Sunday, November 29, 2009

Charleston to Beaufort

After a week we were finally able to break free of the grip that Charleston had on us. We never intended to stay in Charleston so long, but a free carriage ride, Thanksgiving and a broken toilet kept us a little longer than we expected. Thursday we had a great Thanksgiving dinner on Anastasia with Maxwell, Jen, Ben and Teresa. We were all set to leave on Friday, but the toilet started flushing with the waste in the bottom rather than drawing in salt water. Thankfully the last owner left a brand new spare pump assembly. I swapped the pumps out and 3 hours later- problem solved. This should solve all of our head issues for a while (I know, famous last words).

Saturday we said good bye to everyone and headed inside the ICW towards Savannah. We could have gone outside the ICW, but there was no inlet located close enough to make landfall with daylight. Neither of us wanted to do another 24 hour passage just yet and we didn't want to miss Savannah, so inside we went. The first several hours we spent motoring Northwest through the ditch. This was a little disappointing since it is opposite direction we want to go. Eventually the canals started meandering South and we anchored in Parrot Creek S.C. just before sunset.

Today we made it to Beaufort S.C. (pronounced Bewwwfurt and not to be confused with Beaufort N.C.). The downtown was extremely touristy ($$$) and not really our cup of tea. I hope we like Savannah a little more. I can't wait to sit on the Forest Gump bench.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deal or No deal

I am a huge sucker for a deal- sometimes even if it really isn’t such a great deal. This is especially the case when I am unemployed and on a tight budget. I'm not talking about infomercials such as the one I saw a few days ago where Mr. T was trying to sell a turkey roaster that also baked potatoes and fried french fries. Those deals I'm not into. But the clearance racks at Urban Outfitters (even when I don’t really need new clothes) and free blocks of ice at marinas (which we always need) are totally up my alley.

Luckily Chad is very good at helping distinguish between many of the bad, mediocre, and good deals and together we have been pretty successful so far. However, a few days ago I was surprised when he was all for the deal we were presented with in downtown Charleston. Of course, I was excited about it too.

We were walking down the street with Ben and Teresa when we stopped at a booth to inquire about the price of a ghost tour (advertised on the table). The Waterway guide said it offered a good dose of history and fun in Charleston.

Booth marketer: “Well I don’t know the price off hand, but hey how old are guys? There’s this great deal I can offer you guys if anyone is a woman over thirty or if either couple is married.”

Teresa: “Is this like a party or mixer for people who are new to Charleston?”
Booth marketer: “Sort of. You’ll get your choice of any of these free tours (ghost tour was on the list), a free 25 dollar gift card, and free prizes in goody bags.”

Me: “So if one person in our group is over 30 we can all go to the event and it’s free, and we all get the free stuff?”

Marketer: “Yes. I mean it’s more of a presentation but it will be fun and it’s a great deal.”

At this point we all figured that it wasn’t a party or mixer and that we would probably be stuck watching some movie on a time share in an exotic place that none of us could afford. But we had the free time and wanted a free tour and gift card for lunch the next day so we agreed. Unfortunately, when we arrived the next morning, there was no movie or large group of people we were clumped with to hide behind- only a tiny table with 5 chairs and leather bound book.

For the next 2.5 hours a very eager salesman asked us about our hopes and dreams, and explained how nicely a $30,000 timeshare in Tennessee would fit into all of it. Actually, there were 27 resorts in all- some in Texas and South Carolina and even two boats in the Caribbean (ironic?)- but nothing in the package seemed to warrant the exorbitant price tag.

In the end, we all admitted that we couldn’t afford pre-purchasing our vacations for the next 10 years being that we were unemployed (except for Ben) and that we had approached the booth marketer for a ghost tour, not a timeshare. He said this happens all the time. “I’m surprised you even knew it was a time share. Most people think they are meeting me for the free ghost tour.” Oops! Someone might want to inquire about getting better marketers for this timeshare gig.

Unfortunately poor Chad and I would have to resign ourselves to living out our hopes and dreams on our sailboat in the Caribbean- for free. :-) In the end, was it a good deal? We got the free tours, a large pizza, and a lesson in how timeshares work but no goody bags. The jury is still out.

Charleston from our "Free" carriage tour:

Here's a few other deals we've gotten since our trip began.
- Baltimore, MD:
~ Getting a free ride to hardware store from a kind Frenchman.
~ Getting almost 30 blocks of free ice at Tidewater Marina because the season was ending.

-Norfolk, VA: FRED, the solar powered golf cart/ car, picks you up at your marina (or anywhere else in downtown Norfolk) and gives you a free ride to and from the grocery store. And they don’t accept tips- so it really was a free ride!

-Elizabeth City, NC and Southport, NC: Free docks! In Elizabeth City we even got to top off our water tanks and attend a rose party with free wine, beer, and cheese.

- Belhaven, NC: Even better free ride because it we had tons of groceries and the walk would have been in the rain and 2 miles long. Don’t worry mom, we don’t accept free rides from just anyone. But nice people living south of Charleston- if you see us walking down the street- we are always looking for this kind of good deal.

-Wrightsville Beach, NC: Getting a free shower at a marina- unfortunately we were so excited we forgot to bring soap and a change of clothes and didn’t realize until we were already in the showers.

-Charleston, SC: The dress I bought in Urban Outfitters a few days ago. Yes it was on the clearance rack, discounted from 98 to 29 dollars, but did I really need it? It was my first clothing purchase since the trip began and normally I used to shop biweekly... but I also used to have a job.

- Elizabeth City: I went to LaBlanc for a haircut. It was only 28 bucks plus the 30 percent tip I left because she didn’t have change. Normally I pay almost 100 bucks at Arrojo. This could have been a great deal if I liked the haircut. At the time I was excited to chop off all my hair and Ashley did a very good job. But now I miss ponytails and the occasional braided look.

Skeptical about the deal:

- North Carolina Welcome Center: We got to raft up on the docks to other boats waiting for the morning locks. Great to be tied to a dock for free but not so great to be woken up at 5:30 am by a boat we were blocking in.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ice Melts

We were fortunate to be in Baltimore just as the marina was going to throw away the rest of their ice for the season. We gladly took 300 pounds of block ice off of their hands. It has lasted just over a month and we need to replenish in Charleston. The rate at which the ice lasts, the warmer weather in our future destination and the availability of ice in the Bahamas has us wondering if installing refrigeration would save us money in the next year.

Tomorrow I am going to call an ice distributor to see if they sell blocks of ice. Apparently they are not used that frequently anymore with the invention of electricity. The blocks last exponentially longer than cubes. Hopefully they will deliver a reasonable amount of ice.

The verdict is out on the refrigeration. It isn't cheap, but ice in the Caribbean may be nonexistent. I will probably do what I usually do when I have this type of conundrum on the boat - go to the message boards and seek advice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cape Fear to Charleston

Sunset off of the Cape Fear River

This gives you an idea of the size of the waves we saw 10 miles offshore around dawn.

BBQ in Charleston

We made a 24 hour, 128 mile passage from Cape Fear to Charleston S.C. It is very nice to make that kind progress in such a short time. It almost makes us forget that our top speed is 7 mph. We also feel accomplished having gone 25 miles offshore and sailing in the largest waves (8 feet) we have had so far. All the systems (auto pilot, chart plotter, wind generator, sails, lights, and boat) functioned perfectly keeping us safe and relatively comfortable in pretty uncomfortable conditions. That being said, neither of are in a hurry to sail overnight again. One of the entries I made in our log book says "Sailing at night is not that much fun, I can't see anything." That coupled with the sleep deprivation and constant rolling motion made it sufficiently unpleasant that we aren't in a hurry to sail through the night again.

There isn't a whole lot that can be done during a rough night time passage. We settled into a system of watches with two hours sleeping and two hours in control of the boat. With our autopilot in steering and chart plotter keeping track of our position the person on watch was able to stay inside and peek out every 10 or 15 minutes to make sure no other boats were around. Making coffee was out of the question. Keeping the boiling water in the coffee filter could have been disastrous. Instead, we fueled ourselves with chocolate covered coffee beans watching our progress on the GPS and making entries in our log book.

We arrived in Charleston on Saturday morning and got some much needed sleep. Saturday night my parents treated us to a southern BBQ. Thanks Mom and Dad.


The following are the entries from our log book so you can get an idea of what we write in it. Don't feel compelled to read all of it unless you want to know way too much about the passage.

