23 October, 2006

Home Again

Date: 23 Oct., 2005
Location: Deltaville, VA
Current position: 37 32.932 N 076 19.788 W
The Tayana raft up starts to break up Sunday morning at about 9:00 am when Mistress leaves to head back up to her home port on the Magothy River, north of Annapolis. The wind is expected to be out of the North at 15-20 with 3-4 ft waves, so we know they're in for a long, wet, bouncy slog up the bay into the wind. Oh! Wait! They have a full enclosure! We decide not to feel too bad for them, especially since they're wearing shorts again.
Adventure Bound and Rachel stay and their crews share breakfast and socialize until around 11:00 am. We expect some rough seas when we first head out, but the wind becomes very light and the water fairly calm. We have a nice, enjoyable, sunny, and somewhat slow and sad "last sail" of the season back home to Deltaville.
As we pull into the dock some of our good friends and neighbours welcome us back from our 6 week trip with cold beers, hugs, and warm smiles. It's nice to be home with our friends but we had a such wonderful time we can't wait to head out again.
Rachel, Julie, and Mark have all gotten to know each other better over the trip. Julie goes through our log and learns that we've traveled 931 nautical miles in Rachel. We're looking forward to traveling many more, the three of us together.
Fair winds,
Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

22 October, 2006

Tayanas Together

Date: 22 Oct., 2005

Location: Mill Creek, Great Wicomoco River

Current position: 37 47.575 N 076 19.378 W

We left Solomon's Friday to attend a Tayana get-together at Mill Creek on the Great Wicomoco River. Another Tayana, "Mistress", had arrived at Solomons the evening before, also bound for Mill Creek, so we decided to sail down together. Rain and cold weather were predicted, but these guys seemed ready to go, so we decided we needed to suck it up and go, too.

We left at 7:30 in the morning - it was just getting light. Mistress pulled in next to us as we were raising our anchor, dressed in our full foul weather gear, ready for the wind and rain. She is beautiful black boat with wood cabin sides. And a full cockpit enclosure. We looked again. Yep. Her cockpit is entirely covered in canvas and plastic. It's warm. And dry. No wonder they weren't bothered about sailing 40 miles in the rain! They're even wearing shorts and tee shirts. Sheesh.

We had rain, very limited visibility, and 20-30 knot winds out of the Northwest with a temperature of about 50 degrees. Luckily we were heading primarily South and Southeast, so we were on a broad reach for most of the trip and the 4-6 foot waves made for a good surf down the bay.

We decided to turn on the radar - we haven't used it much, but with the limited visibility we wanted to have as much warning as we could of other vessels, obstructions, etc. It was pretty cool. We were able to see a tug w/ barge in tow and a big container ship long before they were visible. We saw other sailboats as they approached and passed, and we watched a thunder head come toward us from the East, then slowly fall behind as we passed in front of it. The only visible indication was a darkening of the sky - it was nice to know that we'd dodged that bullet.

After a long, wet, and bouncy day, we finally arrived and got safely anchored in Mill Creek. We had traveled all day in our foul weather weather gear sitting on wet teak and getting wind and rain blown. When Mistress arrived a few minutes later, her crew stepped out onto deck in shorts and sandals. Muttering soggy obscenities under our water-laden breath, we welcomed them and helped them tie up to us. We shared dinner, eventually warmed up, and made an early night of it.

On Saturday we were joined by "Adventure Bound", owned by friends from our home marina. We all had a great time inspecting each other's boats, noting the similarities and differences, and the obvious compromises that were made during design and building.

For instance, Rachel has a separate shower compartment in the head. For obvious reasons, this is a wonderful thing. On the other hand, Adventure Bound has a much more open settee / dining area that is more conducive to socializing. The extra space seated six of us quite comfortably where we would have been a bit crowded on Rachel.

This extra space, however, comes at the expense of a separate shower, so we invited the others to take showers on Rachel if they wanted. And so it went - what was found to be desirable on one boat was clearly shown to be available only due to the compromise of a different but equally desirable feature on another boat. It was a great experience for all of us and we're going to plan another in the spring that will hopefully be better attended.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

19 October, 2006

Bilge Blues

Date: 19 Oct., 2005

Location: Solomons, MD

Current position: 38 19.8 N 076 27.5 W

We use navigation software on a laptop connected to a GPS to locate Rachel in real time on an electronic chart. This makes it really easy to see if we're approaching shoals or are on course. It's proved to be really helpful, and we must admit that we've become rather fond of and somewhat dependent on it.

About an hour after we leave Cambridge, Mark's hard drive crashes. Like the Norwegian Blue parrot in the Monty Python pet shop skit, the hard drive has "passed on. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet it's maker. It is off the twig, kicked the bucket, shuffled off it's mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!" In other words, no more electronic chart.

We have to rely on our paper chart and navigation talent to get to Solomons, back across the bay. Sheesh. Never a dull moment....

Another lovely long day sail with no running aground or getting lost, so there may be hope for us yet. We arrive at Solomons pretty late, worn out and glowing from the wind on our faces, and spend the next day reprovisioning, getting water and fuel and just having a generally relaxing day.

At 6am the next morning our bilge alarm goes off. Yikes! We leapt out of bed. Well, actually, Mark leaps out of bed, Julie kind of lies there under the warm, dry covers waiting to see if it really is an emergency.

Mark pumps the bilge and then proceeds to pull up all the floorboards and check everywhere to see if he can find where all the water has come from. We had pretty heavy rain during the night, but that has never caused problems before. We look for evidence of water trickling into the bilge and find nothing - except what might be a small dribble from behind the engine - we can't reach it to check without going into the "basement" through the lazarette.

Finally Julie drags out of bed and climbs down into the basement (it's a size thing, honest!) and finds that the stuffing box is dripping more than it should be. This is the fitting where the prop shaft enters the boat and is tightened/loosened to allow a small drip of water to ensure the shaft is cool, but not a lot - no more than, say, a drop every 5 or so seconds. We, on the other hand, have about five drops a second and this had been going on for a few days. Reminder to selves - get Julie to check the stuffing box more often. We decide this is the problem, Mark tightens it and we both agree that we are safe to head on down the bay. Now where's that hot coffee?

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

18 October, 2006


Date: 18 Oct, 2005

Location: Cambridge, MD

Current position: 38 34.3 N 076 04.4 W

We finally made it over to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake on our Rachel, a lovely long day sail. We had previously been to the Wye river, Oxford and St. Michaels, so we decided to try something new and headed on to Cambridge. The approach has a somewhat tricky entry channel, only because you can't really see where it is leading until you actually get there, which is a bit disconcerting.

There is free docking at the town bulkhead with enough room for 4-5 boats, so we nuzzled up and immediately realized we didn't have enough fenders. We put out what we had, set lines to keep the fenders where we wanted them to be and went to the bar/restaurant right next door for dinner so we could keep an eye on Rachel. She fared well and so did we.

Mark walked to a local chandlery the next morning and bought two oversized fenders we then set, allowing us to feel much more comfortable about our docking arrangement. So comfortable, in fact, that we returned to the same restaurant the following night. The 2 for 1 marguaritas deal had absolutely nothing to do with our decision. Honest....

Cambridge is a nice little town that's not as touristy and upscale as some others but friendly with a lovely historic area and a reviving downtown. We stayed for 2 days then determined that we needed water. There wasn't any that was convenient and we still had some, so we decided to wait until we arrived at Solomons the next day. In an effort to conserve water so we'd have enough to make Solomon's, we drank a lot of beer. This was a pretty good plan, allowing us enough water to make Solomons, but our holding tank volume suffered as a result. It seems that sailing is all about trade-offs.....

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

15 October, 2006

A Rhode Less Traveled

Date: Saturday evening, 15 Oct., 2005

Location: Rhode River

Current position: 38 52.938N 76 31.942 W

The lousy wet, windy weather we've been having for the last couple of weeks finally starts to let up so we decide to leave Annapolis, planning to get across to the Wye River on the Eastern shore with plenty of time to spare for R&R later in the day. According to NOAA (on Friday evening) we'll have a 10-15 knot NW breeze helping us along.

As we're dropping the mooring pennant preparing to head out, the guy in the boat next to us says "They just posted a new forecast. Now they're calling for 20-25 w/ 30+ kt gusts." Great. While that's great sailing sometimes, we just don't really want to work that hard today.

We head out anyway, hoping to beat the wind, which is scheduled to build during the morning, reaching it's height by mid-afternoon. Whenever we go out sailing, we always try to have a "bailout plan" in place in case the weather deteriorates or something else unexpected happens. Today we know we have until we get near the entrance to the West and Rhode Rivers to make a decision to either bail out or continue on around Bloody Point (we believe it was named when the governor of Maryland told Blackbeard that plundering in the Bay had a negative effect on the economy and the pirate asked "What's your bloody point?", but that's unsubstantiated) to the Wye. The decision point is a couple of miles south of Thomas Point light.

We start out with two reefs in the main, since it's easier to shake out a reef if you don't need one than it is to put one in if you do. The wind's pretty light and we're thinking about shaking out one, if not both reefs. As we pass Thomas Point, the wind starts to build, and we're glad we were cautious. We furl one of our headsails (the staysail) and carry on under reefed main and yankee, still hoping to make the Wye. The gusts start. We adjust the sails, flattening them to make the boat easier to steer, and carry on. The wind continues to build, just as NOAA said to expect. Several gusts come along that are strong enough to bury the leeward rail underwater, helping us to finally make the decision to bail out and pull into the Rhode River at the decision point. If you remember we were here a couple of weeks ago on our way to Annapolis.

When we get here, there's no one else anchored. This is great! We have the place to ourselves. Expecting pretty strong and gusty wind from the Northwest, we pull in a little farther than we did last time and drop the hook, letting out plenty of chain in case it really pipes up. A lovely ketch sails in, silently, the couple sailing her conversing quietly as they tack, shake out a reef to get around a sheltering point, and anchor, all w/o running their engine. Sweet. One of these days that'll be us, we say.

The day wears on, we read, loaf, do a few chores, and more boats start arriving. And arriving. And arriving. There's a continuous stream of boats arriving now. By evening, there's a raft-up of 7 Hunters, several other two and three boat raft-ups, and about 30-40 other boats in here. Big difference from when we were here the last time - during the week. We decide everyone is making the most of maybe one of the last nice weekends of the year, even though it is a bit breezy for our taste.

The abundance of boats causes us to check the Thomas Point Light web site for the 24-hour history of wind and waves to see if they know something we don't. Turns out the highest winds and waves of the day were at exactly the time we made the "bail out" decision. So, instead of the wind continuing to build during the morning and early afternoon like NOAA said, it ended up dropping off a bit and turned out to be a beautiful sailing day w/ 12-18 kt winds. And we missed it. Go figure. Sigh.

Unlike Robert Frost, it appears we chose the Rhode more traveled, but it has turned out to be a lovely relaxing 'Rhode'. Today was very gusty - even at anchor we were heeling 10-15 degrees. But the sun was out and the temperature was in the low 70's and we got several more chores and a lot more reading done. We have taken a week of vacation and the weather is "supposed" stay clear with warm days, cool nights, and moderate winds all week. Tomorrow we'll head over to the Eastern shore somewhere - haven't decided where yet, but we'll let you know when we get there.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

Our First Gale

Location: Jackson Creek, Deltaville, VA
Date: 15 Oct., 2006
Current position: 37 32 51.86 N, 076 19 47.09 W

This is our first Khronicle in quite some time and it's fairly long - we hope you don't mind.

