina Country snack fried pork skin, mildly seasoned.  I said "how big do you want my butt to be by the time we reach Florida"?  He said "why don't you just have a glass of wine for dinner" which I thought was a sensible compromise.  Even Carolina wine is extremely  sweet & sweet tea will make your teeth ache. I ordered the She Crab soup once and Dan asked why only the She & not the He?  She said" I am not allowed to tell the customers that"  What waitress won't tell you what is in the food? I can only imagine.

 I am really shocked because this is farm country & a shrimp, fish, crab mecca.  Kind of like Scotland which has the highest obesity, cholesterol  levels in Europe & the lowest life expectancy with the same kind of food bounty.  People are big & happy in both places gobbling it all up.  I have eggs & rice, fish from the fish market, tomatoes ...plenty as long as we cook on the boat, but going out locally is part of the obvious fun.   I think that being held up for an entire week is the real problem because we go out more just to escape the confinement. I love bacon by the way, don't get me wrong. Where is the propeller!? Time To Get Sailing before my clothes don't fit anymore.
                         



WEEK - 8 ICW Miles 0 - 136

Entering  Hampton Roads water way on the way to the ICW is Gray & Confusing. The water, battle ships, airplane hangers, barges, cargo terminals, helicopters & bridges are all Gray.  The navigation is challenging to say the least.  The area is home to the largest Naval Base in the world, with several restricted areas, the cities of Hampton, New Port News, Portsmouth & Norfolk all converge into one massive harbor with their own ports and markers.   How do you know where to go?  We now have an additional chart book specific to the ICW, I pretend that I know where we are on the paper charts, Dan pretends that he knows where we are on the chart plotter, we pretend that we are not concerned about the barges being pushed at odd angles by tugs in our direction.  I can't help but think..your average south bound  boater gets through this okay?

The sights are amazing, a bit erie, and amazingly quiet.  We figure it out, avoid the military & professional vessels, arrive at mile 0 on the ICW, hail the bridge tender on channel 13 to open up and let us through, pretty exciting.

There are 2 ways to go - The deeper more commercial & popular Virginia Cut or the Great Dismal Swamp.  We choose the latter for it's historical value & to avoid the barges.  The canal was dug by slaves in order to transport white cedar out of the swamp and also provide a sheltered route from Norfolk to North Carolina.  Deemed a dismal place by early settlers the canal is now used primarily by personal voyagers going north or south.  It is dredged to 6 ft which is a close shave for us but with all the rain most of the time it was 7 feet or more.  We hit a submerged log and damaged the prop anyway.  Green slim covers the coffee colored water & smells like swamp,  the mast hit the tree tops several times, 3 bridges & 2 locks later we arrive in Elizabeth City. It was a beautiful and interesting ride but we are pretty down about the damaged prop.  It means that we will have to haul the boat out or hire a diver.  Not even Dan can fix this on his own.

Elizabeth City offers free 48 hour docking and hosts a welcome cocktail party for boaters.  No town tries harder to attract the migrating boating community so we stay and enjoy the hospitality, meet some ocean crossing sailors all of whom have mishaps of their own to share.  We decide to haul the boat out in Oriental N.C. to fix the prop and address any damage from the N.J. disaster.  Our friend Capt. Randy grew up in Oriental and has lined us up with friends with marine facilities, contact info. for family members and the use of a country trailer home so we have somewhere to stay while the boat is being repaired.  He said no one has lived in the trailer for several Years.......why not.  LOL




Week 7 - Joaquin

We knew a storm was coming so we headed for safe harbor sailing up the Rappahannock River 10 miles inland to Carter Creek another 2 miles to a beautiful hurricane hole.  Dan gave me a lot of credit later in the week during the heavy weather, especially the wind which was blowing 60mph out in the Bay, for finding us such a tucked away anchorage.  We have never gone so far off course.  It did cross my mind that the town of Irvington was an actual historic town with restaurants & shops and home to the Tides Inn a resort that became our place of refuge for a week.

