Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Since our last update, we've hit some hotspots: Sassafras, MD; Annapolis, MD; Solomons, MD; Mill Creek, VA; Dwyer Creek, VA; Portsmouth, VA (mile "0" on the Intracoastal Waterway); Pungo Ferry, VA; Alligator Creek, NC, Belhaven, NC; and Broad Creek, NC (mile 173 on the ICW).

We motored to Annapolis from Sassafras -- it was so cold water was freezing on deck in the shade, so we were happy to reach Annapolis and anchor in the sunshine and watch the clutches of students from the Naval Academy (naval students?) run around town in their shorts and tshirts. We went ashore as quickly as possible and Randy applied himself to the schlurping of oysters. I won't elaborate, but it's happened several times since. It's not pretty, but he goes about it with great gusto and it seems to cheer him up.

Randy's son Ian who lives in Virginia met us in Annapolis and he very patiently helped us sort out some of our logistical difficulties. We spent the next day or so hunting for propane tanks (to replace our "illegal" Canadian tanks) that would fit in our cockpit locker. We have intimate knowledge of the stock of most of the West Marine, Viking Marine, and Fawcett's stores in this neck of the woods.There's really no retail joy for a woman in these places. Ian and Tom wandered around and laughed, and I bought a pair of Sperry black rubber deck boots for $20. Comfy, but still cold. Rubber boots are no damn good for freezing temps on deck. Tom and I both suffer from frozen feets, and we are deeply glad to be getting to warmer temps.

Annapolis bumpersticker: "To err is human, to forgive is divine. Neither is Marine Corps policy." And at Viking Marine, a sign for you, Aage: "Viking Parking Only."

Annapolis is a lovely place. We had great walks ashore, replenished all stores thanks to Ian and the car, spent a lot of time on the interweb at a coffeeshop, and Randy got a haircut. You can get a damn good military haircut in Annapolis. Tom got his cut, too (psych!). Not. We enjoyed great weather in Annapolis for a couple of days, but our next travelling day (Monday, Nov 21)) was wet. Not awful, just wet, but there was a gale forecast, so we headed into Solomons and tied up at the Hospitality Harbor Marina, and plugged in and turned on the heater and settled in for my birthday. Hot showers at the neighbouring Holiday Inn. Tom said that someone in a room near the men's shower was watching a horror movie at top volume, and at first he thought he was going to have to sprint down the hall and save someone from a horrible death. Kind of spooky -- you're in the bowels of the H.I., next to the dark and deserted Fitness Centre, it's a dark and stormy night, but there's stacks of nifty little soaps and shower caps and lotion. I only took two. Of everything. It was my birthday.

I also did laundry on my birthday. I know I've been admonished about the laundry content in the blog, but this is exciting: It's blowing and raining, as I mentioned, and Randy gets our wheely cart out of the dinghy, and we shove the sailbag/laundrybag into it and it doesn't quite fit, but it will work to wheel it all to town. So I'm below getting togged up, and Randy comes below for something, and then he goes back on deck and starts yelling. I poke my head on deck, and he's waving his arms, saying that the cart has gone off the end of the dock. So we're all out there peering into the water trying to figure out where it's gone, and I spot it floating around the stern. It's still afloat -- there's enough air trapped in the sail bag -- and Tom runs for the boat hook and we spend the next few minutes fishing the cart, the bag, and the laundry out of the drink. Most of the laundry was retrieved in the bag, but it wasn't closed at the top, and we had a few tense moments with the heavy flannel sheets (my head got soaked as they soared overhead to land splat on the deck), and a pair of pink underwear enjoyed a solo flight. We lost one wool sock, which bobbed slowly down the harbour in the rain.

All this before we even get to the laundromat. I'm holding back on the laundromat stories, you know, there's lots of local colour I could provide, but I'll just tell you that when I opened one of the dryers, a cloud of smoke came out.

