25 December, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

Location: Vero Beach, Florida
Position: N27 39.567 W080 22.290

Christmas is finally here.

It’s easy get out of touch with what's going on in the world living on a boat when it's just the two of you and the VHF radio. We've been exchanging Christmas wishes with the few bridge tenders we contact via VHF and the few boats with which we've had conversations over the past week. We finally stopped moving last Sunday and have been enjoying being in one place for the past couple of days. Yesterday we finished up our last-minute Christmas shopping. We were a bit hesitant about shopping on Christmas Eve, something we usually try hard to avoid. It turned out to be a nice day, however. We were pleasantly surprised while out and about; no apparent greed, no rush to the register, no impatient huffing in line - everyone we saw on the bus and at all the stores was smiling and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. We picked up some decorations for our mast "tree" - even the treetop ‘angelmoose’ has baubles hanging from his antlers. Now that we have a ‘tree’ with gifts under it, we’re finally home for the holidays. (Check out the blog for pictures)

Last night a boat that was decorated like Santa's sleigh w/ Santa and a team of reindeer in harness all made of lights cruised through the anchorage. You could almost not see the boat - it really looked like Santa was doing a slow pass. Mark hailed them on the VHF: "Santa, Santa, Santa, this is Rachel" to which was replied "This is Santa, Rachel. Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!"

This is our first Christmas in years without immediate family. We miss sharing it with our kids, especially the last few years with Charlotte, Kelly, Alex, and now, Emma. We miss the preparations, the sleigh bells ringing outside Alex’s window to remind him Santa won’t come until he’s asleep, the lazy breakfast, making the gift opening last into the afternoon. The mooring field here at Vero Beach is pretty crowded - there are two and three boats on almost every mooring. We are rafted up to a boat that has a family with two children aboard - Brandon is 6 and Phoebe is 3. We awoke this morning to the sound of their excited voices and laughter through the forward hatch above our berth. It brought a happy / sad tear to the eye.
Now it's raining and still, and the anchorage is awash with smells of baking ham and turkey and who-knows-what-other wonderful dishes as our neighbors all around prepare their Christmas dinners. We've been invited, along with some other cruisers, to dinner with Rachel's previous owners, our appetite's are already growing and we're looking forward to a wonderful afternoon.

Rachel's crew would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.

Peace,

23 December, 2007

Careening Towards Christmas!!

Location: Vero Beach, Florida
Position: N27 39.567 W080 22.290

We have heard that if you want to be in a warm climate don’t stop heading south until you get to Vero Beach. Well, we ARE here and it IS warm.

We left St Augustine on Friday morning.

There’s a kind of stone used in building the fort in St. Augustine and other old buildings in the area. It’s called coquina and is formed from compressed oyster shells and coral. Every morning as we raise the anchor we see the beginnings of this lovely rock, big clumps of mud surrounding shell pieces. At least it’s not smelly like the Chesapeake mud!

We once again planned to head out into the ocean and take a quick overnight hop down - we were all prepped and ready. We got up at 6am after a windy night in the anchorage and, not-so-surprisingly-anymore, the weather forecast had changed. High winds, high seas, thunderstorms, gusts to gale force, etc. Crikey!!

We have been in touch off and on with Rachel’s previous owners who are currently house sitting in Fort Pierce. They called to see what we were planning for Christmas and asked “Why don’t you come down here for Christmas?” This sounded like a great idea, so, instead of waiting for the weather to clear, we decided to “hit the road” figuring we could make the trip down the ICW in 3 long days and still have the option to pop outside to save time if the weather improved.

Day 1 - St. Augustine to Daytona Beach – N29 12.55 W081 00.455
It was really windy all day, but behind us most of the way, which is good, and sunny with lovely scenery. The wind was supposed to die down in the afternoon – not. We went past Daytona Beach, but had trouble finding a good anchorage with the depth we need, so we backtracked a bit and anchored right in town in the lee of the Memorial Bridge. We figured that when the weather cleared overnight we could duck outside at the Ponce De Leon inlet in the morning and make the rest of the trip pretty quickly. Needless to say the wind did not die down as predicted - all night long it howled and was now and again accompanied by pounding rain. Two or three times during the night we had to get up and adjust the anchor snubber. Needless to say, neither of us slept very well.

Day 2 - Daytona Beach to Cocoa – N28 20.986 W080 43.186
After our second semi-sleepless night we awoke to continued high winds and drizzle. We’re not sure why we even bother listening to the weather forecasts these days!! No going outside again today. We raised anchor at 7:15am and headed out. The good news - it is not cold, so although we are wet, at least we are not cold and wet!!

TowBoatUS are the friendly guys all down the coast who tow people off sand banks when they run aground. They seem quite happy to tell you about trouble spots and the best way to negotiate them. This fund of local knowledge is only a phone or VHF call away, but most folks don’t seem to take advantage of it. The Ponce De Leon inlet just south of Daytona has developed a reputation lately for being a bit tricky so Julie called to get the latest info. We were glad we did as the visibility was pretty bad and some of the navigation marks had been moved because of shoaling.

It actually ended up being pretty straightforward. Apparently lots of boats run aground here (three just yesterday!!), but it seems to us that it’s those captains who trust their chart plotters more than their eyes and the marks who are the ones keeping the good folks at TowBoatUS in business! We’re also glad we decided not to try and negotiate the inlet to the outside – about 30 minutes after we passed it on the ICW we heard an announcement from the Coast Guard that 4 buoys were out of position or adrift! That could have proven a bit problematic…

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. After passing the inlet just after high tide, we got a huge boost from the falling tide for a couple of hours going down through Mosquito Sound. By late morning the rain had stopped and by lunchtime the sun was out. It was still pretty windy but we did manage to get out of our rain gear and hang it on the life lines to dry. We passed by Cape Canaveral, the shuttle launching base, which is surrounded by Merritt Island Wildlife Preserve. It’s a win-win situation as the base gets a wide open buffer around their launch facility, which is not used that often, and the public get a huge natural ocean front area to enjoy. We finally dropped the anchor at Cocoa as the sun was going down 5pm. We ended up making our longest run to date on the ICW - 67 statute miles - on the shortest day of the year.

Day 3 - Cocoa to Vero Beach N27 39.567 W080 22.290
We finally got a good night’s sleep. The wind died down and there was not much current on Indian River – it was like a mill pond (“What is a mill pond like anyway?”). A slight drizzle fell as we raised the anchor at 7:30 but soon it cleared and we had cloud cover most of the morning followed by a sunny and warm afternoon. Folks call this part of the trip boring. For us, however, it was relaxing – no shallow bits, no shoaling inlets, no tricky currents, not much tide, lots of marks – it’s like driving down a highway. After having to time our transits and be pretty vigilant most of the time through South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida, it was actually a bit refreshing.

Not too bored and looking forward to Christmas Eve tomorrow (Note from Julie – also our wedding anniversary Hint Hint!!),

20 December, 2007

America’s oldest city





Location: St. Augustine, FL
Position: N29 53.689 W081 18.543

We anchored for the night at the “Three Islands anchorage”, also known as the “One And Only anchorage”. This is because it’s pretty much the only anchorage between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, FL. When we hauled anchor in the morning, we found a tire attached to the chain by a tangle of rope and wire and lots of really sticky mud. We had to clear that mess off before we could haul the anchor in – good thing the weather was pretty settled and we were near slack tide so the current wasn’t too bad. We’ve made a note not to anchor there again if we can help it!!!

We arrived in St. Augustine on the 18th and have spent a couple of really great days wandering around this historical town; it is America’s oldest city after all. Wonderful old Spanish buildings, quaint back streets, beautiful homes, and a really good brew pub right on the waterfront!! Oh and we must not forget, it’s been warm and sunny every day - shorts and t-shirts have been the requisite attire .
Castello de San Marcos
We finally got around to visiting Flagler College, home of the Flagler Ponce De Leon Hotel of turn of the century fame. What a treat! Gold leaf, wood carvings, over 170 pieces of Tiffany glass, Edison clocks, incredible paintings, frescoes, tile work – it’s really beautiful and worth a visit in and of itself.

Ponce de Leon
Tonight we’re sitting in the anchorage looking at the beautiful Christmas lights; the whole waterfront is illuminated. And there’s a 1940s-1960s gospel music show on the radio – how much better can it get?
Christmas Waterfront from Rachel

17 December, 2007

The Belles of St Marys

Location: St Marys, GA
Position: N30 43.174 W081 32.845

We just spent two lovely days in the old town of St Marys, Georgia (http://www.stmaryswelcome.com). What a delightful town. The historic waterfront downtown area is quite old. Just across the river is Florida – we’re almost there.

We began collecting “belles” here. Our first was a lady handing out clues for a scavenger hunt - kids were looking for a Yule log worth $100! She had the “most chahmin’” Georgia accent; we could have listened to her all day. We chatted with her for a few minutes – she was very helpful and friendly.

Our next three “belles” had stalls at the local farmers market. There was no grocery store close to downtown so we eagerly reprovisioned from the few stalls. Following more chit-chat, we bought local squash and a pomelo ( a huge citrus fruit, we’ve never tried before ), fresh shrimp, and some local honey.

Some of the townspeople had organized a fun Christmas celebration in the riverside park which was scheduled for our first afternoon and evening. Everything was free: visits with Santa, games with prizes, food and drinks, art projects, a balloon clown, and in the evening a movie. The stage was decorated and we enjoyed local groups, a children’s hand bell choir, and choirs from small children to old folk. It was all organized by volunteers and supported by donations from local people and businesses.

We got to chatting with our fifth belle, a 75 year old lady, Marsha, who sang with the community singers named ‘Cumberland Sound’, a clever name which links the singers with the body of water we had just crossed. We asked her if there were any other Christmas programs in town and she said “Why would you want to go hear anyone else? We’re the best.” So, of course, we stuck around to hear them sing. They were, indeed, very good.

Later in the day as we were walking back to Rachel, a Jaguar pulled up next to us. Marsha jumped out and asked “Do you want a tour of the town?” So in we bundled and she drove and chatted around the whole area, including the nearby nuclear submarine base where she works part-time. She said if we ever stop back by we should bring our drivers licenses and she’ll arrange a tour of a submarine for us!!

After we’d eaten dinner we decided to go for another walk around town to look at the Christmas lights. As we passed the park the locals were taking down the decorations from the afternoon so we stopped and helped. It was the least we could do after enjoying the festivities. We made friends with the Santa and his wife (our sixth belle) named Sydney and Rindy (say that 10 times fast!). We spent a companionable evening in the park chatting together about St. Mary’s (Sydney grew up there), kids (we all have our war stories), and solving the problems of today’s society.

Day two was mainly spent just wandering around, doing laundry and taking it easy. We collected our seventh belle in the Visitors Center (another hour or so chat session) followed by a visit on Rachel from Rindy and Sydney. They brought us a couple of bags of fresh cumquats from their tree ‘out back’. They’d never been on a sailboat before and really seemed to enjoy seeing how we live.

We were very impressed by the strong sense of community at St. Mary’s. As we wandered the park we chatted with kids and their parents – we were met with none of the suspicion of strangers that seems so common these days. Volunteers in town have also organized a “Wounded Warrior’s Day” parade that takes place the day before Veterans Day “because there wasn’t a special day to honor all who have been wounded in defense of our country”. They also started a “Cruisers Thanksgiving” feast, turkey, ham etc provided free, cruisers just bring a side dish to share. It started out with about 10 visitors a few years ago, and has grown to 300 this last Thanksgiving. There are many other examples of how this small community has worked very hard to create and maintain its small town feel, and we are very appreciative of their efforts. It really warmed us and helped bring out more of the Christmas spirit in us both.

Wishing you all a small town Christmas,

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

15 December, 2007

Cumberland Island

Location: Brickhill River, Cumberland Island, GA

Position: N30 51.571 W081 28.055

We moved further down the Brickhill River to an anchorage across from Plum Orchard, a “cottage” built by a Carnegie matron for one of her children.

In the process of dropping the anchor, Julie tried to remove another finger using the electric anchor windlass, but got off with some bruising and a couple of cuts (Captain’s note – yeah, right - see if she gets to try dropping the anchor again!) (Navigator’s note – my plan worked). Thankfully, no real harm was done and a valuable lesson learned – always, repeat ALWAYS keep body parts, clothes, everything except the anchor chain clear of wildcat when operating the windlass!

That little potential disaster averted, we iced her hand, put on some Band-Aids, lowered the dinghy, and went ashore for a walk. This is a really beautiful island. It was privately owned until the 1970s when it was given to the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/cuis). The nation’s first black Baptist church is preserved here. It was a summer home to the Carnegie clan. It barely escaped being developed like all the rest of the barrier islands on the East coast and we (among many, many others, we’re sure,) are really thankful it did.

We went ashore at a dock we’d read about – it’s labeled “authorized craft only”, but the fellow who wrote one of our cruising guides called the park service and learned that it’s okay for visiting cruisers to tie up for a few hours. We didn’t see a soul. Other than some wild horses on the shore near us, we were alone. We dropped our $8 into the honor-system payment drop box. By this time we’d been on the boat for several days and a nice long walk sounded really good to us. We found a trail that led to the other (seaward) side of the island and started off.


The path was lined with gorgeous huge live oaks w/ Spanish moss dripping off them. Sunlight filtered through it all, and there was silence except for a low rumble we’d been assuming was industry of one sort or another from the submarine base across the Cumberland River. As we went deeper inland it got quieter. By now we really felt like the only people on the island.

The path was bordered by lots of saw palmetto. When you brush up against the leaves, they rattle pretty loudly. There are a lot of leaves on the forest floor, as well, but the path was mostly sandy w/ a light covering of long leaf pine needles and live oak acorns. We’d hear a rustle in the underbrush as we walked and look to see what wildlife we could see.

One of our books said to look for nine ringed armadillos there. We think they must be breeding, though, because there are a lot more than nine - we saw at least 15 or 20 of the things ! We also saw a snake, the aforementioned wild horses, and a tiny salamander. But still no alligator for Julie.

As we got closer to the other side, the “industry” sound we’d been hearing became louder – about then we realized it was the surf on the beach. Doh! A brief interlude of swamp on either side of the path, a sandy hill to clamber over, a bit more in the woods, a pile of bricks (the remains of the Duck House?) and we came to the dunes.

Spectacular. We scrambled up the back side and finally caught sight of the sea. We were met with a vision - a beautiful white sand beach and not a soul to be seen, not a structure, no trash, and, other than some footprints and old tire tracks along the beach, no sign of man as far as the eye could see in either direction. We can understand why the island’s owners were willing to gift their home to the National Park Service rather than see it developed.




Wishing you a bit of this solitude and quiet,

Mark & Julie

s/v Rachel

http://svRachel.blogspot.com

14 December, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Location: Brickhill River, Cumberland Island, GA
Position: N30 53.25 W081 27.336

We finally had a good day’s run yesterday and got through the last three “Georgia problem stretches” without incident. We’re now at anchor at Cumberland Island, a national park, at the south end of Georgia. We had made reservations to stay in St Augustine, FL Sat-Mon but decided to postpone so we could spend a couple of days here, do some walking, relaxing, and wait out some weather.

We’d been thinking that the Khronicles have focused a lot on our experience of getting down the Waterway. In retrospect, we feel that we haven’t really shared some of the simple day to day pleasures that we enjoy. Here’s a random list of a few things that come to mind:

We haven’t mentioned dolphins lately, but we are certainly not getting blasé about them. Nearly every day we see dolphins and they are still spectacular, and give us so much joy. They seem to be watching for us, too. We will see a fin or two up ahead and note that they’re making their way toward us. Whoever is not at the helm will go running forward and stand on the bowsprit. Looking down, you can see the dolphins swimming right below you, just under the surface, right at the bow of the boat. It’s like they are trying to race. They will bop from one side to the other and then peel off or down and swim away. They’re always beautiful and graceful and we never tire of watching them.

Sitting in the cockpit with the binoculars looking into the marsh grasses and the waters edge, we’ve seen terns, pelicans, egrets, cranes, loons, merganzers loads of waterfowl, etc. The outside world seems so far from here at times. Most of the time there are few man-made noises so we’ll just sit and listen to the wildlife and look at what’s going on around us. Julie is still waiting to see her first alligator!!

