21 December, 2008

Checking in

Location: Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: N26 45.780 W077 20.086

After spending way too long at Palm Beach, FL waiting for weather we finally got the window we wanted. Wow! Now we just had 2 days to do laundry, last minute shopping, and making sure everything on Rachel was stowed securely. We said goodbye to all our friends who were not yet leaving the US and off we went at 2pm in the company of 2 other boats, Diva and Temptation. The crossing was easy and uneventful we travelled 153 miles in 25.5 hours, the only thing missing was some wind so we could actually sail! Can’t have everything, we know, and we did manage a brief sail down the Sea of Abaco which was great.

Saturday. We arrive at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos and drop our anchor at 3:30 in the afternoon. We are flying our yellow quarantine flag (yellow, for the letter “Q”, don’t ask) from the starboard spreader as required when arriving in any country until you have cleared customs & immigration. We aren’t sure if Customs will be open on a Saturday, so Mark calls a local business on the VHF. The lady there is very helpful. She tells us we can go to the customs house and if the officer is not there we should go to either of the grocery stores in town and they’ll call her for us.

Until you’ve cleared in, only the captain is allowed ashore. So off the 3 captains go in the dinghy with all the paperwork, passports etc. The customs office is closed, so they walk over to the grocery store. The lady there calls the customs officer at her home. The customs lady says she will not be working this afternoon, or Sunday, so just come in on Monday. Oh, and by the way, it’s alright for everyone to go ashore before then. No worries. One reason we love the Bahamas.

Arrangements are made to dinghy in to Pineapples, a water side bar we discovered last year with 2 for 1 rum punches for happy hour, which finishes at 6pm. The 6 of us quickly organize ourselves and make a bee line for the bar. Did we mention that these rum drinks are REALLY strong? Rum is relatively cheap in the Bahamas, but the mixings are very expensive. Thus drinks tend to be strong… very strong. 2nd reason we love the Bahamas. We each have 2 drinks and share an order of grouper fingers and then we’ve had all had it. None of us had got much sleep Friday night during the crossing, so we decide to call it a night and head back to our boats.

Back on the boat. A guy who is anchored next to us, shows up with a big cream pie in his hand and a server. We did not know him from Adam! “Hi, take a piece of pie for each person on board, and enjoy” “Wow, thanks. What’s your name?” “Steve” he says, and off he goes to the next boat. Main reason we like cruising – cruisers are so friendly.

After a great night’s sleep here we sit listening to the roosters crowing on shore. We can see the anchor dug in on the sandy bottom since, for the first time since we left the Bahamas last year, the water is crystal clear. 3rd reason we love the Bahamas. We are waiting for three more sets of friends to arrive this morning; they left the US yesterday morning. We will all spend Christmas here together, we’ll probably also invite the neighbour with the pie, and anyone else who is here, too.

Monday. Rumors are rampant. The customs lady is going to be coming to the marina near where we’re anchored, so we won’t have to make that long dinghy ride in the open in 20 knot winds. A friend at the marina will call us on the VHF and let us know when she arrives. Oops, nope, she’s not coming. We jump in the dinghy and head into town. We’re able to hug the shore so we don’t get too much wind chop and have a relatively dry ride in. As we arrive at the dock, two other guys are getting in their dinghies – she’s not going to be there today – she missed her plane in Nassau and won’t get back until late. All the while more boats arrive from the US. Now, instead of just the three of us who need to clear in, there are more than 20 boats waiting. This could get painful.

Tuesday. She’s definitely supposed to be here today. We go in at 9:00 am. There’s already a crowd at the customs house. Another lady arrives and says the customs lady is due in on the 10:45 ferry. She doesn’t have a key, but if we can break into the customs office, she is authorized to hand out the paperwork. She can’t clear anyone in, however – we’ll have to wait for the customs lady for that. We head back to the boat figuring we’ll 1: avoid prosecution in case someone in authority doesn’t like the idea of Americans and Canadians breaking into a Bahamian customs house, and 2: wait until after the crush to come in so we’ll get processed more quickly. While we’re gone, several captains help her “gain entry” and the paperwork is distributed. We already have ours, obtained from our friend at the marina on Sunday.

We arrive back at the customs house at about 11:30. There’s a line. A long one. The “breaker inners” who waited all this time are just starting to trickle out. The lady who previously wasn’t authorized to process the paperwork is now apparently authorized to do so – she’s the only one there and the customs lady still hasn’t shown up. About the time we get to the front of the line the customs lady shows up. Now there are two of them processing paperwork and the line moves much more quickly. We’re finally checked in and legal and ready to go after only 4 days. No worries, mon!

Merry Christmas

11 December, 2008

Lake Worth

Location: North Palm Beach, FL
Position: N26 50.405 W080 03.212

We’re currently anchored at the north end of Lake Worth, near North Palm Beach, FL. Lake Worth is a long, shallow body of water that runs north and south of the Lake Worth Inlet at Palm Beach. We arrived here in the late afternoon of Friday, December 5 after a nice sail down from Ft. Pierce. We finally had a chance to try out the new windvane self steering and are happy to report that it worked fine. With a few adjustments and modifications to our setup we expect to use it a lot. We’re looking forward to using it when we cross to the Bahamas.

The high point of our visit here so far was the Christmas boat parade last Saturday night. We overheard the Coast Guard on the VHF telling someone it was going from Palm Beach all the way up to Jupiter Inlet! Being about a mile off the route, the best part for us was the fireworks. We’d never seen this before – a fireworks barge led the procession and there was a constant fireworks display taking place for the entire 1.5 hours we could see it. It was really amazing! Easily the longest lasting fireworks display we’ve ever witnessed, and a big hit around the anchorage. About every 5 minutes there was a big ‘grand finale’ type display and we’d think it was over but then it would start back up again. We sat up on the coach roof with a glass of wine and had a wonderful time. It wasn’t even cold!!!

On the down side, we’ve been here for nearly a week and still haven’t found any nice walks. There’s a grocery store a short walk from the dinghy landing and a chandlery about a mile away. Apparently there’s a hardware store about 2.5 miles away but unfortunately, all of these destinations are on busy streets that aren’t very pleasant to walk along. We understand there’s a pretty good bus system and for $3 you can ride all day. If we’re here long enough we’ll check that out, too.

We did discover a very nice state park (John D. MacArthur State Park) with a nature center, lovely walks, and a boardwalk to the beach, but it’s a couple of miles just to get to the entrance, and then another good half mile to actually get into the park. The walk from the dinghy landing to the park is on a very busy road lined with gated communities, guard houses, thick hedges, and chain link fences. No little side roads, no bike paths (except those we could see inside the gated communities) – it’s a long, noisy walk. We’ve heard about another anchorage closer to the inlet that is within a short dinghy ride to another, smaller park. We may move down there for a while after the wind shifts - we do like our walks, after all.

We’re stuck on the boat today while, in cruiser’s parlance, it’s “blowing like stink”. The wind is between 20-30 knots from the south making the anchorage pretty bouncy. The good news is the frontal boundary is scheduled to pass through at around 4:00 this afternoon, clocking around to the west where we have more protection and we expect things to settle down considerably by this evening.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a weather window to cross to the Bahamas anytime soon. After today’s front, it sounds like it’s going to be blowing pretty steadily from the northeast, kicking up pretty high seas in the Gulf Stream. We’ll make the best of our stay here and, if a crossing window doesn’t open within the next week or so, will probably head down to Miami and try from there.

Fair winds,

27 November, 2008

Giving Thanks

Location: Vero Beach, FL
Position: N27 39.75 W08022.36

We’re currently on a mooring in Vero Beach, Florida (a.k.a. “Velcro Beach”). We arrived here on the 18th of November and rafted up on a mooring with our friends on ‘Diva’ and ‘Smiles’.

The afternoon we arrived in Vero, friends we met last year in the Bahamas on ‘Better Days’ stopped by and took us shopping. They have a house in nearby Ft. Pierce and invited us to share a lobster dinner at home with them. They then proceeded to loan us the car for two days and invited us back again the next night for a turkey dinner and birthday celebration! After several trips to the store and several more trips from the dinghy dock out to Rachel and back, we have pretty well completed our major provisioning for a season in the Bahamas. Rachel is now sitting low in the water and seems eager to head out before we think of anything else to load into her.

A couple of days ago we rigged up Belle for sailing and met some friends in their dinghy for a leisurely sail around the anchorage. It seems that everyone we pass is happy to see us sailing – and perhaps a bit envious, too, as they sit in their cockpits wishing they were out here with us. What a great way to meet new people.