It's been a busy few months - after our daughter's wedding, Julie's father passing away, and two trips to England followed by a couple of stressful weeks at work, we were thoroughly ready to get back aboard Rachel and spend some time on the water decompressing. We decided that we'd take off for a month or so and cruise around the Chesapeake "until it gets too cold", like we did last year. Our first weekend aboard was beautiful, just what the doctor ordered. We left on Saturday and had a fantastic, sunny, and warm sail to meet up with some friends at an anchorage about 16 miles away.

Finally, we were on the water and aboard Rachel and life just doesn't get any better. As you know we need good Internet connectivity to be able to work from Rachel, so we decided to anchor in Jackson Creek, just off Deltaville Marina for the week, where we can access their now much-more-reliable WiFi Internet connection. That's where this Khronicle begins.

We were working along happily on Thursday when we heard there might be a front coming through on Friday with 20-25 mph winds. We figured that we'd been in the same place for 5 days and our anchor was pretty well set - so no big concern. Then, later in the day, the weather forecasts suddenly started talking about 25-35 knot winds with gusts to over 40 on Friday night and Saturday.

We decided to let out some extra chain to add to it's holding power. We'd never been anchored out in winds that high, so we became a bit nervous. We decided to sit tight and wait it out - can't scurry for shelter every time the weather gets bad, eh?

Unfortunately, by Friday morning the forecast had increased again to sustained winds of 30-40 mph with gusts to 50 mph and possibly higher. We deployed our secondary anchor for extra insurance as soon as we heard this, and are really glad we did. The wind built throughout the day and by nightfall Mark had been sitting in the cockpit for over 4 hours, watching for the slightest indication that our anchors might drag. Gusts were hitting Rachel, heeling her over 10, 15, 20 degrees with no sails up, and the mast started pumping (very low frequency vibration that feels like a big shudder) in some of the gusts.

Because we were pretty close to a dock on the opposite side of the creek and had almost no room to drag, we decided to do 2-hour anchor watches throughout the night. All night long one or the other of us was in the cockpit watching our location, making sure we were sitting tight, and keeping an eye out on the other boats in the anchorage while the other tried to catch whatever sleep we could during our off shift.

There were 9 other boats in the north branch of the creek with us. One captain who had his family with small children aboard loaded everyone up in their dinghy and left the boat early Friday evening for the duration of the storm. Watching that made us a bit nervous - maybe he knew something we didn't. Concern continued to build as one forecast after another predicted worse than we initially expected.

That boat, two others, and Rachel were the only boats in the anchorage that didn't drag anchor at some point during the night.

It's difficult to imagine what it must be like to realize, in the middle of the night, that your anchor isn't holding and that you need to haul it back in, motor into the wind, reset it, and pray that it holds this time - all in the middle of the strong, gusty winds we were experiencing. We watched as one boat tried to reset it's anchor 4 or 5 times before cruising up to the marina and looking for dock space. The marina's docks were under water at this point, due to the storm driving the water up into the creek and the captain made the wise decision not to attempt a landing. They headed back to their original position and reset their anchor once again - thankfully, this time with success.

At several points during the night the wind gusts were so powerful when Rachel was at the top of a wave and pulled up against her anchors, that we'd feel the strangest sort of corkscrew motion - something very different from anything else we're used to on the boat and quite disconcerting, especially to the one who was trying to catch some sleep below.

When day broke, we were greatly relieved to see that Rachel hadn't budged an inch. Her two anchors had held like rocks and all three of us were safe and sound. We fired up the coffee, rechecked all the lines for chafe, and prepared for another full day of the same. The wind moderated a bit, but still continued at about 25-30 with gusts to 35 and above, and we maintained watches throughout the day.

We finally made it to Sat evening when the winds died down a bit. Julie went right to sleep, but Mark 'the worrier' kept getting awakened by gusts, leaping out of bed, getting dressed, and popping his head out to look around - he finally fell asleep in his clothes.

Sunday dawned gray, but cleared around 11-ish, and the wind decreased to 15-20 mph. Finally we felt okay about leaving Rachel on her own, so we got in the dinghy and headed over to the marina for some well-deserved showers, laundry, and dinner with friends looking out on the now peaceful creek, sharing stories of 'the storm'. Life is good. Scary sometimes, but good.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

10 October, 2006

Monsoons in Maryland?

Date: 10 Oct., 2005

Location: Spa Creek, Annapolis, MD

Current position: 38 58.335 N 076.29.523 W

We've had some pretty busy (and very wet!!) days in Annapolis recently. We took a day of vacation and attended the Annapolis Sailboat Show on Thursday, but didn't find any of the "great deals" we've heard about in the past. One fellow we spoke with said he'd bought a new dinghy for $2700 about a week before the show, then saw the same dinghy from the same dealer at the show with a "boat show special price" of $2850. Mark had done some price research on the Internet for some bigger items we're thinking about buying, but everything we looked at was more costly at the boat show. A bit of a disappointment, actually.

It rained all day Friday. We worked.

It rained all day Saturday. We attended the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) gathering on Back Creek, the next creek out toward the mouth of the Severn River. There were 4 options for getting there, in our dinghy, by water taxi, by bus (including a short dinghy ride and bit of a walk at each end), or by land taxi (also with a short dinghy ride). Note: When you are at anchor you pretty much have to dinghy to get anywhere.

Our preference was the dinghy as we would have more flexibility, but with the forecast for rain we were a bit iffy. But, since it wasn't raining as the time to leave drew closer, we decided to go by dinghy. We donned our foul weather gear, bailed her out (she was half full of water from torrential rain the night before), and set off.

