Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moving on

We spent two nights alongside in a marina in Fairlee Creek on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It was convenient to be alongside, but being off season it was so deserted it was sort of spooky. Boats sat in their slips waiting to be hauled for the winter and we were the only souls around. I shouldn’t have listened to that reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” on the local Baltimore station while we were here… too close to Halloween.

Miles and Lex live in a beautiful home a short walk from the marina and they opened their home and themselves to us. Aside from the luxury of showers and laundry at their place, we shared meals, stories about family, had conversations about business (all four of us are self [semi]employed), thoughts about the past/present/future and on top of all that we got to play with their super sweetie-pie puppy Dora Mae. I’m wishing we’d taken in the marmalade cat…

It was the 10th anniversary of Downrigging Weekend in Chestertown Maryland and several talls ships were here for the event. We went into town to check out the boats and eat/drink/talk/laugh more. (For you Delaweenies… the Kalmar Nyckel was there.) 

We went to a gallery to see an exhibit of watercolors by local artist Marc Castelli; his paintings are all about the lives of the watermen of the Chesapeake. They’re alive with detail and nuance… just beautiful. As if this visual sense of the watermen wasn’t enough, some oystermen set up a table out in front of the gallery and were cracking open and serving free oysters as fast as they could. Y.U.M. They were enormous and sweet. I tried not to park myself in front of the table and slurp up oysters. It wasn’t easy. Miles and Skip didn’t try quite as hard.

This morning we waved goodbye to Miles/Lex and Dora Mae and headed to Annapolis. Directly into the wind… again. What IS it with this wind?! Another bit of wisdom from Jan – the definition of “destination” is “whatever direction the wind is coming from”. (Yes… I know, I shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.) 

For the landlubbers out there – you can’t sail directly into the wind – it needs to be about 35 degrees to either side in order to get anything out of a sail. Of course, at this point, we don’t have a sail, so it doesn’t matter much, but the waves also tend to come right at you when the wind is in your face. Not so comfortable. So I did what any good sailor would do – I went below and sulked and left Skip on deck to watch out for crab pots and deal with the cold spray that occasionally made it past the dodger. Hey… don’t judge me. It was crummy out there.

Skip worked on sorting out our stubborn autopilot problem and made some headway. It’s still acting up a bit up so more problem solving is needed. (Read: bang on some stuff and mutter curses.) We passed the Naval Academy, waited for the Spa Creek draw bridge to open and made our way into a quiet little anchorage just inside.

We pumped up the dinghy, dropped on the engine and voila... we have wheels. We’re not going anywhere tonight but it’s nice to know we can. Our ever changing list of chores awaits – as does Vinnie’s Pinot Grigio. 

Oh yes… and another pretty sunset. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rip Van Winkle

After a few days of sleep, interrupted every 5 hours for medicine, Skip is up and feeling better. (He looks like hell… but that’s another matter.) He partially slept through our friend Linda’s visit last night and our crab fest at the Tap Room here in Chesapeake City. Linda came bearing gifts… some essentials of sailing: toilet paper and wine! 

Not just any wine either – wine made by Vinnie Perla in New Jersey. (Yes, wine made in New Jersey!) The man is a wine genius, really. Thanks Vinnie – sorry we didn’t get to see you too. We’ll drink to you when we uncork your creations. Linda was in Newport this summer when we put the name on Saralane…. and documented the event.

We walked around Chesapeake City yesterday... it's a pretty little town. We wandered into a cool yarn shop called Vulcan’s Rest that’s open every day, even in the sleepy off season (except the usual biggie holidays). I can see why people drive for hours just to come here. As is often the case after a little conversation, we discovered a connection; Tanya (from the shop) bought her current boat from a good friend of ours in Rhode Island. She’d also met Skip a few weeks ago at the Annapolis Boat Show. She didn’t recognize him right away because his face is um…. a little swollen and beat up looking. (Sorry, no photo of said face… would still be cruel.) Turns out that she’s cat crazy and had the perfect kitty for us to take on board. We thought about it overnight and decided we’re not quite ready for a third crew member. Not even an adorable marmalade colored one with really soft fuzzy paws and absurdly big pointy ears. 