Pelicans are abundant and the way they fly around and then plummet into the water upside-down to catch a fish never ceases to amuse us. A crabber in a small powerboat zoomed by Rachel one morning. There was a little surface mist on the water and a string of about 15 huge pelicans were flying behind him, gliding just inches above the surface of the water. How can they be so goofy and yet so graceful in flight?

Looking out over the grasses we saw the top of Sapelo Island lighthouse just peeking out wanting to be seen.

Enjoying being with each other: laughing at silly sights, names, thoughts; quietly watching the sun come up, or go down; sharing the writing of these Khronicles; planning our travel days, and continuing to work our way southward.

Peace,

12 December, 2007

Georgia on my mind

Location: Darian River, GA
Position: N31 23.999 W081 21.383

We have spent the last three days eeking our way through Georgia. The days have been very much the same – dense fog in the morning, absolutely gorgeous, clear, and warm, (albeit mirror still) in the afternoon and early evening. Combined with the fact that high tide has been in the morning during the fog, we’ve had a series of frustratingly short days. We thought a brief lapse into “reality TV” might be relevant. The following are a few, pretty typical snippets of conversation between Captain and Navigator aboard s/v Rachel for:

Monday, 10th Dec , Wright River to Vernon River – finally make it to Georgia
     N31 56.072 W081 06.993, 24 nautical miles
Tuesday, 11th Dec, Vernon River to Wahoo River
     N31 35.973 W081 12.6, 31.4 nautical miles
Wednesday, 12th Dec, Wahoo River to Darien River
     N31 23.999 W081 21.383, 21.8 nautical miles

“7:00 AM! Time to get up!”

“But it’s thick fog outside!”

“OK, but as soon as it clears we’re out of here, so be ready.”

“Umph.”

1 hour later…….

“Okay. Quick the fog is clearing.”

“Is not! Those shrimp boats anchored down river still aren’t visible”

“Oh come on.”

Later ….

“It’s getting better … oh…wait … no it’s getting worse.”

Another hour later……

“Okay, it looks like it really is time now, go haul the anchor.”

“But the high tide is already past - it will be too shallow now at Hell Gate”

‘Aw, geez. The water’s probably still high enough. Come on. Let’s give it a try.”

As we enter any problem area, we hail other boats we see ahead of us and ask them to let us know if they see any shallow water (this is one of the ways we make friends on the ICW – sad, but true…). If we are told there’s no problem, we continue through.

Later….

“That wasn’t so bad. At least we didn’t bounce in the mud like we did yesterday at low tide.”

“Yeah. Phew!!”

“The good part is now we have a nice easy passage through St. Catherine’s Sound, so we can relax and finally shake out the sails!”

“Yeah, woohoo!……. Uh…wait a sec….where did that shrimp boat go? Where’s that next mark? Oh no, more fog!”

Navigator is at the helm, moments of hilarity ensue as captain runs below, turns on the radar, roots through the lockers, finds the manual air horn, runs back to the cockpit, pumps it up, runs to the bow, honks the horn for 5 seconds, listens for a bit, runs back aft, pumps it up again, makes a ‘securite’ (pronounced “secur-i-tay”) call on the VHF to alert any nearby vessels that we’re proceeding south under limited visibility, and runs back forward to honk the horn again within the requisite two minutes. Pump pump pump – honk, listen, pump pump pump – honk, listen. Navigator, between snickering at this hilarious sight and offering “helpful” suggestions, stays on GPS course, checks the radar, checks the chart, and keeps a look out. Luckily we don’t hear any other horns or see any questionable “blips” on the radar.

This continues for 30 or so minutes then the fog finally clears.

“Phew, thank God that’s over.”


Later, after Johnson Creek……..

“If we hadn’t been so late leaving this morning the water would have been much deeper.”

“Phew. I’m looking forward to a nice relaxing evening.”

“Uh, the chart says 35-45 feet and the sounder says 8.5 feet.”

“What the ….? Look! You can see the marks! Check the GPS! We’re right on top of the deep bit! What the heck is going on?”

“Which way should we go?”

“Heck if I know. Try heading a bit to port.”

“Sheesh. Okay. That’s better. At least we can finally relax NOW while we cross Sapelo Sound. Let’s get the sails out!”

“Uh, not quite yet, if we keep going we’ll get to Creighton Narrows at dead low tide.”

“Yeah, but I bet we can get through there, too. Let’s go for it.”

It looks a bit white over that way and we hear several boats ahead of us make securite calls on the VHF - “we’re on Sapelo Sound running under zero visibility.”

“Oh. Crap. I guess that decision’s been made for us.”

“Let me check the charts….. looks like our best bet is to head up to the Wahoo River and anchor for the night.”

“Sounds good. I’m pretty much tired of fog and shallow water, anyway.”

Later after negotiating more uncharted shoals, anchor dropped, and dinner started, we turn on the weather: “Dense fog alert from early evening through tomorrow morning around 10:00.”

“Aw, jeez. Another day like today! Where’s the gin?”

Sigh……

10 December, 2007

All dressed up and nowhere to go

Location: Wright River, almost in Savannah, GA
Position: N 32 04.304 W 080 55.074

We wake up Sunday morning, put on the coffee, and get ready to leave Beaufort. We turn on the VHF radio and are met with a “dense fog advisory” for the entire coast that continues into the afternoon, along with a warning in an actual human voice to stay in port if possible. It seems that fog allowing “at times zero visibility” is rolling in off the ocean this morning and is working its way inland. We remember that every cloud has a silver lining and decide it’ll be fun to go back to town for the on-land Christmas Parade in the afternoon.

We spend a leisurely morning on Rachel waiting for the fog. La-la-la no fog. Finally at 11 am we decide there isn’t going to be any fog. Julie wants to get going! We have weighed the pros and cons of “going outside” (out into the Atlantic) to bypass the shallow Georgia section of the waterway. Even though we really want to go outside for our next leg (and do some sailing, for goodness sake!), the coastal fog advisories out as far as 20 miles for the next few days help us decide to stay on the ICW. We certainly don’t want to get stuck in fog on the ocean if we don’t have to. Besides, friends have told us some of the prettiest sections of the waterway are along this route; here comes that whole ‘silver lining’ thing again.

The day is warm and sunny and we have an uneventful trip almost into Georgia. We pass only one tricky shallow spot without mishap and finally drop anchor in the Wright River, just off the New River, coincidentally the same name as the river back home in Radford, though no relation, we’re sure. For the next hundred miles or so we’ll be busy negotiating some of the shallowest spots on the ICW. The high tides getting later in the mornings will be very helpful, as long as we don’t get fogged in.

....so here it is, Monday morning. And the fog has really rolled in. We sit at anchor impatiently popping our heads up every 5 minutes, waiting for the fog to dissipate so we can get on our way through the next tricky bit before the tide is too low for us to make the attempt.

Feeling all dressed up with nowhere to go,

09 December, 2007

Byu-fert

Location: Factory Creek, Beaufort, SC
Position: N32 25.195 W080 39.350

We raise anchor and leave Tom Point Creek on Friday, December 7th, a chilly and cloudy morning. Our ‘friends’ at NOAA weather tell us it’s going to get up into the mid-sixties this afternoon, but it’s wooly jumpers, caps and gloves, and foul weather gear this morning.

We work our way down the waterway, dodging shoals and making pretty good time. We decide to give the Ashepoo-Coosaw Cutoff (we love the names down here) a miss due to its reputation for a large and growing shoal at it’s lower end. Low tide today is around noon there, and that’s about when we would be transiting. Instead, we follow the Ashepoo River to its mouth in the St. Helena Sound and work our way back up the Coosaw River to rejoin the ICW. In the sound we find a shrimp boat named ‘Hustler’ with his nets out looking much like a cormorant drying it’s wings. Julie calls him on the radio to ask how he’d like us to pass and, after a brief, pleasant exchange we gradually pass in front and leave him in our wake.


The other reason we take the St. Helena Sound is so that we can actually have some room for a sail today. Rachel IS a sailboat after all, and it’s been ages since we’ve been able to sail. No such luck – there was absolutely no wind and we again spent the day motoring.