Thanksgiving morning is a chilly, still morning and the boat is covered with heavy dew. Julie cooks the filling for a couple of chocolate pies we’re bringing to the cruisers Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon. By afternoon the weather is sunny and warm. We shed our sweats and fleeces in favor of shorts and tee-shirts. Thanksgiving in shorts – what a treat!

The cruiser’s Thanksgiving is a success. Three lines of tables are covered with all the Thanksgiving fare you can imagine. About 75 people attend, and there’s more than enough food for all of us. We’re pleased to run into several sets of friends we haven’t seen since we were in the Bahamas last year.

After dinner we sail Belle back home to Rachel in light wind on the nose, tacking slowly back-and-forth through the anchorage. As we sail, we talk about all the things we have to be thankful for on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day. We have each other. We have our families. We have our health. We have our shared love of living aboard and sailing. We have many, many friends – old, new, and not-yet-met. The list goes on and on, and after a while get silly, laugh, and smile, and remember once again why we’re doing this.

Gratitude and best wishes,

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

14 November, 2008

Wow!

Date: November 14, 2008
Location: Fort George River, FL
Position: N 30 26.424 W 081 26.143

We left Cumberland Island and headed further south down the ICW to the Fort George River today. On the way we saw a beautiful rainbow. It made a complete semi-circle from the earth up through the sky and back down to earth again behind us! Wow!!

We hadn’t stopped at the Fort George River last year and it turned out to be a lovely anchorage. Marsh grasses on one side of the river and an old plantation home on the other with excellent protection from the south – all good points on this blustery day. We went ashore and walked around, then headed back to the boat for dinner.

We had heard people talking about a shuttle launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL, but hadn’t really paid much attention to it. On the VHF we heard someone asking if anyone knew when the shuttle launch was tonight. Someone responded that it would be at 7:30 pm.

We were both a little skeptical that we would be able to see it from 125 miles away, but it was a nice night and it was either that or Julie beating Mark at dominos again – and that’s getting a bit old for one of us!!

So up we go to the cockpit after dinner and gaze intently to the south. 30 minutes later we have seen nothing and it’s getting chilly. Well, maybe they cancelled or delayed it. Maybe we just missed it, it is, after all, pretty far away. So off we go back down below feeling a little disappointed. Julie tidies up the galley and Mark works on a boat chore, when suddenly we hear this huge roaring sound. Like distant thunder, but more constant.

Wow!! Could that be the shuttle?

We quickly scamper up the companionway just in time to see this ball of fire clearing the top of the trees as the roar intensifies.

Wow!!

It only took maybe 15 seconds for it to disappear into the clouds on it’s way into outer space – but

Wow!!

We couldn’t believe it. We sat there looking up for several more seconds in silence, soaking it in. It looked like a comet! Just think – how fast were they going? Way faster than we do in Rachel, that’s for sure!

Wow!!

If it was this spectacular so far away, imagine what it would be like from the launch site! It’s possible to anchor at Titusville for a ring side seat, but we haven’t managed to do that, yet – we need to pay more attention to the launch schedule earlier in the year. However, after tonight’s launch we’re determined to see one “up close and personal”. Mark has always loved fireworks…..

Wow. You never know what you will see when you are out cruising.

12 November, 2008

Work, wings, and walks

Location: Cumberland Island, GA
Position: N 30 46.066 W
081 28.271

We spent a very busy 10 days w
orking at Isle of Palms. Rachel was lucky enough to have a slip and the weather was warm so we stopped and took care of a few more boat jobs: added a new VHF radio; a new sail cover designed and built by Julie; relocated the wind generator mast from the center of the stern to the side so the new self steering wind vane has room to swing; and a multitude of other little tasks.

It wasn’t all work and no play - we really did have our noses to the grindstone, but we also have friends in the Isle of Palms/Charleston area. We managed to fit in a few, albeit too brief, social gatherings, too. We were introduced to a great Irish pub with cheap beer and outstanding wings (not very Irish but still good). We also managed to fit in a couple of sightseeing walks in Charleston, one of our favourite places to explore.

We left Isle of Palms at 6 am Monday, November 10th and sailed south outside in the Atlantic to the St. Mary’s River Inlet on the Georgia / Florida border. The wind was light so we motor-sailed through the night. By morning the wind had increased to about 20 knots and the seas were building. We reached the St. Mary’s River entrance around 9:00 am – about an hour after high tide. With the wind behind us, we had a very rolly ride bucking the tide almost all the way up behind Cumberland Island where we gratefully dropped the anchor at about 10:30 am.

Cumberland Island was one our favourite stops last year and we have been looking forward to exploring the southern end of this beautiful National Park this year. We spent the day we arrived resting, napping, and reading and were up and out early the next morning to catch the 2 hour walking historical tour of the island led by one of the park rangers.

In the late 1800s this island was owned by the Carnegie family. There are several big mansions built for the Carnegie children by their mother, so the island is a strange combination of wilderness interspersed with pockets of both current and abandoned civilization. We toured the ruins of Dungeness, the mansion the Carnegies built in 1884. The Carnegie family members donated their 90% of the island to the National Park Service in 1971 and we’re really glad they did!

We spent two lovely days walking the trails through maritime forests, saltwater marshes, and along beaches. The transition from beach to forest was like entering a tunnel with a canopy of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. We walked several trails and reveled in the shapes of the branches and the sunlight shining down through them. Cumberland Island is abundant with wildlife, wild horses, pigs, deer, armadillos, and turkeys roam freely. We did not get to see any armadillos or wild pigs this year but enjoyed watching the horses cantering through the forests. And the flocks of turkeys reminded us that Thanksgiving isn’t far away, too!!
















10 November, 2008

Green Flash

Location: Atlantic Ocean, off Savannah, GA
Position: N 31 55.356 W 080 24.582


You may think Green Flash is a super hero, or maybe a new laundry detergent? Nope. And it’s not a little gnome in a trench coat, either. It’s a natural phenomenon that sailors the world over look forward to seeing.

If we’re out on the ocean, can see the western horizon, and there are no clouds, we watch for it at sunset. At the moment the sun drops below the horizon every once in a while you can see a green flash.

We’ve heard people talking about them but so far hadn’t been lucky enough to see one ourselves.

As we headed south offshore down the Georgia coastline we were treated to a beautiful sunset and then a green flash. It was truly amazing.
For more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_flash

Feeling flashed

31 October, 2008

Happy Halloween

Location: Isle of Palms, SC
Position: N 32°48.251 W 079°45.407


We spent 2 days and 3 nights on the South River it was like going back in time – there are almost no houses, so you get a sense of what it must have been like hundreds of years ago. Quiet. No Internet. Barely a cell phone signal. And very few other boats. We had this magical place pretty much to ourselves, and we soaked it up. We stopped here to wait out some high winds, and even though it was windy and cold, we really enjoyed it.


The last week since then has been pretty much more of the same. Cold nights and mornings, then almost every day has been sunny. We’ve been bundled up but still enjoying the sun on our backs and faces. The night time temperatures have been too cold for us to even think about going out in the ocean and sailing overnight. Neither of us is thrilled with the thought of doing watches at the helm in almost freezing temperatures and 20 to 30 knot winds. Brrr! So here we are replaying last years southbound trip, long days on the ICW, lovely varied scenery, lots of wildlife to observe, and other southbound vessels to chat with on the VHF.

Dolphins are now an everyday sight along with geese, pelicans, and numerous wading birds. Today we spotted an alligator and a kingfisher. We usually keep our binoculars and bird book handy for quick identification of unknown birds. And today we also saw our first Spanish Moss this trip hanging from the trees. This, as well as the ubiquitous palm trees, will now also be a daily sight.

We did have a lovely respite. Just before Wrightsville Beach Mark’s son’s grandfather met us on the waterway in his skiff where we did a "drive-by" pick up of Jeseph, Tiger Lily (Mark’s son and granddaughter) and a friend. We lost almost no time and even made the next bridge opening as scheduled! They travelled with us for the rest of the day and spent a blustery night aboard. We had a great time and hopefully they will be able to join us again for a longer visit.

We’ve made great time with 5 hops from South River, NC – Mile Hammock Bay, NC (in the Camp LeJeune Marine Corp camp) – Carolina Beach, NC – Little River, SC ( where we spent a lovely evening with friends) – Georgetown, SC and today’s destination of Isle of Palms, SC just outside Charleston.
We have some friends here and they have fixed us up with a slip for a few days. We’ll get a few jobs done, visit, and hopefully get to explore Charleston a bit before heading further south. Charleston is one of our favorite spots.