Our logic was to anchor right along side of the resort and spend our money wisely on food and drink there, not on a slip which was $2.50 per foot + excessive taxes.   It was safer for us to be swinging an anchor, as long as it held, then banging around on a dock.  Bailamos swung like a merry go round for 3 days.  You would look out from the cabin and watch the trees whirl by and then the anchor line would pull us back around.  If there was a time to get sick/dizzy from constant motion this was it.  We had our second anchor ready but did not want the lines to get tangled up so we just left it out in the cockpit ready for an emergency.

It poured and poured and we bailed the dingy put on our foul weather gear and went to the Tides.  One night there was an excellent band, we had crab cakes, Virginia wine, beer aged in bourbon casks, watched the weather in a beautiful lounge while a fire burned.   LOL  Seriously it was amazingly nice.  Dan knew everyone by the end of the week.  I wish for blogs sake that i had a more riveting tale on how we survived Joaquin with sheer fortitude and perseverance  and any other sailboat name you can think of.  We didn't play lawn chess, frisbe golf or use the pool because it was a hurricane duh.

We were safe and now we are headed to the ICW - The Inter Coastal Waterway YEE Ha


Week 6 - Can't ya Smell that Smell

September is hurricane season, understood, but how can there be a small craft advisory Every Single day?  This is the Chesapeake, IN-Land water, how windy can it be?   Day 3 on an anchor in protected Wortons Creek we were going seriously crazy and decided on a new approach, go out and see what it's like, plan on a short sail, turn back if it's bad.

We had watched other sailboats depart in advisory conditions & figured they had to get back to work & were willing to grit it out.  Maybe the small craft advisory, described as wind 18 to 33 mph is directed at very small, 16ft and under fishing boats?  We short sailed for several days & pulled into Tilghmans Island, which is 1 mile wide, 3 miles long, where we would spend the weekend at the best marina of the trip, Knapps Narrows Marina.   No gloating but we were on a beautiful estuary where we could see the sun set and the blood moon rise with free bikes, ice, continental breakfast, a pool & a free loaner car.  I never wanted to leave.

Tilghman's Island is a real deal Waterman's village and we heard and saw just how crazy the Chesapeake can get.  The history of sunken Skipjacks & the hazards of fishing in the bay are all around.  The Lady Patty, an 80ft Sloop that takes tourists out, snapped her mast recently in 40mph wind right in the channel.   We sipped beers and watched a 40ft power yacht smash into pilings trying to get into a slip at a marina restaurant when it was blowing 25-30 and actually have to get boarded by a local captain just to get it docked. The beautiful teak swim platform was destroyed. $$$$$ damage Ouch!   We had met Andres in the marina working on his rather ancient Tartan 28.  He is the one who told us that the small craft advisory in these waters is for the "tourist crabbers".  Imagine our surprise to see Sea Tow pulling Andre & his wife back to shore because he went out in 35-40mph wind and ran out of gas.  It cost him $900, damaged his boat, and that evening with his wife could not have been good.

Lesson, do not underestimate the warnings, go short if there is any doubt, don't second guess decisions, give the Inland bay respect.

Short sails were not an option at this point as we had to cross over to the western side of the Bay.  40 miles to Solomon's Island, 50 miles to Reedville, not many options for safe overnights.   We never really know what to expect of a port because the cruising guide suger coats it's descriptions of places as any ad driven publication does.  How much sugar does it take to turn Reedville into an idyllic historical town as described?  Not enough.  Reedville harbor is home to the second largest fish oil processing plant in the country ( the largest one is in Alaska).  It takes in 1/2 a BILLION pounds of Menhaden bait fish annually, boils it all night long so the folks worried about improving brain function can take their Omega - 3 pills.  (They can also feed their cats with the by product)  Think New Jersey Turnpike oil fields & the smell, only you have to sleep there.  We met 2 sailors who had their boat slip there.  They said you get used to it, the smell.  We left at 7:00 am, in the rain.




