Saturday, November 29, 2008

Moving Day!

Kristen here - Today is Saturday the 29th of November. Wednesday was moving day and everything has been a blur since then. 
The movers arrived at 9:07 and spent about 1/2 hour walking around the house and deciding how to approach the move.  I kept thinking to myself, OK, that was just $75 worth of planning and just get moving already!  A move that was quoted to take 7 hours with travel time about 45 minutes away ended up taking 7 hours when travel time got reduced to 5 minutes.  We decided at the last minute to get a different storage facility that was much closer. Thank goodness we did!
Thursday was Thanksgiving at my parents house with my two brothers families.  It was so much fun watching all 6 cousins playing together.  At the same time it was sad knowing we wouldnt be seeing everyone for a while. 
We were planning on leaving the next morning to head south for CT to see Chris's family and then on to Annapolis, MD.  We wanted to get out early to make it to Landfall Navigation in CT to pick up some cruising guides.  After finding out that Landfall was closed on Friday we decided to stay at my parents house till Saturday and head to CT on Sunday.  YAY! more time with my family.
Its been nice having some extra relaxing time.  It's getting really crazy running around so much.  Today (Saturday)  we're all going to the YMCA to swim and just have fun.  Aaahhhh fun...its been a while!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Last day of school

Hi again! I just wanted to talk about my last day of school. I got out of school a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Since Tuesday was my last day of ACTUAL school, I tried to do my best to make it a good day.

It went sort of like this. When I walked into 1st period, the teacher sent me down to the office with the attendance even though I was the only one not raising my hand. When I got to the office, my principal, Mr. Taylor, started talking to me about the trip. I went back to class and the rest of the day was pretty much average. Until I got to math. I walked into math with a slight craving for cake (yeah I know, weird). Halfway through math a few kids walked into the room holding a jimungo card. It said goodbye, and we’ll miss you on it in several different languages! It was so great! The entire 7th grade signed it! I read through it and thanked everyone, and what does the teacher pull out of the closet? Yup. You guessed it! CAKE!!!!!!!!

It turned out to be a great day. It turns out; the teacher purposely forgot to bring down her attendance. While I was delivering the attendance she called Mr. Taylor and told him to stall me so everyone could sign the card! How ya like them apples?!? The master plan was all devised by my best friend, Danielle. If anyone who made or even signed the card is reading this, thanks!!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What do you want to know?

I'm sure y'all are thrilled to read about our exciting days of putting things in boxes and copying files off of computers. Today was another day of the same, but we capped it off with burritos from Bomber's Burrito Bar. For those of you out-of-towner's, Bomber's serves burritos that are as big as a weightlifter's forearm, overflowing with black beans, guacamole, sour cream, various fillings (I had Red Stripe Marinated Pulled Pork tonight) and mounds of lettuce, tomato and cheese. Anyway, that was about as exciting as today got.

With that in mind, and the fact that I don't see life getting much more exciting until we get to Annapolis next weekend (hopefully no "moving" stories!), if anyone has any questions for us please ask them as comments by clicking on the "Comments" link directly under this posting. We'll be sure to do our best to answer them!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Packing Sucks

Alright - I can officially say there's nothing good about getting ready to go. I know the "going" will be great, but preparing is, well, not great. I'm sure we'll be celebrating soon though.

Last night we had our office holiday party and I had the opportunity to see lots of people for the last time until we next return. It was a fun time, but also generated a somewhat melancholy feeling as I truly realized what we are leaving behind. While I'll still be talking on a regular basis with everyone from my office, I will miss being with my colleagues and customers on a daily basis. Tonight we're getting together with a number of people from our marina for a final hurray. I'm looking forward to it, but at the same time it's just kind of sad to have to say goodbye.

Kristen, along with her mother, is in the process of packing up the house. There is still a lot to do, and only a couple of days to do it in. I'm working on pulling our personal stuff off of our home computer to have it on our boat (e-mail, pictures, documents, etc.). I don't think that Kristen (or her mom) are happy that I'm sitting at the computer while they pack boxes. Yeah, I know, I wouldn't be either. The movers are coming on Wednesday morning to bring our stuff to the storage facility, and we have to be ready for them.

Anyway... back to packing!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Casey's first post

Hi! I’m Casey. My dad has decided to let me start posting on the blog! I just wanted to put in my thoughts and opinions on our trip. First, I think it’s great that we are doing this.

It’s kind of funny what happens in school when I tell people about it. This is how it goes: (Me) “hey, did you know we’re going to the Bahamas on our boat?” (Them) “Seriously? That’s so cool! How are you going to go to school?” (Me) “I’m gettin’ homeschooled.” (Them) “Is the boat big?” (Me) Well… you know… it’s a boat.” (Them) “Why?” (Me) “Because it’s cool!” It’s the same process for everyone I know. Even teachers! I’m super excited. I’m always counting how much longer it will be before regular school ends for me. Just one week exactly left . Then we leave for thanksgiving break and during thanksgiving break we go to our boat!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Garage Sale

It's Kristen here! I'll be posting here too, as will Casey and Kaitlin.