Slowly getting warmer.

25 October, 2008

Going Dinghy

Location: South River, NC
Position: N 34°56.976 W 076°34.470

We’re pretty well protected from the southeast and the south, but when the wind begins to clock to the southwest we’ll know it’s time to move further down river for better protection. It’s still blowing 20-30 and we can see whitecaps about 200’ off to starboard where the wind is churning up the water.

We decide it’s time to go. We follow the usual drill – Julie on the bow operating the windlass and washing off the chain, and Mark at the helm. These roles are pretty much dictated by Mark’s color blindness and his inability to easily see the difference in color between chain and mud, and the fact that the chain locker drains under our V-berth into the bilge. Smelly mud is not welcome here!

As Julie begins hauling up the chain, Mark notices that the dinghy is still well astern. We always pull it in close to prevent the towing line from getting wrapped in Rachel’s propeller in case Mark needs to reverse for any reason – obviously we’ve forgotten to do this. We also have a security cable attached which we usually remove before hauling anchor. Since, in this case we’re just going a short distance, we decided to leave both in place but have forgotten to shorten them.

Mark drops into neutral and begins hauling in the line, figuring he has time to also take in the security cable before we need to get under way.

Suddenly we hear “WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK!!”

What the heck? This is a new noise.

Julie looks back, sees the stern of the dinghy sticking up in the air, bouncing up and down like a 4 year old who’s been Trick Or Treating all night, and screams “MARK!! THE DINGHY!!!”

Mark looks down. Uh oh. The transmission is in reverse. Not neutral. How could that be? He drops it into neutral and looks aft. Belatedly, he realizes that he must have been in neutral already before he shifted. DOH!! Talk about a “Homer” moment…..

And now poor Belle is tight up against Rachel’s stern, her bow nearly under water, and her stern raised high in the air. The tow lines are free – that’s not the problem. Sheesh. It’s the blankety-blank stainless steel security cable. It’s all twisted. It must be caught in the prop and wrapped around the shaft. We ain’t a-goin’ nowhere like this! So we drop the anchor, let out the chain, and Rachel settles herself to the anchor again.

Mark gets into the dinghy and is able to untwist the cable enough to lower Belle’s stern to a more normal position and allow us to tie her tight against Rachel’s side, but he’s unable to completely free the cable. Looks like it’s time for a swim.

The wind is still clocking, the whitecaps are now about 150 ft off to starboard – we figure we have about an hour before we have to haul the anchor in the teeth of the wind – not a very pleasant thought.

Mark starts down the ladder into the water. Brr he’s back up in a jiffy, “Where’s my wetsuit? It’s freezing in there!” He dons his wetsuit, mask, and fins, and goes over the side. There are about 7 wraps of cable around the propeller shaft. Luckily, it only takes him about 20 minutes to free the prop and clear the cable.

Thank goodness we bought this bulletproof Trinka dinghy, our old one, we suspect, would not have held up to such abuse.

He gets back in Rachel, strips off, takes a quick shower, and we manage to raise anchor before the wind clears our protection. We move down river and re-anchor as planned. The wind backs a bit, making our new anchorage a bit bumpier than we’d hoped, but a few hours later it’s back where we expected it to be and things smooth out. After a comfortable night we proceed on our way toward Beaufort, NC (remember – in NC it’s “bow-furt”).

Needless to say, we’ve added “Secure dinghy” to our leaving anchor checklist.

Slowly going dinghy,

24 October, 2008

Whirlwind

Location: South River, NC
Position: N 34°56.259 W 076°32.864

We have a lot of news for such a short time so we’ll try to compress it and hope it makes some sort of sense when we’re done. It’s been a real downhill run – long days, short nights, and lots of wind at our backs getting here. No pictures, even on the blog, we’ve been so busy.

We sold the dinghy we made in our basement and bought a 10’ fiberglass Trinka. We’ve been towing it since we left Deltaville and it hasn’t broken once. Not even crossing the Albemarle in 15-20 knots or yesterday on the Neuse at 20-25. We love it. It’s an excellent sail and row, and motors fine. It’s not quite as roomy or stable as the Passagemaker, but it’s really, really tough, and being 1’ 7” shorter, fits better on our davits and on the bow. She’s a sprightly sail, rather like a pixie. So we named her Belle. We should probably be ashamed. Trinka Belle. Sorry.

What follows is a brief rendition of the previous four days. Four days of cold mornings, sometimes beautiful days, and usually chilly evenings. Four days of glorious downwind sailing and high mosquito counts. Let us preface this by saying that the nights/mornings have been cold this week. Hauling the anchor and washing off the chain in 40 degrees F is COLD. We know you feel sorry for us!!! We can feel you empathize. Yes.

Monday 10/20 – we haul anchor at 4:45 am, then feel our way out the channel from Jackson Creek. The channel markers are unlit so Julie goes up onto the bow with a flashlight and illuminates each mark as it comes into range. At the helm, Mark uses these ‘lit’ marks, the chartplotter, and our familiarity with the channel to inch our way out. We ride the tide down the Chesapeake making 7 knots with the wind aft of beam (meaning “behind us but not dead behind”, a.k.a. “on the quarter” – a really fast point of sail for Rachel, for you non-sailors). We enter the Intracoastal Waterway at around lunchtime and finally stop at Great Bridge, VA. It’s been a long day, but we’ve managed to cover quite a lot of distance for us – 60.6 nautical miles!

Tuesday 10/ 21 – we get up at 6:00 am, make coffee, and are ready for the 7:00 am bridge opening. We pass through and head for the next bridge planning to make their 7:30 opening. We get there 5 minutes ahead of time and … DOH! It would seem that we misread the cruising guide!! This bridge is “on restriction” from 6:30 am until 8:30 am. It won’t open until 8:30 am!! This is usually because of morning rush hour traffic and is not uncommon through the length of the ICW.

So we end up having a nice hour long wait, cooling our heels, watching traffic cross the bridge, circling in front of the bridge and relaxing when what we really want is to be hurrying south to warmer climes. After a hot bowl of porridge and a second cup of coffee we finally get through at 8:30. Following a long day of motoring and motor-sailing we drop the hook at Broad Creek, just north of the Albemarle Bay after a more normal daily distance of 43.4 nautical miles.

At dusk, Julie is nearly carried off by mosquitoes. They are large and monstrous and nearly break through the companionway screen. After a long struggle, Mark manages to fight them off, possessively dragging Julie below (“You’ll not have her!”), and seals up the boat for the night. This is followed by several minutes of “Whack!” “Got him!” “NeeEEEeee” “You bastards!” “Whack whack whack” “Take that!” as night falls.

Wednesday, 10/22 – we get up again at 6:00 am and head out before dawn. We get to the Albemarle Sound just as it’s getting light, unfurl the big headsail, and proceed to bounce our way across in 15-20 knot winds and relatively square waves. With the wind still in our favor, we continue our headlong southerly run down the Alligator River.

Question: If you are heading south but upstream, are you heading up or down the river? This, and other equally deep thoughts, are the kind of things we ponder as we pass through these beautiful eastern Carolina waterways.

Following 20 (beautiful, but predictable) miles of motoring on the Alligator - Pungo Canal, we once again have a lovely late afternoon downwind sail on the Pungo River to Belhaven. We make a quick stop at a marina for fuel and water, and drop the anchor at 6:30 pm, a little bit before sunset. A lot of distance travelled, mostly due to the following winds allowing us to make 7 knots or better for much of the day. If memory serves, this is the longest distance we’ve yet travelled on the waterway in a day, a whopping 68.1 nautical miles.

Thursday, 10/23 – After yesterday’s big day, we allow ourselves to sleep in until 6:30 am – what luxury! We haul anchor (brrr!) and head out shortly after 7:00 am, today’s destination the South River to wait out some predicted nasty weather. We have yet another beautiful sail, this time down the Pungo River to the Pamlico River. A short motor down another canal past Hobucken is followed by a truly glorious sail in 20-25 knot following winds out to the Neuse River where we jibe westerly toward Oriental, NC.

On the downside, our headsail furling line gets hung with the sail out and Mark has to go spend some “quality time” way out front out on the bow sprit to free it. Needless to say, taking care of that little issue bubbles up to the top of the short list for the next stop.
The beautiful South River
The South River is on the southern shore of the Neuse River, a bit east of Oriental. We stopped here on our way back from the Bahamas to wait out a southwest blow, and figure we’ll find protection here from the southeast too.