9:30 pm
Nicole went to sleep at 9pm. Speed btw 5.1 and 6.3 knots. Jib collapses every 10 minutes and mizzen has jibed 2 times. COG between 180 degrees and 233 degrees. We are rolling moderately but things are staying put. Voltage reads 11.8 but drops to 11.5 when the autopilot strains. Wind between 11 and 18 knots. I am sleepy. I think the non drowsy part of the dramamine wore off making me drowsy. Sailing at night is not that much fun. I can't see anything. I see Elizabeth and Daphne off port bow we are on an intersecting coarse

9:55 pm Took down mizzen b/c of gibes. Daphne getting closer. I think the wind generator is working.

10:15 pm
Every once in a while a big wave roars past. It is a bit unnerving. Check scuppers tomorrow. Don't know what to do besides write in log.

passed Ben his is in front. Talked to Ben and Teressa

10:50 passed power boat. Waves building. Wind increased to 18-20 knots.

11:10 furled jib a little. Rolling a lot! Worried about starting battery moving.

11:30 Nicole came back on deck - Chad rested. Way to rolly, violent jibing scared me out of the faintest sleep. Creaking and vibrating motion as we gibe.

12:50 am Nicole resting. Chad on watch. Going to bass between Greeville Reef and Vermillion Reef. Plan is to gibe around Greenvill Reef and make it close to Charleston. Stayed offshore to avoid unlit yellow reef markers and fish stakes. Can't believe they are here, but the GPS says so. Reefed jib a bit more and ajusted coarse to avoid gibes.

1:40 am
Gibed 5 miles east of Greenville Reef. Light spotted of port bow and one a stern.

2:35 am On rhum line for Charleston. Seas are slightly confused. Some slap the aft quarter and spray the cockpit. N 32.53.971 W 78.55.292 I think I see Ben on the Starboard quarter.

3:00 am Nicole on watch

4:20 am Chad takes over. Nicole rests. SOG 5.6 - 8.1 knots. N 32.48 W 79.07 Wind 17 knots gusting to 25.

pics to come soon

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beaufort NC to Masonboro Inlet, NC

Nicole and I in Cape Fear. Check out the palm tree. Just a little reminder of the changing weather as we move south. We are in shorts and t-shirts, but there was a quick shower.

Close up of the little tunny

Very happy to catch the first fish


I have been writing about the ICW but I haven't really explained it. The Intracoastal Water Way is a series of rivers and bays that is connected by canals from New Jersey all the way to Miami Florida. The are pros and cons with the ICW. It is nice to be in protected waters when the weather is bad, but it also means we do a lot of motoring and not much sailing.

In the 885 miles of coastline between Beaufort NC and Miami FL there are 14 "Class A" inlets that allow us to get into and out of the ICW. On Tuesday we made a jump from Beaufort NC to Wrightsville Beach NC. It was 64 miles and took us about 13 hours. The waves and wind made it a less than ideal passage, but I did catch the first fish of the trip. It was a member of the Tuna family called a "little tunny" but our guide book describes it as "a trash fish with meat that is not edible." Probably a good thing, because I am not dying to gut my first fish.

Today we had a short motor to Southport NC and tomorrow we are looking at making a 24 hour passage outside the ICW from Cape Fear (not that scary, it is where Dawson's Creek was filmed) to Charleston S.C. We will leave the SPOT on so you can track our location with the link on the right.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

Sunshine streamed through the V berth porthole, waking me from a deep sleep. The storm had finally passed. This would be the first time in four days that the sun would shine down onto our boat. It was almost energizing enough to get me to skip my morning coffee but why skip coffee?

For four days we were stuck with all our hatches shut as the rain pounded down, and chilly 30knot gusts swooshed around the boat. Nevertheless, or rather because we had the hatches closed to keep us warm and dry, tons of condensation formed all around the portholes and hatches, dripping down into every part of the cabin. The warmer we tried to keep the cabin, the more it would rain inside. A decision would have to be made- warm or dry? We chose warm.

This would definitely not be the first time we would experience such uncomfortable conditions. While we were in Havre de Grace temperatures plummeted to freezing and the rain outside and inside wouldn’t let up. We tried lighting candles, using extra blankets, and even baking brownies nightly to keep the oven warming the cabin. This time, when baked goods and blankets weren’t enough, we resorted to turning the stove on just to place our hands over the flame. Of course, this only kept us temporarily warm and made the cabin even moister.

This time also invited some guests into the cabin- mold- everywhere. A few good towels had to be called in to tame the problem but sunshine would be the only panacea for the nasty outbreak.