Thank goodness the garage sale is finally over. Two weeks of carting junk to the garage, and then the basement because the garage was full. Two weeks of putting little colored dots, pricing your treasured memories, on over 600 items. Many thanks to Mom for all the help!

I was worried about the turnout for the garage sale. Usually people go out to sales when the weather is nice and warm. Fall is not a normal time for this. We decided to have the sale over two weekends, in case the first one was rainy. I put out a million bright pink signs, and apparently they worked.

The first Saturday morning 7 AM rolled around and nobody showed up. Usually the early birds come by then. I thought to myself, “Oh jeez, I was right. Nobody is going to show up.” Then 8 AM came and the shoppers descended. I swear there must have been 100 people in my garage and basement before noon that first day. And they bought everything!

I had old cookbooks that the cat scratched up and people bought them. A DVD player that I promised would never work got sold. One lady was heading up the stairs to my house and looked at the mat at the bottom of the stairs. “Are you going to sell that?” She asked. I thought about it for a second and said, “I guess I can’t take it with me!” Numerous kids games and clothes. The funny thing was as I loaded stuff into the garage, I noticed we had duplicates of a couple of games. I think we had so much stuff, we didn’t realize we had certain games and bought more. Now that’s a lot of stuff!

When I’ve had garage sales in the past, if I showed a profit of $200 or more, I was happy. Let me just say, this one made much more than tenfold of that! Holy Cow! Many people commented about the pink signs. That’s marketing for ya.

Now that the garage sale is done, and my last big activity at work is done things are taking a huge turn for the better. I no longer snarl at people, or fall asleep in my dinner. All that is left to do is clean out the leftovers from the garage. Then I will move as much furniture as possible into the garage for the movers. They said the easier you make it for them, the quicker they will go, and the cheaper it will be for us.

I ordered the kids home schooling system today from Calvert. They each took tests, and then Calvert determines what grade they are placed in. Casey, who is currently in 7th grade placed into 7th grade. Kaitlin, who is currently in 3rd grade placed into 4th grade with 3rd grade math. I think that will work out because Calvert said the only difference in grade levels is the amount of reading and writing they have to do. Seeing as Kaitlin is a speedy reader and writer, being in a higher grade will hopefully slow her down enough so that both kids take the same amount of time to finish their work. We’ll see how that all works out. I’m also eager to get the books and see how much space they will take up. Oops, so sorry kids, we won’t have room on the boat for science….

If any neighbors are reading this, Bonzai Falls is up for grabs! The mice got to it, but I patched the holes and the price is right. If you’re willing to drag it to your house it’s all yours. Hours of waterslide fun! Well at least until the patches break.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It keeps on going and going and going...

Well, the garage sale is finished. Yippee!! It was not fun watching years worth of accumulated "stuff" being sold for pennies on the dollar, but it is what it is - a step on the way to leaving. We made a few thousand dollars, and that will go a long way to paying for some of the really expensive stuff we need to put on board Pelican. Yes, you can do a cruise without getting all of the things we're getting, but I'm not the kind of guy who likes to camp. I need a bit of luxury, and my generator and air conditioning unit is going to give me the little luxury I'm looking for. There is still so much more I haven't even figured out yet, but we'll get there.

I decided that I'm going to make an impromptu visit to Pelican tomorrow (Monday). One of the items we need to install is an outboard motor crane. The new outboard engine for our new dinghy is going to weight about 120lbs. You can't just pass that down to a person waiting in the dinghy like we currently do with our 45lb 6HP outboard. As a result, we need to install a small "crane", which is basically just a pole with a lifting tackle giving us some leverage to raise and lower the engine.

The pole, however, has to be mounted on the stern of Pelican, along with our two outboards, our BBQ, two GPS antennas and the mounts for our cockpit enclosure. This might take some finagling, so I'm going to head south for the day (via my best friends at Southwest Airlines) to figure out how to best position it. I don't want to have any surprises later. It sucks to have to spend the money to fly down last minute, but, once again, it is what it is. I'll let you know how this truly exciting trip works out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The stress of preparation

Don't feel sorry for me. I know we're leaving for warmer climes shortly, and while I'm not leaving my job, I'm certainly not going to be living it 12 hours a day. Regardless, preparing for going cruising in a 6 week period is one of the most stressful things I've done in my life.

We had our first garage sale this weekend and made almost $2k. Not bad for a garage sale, but I've taken a lot of my life carefully selecting the things I own, so to see them going out the door, in near perfect condition, for cents on the dollar tugs at my heart a bit. I know - it's just stuff - but when I started my business close to 18 years ago I was - literally - pulling change from underneath cushions to buy food to eat. Oh well, we're dedicated to going, and this is just part of it.

We also managed to sell one of our cars. That just leaves the garage sale this weekend to get rid of more of our stuff, renting our house, changing our address, dealing with homeschooling, packing, moving and storing our stuff and lots more to do's.