We arrive in Beaufort in mid afternoon and drop anchor. The sun is out and it’s time to get out our shorts and tee shirts! In North Carolina, Beaufort is pronounced “Bow-fort”. In South Carolina, it’s pronounced “Byu-fert”. They’re both named after the Duke of Beaufort and no-one seems to know why they’re pronounced differently.

Beaufort is a friendly town. We call up Lady’s Island Marina to see if they have a dinghy dock we can use and are offered its use for free. We dinghy over and walk about a half mile up to the Publix supermarket for provisions. We are packing our bags and our little folding crate cart ready for the walk back. A friendly woman walks up and asks if we’re on a boat. We say yes and she proceeds to give us a ride back to the marina dock in her car!

On Saturday morning we do laundry and visit the hardware store. A sign on the Laundromat window intrigues us: “No loitering or no drinking”. We wonder if this means you can drink if you’re not loitering and loiter if you’re not drinking. We leave not knowing, but we did neither, just in case!

Around mid-day we dinghy over to the free town dock across the river, right in historic downtown. A walk around the old part of town, followed by lunch at one of the eateries along the waterfront are in order. As we’re eating we overhear the waitress telling a woman at the next table about the boat Christmas parade scheduled for this evening! We get the details and decide this is a must, since it will be the third floating Christmas parade we’ve seen in three weeks – Little River, Charleston, and Beaufort. We’re definitely on a roll! We return as the sun is setting and tie up again at the town dock for front row seats. Armed with appetizers and a glass of wine the very creative “floats” made for a lovely evening. A night-time dinghy ride back to Rachel and we’re done for the evening.

Bobbing in Byufert,

05 December, 2007

Brrr

Location: Tom Point Creek, SC
Position: N32 38.987 W080 17.730

We left Charleston a little before noon yesterday. What with timing the tides for the currents and shallow bits, we only made just over 20 nautical miles. We dropped anchor at about 3:00pm in a lovely spot, Tom Point Creek off the Wadmalaw River. We were looking for a protected spot as the wind was supposed to pick up and be pretty gusty today.

Many times finding a protected spot is not too easy on the ICW; in some areas anchorages can be pretty exposed – fine if the weather is settled, but not somewhere you’d like hang out with the forecast calling for gusts to 30 mph. We chose carefully, however, and this anchorage is perfect. It’s a winding creek with trees on either side, offering great protection from the wind.

We spent the better part of the day doing a few little jobs. Then we took a dinghy ride up the creek where we saw dolphins, cranes, hawks and osprey. We also went and visited another sailboat that followed us in here yesterday and met a lovely couple who are also heading south. They’re in a steel boat they built themselves in just under 8 years - talk about a labour of love!

Last night got a bit chilly, dipping into the 30s. Tonight’s low is also expected to get into the 30s and the high tomorrow is only supposed to get up to the low 50s – that’s pretty chilly in an exposed cockpit in the wind. To keep it in perspective, though, we try not to feel too badly as it’s apparently snowing in Blacksburg today. So we’re pretty sure that we won’t get much pity for our chilly night from the folks back home. The up side, however, is that after tomorrow we’re expecting light winds and temperatures in the 70s at least through the weekend. Ahhh…

Still heading south

03 December, 2007

Charleston, SC



Location: Charleston, SC
Position: N32 46.5 W079 56.9

Charleston is … well … Charleston. What a nice city! We really like it here and are looking forward to stopping by again with more free time available.

We arrived at the City Marina dock at around noon on November 30th. Our exhaust riser wasn’t here yet, but our friends from Blacksburg, en route to the Virginia Tech / Boston College ACC championship football game in Jacksonville, FL, were. They spent the night with us on Rachel, went to the game on Saturday, then came back and spent the night with us again on their way home. It was great to see them and, as always, we all had a good time, even though it was a short visit.


Our riser came later on Friday afternoon. Mark installed it, but wasn’t happy with the fit. It needed a couple of modifications and we weren’t too thrilled at the idea of sending it back to the place that originally made it for us – a “seven working day turnaround” for the original had turned into almost a month by the time it arrived.

We found a local guy (who was willing to work on Sunday!!) who got us all fixed up. It took Mark most of Monday to get it installed to his satisfaction, so an overnight stay turned into 4 nights at City Marina.

We don’t usually give recommendations in our Khronicles, but Brad was especially easy to work with, did a great job, and was reasonably priced. If you ever need stainless or aluminum welding work done in Charleston, call him at 843-343-1721. His company is named “Charleston Top and Tower”.

Okay, back to Charleston. We really enjoyed wandering through the old neighborhoods looking at the wonderful architecture, gardens, and cobblestone streets. We took side trips down alleys and discovered little cottages and gardens that one couldn’t see from the street. The weather has been great allowing us to wear short sleeves and shorts during the day. We could have spent several more days, at least, wandering around the backstreets and sampling some of the many fine bars and eateries. Unfortunately it is starting to get cold again - time to start heading further south.

29 November, 2007

Onward!

Location: Fourmile Creek Canal, just South of Georgetown, SC
Position: N33 08.306 W079 19.645

We had a wonderful couple of days with our friends from Little River. We set off on Tuesday at around 8:00 AM and headed further down the Intracoastal Waterway. We gave Yvonne the helm early on and she didn’t relinquish it until we dropped anchor in Georgetown last night! Well, truth be told, she didn’t so much “not relinquish” it as we didn’t relieve her after seeing how much fun she was having .

We covered about 30 miles the first day and spent the night at anchor in Bull Creek, off the Waccamaw River.

Yvonne and Tom had left their truck in Georgetown, so we only had about 20 miles to cover the second day. For years we’ve been hearing from Rachel’s previous owners how nice Thoroughfare Creek is - so we decided to stop in and drop the anchor at the sand dune for lunch and check it out. What a great spot! We’ll definitely work in a stop there next time we’re going by.


Julie whipped up a delicious curry (how does she always manage to come up with such great meals on short notice??) and we all relaxed on deck and soaked up some well-appreciated sunshine. We got going again at 2:30 PM, caught the outgoing tide on the Waccamaw River, and dropped anchor again in Georgetown at around 4:15 PM for the night.

Georgetown is a great little town – lots of history and a lovely historic downtown area. We didn’t think too much of the anchorage, though, as it was already nearly full with moored boats and some pretty derelict looking boats at anchor. After one last night aboard together, we dropped our friends off at the dock at around 7:00 this morning, and started on our way again. They were great boat guests and will be welcome on our Rachel any time.

Today will be mostly a “canal day”. So far today we’ve seen a pair of bald eagles sitting together on a branch, a couple of porpoises, some kingfishers, and several heron. Try as she might, however, Julie still hasn’t seen her first alligator yet. Ooh! There’s another bald eagle! Oooh and a white morph egret!

It’s overcast and cool, but not really too uncomfortable. The sun keeps peeping out for a bit, then hiding back behind the clouds again. We’re dressed warmly and there’s little to no wind, so we’re really enjoying wending our leisurely way through the marshes. We’re not sure how far we’ll get today, but our destination tomorrow will be Charleston, SC where we’ve got a slip reserved at the city marina so we can pick up a part that’s been shipped to us, do some work on the boat and, just maybe, get some shore leave. If she plays her cards right, Julie might even get a dinner out!

23 November, 2007

Family Visit



Location: Little River, SC
Position: N33 51.7 W078 38.3

Sorry for the delay in updates. Let's see, now where were we..??

Looks like we last left off on November 12th in Southern North Carolina.

Okay. So .... let's see....

We upped anchor and left at 8am on the 13th hoping to make it to Little River (about a 50 mile run) in a day. We started off going through Snow's Cut and down the Cape Fear River, both of which can be very "interesting" with as much as 6 knots of current. Both were navigated successfully.

The next sections of interest were Lockwoods Folly and Shalotte - two inlets that we had heard were tricky and quite shallow. Unfortunately we were going to pass through just before low tide so we were a bit nervous. We did, at one point have only 6" clearance below the keel but managed to get through both spots with no groundings, thank goodness.

