Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The plan is to spend the night here, and then look to see if we can head to Charleston tomorrow. Kristen will be posting more about the trip soon.
Monday, December 29, 2008
While we're waiting, we've been keeping busy. The kids have been making daily trips to what they call "pony island". A waitress told us it is actually called Carrot Island, and the wild horses there are the famous Shackelford ponies. They originally lived on Shackelford island, but after a hurricane flooded the area, they moved to Carrot island. They are taken care of by local Vets and fed by people as well. The island is great for collecting shells because one side faces the ocean, and it is only accessable by boat. Therefore not many people scavange the beach. Yesterday Marit found 4 sand dollars there! We also saw live sand dollars, and what we looked up later to be a whelk egg carrier. It was this snake shaped thing, rooted in the sand. I didn't want to touch it for fear it might be poisinous.
It's funny being in a new environment like this. At home I know what is safe and what isn't, but here I don't. Also along the beach we found something shaped like a straw sticking up out of the sand. Being curious, I started digging around it. At the same time I didn't want to touch whatever it might be. As water started filling the hole, I was digging blind. Then fearless Kaitlin started to dig. I tried pulling on the straw part to get it out, but that just broke off. So after about a foot of digging we gave up. Later on that day I found a smaller version which was attached beneath the sand to a small worm. Now I'm glad to not have seen its mother!
At dinner two nights ago we tried a new dish. We've had raw oysters plenty of times, but here they served steamed oysters. I'm a big fan of steamed clams, and I could take or leave raw oysters. Well, these steamed oysters were just wonderful! No sand in them, and they were sweeter than clams. And the best part is that we're surrounded by them. And that means free food!! The waitress told us how to catch, cook and eat them. She said to make sure you get oysters that are always underwater. Don't take them if they're out of the water during low tide. This way they will be less sandy because they are always breathing, or processing water. So next time we're on pony island, I'm bringing a bucket!
Yesterday we went to Fort Macon http://www.crystalcoast.com/fortmacon/. The fort was built by the Confederates during the civil war to ward off Union troops. The top of the fort is covered with soil and grass, so that from the water, it looks like a hill. It was a bit odd being in a place that housed the Confederate army. It makes me wonder what southerners now think of the Civil war. One thing I've learned by meeting new people, is that we all are similar. Cruisers are from many different countries, but we all have the same needs and problems and joys. I've also learned that where you are from drastically affects your life.
For example, Karen was telling me last night that in Holland friends are just as important as family. Now in my experience, friends move away because that is just how life goes in the US. People move around a lot, but your family is always there. She said that Holland is a small country, and people move around, but stay within the country, so nobody ever moves far away. She said she felt free to leave and go cruising because she knew her family was taken care of by their friends.
We also talk a lot about the differences in how people speak. In the US we tend to dance around subjects. We worry about offending someone, or making someone feel bad. We often say something is a good idea when it isn't. One example Martin gave was a phrase that means something is close to good. I don't remember the exact phrase. But in English it would be taken as a compliment. In other countries it means something is utter garbage. He said in Holland, everyone is very direct. They say exactly what they mean. It's nice interacting with someone like that because you never have to worry about what they're really thinking. Well, at least so far it's nice!
Today we are back at the town dock. We moved here yesterday. We will make use of the showers, the clothes laundromat, and the marina car. Christmas vacation is over for us, so we'll also start school again today. I'm sure the kids will be thrilled!
Hopefully our spot dot will move tomorrow, if the weather permits.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Kristen here - Today started out like every other Christmas we've ever had...but in miniature. The presents were stacked half way up to the top of the Christmas tree. A tree that stood a proud 1 1/2 feet tall on top of our table. The kids woke up at 7:30, and were blown away at the sight of "all the presents". It was simply amazing to see them so pleased with a stack of presents that was a small fraction of what they were used to. Maybe it was the proportion to the tree!
After opening presents came the usual period of playing with the presents. Casey got an awesome game called Spore, which we all played together. I also spent some time coloring in tropical fish coloring book that Kaitlin got. Normally I would be cooking a Christmas dinner, or we would be traveling to family. Today I was planning on making a mega dinner and having our friends over, but as seems to be the norm lately, things changed.
We re-thought the idea of going to the cruisers dinner. It's only spaghetti, but the opportunity to talk with other cruisers couldn't be missed. So we called our friends and told them about the change in plans. They wholeheartedly agreed and off we went.