We have contractors swarming all over our boat over the next two weeks. North Sails is repairing our sails. We're having a generator, air conditioning and autopilot installed. We're having the cockpit enclosure made functional (right now you can't close it up all the way and it's tough to install, so there are leaks and it's not very useful). I still have to order a liferaft, get the ditch bag set up, order a sea anchor, buy a new dinghy and engine, install the motor lift, install a macerator, pick and install a water filtration system, install new lifelines, put a new starting battery in, install a cell phone and wireless amplifier and take care of a million little details.

I get two reactions from the people I share our trip plans with - I'm jealous, or you're insane. I think you have to be a bit crazy to do something like this, but you only live once. It's easy to dream, but it's really tough to make it real. It will be worth it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Delivery Epilogue

(Photo by JohnRPollard@SailNet)

Two weeks ago I called Mears Marina on Back Creek. They had "in-water Winter Storage" rates that were lower than going to some of the larger Annapolis marinas. They told me that they turn the water off towards the end of November and the electric off on December 1st, but that they should be able to make an exception for us and leave the electric service on. I was great with that.

This morning I called them to let them know I would be on the way over. The person who answered said that I wasn't welcome. She didn't put it exactly like that, but she asked who told me that I could stay there and said that they really don't like transients after November something. I don't care - that's just bad business. Fortunately, I was in Annapolis and had the choice of many places, but I have to spend more money to be at them. I spent the time beforehand just to try to keep within my budget, and with one phone call Mears Marina in Annapolis blew me off.

So, I'm at Jabins where they welcomed me with open arms. The dockmaster even came out in his workboat to lead me to my slip and gave me a hand backing my heavy home with a modified full keel (read: hard to back up) into its slip. Pelican is now resting comfortably in her new home for the next month.

Today I've been running around crazily. We tied up at around 10am, hooked the electric up, signed in to Jabins and drank a beer. It's noon somewhere. We then removed the main and the genoa and flaked them (folded them, in non-nautical terms). My two leftover crewmembers were incredible with the amount of help they gave to do this work and it was greatly appreciated.

We called a rental car company and had them pick us up and bring us to the rental facility. I rented a car for my crewmembers to head back to Albany in, and a car for myself since I'm staying an extra day. We headed back to Pelican, loaded the sails up and headed to Eastport. We took the opportunity to stop at Maritime Solutions Inflatable, a local purveyor of inflatable dinghies and engines. My crewmembers then headed back up to Albany.

I headed over to North Sails to drop off our sails for a refresh. Some of the stitching was coming loose, the UV cover was ripped in a couple of places, and they just needed a general once over. I then headed back to Pelican and gave her a much needed bath, and started cleaning the interior. After several days through heavy seas with five guys, it looked like a tornado had fun down there. I did a quick walkthrough with one of the people who will be doing work on Pelican (generator, air conditioning and autopilot install), and now here I sit procrastinating more cleanup by writing blog entries.

It was an incredible trip from CT to Annapolis. We had a lot of things break, including one of our crewmembers, but I would rather find out about them now than once we leave Annapolis. I wouldn't care to repeat the conditions - ever - but it was a great experience with a great group of guys.

Pelican is now in her temporary home being prepared to become our new home, and I look forward to the next couple of years with her, safely caring for my family. I hope that we'll be able to update you as to our preparations over the next 3 weeks, but the entries may be a bit spotty. Once we kick off our trip, our blog will be back in full force. I hope you'll stay with us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Arriving in Annapolis

At my next watch at 8am, we were still on the Delaware. I had a restless night with all the pounding, but I was able to get a few winks. My wife called me around 6am to see how we were doing. I was pretty groggy and told her I'd call her back later. Here's a question - why is that when people call you and you can't talk, you pick up the phone anyway and tell them you'll call them back?

Over Monday night, we only had a couple of large commercial vessels call us on the radio to pass us. They could see us just fine on their radar, which is comforting since I forgot to put the reflector up. It's more needed for 20 foot waves than 7-9 foot waves though. Going up the Delaware at night is interesting. Actually, going anywhere on a boat at night is interesting. The Delaware is a fairly shallow river, with a lot of 3-5 foot deep areas, many 10 foot areas and a big channel for the big ships running along it at around 50 feet deep. Just to the side of the channel, it is usually about 15-20 feet deep, so that's where we tried to run for the most part.
Unfortunately, when it's dark out, it's tough to figure out what blinking light ahead is the next marker. On the chart, you may show only one red blinking buoy ahead, but at night, you may also see the two after it blinking. The Delaware doesn't have much lining its shores, so you know that most lights are either buoys or ship traffic. You can measure the timing on the blinking lights, match up the information you gather to the charts and figure out which one is which, but it's hard to read charts with a boat slamming, and our chartplotter was still flaking out - flickering at the most inopportune times. Oh well, we made it though.

I came up about 30 minutes before my watch started as we were approaching the C&D Canal. By the end of my nap, as we had reached the upper part of the Delaware, the water was fairly calm. The C&D Canal (Chesapeake and Delaware Canal) is a connection point between the two rivers. There are no locks, but it is fairly narrow when there is a huge oncoming commercial vessel. You have to lower your sails when transiting the canal, but with the wave action much lower it was pretty straightforward. My wife usually flakes the sail as it comes down, but since she wasn't here I had to do it this time. I'll be happy to let her do it in the future - I'd much rather pound through waves and get seasick :).