The last problem of the day was Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge. It is maybe the last bridge of this type in the country, opened and closed by cables that pull the pontoon section open and closed. The openings are restricted to once an hour.

We could see the bridge closing as it came into view. We were probably a couple of miles away, so we decided to slow way down and take our time on the approach.
Mark decided to switch the VHF radio to Channel 13 so we could monitor the bridge. We'd been following a pile driver barge for a while, watching it slowly pull away from us and approaching the bridge. Suddenly we heard a conversation between the barge captain and the bridge tender - there's going to be a special "commercial opening" in five minutes! That'll save us over a half-hour wait at the bridge! We exchange glances, Julie is at the helm, she eases the throttle up to WOT (Wide Open Throttle) as we make the decision to try and make it. We are still quite a way back and we hear the horns going to warn traffic to stop for the bridge opening. Mark hails the bridge tender to let him know we are trying to make the opening. No reply.

We keep on steaming. Mark hails the bridge tender again since it looks like we can make the opening just behind the barge. Again, no reply. Maybe we should slow down since he's not acknowledging our call. We decide that if we are right on the tail of the pile driver - he'll have to let us through. Mark hails the bridge tender again, this time instead of a request he says. "We're following the pile driver through unless we hear back from you!!". Still no response. We forge on through - Woohoo we made it. As we clear the bridge Mark thanks the bridge tender for holding the opening, this is usually a nicety but today it was a bit of a dig!! Still no reply. We heard later that he has a reputation for 'not being very nice'.

At any rate, we managed to follow the pile driving barge all the way to about 1/2 mile before our "exit" and took advantage of the captains local knowledge - instead of feeling our way through the shallow bits, we followed his lead and stayed in deep water for the remainder of the trip. We arrived at Lightkeepers Marina almost an hour earlier than we would have otherwise!

We visited with our friends, made sure Rachel was well secured, packed our bags, and headed to Virginia to visit family (especially grandson Alex and beautiful new granddaughter Emma). Mark took the opportunity to head to CT and visit his parents for a few days, leaving Julie holding the baby. We all spent a lovely Thanksgiving day with our daughter's family. There is a definitely a lot to be thankful for. Did we mention that our new granddaughter is absolutely beautiful?

Emma sleeping

So now we've had our family fix, and have just arrived back on Rachel. We will probably hang around here for a couple of days and then take our friends further South with us for a couple of days. They are ex-cruisers and need a boat fix.

12 November, 2007

Hurry up - Wait

Location: Wrightsville Beach, NC
Position: N34 03.2 W077 53.3

You may think that we spend much of our time relaxing and having fun - and you'd probably be right, at least in part. We also spend a portion of our time every day in an exercise in logistics working our way down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

First - There are lots of bridges that cross the ICW. Some are 65 feet high - no problem - we can travel right under them. Others, probably 2/3 of them so far, are bridges that are less than our mast height of 58' and need to open for us to pass. Of these, Some are on demand - meaning that we can call the bridge tender on our VHF radio and, when it's a good time for them, they open the bridge. Most, however, are on either an hourly or half-hourly schedule and we need to time our arrivals to coincide with their schedule.

Second - there are inlets, tides and currents that need to be taken into consideration. In some areas the currents are very strong so it is important to time our passage with the tides. It's easy enough to miss a bridge opening when there's a knot of current against you on your way there, and just as easy to get there early and have to do the "waiting for the bridge - let's not run into each other" dance when you've got the current with you.

Every evening we sit down and look at what we have ahead of us for tomorrow. We look at the bridge opening times and work back to figure out what time we should leave and what our average speed for each leg of the trip needs to be to make the openings on time. Then we look at the inlets to see if there are any tide considerations (we're still working on that one). Then we have a conflab about the pros and cons of bridges, tides, shoaling, etc. for the day.

Today we left the anchorage at 6am so that we could make the 4 opening bridges at just the right times and pass the inlets with the current in our favour and make our anchorage in the daylight. In one way it is a bit of a pain, but in others, it's a fun challenge and a bit like solving a puzzle. Not so hard in the long run, actually, for a couple of computer geeks.

we had a successful journey today. Made all the bridges, did not run aground, and arrived at our chosen destination well before dark - AND - we are still talking to each other.

"Huh?"

"Nothing. Never mind!"

"Oh. Okay."

11 November, 2007

It's days like today....

Location: Mile Hammock Bay, NC
Location: 34 33.1 N 077 19.4

We need to play a little catch up.

Oriental to Swansboro - we spend an extra day in Swansboro doing laundry, etc. - what a lovely little town. Old, pretty houses and Yana's has the best breakfast we've had out for a long time!!

We get up at 6:00 am so we can be on our way by 7:00. It's cold!! Our breath frosts in the air as we don our foul weather gear, haul anchor and get on our way.

There's a tricky bit at an inlet about 8 miles ahead of us and we want to get there at high tide. We've heard lots of stories of groundings there, and we want to give ourselves every advantage. Mark chatted up the Tow Boat US guy yesterday and got the inside skinny on how to negotiate it, so we're feeling pretty confident.

We time our arrival for high tide and make it through without any problems and with plenty of room to spare, exactly as presented by our new friend. Then we only have to wait about 10 minutes for a bridge to open. We pass through and make our destination. It's a really short day (only about 15 miles after we left) and we're done at 10:30 am with plenty of time left to relax! Snow geese fly by to welcome us, it's Veteran's Day, and we're anchored in a US Marine base - how cool is that?

It's 60 degrees F and the wind is blowing between 0 and 10 mph. It's clear and sunny and we sit in the cockpit in the lee of the dodger (the windshield thingy) letting the sun warm us, napping, watching the dolphins swim by, and finally begin to thaw out after our cold morning on the water.

We listen to kids play on the shore as their parents fish off the docks, watch the wildlife, relax, and nap. We're the only boat here, it's beautiful, and we're really, really satisfied. How much better can it possibly get?

07 November, 2007

Variety is the spice of life

Location: Pungo River, NC
Location: N35 33.513 W076 28.050

Today has been quite varied. First, we knew for sure we had left the Chesapeake when we raised the anchor this morning and the entire chain was not covered in black, smelly muck! What a nice change.

We spent yesterday at anchor because of the high winds but today we decided to go for it. We got up at 6am for an early start at 7am, left the anchorage and crossed the Albemarle sound in about 15 knots of wind. The Albemarle is very shallow and, when the wind is up, large, steep, frequent, and potentially dangerous waves are created. We motor-sailed and did pretty well until we were almost across the Sound. The wind (and waves!) picked up quite a bit but we managed to bounce and weave and splash our way out of the Albemarle and into the entrance to the Alligator River. And to make what was becoming a good day better, the Rt. 64 bridge tender saw us coming and held the opening for us. With a "Pick it up and bring it on, Captain" from the tender we coursed through the bridge and made our way into the Alligator River.

Out with the Genoa (the big headsail) and a nice downwind run up the Alligator. After a few gybes the shore began to close in and we came to the next portion of the trip - the entrance of the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal. This was actually a welcome relief by now; the canal is only a hundred or so feet wide and is really protected - quite different from the somewhat blustery start of the day. We relaxed, motored, and saw kingfishers, turkey vultures, lovely marsh grasses, cypress, and the ride was (thankfully) much less exciting. It was a
chilly day but the light following wind and warm sun made it quite tolerable.

9 hours and almost 66 statute miles later we are now anchored in the Pungo River just south of the end of the canal. Following a tasty dinner, a glass of wine, and some romantic music we are contented and ready for another long day tomorrow. The kerosene lamp creates just enough heat to keep the cabin comfortable . We'll turn it off soon and crawl under the quilts while the
temperature drops to the mid-30s outside. In the morning we'll leap out of bed, light the burner under the coffee, relight the lantern, and start the oven to bake some breakfast muffins and heat the cabin. Then it's off to the Neuse River and Oriental, NC.

05 November, 2007

Little boat in BIG harbour

Date: November 5, 2007
Location: Broad Creek, NC
Location: N36 11.987 W075 57.128

We finally left Zimmermans and are heading South. We know it is hard to believe. We also know that there are some among you who have resigned yourselves to the fact that we will never go anywhere! Surprise!!! Yesterday we actually started heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway ( http://cruisingtheicw.com/ ).