Week 5 - Got Bread?

We left Cape May on Thursday morning early to cross the Delaware Bay and go into the C&D canal.  A piece of cake day, flat, hot, no commercial traffic.  A large nuclear power plant stayed in our view for hours with very little else to see.  The C&D canal was completed in 1826 to shorten the route from Baltimore to Philadelphia by 300 miles which is why we thought that we were in for competition with large cargo ships.  Not the case.  We got a slip mid way up the Canal.

Again, with any canal, and a small engine & no sailing allowed, we have to go with the current in our favor.  We left for Chesapeake City when the current changed Friday afternoon. If the elements are not all aligned you probably have to over night in CC and they know this.  So while Dan rowed off to the Canal Museum I went shopping for bread, maybe a bottle of wine.   1st the Bohemia Cafe & Bakery, oh we don't sell baked goods, only pre made sandwiches & candy. I then went to Canal Creamery & Bakery, who only sold ice cream. The Chesapeake Dry Goods & General Store sells T-shirts & bad crafts. No bread, rolls, water, No beer, wine, No nothing.   It is a perfectly contrived situation to force boating folks into the mega restaurant complex in this canal safe stop over, which is pretty infuriating.

Google said "Maggies Crab Shack" which sold fresh crab was .9 miles so we started walking & then got a ride,(Dan basically hijacked a couple at an intersection & we got in their car) the shack also sold single cans of beer for $1.   On the walk back to the canal, with our pound of crab for $20, we passed the volunteer fire department, where a Schmidt Bakery Bread Truck was parked. We explained our breadless pursuit & were told we could take whatever loaves we wanted.  Did not care that they were all slightly expired because it was a victory.  All the tastier.

2 nights on anchor in Wortons Creek.  A local sailor drove us to the grocery store, hardware store and gas station 9 miles away. We have been aided by strangers daily.  Rides to stores, marinas offering tools for a day, boaters pushing us out from shallow water, advise, contact info, dockage & free bread.  An incredible part of the adventure,maybe the best part.


Week 4 - Old Friends & A New Sailor

We back tracked after the grounding and got a slip in Beach Haven Long Beach Island where we assessed the damage, some bottom paint was scraped off, cleaned up the boat which was covered in seaweed and mud from pulling up and dropping the anchor so many times, filled the boat back up with water, which we had dumped out in order to make the boat lighter so it would float off the shoal.  We were in touch with our old friends in Cape May and were really excited to reconnect and have a great trip down memory lane.  Of course the only problem was the weather.  We use 3 sources for an overall accurate read on conditions on an hourly basis, for a forecast for the next 24hours.  Marine radio, AccuWeather and most valuable to us Sail Flow.  Sail Flow charts out the wind  by the hour using weather stations & buoys.  The buoys are out in the water so it is the real deal on how windy it actually is out at sea, information not available on regular weather reports and marine radio lies.  Marine radio says its going to blow 10 to 15 mph = 15 to 25.

Everything looked perfect to sail the 50 miles to Cape May so we bought provisions, checked the engine, locked everything down set to go @6:30 am.  No. Woke up to rain NBD but unexpected, check Sail Flow for the 100th time. Red, Purple, Red.  Sail flow charts out the wind and very nicely color codes it for you, as if you couldn't figure out not to go sailing when the wind will be 20-30+ mph.  Red means warning, Purple is worse.  We called Enterprise and rented a car.