I took the wheel just after we entered the canal. About a quarter of the way through it, we stopped at Summit North Marina to take on fuel and drop off one of our crewmembers. He suggested I take my wet, soggy memory foam mattress from the V-Berth and strap it to the front of Pelican to dry. I'm glad I didn't. We fueled up, taking 45 gallons on the port side tank (it only holds 50, and the pickup tube isn't on the very bottom so you can't use the last little bit of fuel, which is often filled with junk and/or water by the time the tank is empty) and 9 gallons on the starboard side. Since the caps for the tanks had moisture on them, we added some stabilizer to see if that dealt with some of the random RPM drops we were still experiencing. The fillup wasn't cheap, but we were glad to have the fuel onboard. We said our goodbyes to our leaving crewmember and continued on our way. Five guys on a sailboat were now three.

Did I mention that the wind was blowing 15-20 with gusts close to 25? As we left the marina and re-entered the canal, the small waves would create a salt infested spray covering the dodger windows. For those non-nautical people, the "bimini" is a canvas top directly over your heads. The dodger is a canvas top, with clear "windows", over the steps that lead down to the inside of your boat. On Pelican, and many other boats, you can put a connector piece of canvas in between the two other parts to completely cover the top of the cockpit. This helps keep the spray from smacking you in the face. Unfortunately, as we were in salt water, every time the salt-laden waves would spray the windows on the dodger, they would cover them in, well, salt. You couldn't see through them. Every five minutes, someone had to go forward and pour water on them to let us see. Thank goodness we didn't put the mattress on the foredeck (front of the boat). It would have been like putting a big giant sponge there. Helpful.

At this point we were running way ahead of schedule. We had expected to arrive at Annapolis around midnight or 1am on Tuesday morning, but because we hit the Delaware and the C&D Canal at just the right time (I'd love to say it was planned, but we just happened to leave Manasquan at the right time and have the right winds to get us to the Delaware at the right time) our new ETA was around 4pm on Monday. Suprisingly, this was only 8-12 hours behind schedule, even with stopping overnight in Manasquan.

We entered the Chesapeake River pretty happy, albeit VERY cold and unable to see through our salt encrusted dodger windows. A cold front had shown up the night before, and with the wind up at a steady 20+ knots at this point we were freezing our butts off. Our highest clocked winds on our windspeed indicator showed 28.4kts of true wind, and it's always low. It was almost right on our nose, so add 6-7kts of boat speed to the 28kts of wind, and it was like we were in 30-35kts of wind (34-40mph). The temperature was in the high 30's overnight, so people weren't happy, and it didn't go up much by the time we entered the Chesapeake.

When we were a couple of hours down the Chesapeake, the tide started to turn. You might not think this is a big issue, but it can cause some real nastiness. Think about it this way. When the tide is going out, there is a large volume of water moving out of the river into the ocean. When the tide is coming in, there's a large volume of water moving in. What happens when this water collides, just as the tides are shifting? It creates some pretty large waves. Now, we were fairly experienced with large waves at this point, but the Chesapeake threw the best it had at us. We weren't just slamming in these waves. They were so close together, that as our bow would come down to its lowest point, after having been raised high by a prior wave, it would bury itself in the next wave, sending hundreds of gallons of water flying all the way over the top of our boat, reaching even the cockpit. In addition, the wind was blowing just as hard, driving the waves even larger and creating a blinding maelstrom of sea and spray. At this point, we were actually being pushed backwards. Our motor was racing to try to drive us forward in this motion, and was strainng hard. We couldn't go on deck safely to raise our mainsail, although if we were at risk we would have, so we motored as best as we could to be closer to shore where the waves weren't quite as big.

Someone or something wanted to keep us from reaching our destination. We motored very closely to the coast - as close as we could without getting in water too shallow - and about an hour later the seas calmed somewhat. We put our genoa out and our boat speed went to 7.2kts under the one sail alone. Did I mention the wind was blowing? I think I did, but I can't stress it enough - not for the speed, but for the cold it created. At around 3pm we saw the Bay Bridge. It looked close, but we were still 2 hours away. That wasn't frustrating. We finally made it under the bridge at around 5:30pm, and carefully navigated around the shallow waters to its south and aimed ourselves at the Severn River.

I'd love to say our fun ended there, but as we approached Spa Creek to grab a mooring (we didn't want to enter our final destination - Back Creek - at night due to a difficult approach) there was some argument as to where exactly Spa Creek was. I will say that it's very difficult to get your bearings at night with a lot of lights on shore conflicting with lights on the water. In addition, it's tough to use landmarks that you can't see. I insisted on following the GPS and also our paper charts, and recalled reading some information in a cruising guide on how to locate Spa Creek. We went my way, found Spa Creek, and grabbed a mooring. We received a generous mea culpa for adding an hour to our trip from the crewmember that wanted to ground our boat in a 3 foot section of shallows, put the dinghy engine on, threw the dinghy off the foredeck into the water (yes, we actually kind of just tossed it in), went to Pussers and had Painkillers and appetizers. We then went to the Sailyard for some food and drinks, and retired, exhausted, at around 10:30pm.