Of course knowing us as you do, you would have to know that nothing comes easily. Let us set the scene - we're heading into the port of Norfolk, VA - a major commercial hub and naval base. J: "Wow, look at that huge container ship"M: "Yea, it's following us in"
15 minutes later - J at the helm
J: "It's coming right at us"
M: "No it isn't. It's going up the other channel."
5 minutes later
J: "I really think it is coming this way"
M: "No, trust me, it's going to turn to starboard any second"
J: "OK"
2 minutes later
J: "Uh, I think it's following us in."Ship: "HOOOOOOOT"
M: "Holy crap!! Hard to port NOW!"

This was before we even got to Mile zero of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Luckily, though, things improved and the rest of the day was uneventful. We made it about 12 more miles to Great Bridge, where we went through our first lock. This lovely little town has free overnight dock space, and being the johhny-come-lately's that we are, we just managed to grab the last spot. On the way down We met a great New Zealand couple who had travelled beside us most of the day.

Today we had a long fairly long and (thankfully) uneventful day travelling into North Carolina. We dropped anchor in Broad Creek, just north of the Albemarle Bay and are currently anchored beside our NZ friends.

The weathermen are forecasting 20-25 knots of wind tonight and tomorrow, so we're ready to sit tight for a day or two if need be. Crossing the Albemarle in anything but "settled weather" seems to be pretty well discouraged by all our guide books.

If the weatherman is wrong, we'll probably try to add another 40-50 statute miles tomorrow. If they're right, we'll stay at anchor - at least it'll give Mark a chance to reconnect the propane heater. Then Julie won't be required to bake for every meal to warm the boat.

02 November, 2007

Emma


Date: November 2, 2007
Location: Radford, VA

Celebrations, fireworks, and sparklers are in order! We wish to announce the birth of our 3rd grandchild!

Emma Ashlyn Parks was born at 7:04 am today, Friday, November 2nd 2007, and weighed 7 lb. 7 oz when she entered our world. She and her mum are both happy and healthy. Daddy is doing fine, too, and has been observed taking her for walks and showing her off to anyone he bumps into in the hospital halls. We have not seen her yet but are sure she is beautiful.

We'll post pictures when we can. Brother Alex is very proud of his little sister as are his mum & dad.

The best part is that she shares a birthday with grandma Julie.

All our best,

28 October, 2007

Waiting for a weather window

Location: Crisfield, MD
Position: N 37 58.587 W 075 51.574

Part of the cruising life involves waiting for a ‘weather window’. This is defined in one of our books as “The period during which wind and wave conduct themselves favourably for completing a leg of a passage in safety and comfort.”

For you non-sailors this means that if the weather conditions are not to our liking, we sit and wait until they are. It’s not that we can’t sail in bad weather but when the wind is honking at 30 mph or more, the waves on the Bay are 4-5’ (and really close together) and the wind direction is not in our favour, it puts a lot of strain on the boat and the crew. So if we don’t have to move today, why bother? This was one of the reasons we quit work: so we could sit back and enjoy these waiting days rather than having to press on. Part of the reason we stayed in Vienna for 4 days was because the weather was unfavourable and see how nicely that turned out!

We left Vienna on Thursday, October 25th. The weather forecast was pretty good and as you know, we are trying to get our 50 hours on the engine. Unfortunately the forecasters were wrong and we spent a long day with high winds (gusts to 34 mph) dead behind us rocking and rolling our way back down Tangier Sound to Crisfield, MD. This may explain our hesitancy to leave here until things calm down a bit.

The plan, based on Thursday morning’s forecast, was to head back across the Bay to Deltaville on Friday, then hop down to Zimmerman’s yesterday. Three days later we are still here, waiting for our weather window. It has actually been quite a relaxing time, apart from the torrential rain, howling winds and Rachel bouncing around doing “the anchor dance”. We’ve got a few little jobs done, read a bit, cooked, and stowed some of our stuff more efficiently.

Every evening we think we will finally be able to leave ‘tomorrow’. Every morning we get up and listen to the weather, and, of course the forecasters have upped the day’s wind estimates, changed the wind direction, sprinkled in more inclement weather, and we decide it’s just not a good day to leave. We call our friends and have a little conference about whether to leave or stay, and every morning so far, have decided to stay.

The rain and wind finally did let up for a while yesterday afternoon, so we got the dinghy down, motored over to shore to meet Mike & Helen and went for a nice walk in shorts and shirt sleeves. Now it’s back to blowing around 25-30 again, but no rain.

Today the odds seem to have changed a little for the better. It looks like high pressure is moving in and will stay over the area for a few days. This means clear skies and less intense wind creating a more favourable weather window for us to finally get moving again.

But now (of course!!) there’s a new twist to the forecast: there’s a frost advisory for tonight. FROST for crying out loud!!! Well that’s just not good enough! It’s well past time for us to be heading south … stay tuned!!

Fair winds (and weather windows)

24 October, 2007

Nanticoke River

Location: Vienna, MD
Position: N 38 28.949 W 075 49.409

We have just spent 4 days in Vienna, MD, (http://www.viennamd.org/), a small town on the Nanticoke River boasting a population of around 250. The Nanticoke River is one of the Chesapeake Bay's most productive tributaries. Freshwater from the river mixes with saltwater from the ocean, creating tidal and freshwater wetlands that teem with life.

From some of the sources we’ve read: “The river harbors more rare plants than any other landscape on the Delmarva Peninsula. The forests and shallow marshes provide important habitat for numerous birds, including bald eagles and Peregrine falcons. Many species of neotropical songbirds, including warblers such as the American redstart, rely on the watershed's forests during their annual migrations and nesting. Its banks boast properties on the National Register of Historic Places, and the northernmost stands of bald cypress on the Atlantic Coast. It also has the highest concentration of bald eagles in the northeastern United States.”

We can attest to all of the above. Travelling up the river we saw bald eagles nesting and hunting over us. The river weaves back and forth around several u-turns with only marshes and trees to be seen. We only saw one other boat all the way up! We spent 4 nights (free of charge!!) at the Vienna town dock where we enjoyed beautiful, colorful sunrises and sunsets, and saw and heard geese and starlings flying over the grasslands across the river from the dock. We also met some of the friendliest and most interesting people. We were offered cars to borrow to go shopping or out to eat, we were invited into homes for tours, snacks, and wine, and given rides to show us around the area. What a friendly town! We can’t say enough good things about our stay here – the Nanticoke River, Vienna, and it’s residents have all endeared their way onto our “we’re definitely coming back here list"!!

The Twelve Weeks of Repower

Location: Vienna, MD
Position: N 38 28.949 W 075 49.409


On the first week of repower
My true love said to me
Are you sure we really need to do this?















On the second week of repower
My true love said to me
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?















On the third week of repower
My true love said to me
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?

















On the fourth week of repower
My true love said to me
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?




















On the fifth week of repower
My true love said to me
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?















On the sixth week of repower
My true love said to me
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?



















On the seventh week of repower
My true love said to me
Change the toilet hoses
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?
















On the eighth week of repower
My true love said to me
Clean the bilge again and paint it
Change the toilet hoses
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?



On the ninth week of repower
My true love said to me
Install the new fuel tank
Clean the bilge again and paint it
Change the toilet hoses
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?

On the tenth week of repower
My true love said to me
What's the heck is "prop sing"?
Install the new fuel tank
Clean the bilge again and paint it
Change the toilet hoses
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?

On the eleventh week of repower
My true love said to me
What? A new exhaust?
What's the heck is "prop sing"?
Install the new fuel tank
Clean the bilge again and paint it
Change the toilet hoses
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?

On the twelfth week of repower
My true love said to me
Can we please go have fun now?
What? A new exhaust?
What's the heck is "prop sing"?
Install the new fuel tank
Clean the bilge again and paint it
Change the toilet hoses
Get down in the bilge and clean it!
Oh my God! What is that smell?
Now let's pull the fuel tank
Lift that engine out
Label all the wires
Are you sure we really need to do this?