A unique 47th birthday in Solomons. We walked to town and had beer and hush puppies and more oysters. You know you're not in Kansas anymore when you're asked "y'all ready to order?" So we ate hush puppies, watched pelicans fly by, and walking back to the marina, we noted a dead possum by the side of the road. The lads made a fab dinner - prime rib, asparagus, roast potatoes - and we stayed up late (9 o'clock).

For those of you who are bored by the laundry and food content in the blog, I can tell you that most days also have a fair share of scurvy and mutiny. Beatings as well. I prefer days without high drama.

Leaving Solomons we were treated to an airshow -- F18s every few minutes, and boy are they noisy. Solomons to Mill Creek brought us to a pleasant little anchorage that nobody here can remember anything about, then on to Dwyers Creek for American Thanksgiving (we had chicken), and we saw a pair of whistling swans fly by. They really do whistle. Sat out a gale overnight, and set out in strong winds and rolly waters which flattened out late afternoon. Boring, rolly, cold.

That was our last bit of big water (so I was told), and we pushed through to Norfolk and anchored in Portsmouth, VA (yes, another Portsmouth) right at the start of the Intracoastal Waterway (heretofore to be known as the ICW), mile 0. Odd to come all this way and be chuffed at finding ourselves at mile ZERO, but after a day of chugging through a few bridges and one lock, we were very happy with the change of venue.

First night in the waterway, we tied to a dock at the Pungo Ferry (which, in true Sherman style, is referred to as Mungo Jerry), and saw other boats on the same route to warmer climes. We had a brief chat with a couple on "Paanga" from Ottawa while we were waiting for the lock at Great Bridge. There were five boats in the lock, and it was a treat to see people doing much the same thing we were doing and wearing the same snazzy sorts of cruisewear. We watched the older couple ahead of us squabbling (he let the lines get wet, and his whitehaired wife did a lot of clucking and took over the line handling after that. Their lines were colour-coded.) Tom looked at me and said "glimpse of the future, eh?"

This is huntin and fishin country. And waterskiing. Pungo Ferry Marina seemed to be locked up tight when we tied up, but after dark, there was a knocking on the hull, and it was the marina fellas back from a day of duck hunting, come to collect our $42 and show us where to plug in. Earlier, we'd thought that we'd anchor further along, but ended up coming back to the marina when we found that the best place to anchor was in a clutch of duck blinds. We could hear the guns in the morning....Tom checked out the marina showers, but said it looked like someone had rolled in mud, then stood in the shower. We passed.

Being in the waterway means that the travelling is without up-and-down motion for the most part. We still get a few wakes, but nothing drastic. Which means that breakfast can be prepared and cleaned up after while we're underway. I can use the computer, and people can make their own sandwiches and get their own drinks when they feel the scurvy start creeping up on them.
The Alligator-Pungo Canal is a long stretch of ditch in the middle of nowhere - straight as an arrow, with interesting trees and occasional wildlife, and the usual giant powerboats passing us on a regular basis. They zoom up on the port side, we both slow to a crawl, and once they're past, they zoom off and we hit the throttle and chug merrily on our way. One big motor yacht today was called "That's a Wrap" and we figured the grey-bearded guy at the helm must be a famous director or actor. Or the heir to the Pita Boys fortune. This is how we amuse ourselves on days when there's no high seas, terrifying squalls, or laundry rolling off the dock.

Next stop, Bellhaven. Rather a disappointment from our point of view. We anchored and dinghied to a dock just in time to get rained on, and then took five minutes to cruise the downtown and deduce that the internet cafe was closed and wouldn't open for another two days, and really, that was all she wrote for Bellhaven. If it wasn't for the Fabulous Hardware store, we would have been really grumpy. If you were so inclined, you could buy blue cheese, a Red Rider BB Gun, Christmas ornaments that said "Merry Christmas, Y'All!", nails by the pound, Mike Holmes overalls in size 3, used books, wine, any kind of ammunition your heart desired, and a tool for removing oil filters from engines. But not, however, small propane bottles for bbqs and wee heaters, which we needed. In the centre of the hardware store was a spittoon, an ashtray, and a rocking chair with a brass plaque that said "reserved" for some fella, I forget the name. I wondered if he was just gone home for supper, or had gone off to the big porch in the sky and they were just holding his spot. Anyway, it was a great store, a big step up the retail ladder from West Marine.