not the marmalade cat... just a cat keeping an eye on things from a shop window

Route 213 bridge over the C&D Canal
Some rain rolled through during our stay here and Saralane got a much needed bath. Can’t say the same for us – conserving water is a fact of living aboard that I was aware of, but hadn’t fully appreciated until now. (Perhaps ‘appreciated’ isn’t quite the right word.) There was a rainbow at the end of the rain showers – that’s gotta be good, right? I did some cleaning up and rearranging below deck to try to lessen the “Have you seen the _____?” factor. 
I got a few surprises as I went through storage areas “Oooh… I forgot we brought this!” and scratched my head a few times “Why on earth did we bring this?” I filled a few boxes/bags with things to offload and stow with family when I head to Delaware next week.

I had some time on my hands while Skip was resting, and when I got tired of practicing my clove hitches, I pulled out my laptop and popped in the DVD of old family photos my dad brought on Monday. 

He recently undertook the huge project of converting our old family photos to digital files and burned a DVD for each of us. I sat one night and went through all 1468 images. (I said it was a huge project didn’t I?) 

A few of the photos could probably land a parent in trouble these days (like the ones of my dad and Uncle Barry tossing baby Leslie around like a beach ball) but mostly it was a whirlwind trip back through my childhood. I have two burning questions: 1) exactly how many times did my sisters and I wear our matching Mickey Mouse t-shirts in public and 2) why, why did you allow me to wear those white satin shorts and a halter top!? Good grief. I may need therapy.

I'll spare you the photos of my graduation... but here’s a photo that captures another proud moment for my dad… when he at last baffled a squirrel with a squirrel baffle. 

It's a gorgeous day and we’re under way headed for Fairlee Creek to hang out with Miles and Lex for a bit. 

They arranged dockage for us, so we'll wait a little longer to put the dinghy in the water. Even better they’ve offered us the use of their washer/dryer. Oh happiness! They are fabulous cooks and we’re looking forward to eating whatever they make. We love to cook but we’re still working on a set up for Saralane’s fridge. As it is now it’s hard to get to things that are stored below the upper basket in the fridge. So if we’re not up for a struggle, we 
can eat anything we want as long as it’s in the top basket. Oh look... the pumpkin pie is right on top!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Family Day

We left Cape May after filling up with fuel and water, then waited out the tide at the entrance of the Delaware Bay. Around 4:00 we headed back out for the trip up the bay and into the C & D Canal. This is often a sloppy, rough trip but this time we had smooth and comfortable conditions. We did most of the trip after sunset and shared the bay with tankers, cargo carriers, tugs and barges. I’ll try not to wear everyone out with sunset photos… but at this point, I’m photographing any that make me ooooh and ahhh.

It was midnight when we dropped the anchor at Chesapeake City and finally got some sleep. In the morning we moved to the municipal dock where they kindly let you stay 24 hours for free. This is as close to family as we’ll be on our way south and we’d been looking forward to visitors. First to arrive was Skip’s nephew Miles and wife Lex. We don’t see them often and it was a treat to spend a little time together.

Next came some of my family… my dad and stepmom Sue, plus two of my three sisters, Leslie and Ruth. Third sister Rebecca is in Philly and is just a bit too far away to make the trip on short notice and juggle arrangements with 5 year old niece Maya. (Ruth: not crazy about being on the boat. Leslie: can’t wait to go sailing with us.) 

There’s a place in heaven for Sue, who brought 2 kinds of homemade soup and a homemade pumpkin pie. The same goes for Ruth for bringing us killer homemade chocolate chip cookies, groceries and a few bonus goodies. (Thanks Carly for picking out the chips!) Everyone else gets a spot just for putting up with this venture of ours, oh… yes, and for loaning us cars to get Skip to the emergency room yesterday. (Can a day not go by without something telling us to stop/go home?)

Because it’s not funny and because it would be really mean, I won’t put a photo of Skip in here – but he looks like he was on the losing end of a really nasty bar fight. Shingles. Plus a bacterial infection. And apparently, according to the incredibly nice and thorough ER doc Carolyn Weeks at Union Hospital in Elkton, MD, it’s the “special” kind of shingles that if gone untreated can affect the optic nerve and cause loss of vision. Peachy. So we got our instructions got him doped up and back to the boat.