So here we are, sitting and waiting for the winds to change. It’s supposed to blow a gale on Friday night and Saturday, so we’ll take this time to hide out, recuperate from our long days and short nights, and appreciate our surroundings. It’s supposed to get cold again on Tuesday, so we’re still motivated to make tracks southward.

Slowly getting warmer,

18 October, 2008

Piwates!!

Location: Deltaville, VA
Position: N 37 32.868 W 076 19.796


Rachel is finally back in the water! We launched her last Friday the 10th. She’s been outfitted with
new bottom paint, Julie’s made a new bimini (the canvas cover over the steering station), her cabin sole (floor) has been refinished, she has a new chart plotter (GPS mapping), and she and her crew are ready to get going ASAP. We just need to finish up a few more things and we’ll be all set to head to warmer climes.


Unfortunately the weather has just got cold, rainy and windy. We’re hoping to leave on Monday, but who knows? Sheesh, we even had to get out our slippers!



We’ve finally made a decision about where we’ll be doing our winter cruising this year. It will be the Bahamas again (we still have lots of places to visit we didn’t see last year). Mark’s family is having a memorial service for his Dad at Ken’s favorite island on the Maine coast next summer and we really want to take Rachel up there for it. We know, we know – every time we say "we’re going to Maine" something really expensive breaks and we end up not going. Nevertheless, we’re going to try again. Then, if all goes well (and we still have any money left) we’re hoping to head down to Panama and the Western Caribbean next fall. More on all that later.

Last winter in the Bahamas we met a family on a boat named "Pickles". It seems Guy and Joanie, the parents, allowed the kids (ages 3, 4, 6, and 8) to pick the name. Their first choice "Hot Dog" was rejected out of hand, but after stubbornly continuing to work with the food theme, everyone managed to agree on "Pickles". True to cruiser tradition, they’re collectively known as "The Pickles".


The four children are aptly named the "Picklitos".
We’ve run into The Pickles several times since we left the Bahamas, most recently here in Deltaville where they’ve been anchored out for the last week. We’ve been having great fun together. The Picklitos, like all kids apparently, see Mark as a big toy. Mark, in response, acts like one. The culmination of the week was a trip to the local maritime museum last weekend for the "Holly Point Arts & Seafood Festival".


When we first arrived at the festival we were greeted by two fellows in 18th century militia garb, armed with flintlock rifles. They told the kids they were searching for pirates and needed some recruits to help them. They and the Picklitos, wearing their trademark floppy hats and sunglasses, marched around the entire festival signing up more recruits until there were about 20 or so.
About that time, the pirates arrived in their launch, canon blasting. Kaboom!! The militia fired back with their flintlocks but were unable to prevent the pirates from landing. The buccaneers fought their way ashore then treated all the kids, uh, recruits to Mardi Gras jewelry, pieces of eight, and other assorted pirate booty from their treasure chest.


Pirates, militia, and recruits then all retired to Blackbeard’s Camp where the recruits viewed a leg amputation (due to an injury suffered in the earlier battle), a wench fight, and were given lessons on how to be a pirate at "Scallywag School".


































The sword fighting class was taught by one of the protagonists in the wench fight, Mistress Grace. She had several other pirates assisting her.




Mistress Grace: "Alright! We will now prepare to attack. Is everyone ready?"


Scallywags: "Aye, Mistress Grace!!"


William, the youngest Picklito, 2 seconds late: "Aye, Mistwess Gwace!!"


Mistress Grace, visibly forcing herself not to laugh: "All right, then. Scalliwags, attack!"


Scallywags: "Aye, Mistress Grace!"


William, 2 seconds late: "Aye, Mistwess Gwace!"


Mistress Grace, to the parents ‘sotto voce’: "All right! Which of you are responsible for the cute ones?"


This continued, throughout the rest of the Scallywag School lessons. After class, Mistress Grace was overheard talking to another pirate "That has got to be the cutest bunch of scallywags I’ve ever taught. Where did they come from? What fun!"


We wished we could have had our three grandkids with us, they would have made really cute piwates too.


And, finally, one for Mark’s dad:


You all know what a pirate’s favorite letter is, don’t you?


No?


"R", of course!











































04 October, 2008

Still On the Hard

Location: Deltaville, VA
Position: N37 32.902 W076 19.823


We’re still up on stands at Deltaville Boatyard. As many of you know, Mark’s dad has been ill for the past few years. He was placed in hospice shortly after we hauled in early September, followed by a peaceful death on September 16th. He was generous, kind, good-natured, and a true gentleman and will be sorely missed by those lucky enough to have known him.

We spent the last couple of weeks helping Mark’s mom and keeping her company through the memorial services, then left her with his older brother and wife while we made our way down to the Virginia mountains to visit our daughter and her family. A few days with the grandchildren helped put everything back in perspective, and we finally got back to Rachel yesterday afternoon.

What a mess. The boat was full of all the stuff we had hurriedly “stowed” (e.g. “tossed in all catty-wumpus”) before we left. Most of the mess is all the stuff we have had to drag out of lockers to do the many jobs we had scheduled while we are out of the water. We can’t put it all away until the jobs are complete, hence our great incentive to move quickly. We’re over two weeks behind schedule with at least another week’s worth of stuff to do, and it’s starting to get chilly. On top of that we also have stuff to sort through, stuff to stow, stuff to sell and stuff to give away.

We swore we’d leave earlier this year than we did last year – we may yet make good on that but only by a week or maybe two if we’re lucky and get to work. Enough lolly-gagging! The coffee’s ready, it’s getting light outside, and we’ve got a whole day ahead of us to make a dent in our work. Time to take off the slippers, get dressed and get to it!



Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

01 September, 2008

Fowl Play

Location: Annapolis, MD
Position: 38 58.233 N 076 29.869 W


After spending a couple of weeks cruising Maryland’s eastern shore, we head back across the bay to Annapolis, one of our favorite spots. We were last here three years ago for the boat show, when we met our friends John & Carter on Liberty with whom we sailed to the Azores. We like to anchor up Spa Creek, it’s close to town, well protected, and a lot quieter than the anchorages off the Naval Academy or in Broad Creek.

Several sets of our cruising buddies from the Bahamas are here and we’ve spent a few days catching up with them all, including attending the well known weekly “cruisers breakfast” at Chick & Ruth’s, a local diner-style eatery.

Okay, you say. So what does this have to do with “fowl play”? Well, we’ll tell ya.

We’re anchored out, and the dinghy spends the night tied to Rachel’s stern. It’s a lovely evening, birds are singing, baby ducks are swimming around with their mamas, a nice breeze is blowing, and all’s right with the world. A lovely dinner, a glass of wine, and we’re off to bed.

We get up the first morning, stretch, say “Looks like another lovely day”, look astern and discover two ducks sitting on the dinghy. We shoo them off, then notice a couple of gooey black piles of …. “Eeeuuuwwww - duck poo!!!”. Yuck.

Ducks may be cute, but they are actually evil and must be punished. Mark digs around in the “basement” and finds our “Super Stream Machine”, a 3’ long super-soaker type squirt gun on steroids that can shoot a 3/8” stream of water about 40 feet. “I’ll show them” he mutters.

Fast forward to evening. Our intrepid hunter sits in the cockpit duck blind, bucket of water and weapon at the ready. Ducks approach. Wait! They look like they’re preparing to board! “Sploosh!” “Quack quack quack quack..”. They high tail it out of there, paddling as fast as they can, pausing occasionally to shake the water from their feathers. “Hah! Guess I showed them.” Julie thinks he looks quite cute sitting there with his squirt gun. Mark insists he is ‘bad’, not cute.

In the middle of the night, he goes hunting again, finding two ducks on the dinghy and again, drives off his quarry. The flock gathers about 100 feet off the boat and, after a lot of quacking back and forth, swim off. We figure the ones that got squirted were telling their friends that our dinghy was a bad place to be and they should all leave it alone and find easier prey. If only we’d known how wrong we were…

In the morning, the dinghy is pristine. “It worked! Boo wah! No more poo!” he shouts, strutting about the deck, waving his weapon in victory. Other boaters anchored near us shake their heads in .

Fast forward again to the next night. At about 4am Mark again sneaks out of bed to check on the dinghy. Holy molies!! The dinghy is covered with ducks – there must be a dozen or more! He grabs the squirt gun and fires. “Spawn of the devil! Take this!” DOH! He forgot to load it before retiring and only manages to blow a little poof of air in their general direction. This gives the ducks a chance to all get away cleanly, without a single shot being fired. Determined to chalk up another victory, he bides his time in the duck blind, hoping for another chance.