18 October, 2007

Dolphins, Drones, and Delights

Location: Onancock Creek, Onancock, VA
Position: 37 24.666 N 075 45.567 W

You may be able to tell by our position and location that we're no longer at Zimmermans! Woohoo! Nothing against that fine institution and those fine folks, but it sure does feel good to be at anchor again! The second tuning of the propeller got rid of the singing, all systems were good and we were on our way on Tuesday, October 16th.

We are now busily scurrying around the Bay trying to put 50 hours on the engine. The number 50 is a bit magic for us: it's how many hours we have to have on the engine for it's first service, and after that, we can start picking our way South. The down side is that we don't get to sail since we have to run the engine at pretty high RPMs for the run in period. This results in some pretty fast travelling for a sailboat!

Today we were motoring out of Onancock Creek and Mark saw a big splash out of the corner of his eye. "Wow that was something big!!" Julie immediately leaped up and scoured the surrounding water. After a few moments she saw a dolphin... and then another playing in the entrance to the sound. She thinks this is far better than seeing floating scraps of carpet and pieces of pizza float by!

We must admit a sturdy, strong, smooth running engine is a wonderful thing. The new engine is running well and is a lot quieter then the old one. We don't think we'll ever get used to the drone of the engine running near full power all day, though, as we're sailors at heart and miss the quiet of being under sail.

Yesterday we went for a walk around the quaint old town of Onancock after our arrival. It's really pretty with old houses lining the creek and lots of history. We then went for a water side tour in the dinghy, and as we meandered our way back to our boats, saw a bald eagle sitting on top of a tall pole.

We are travelling with our friends Mike and Helen who have been with us since the day we left Zimmermans. They are valiantly putting up with having to move on and motor for 6 hours every day - good friends, indeed! Today we are heading for their dock on the Coan River, back across the Bay, for a "lay day" on Friday, as bad weather is expected.

These are some of the great delights of cruising - friends, wildlife, finding new things to see, new places to visit, new people to meet...

Fair winds (or should we say "Fair RPMs"?)

13 October, 2007

Is there life outside Zimmerman Marine??

Date: October 10, 2007
Location: Zimmerman Marine (still) - Cardinal, VA
Position: 37 24.438 N 076 21.154 W

Unfortunately our sea trial has not yet happened. There are some problems with the exhaust back pressure and a singing prop shaft. Still, we love these folks at Zimmerman Marine so much we provided a homemade BBQ lunch for them all as a "thank you" for the support, friendship, and good will they've all given us during our stay.

This was, of course, before we found out that we still aren't actually leaving, yet. And now it's too late to ask them to give us the lunch back. Oh. Maybe it isn't, but, in fact, we don't really want it back .

We did tell them that if we don't get to leave soon we may have to crash their Christmas party! And, no matter what, we're definitely not going to start paying personal property taxes in Mathews County!!

Now we have to install a 3" exhaust all the way from the engine to the outside of the boat. Mark has to tear out some woodwork in the "basement" to make room. He and the mechanic will work on installing the exhaust tomorrow. Maybe we can finally get going then.


Date: October 11
The new exhaust was installed this morning in record time. We went out for a sea trial and, haleleujah, the prop pitch is perfect - we don't have to get hauled again to have it repitched - we had been worried about it but finally something went right!!

All we have left to do now is get the pesky little "singing" out of the drive train. It only occurs between 950 and 1100 RPMs in forward and the mechanic thinks it's just an alignment problem.

After that, we just have to rebuild the woodwork around the new exhaust system, re-stow all the stuff we haven't been able to stow down there while work was being done, hook the high water bilge alarm back up, do a few relatively simple odd electrical and plumbing jobs, and we'll be ready to motor up and join some friends for a get-together on Saturday at Little Bay. It will feel great to be away from the dock and "on the hook" at last!


Date: October 12
"Remember when we quit work so we could get some of the stress out of our lives, go cruising, and have some fun?"

"Yeah."

"What happened?"

"Hellifiknow."

The mechanic realigns the new engine - the singing is still there.

We have a diver remove our line cutter - the singing is still there.

We repack our stuffing box - the singing is still there.

We start grasping at straws.

The mechanic adjusts the oil level in the new transmission - the singing is still there.

We sacrifice a chicken and arrange it's bones "just so" - the singing is still there.

One of the guys says "It could be 'prop sing'", We haul the boat again and pull the prop.

As soon as it is off the driveshaft, Julie makes a mad dash down to the prop shop, 75 miles away. They'll only be there until 1:00 PM so, even though we don't know for sure that is the problem, she leaves right away just to be sure she can make it there in time.

Mark and the mechanic mount Rachel's old prop and put her part-way back in the water. No singing. We have finally found the problem! It's about time!! Mark calls Julie to let her know it's the prop for sure and that she doesn't have to turn around.

Julie returns with the newly "de-sung" prop and, even though there isn't enough water to launch, the guys put us in far enough to test. The singing is still there, but only over a 50 RPM range. It's better, but it's still there, annoying as ever.

So now Rachel is out of the water again for the weekend and will be re-launched sometime around noon on Monday. Julie will be at the prop shop when they open on Monday morning for the second (and we hope final) round of de-singing, this time by the owner of the place.

In retrospect, the hardest part of this whole experience for both of us is being sure we'll be able to leave one day, only to find out we can't the next. This emotional roller coaster has been going on almost non-stop for the last 3 months. Except for the last half of August - at least then we knew we'd be out until the second or third week of September while the new engine was being installed. Mark has actually begun threatening to go back to work to get a break from all the stress!!

On the up side we really do feel like we are near the end and since we did still have several other little boat jobs to finish up anyway, now we have the weekend to get them out of the way. Dare we think that we may be out of here at the beginning of the week?

Regardless of what happens next week, tonight we are focused on our tasty, candlelit dinner and a lovely bottle of wine aboard Rachel. We process the day, count our blessings, let go of our worries, and talk once again about the fun we'll have and the beautiful places we'll visit when we finally do get to go "out there". Life is good.

05 October, 2007

We're back in the water again!!

Date: October 5, 2007
Location: Zimmerman Marine - Cardinal, VA
Position: 37 24.426 N 076 21.139 W

Holy Molies! Has it really been almost three freaking months? Crikies!!

Today the wonderful folk at Zimmerman Marine put our Rachel back in the water.. We can't actually go anywhere until we get our final alignment and sea trial on Monday but we ARE afloat! Fianlly!! It actually feels a bit weird, but in the nicest sort of way!!

We apologize for the lack of info as to our status lately, but we didn't want to bore you with all the day-to-day tedium. Suffice it to say that we did you a really, really big favor by not being quite as communicative as we could have been.....

We just spent 10 days with Julie's brother and his family from England, along with both of Julie's kids and their families. It was a big family gathering and we all had a lovely time. Exhausting, but at least it was in a different (and nicer, actually) sort of way from just working on the boat!!
Update: The engine is installed, the new fuel tank is in. Whoopti-freaking-do!
Well, in, but not yet "installed" - We still have some stuff to do over the weekend - but we're so close to leaving the dock that "in" is good enough for tonight. If the repower gods are looking down on us we'll be ready to leave Zimmermans on Tuesday. Hot damn!

As we are such positive thinkers and we have really had such a wonderful time here, we are treating all the boatyard, staff and management, to lunch on Tuesday at 9:30am.
"9:30am" you ask with a certain amount of incredulity??

Yep. The guys here start work at 4 or 5am so by 9:30 they are ready for lunch - who are we to argue? Julie is making her famous crock pot BBQ with all the fixins and Mark is studiously staying out of her way and lending his assitance wherever he can. As any wise man/caring husband must do...

We decided to leave the new dinghy behind this winter - there's a new crack in the keel and we just don't yet have confidence in it's ability to handle full-time cruising. We're leaving it with friends in Deltaville for the winter and will pick it up in the spring. That'll give us a chance to mess around w/ it during the spring and summer and make a final decision. We're really hoping it works out because we really miss dinghy sailing. As well as Rachel sailing. As well as pretty much any kind of sailing we can think of. Thank goodness we have friends who have given us our sailing fixes over the last couple of months! You know who you are - seriously - thanks so much!
Whew. It's good to be back afloat.

25 August, 2007

What's in a name?

