Sunday, October 16, 2016

We closed the circle

We are back at Matthews Point Marina in Havelock NC, where we lived for the past 10+ years.  We arrived Friday, the 14th, after a hard push south.

The last update had us in Summit North Marina in Bear DE to be hauled out to remove a line wrapped on our prop.  In the morning the marina staff towed us to the lift and hauled us out.  Sure enough, we had a line wrapped with two of its buoys still attached.  It turns out we were the third customers in a week to be hauled out because of wrapped lines.  The line was wrapped so tight that it took them about an hour to cut it out.  In the meantime Cori got out a scrub pad and started to clean the bottom.  We asked about a power wash but decided that it was too expensive.  Once the bottom was clean we were dropped back into the water and tied up at the dock to wait the tide change for a favorable current through the rest of the canal.  Once out of the canal we motored down to the Sassafras River to anchor for the night.  That evenings weather report was that hurricane Matthew was expected to shift its course and we should not be affected this far north.  Since it was Wednesday and we were one day out of Annapolis we decided to stop there for the weekend and take in the boat show.  If you are into sailing the Annapolis boat show is like going to sailing heaven.  We had been to the show twice before and we enjoy it.

Thursday morning we pulled the anchor early and headed down the Bay.  The wind was light and from behind us so we decided to play with our other sails.  We hoisted the spinnaker and then decided to add our mizzen staysail, our two light wind sails.  The wind shifted around a little and continued to build and eventually we were making six knots, not too shabby for light wind sails.  As we approached the Bay Bridge we dropped the sails and motored up the river, bypassing the harbor to check out the creek we stayed in last year.  The boat show is very popular and there are a lot of people that attend by boat.  The moorings and most of the anchorage area was filled so we went back to the harbor and anchored off of the Naval Academy.  Once we settled in we got a short concert by the Academy band that was practicing nearby.  We settled in for the night and in the morning we called a water taxi to pick us up so we could attend the show.  We had a list of things we needed to pick up and vendors to see.  As usual the first purchase we made was not on the list.  We spent the day checking out the booths and seminars and at closing we hit a couple of parties that the vendors were hosting.  The forecast was for a front to come through on Sunday with a lot of wind so Saturday morning we opted to move to a mooring that came available.  Saturday was forecast to rain and it started just as the show opened.  We had not planned to attend a second day but there were a couple of things we decided to go back for.  I hit the show and Cori took a big load of laundry to the laundromat.  Sunday we spent on the boat and installed some of the things we had bought at the show.  I needed to be in New Bern NC the next Saturday and we tried working out the routes to get there.  Every scenario showed us getting there on Saturday, too late for my appointment.

Monday morning we dropped the mooring ball at sunrise and started down the Bay.  The wind was out of the North blowing 20-25 knots with four foot waves.  We put out the headsail and had a fast ride.  By mid-morning the wind and waves dropped a little.  We were planning to stop in the Solomons for the night but since we were making such good time we continued on.  We pulled into a protected bay for the night and dropped anchor.  We started out the next morning as the sun came up.  The winds were light and we set the mainsail and motor-sailed with plans to stop at Deltaville.  Again we made good time and continued on to Mobjack Bay and anchored for the night.

Wednesday morning we watched the sun rise as we left the anchorage.  We motor-sailed again, arriving in Norfolk just after noon.  We continued through Norfolk and spent the night at the free dock at the Great Bridge in Chesapeake.  The next morning we had to hold up leaving because we had a bridge that was not scheduled to open until 8:30.  There was thick fog but we started out anyway.  We made the next two bridges with a group of boats and once we got into the North Landing River the fog cleared.  We continued through Coinjock without stopping for my prime rib and when the other boats pulled off for the night we continued on.  We motor-sailed across the Albemarle Sound and entered the Alligator river a couple of hours before sunset.  We decided to continue up the river since the channel was well marked with lighted marks and anchored about 9:00 pm at the mouth of the Alligator/Pungo canal.  We set an alarm for an early start and watched the sun rise as we entered the canal.  The water in the canal was calm and we were able to travel through it running at 7.5 knots.  We use a bit more fuel at this speed but we were on a mission.  Once out of the canal (20 miles) we continued up and down the various rivers and creeks until we finally turned to go up the Neuse River, almost home.  We were able to maintain the 7 knot speed so we were ahead of our planned schedule.  We had estimated arriving at the marina after dark but arrived about 6:30.  We got tied up, plugged in, hit the showers and settled in for the night.  We were home a day early!

We were up Saturday morning and had made arrangements to borrow our friend Louise’s car for our trip to New Bern.  The big rush to get here was because I had committed to taking my ham radio general license test.  If I didn’t take it today I would have to wait several months or find another location, not easy when you don’t have a car.  The good news is that I passed and am now legally able to take advantage of all of the capabilities of our single side band radio.  From there it was a trip to Walmart to start provisioning for our next adventure.  We filled two carts and after dropping that at the boat we made a run into Havelock to drop off and pick up some items from our storage unit.

Now the projects will begin.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Back in the Chesapeake, almost.

We are back in the Chesapeake, almost.

We were in Hadley Harbor in the Elizabeth Island chain in Massachusetts and the weather was forecast to get worse before it would get better.  We decided that we needed to move since there was a possible two day window to travel offshore along the Jersey coast getting us south.  Wednesday morning we started out planning to put some miles behind us.  There was a nor’easter coming but we felt we could handle the conditions before it arrived.  We started down Buzzards Bay with just the headsail and the mizzen in 20-25 knot winds, we were making good time.  We planned to stop for the night at Stonington but continued on to New London.  We figured to pick up a mooring in the harbor or maybe stay on a guest mooring we had used last summer, but when Cori called our friends on Kindred Spirit they told us to use their mooring.  We checked and rechecked the weather that night and decided to continue on the next day since the conditions would be about the same.  We thought it would take twelve hours to get to Port Washington and we are now getting a little less daylight than that each day.  We would have to push it.  We fired up the motor at sunrise and were ready to go but the readings from the alternator were off.  After two hours of troubleshooting it was working again, don’t know what was wrong.  The storm was forecast to arrive on Friday so we needed to move or would have to stay through the weekend.  About 8:30 we dropped the mooring and headed out again.  This time we motor-sailed through the day.  The new auto pilot was doing an alright job of steering us but as the waves grew it started having a hard time keeping our course.  The winds and waves were from behind us and as the bigger ones (six foot) would hit us they would push us off course and the pilot took a long time to get us back and by then another wave would hit us, a very zig-zag course.  We were trying to stay on the north side of Long Island Sound to block some of the winds but eventually we had to shift further south and cross to the other side.  Since we got a late start we were still a couple of hours short when it got dark.  Before the sun set we were passed by a tug pushing a barge and we homed in on his lights and followed him.  By this time the auto pilot could not hold a course and I was hand steering.  We followed the barge until we got to the entrance to Manhasset Bay.  Once we turned into the bay and got some protection from the wind we were able to drop the sail.  We had been motor-sailing with the mainsail up all day and it was too windy and rough to try to drop it earlier.  Once the sail was down we needed to find a mooring.  Port Washington has twenty public moorings that are free for the first two days you are there and we planned to pick up one of them.  By now it was after 8:30 pm and it was dark.  We tried maneuvering through the harbor but chose instead to pick up the first mooring we could find and deal with the owner in the morning.  We found several that no longer had lines on them then found one that still had them.  After some difficulty we were finally tied up to something semi-solid.  We had traveled 87 miles and were tired.  In the morning Vic, from the yacht club came out to let us know it was their mooring but we were welcome to use it without charge and that it was more the big enough to hold us during the storm.

Friday the nor’easter passed through with rain and winds in the high 20’s and low 30’s.  We were glad to be in a protected harbor.  While we were struggling with the auto pilot Cori had been making calls to see if we could find a network cable that would finish the installation and maybe solve our problems.  West Marine in Port Washington did not have one but said they would have it in their Friday delivery.  We called the water taxi for a ride to shore and after lunch we went to the store to see if it had arrived.  Their story was now that it would be in their 3:00 delivery and they would call us.  I made a trip back to the boat to pick up an empty propane tank with intentions of exchanging it for a full one.  These are special tanks and we carry four of them.  Two have been upgraded to the new valves and we had never found someone to upgrade the others.  The hardware store had the same tank with the new valve as an exchange.  At the hardware store Cori caught up with me to tell me that the cable had not been shipped.  We got our tank and headed back to the boat, we would just have to live with the way the auto pilot was working until we got back to North Carolina.

Saturday the weather was supposed to be much better and they were right.  We stopped at the fuel dock to top off the fuel and water and then headed out.  We were going to go through New York City on the East River again.  This time we caught favorable currents at the infamous Hell Gate and had a nice ride down the river.  Once into New York Harbor we set the headsail and sailed past the Statue of Liberty and out of the harbor and across the bay to Sandy Hook NJ to anchor for the night.  Another boat we were familiar with but had not met yet, Jay and Tanya on Minx, was making the same trip and had heard we were trying to get a part.  They asked if we had gotten it and when told we had not they asked what it was we needed.  We explained it and they thought they might have one onboard.  They arrived at the anchorage after us and called to say they had found one.  Cori launched the kayak and paddled over to pick it up.  Once we had it I was able to connect what is called the “control head” and programmed it.  It seemed to work just sitting at anchor so we would see what would happen when we left in the morning.

We had been pushing to get to this point in order to take advantage of the calm after the storm.  We had a two day window of calm weather in order to make the jump down the coast to Cape May.  We would need 24 hours.  We pulled anchor about 8:30 am and started out.  Test showed that the auto pilot was working so off we went.  We tried sailing but the winds were too light so we spent the day and night motor-sailing again.  We got about three miles offshore and followed the coast south.  I usually like to be at least five miles off but that is where the barge traffic was so we stayed in a bit closer.  As the day and night progressed the winds died out and it was just another motorboat ride.  We had figured on twenty-four hours to get to Cape May but we made better time and arrived too early to go into the harbor.  It was 4:30 and sunrise was two hours away.  The advantage of going into the harbor is that you then have access to the Cape May Canal and can cut across the peninsula rather than having to go around, cutting a couple of hours off the trip.  We had the option of killing two hours motoring around and then go in or just continue on and turn up the Delaware River entrance.  We chose to continue on.

We were planning to continue up the river to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal entrance and spend the night there and travel the canal in the morning.  By this time Minx had caught up with us and suggested an alternate anchorage that would be better protected for the night and we would still catch the current through the canal the next day.  That made sense so we pulled off at the Cohansey River and dropped anchor.

Tuesday morning we pulled the anchor and were off again.  This time we had a favorable wind so we raised the sails and sailed up the river until we got close to the canal.  During the sail we had crossed an area with a lot of crab pots but we thought we managed to get through without mishap.  As we got closer to the canal we dropped the sails and started the engine.  When we put it in gear there was an unusual vibration.  Checking the engine and shafts everything seemed ok.  To check the prop I had Cori put it into reverse.  Everything got worse and she quickly shut it down.  We had evidently fouled the prop going through the crab pots but once we started the engine whatever was there wrapped itself on the prop and shaft.  We put out some sail and maneuvered over to some shallow water and set the anchor.  I thought I would go overboard to check what was wrong and quickly found out that was a bad idea.  Once I hit the water I found two things: the water was too murky to see very far and I had underestimated the current.  I was able to grab the float we had put over the side for me to hang onto and as I tried to get to the ladder the current pulled my weight belt off.  I thought the buckle was cinched tight but it had gotten loose and the current pulled it off.  I had just bought it in Nassau and had only used it twice.  After climbing back onboard and rinsing off we called Towboat US for either a tow or a diver.  They favored towing us into the nearest marina since they were not sure a diver would be able to get us loose from whatever was attached to the prop.  We had several hours to wait and when they showed up we were towed to the Summit North Marina, about half way through the canal.  We are scheduled for what is called a “quick pull” in the morning.  They will haul us out of the water, clear whatever is there and check for any damage and put us back in the water.  That is why I mentioned we were “almost” in the Chesapeake.

While all this was going on with us, hurricane Matthew had formed up in the Caribbean and has been moving north.  We don’t know very well where it is going once it hits the Bahamas but they are saying all of the east coast will be affected.  We are going to spend a little more time in this area until things calm down.  This weekend is the Annapolis Boat Show and we were thinking of going to that since we are so close.