As soon as we left Rachel it started to really pour with rain but no worries - we had our 'foulies' on. We had to head up Spa Creek, down the Severn River (directly into the wind), and into Back Creek, the next creek down. We were wondering why we weren't seeing any other dinghies out and why the people anchored out there were all staring at us. It didn't take us too long to figure it out.

As soon as we got to the Severn and turned to the South we were heading directly into a 25-30 mph wind and 2-3 ft waves. The rain was hitting us in the face like June bugs when you're riding as motorcycle. Whack whack whack over the waves, white knuckles from hanging on so tight, bouncing up and down, and the occasional breaking wave showering us with bonus spray.

Mark: "Did I mention that they issued a small craft advisory this morning"
Julie: "Why didn't you tell me before we left?"
Mark: "I knew you'd want to come anyway!"
Julie: (the "look")
Julie: "I love you"
Mark: "I love you, t".. Thwack - big wave right in both of our faces.

Now we had water running down from the neck inside our foulies and were getting considerably more wet than we anticipated. After about ten minutes of this we were able to turn into Back Creek and gain respite from the waves. Whew. Then we started really looking forward to arriving and having a chance to dry out.

No such luck. The SSCA event took place in several tents. The main tent was set up on a concrete slab and the rain got so heavy at times water ran across the slab. The other tents were set up on grass - soon to become mud.

There was only one dry spot in the whole place - we had stowed Mark's wallet and our cell phone in a "dry bag" we had left over from our canoeing days.

Other than that, pretty much everything we had (including us) stayed wet all day long. Our feet got wrinkled in our shoes. We started sprouting mushrooms. Mark began looking furrier than usual.

Every time we'd start to dry out it was time to go to another tent, and, of course, it was pouring whenever we went outside. We had a great day though, met some new friends, won a couple of door prizes, and in the evening we got to attend a small party with some new and old friends that was also attended by Bob Perry, the designer of our Rachel.

We had planned to leave today but decided we needed a day off, so we're just hanging around the boat napping and doing some minor repairs and maintenance. We've reserved our mooring for two more days, planning to head to Galesville on the West River on Tuesday, then across the bay to the Wye River on Friday for a Tayana rendezvous next weekend. Monsoons permitting, of course.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

05 October, 2006

Boat Life

Date: 05 Oct, 2005

Location: Spa Creek, Annapolis, MD

Current position: 38 58.335 N 076.29.523 W

Life on Rachel is good. We're really enjoying it, even though there always seems to be something to maintain, repair, install, etc. - never a dull moment - guess that's boat life.

Our anchorage, even though it is right in town, is surprisingly quiet except for the 2 resident swans. Have you ever heard swans squawk/honk/trumpet? For such beautiful birds they sure do make the ugliest noise. At times we think the resident swan proctologist must be in town paying them a little "visit".

We have spent a delightful week wandering around Annapolis. What a lovely and cruiser-friendly town. Free dinghy docks at the end of each road make exploring a breeze. Usually after work or at lunch time we go for a wander around the old neighborhoods, enjoying the tree lined streets and cobbled sidewalks. Well, we mainly enjoy the cobbles - sometimes, if we aren't paying attention we'll go flying. We figure losing our land legs and stumbling a lot is also part of boat life.

Julie's been making good use of our hiatus to touch up the varnish (well, Cetol, actually) on the exterior woodwork. Mark repaired a rotted layer of laminate in the boom gallows and is happy with the way it turned out. We're quite happy with the progress we're making - though relatively small, some of these tasks have been waiting for our attention for some time - boat life again.

Case in point: our dinghy's outboard has not been running well for most of the season. It starts fine, runs a few minutes, and quits. We've always been able to restart it and coax it along, but it's gradually gotten worse and the other day it finally "made a desperate plea for attention". In other words, it had become so unreliable that Mark had to tear down, clean, and reassemble the carburetor.

Turns out there's a little diaphragm in there that serves as a fuel pump. The seal around the edges of the diaphragm had a slight leak, allowing air into the fuel and leaking off vacuum, preventing the pump from pumping effectively. Being at anchor and trying our best to be good, conscientious, ingenious, and creative sailors, we dug through our supplies. No spare, no gasket cement. What to use? Hey! We've got this caulk here that we use to seal stuff on deck. Mark smears a thin coating on the damaged face of the gasket, reassembles the carburetor, and presto! The outboard is back to running reliably again. Oh, and the name of the caulk? "Boat Life", of course.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

29 September, 2006

Settled in Spa Creek

Date: 29 Sept., 2005

Location: Spa Creek, Annapolis, MD

Current position: 38 58.335 N 076.29.523 W

We're sitting here in Spa Creek, relaxing and sipping a glass of wine, and enjoying what might arguably be called one of the nicest spots on the creek.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves....

We arrived in Annapolis at around 10:00 AM Wednesday and headed up to the mooring field on Spa Creek to see if we could grab a mooring until after the Annapolis Sailboat Show. We'd heard stories about how crazy the anchorages around here can get at boat show time, and thought a mooring would suit us well. There were several moorings available, but they are all scheduled to be taken over by the boat show starting next Monday. We decided to find the harbormaster's dock and go talk to him about it and maybe take on some water.

Not knowing where the harbor master was located, we slowly motored around the creek looking for the city dock. We headed toward the Spa Creek bascule bridge, realized the harbor master wasn't up there, and turned around. Then the engine died. In the middle of the freaking channel to the bridge.

Sheesh. Never a dull moment....

Mark leapt forward, dropped the anchor, and let out some chain so at least we wouldn't drift into other boats or docks. Then he went below and started digging into the bowels of the engine and bilge trying to figure out what the problem was.

Julie went up to the bow to make sure the anchor was holding, to let out a bit more chain when we started to drag (we wanted to put out the minimum necessary), and to head off any authorities who might think we were planning to anchor out there. Oh. We did mention that you're not allowed to anchor where we were, didn't we?

