25 July, 2007

Dinghy Distress!!

Date: July 25, 2007
Location: East River, Mobjack Bay - near Matthews, VA
Position: 37 24.445 N 076 20.308 W

We got back from England at about 1:30 AM Sunday, slept a few hours, then spent the rest of the day running errands and doing some last minute boat jobs.

We left the dock right after high tide on Monday morning to take advantage of the tidal current to help get us out past our friend's boat. Everything went as smooth as butter (no bumps or scrapes, nothing broke, and nobody got hurt - the textbook definition of a successful arrival or departure from a dock) and we dropped anchor about 100 yards downstream. We dinghied back in so Julie could make one last run to Deltaville to pick up some parts we'd ordered and Mark went back to the boat to finish up a few "must do" chores before we could leave for our trip to Maine.

We raised anchor at about 6:30 pm Monday and, with a high tide at 8:30 pm at Smith Point and predicted Northerly winds of 10-15 mph, we looked forward to a nice downwind run to Mobjack Bay. Rachel has been having some drive train vibration issues, so we made an appointment to have her checked out at at a highly recommended boatyard here. Unfortunately, wind was from the south, not the predicted north, at 15-20, gusting to 25 making it dead on our nose the entire trip down the bay. The 66 mile trip ended up being 87 miles with all the tacking and ended up taking just over 19 hours to complete!

Before we left, we tried test hanging the new dinghy from the davits and think it'll work, but it's going to take some refining. We'd had great success towing it from Deltaville to the Coan and on a trip across the Potomac to St. Mary's, so we decided to tow it on this trip with plans to stow it on deck for the passage from Norfolk to Block Island. It was pretty choppy on our way down, especially from about 10pm through about 3 am - even Rachel was pounding on some of the bigger sets of waves. In the morning we noticed some water in the dinghy and decided to heave to and bail her out. Oh my.

There are two bulkheads that bolt together when the forward and aft parts of the dinghy are assembled. Apparently between the pounding and the tow line jerking, the plywood actually tore at these points allowing a couple of seams to open up. By the time we stopped to bail her the bow section was only hanging onto the stern section by the bottom two bolts - the top two were almost completely broken free from the forward section. We managed to tie it all together to stabilize it, bailed her out and finished the trip.

When we got here she was full of water again. Turns out the water wasn't splashed in - it was running in through cracks in the bulkheads created by the same pounding that split the plywood bulkheads. We hauled her up on deck and took her apart to assess the damage. It's all fixable, but will take time. So now, if we want to go to Maine this summer, we have to make arrangements to leave her here somewhere until we get back in September when we'll have time to make repairs. Sad to say, we're thinking she may not be tough enough to be a full-time cruising dinghy. We have a couple of months to cogitate and decide what we want to do with regard to a tender. Good thing we saved our little 8' inflatable when we sold Raven and brought it along "just in case"!

13 July, 2007

Back home on Rachel

Date: July 13, 2007
Location: Docked on the Coan River, Chesapeake
Position: 37 56.652 N 076 28.883 W

We arrived back to Rachel on July 7th. Wow has it just been a week we've been back?

After a lovely, albeit too quick visit with Mark's family in Maine, we were hoping to get Rachel ready and take off to points North for a month or two.

Unfortunately Julie's mum passed away on Monday after a short hospital stay. It is always distressing to lose a parent, but there is also a sense of relief that she will no longer be suffering from the debilitating Alzheimers with which she was afflicted. The funeral is next Friday, so we'll be flying to England and will be gone until Sunday, the 22nd of July. We are still getting Rachel ready to head North, it just won't happen until we return at the end of next week.

It's been so hot that the half finished awning job has bubbled up to the top of the priority list ! Julie has been down below sewing and up top measuring for a couple of days and the awning is now 3/4 finished - functional and creating a lot of much needed shade, but as always, there's more to go.

Mark is busily preparing Rachel for our next offshore adventure from Norfolk, Virginia to Block Island, Rhode Island and then on to Maine via the Cape Cod Canal. We're rustling up some crew so we won't have to do all the night shifts ourselves, although we are trying to make it sound more attractive than it actually will be .

Apart from that, we're having a great time taking dinghy rides, watching the osprey feed their babies in their nest across the river, watching a spider build it s web on our bimini supports, etc.

Wow! Are we really the same people who just quit our jobs and moved onto our lovely boat 3 months ago?

"No! Get off the computer, stop waffling on, and get back to work !"


Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

02 July, 2007

Farewell Azores!

Location: Air Sato, enroute to Boston
Position: High above the Atlantic

The highlight of the festival on Terciera for us was a parade re-enactment of a year in the life of a grape. During the day on Thursday, several sections of the parade route were dressed up with grape vines, leaves, low walls, etc. We couldn't figure out what the parade was going to be that night other than recognizing the word "vinho" in the program.

What a great parade! Locals dressed in traditional clothing sprayed, cultivated, propped up and finally harvested the grapes. The acting was great with old guys twisting kids ears, to make them work. Sitting and eating lunch in the fields and sharing grapes, olives, wine, and bread with the parade attendees. A fake fight, interupted be a "bystander", who was then made to drink more wine. An ox cart, a donkey cart - both left little surprises on the pavement for further entertainment as following parade members and attendees stepped in or barely missed them. A drunk sitting under a vine with his jug. We love this place, have we mentioned that?

The following afternoon we managed to catch up with one of the folk groups that performed in the parade a couple of nights earlier. They were playing music at a gazebo in the park. After their performance Mark bought a CD of their music and asked (in Portugese) if the vendor spoke English. This was followed by a request, in English this time, for an explanation of the costumes we'd been seeing. Much discussion ensued, ending with a "talk to her - she teaches English at our school". Once we established communication with the school teacher, we were in. They clustered around us and every question was answered. Those not understood were discussed and an answer was eventually forthcoming. You learn that, even though you don't need to know Portugese in the Azores, a little effort goes a very long way!

The last night of the festival we saw what was arguably the best firework display we have ever seen directly overhead. Ever. Really. And to top it off, we had ring side seats lying on Liberty's bow. It was synched to music similar to that played at "Cirque De Soleil". Mark, being a "fireworks purist", didn't think he'd like that at the beginning, but by the finale he was sold! It helped that the display was absolutely (in Mark's words) "fan-freaking-tastic". We have no idea how an island with a population of about 16,000 was able to afford it!

This morning, our last day, we sadly said goodbye to our wonderful hosts. We couldn't have asked for more welcoming, friendly, and supportive hosts for the trip.

We rented a car with another couple we'd befriended (the "Hobnobers" if you recall) for a last drive around the island and were not disappointed.

Cows in the road. Cow shit all over the car. Riotous hydrangea, lily, rose blooms. Biscoites ("Biscuits") bathing, lava, and grapes.

One of the most intriguing things we saw was a fountain in the shape of a lady with a duck on her head. We have no idea what the significance is, however. The guide book had a picture with a caption "famous duck fountain" or somesuch, but no explanation of what it represents or why it was built. The strangest part is that it's sort of in the middle of nowhere - a small picnic area has been built around it.

Our stay in the Azores ended when our friends finally dropped us at the airport for the flight to Boston. On arrival, we've rented a car and will drive up to Harpswell, Maine for a few days to visit with Mark's family.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel