Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Life On A Boat

We have been so busy living our new lifestyle that we really haven't taken the time to reflect on what it really means to us. Earlier this summer we met our new friends Gail and Mark on "C-Soul". They have just bought their boat and purged their things like we had and after cruising the Chesapeake this summer they are about to start their first migration south and beyond. Not long ago they left their boat to go back to Montana for a few weeks to help with the fall harvest. After being back to their previous life for a couple of weeks Gail wrote a post on the C-Soul Facebook page that really hit home. Cruising isn't for everyone, but for us, Gail did a great job of describing what it means and how it feels. With her permission I would like to share her writings. Thank you Gail.


I haven't posted for a long time! Perhaps I need to write to calm this anxious mind! Our friends are leaving the Bay today for points south. They posted a picture and mentioned how "cool" the weather was! Breathe deep Gail! We have a full cockpit enclosure, we will stay nice and dry on our 190 mile or so journey out of our now beloved Chesapeake Bay. Keep telling myself this! I am terribly worried that I will once again not get out of the icy grasp of winter, that the River Bohemia will be frozen over by the time we get there, that there will be snow.....breathe deep Gail, all will be fine. I have learned much on summer vacation! I have learned that being so exposed living on a sailboat is by far a better choice than that of four walls. I miss the connection to the air, wind, sunrises and sunsets. I was wondering when we started our adventure if this would be to much, if being exposed would be tiring. As it turns out I am not looking forward to being in our enclosure when we get back and that I kinda like waking, going directly to the cockpit to look at the water and smell the morning air. Sitting down and snuggling up against the sides of C-Soul and looking out my back door onto the new world that is opening for us. So there is one thing that I have learned, I don't like being "trapped" in a house. Haha, who would have thought! Another thing I have learned is that life is slower on our boat. Living on land brings with it a lot of stuff! This is kind of hard to explain, and it could be very likely that we are not living in our house and just visiting is contributing to this also. There are schedules, appointments, store hours, and such planning! Now I know we do this on the boat, meet schedules, live by store hours, etc, it is just that we don't care much about them. If we want to swim instead of going to the store, we swim. If we want to sail and miss meeting someone, we sail (this among sailors is a given, if the wind is good, if you are out, chances are you aren't coming back in!). It seems that we can still dictate what, where, when and if it doesn't get done, there is always tomorrow. I understand this might sound as if we are "dropping out", but I like to think of it as just living and we love the rhythm on our boat. Another thing I have learned is that when you are on land the distractions are many, that life is to hectic to just spend time with each other, spend some time in the water, dinghy, or boat to just direct attention to each other. We might talk about the boat, weather, neighbors, friends, or anything. We talk so much and enjoy each other! On land not so much, nuff said!

My musings are ending up in ramblings. The fields of soybeans are half done! The grain bins have all been relined and are filling up. It is kinda like being on the boat when we are combining! Just us in an ocean of soybeans. We talk, we joke, we smooch, we listen to books, we wonder at the richness of the earth, just like on our boat. It is just us, we like that. So we should finish up with the combining this week. There is digging to do and a few more things and we should be off. Back to C-Soul, back to the ocean, back to our incredible lives. But for is good on the combine! 🚜

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Day To Remember

Yes! We are on our way south in search of warmer climates. We have been on the move for about 1 1/2 weeks taking our time with one multi-day stop. The first good news is that we have found a new insurance provider that does not restrict where we have to be, even during hurricane season. There are a couple of considerations for NOAA named storms but for the most part we are fully covered from Maine through Texas and south through the Bahamas, Virgin Islands etc all the way south to Trinidad and Tobago. No more frantic racing north to get above Norfolk, VA by June 1 and having to stay there as the cold fall air moves in until November 1.

It was getting cold in the beginning of October and we are happy to be on our way. Its also nice getting off the dock and being with all the other cruisers that have started the migration south now that hurricane season is ending. Just like the birds and geese we see each day flying south, there is a group of cruising boats leaving each anchorage or port each morning for the next hop south. It is fun being able to get back in the mode of meeting new friends every day and running into them a few days later. Each has their own interesting story to tell.

** for those of you reading this that are Facebook friends with me you probably have seen most of these photos. Its much easier to take a picture with my phone and post it to Facebook as we travel down with phone service.

Currently we are in Moorehead City, N.C. after a short uneventful no wind day of motoring/motorsailing. Here is our short trip.

We left Solomons, MD early on a nice clear day. It felt great to be off the dock we had been tied to for 2 months. We had a diver come by two days before and make sure the propeller and the bottom of the boat was clean and free of growth and barnacles. Pearl has been cruising along nicely since then.

Along the way we had a variety of traveling companions.

There is nothing like happy hour at a nice anchorage

Even the crew was enjoying it

The Portsmouth/Norfolk Virginia area was just as busy as always but the bridges cooperated and opened for us on arrival and we pass on through quickly.

We made the last opening of the lock at the North end of The Dismal Swamp and tied up to the free dock with two other cruisers for the night. Robert, the lock master is an amazingly interesting person who has seen it all in 20 years of working the locks. He served us breakfast the next morning before sending us on our way through the Dismal Swamp on a sunny and beautiful day.

We then tied up to the free docks at Elizabeth City to prepare for the crossing of the Albemarle Sound. Little did we know it was going to turn out to be A Day To Remember!

Although the Intracoastal Waterway is generally protected and calm, there are a few harbors and sounds that need to be crossed. The Albemarle Sound is the one that is most discussed because it can be nasty and snotty. Fortunately for us on the way north it was smooth as glass. The southbound crossing turned out to be somewhat different.

We left the dock just at daybreak and motored about 30 minutes waiting for the winds to pick up. They were directly off our stern and we were running before the wind. We raised the mainsail turned off the motor and Pearl was doing what she was meant to do..sail! It wasn't long before the wind picked up more. Knowing it was supposed to get even more brisk we reefed the main to make our sail area smaller just in case. This proved to be a smart thing to do because it didn't take long for the wind to get to a consistent 20-25 knots with stronger gusts. The waves picked up and we were in full sailing mode for the whole day surfing large swells and being rocked back and forth violently by cross chop.

We found some solace in that there were three boats ahead of us and a few behind but watching how each was getting thrown about we realized its every man/woman for themselves. This was the first day since we moved on Pearl where we did not need to turn on the motor and we sailed all day. Calling it sailing is an understatement. It was more like..brace your feet...hold onto the wheel tight enough to make your knuckles turn white and throw the wheel back and forth for hours on end until blisters form on your palms. Pearl is not the fastest boat in the seven seas but she was consistently pushing 8 knots of speed (we are happy if she sails 6 knots). Here is our trip showing a top speed without current of 8.42 knots.

When we finally reached the bottom of the Alligator River and anchored for the night we took inventory of the after effects. It seems that being on a dock for a good part of the summer we got lazy and forgot about all the things we left on the shelves. The sea conditions rearranged things a bit for us.

On top of all the pandemonium was scattered a full canister of oatmeal to top it off. Yes, it was A Day To Remember and the best sailing day we have had on Pearl. Hopefully we get more and next time we will be better prepared.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chesapeake Ramblings

Yes, we had all good intentions of heading further north this summer but the cool weather and fun friends stopped us in our tracks here in the Chesapeake. Currently we are in a slip at the very nice Spring Cove Marina in Solomons, MD. Time has passed quickly and soon we will be headed south to continue where we left off in the Bahamas last winter...can't wait!

It has been too long since my last post there are so many stories to tell but I will stick to the highlights.

The cool daytime weather has arrived so today we started with some of the outdoors maintenance projects. As usual most projects start with a trip to West Marine to pay way too much for items marked "Marine". A conversation I had with another customer at the register sums up boat ownership better than any I have heard.

Customer: I measured everything this time before I came here so I could make sure I bought the right thing.

Me: So that means you won't have to make another trip here today?

Customer: Dude!...I'm here all the time! There are always things breaking on my boat. I'm sure there are things breaking on it right now while I'm here not even using my boat!

That about sums it up.....

Gayleen had the honors of doing the final phase of replacing the power consuming running lights with low power L.E.D. bulbs. I got dizzy just watching her.

Social media can be a time sink but can also connect you with fun new friends. One day I was reading my Facebook news feed and on it were items from a Liveaboard Sailboat group. One post caught my eye because it mentioned they had just moved onto their boat full time and had just left Annapolis a day before we were to leave. We left Annapolis the next day and headed south to anchor in a very nice anchorage in the Rhode River and I looked over and saw their beautiful Endeavor Cat "C-Soul" anchored right next to us! Feeling like a Facebook stalker I sent them a message "Hey, we are anchored right next to you". We were please to immediately get a response "Care to join us for happy hour". 

Gail and Mark are wonderful and very fun people that just sold their house and belongings and moved onto C-Soul full time. (You can follow them on the C-Soul Facebook page). We have since crossed paths with them two more times and look forward to connecting with them on the migration south in November and hopefully again in the Bahamas.

Summer on the Chesapeake....

Wednesday night races in Annapolis

It was nice of them to have the fleet race through the mooring field to get to finish line. The action was up close.

This Schooner was not in the race but it was nice to watch. You never know what will pass by anytime on any day.

Kayaking with the crew of Echo II

Our friend Amber makes the best "Dark and Stormies" The layered look is eye opening.

Gayleen's Sesame-Soy-Wasabi appetizer spread was a hit.

At the helm of Echo II on a day trip up the Patuxent River and Leonard Creek to Vera's restaurant. I can get a bit more crazy when at the helm of someone else's boat.

Great scenery and great friends at Vera's

An evening toast to Pearl (in the background) who has kept us safe and well and continues to lead us to constant adventure.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fun In Annapolis

Why write when I can borrow? We are enjoying our time in Annapolis whch has been made especially fun by our good friends Amber and Pope from s/v Echo II that we met in the Bahamas this winter. They live in D.C. And spend lots of time on this part of the Chesapeake. They have been amazing hosts making our time spent here memorable. Amber provides some of the highlights in her recent blog post. Have a read....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

We Are Leaving Deltaville ... Really We Are

Just when we thought we would be on our way, a few days of storms moved in followed by a couple of days with wind on the nose. We are tired of motoring so we waited for the winds to swing out of the east. Tomorrow morning ... if all goes well ... we will be on our way up the Chesapeake Bay. Hopefully we will be in Annapolis on Saturday or Sunday. That is one place we were looking forward to spending a little time at. Our previous visits have only been to attend the boat show in the fall.

The extra time wasn't wasted though. We did get a couple of additional important things done on the boat. The first was having the L.E.D. light bulb we bought a few months back installed on the top of the mast. When at anchor you need to have the "anchor light" on top of the mast on all night so other boats know you are there. The old bulb used a lot of electricity so having it on all night was an extra drain on the battery that could be avoided. When we turn the new bulb on, the ammeter on the electrical panel doesn't even budge because it draws so little current. Our friend Butch wanted to try out a new piece of climbing equipment he bought and he offered to go up and do the job. Who was I to say no! Better him than me.

Its very high up there and we can't thank Butch enough for making the trip. One other last item was the installation of a new anchor. Our older Delta plow anchor was going beyond it's years so we upgraded to a new Rocna anchor which is the current state of the art. Hopefully it will hold well for many anchorings. It is nice and shiny. It's a shame that it will spend a good part of it's life buried in mud, sand and grass.

Hopefully, the next installments of the blog will be more about the outdoors and less about boat stuff. We can't wait to untie the lines.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chess-A-Peek Ramblings

I really think they should rename this body of water the Chess-A-Peek. Every time I type Chesapeake I wonder if it has two ss'es and if it has or does not have an e at the end. Anyway, this is where we are and we are still at Dozier's Regatta Point Yachting Center in Deltaville, MD. It turns out that our insurance company had the right idea making us be north of Norfolk, VA by June 1. Hurricane Arthur turned east just south of Norfolk and the effects here were minimal.

We have been enjoying this sleepy little town that has tons of boats because of its access to great sailing and fishing but as always we are anxious to get off the dock and back on the move. The good news is that we are ready to go after the storms pass on Monday and Tuesday.

We have all heard the saying... a boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money. Well, with the new dinghy and the new enclosure and a month in a marina, we have spent enough for now. In our case, since Pearl is our home, all expenditures for maintenance and upgrades are justified just like you would take care of a house.

We are thrilled with our new enclosure. If you are on Facebook have already seen many pictures. With the bug screens in place we will be able to sit out longer in the evening and even sleep in the cockpit on nice nights not having to worry about swarming mosquitos. It certainly makes Pearl look happy.

Wednesday morning after the rain passes we start heading north. First stop will be an anchorage in the Solomon Islands, MD and then on to a few days exploring Annapolis, MD and hopefully meeting up with our friends from Echo II that we met in the Bahamas. We got a call yesterday from our friends on Sea Salt that we travelled north with. As I type this they are off the coast of Long Island on their way to Block Island and then Boston. Hopefully we will catch them later this summer but for now we have lots to explore here. After being on the go every da to make it up here its nice to relax and go at a slower pace.

It is definitely a change in perspective here in the central U.S. In the Bahamas the discussions with other cruisers centered around where the best snorkeling place is and where the best beach was and where the best hiking was. Here, the discussions are mostly about which is the best restaurant at each port. We miss the clean blue waters of the Bahamas but as we continue our travels we are sure we will find interesting places to explore.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Close Call and a New Addition to Pearl

A few days ago we experienced the worst thunderstorm we have been in since we moved onto Pearl. We watched as it come across the bay towards us feeling glad that we were securely tied to a dock and not one of the several sailboats out there getting swallowed up by the dark clouds and sheets of rain.

When it arrived over us it was amazing. Thunder and lightening was crashing all around us. The wind picked up rocking Pearl and for what felt like an eternity there were hailstones up to the size of golf balls pounding on our deck.

The next day we learned how close the lightning really was. About 300 yards from us there was a channel marker that took a direct hit. It originally looked something like this.

Now it looks like this.

That was too close! Why it would hit a wooden pole standing about 10 feet out of the water and not one of the hundred 60 foot tall metal masts that surrounded it is anyone's guess.

The interesting thing is that as we meet other cruisers, there are more than we ever expected that have taken a lightening hit and lost all their electronics as well as sustained hull damage. We hope our time doesn't come.

Now for the new addition to Pearl. Pearl came with a very good dinghy. However, we have had a love/hate relationship with it from the beginning. It is one of the strongest, sturdiest and most stable dinghys you can imagine but all those positives came with one big negative. Without the motor on it, our dinghy weighed over 300 pounds. When we are at anchor it is by far the dinghy to have. All the other cruisers wish they had one like it. When we are sailing, its a different story. When the conditions get rough that is just too much weight to have hanging off the stern of our boat. The davits that hold the dinghy are very robust but we feel they aren't robust enough to handle some of the rougher conditions we want to sail in. This has limited the type of conditions we are willing to go out in and thus limited our range.

We are replacing it with an aluminum bottom AB AL 10 that is about 140 pounds without the motor. It will travel on our stern a lot better and can still accommodate up to a 20 hp motor. It is lighter than the fiberglass / plastic bottom inflatable dinghies and doesnt mind being pulled up onto a beach that isn't all very smooth sand. There is no doubt we will miss our current dinghy every time we are at anchor but now we will be able to go offshore more often.

It was a fun day today unwrapping and setting up our new toy. Of course, Gayleen did all the work.

If you are ever in the market for a new dinghy, or life raft the folks at Lifeline Marine Safety in Cape Canaveral, Florida are amazing. We purchased the dinghy that had to be reserved on the next container from the manufacturer and had it shipped to us in Virginia without ever visiting their location. We hope to get to meet them the next time we head south.

Tomorrow they start fitting our new Bimini and enclosure. The addition of all around screens will make Gayleen very happy and extend our time outdoors into the evening when the mosquitos get frisky.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We Are Finally Legal!

I use the term "legal" loosely but as far as the terms of our insurance policy we are now where we should be. To maintain the lower premium we pay, we are supposed to be north of Norfolk, VA by June 1 to supposedly be out of the hurricane zone for the summer. We all know how that worked out a few years ago with that storm Sandy. Knowing we weren't going to make it by then I had a short conversation with the insurance underwriter who agreed to give us an extension until the end of June and I am happy to say Pearl is now tucked in nicely in Deltaville, VA about 50 miles north of Norfolk as of 3 days ago. We will stay here for a couple of weeks as we have some work done on Pearl.

Why Deltaville? Deltaville is the current home of our friends on s/v Dream Catcher that was one of our buddy boats on our first trip across the Gulf Stream to Bimini last year. In addition, our friends on s/v Sea Salt that we have been traveling north with also met Dream Catcher and Pearl in Bimini so this was a nice reunion of good cruising friends.

Where have we been the last 2 1/2 weeks?...Travelling north going about 60 miles a day. Since the Intracoastal Waterway does not travel in a straight line, those distances are spend meandering our way back and forth northward. After leaving Port Royal, S.C. we stopped at:

St. Johns, S.C.
Santee River, S.C.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
Moorehead City, N.C.
Belhaven, N.C.
Alligator River, N.C.
Dismal Swamp, N.C.
Portsmouth, VA.
Deltaville, VA.

Whoa ... I'm exhausted just typing all that!

The most memorable stop along the way was Myrtle Beach, S.C. because we had the chance to be reunited with my mother's sister, Aunt Gloria at my cousin's restaurant. We won't admit how many decades it has been since our families had gotten together because we would really feel old but ignoring that it was so nice to reunite and catch up on what everyone has been doing with their lives. If you ever get to Myrtle Beach be sure to visit my cousin's restaurant, Castano's Italian Steakhouse. The food and atmosphere is amazing. You won't regret it!