I should say that before we left Newport, we did the responsible thing and made the rounds with our doctors making sure we both had a clean bill of health. However, this health issue, as my wise father said, comes under the heading “Shit happens”. And it does.

The day ended on a good note; my mom and long time family friend Sally came down from Wilmington for a visit, treated us to dinner and got a chance to check out our floating home. 

Now that we’re no longer pushing to get Saralane to Norfolk in time for Skip to take a boat down to the BVI with a customer, we’re working on plans C through Z to decide what’s next. We'll stay put for a few days until Skip feels better. We got the OK to stay alongside here at the town dock for another day or two, so I'm going to check out the town. Chesapeake City is a pretty nice place to be… plus, we have a stash of chocolate chip cookies and a pumpkin pie to keep us happy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jersey Shore (or Sailing Sucks; Part 2)

We left Stamford around 9 yesterday morning and headed for the Big Apple. The weather was great and we had almost 4 knots of current taking us down the East River through New York City. Here are a few shots of the sights including the UN building where since it’s inception in 1941 various delegations regularly walk out on each other in the name of world peace. Hope they sort that out soon.

This shot of the Brooklyn Bridge is for my friend/rep Sue who used to walk across it to work almost every day before she moved to Newport. (Hi Sue!!)

Here’s a shot of Lady Liberty too – for all those who worked and fought for liberty for the rest of us… and for those of us with relatives who saw her when they made their first stop on American soil at Ellis Island.

We were so busy looking at the Statue of Liberty that we didn’t notice the GIGANTIC barge coming our way until he blew his horn and scared the bejesus out of us. Oops. Guess we should pay more attention from here on out.

Passing Sandy Hook around 3:00, we started the long slog down the Jersey Shore. Once again the wind was directly in our face so we had to motor the entire way. The waves were comfortable at first – long even rollers – but increased in height and decreased in length making the ride pretty darn uncomfortable. Saralane performed beautifully and we have increasing confidence in her every day. Skip, mercifully hearty, did all but about 3 hours of the watches. I met up with my old friend sea-sickness, and was down and out for most of the trip. Here’s the slightly-less-than-full moon – taken before the conditions worsened. 

I saw Atlantic City in the wee hours of the morning, but missed seeing the Oxford in Ventnor where my dad has a place. (Sorry Pop! Skip saw it though.) I think of the times I stood on the beach in front of the Oxford and looked at the sailboats out there passing by…. ha! I’ll never complain about Jersey Turnpike traffic again. I don’t recall the turnpike ever taking 18 hours from end to end.

Our good friend Jan who’s done this trip and so much more over the years, reminded us by email that it does get better; it will get warmer, it will get easier. (She also said, and I have to quote this directly “Remember---NEVER say 'it can't get any worse', and NEVER ask  'what else can go wrong?' Thanks Jan!! We love you too.)

We also found out how much/little fuel our fuel tank holds…. just a little less than it took to get around the breakwater into Cape May. The engine died with the breakwater in sight and we had to turn around to a better angle to the wind, pull out the jib for a little stability in the big waves and put our emergency 5 gallons of fuel into the tank. We got most of it into the tank… the rest we mopped up off the cockpit floor later. Oy.

[Just to let some of you know (ahem... parents) we're fine out here. Safety is our first consideration and always will be. We have and wear harnesses at night or when going up on deck. And besides, if Skip goes overboard, I'll kill him.]

PS - Mb, I tried to set this so you can comment now. See if it works! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sailing sucks

We spent a quiet night in the North Cove Harbor Refuge in Old Saybrook - they even have guest moorings that they welcome transients to use for up to 3 days at a time. Thanks Old Saybrook! If you're ever in Newport you can come sleep on our couch for 3 days too.

I guess the best way to approach this log entry is to show the beginning of the day.... as we headed back out to the Long Island Sound...

Nice eh? Puffy clouds.... awwww, so pretty!

And then the end of the day as we motored through the breakwater at Stamford.... full moon, bright evening sun. Pretty, isn't it?

