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