Date: August 25, 2007
Location: Zimmerman Marine - Cardinal, VA
Position: 37 24.446 N 076 21.203 W

Cruisers will many times refer to other cruisers by boat name rather than by person name. For example, we are sometimes called "the Rachels". Likewise, we often refer to other couples as 'the Liberty's', 'the Hobnobs', 'the Gambles', etc. It's not that we don't all know each other's names (well not always); it's just that it's sometimes easier to think of one name (the boat's) than it is to think of each person's name. Or maybe it's because in a group some people may not know the names of a boat's owners, and if you say 'the Rachel's', everyone knows who you're discussing.

At Zimmerman's they assign a "service coordinator" to oversee each job. While it sounds like just another layer of overhead, we've actually found it to be (like so many other things here) well thought out and quite useful. The 'service coordinator' is a salaried position, so none of their time is charged to your job. They interface with the technical staff who do bill hourly, management, the scheduler, and the owner to keep things running smoothly and to make sure everyone is on the same page. We've found the level of communication here to be excellent - we all know what's going to happen when, and who's going to do what next - it's really been a great experience on that level.

The day Rachel was hauled, a gal walked by and said "Nice boat name." We thanked her, whereupon she said "That's my name, too." We told her we're usually pretty bad with names, but figured we wouldn't have too much trouble remembering hers.

Once our problems were diagnosed and everyone realized we were going to be here a while, Rachel was assigned to be our service coordinator. That was kind of cute - Rachel being Rachel's service coordinator.

A few days later, she was sitting in the cockpit with us discussing the work that will be done. We had a question to which she didn't have a quick answer, so she made a call. Here's how it went: "Hi, Steve. This is Rachel. I'm on Rachel with..." (a sudden, slightly pained expression appears as she realizes what she's about to say ) "... the Rachels."

The Rachels
s/v Rachel

15 August, 2007

Sometimes dreams really do come true!

Location: Zimmerman Marine - Cardinal, VA
Position: 37 24.446 N 076 21.203 W

The morning of the scheduled engine alignment:
"I had a dream last night." she says
"You never remember your dreams." he says.
"Well, I remembered this one." she says.
"What was it about?" he asks
"I dreamed we had to get a new engine." she says
"You're not allowed to dream any more." he says.

She tells The Crew about the dream at breakfast:
"You're not allowed to dream any more." says The Crew.
"See? Told you!" he says.

Later in the day she tells The Mechanic about the dream:
"You're not allowed to dream any more." says The Mechanic.
"See? Told you!" says The Crew.
"She never remembers her dreams." he says.
"Anyway, it was just a dream." she says.

Waiting for 'The Part' to arrive so that the Mechanic can determine if 'The Problem' really is in the transmission, they fill their days with busy work. The Crew goes home on Thursday. 'The Part' arrives the following Monday. The Mechanic dives into the basement and works his magic. The diagnosis is not good. The transmission's output shaft bearings are definitely shot and the output shaft itself is also worn and may be bent!?!

We rejoin our protagonists as The Mechanic tells them the news:
"$3,000 to rebuild the transmission?" he asks.
"And that's only IF they can find the parts?" she asks.
"You're not allowed to dream any more." he says.
"See? Told you!" says The Mechanic.

Assuming we can find an output shaft, we could do the rebuild. Unfortunately we'd still be stuck with an engine and transmission that are almost 30 years old and are pretty darned hard to find parts for. Not a good scenario if something were to break, especially somewhere "off the beaten path".

We think paying about 1/4 the cost of a repower to rebuild the transmission and get the drive train set up correctly is probably throwing good money after bad. So we've deciding that we should bite the bullet and get a new engine and transmission. Ouch.

Who said dreams never come true?? They are big fat liars and deserve a good WHACKing!! On the other hand, some dreams don't come true. This is the second year in a row that we've dreamed of going to Maine and the second year in a row that we aren't going. What a bummer. Very disappointing.

When we get down and out like this Mark likes to bring out his fake Scottish accent. "Och, aye, lass!" It always works - the 2 of us end up laughing and feeling 'no so bad!'. Last Saturday we went up to Deltaville to have dinner with friends at the "yacht club". After dinner we all went out for a cocktail cruise around the creek. Mark stood on the aft deck sipping Scotch ("Well, maybe 'sipping' is an understatement..." she says) reciting Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabberwocky ) in his bad fake Scots accent with his hair blowing wildly. We all laughed heartily - thank goodness we still both have a healthy sense of humor!!

Even though Zimmerman's is out in the middle of nowhere (from their web site: "Inconveniently located on the beautiful Mobjack Bay in Mathews, Virginia. We're not close to anything... except our customers.") and hot as blazes right now, we really like the people here and we are making new friends, despite Mark's bad fake accent.

It is SO hot and humid here. We borrowed the yard's loaner car and picked our van up last Monday after we realised we were going to be here for a while. A lovely but quick two-day trip to Blacksburg to visit our daughter Charlotte and her family and pick up the window air conditioning unit followed. Now we are at least a bit cool aboard Rachel.

The dinghy rebuild is progressing well. We've taken her out for a bit of "gunkholing" the past two days and she seems to be fine again. we're hoping to finish up the sail rig in the next day or so - at least then we'll be able to get out and do some sailing this summer!

Dreaming of being cooler ("No! Nononono! Remember? You're not allowed to dream any more!!" he exclaims)

03 August, 2007

Sigh....

Location: Zimmerman Marine, Inc. - near Matthews, VA
Position: 37 24.446 N 076 21.203

When you live on your boat, you have to become a bit philosophical about things. Patience is a virtue. All things come in time. Even sailing trips to Maine. Hopefully.

We stopped in here on Tuesday July 25th to have some drive train vibration we've had for a while diagnosed. The mechanic, Chris, came out to the boat on Wednesday morning and took a look. He couldn't be sure at anchor, so we took a spin up the East River during which time he diagnosed a fairly severe alignment problem and possibly a bad cutlass bearing. He decided we needed to haul so he could thoroughly inspect the drive train.

The yard is really busy and we couldn't get on the haulout schedule until Monday July 30th. Luckily, the anchorage is beautiful and there's usually a nice breeze. We made use of the downtime to begin repairs on the dinghy. It's coming along nicely with one more coat of paint required before we put the two halves back together and take her out for a sea trial.

Zimmerman's is not a "do-it-yourself" yard, but as they are really busy at the moment they've been letting Mark do as much of the work as he can. Mark's been relearning his old mechanic skills down in the "basement" in 90 degree humid heat. Chris will decide what needs doing, Mark does it and then Chris will return to test, diagnose, offer Mark advice and loan us the tools we don't have. It has turned out to be a win-win situation and Mark is learning a lot about our 30 year old engine and it's associated bits.

During the week we've eliminated several theories and now have the problem narrowed down to either a bent or worn coupling or a bent transmission output shaft or a bit of both. The coupling is the cheaper of the two options so, even though it will take a few days, we've decided to go ahead and order the parts and see how much that improves the problem.

That's where we are now. The coupling halves are due in next Monday, so we'll be here at least until then. If it's good news, we should be back in the water on Monday or Tuesday. If it's bad news, we'll then need to make a decision whether to buy a used transmission or have ours rebuilt.

Shep, our extra crew member for the trip, came aboard last Sunday. The poor guy got to spend one night on the water then left Thursday afternoon after spending most of his time here living in the heat on the hard and doing miscellaneous boat jobs. He was a real trooper, maintained a good attitude even during our frustration and disappointment, and will be welcomed aboard again.

Our experience here at Zimmerman's has been great. Everyone we've met has been courteous, helpful, and friendly. The yard is clean and the staff is very professional and willing to help. The workmanship we've seen has been top notch, too. Communication seems to be the watchword here - a valuable but, unfortunately in our experience, not all that common commodity.

Our awnings have been a Godsend. It's been really hot and humid and, being a working boatyard not a marina, there's no pool here. The haulout guys were nice enough to put us at the end of the yard near some trees, so we receive some good shade during the most brutal part of the afternoon. If we're going to be here much longer, though, we're going to have to go get an air conditioner. We should know whether that's going to be necessary on Monday.

We're in pretty good spirits given the circumstances, and are using our time here to take care of
some other boat jobs that hadn't made it up to the "A" list yet.