26 September, 2011

The Great Escape

Date: September 22, 2011
Position: N38 53.170 W076 31.675
Location: Rhode River, Maryland, USA

We were a bit worried about a visit from Mark's mum this month, about how would she manage on the boat,. After all, she's 84 and not as spry as she used to be. But we had a great 5 day visit - she was a real trooper, on and off the boat; up and down the companionway; learned how to use the head (toilet), etc, etc.

Unfortunately the first 3 days were pouring rain but then it cleared up and we managed to take her out for a cruise. We wanted to give her a small sample of our day to day life aboard Rachel and I think she got a good taste. We sailed all day playing slalom between debris that was covering the Chesapeake. After lots of rain a big dam on the Susquehanna River had opened all of it's flood gates and all kinds of trash was floating down into the Chesapeake. There was trash everywhere! We had to have a person on the bow pointing to avoid 'the big stuff'. It was a bit like being back in the San Blas negotiating the reefs, but with much browner water!

Amongst the usual whole trees, stumps and brush, we also saw things like hot water heaters, big plastic drums, propane tanks, water heaters, car tires, tractor tires, and loads of other junk. Picking our way through debris fields hundreds of yards wide made for a challenging trip but Rachel's crew was up to the task.

Determined to have a good day we slowly sailed south to the Magothy River and anchored out for the night along with our friends Mike & Roberta on Celilo. Mum got to enjoy happy hour on board, the gentle rocking of Rachel at night and the camaraderie of cruisers, among other things. We all had a great time together.

With all of our family visits complete (except one - we're still hoping to get together with our granddaughter Tigerlily along the way) and it starting to get cooler during the day and colder at night, we decided it was time to start heading south again. Marina life is OK but it's not why we choose to live aboard Rachel.

So after a frantic week of preparation getting Rachel ready to be seaworthy again, we cast off the dock lines and made 'The Great Escape', a big 30 mile trip to visit with friends at the Seven Seas Cruising Association get together on the Rhode River south of Annapolis. A big weight was lifted from us, we had our home back and our freedom. Now we just have to sift through all the last minute stuff we tossed aboard before we left, stow what we're keeping, and sell or give away the rest.

Staying ahead of the cold (we hope),

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

03 September, 2011

Hurricane Hijiinks

Position: N39 08.735 W076 30.882
Location: Pasadena, Maryland, USA

While we are down in Virginia visiting family we are continually watching the weather. Julie's brother Tony is coming from England to visit for a week, flying into BWI (Baltimore Washington International airport) and catching the train down, as we did. As the day of his arrival approaches so does Hurricane Irene. She's scheduled to pass by the Chesapeake Bay, where Rachel is moored, the day after Tony arrives. We're in a quandary, glued to the Weather Channel, watching Irene's progress and hoping she'll turn out into the Atlantic, giving us a miss.

No such luck. On Thursday afternoon the models still show her tracking close and we make the decision to drive up and have her hauled. We need to change a through hull fitting anyway, so we'll be killing two birds with one stone. Charlotte graciously offers to loan us her car and we leave Radford at 2:30 Friday morning and make the 6 hour drive back to Oak Harbor Marina. There we strip all the sails and canvas off, stow everything that could get blown away in a hurricane and get Rachel up on land where hopefully she'll be safe and sound.

Then it's off to the airport to pick up Tony. He gets to spend his first night on Rachel on land, climbing up and down the ladder, experiencing all the “fun” that comes with living on the hard. The next morning the hurricane is supposed to hit the lower bay, working it's way north. Rachel's as safe as she's going to be, so we pile into the car and head back south to Radford. This is a tough decision for us – we really want to stay and make sure Rachel is OK, but Tony is only here for a week and we don't want to ruin his holiday!!

As it turns out Baltimore area only got winds in the 45-60 mph range and Rachel was pretty sheltered behind trees so she only saw 30-45 knots of wind and no damage was incurred. Our friends who remained at the boat yard kept a close eye on her for us. We spent four more lovely days in Radford with the family and then traveled back up to Baltimore on the train. The plan was to take Tony out on Rachel for a couple of days before he returned to England.

Mark was able to change the though hull fitting the day we arrived back on Rachel and the boat yard was able get her back in the water early the next morning. We spent the rest of the morning getting her partially back together and left the dock at noon. We had a wonderful day sail in the Bay and spent the night anchored out, giving Tony a small taste of our cruising life. The following morning we gave him a ride to the airport and he's been whisked away back to England while we slowly get Rachel back to herself. Phew what a week!!

...and guess what? Now hurricane Katia is working her way across the Atlantic and may well hit the US near us at the end of this week. Sigh.

Stay tuned,

Mark & Julie