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