New Jersey Blows

New Jersey blows - the wind, that is.

What a night! We made good time down the coast with a combination of sailing and motorsailing. Unfortunately, the waves picked up significantly again as we headed down. Once again, we were seeing 6-9 footers and were slamming through them, nose up 35-40 degrees at times and us hanging on to our tethers for dear life! We were whooping and laughing though. We had a lot thrown at us, we were down a crewmember, but it was still a good trip, albeit a long one, to the Delaware.

I was off until midnight but went topside at around 11:30pm. As I went up, one of our crewmembers asked me - "How much fuel do we have left in our port tank?" I said we were probably pretty low and we should change it after we entered the Delaware. We rounded Cape May just as the current turned to flood and headed toward the channel. It was at this point that our engine randomly revved and then stopped. Apparently, you need fuel to keep an engine going. Who knew??

We called all hands on deck, let out the genoa (the sail in front for those non-sailors) and picked up a little speed. The base of the Delaware is NOT a good place to have a breakdown. Remember the game "Frogger"? It's kind of like that - trying to avoid freighters and tankers bringing their loads to Baltimore and Philadelphia. Not only that, but it was nighttime, the sky slightly lit by a moon behind clouds, but still dark.

Diesels often have a problem when they run out of fuel and break down - they get air in their system (I'm sticking to the fact that running out of fuel is a breakdown. There's no avoiding it, right?). The air doesn't allow more fuel to enter the system, so you have to bleed it out. We were thinking that we would be bleeding our diesel while heeled over 30 degrees and pounding through rough seas. One of our crewmembers switched to our other fuel tank (we have two tanks, totaling about 110gals of fuel - yep, not fun to pay for a fillup). We prayed, turned the key, pressed the start button and the engine started. I got a few glares as the off-watch crewmembers headed back below for rest, but all in all it turned out to be a non-issue.

At 2am, I came off the wheel to stand watch. If I haven't yet described our watch schedule, I'll describe it now. We had four crewmembers. The first crew member would stand on the wheel. The second crewmember would be on watch (you know, for the random fishers and freighters that like to appear out of nowhere). The third and fourth crewmembers are down below (unless all hands is called, and when does that ever happen??) napping. Yes, it is possible to nap with the boat leaning crazily over and pounding through the waves, while the diesel engine screams along at 2,400RPM's right next to your head. You get THAT tired. Each person has a two hour time period for their "station". At the end of the time period, the person on the wheel moves to watch, the person on watch moves down below for a nap, the person who has only been down below resting for two hours gets another two hours, and the person who has been down below for four hours comes up and takes the wheel. It's not as confusing as it sounds. It only took me 30 minutes on a spreadsheet to figure it out. I wrote it up with each position being marked A, B, C and D, and created a matrix to post so everyone could know when and what their role was. I did receive a couple of comments that the matrix must have been made by a real computer geek. I don't understand.

Anyway, as I was saying, I came off the wheel at 2am and went on watch. The Delaware was throwing its best at us. We rounded it at just the right time - about 30 minutes after the tide turned and the water was rushing up the river. It allowed us to add an extra couple of knots, and sometimes even three knots, to our boat speed. Extra speed on such a long trip is great, as every extra knot can shave hours off the length of the trip. Unfortunately, however, the wind was coming the opposite direction from the current. When this happens, it pushes the water up into fairly huge waves. We thought we might get a rest going up the Delaware, but it was behaving as its usual self - nasty. We had short period 6-8 footers at its base, and once again (not that we ever had much rest), we were pounding hard. We would go up a steep wave, nose high, just to come down on top of another one. The whole hull was shaking and pounding. Several times our crewmembers joked that we lost the keel. Since the keel is integrated into the hull, this would be pretty difficult. I just didn't get the joke :).

The person who came up at 2am for their turn on the wheel was pretty tired. I watched him nodding off some as he was holding on, wave after wave. After a couple of minutes, I offered to take the wheel for him, and fifteen minutes later he handed it over to me, curled up, and proceeded to take a much needed rest. Apparently, he hadn't slept a wink for his four hour "off period", so he was pretty exhausted. Something about wondering how much fuel we had...

We kept the mainsail up all the way from off of Manasquan. We had to roll the genny in somewhere around Atlantic City as we headed closer to the wind, but the mainsail helped steady Pelican from rolling while going up the Delaware. We pounded hard, and broke a few things loose (including our anchor, which we had to then tie down a second time since it was coming loose from the pounding), but at least we weren't rolling from side to side. At 4am, I went off watch, went below and tried to grab some shuteye.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Great shakedown cruise

Well, we can add the autopilot to the list of items that need replacing on Pelican. Sometime this afternoon, our Autohelm 4000 Wheel Pilot died. Yes, it really did die. It has nothing to do with the fact that I'm looking for an excuse to buy the new Raymarine ST70/X30 autopilot combo. What would a guy want with gadgets, anyway??