Julie awakens, chilly without her “personal heater” next to her. She calls “Come back to bed”. He says “I’m doing duck guard duty.” She says “Oh for crying out loud. Come back to bed and I’ll clean up any mess in the morning. I’m cold!”

Mark doesn’t have to think long about this offer, and, thanking his lucky stars, quickly retires below.

The next morning he is awakened by wails of anguish. “Oh … my ... God!!! It’s completely covered!” And, alas, it’s true. There is hardly a single square inch of the dinghy upon which the ducks have not taken their revenge. And there they sit, the entire flock, leisurely paddling, just out of reach of the water gun, laughing at us. Mocking us. Foul, foul fowl.

Mark helpfully suggests “You probably should clean that off before the sun dries it hard.”

Julie sighs, mutters under her breath “Next time I’ll just get a blanket” and, true to her word, spends the next hour scrubbing and rinsing.

The moral of the story: just because something is cute, does not mean it is your friend.

20 August, 2008

Night Sail

Location: Drum Point, Wye River, MD
Position: 38 53.075 N 076 10.867 W

Diva and Barefootin (two boats we met and became fast friends with in the Bahamas) are anchored in Quarter Creek on the Wye River East. We’ve been talking about meeting up with them for the last month or so but haven’t yet managed it. We leave the dock on the Coan River at 3:00 pm – it’s about 80 miles, so an overnight sail works well into our plans. It’s Diva Debbie’s birthday tomorrow, and we decide a surprise arrival in the morning will be great fun.

We hoist the sails at the mouth of the Coan River and head off. By our calculations, we only need to maintain a speed of 4.5 knots to arrive there at around 8 or 9 tomorrow morning. We’re right on schedule as we round Point Lookout at the mouth of the Potomac River. The wind dies.

Oh well. We’ll just motor, if we have to – after all, it’s Debbie’s birthday tomorrow and she’s worth it. Five minutes later the wind picks back up so we kill the motor and sail again. For about a minute. The wind dies again, so we start the engine, resigned to a noisy, expensive trip.

After a couple of hours, the wind picks up. We unfurl the big headsail and kill the engine again. As the sun sets, the full moon rises. It’s clear, cloudless, the wind and waves are gentle, and we’re sailing along right at our target speed. Rachel is very happy to be out sailing rather than sitting at the dock and so are we. It’s what we are all meant to do and we really enjoy doing it together. We know we’ve said it before, but it really doesn’t get any better than this.

We see little commercial traffic, and what we do see is so illuminated by moonlight that we’re easily able to identify it and know we’re fine.

We take our watches, our catnaps, our meals, our duties in turn, falling easily into our offshore routine. We recall our first overnight from Deltaville to Solomon’s a couple of years ago – how nervous we were, how new it all was, how wonderful and exciting and a bit scary. We agree that it continues to be new, wonderful and exciting, and are relieved to find how much easier it is for us these days than it was that first time.

We’ve come a long way.

24 July, 2008

Fossils and Missiles

Location: West Hartford, CT
Position:

We’re still in West Hartford ‘dad-sitting’ and getting Mark’s parents out to visit with family. Mark’s dad, Ken, is from a very close family and grew up in a big house along with his 5 brothers, one sister and 2 cousins, his mother, her two sisters, and an aunt and uncle. Needless to say there was always lots of kid fun going on. The family loves to sing and Ken has always been an avid barber shop singer.

Now you have a little background let’s move to present day. The remaining brothers and cousins, along with any spouses and family friends of the same generation are all affectionately known as ‘The Fossils’ within the family. The Fossils range in age from 81 to 93. They, along with “adult supervision” provided by some cousins of Mark’s generation, meet every Friday to play 10 pin bowling. We have been lucky enough to accompany Ken & Mark’s mom Debbie for the last 2 weeks for this amazing gathering.

What an event! We all arrive at 11am at the bowling alley; some of the fossils are no longer able to drive and need to be driven by family and friends.

Some of the old guys can barely walk from the ball carousel and most have trouble bending to bowl. They totter up to the line at the top of the alley and to an idle spectator it looks like they just fling the bowling ball. Bounces, bounce, bounce, the ball veers over towards the gutter, and then suddenly you see a slight spin and the ball turns and heads for the centre of the pins. Strike!! At first we thought it was just a lucky throw but these fossils play 3 games every week and fairly consistently get great scores.

Unfortunately Mark’s dad is no longer able to play, he’s on oxygen full time and stays in a wheelchair, but he and Debbie still go to bowling whenever they can. Along with the bowling come coaching tips, jokes, wise cracks, encouragement, general camaraderie and lots of laughter. It’s like listening to a bunch of teenagers but the bodies have overtaken the brains.

One of the uncles is legally blind and he along with all the others beat Julie in every game. How humiliating is THAT!!? After the first game he told Mark that when he bowls he loses sight of the ball about half way down the alley and can’t see which pins are still left and which he hit. From that point on Mark told him after each bowl which pins were left standing. What an inspiring group! They have various health problems related to their ages but there is no complaining except in jest. Everyone is there to have fun and they certainly do!!

You would think after 3 games these old fossils would be ready to go home for a nap. No way – not this crowd – now it’s time to go out for lunch. We all show up at a local restaurant and while we are waiting for our food to arrive the fossils burst into song. There’s lots of kibitzing about what key to sing in, who’s bass or tenor or baritone etc. Patrons at other tables invariably turn to listen and applaud after each song.

After a few songs in almost perfect harmony and pitch, the waitress brings water and straws for everyone. They all tear the ends off the straw wrappers and are blowing the paper wrapper missiles at each other! Now it’s like being out with a crowd of 5 years olds. Mark is sitting next to his Aunt Cid, a sweet quiet lady in her 80s. She quietly passes a straw to Mark and says “This is for your dad”, Mark starts to pass it over to his dad. “No”, she says “It’s to shoot at him!!” What fun.

The fossils are an inspiration to us all on many levels. The three remaining brothers, their two cousins, and close friends are so close and obviously really enjoy each others company. There is no complaining, whining or blaming, just good clean fun. We can only hope that we will be as good natured, fun loving, and grateful to be alive as them as we “fossilize”.

Still young at heart,

14 July, 2008

A Dinghy Story

Location: West Hartford, CT
Position:

We’re in West Hartford, Connecticut helping out and visiting with Mark’s parents and family for the next week or so. The Khronicles have had several “slow news” weeks in a row, so we thought we’d entertain you with something “dinghy”.

Some friends we met heading south told us the following story last January when we were anchored off the Venetian Islands in Miami. They’ve been cruising for 30 or so years and swear it’s true. The four of us were on another couple’s boat for happy hour when he began to tell us a story. According to our somewhat questionable memories, it went something like this:

“Shortly after we first started cruising we anchored and went ashore with some friends. The local beach bar had a special on margaritas, and, if I remember correctly, we drank somewhere around 16 of them between the 4 of us. Eventually, full of margaritas, we decided to call it a night and headed back to our respective boats.”

“I had just purchased a new anchor a few weeks before to use as a stern anchor. The wind was picking up and the tide was due to change soon so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to set said new stern anchor. I’d never set one before, but after all those margaritas, I was supremely confident in my ability to do so.”

“Oh, by the way - when we first got to the Bahamas, I made two adjustments to my outboard. It really annoyed me that I couldn’t take my hand off the throttle without the speed decreasing and the motor steering to starboard. So I tightened the throttle just enough to hold it where I set it, and tightened the turning adjustment so the motor would stay put. This really made long trips much easier and less tiring for me, as I could simply set direction and speed and let go of the tiller for long periods of time.”

“At any rate, I decide it’s time to go ahead and set the stern anchor. I proceed to load it and about 200 feet of line into the dinghy, attach the bitter end of the line to the stern of the boat, and head out at full throttle. Shortly after leaving the boat I manage to hit a wave, go airborne, and fall out of the dinghy.”
“Of course, the throttle is now set at full, the motor is set to steer nearly straight ahead, and the dinghy is beginning to disappear in the distance. There’s nothing for it but to swim back to the boat, lick my wounds, and regret the loss. I’m about 15’ away from the boat when the dinghy reaches the end of the anchor line. It pulls taught, the anchor digs into the dinghy’s transom, the dinghy flips into the air, does a 180, lands right side up, and heads back to the boat. Right toward me. Shit. I’m still in the water and it’s headed directly for me.”

“I somehow manage to cover those last 15 feet really quickly and levitate onto the stern of the boat a split second before the dinghy blasts through right where I had been. I stand there and watch it plane the length of the boat, past the bow, and begin disappearing in the distance again. Feeling a bit detached and foggy, I stand there and wonder what’s going to happen next.”