In a flurry of activity with rugs, floorboards, engine covers, boat parts, perspiration, and tools from the "appropriate language toolbox" flying everywhere, Mark changed the fuel filter. Nope, that wasn't the problem.

More flurry, more "appropriate language", more floorboards, and he finally found it. The lift pump (the pump that pulls fuel from the tank and pushes it to the injector pump) had a loose fitting, spraying fuel and allowing air into the fuel system

It's commonly said that diesel engines only need two things to run - clean air and clean fuel. They don't, however run so well if you mix the two together before trying to push them through the injectors.

About this time, the harbor master's skiff pulled up alongside to chide us for anchoring there. Julie deftly dealt with the anchoring issue by explaining our predicament and telling him that we'd found the problem and should be back under way in fairly short order. She also took the opportunity to discuss the mooring issue with him. In the process, she learned that the boat on mooring #23, one of those not taken over for the boat show, would be leaving in an hour or so, giving us an opportunity to pick up the mooring.

Mark tightened the loose fitting, bled the system, and with phone support from Rachel's previous owner (once again - thanks, Butch!), we got the engine restarted.

What a relief. We hauled the anchor back in and headed out into the mooring field to pick up #23 when it became available. As we motored by, we saw the crew in the cockpit and Julie called over and asked when they'd be leaving, explaining that we wanted to pick up their mooring.

We hovered around to make sure we would be there at the right time. Good timing, too, because we'd seen several other boats looking for moorings, as well. With the boat show a week away, things are starting to get crazy around here. Suddenly a guy popped up out of nowhere in a dinghy and said he was getting that mooring. We were a bit put out but the moorings are offered on a first come first served basis and with him being in a dinghy he could get right next to the boat and grab the pennant as they let it go.

Mark began to reopen the "appropriate language toolbox", and Julie, seeing it wasn't going to do any good, prepared to leap off the boat and intercept the pennant as the guy was about to grab it. After a team confab we decided it wasn't worth getting upset about, nothing we could do about it. This guy was a "gret daft chuff" and nothing we could do short of running him down would make him give up that mooring!!

We decided that we'd head through the bridge and try to find a spot to anchor further up Spa Creek. As we headed toward the bridge, the harbor master came by again in his skiff and chatted with us. We explained what had happened and asked if he knew of any other boats that were on "keeper" moorings that were scheduled to leave soon. He quietly muttered "Damn bird doggers", checked his list, shook his head, and we motored on.

We saw him pull out his cell phone and a minute later he came back alongside. He sad "The bridge will be opening in a couple of minutes. Go through it and about a quarter of a mile on your left, just past the day mark, look for mooring # 65. The boat that's on it is smaller than yours and the owner has agreed to move to the St. Mary's moorings."

Only boats 35' or less are allowed n the St. Mary's mooring field - off limits to us at 37'.
We thanked him profusely, went through the bridge, and as we approached #65, saw him receive the pennant from the boat, and hold onto it until we could come pick it up so nobody else could swoop in and grab it. What a nice guy! He told us to get settled and when we could, go to the harbormaster's office on Ego Alley to check in, pay, and fill out the paper work. When we got there, we learned that we'd gotten the last available mooring for any boat over 35'. And the best part is that we really like this spot much better than the mooring field outside the bridge.

So we're settled in here in Spa Creek for the next ten days or so and are looking forward to exploring Annapolis.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

25 September, 2006

The Watermelon

Date: Sunday, 25 Sept., 2005

Location: Rhode River

Current position: N38 53.037 W078 31.638

We left Solomons this morning at dawn. As we were leaving the Patuxent river we decided to get out the spinnaker. The big sail. The fun sail. The pink and green beast (yes, pink and green - those were very cool colours back in the early 70s) - at the suggestion of a friend we've decided to rename it "the watermelon".

We hadn't ever put it up before and were waiting for a good day to try it out. Today was the day - relatively light wind, around 6-8 knots, aft of beam but not directly down wind.

For those of you who don't know what a spinnaker is, it's the big poofy sail, usually very colorful, that you often see flying out in front of sailboats in those photogenic moments. They can be pretty tricky to get set up, but ours is of the much-easier-to-use "cruising" or "asymmetric" ilk.

This sail is really cool. It lives in a big sock and has a snuffing line that runs through a pulley. When you want to fly the sail, you attach the bottom of the sail to the bow, hoist the top of the sock up the mast, and, when everything's ready to go, you pull the line and the sock lifts up, releasing the sail. Easy as pie. To douse the sail, you simply pull the sock back down, and once the sail's all in the sock, you lower the nicely packaged "sausage" to the deck and stow it below. Again, easy as pie. In theory.

We got it set on the first try, too - no lines running inside the stays, no twists, everything went according to plan. Woohoo! We were pretty proud of ourselves. Then we sat back and sailed about 30 miles on the same tack with winds increasing to about 12-13 knots. We kicked back, relaxed, and ran the autopilot for most of the way. What a great day of sailing!

We got up to the green buoy marking the entrance to the Rhode and West Rivers and it was time to douse the sail. We got everything ready and Mark started to pull the sock down. It came down about 8 feet and stopped. He pulled it back up and then back down again. It stopped in the same place.

We looked at each other, back up at this massive expanse of sail, flapping like crazy, and looked at each other again - shit!!!!

We tried several more times with no better luck. We even tried releasing the sheet, thinking that may be causing the problem. No luck. Now we have the entire sail flapping out in front of the boat.

We look at each other again! Shit. Again.

We had the engine running and in gear, so we put it in neutral so if by any chance one of the lines went in the water and drifted back it wouldn't get wrapped around the prop.

So here we are, drifting, the wind blowing the sail out in front of us, both on the foredeck, trying to get the sail back under control. Mark got up on the bowsprit and almost had the sail all bunched up in his arms when a gust filled the top half and, while he was hanging on, it tore for about 10' right along the foot of the sail. Shit.

The only thing to do was to just drop it, and as it was dropping, quickly pull it into the boat so it wouldn't get sucked under us in the water. So the sail is coming down, and we're lifting and stuffing it into the forward hatch like a pair of wild squirrels packing away acorns for the winter so it won't catch the wind and take off again. Who was it that said "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead"?

Of course, this all happened just south of Annapolis. The sailing capital of the East coast. The promised land of all things nautical. The Mecca of maritime ... uh ... m-something (help me out with the alliteration here). Home of the U.S. Naval Academy. The nautical navel of the known world.. ("hold it right there, ye gret daft chuff" she says. "Everyone knows Greenwich, England is the nautical navel of the known world").

Anyway. There must have been millions (literally - honest!) of other sail boats out there this afternoon. None of them seemed to be having the same problem. So why us? We did, however, notice that several seemed to take quite an interest in our, um, "sail handling" skills.

Once again (and in keeping with our recent ham escapades) we must have looked like right chumps. We're getting used to it, though. The up side is that we've heard it builds character.

We finally managed to get the sail stuffed back into the forward hatch, but not before some of it landed in the water. Oh, did we mention that our berth is directly below the forward hatch? Sigh. We finally got it below and, after we anchored, inspected it. It looks like the core of one of the lines that are used to douse the sail had become separated from the outer part of the line and, we're thinking, had bunched up, preventing the "haul it down" line from doing it's job. Maybe.

So we're sitting here at anchor with the wet part of the sail up in the cockpit, looking like a boat with some kind of pink and green lumpy thing growing out the back, fluffing, turning, and airing it out so it'll be dry when we pack it away. Luckily, most of the water got caught in the folds of the sail, so at least we'll have a dry berth while we're getting a very well deserved good night's sleep. Night, all.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rache

23 September, 2006

Hello from Margaritaville

Date: Fri, 23 Sept., 2005

Location: Solomons, MD

Current position: 38 19.858 N 076 27.256 W

We decided to stay where we were until this AM - we're scheduled to have south winds all day until this evening when they shift to the north. We'll move later this AM

By the way, the tikki bar has very strong margaritas. Really, really strong. Ouch. 'Nuff said.

Oh, and our position report went off this morning without a hitch - about time! A fellow just now dinghied up to us and said he'd heard us on the radio this morning. We asked if he'd heard all our screw ups and he very diplomatically said "Nope." We may be through the woods on this one.

We did end up moving - a boat left a prime spot in the anchorage and we moved to it. Lots of room to swing and we're a lot more comfortable with our move

Sat. 25 September

We did the trash / shopping / laundry thing today. We may need to rethink that one and divide it up into separate trips. By the time we got back to the dinghy, we both were wearing backpacks and carrying two heavy bags. Between the laundry, the groceries, and the obligatory visit to West Marine, we were pretty loaded down. We can see why people have those handy "milk crate on wheels" things for their provisioning runs.

More later. We're planning to haul anchor early tomorrow morning and head north to the Rhode River - a trip of about 40 nautical miles.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

22 September, 2006


Date: Thursday, 22 Sept., 2005

Location: Solomons, MD

Current location: 38 19.858 N 076 27.256 W

Mill Creek was beautiful and we really were sorry to leave. It's among our favorite anchorages to date. We've moved to Solomons, MD to drop off some trash, provision, take on water, and wander around town. We plan to visit Woodburns grocery - they have a reputation for having really good stuff - and, of course, the local tikki bar.

The boat that almost hit us a couple of days ago was still in Mill Creek the day before we left. On Thursday we noticed that they weren't swinging with the breeze like the rest of us - and there was a slight aft-to-forward list.

As the tide went out, the list increased. Then we noticed we could see the top of their rudder out of the water - they were definitely aground. Finally someone came up on deck, walked around, and went back down below. The tide came back in, and after a several hours they started the engine, kedged themselves off and re-re-anchored. We won't miss those guys, that's for sure.

We made it to Solomons w/o mishap (5 whole miles! Woohoo!). We anchored just off Zahniser's dock, but the folks next to us suggested that we move. The docks to our south - where we have just enough room - will fill up with big boats during the weekend, leaving us very little room if the wind shifts to the north. So, as soon as we're done w/ work for the day we'll do the "anchor dance" and see where we end up.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

21 September, 2006

Ham Hijinks

Date: 21 Sept., 2005

Location: Mill Creek, Patuxent River, near Solomons, MD

Current position: N38 20.195' W076 30.218'

We both got our general ham licenses in March of 2004 for two primary reasons: safety and communication while we're on the boat. We must admit that we're of the "get the license first, then figure out what you're doing" class of ham. We haven't used our radio much at all except to listen. That is, until just recently. We have burst upon the ham scene like a couple of drunken gorillas uninvited to a tea party. And we're pretty sure that ain't just simile ..

Every morning at 7:45, the Waterway Radio & Cruising Club (link above) hosts a ham radio "net" attended by cruising hams all up and down the east coast. The net is broken into four distinct segments: emergency and priority medical traffic, weather reports, general traffic, and position reports. The first two are pretty self explanatory, the third means "you can call and talk to other members of the net as time allows", and the fourth allows vessels at anchor or under way to report their positions and/or destinations. Position reports are recorded by the "fleet captain" in a database and are a good way to let others know where you are, where you're headed, and when you expect to get there. This is an excellent and highly respected service provided for all hams by the WRCC.

So. It's come time for s/v Rachel's new crew to introduce themselves to cruising hams all up and down the East coast. Hoo boy.....