We tried sailing again earlier when I went on watch. Unfortunately, as is usual on a delivery trip, the wind was on our nose, so we're motorsailing with the main up to Cape May. We're still looking at an arrival of around midnight. The seas calmed down quite a bit for a while, but now they're building again. The weather report says the winds will die down some, and the waves should too, so I'm expecting gale force winds and waves the size of the Empire State Building!

Dinner tonight was sirloin tips in Heinz gravy over rice, served hot. I've never had anything quite so good! When you're hungry and cold, hot food is incredible. Did I mention that a cold front swung over us today? Temperatures are dropping into the upper 30's tonight, and they are well on their way right now. We're all bundled up but the wind likes to bite at open skin. We knew it would be this way. We're lucky it waited until now.

Our current perfect itinerary has us arriving at Annapolis around midnight on Tuesday morning. I'm guessing things will be somewhere between perfect and less than perfect. The engine is still acting a bit weird with random RPM drops. We looked for water in the filters and didn't see anything, so we're not sure what's going on. It's another one for the list of items to get checked out in Annapolis.

My bed is soaking wet again tonight, even after I used one of God's gifts to men - ducktape - to try to seal off all the openings. We took some rather massive waves over the bow today. So much so, that even some of the caulking on our teak decks is pulling out. I'm guessing that if caulking is coming out, even ducktape might not hold up. It's OK though - since we're going "two people on, two people off" for watch changes, that frees up a couple of bunks so I can sleep somewhere dry.

On that note, I'm signing off for the moment to get a few minutes of shuteye before we get to Cape May. I'm back on again at midnight, and hopefully I won't have any more stories to share with you between now and then.

A Mid Day Update

What a day. Unfortunately, we left our sick crewmember behind in Manasquan. Getting seasick has more to do with what you ate last night or the position of the moon than being strong. I hope he realizes that. We left Manasquan around 7:30am with a beautiful sunrise ahead of us and the attendant at the gas dock yelling at us - "Are you leaving yet?? We have people waiting to fuel!" Oh well, such is life. We left the harbor being chased by about 50 fishing boats. They rushed to pass us, leaving us to wallow around in their wake. Apparently, the fish were going to be gone if they didn't get out quickly.

We raised sails about 30 minutes after we left. It was blowing about 15-20 from the West, so we were able to actual sail direct to our next waypoint at about 7kts. When I say sailing, I mean sailing. We had our rail down hard, water streaming down the decks and spray blowing across the dodger. It was some of the best sailing I've done! Unfortunately, as happens on most deliveries, the wind starting going farther south and on our nose, so we kept pushing further and further offshore. At this point, the waves started building again and we were pretty far off course, so we dropped our genoa (the forward sail), turned on the motor and started heading in some. That's where we are now.

I'm going up on watch in 5 minutes and will be raising the sails again. Hopefully, we'll hit the Delaware around midnight - just as the current goes to flood. This should allow us to pick up an extra knot or two of speed as we head towards the canal. More later!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What a ride!

Well, we left Branford a bit late on Friday. We needed to install a new bilge pump, put on a new anchor, load the dinghy on the foredeck, fill the water tanks and provision. I'm an idiot (yeah - I know everyone is going to comment on that one!). We arrived at noon and had to leave by 3 at the latest. Yeah, uh huh. The new anchor couldn't be fastened down, the new bilge pump needed the hoses to be rerouted, the dinghy needed to be pumped out and re-inflated, we had to move the boat to fill the tanks and the grocery store was 5 miles away, which took about 20 minutes to get to.

We finally left at 4pm, which was still pretty impressive. We pretty much ran onto the boat, untied the lines and flew out of our slip. We had been pretty set on going from Branford to Montauk and then, on the open ocean, direct to the Delaware Bay and Cape May. From there we would go up the Delaware, through the C&D Canal, down the Chesapeake and finally get to Annapolis. We would leave on Friday afternoon and arrive in the morning on Monday. The forecasts looked pretty good, until Friday morning. In the morning, they upped the wave height forecast and the wind forecast, so we decided to take the safer "inside route" - Branford to City Island, through Hell Gate, to New York Harbor, out the Ambrose Channel, and then south along the coast to Cape May and beyond. We're glad we made this decision!

The trip to City Island was uneventful. We motored there and arrived around 11:30pm, grabbed an empty random mooring and slept until 5:40am. Actually, we slept until 5am, when someone who shall remain nameless's cell phone alarm started going off. It would ring 4 times, and then repeat in a minute. I was in the V-Berth, and three others were in the main cabin, feet from the phone. Did any of them stir to turn it off?? No! I had to get up from the forward berth, stumble around in the dark until I found it, and turn it off. Everyone made sure to thank me though. Bunch of lazy pieces of.. anyway...

We left City Island around 6am with the current running with us. We actually reached 12 knots (about 13 mph - would you look up the conversions already??) "over land" speed when we passed through Hell Gate. Not bad for a 40 foot sailboat used to moving at around 7mph. Yeah, I know. It's still only 13mph, but on a sailboat it's a big deal! OK OK... I'll move on.