Chris & I met in a rooming house in Cape May 33 years ago.  She was my maid of honor in our wedding, one my dearest friends but we had lost touch for a decade.  She welcomed us with her characteristic big heart for 5 days while we waited for the right passage conditions.  Her most generous act however was to give up her husband Randy.  Randy, you see, is a professional ship Captain delivering fuel on a 688 foot ship in the Gulf of Mexico.  I provided a link in case anyone is interested in this amazing shipping operation made in the USA.  He has worked on all manner of commercial vessels , But...he has never been on a sailboat.  Well, well....wouldn't it be so cool if RANDY sailed the last of the ocean leg with Dan while I go to a wine tasting at a beautiful vineyard with Chris.  I delicately hatched the plan, I mean suggestion, 1st to Dan "what do you think" then to Chris "how cool would that be" then Chris started talking to Dan,"I think he would love it"  the only person that didn't' know what was happening was Randy.  Turned out he was psyched.

The trip took 9 hours after a few more *&!! bumps with the shallow intercoastal waters.  The wind cooperated part of the way, they saw a school of dolphins right off the boat, and got in around 8:00PM in the dark.  The marinas were closed and the only anchorage was along side of the massive Cape May Coast Guard training complex.  There is no shore access to this area, military zone, off limits, so they had to row ashore to a dock further down the inlet where Chris & I met them.  We had cold beer and a frittata and Randy who is from North Carolina said " Y'all do this everyday?!"
Week 3 - NYC & The Dreaded Jersey Coast
We had anxious expectations on traversing through the infamous Hells Gate on the East River which would take us all along past the island of Manhattan.  Dan studied the Eldridge which has it's own section on Hells Gate and how to get through it safely.  We looked at the charts, read others advice, got a slip in the Bronx to wait for the perfect tide and current (and so we could have a big night on the town with our friend Kevin O'Flaherty tx K. )  The day had arrived, "piece of cake" Dan would say.  Flat calm, a million degrees hot,  not one other boat on the river?  in NYC, not 1 other boat?  It got a little crazy down in the Wall Street area with the Staten Island ferry traffic but in no time at all we were safely anchored 1/2 mile off of the Statue of Liberty, again the only boat.

A cold front kept us in Sandy Hook for a few days, a place still hurting from Hurricane Sandy, this would be the case far into the Jersey Shore.  A long Atlantic sail, big swells, 50 miles, and we were anchored in Barnegett Bay.  Now the fun begins, and I asked Dan how truthful should I be here in writing the blog.  Hurricane Sandy decimated the coast line from Manhattan to Atlantic City.  We all remember the pictures of wiped out neighborhoods, flooding, fires, massive property damage.  Sandy also changed the navigable landscape of the inter-coastal water ways which chart plotter computer navigation has not keep up with.
The wind was too strong, 15 to 20 mph out on the Atlantic side of the Jersey Shore so we decided to go inside on the inter-coastal water way to the next inlet 20 miles away.  It was Labor Day weekend and the boat traffic was insane, even for Jersey, think massive power boats named Nauti Girl.  We knew it was shallow, (Bailamos draws 51/2 which is a lot) we knew we had to go at the right exact time for the highest tide at the shallowest point, we knew to stay exactly close to the magenta line (the chart plotter navigation line for the ICW)  And we made it, all the nail biting way.  (Miracle) We anchored in a magical setting at the end of Long Beach Island, a nature preserve with pelicans, fish jumping etc. couldn't wait to spend the following day there.

The boat  started to spin, move around with the crazy currents and we were in too shallow water so we picked up the anchor and moved the boat to deeper water.  It was 8 pm & dark.  The water rushing under us now was like being in the middle of Hull Gut.  This was because we were anchored in the middle of the channel close to the inlet, Hull Gut X 50 or at least 10.  We are extremely worried and made a decision to move the boat again at slack tide 1 am but the anchor line broke with a POW! the most frightening sound I have ever heard.  We have a back up anchor & set it out, it gave way & we are drifting towards the inlet, it's 2am.  We head in back towards the small anchorage area in the pitch black night using the lit up chart plotter screen & run aground.  We are kind of relieved in a horrifying way just to have the boat still, the tide is coming in and we will be afloat in the morning.   No deal, call Sea Tow, order a new anchor, go get a slip, thank God that we are safe.  Thank God.  I am not blaming chart plotter for this disaster, what we came to know, from our best friend Greg the Sea Tow operator in these local waters for 17 years, was that you can't use chart plotter here.  The system has not been updated for the changes that Sandy brought on.  What do you mean, the chart plotter was what we WERE using the entire time, that is all we had at night to make decisions on where to go, where to anchor in an emergency.  It wasn't accurate.  We plowed into a shoal.
The great thing about being a member of the Sea Tow family is that you can call them for local knowledge of the waters anytime anywhere.  They are going to get to know me very well.