Day one: When asked if there are any new hams on the net, Mark responds and introduces himself, Julie and "Rachel". S/v Rachel's previous owner comes on and welcomes us to the net, explains the boat names (m/v Rachel vs. s/v Rachel) to everyone, and we feel like we've done pretty well. Having given our current location during this exchange, Mark doesn't bother doing so again when the "position reports" portion of the net comes along. So Rachel's new crew's first position report is not official and doesn't get entered into the database. Oops.

Day two: Julie introduces herself during the new hams portion of the net. The net controller says "Julie, I don't know if you remember me, but we met at my house last year when you and Mark were buying Rachel". Julie looks like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi and says nothing. Of course she remembers meeting him and his wife, but can't think of anything to say. Oops. She does, however, recover long enough to log us into the "vessels under way" position report- "Wilton Creek to Reedville".

Day three: We're heading north from Reedville to Solomons and Julie hears "vessels under way" as we're messing with the sails. She shoots below and gives our position report. The net control comes back and says "That was very nice, Julie, but please save position reports for the official position report segment of the net. We are currently working general traffic". Oops.

A few minutes later Rachel's previous owner hails her, but she can't understand what he's saying (his signal is very strong), so she gets the deer in the headlights look (again) and doesn't say anything (again). He stops. Finally, she waits and provides a position report at the appropriate time. Later in the day we get a phone message from him saying "What's the matter? Too good to talk to me on the radio?". Oops. Now we're alienating the PO and we're pretty sure we're starting to get a net-wide reputation, as well.

Day four: At the beginning of the general traffic segment, the net controller says "Please hold all position reports until the appropriate time". Uh oh - this is new and we're certain it's being said specifically for us. Mark waits sheepishly for the appropriate time and gives our position report, feeling pretty good about finally getting it right. After all the position reports are in, the net control and the fleet captain compare notes and come to the conclusion that KI4FTC (Mark) and KI4FTD (Julie) are on the same boat. It seems that the database only has space for one call sign, so the generally accepted protocol is to use one call sign for all checkins to prevent confusion and make their job easier. Since Julie was the first to call in a position report during the correct segment of the net, s/v Rachel is now listed under her call sign, KI4FTD. This discussion, of course, takes place on the net for all to hear as they're figuring it out. Oops. Now we know we must be getting a reputation.

Day five: When announcing "general traffic" the net control (a different net control than the previous days) also says "Please hold all position reports until position reports are requested by the fleet captain". Hoo, boy. Now they've made "our announcement" permanent. We decide to call it "the Rachel announcement". We're starting to wonder if they'll petition the FCC to rescind our ham licenses and have us placed permanently in the stocks, wearing mittens and well out of reach of any microphone w/ a "press to talk" key. The good news is that Julie once again manages to log our position at the appropriate time without any problems or surprises.

She also sent an email to the net controller we previously met in which she Abjectly Apologized, Petitioned Phorgiveness, and Called fo Clarification on the 2 call sign/one boat issue and how we should handle it. His response was to use our own call signs for anything on the net, but to use a single, consistent call sign for position reports. So s/v Rachel is now officially KI4FTD, and Julie's been appointed to the newly created crew position of "official yakker".

Finally, as we're writing this we visit the WRCC web site and notice a menu button labeled "Net Procedures". Following this link we find a document that tells us all about how to behave on the net. Oh. Oops.

Mark (KI4FTC) & Julie (KI4FTD)
s/v Rachel

20 September, 2006

The Early Bird Catches the ...?

Date: Tuesday, 20 Sept., 2005

Location: Mill Creek, Patuxent River, near Solomons, MD

Current position: N38 20.195' W076 30.218'

We wake up early this morning, for some reason. The wind is up to around 15-20 knots and we decide we might as well remove the tarp we use to cover the forward hatch since we're already awake. The tarp allows us to keep the hatch open when it rains and keeps the sun off the deck, both of which keep the boat considerably cooler. If it gets windy, however, it creates "windage", giving the wind more surface area to push against.

Mark goes up on deck just before dawn to check the anchor and start taking off the tarp when he notices that a boat that pulled into the anchorage yesterday morning looks closer than he remembers it being last night. After a couple of minutes it becomes apparent that the boat's anchor is dragging - and it's bearing right down on us.

Repeated whistles and calls don't produce any response, so we get out the air horn and give it a few blasts followed by shouted "Your dragging!"s.

Finally, when the boat has about 100 ft to go before hitting us, a fellow appears from below and acknowledges our call. He goes forward and starts hauling on the anchor line. Then another, older fellow comes out on deck, thanks us, and stands there until Mark "suggests" that he get control of his vessel.

The older fellow finally decides the best course of action is to start the engine. He goes below and a few seconds later pops his head back out of the companionway and shouts "I can't get it started". Sigh. By now they're only about 50 feet away and we're getting ready to hang fenders off the bow and rails, preparing to try and fend off a boat that likely weighs over 10 tons.

Finally, with about 35' to go (less than a boat length) he gets his ailing engine smoking and coughing and sputtering and manages to get his boat back under control. By now, however, he's dragged across in front of us and we're starting to get worried that the anchor his crew is busily hauling might catch our chain, pulling our anchor loose, causing us to drag, and creating a right tangled mess.

They finally manage to get the boat away from us w/o causing any problems and, thankfully, it all worked okay in the end. They reset their anchor (after several unsuccessful tries) and, though a bit upwind of us, are far enough off to the side to give us a good miss should they start dragging again. We're keeping a close eye on him, however, as NOAA tells us to expect "a possibility of 45-50 mph gusts, hail, and severe thunderstorms in the afternoon and early evening". Never a dull moment....