“Well, I’ll tell you. The dinghy again reaches the end of the anchor line, but this time, instead of flipping around and heading back to the boat, it begins going in a big circle around the boat at the limit of the line. I watch it go around the stern and head toward the bow, then around the bow, then back to the stern. I’m turning in circles to watch, and, after about the third rotation, realize that I’ve been lashed to the stern by three passes of the line around the boat. As this fact slowly begins to sink in, another lashing is added and I’m tied tightly, unable to get loose. I still find it really interesting, however, and continue to stand there and watch to see how it plays out.”

“My wife shouts ‘Cut the line! Cut the line!’ to which I answer ‘You’re crazy! Then we’ll lose the dinghy, the outboard, AND the new anchor!’ She gives me a piece or two of her mind, then wanders off toward the pointy end of the boat waving her hands, shaking her head, and muttering.”

“So I continue to stand, soaking wet, lashed to the stern of the boat, and I’m beginning to have difficulty breathing as the lashings pull taught. I’m still watching as the dinghy continues circling the boat all the while winding more and more wraps of line around me. It’s fascinating how it’s all working out. It eventually winds itself all the way up and ends up next to the boat facing forward.”

“ ‘This is great!’ I think. ‘It couldn’t be any better! It ended up right back here at the boat – I didn’t lose it and I don’t have to chase it at all! All I have to do now is get loose so I can get back to getting the stern anchor set.’ ”

“So there I am, hogtied to the stern of the boat, unable to move and barely able to breathe. But I’m feeling great! This will be an easy recovery! On the down side, however, the dinghy is now tied to the side of the boat. Pushing it. Like a tug. Oops. We slowly pass over the primary anchor, break it loose from the bottom, and, dragging it behind us, head for shore.”

(Editor’s note: By this time, Julie, Mark, and our hosts, are all doubled over laughing so hard tears are rolling out of our eyes.)

“Our friends, meanwhile, have arrived at their boat about 100 yards away and are watching the proceedings with many extremely vocal suggestions, verbal ‘support’, and way too much laughter. I try to call for help: ‘hhhhh…….’ Is all that comes out. Obviously, they don’t understand what I’m saying. ‘hhhh..s..plltlttl…..’ I try to yell more loudly. Still no response. They helpfully mention that it looks like we’re heading for shore.”

“In the meantime, my wife, bless her soul, returns from the bow and manages to make it clear to them that we’re not doing this for their entertainment. The light slowly dawns through and they decide the best thing to do is head over and see if they can help us. They pour themselves back into their dinghy and, after several abortive attempts, manage to board successfully and join us on our boat.”

“At about the time they get aboard, our dinghy’s outboard runs out of gas. This is apparently a bit of a letdown for them. They discuss whether they actually should have come over to help, since the ‘tug’ is no longer pushing. They seem to be disappointed they can’t be ‘the heros’, but, like true friends, they don’t let this get them down. Between them and my wife, they manage to get enough additional rode out on the primary anchor to stop our dragging before we run aground.”

“They then begin discussing whether they should turn me loose or leave me as I am, lashed to the stern, quiet and unable to cause any more trouble. I try to participate in the conversation, saying ‘I’m glad that’s over with. Now get me loose so I can go set the stern anchor”, but all that comes out is ‘gg…hhh……..splflxfx…..’. They ignore me. My wife offers them a drink and they go below. I can tell it’s going to be a long night.”

(Editor’s note: At this point all four listeners have fallen out of their chairs and are rolling on the floor convulsing in laughter, unable to speak. Our friend allows a brief dramatic pause in the story, then continues …)

“Hey! Anybody up for a margarita?”


Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

04 July, 2008

Independence Day

Location: Deltaville, VA
Position: N 37 32.902 W 076 19.823

It's July 4th and we’re back in Deltaville again, this time with our 6 yr. old grandson Alex aboard for a week. Alex has become a fish, spending much of every day in the pool. When we’re not at the pool, we’re messing about in the dinghy, looking at crabs and lots of other stuff along the shore, playing on the swings and hammock, and generally having a lot of fun together. We’re looking forward to the Deltaville Independence Day parade, baseball game, and fireworks.

While we were visiting with Alex’s family I went to a local café for a cup of coffee and to use the Internet. As I walked along the sidewalk, I was struck by how different I looked compared to the locals. Braided hair, shorts, a t-shirt and big goofy looking plastic shoes - in this small mountain community I stuck out like a sore thumb.

That got me to thinking (always a risky proposition at best). I realized that I have begun to take being a full-time liveaboard cruiser, and the independence that implies, as a given. In the Bahamas, traveling the ICW, and cruising around the Chesapeake we’re always around other cruisers, local watermen and women, and others who recognize and take it for granted that we are sailors.

In the café I was surrounded by businessmen in their suits hurrying to the office, ladies out for a relaxed ‘cuppa’ and a chat with friends, students from the nearby college cranking up on espresso - all of them with their individual land-bound responsibilities and their local circles of friends.

No one other than me knew I was a cruiser and it felt odd. Not so much because they didn’t know, but because I’ve apparently become so used (at least subliminally) to being recognized as a cruiser by others around me that it felt strange when that recognition was missing. It was especially interesting to me to notice that I recognized the feeling not by its presence, but rather by its absence. It’s hard to describe, but the feeling was a bit like when I remove my wedding ring to snorkel where there are barracuda – I’m so used to it being on my finger that I’m not even conscious of it until it’s gone.

On this Independence Day, we are grateful for the freedom and independence that living on Rachel affords us. One of the nicest things about our lives aboard is that, wherever we are, our home is there, too. We can share a multi-million dollar view with the owners of expensive waterfront homes or we can find a secluded anchorage in which to be alone. We can anchor near a working dock and dinghy in to hang out with the men and women who make their livings from the sea. We can visit the local yacht club and go have a beer with the ‘yachties’. If we find our neighbors are too noisy or obnoxious, we can just move our home to a different neighborhood.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July! Ooh – fireworks!!

Loving our own personal Independence Days,


Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

11 June, 2008

Khronicle Katch Up

Location: Deltaville, VA
Position: N 37 32.902 W 076 19.823

We’d hoped to spend some time cruising the Pamlico Sound and North Carolina’s outer banks, but we also really wanted to get back to the Chesapeake. Between the high temperatures, the lack of wind, and the smoke from forest fires, we elected to carry on northward. We forged our way up the Intracoastal Waterway at a pretty brisk pace and finally made Deltaville yesterday.

We spent two days with Jeseph, Mark’s son, and our granddaughter Tiger Lily. They stayed aboard with us for a couple of nights and travelled with us from Southport up to Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington. We had a lovely time together and they really enjoyed their time on the boat, even though we weren’t able to go sailing.

Mark & Tiger Lily at the helmJeseph


















From Wrightsville Beach we headed back outside and did manage to get a nice overnight sail all the way up to Beaufort. We then continued on the ICW non-stop to Oriental, NC. We had a couple of long days on the waterway, spending a night at Belhaven, NC, crossing the Albemarle Sound, and stopping again at Great Bridge, VA. We didn’t have much good wind most of the way so we did a lot of motoring and motor sailing and ‘enjoyed’ the smoke from the forest fires. We continued on past Norfolk and had a brief stop on the East River off the Mobjack Bay for a couple of days visiting with our friends at Zimmerman Marine. We finally arrived in Deltaville yesterday evening. We completely bypassed Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina (and all that ‘skinny water’) on our way back. We also have a ‘first time’ visit to the Pamlico Sound and the outer banks to look forward to.

Now for some of the promised details of our crossing back from the Bahamas.

We set off from Great Sale Cay at 5pm on May 27th with our friends on Amida and had a lovely sail across the banks overnight. Amida is a Valiant 37 – we found that she and Rachel sail at about the same speed, allowing us to “buddy boat” back to the US together. It was a great fit, both boat-wise and crew-wise.

By the morning of the 28th we were leaving the banks and getting into the Atlantic at the northwestern tip of the Bahamas. We headed northwest to the center of the Gulf Stream where the current is the highest. By our 2nd night we were blasting along on a close reach attaining an all time high speed over ground for us in Rachel of 9.8 knots – we usually sail at around 4.5 to 5.5 knots, so this was really fast. Wow, what an exciting night! We took 3 hour shifts and tried to sleep during our off times. The first 2 days of this are always the worst until your body settles into the routine, and you get tired enough to sleep on demand!!