Today we received it. It was a healthy dose of it too. After waking, Chad raced to pull out the hatch boards and pull up the anchor and I opened the bathroom porthole (the only one that opens) and started making coffee to enjoy out in the cockpit.

We made a short trip from Oriental, North Carolina through the Neuse River and Adams Creek to Beaufort. The icing on the cake was seeing a family of dolphins swim up to our boat. They too were enjoying the lovely weather today.

To offshore, or not to offshore

I think we won't be heading offshore for a passage directly to the Bahamas. The gulf stream is a northerly flow of warm water that would be slowing us down tremendously if we went in a straight line to the Bahamas. The alternative is heading east to Bermuda, and then going south the the Virgin Islands. Neither of us are that excited about Bermuda so we will make some longer hops outside of the ICW and back into inlets further south. This way we can skip some of the ICW and not skip the Bahamas.

In helping us make our decision we solicited advice from many different sources. I hit the message boards and talked to other sailors. We also asked our friends. I think the best advice came from Nicole's friend Dan. When Nicole asked,
"Do you think we head offshore?" He responded, "Honestly, I have no idea what you guys are doing. I wouldn't spend more than a day on a boat."

Belhaven NC to Beaufort NC

Before leaving Belhaven on Friday we filled up with Diesel at the River Forest Marina. We would have liked to fill the water tanks as well, but the water smelled like rotten eggs. After smelling their water I thought it would be a good idea to filter the fuel as well (I purchased a West Marine funnel filter which received high ranks from practical sailor). Sure enough, at the bottom of the filter there were 3 or 4 tablespoons of water. Not so good for a diesel engine. The River forest marina gets a big BOOOO!

Despite the less than ideal send off, we had was an awesome sail to Oriental N.C. averaging 6 knots and sailing the whole way. The anchorage was a bit crowded, but we were only there for 12 hours.

Today we had a pod of porpoises or were they dolphins follow us to sunny Beaufort North Carolina. They came right up to the back of the boat and stuck their heads out as though they were expecting me to give them something. In my excitement I made a wrong turn on the ICW. The turn added about 3 miles to the trip, and thankfully no groundings. Nicole spotted the problem and I reluctantly admitted my mistake. Beaufort is a nice little town, but it is almost all closed on Sunday. At least there was a great sunset!

Sabbatical at anchor in Beaufort N.C.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Belhaven NC

We left the last anchorage at dawn and made a run for Belhaven, NC before the remnants of Hurricane Ida passed over us. The harbor is fairly protected (not where I would want to be if there was a real Hurricane coming), but good enough for the weather we experienced. We never saw the 50+ mph winds that were originally forecast. A few gusts reached 40mph and we have had 7 inches of rain over the past 48 hours. We could have sailed today, but it is still pretty uncomfortable out there.

We are two days sail from Beaufort N.C. which has a special significance to cruising boats heading south. It represents an ideal point to head offshore and make a passage directly to the Caribbean. Instead of motoring the next 900 miles to Miami which will take us 6 weeks, we could be in the Caribbean after a 4 day passage offshore.

Three reasons to skip the ICW:

1. Neither of us are particularly excited to be motoring through the various canals and back woods towns that make up the rest of the Intracoastal Waterway for the next 6 weeks.

2. The ICW turns West after Beaufort which takes us away from our goal of the clear blue water and white sand beaches of the Caribbean.

3. Once in Miami the prevailing winds will be directly on our nose making it difficult to sail through the islands.

So why not head offshore from Beaufort? The answer is mostly fear, but I am not sure if that fear is stronger than the draw of sailing through Caribbean waters in a week.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gale Warning

We are forecast to have 30 plus knots of wind with some areas experiencing gusts higher than 50 knots on Thursday night (NOAA MARINE WEATHER FORCAST.) I want to check out the river we are in tomorrow, in the daylight before I make the final decision to move. It was dark when we got here this evening and my impression was that the trees were pretty small, not sheltering us from a strong North-easterly wind. If this is the case, the plan is to move the boat to a protected creek south of the canal and ride out the worst of the storm Wednesday night through Friday morning.

One of my major upgrades on the boat was purchasing a 45 pound Manson Supreme anchor. I figured I would be able to sleep a little better with a bigger anchor holding our home in place. It should get a good test in the next couple of days.