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

18 September, 2006

Our Second Mill Creek

Date: Sunday, 18 Sept., 2005

Location: Mill Creek, Patuxent River, near Solomons, MD

Current position: N38 20.195' W076 30.218'

We left Sandy Point and headed for Solomons, MD this morning at dawn. The wind was supposed to be from the northeast and, since we were primarily traveling north northwest we had hoped to get in some sailing, albeit hard on the wind. The weatherman let us down, however. The wind was almost due north, even a bit west of north, so we were stuck motor sailing pretty much dead into it for close to 9 hours. Today we averaged 4.8 knots sailing just over 48 nautical miles in 10 hours - our longest day out on Rachel to date.

On our way in the Patuxent River, we passed a couple in a catamaran with a palm tree, a flower garden, and what looked like a few vegetables on the aft deck. We expected to see one of them come out with a hoe or a rake as we passed. Must be nice to have enough deck space for a garden!

Big honking container ship, see how small the sailboat looks next to it. This is as close as we want to get to one of these

We're now sitting in Mill Creek (there are a plethora of Mill Creeks on the Chesapeake Bay). We're in the one on the south side of the Patuxent River, just west of Solomons and the bridge.
The anchorage we're in now is nice and big, good holding and plenty of room to swing. There's one other sailboat here and it's way quieter than Solomons just down river. This afternoon when we arrived we were having second thoughts about it, though.

The whole place was infested with big, loud "go fast" boats, giving little or no consideration to anyone else regarding their wakes. They zoom into the anchorage, make a circle around the anchored boats, and zoom out.

Thankfully, they all left by about 6:00pm and we're hoping the craziness continues to hold off until next weekend when we'll be gone.

The best news (other than the fact that we're finally going to be away from the dock for more than a few days ) is that we have broadband internet connectivity here while we are anchored out. This means we can work and enjoy this beautiful anchorage at the same time.
The entire south shore of the anchorage is a county park so we're looking forward to going over there after work tomorrow to explore and get a bit of exercise. We've seen a white egret fishing along the shore and hear fish jumping around the boat all day. We'll probably stay here until Thursday after work, then go to Solomons for provisions and to look around the town, and, hopefully, head on up to Annapolis next weekend.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

17 September, 2006

Heading North

Date: 17 Sept., 2005

Location: Sandy Point, Great Wicomico River, near Reedville, VA

Current position: N37 49.427' W076 18.697'

We left Wilton Creek just after dawn Saturday morning and, since our marina was on the way to Reedville, we stopped in there and took on water, emptied trash, provisioned ("got some groceries" for you non-nautical types) and did a load of laundry. Then on North to Sandy Point on the Great Wicomico River, just past Reedville on the south side of the river.

Right at dusk, a big fat full moon popped above the horizon. We've heard it called a "lovers moon" by some Dutch friends - they're right. Just after dark a line of thunderstorms came through and between them and the moon we were treated to an absolutely stunning light and sound show that went on for at least an hour. We lucked out in that the storms were moving to the northeast of us and we only got a bit of rain and no close lightning strikes.

Mark & Julie

s/v Rachel

16 September, 2006

Still in Wilton

Date: 16 Sept., 2005

Location: Wilton Creek

Current position: N37 31.535' W76 25.029'

Ophelia looks like she's going to give us a miss, but we're sitting tight just to be on the safe side. She's been downgraded to a tropical storm and has begun moving away from the Outer Banks to the North Northeast at 8 mph.

But we're getting more wind down in the creek this morning than we have all week. The wind generator is cranking out the amps and we haven't had to run the engine to charge the batteries all day. We're thinking solar panels may be our next big purchase.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

14 September, 2006

Wiltin' in Wilton

Date: 14 Sept., 2005

Location: Wilton Creek

Current position: N37 31.535' W76 25.029'

We had hoped to get out of the slip and start spending some time actually sailing the boat further north for the next month or so. The plan was to work from Rachel and perhaps find time to visit some of the places further up the Bay that we've not yet visited. So, in preparation, we spent the entire Labor Day weekend and the following weekend working our not-so-little tails off getting some chores done - relocating and adding new batteries and rerouting cables, repairing the hot water heater, etc., etc. We hoped to finally be able to leave this coming weekend. Then hurricane Ophelia started dancing around in the Atlantic off Georgia and South Carolina and all the forecasts had her headed vaguely in our general direction.

We left Deltaville Marina yesterday afternoon and headed for Wilton Creek, a local hurricane hole, thinking that we'd be better off here than at the marina. Our marina is pretty well protected on all sides except from the East. Yesterday, hurricane Ophelia looked like she might be dumping some wind and storm surge our way - from the East then from the Northeast. So we decided that sitting at anchor in a well protected creek was superior to sitting at the dock looking Eastward out over the entire width of the Bay toward Virginias Eastern shore waiting to see if the higher than usual tides would make it over the docks, take out the electricity, and cause general havoc and destruction.

Just up from us are Rachel's previous owners, Butch & Ellie on their 40' trawler, also named Rachel (it's Ellie's middle name). We've been seeing quite a bit of them in the last several weeks as they've been cruising the Bay in our neck of the woods, waiting out hurricane season, looking to head back to Florida and the Bahamas. We've really enjoyed our time with them. Many boat owners bitch about their boat's "PO". We've been lucky enough to establish a good friendship with our POs. It's easy to ask them questions about our Rachel and they always answer with patience and understanding.

And we all enjoy each other's company, so that's another plus.

So, anyway, back to Wilton Creek. By it's very nature, a hurricane hole is supposed to be well protected from the wind. Wilton Creek is long and narrow with high sides and enough water for us to swing safely on about 75' of chain. So now we're sitting here working, sweating, and hoping for a breeze, (not too much of one, though). So we're "wiltin' in Wilton", waiting to see what Ophelia's got in store for the middle Bay.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

13 September, 2006

Innaugural Post

Hello. We'll be using this blog to document our adventures aboard (and sometimes not aboard) our 1986 Tayana 37 - the sailing vessel Rachel.
The postings and the links to the right are in chronological order from newest at the top to oldest at the bottom.
Mark & Julie