Week 2 - All about the Current
Block Island & Long Island Sounds are home to power boats, fishing boats and large sailboats mostly.  The current that runs through this area is fierce and cannot be fought with wind alone or with a tiny (13 hp) engine.  We found this out the hard way when leaving Block Island for Montauk LI on Thursday morning.  It was a beautiful day with great wind, in the right direction - WHAT - (see video) 19 miles "piece of cake".  Not so fast, 7 hours later after fighting the current known as the "Race" for over 3 hours we dropped an anchor in Montauk.  We both recognised that the lack of planning, not consulting the Eldridge tide & pilot guide, could have proved far worse than just frustration and time.  The wind could have really picked up and we could have run out of fuel, making the situation hazardous.  Dan speaks more technically about the conditions but it was our first real wake up call in not having a proper plan.  
In consulting the cruising guide and an app called Active Captain, Montauk is an expensive place to be.  This is in your face wealthy, Mega yachts, fishing boats the size of tankers only sparkling.  A slip at the Montauk Yacht Club was going to run us $300 per night and other moorings were not far behind in price.  So we dropped an anchor right in front of the Montauk Yacht Club.  After a long day we really need a cocktail and Dan suggested that we row over to the club for a drink.  What a great idea, just let me freshen up with a solar shower in my bathing suit on the fore deck and you Dan go get your Go to Hull T-shirt on.  We really, really knew that we were in the wrong place when a helicopter dropped off some hedge fund manager person on the lawn across from where we were anchored and then flew back to NYC.  By the time we tied up in the paradise of the Orient Point Marina we had been on the boat for 41 hours.
Orient Point & Orient L.I. are magical.  The water is so pristine, you can pick up scallops and conch right off the bottom of salt water ponds, and we have never seen more fish in the water. There is a state park beach, farms, farm stands, local wine, great down to earth people.  We stayed for 3 days.
Sailing from Orient Point to Millford CT was a trial.  Current in our favor, check, wind in our favor, No, flat water in the sound, No, LOTS of water in the bilge, Yes.  Dan thought that i over reacted when I went to get a pan out of the locker under the stove and found it full of brown water.  Then I pulled up the floor boards to find the bilge Full of brown water.  I bailed, checked all of the other areas of the boat for leaks or water, we sailed on in uncomfortable conditions, and did not speak to each other....for a long time.
Our friends Casey & Andrea saved the day by taking us out for fine dining, sharing sailing stories, relationship stories, and took us for provisions.  Thank You!!!
Cassie has the same boat, S2 9.1, and is the reason we have Bailamos.  
Over & Out. 