Too bad the anchorage was not good. The breakwater was more like a picket fence, and by about 4 am, we were doing the hobby horse thing, so we got up really early, hoisted the dinghy as soon as it got light, ate our bacon butties and made tracks.

So just when we're getting used to this stroll-through-the-cypress-swamp cruising, badda-bing, we're out into a honking big river the size of Lake Ontario, the wind is 25-30 right on the nose, and we're banging up and down in a nasty short chop and wiping the spray out of our eyes. Every five minutes, we'd hit a series of waves that would basically stop us dead in the water. Not dangerous or huge, but annoying as hell. The idea was to get to Oriental, another hotspot (off-season pop. 1,000) and try to get wi-fi and get some business done, but after hours of this bashing about, with a thunderstorm threatened (currently at the top of my "Never Again" list), we made a right turn and anchored at Broad Creek, seven miles (about two hours in this weather) short of Oriental. Nice peaceful anchorage.

Duck hunters woke us up this morning, after a fairly quiet night, barring the thunderstorm and torrential rains (washed the last of the salt spray off the decks), and one drip over my pillow that had me living in another part of the bunk for most of the night, and we got away at about 7:30. Tom has the disgusting job of getting the anchor up and washing whatever stinky mess of mud he finds on the chain and the anchor. The reward this morning was a 12 or more porpoises, and an upclose visit from 2 or 3 of them who rode our bow wave for a while. They're huge when they're swimming a few feet below you. Tom and I stood on the bowsprit and we could hear them squeaking and clicking. It was fabulous -- what a great way to start a Wednesday.

On the domestic front, Tom has won the last six games of crib he and I have played, and he's just announced his retirement from the game. Just to cheer myself up, I challenged Randy to a game, and double-skunked him. He has likewise announced his retirement from the field. All I can hope for now is for the comeback fever to hit.

Small world: We were just sitting on the dock at Beaufort having a beer, and Mike Wambolt from Hubbards walked by.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pictures from our sail past New York. It was inexpensive, fast, exciting.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tom here to relieve you all from my mother's bounty of drab tales about laundry and food.

We left from Cape May around 8:30 in the morning for, in my opinion, one of the more exciting day sails yet.
The weather was suspiciously warm as shown in the photo, and the wind was blowing a lovely 20kt out of the southwest. Our first bit of excitement for the day was navigating the canal leading into Delaware bay. Due to the two 53,1/2 ft bridges we went under, the navigation turned out to be more of a vertical affair than horizontal, as Nancy's masts stick 52 feet into the air. After just clearing the bridges I remember my mother saying something along the lines of "that's all the adrenalin I need in the morning". This is funny, I'll tell you why.

Shooting out into Deleware Bay we made good time in fairly calm seas until about three in the afternoon when the swell began to grow due to a foul current. We were just begining to get worried about the cold front headed our way when the wake from a passing tanker swamped us like a fire hose fills a martini glass. I was still in bare feet at the time and was pleasantly surprised to find the water all over me to be mostly salt free and not half as cold as I had expected.

Mum was making us admit that she was smart for wearing full foul weather gear and Randy was totally unsurprised as this sort of thing is not that outrageous when compared to our previous luck with water making its way to the top side of the boat.

Continuing up the bay the weather is not getting worse but it is getting uglier. The cold front is getting very dark and close and Randy makes the decision to drop the mainsail. At this point I don't feel the need to ask him why. Mum was good enough to remind me that wearing rain gear in rain is smart so I went and got suited up. With pretty damn good timing. It was around five o'clock when we were hit with a squall that could easily have been mistaken for a train or large truck. The wind was blowing around 50/60knots (100/120kilometers) and the rain was a bit like being continuously shot 50 times a second for the duration of the squall.I had to run forward to retie the main sail down. Upon my return Mom told me "don't do that again or I'll throw up!" and Randy was expertly keeping us nose into the wind so we didn't crash into the nuclear powerplant on the leeward shore. How's this for excitement? I thought Mum might be having a heart attack from fear so I tried to reassure her, to which she replied "I just want Randy to put some dry clothes on!"....... She was fine.