Wherever we end up on Wednesday afternoon we will have the Manson Supreme and a 35 pound Danforth anchored 45 degrees apart, straddling the expected wind direction. The anchors each have 15 feet of heavy mooring chain attached and we will use plenty of rode with careful attention paid to chafe. We will try to keep you updated during the storm if we have internet access. Things should be exciting around here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nicole at the helm

Here is a video of Nicole surfing down some big waves on the Chesapeake Bay. She kept the boat in control with 20-25 knots of wind with a max boat speed of 8.9 knots.

Check out the last few waves.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Elizabeth City NC

We are at a bar enjoying some semi free WiFi in Elizabeth City NC (we felt obliged to order a couple beers.) Wow, our last post was in Maryland. Internet continues to be a challenge for us. My parents are letting me borrow their Broadband card which they use primarily in the summer. Thanks Mom and Dad! This should make blog posts a little easier.

So lets get everyone up to date. Here are the sailing days and a brief description of anything notable that happened.

Annapolis, MD The Last night in Annapolis we ate dinner on Sabbatical with Ben and Teresa. A dance party ensued. Stay tuned for pictures that Nicole is working on uploading as I type. We went separate ways after Annapolis.

Little Choptank River, MD... We sailed directly across the Chesapeake bay to the Little Choptank River on a cold rainy day. We tried to enter a small creek in the rain at night. Our better judgment soon prevailed and we decided to anchor outside the creek.

Solomons Island, MD... Solomons Island was just as crowded as our guide told us it would be. I think we have perfected the art of racing to an open spot and dropping our anchor before other boats can make up their mind.

Lookout Point, MD... Lookout point is the northern tip of the Potomac River which leads up to D.C. Not a very good anchorage, but we didn't want to make landfall in a small creek at night again.

Sandy Point Reedville, VA... We met up with Daphne and Elizabeth!!! We finally got the bikes out and the four of us road through rural Virginia. This is the first day I felt like we were in "The South." The accents are strikingly different in Maryland and Virginia. Nicole and I also celebrated out three year anniversary with a 2 mile dingy ride to the only restaurant in town. The last night in Reedville a large Aluminum Catamaran dragged anchor and hit our friend Ben's boat and almost hit us. No dammage, but very scary. The wind shifted 180 degrees and increased to 23 mph. We expected it, but I guess they did not. (The same catamaran is behind us tonight. Good thing we are on a dock.)

Fishing Bay, Deltaville, VA...We sailed with Ben and Teresa to Deltaville. We had 20 knots of wind behind us and Nicole handled the boat well surfing down the waves. Deltaville is an interesting place. Every store in town seemed to be related to boats. There were two West Marines, a sail loft, nautical consignment stores and hardware stores with huge boat sections.

Back Creek VA...Twelve hours of sailing to get here. We rafted up with Daphne and Elizabeth for dinner.

Norfolk, VA... Lots of motoring to get into Norfolk. We anchored downtown with a slew of other boats. It reminded me a lot of Baltimore. There is a food court right across from the boat and I had to sample the Chinese food. I love fast food Chinese food, or any Chinese food for that matter. There was also a free taxi called FRED (Free Ride Every Day.) It took us to and from the grocery store. In the morning I tried to pull up the anchor and had a really hard time. I took the anchor rode back to a winch on the mast and started cranking. Soon a piece of steel that was wrapped around our anchor line popped out of the water. I was able to get it off with some heavy lifting and some cursing.

Dismal Swamp Visitor Center... We finally made it into "The Ditch" or The Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway. We opted to take the scenic Dismal swamp route. This is where the picture at the top is from. It was skinny water, but we did fine with our 4.5 foot draft. When we got to the visitor center we were the fourth boat to raft up in our row. There was a bottle neck of cruising sailboats and it was interesting to meet some more people doing the same thing as us. The locking process was easier than I thought it would be, just make sure you monitor ch. 13 on the VHF.

Elizabeth City NC... It is known as the harbor of hospitality and we found out why when the Mayor took our docklines for us and invited us to a party. They really make an effort to attract boats here. There is free dock space downtown and a reception for the boats on Friday night. Last night we made our tastiest dinner to date. A grilled chicken and asparagus pizza with mozzarella and Brie. I think we are going to stay here tomorrow to do some more internet stuff like finding boat insurance, paying bills and fixing the typos in this post.