The next day, the 29th, the wind died to almost nothing. We were still making around 3 knots in the stream but decided to power up the engine to make better time. The forecast was for light and variable winds for the next couple of days. The sea was like glass but there was a slight northeast ocean swell of a foot or so. By mid morning the swell had grown to a gentle 4 to 6 feet - still no problem. In the early afternoon we started to get some wind from the north, maybe 5 knots, and the sea was starting to get a little more boisterous. At this point we began to feel uncomfortable about being in the stream with wind opposing current. Every sailor hears horror stories of boats caught in this situation, and we didn’t want to become another statistic.

We called our friends on Amida and had a discussion. They weren’t as concerned but conceded to join us in heading west to get out of the stream as quickly as possible. The western edge of the stream was about 30 miles away (5-6 hours at Rachel’s speed).

It wasn’t much more than 2 hours later when the winds picked up to 20-25 knots from the northeast and the seas grew to 10-15 feet. Where the heck did the wind come from? There was nothing in any of the forecasts that mentioned a NE wind, let alone coming in at 20-25 knots! Well, here it was, so we had to deal with it.

We were getting flung around like a toy boat in a bath tub. Rachel once again proved herself to be a real lady. Thanks to the wind being on our beam, she stood up straight the whole time, even when we dropped off the back side of a particularly steep 14 footer, sliding down the back face of the wave and landing as neatly as if we’d planned it. Not once were we worried about making it – it was pretty uncomfortable and a lot of work, but we knew Rachel would take care of us and we’d take care of her. By nightfall we were on the edge of the stream in “normal” 20-25 knot seas and decided to heave-to for a couple of hours to get some rest and see if the wind would shift around.

Note: Heaving-to is a maneuver which is used in storm situations to calm the boat and give the crew a more settled space. The sails are set so no steering is required and the boat makes very slow progress to windward. Here’s some more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaving_to

Once hove-to, Rachel’s movement was much more settled, albeit a bit rolly. We weren’t far from Charleston, SC, but we still wanted to try and make Beaufort, NC. So we got back under sail and beat our way in a northerly direction hoping for a break.

By morning we realized we would not make Beaufort easily and after more discussion with Amida over the VHF, decided to set a course for Southport, NC just inside the mouth of the Cape Fear River. After another day and night we arrived. We were pretty worn out, although we had got into the swing of the 3 hour shifts.

We were a bit disappointed, but not too badly. We hadn’t made Beaufort (remember – in NC it’s “bow-furt” and in SC it’s “byew-furt”) but felt we’d made the right decision in getting out of the Gulf Stream when we did and are quite satisfied with our first ‘big crossing’ on our own with Rachel. It was a resounding success for both boat and crew.

Now we’re looking forward to taking it easy for a few days and visiting with our friends on the Bay. After that? We’ll just have to see where the wind takes us….

All our best,

01 June, 2008

We’re Baaa…aack!

Location: Southport, North Carolina, US of A
Position: N 26 49.332 W 077 22.089

We just wanted to let you all know we arrived safely just after noon on Saturday, May 31 in Southport, NC. Southport is a very picturesque town at the south end of the Cape Fear River. Weather kept us from making it all the way to Beaufort, NC, but we arrived safe and sound after four days and four nights on the ocean. Rachel is a real lady and we love her even more now than we did before.

We’re staying at a marina for a couple of days to check back in to the US and to recover a bit – our watch schedule was 3 hours on and 3 hours off, so we didn’t get a lot of rest on our way back. We’re still pretty tired but are planning to forge on to Wrightsville Beach tomorrow, followed by another overnight on the ocean from Masonboro Inlet to Beaufort then on up the ICW to Oriental, NC. That will put us within 3 or so days from the Chesapeake. Woohoo!

More details later in a “real” Khronicle – but here’s a teaser – try not to be in the Gulf Stream when the wind kicks up to 20-25 knots out of the Northeast….the term ”washing machine” comes to mind…..

Safely back and on our way to Deltaville

25 May, 2008

Heading back home

Location: Manjack Cay, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas
Position: N 26 49.332 W 077 22.089

We left Cooper’s Town three days ago and bounced back down to Manjack Cay to await a northeast frontal passage. The sail down was lovely – one of the nicest since we’ve been here.

We took advantage of the calm before the storm and went snorkeling with friends out on the reefs offshore on the east side of the island.

Yesterday we had some lovely lightening (and a few scary near misses), lots of rain (we’ve had more rain in the last week than we’ve had the entire time we’ve been in the Bahamas), and some pretty brisk, shifting wind.

This morning about 25 or 30 other boats sailed past us, getting staged for their return to the US. We’ll be doing the same tomorrow morning, heading for Great Sale Cay to spend the night. We’re hoping to make Beaufort, NC or Charleston, SC, but we’re willing to take Fernandina or Canaveral, FL at this point – we’re ready to come back!

Today we went for a lovely walk around the island and one last swim in this clear azure water. We will certainly miss that!

Here’s a link we’re going to try to update daily at least until we get back to the US. It will show you where we are on a map and / or satellite photo whenever we manage to update it:

http://www.winlink.org/dotnet/maps/PositionReportsDetail.aspx?callsign=KI4FTC.

We’re hoping our next Khronicle will be sent from somewhere in the good old US of A.


Cheers,

20 May, 2008

Friendly Coopers Town

Location: Coopers Town, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas
Position: N 26 52.455 W 077 30.547

When we arrived at Coopers Town with our friends on Diva we could see a crowd of kids playing and diving into the water from the public dock. Suddenly 8 of them jumped into the water and started swimming over to Diva, being the closest boat to the dock. We could see the kids laughing and joking with Carl and Debbie and climbing into their dinghy. This is just an example of how friendly everyone is here.

Walking down the street everyone that you pass, be it walking or in car, without fail says “Hello, how are you?”, or honks and waves. Every age from tiny kids who are barely walking to old people with a cane – even surly teenage boys smile and talk to us when we greet them. What a lovely welcoming feeling you get. Coopers Town is not glitzy and touristy like Hope Town. It doesn’t have lots of shops and quaint houses. But the people here are the friendliest we have come across in the Bahamas so far. And seeing as how friendly almost everyone has been to us on this trip, that’s saying a lot!

On Saturday night we went to a little eatery named Ritchie’s. We had seen the owner outside chopping ribs to BBQ earlier in the day. On Friday and Saturday evenings, they cook up a mess of ribs, fish, chicken, conch, etc. and people driving by stop and pick up a “to-go” box. We sat outside, by the road and enjoyed our dinner in between waving to and chatting with passers by. After we got back to the boat we enjoyed watching all the coming and going along the water front.

In friendship,

15 May, 2008

Jewel

Location: Manjack Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: N 26 49.302 W 077 22.130

We have just lucked into a jewel of an island. We left Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay on Tuesday afternoon at high tide and made our way a bit further north to Manjack Cay.

Manjack Cay is awesome. We had heard there was free WiFi here, but were a bit skeptical as we approached. All we saw was a lovely bay with mangroves, a small beach and 3 houses on the north side. But, as we got closer we saw that one of the houses had a BIG WiFi antenna! After anchoring, we whipped out our laptop and antenna and sure enough, we had a really strong signal. Woohoo!! We quickly took care of calling family members, something we hadn’t done for quite a while, and then headed to shore. Apparently the owners (who are ex-cruisers) have lived here for about 15 years. While cruising they became discouraged by the number of islands that were bought, made ‘private’, and no longer allowed uninvited visitors – so they decided to do their small part to change the situation.

On arrival at the beach we were greeted with a sign that read “Please Trespass”. Several well-maintained walking paths have been developed including a boardwalk through the mangroves and several paths to various beaches. So off we went for a much needed walk. We went by the house on our way back to our dinghy to thank the owners for this cruiser haven. They were on a trip but had another family taking care of the place while they were gone. We had a nice chat and they told us to feel free to walk anywhere and use the fire pit, coconut splitters and all the picnic tables, benches, and seats on the beach. As you can imagine this is a popular anchorage! Social organizers that we seem to have become, we asked if we could invite all the boats in the anchorage to a happy hour on the beach that evening. They approved, so our first order of business was to invite them.

Then we dinghied around the anchorage and invited all 15 boats. We ended up with a lovely crowd, lots of food, drink and lively conversation. These cruiser happy hours always afford us the good fortune of making new friends as well as renewing old relationships.

After spending a couple of days walking all the trails, which connect all the beaches on the island, getting some well needed exercise, the wind changed again. This morning we’ll move to Coopers Town on the other side of the Sea of Abaco to sit in the lee of Great Abaco Island for some southwesterly winds over the next few days. We expect to be bouncing around between Manjack Cay, Great Abaco Island, and Green Turtle Cay depending on where the wind comes from until we see a new weather window open up. We’re in the company of several other boats who have similar plans, so we’ll have plenty of time to visit, socialize, and catch up on a few boat jobs.