About an hour later we are another mile up the shore trying to find a very small entrance through a breakwater into our anchorage. The wind and rain have let up enough at this point so we can sort of see and the passage through the entrance goes relatively smooth with the help of a spot light. After anchoring (get this) we all sit down to a large plate of chicken mole which mum prepared and hot rum toddies all around.

The next day we did a short hop to the end of the Delaware bay and through yet another canal into Chesapeake Bay and down to the Sassafras River. (You heard me, "Sassafras"). We anchored over a very muddy bottom and only had to reset the anchor twice.

Next update -- pictures we took sailing by New York!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I suggested to Tom that he should write a blog update, but he says he doesn't have anything much to say at this point. "Nobody writes a novel about a six-hour car ride, do they?" He has a point. I've found that as soon as we reach another mooring/dock/float, my memory of the previous mooring/dock/float is erased. I have to consult Randy's boat log to remember where we've been.

Days are very much like like long car rides. It's hard to read because the boat is usually moving in several different directions, and while we do have the option to go below and pee, cook, and eat, all three of us find that we spend most of our days in the cockpit. Randy goes below to ponder charts and listen to the weather broadcast. Seasickness is pretty much a non-issue these days, and I was recently able to make a hot lunch while we were up-and-downing in a swell. The gymballed stove still freaks me out though. I have to stand right beside it, and I find myself grabbing it whenever the boat shifts around it and the whole damn world goes crazy. It's just not right.

Spending days in the cockpit and in the weather means that attention to clothing is a big deal. "What will I wear?" is not a question that has a variety of answers. I've been wearing the same four pairs of pants every day for the last several weeks. Long johns, polarfleece, baggy jeans, fouly pants. On top: t-shirt, sweatshirt, polarfleece, vest, and then I go to the companionway and ask, "down coat or foul weather jacket?"

Of course, accessories are essential to every outfit. We have two pairs of hunter orange gloves, one pair of sheepskin gloves, an assortment of polar fleece gloves and mitts, and then there's the hats. You get the picture, and it's not pretty. On any normal day, two-thirds of the outer gear gets salty and wet, and the interior of the cabin is festooned, and we have to open the hatch to let the steam out. But we're usually eating something pretty good at this point, and enjoying a good bottle of wine, and congratulating ourselves for being miles closer to vacuuming-packing this outerwear and sending it back to where it came from.

Most evenings there's cribbage. Tom's game has improved. Frighteningly, actually. I had two 24 hands in the second half of a game last week and I couldn't catch him. Dad, I'm sorry I ever taunted you. Family ought not to treat each other this way. Mike Murray, you're not family.

I think we should be making a note of many things that happen. Tom says he is going to make a note of how often I say, "we should make a note of ________" We just been joking about papering the cabin ceiling with wine labels, carefully annotated with what we ate along with them and who did the dishes. I've suggested that we should also make a note of the birds we see (gulls, gannets, ducks, a white swan yesterday, gulls, gannets, ducks, one more swan, and geese), the marine life - a couple of small whales. Something about a coastline peppered with lobster pots seems to discourage the swimmers.

So we haven't been taking formal note of very much. Tonight (which was sometime last weekend at this point) we ate leg of lamb, roasted veg, green beans and cauliflower, along with a Californian - 10% cab, 20% petit syrah, 70% syrah - it's called "the Other" and there's a Nekked Woman on the label. This really is a glamorous way to live. If you can get by the wardrobe issues and the sketchy hot water issues.

As of today - Nov 15 - we are at Cape May, New Jersey, after a 24 hour trip from City Island - just the other side of NYC. We have a terribly slow connection, so I'll post pictures when we get better access. We're all fine - tired, hungry, but showered and the laundry is on the go. More later.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Left Portland early in the morning, November 4 - that would be Friday. We're having a hell of a time keeping days and dates straight, so if there are some anomolies in my account, just remember that we are in an alternate universe at this point, and not entirely subject to the normal flow of time.