We were very happy to see Aunt Gloria

One evening in Myrtle Beach we were at the restaurant adjoining the marina and a terrible thunder storm came through. We felt bad for this poor dog that was tied to a boat on the dock because he was left in the rain and lightning the whole time by his owners. However, after the storm passed he got on his boat and curled up with his blanket and bottle of Smirnoff to take the chill off.

Sometimes it can look pretty nasty as we travel along. On this day we were lucky to be able to weave in and out of 3 different thunderstorms without a direct hit.

We never know what is to come around the next bend that we have to watch out for

Some bridges swing sideways to let us pass through

 Some bridges just go up horizontally

Birds love to nest on the channel markers

This big boy needed lots of room to pass

Another of the most memorable parts of the trip was the stretch through the Great Dismal Swamp. About a day before you reach Virginia, the Intracoastal Waterway forks into two separate routes that meet later just south of Norfolk, VA. The route to the east is wide and deep and closer to the coast. The route to the west leads you into the Great Dismal Swamp. 

The Dismal Swamp Canal was authorized by Virginia in 1787 and by North Carolina in 1790, with construction beginning in 1793 and completing in 1805. The canal, as well as a railroad constructed through part of the swamp in 1830, enabled the harvest of timber. The canal deteriorated after the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal was completed in 1858; however, in 1929, the U. S. Government bought the Dismal Swamp Canal and began to improve it. The canal is now the oldest operating artificial waterway in the country. Like the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canals, it is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

If you have an interest I suggest you look it up to learn it's history including how slaves were used to build the canal and how the area around it was once owned by George Washington who tried to commercialze it.

From our perspective it was an adventure. First there is a lock we needed to go through on each end. Next, the canal is very narrow surrounded by overhanging trees. It is also shallow with a controlling depth of 7 feet, but there are many sunken logs that you have a good chance of bumping into as you travel through it. Many sailboats have lost the wind instruments at the top of their masts as they veered off the centerline of the canal to avoid floating debris and not noticing the low branches their mast was about to hit. Our friends we were traveling with decided to take the safe route and did not travel with us on this interesting segment of the trip.

At the south end of the canal we got to experience going through our first lock. We got there too late to make the last opening so we tied up to some pilings for the night to await the first lock transit at 8:30 the next morning.

With the lack of wind and excess of bugs the morning could not have come soon enough

At 8:30 the doors started opening and in we went to have them close behind us

Pearl was now sitting about 8 feet below the water level of the Dismal Swamp Canal

Once Pear was tied safely to the wall of the lock the lock operator started filling it up as Pearl slowly rose 8 feet and was ready to enter the canal

The doors on the other end of the lock opened and we were on our way

We had a short trip that day and only went about 1/3 of the way through the canal and tied up at the free docks at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center

The dock is long enough for 3 boats but most nights there are more than that so it is customary to allow other boats to "raft up" by tying to your side. At times they can be 4 or 5 boats wide. We had 2 other boats raft up to us which not only gave us very close neighbors, they also had to walk across our boat to get on the dock. 

This is part of the fun as you never know who you are going to meet. The couple in the boat directly next to us were from Italy! The husband sailed the boat across the Atlantic from Greece where his wife met him in the Caribbean and they are on their way up to New York. We travelled with them the next day and they send these pictures of Pearl following them through the Dismal Swamp Canal. The rain that day made it feel even more dismal

Along the way we had a few obstacles we needed to avoid

It's always a welcome sight to see a new state

Shortly after going through the north lock it was culture shock. Most of our trip was rural with the occasional town but entering the Portsmouth and Norfolk, VA area brough many barges, naval vessels, fuel depots, name it. We were now in the big city

Our next stop was a big win for us. The FREE docks at Portsmouth, VA. Free is always good and these docks were also in a sheltered quadrant right in the downtown tourist area. We stayed there for 3 nights having fun in Portsmouth, taking the ferry to Norfolk and seeing a sailboat race in the waterway.

Global warming or just another failed government project? The dock right next to the boat was covered by about 6 inches of water at high tide. I will avoid the political discussion and just say the locals told us the docks were built that way by accident.

This was a first for us... a handicapped marked dock with a boat that had a handicapped plate. Everyone cruises!

Some of the sights also included a visit to the Nauticus Maritime Museum which just happened to be free for it's 20th anniversary.

As we left Portsmouth on our way to Deltaville we had a close encounter with one of the monsters that go in and out of Norfolk which is the deepest navigation port on the east coast.

He went slow and we stayed out of the way and we safely made it to Dozier's Regatta Point Yachting Center which will be our home for a couple of weeks. Then we resume our trek north.

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