What's missing in these photos is the ass kicking we got all day long from one end of the Sound to the other. Those 40 knot gusts I mentioned yesterday that we avoided by staying in the lovely cove? They were out there waiting for us today. The wind had shifted a teensy bit to the north, so it wasn't really right on the nose now right? Didn't matter... Mother Nature smacked us around for 10 hours in a 'take that you mere mortals!' kind of way. Soaked us, soaked the boat, tossed all our carefully stowed belongings onto the cabin floor and generally made us sorry for ever thinking bad thoughts about her. Then about an hour before we made Stamford a 50 knot gust blew out our mail sail. It's toast. Shredded. In tatters. Ribbons. Whatever you call it - it's sailing days are over. Ours aren't.... but we need to regroup a bit and make up a new pretend budget to include a new mainsail.

After the fiasco with the mainsail I almost forgot to mention the brandy, brand new shiny autopilot we installed before we left Newport on Wednesday.... it stopped working about an hour into today's thrashing. So now we have two autopilots - one in the boat that doesn't do any of the automatic things it's supposed to do, and one that's in a box 200 miles from here. Yep... this whole sailing thing is going just as we planned.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Leaving home

We left yesterday at about 10:30. Said last goodbyes… to Kelley, Sue and Bob who came to see us off. Other people are living in our house and the entire contents of the house are packed into the studio ala “Hoarders”. Both cars have been sold (thanks Bob for taking mine!) and we’ve told everyone who needs to know that we’re leaving. I can’t run to the store for... well, for anything. I cried (of course) as we motored away through the harbor. Everyone has been telling us how exciting it is that we’re doing this but all I feel right now is homesick and apprehensive. It’s autumn – my favorite time of year – and we should be stacking firewood and getting ready for winter not heading out in the cold on a boat. So this year, no fires in the wood stove, no Saturday afternoons in the kitchen making bread and tarts. No friends over for pizza and wine. This doesn’t sound like fun anymore… it sounds lonely and irresponsible. I guess this would be the time to fess-up that this 'let's-go-off-sailing' thing was my idea. 

We’d been waiting for our repaired autopilot to arrive from New Hampshire. Only after it was sent did we realize that it would likely get rerouted, along with our other mail, to Delaware, so we’ve been checking in daily with the local post office to head off the package. A week and still no autopilot. This morning we made the expensive decision to buy another autopilot and get going. So much for the budget.

Fifteen miles away from the harbor and the engine stopped. Two scenarios immediately come to my mind; either we’ll have to limp back to Newport and fix something or the engine will explode and fling us into the 55 degree water. Skip, preternaturally calm, says “Hmmm… I wonder what’s up with that?” There was fuel in the tank, but we added the five gallons we had stored on deck and the engine started right back up. I realize again that I have zero knowledge about how this boat stuff works. I give Skip pop quizzes to learn what to do in an emergency. “OK… if you suddenly became unconscious right this minute… what do I do?” Answer: either call 911 (oh... yeah… we’re only a mile from the shore) or call the coast guard on channel 16 on the radio and try to sound calm. R.i.g.h.t...

On the way out we motored inside the breakwater at Point Judith to take advantage of the calm and finish rigging the lazy jacks and the reefing lines on the main sail. The little bit of wind that flapped the sail around also snapped a reefing line across the side of Skip’s new sunglasses (new – as in picked-them-up-yesterday) and they went overboard faster than either of us could get a hand out to grab them. So much for being preternaturally calm. 

The sunset sort of made up for the apprehension I feel about leaving. 

We spent the night tied up alongside the Dock-n-Dine (really) in Old Saybrook where we once again ignored the whole silly idea of a budget and went in for dinner.

This morning Skip connected a permanent fuel lift pump to keep the engine going. (He actually said "to create some positive fuel pressure" but it means that the engine shouldn't stop randomly again.) We calibrated our new autopilot and nosed out into the sound to check and see just how nasty it was out there. Yep... pretty nasty. Winds were steady in the upper 20's, gusting to almost 40 - coming directly from the west, which is, you guessed it, exactly where we want to go. So we headed up into North Cove Harbor Refuge here in Old Saybrook and we're doing a few of the endless boat chores that need doing.

It's cool looking out there, but not good for sailing....