Take Sunday for instance. We sailed through deep, dense fog from Portsmouth to Scituate, and we spent a week out there that afternoon. I thought we'd ploughed through some pretty thick stuff at home, but whoo-wee, this was a pea-souper. Two 28 mile courses, with only two buoys to let us know that we were where we thought we were. We were, thanks to the radar and the sharp eyes of the crew, but getting into Scituate was a nail-biter. It's got a very narrow channel, and visibility was nil. But the captain found the way, and we had a quiet night. An hour or so after got in, the fog lifted, and we saw the town and the stars.

Backing up a bit -- we ended up staying in Portland longer than we figured. Bud from Portland Yacht Services had a very thorough look at the Espar heater, and was well up on the complexity and cussedness of the damn things. Apparently the newer models are even more complicated, and require space-age diagnostic tools. Well, line me up for one of those, not. Bud found several reasons why the beast wasn't working and corrected them, but came to the pessimistic and realistic conclusion that it may not work reliably. It worked that afternoon - we tested it twice - and failed to work that evening. My, you should have heard the language.

So the next day, we walked all over Portland -- first to Hamilton Marine for a Force 10 propane Cozy Cabin Heater, then to various other marine and propane and propane accessories retailers to get the bits and pieces to hook it up. Thursday night we toasted our toastyness and made ready to leave Portland.

Portland to Portsmouth (and you wonder why I have trouble keeping the itinerary straight -- we might stop in Stoneington tomorrow night, which is a place I figured we sailed by several days ago, but no, this one is in Conneticut, not Maine) was, if I recall, another pretty day along the Maine coast, though rolly. Portsmouth harbour offered no obvious place to tie up alongside, so we picked up a mooring and rolled, and rolled and rolled. Portsmouth to Scituate was the foggy thing I mentioned earlier. I'm typing this part of the blog in the Scituate laundromat (Sunday). We got up early, figuring we'd try to make it to the Cape Cod canal, but we were socked in again with fog, so we dinghied ashore and did the grocery shopping, and then another trip for propane fill-up and laundry. Third trip, wine stock-up and music store for a kapo.

Another twist we hadn't thought about: Apparently our propane tanks are illegal here -- they have newfangled safety stuff on their tanks. The fella at the grocery store was very accommodating and filled them anyway, although Randy had to do some rapid calculations to get around the metric measurements. Looks like we'll probably have to buy new tanks, since we're using them for everything: the Cozy Cabin Heater (I just love the sound of that), and the stove, and they both suck through a fair bit of propane.

A "picture this" moment: We're parked in Scituate Saturday night after the foggy ordeal, get supper on the go and just for a laugh, I suggesting trying the Espar. Randy refused to touch it, but I switched it on. Ha. Blasts of heat all over the boat, so we had showers with the lovely hot water we'd produced from all that motoring in the fog. I used the Espar Snazzy Hair Dryer and Styling Appliance Attachment for the first time. Don't imagine that that will be a regular occurance. And at some point down the road, I look forward to telling you the ingenious things we do to cool down the boat and get good air circulation through all the open hatches.

Laundromat chat: "I don't care if he looks like a Greek god, any guy with that much baggage is just bad news." And then there's this really friendly guy who has tried to chat me up repeatedly. He's incorporated, apparently, likes the Dutch (they're so smart), thinks the war in Iraq is bad cause it's really all about us having to decide whether we want to die, and thinks that slavery is not a bad idea for people who would be going to jail anyway. Some people like to be slaves apparently. Boys-o. Thank god his laundry is done and he's left. Since he left, I've come up with some really stunning responses to his suggestions. Ain't it always the way.

Scituate to Onset was good sailing in the morning -- our first full-sail day until we got close to the canal when it got reeeeaally breezy. Took on diesel at Sandwich (start of the canal), and then a lovely motor through the canal and out into a honking, honking wind, so we motored to Onset and picked up a mooring. Pretty town, what we could see of it from the water. Too breezy to launch the dinghy and be assured of being able to get back to the boat. Left early this morning, and beat ourselves silly heading down Buzzards Bay (aka Busted Bay). Short nasty chop, wind on the nose, so we had a very slow day. I coulda walked here faster.