Jacqueline Llewellyn
Sent from my iPad



Week 1  The Blog & the Sea
Trying to write a bog on a sailboat while under way in various conditions and in new waters has been close to impossible.  Getting a great video of the entry buoy at Cuttyhunk was an exciting idea except I was supposed to be steering the boat while Dan navigated the channel.  Oh sorry, I was trying to get video, not a picture, as I swerved off course.  So I bought a camera arm for my Cannon to record stuff, but I don’t yet know how to record on the Cannon, only take pictures.  I uploaded a video to the blog that no one else can view except me.  I have a lap top, ipad, iPhone, camera, blog account, separate Gmail account for the blog, u tube, pic stich, open office apps and just getting a paragraph and 2 crummy pictures has taken all week with messaged tutorials from my daughter.  REALLY I am unplugged, using a solar camp shower & a rowboat to go to the grocery store.  It is a lot to figure out but we will get it down. 
What happened this week:  We made it all the way to Block Island, the furthest we have ever sailed.  I have been edgy at some point on each sailing leg for various reasons.  Buzzards Bay’s black water is always a menace.  Inaccuracy or vague weather reporting is something we have all come to accept, but how marine radio can be so wrong is downright irresponsible.  We are getting a barometer, (the one on the boat has not moved) I listen closely to the robot woman’s voice on the national weather service that reports Actual observations from Actual people out on the water where you want to go, and use at least 2 web sites for weather reporting. Finally there were very large ocean swells from some “front” “low” ?  that made small fishing boats disappear in the trough.  Keeps you alert.
We have had a great time.  1 for 3 on meeting up with folks who wanted to see us.  My Aunt Barbara & husband Dave were amazing hosts in Newport.  We have only paid for a mooring once thanks to Mike Hebet of the Hull Yacht Club who lent us his mooring in Newport and “dropping a hook” other days.  We hitch hiked in Block and got picked up by great older ladies each time right away.  Bad words were only exchanged once.  Pretty good.  Xo J.

What we did right:  Left early in the morning.  Reefed (made the sail a lot smaller) the main sail @ 17 knots of wind = better control of the boat.

What we did wrong:  Forgot most of our electronic chargers.  Dan brought clothes that were already dirty..ha ha seriously this is funny.  

12 comments:

  1. Omg Jax!! You guys are too funny & amazing....truly! Sail on sailors. Love you!!!!

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  2. Love this Jacqueline! Especially the image of rowing to the grocery store. Awesome! This blog is SUCH a good idea. :-) love you! ChrissyC

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  3. Jackie--just returned home f/long 12 hr shift and was so happy to read your card. Thank you for sharing your adventure
    Love and already miss you and Dan! xoxo Linda

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  4. Hi Jackie! Wow! What an adventure! We are having a beautiful and gentle end of Summer here in Hull..warm days, gentle breezes and a little beach time left! Shannon has turned my white brother into a sun worshipper. Which is very unusual but funny. I've never seen him so tan in my life. I'm starting home improvement projects to get the Cove ready for the Winter. Farmers Almanac says there will be lots of snow again like last Winter...I love that you saw all those fish and shells in the water at Montauk...stunning! Love you!

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  5. The buckets and buckets of water sloshing around in the bilge and locker were not from a lose hose which i suspected (experience here) and not from a "little" rain as Dan suspected, but from a leaking stuffing box on the propeller shaft. Obviously I had to get these specifics from the Captain ha ha

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  6. Talk about "on the job training." Incredible story about the Jersey shore - really glad you and Captain Sea Tow are bffs. Keep them close Jackie. Cook them one of your fabulous dinners some night! Glad you're safe! Onward.

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  7. heart pounding moments... dan-macgiver..listen to the sweet music of the Bo'sun whistle..( I must say, it is a stunning piece of jewelry, well placed).. xo

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  8. Glad you guys are having fun, very very jelious.

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  9. So happy to finally catch up on your blog posts! Week 4 already?! So happy to hear all is well. xo Ali&Adam

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  10. Amazing! Love the stories and all of the adventure! Keep on, sailin’ on …

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  11. Great stuff Jackie, keep it coming, the good, the bad, the ugly!

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  12. Wait - Week 8 - did I see trailer? What an incredible story...I love how you wound your way through the low tree tops..not so much love for the damaged prop. Sorry to hear guys. However, just to make sure you feel at home - I googled, "songs with the word -trailer- in them" to keep you entertained. I found the holy grail of trailer songs here: http://www.wideopencountry.com/10-songs-celebrate-life-trailer-park/

    and I pick #2 for Jackie and #7 for Dan. IN case you get stuck in the trailer - hope this makes you laugh...love and miss you, ChrissyC

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