Fair winds,

Pieces of eight

Location: Manjack Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: N 26 49.302 W 077 22.130

When our grandson Alex was learning to count, we used to sit with him and separate toys, pennies, whatever, into piles and try to teach him to count them.

We’d count them for him and then ask him to do the same. As fast as he could, he’d point at random and say “one-two-one-two-one-two-one-two-eight” followed by a wide grin at his success. This was pretty much the sum total of his counting ability at this early stage, and it, and his big, happy grin never failed to make us laugh.

Cell phones have become ubiquitous in the Bahamas. Before cell phones, most communication down here was via VHF radio. Nearly all boats, most businesses, and many homes all continue to use VHF since it’s free once you own a radio. Channel 16 is the accepted international standard for “hailing and distress”. Once contact with another vessel or a shore-side facility is made, the participants move to a different channel to allow channel 16 to stay clear for other hailing.

Here’s a snippet of conversation that occurs all too often and keeps us entertained (we, who are so easily entertained):

Boat: “Marina, marina, marina, this is Boat”
Marina “Boat, this is marina. Switch and answer on channel twelve.”
Boat: “What channel?”
Marina: “Twelve”
Boat: “Did not copy. Please repeat.”
Marina: “Twelve. One two.”
Boat: “One two??”
Marina: “ONE TWO!! ONE TWO!!”
Mark & Julie, in unison: “EIGHT!!”


Still smiling,

07 May, 2008

Birthdays and Bottoms

Location: Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: N 26 45.673 W 077 20.181

We left Great Guana Cay and sailed further north. We needed to get through ‘The Whale’ while the weather was in our favor and today was a good day for it with 5 to 10 knot winds and little-to-no sea swell. The Whale can get a bit hairy in heavy winds and seas from the northeast. It involves going out into the Atlantic and paralleling a rocky island named Whale Cay for a couple of miles, then cutting back in through the reefs. All negotiated with ease in the day’s mild weather.

We’ve needed to clean Rachel’s bottom for over a month, and with our desire to get back to the states before, as a friend says, “they start naming the thunderstorms”, time was running out. We had a big moss garden growing down there, so we stopped at No Name Cay (N 26 44.610 W 077 17.978) (what a great name) and snorkeled down under the boat. We scrubbed and rubbed for about an hour and realized we were making hardly any progress. It would be way easier with proper dive gear and weights (which, of course, we don’t have) so we decided to hop up to the town of New Plymouth at Green Turtle Cay and find someone to clean it for us.

We also had another reason to go to New Plymouth. Our friend Bruce, a single-hander on ‘Zingara’ was celebrating his 65th birthday in a few days and was anchored out just off the town. Julie took it upon herself to organize a little party. Bruce then decided to leave the next day to start his trip back to the states. So Diva and Rachel headed to New Plymouth to help Bruce celebrate two days early. Julie baked a big pan of double chocolate brownies while we were underway so he would have a birthday cake.

Bruce's birthdayWe started the evening with happy hour at a local beach bar. The nephew of one of the bar owners was cleaning conch at the dock. Mark struck up a conversation with him and he agreed to clean Rachel’s bottom for $1.50 / ft – the going rate in Marsh Harbor and Hope Town is $4 / ft, so this was a real find! We then spent a fun evening out on the town, had dinner together, and then headed back to Rachel for dessert.

Diva and Zingara went their separate ways the next day and, since we’d be here for a few days waiting to get Rachel’s bottom scrubbed, we went into town on an exploratory mission. New Plymouth is another quaint, picturesque town but not as touristy as Hope Town. Like Hope Town, all the concrete streets are just wide enough for 2 golf carts, the preferred mode of transportation here. Each island in the Abacos seems to be different yet similar. The Abacos have more white native Bahamians, descendants of the loyalists who came here to escape the American Revolution.

We really enjoy just wandering around and chatting with the locals, listening to their accents, finding out what they think about, and how they live day to day. We are trying to get the most out of what may be our last Bahamian settlement before we make the crossing back across the Gulf Stream to the US. We may be delayed a bit by the westerly winds that have been predicted to start tomorrow and last through much of next week. We’ll keep a close eye on the weather and expect to head back to the US when the next good weather window presents itself. We’ll keep you apprised of our plans as they develop.

05 May, 2008

Worn Out

Location: Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: N26 40.237 W077 07.387

Update:
Pete's Pub4/30/08: WE went to Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour, Abaco for lunch (N 26 20.885 W077 00.174). Sculptor / artist Randolph Johnston settled here with his family. They established a foundry in the 50s and still produce beautiful bronze castings. Randolph’s son Pete continues in the family mold, maintaining a gallery of his and other local artist’s work, and runs “Pete’s Pub”, an outdoor multi-level restaurant and bar. We then sailed up to Tilloo Cay (N26 28.454 W076 59.573) to anchor for the night to escape the rolling at Linyard Cay. We finally had the first good night’s rest in a few rockin’ rollin’ days.

5/1/08: We left Tilloo Cay and sailed to Marsh Harbour, famous cruising hang out in the Abacos (N26 32.833 W077 03.597). There we caught up on laundry, provisioned, and met up with friends.

Marsh Harbour is the largest town in the Abacos, and the third largest in the Bahamas after Nassau and Freeport. Upscale eateries, souvenir shops, multiple large grocery stores, marine supplies, a street vendor serving up an excellent conch salad, and loads of American tourists all contributed to a few somewhat over stimulating days for us.

Marsh Harbor is also one of the primary settings for the book “Out Island Doctor” by Evans Cottman, a great read that provides an excellent snapshot of life in the Bahamas in the 1940s and 50s. This guy was pretty amazing. He was a biology teacher in the Midwest who was struck by wanderlust and moved to the Bahamas. Because there were so few doctors here, then under British rule, the government created a special ‘Unqualified Medical Practitioner’ license to practice medicine allowing pretty much anything except major surgery. The book is an autobiography by Mr. Cottman who became one of these limited license practitioners and sailed around the islands providing medical care to those who would otherwise not have had any.
Hope Town Municipal Building
5/3/08: We moved over to Hope Town across the bay (N26 37.649 W077 03.053) where we picked up a mooring in the tiny harbour (which we can only enter at mid-to-high tide). This was followed by more eating out and drinking for 2 days and nights with old friends and new. Sheesh!

Hope Town was founded by Loyalists escaping the American Revolution and is one of the most picturesque settlements in the Bahamas. It’s also very touristy, which comes as a bit of a shock to us after having just spent 3 months in the Exumas, Long Island, and Eleuthera. We’ve heard the Abacos referred to as “Florida East” by several visitors and we can see why. Not that it’s bad, it’s just much more “Americanized” than the other parts of the Bahamas we’ve been visiting lately.
Hope Town bank
The bank in Hope Town is only open for a few hours one day a week. We figure the bank sign is probably one of the most photographed signs in the Bahamas – ‘bankers hours’ for sure! The town is actually pretty small, mostly consisting of a couple of parallel streets with about 6 or 8 lanes between them. Most of the houses are rentals or have the upstairs or downstairs available for rent.

One of the coolest things to see in Hope Town is one of the last operational kerosene-fueled lighthouses in the world. The 120 ft high red and white striped lighthouse was built by the British Imperial Lighthouse Service in 1863. It still uses a small pressurized kerosene-fueled mantle and a huge rotating Fresnel lens to send out a beam of light which can be seen for up to 20 miles away. The lens assembly floats on a bed of mercury – it’s great mass moved easily with the push of Mark’s fingertip – really quite impressive. The Elbow Cay Reef Lighthouse is one of only two (possibly the only one now) manually operated lighthouses left in the World. It has a counterweight mechanism that has to be hand cranked every few hours to maintain the 5-flash sequence of the light. It was a lot of fun to figure out how the counterweights, gears, lens mechanism, and fuel system all work, and we really enjoyed the 360 degree view from the top.


5/5/08: We leave Hope Town at 7am to get out of the harbour on a rising tide, and sail up to Fowl Cay where we drop the anchor for a few hours. We go snorkeling on the reefs there, eat lunch, and then head up to Great Guana Cay for the night. After several nights and days of “socializing” we are worn out and are glad when our friends on Diva say they would also like a quiet night. Aaah, finally - a lovely relaxing evening. Mark’s mahi mahi grilled with mango salsa and peace and quiet. We’re getting too old to socialize EVERY night. Though we
do try to keep up…..



us at top of Hope Town lighthouse