Lovely to get to Cuttyhunk and find that we can tie up at the dock and have power and water. What a pretty place. Randy and I went for a walk to the top of the hill (see pictures). On the way back, the school bell rang, and we turned around to watch the door of the one-room schoolhouse, and two kids came out.

Tom's waiting to get online and interact with people who aren't us, so that's it for now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

November 1 - Portland, Maine

We've been making miles since our last update. Left Bar Harbor on Sunday morning, motorsailed to Rockland (59 miles), and tied up at Knight's Marine. Had a very American-style Mexican meal (seriously bland, but tasty enough), and didn't find anyone to fix our furnace. Not much going on in Rockland -- like Bar Harbor, lots of things are closed for the season. We did manage to spend a hundred bucks at Hamilton Marine. I found the fabulous little fittings that will replace the crap fittings that make the water hoses go "phfffft --shhhoooosh" and spray water all over the bilge or the head. Things is lookin up.

Rockland to Boothbay Harbor was another full day of motor sailing (gotta love them SW winds - bang on the nose) in calm weather. Travelling this way is very pretty when the water is calm and you only see the nice bits of Maine: the expensive houses on the waterfront, the wild and unsullied shores, the picturesque towns with the winding streets and footbridges and quaint little stores. The waterfront cottages, all 27 bedrooms and 10 baths by the look of some of them, are a nearly uniform white, or else they have silvered shingles. Occasionally, the neighbours branch out into beige, taupe, grey, or gasp, light brown, but generally, there's none of that flamboyance that you see on the French shore of Nova Scotia. And the trailers with the busted trucks, rusting cars and barking dogs are set back a ways from the water, as are the highways, the Walmarts and the factory outlets (too bad about that one).

We hit downtown Boothbay Harbor at dusk on Hallowe'en, and tied up at a dock in front of a decidedly closed-for-the-season hotel. Walked across the footbridge to get supplies and found that we'd hit town just as the local teenaged population came out in force, and in costume, but mostly with lots of shaving cream all over them and everything around them. Three young fellas were dowsing each other with the stuff, and styling
their hair into mohawks. (One guy sprays a gob of shaving cream on the other guy's head, other guy says, "oh yeah, that's good" as he molds his "do" and the whole quaint little town reeks of barbershop and bathroom). On the way back to the boat, we had to sidestep globs of the stuff.

Left before seven am (and we're struggling with two time changes in the last few days), wondering how many kids were in trouble this morning, and what shaving cream looks like when it dries, and does it foam up again when you put your clothes in the washer? Ate fresh-baked cornbread with bacon as we left the harbour (yes girls, you heard right, now bow before this domestic goddess. I'm the bleary looking one in the photo with the winter coat with the red nose and no makeup looking like the wrath of gawd). Motorsailed through the rolly bits, and then glory of glories, had a great sail under main and genoa, fast and quiet and heeled over enough to make Alice scream, were she here to enjoy this, and made it to Portland around 12:30. Big town. Showers, hot water, laundry, and tomorrow, while Randy hangs out with Bud, the furnace fixer from Portland Yacht Services (we're counting on you, Bud), Tom and I are going shopping at the biggest grocery store in Maine. Stand back. Two loads of laundry done, another in the dryer.

Here are some pictures that didn't make it in the last update: the ladder we climbed to get on and off the boat at the Yarmouth wharf, after climbing over the "Trent and Troy" - a giant lobster boat. Dad, at 79, rode around from Rudders wharf with us, and gamely scampered up this ladder. We did it a bunch of times, and most times we also had to pull both boats back to the wharf, and once, when Randy was aboard and I was on the
wharf, I had to ask some fishermen for help cause the wind was blowing the boats off the dock and I couldn't yank them in. Following the Yarmouth wharf pics are some of Tom's finds in Bar Harbor. A good eye for local colour, I'd say.

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