When we reached New York Harbor it was shrouded in dense fog. We couldn't see Lady Liberty or the many boats zipping around the harbor. Fortunately it was Saturday so things were fairly sedate. Passing under the Verazzano Bridge was interesting. We could see the eastern footing, but all we saw of the span was a ghostly outline, even as we were passing directly under it. As we left the "safety" of the harbor, the wind started increasing as did the waves. It didn't take long for us to regularly pass over 8 foot waves. You might not think 8 foot waves are that big, but think of being 6 feet tall and not being able to see over a wall. Now, think of a series of walls, all a few feet from each other and hurdling over them. 8 foot waves are big! The wind increased to 20 knots, and we were regularly taking water over our bow. At one point, one of our crew came up to inform me that some water was entering into the V-Berth. I told him not to worry - I'd deal with it later.

As we rounded Sandy Hook, we put a smidgen (great word, isn't it?) of sail up to stabilize Pelican. It was sometime shortly after this that one of our crew became violently seasick. I mean violently! Every 30 seconds his head was over the side heaving, and the moans escaping from his mouth when he could actually take the opportunity to breathe were, well, not sexy. Imagine drinking an entire bottle of tequila yourself in a short period of time, and then experiencing both the drunken stupor, the nauseous effects of alcohol poisoning AND the hangover, all at the same time, but for 10 hours. Yep - this was our crew member. It wasn't pretty. I was also feeling fairly green, and listening and watching him heaving didn't help.

Life went on like this for quite some time. We never made lunch (I'll share our $550 provisioning list with you another time) and we barely left the cockpit. Going below was out of the question. At times, our bow was up over 40 degrees and would come down with a sickening crunch. Being below while this occurred would, at best, cause some major pain as you floundered around, and, at worst, make you completely seasick. At one point I managed to scarf down a corn muffin. It helped me feel better, but then I ate 3 pieces of salami and I was back to being miserable. We found a few boat "flaws" during the day, including the fact that the bolt we used to secure out new anchor had bent so far out of shape from the pounding of the seas that it was impossible to remove. In addition, our engine started having a few issues, randomly decreasing in RPM's. With our crewmember so sick, all I could think about was that our engine would fail 5 minutes from Manasquan and we wouldn't be able to stop there. In addition, our GPS kept flaking on us every time we needed to make a decision as to where to go.

As we approached Manasquan, NJ we made the excellent decision that we'd taken enough of a pounding, and that our sick crewmember would either die from his seasickness, or shoot himself in his head with a flare gun - whichever came first. Manasquan is an interesting harbor - the entrance to which can only be made through jagged rock jetties separated by 100 feet of water. The rocks looked like the crystals from Superman's Crystal Palace - just not green, more jagged, and much less fragile. We realized that if our engine failed on the way into Manasquan that we'd be in a world of hurt, and then realized that we would need to do something to free the anchor. Two pliers and a lot of strength later, the bolt was free and so was the anchor. I'm still glad we had something securing the anchor - I can just see us pounding through the waves, having the anchor drop off the front and coming to a screeching halt trying to figure out what the heck was going on, while being pummeled by wind and water. I wouldn't have seen us continuing with either the anchor or chain still attached to the boat. "Hey guys, sorry, I tried to pull it on but somehow all 150 feet of chain fell off the boat and I lost the anchor. So sorry."

We arrived in Manasquan, land of 4 knot currents and narrow drawbridges, and managed to tie up to a gas dock at a marina. At this point we were all happy to have safely made it in - none of us more so than our sick crewmember. I went down to my berth to "check things out". Let's see... We have a small vent above the right side of the bed to allow air in. Water had poured through it and drenched that side of the bed. There was a leak on the left side of the bed that left it rather soaked. On top of that, water had entered the chain locker which is at the foot of the bed, drenching the whole bottom of the bed. The only dry spot was dead center! Oh well, at least we made it in. Oh yeah - did I also mention that my duffel bag of clothes was under the small vent? Yep! Cool... it kept a portion of the bed dry by capturing all the water in my clothes.

Anyway, we went out and had a nice dinner (did I mention our $550 provisioning with food stuffed in every locker of the boat?) and then retired early. It's 9pm and I'm hitting the sack. Tomorrow we're going to send our sick crewmember home, and then try for either Atlantic City or Cape May. We'll get to Annapolis yet!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Heading to Annapolis

On Friday November 6th (tomorrow) I'm bringing Pelican to Annapolis. We'll be leaving around noon from Branford, CT and going the "outside route". This means that we'll be going east and rounding the tip of Long Island around Montauk, heading direct to the Delaware Bay, around Cape May, up the Delaware River, through the C&D Canal, down the Chesapeake River and ending up in Back Creek in Annapolis. This trip is approximately 362nm (416 regular miles). If we go 5 knots the whole way (5.75mph), and we're hoping to go faster, it will take us slightly over 3 days to arrive in Annapolis. If we can maintain 6 knots, we'll cut 12 hours off of our trip. Amazing what a slight increase in speed will do!

I will be joined by four friends for the trip - Bob (from Willsboro Bay, where we kept our boat for the past two years), Mike (a friend of Bob's), Gene (also from Willsboro Bay) and Cole (from where I work, and I'm pleased to call him a friend). I wouldn't suggest smelling the air on Pelican after 3 days and 5 guys take her on a trip.

Once in Annapolis, the real work of outfitting Pelican for cruising begins. From a generator and air conditioning, to a new dinghy, to a liferaft, autopilot, sail restitching and more, we'll be transforming Pelican into a safe and comfortable home.

I'm sure we'll have a few stories to tell once we're done. The forecast calls for everything from 10-15 to 15-20 to gusts of 25, and seas from 4-6ft to 3-5ft to 2-4ft. If we get 6 foot seas, it's going to be a rollercoaster ride! I'll post again when we arrive in Annapolis.

P.S. I was reminded again today as to why this trip is so important. A good friend of mine had his 17 year old daughter pass away today from severe injuries sustained in a car accident. Life is precious and you don't get to spend enough of it with your family. Live your dream, enjoy your family.

Where are we going?

A number of people have asked us what our plans our. Our primary plan is to have no fixed plan. We've been living life by Outlook Calendars, Blackberry's, meeting schedules, deadlines and more. It's time for us to live day to day as opposed to always having plans. If we wake up in the morning and feel like going somewhere else, we will. Otherwise, "here looks good". It has been said that "Schedules on a boat just don't work. If you have a powerboat, throw away your watch. If you have a sailboat, throw away your calendar."

With that said, we have a few thoughts on the places we would like to visit, and there has to be some order. Apparently I haven't whipped enough people into shape to develop a teleport device. On December 1st we will be heading to Annapolis. Hopefully the work on Pelican will be completed by that point in time. Otherwise, the start to our trip will be very, very cold. Fortunately, we had the forethought when we bought Pelican to have a forced air heater installed. We can get the temperature to over 100 in the cabin if we want to.

Once we're ready to leave Annapolis, we'll head south. North is cold. South is warm. North bad. South good. Because of the fickle weather this time of year, we'll probably stick to the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) for the trip south. It might sound cool, but you can walk faster than a sailboat. We motor along at around 7-8 mph, and motoring is what you do for the most part on the ICW. You have to wait for bridge openings (as long as you want to keep your mast), high tides (as long as you want to keep your boat upright, as opposed to grounding it and then laying on your side until the water shows up again), avoid large power boat wakes (easier said than done when going 7-8 mph) and more. You can't really navigate the ICW in the dark, so it will probably take the better part of two weeks to make it to where the weather is somewhat warmer. Of course, it has been known to snow in Florida, and that would be just our luck!

Once we get to a somewhat warmer clime (i.e. over 60 degrees), we'll probably slow down a bit. We would like to visit parts of the Florida coast, and the kids really want to go to Disney. I really would like to go to the keys to eat all of the seafood and view the sites.

From Florida, we'll eventually jump over to the Bahamas. We expect this to be sometime in January, or maybe February. For this, we have to cross the Gulf Stream. That takes some planning - primarily ensuring that the wind is coming from the right direction so we don't get hammered by huge waves. People can wait anywhere from a couple of days to weeks for a good weather window to cross.

Once we're in the Bahamas, well, I don't know where exactly we'll go yet. We'll do some fishing, some snorkeling, and when we get sick of a place, we'll move. I'm most interested in introducing my kids to a land where supermarkets don't exist, and cows and chickens roam the streets looking for handouts. I don't think this will be in Nassau, so we may go off the beaten path.

By hurricane season (May-ish) we have to be out of the hurricane belt. I don't know if this means that we'll head south to Panama, or whether we'll head north to New England. I'm kind of interested in cruising New England. In the fall, we may do a 9-12 day passage to the Virgin Islands, or we may not. Are you getting the idea? All along the way we'll be homeschooling our kids and meeting new people. That's what I'm looking forward to.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We're Going!

At every point in time in your life you have to make choices. A few weeks ago, we were bringing Pelican from Lake Champlain to Branford, CT to have work done and to store her for the Winter. As we entered New York Harbor with Lady Liberty on our right and The Battery on our left, we were faced with two paths. If we went right, or south, we would be heading toward the open ocean - warm climates, new people and amazing experiences. If we went left, or east, we would be heading up the East River, to the Long Island Sound and to our ultimate destination in Connecticut.

I looked at my wife and jokingly said, "We should head south now. Let's forget buying a bigger boat, waiting a few years and heading south then. Let's go now." She looked at me with a thoughtful expression, and said "I'd give my right leg if we could leave now." I'm not going to say that my wife is wearing a prosthetic at the moment, but we went south figuratively.

We are currently outfitting our boat for a cruise starting on December 1st. This weekend I'm heading to Annapolis from Branford with four friends. Once there, we're having various pieces of equipment installed. In the meantime, we're selling a lot of our "stuff" that has accumulated over the years. It's a tough choice as to what we sell since we plan to be back in 20 months. Everything we don't sell will end up in storage. On December 1st, we'll pack up our personal items, hop in a rental car and move onto our boat.

I can't say our families aren't upset about the quick notice. We're taking 4 weeks to do what other's usually take two years to prepare for. It's turning our lives upside down, but this is a good thing. We get to live a dream. More later...