Upon approaching the bar where the free dinner was located, we were a little leary. We all walked in, 6 adults (we met another couple yesterday on the boat anchored next to us) and 5 kids. Upon seeing no food in sight, and many smoking and drinking people, we walked right out the back door and onto the patio. After milling around on the patio debating what to do, I went in and asked about the dinner. I was informed that they were just running a bit late and dinner was served w/in 1/2 hour. It was at this point I realized that it wasn't a cruisers dinner, but simply a happy hour dinner at a bar. Once again we were making do, but making do has humbled us and turned out to be ok lately.
Dinner turned out to be lasagna, pasta salad, tossed salad and bread with cookies for dessert. Once again it was perfect! We all sat on the patio and talked while the kids played hide and seek in the parking lot. By the end of the night John and Maryse from the boat Marilyn who was anchored next to us invited everyone to dinner on their boat tomorrow.
John is from Marthas Vinyard, and Maryse is from Quebec. John charters his boat and found Maryse from a find a crew website. She is going to help him charter. They were very nice people who had some wonderfull stories and advice to share.
This morning we were planning on taking the weather window from tomorrow till Sunday to head south. Our friends on Evolution have to stay to get some welding done on their boat. After talking things over with the kids, we decided to stay as well. They all seem to be having so much fun together, we hate to take them away from that. That decision was a tough one to make. If we stayed, we would miss or weather window, and who knows when the next one would be. It could mean that we would be stuck here for another whole week. I didn't want to be here for another week, but I didn't want to make the kids leave their friends before we had to. After talking to Casey and Kaitlin and Chris, and once again reaffirming why we're doing this, staying seemed like the right thing. I knew doing the right thing would pay us back.
And pay us back it did! Chris checked the weather tonight, and things are looking good for Monday and Tuesday now. He said they looked even better than Friday and Saturday. It's hard too make that leap of faith, to slow down and not constantly push foward to a goal. It's what we do so much, so often. But so far, every time we slow down and just do what feels right, we're paid back for it. Now we have a better window, we will share a meal with new friends, and the kids will have more time to play.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
As we were sitting there enjoying each others company and conversation, listening to music, and watching our children you realize that this is what its all about. It doesn't matter where you are or what you have its the enjoyment of the present and the now. Its the people you meet and the memories you share that matter.
As another example of the magic of this Christmas, today we walked to the supermarket for groceries. It's just over a mile away, and we looked foward to the exercise. I went with Casey, Kaitlin, Olaf and Marit. Everyone was more than happy for the diversion. While there, I noticed they had cured hams that didn't need refrigeration. I mentioned to Olaf that his mom was talking the previous night that she wanted one, and without hesitation grabbed it to buy for a Christmas gift. He brought money to spend, and didn't buy candy or anything for himself, he bought a ham for his mom. At home, this would be an action to hide in front of your friends, especially for a young boy. So I was glad for my children to see such behavior unabashed in other children. All of the kids love to share their different attitude about life, and their different way of living and they are so proud of it as well.
Yesterday we made sugar cookies and turned them into decorated santas, stars, christmas trees, snowmen, hershey kiss cookies, jam thumprints, and snickerdoodles. It's amazing how many types of cookies you can make from one recipe! The kids all came over and decorated the cutouts. Kaitlin went to Marit's boat today and made Dutch cookies, which turned out to be a delicious treat enjoyed by all on the dinghy ride to dinner tonight.
It has truely been a magical time this Christmas. I talked to my mom earlier, but at dinner they kept playing Neil Diamond songs (her favorite). When the third song was her favorite, I saw it as a sign that I should call her, so I did just that. I did however just remember that I forgot to talk to Dad, so Merry Christmas Dad!!! I miss them a lot, but also seeing my family change for the better makes it worthwile.
The main challenge this Christmas has been keeping gifts secret. I have bought a few that the kids have seen. They were upset at first, but now they understand that there can't be secrets on a boat. Today at the grocery store, Casey told me that he was going to buy my present. When I got to the next aisle I saw an attendant pointing out the collanders to him. (I don't have one on the boat and we've needed one a lot) I see him coming down the aisle, looking at me and telling the attendant, "no, no, no". I didn't understand what was going on untill I see her pointing out the collandars. Then I realize what he was getting. Oh, and this would be the second time I've accidentally found out what he was going to get me! He ended up buying something else at the store that he says I will like just as much. It all really makes you realize that it's about the thought and not the gift. It's the simple things. We can't buy much for each other because we don't have room, so what we do get has to be small and meaningful.
I wish everyone out there the merriest of Christmases. We hope that your holidays are as magical as ours has been.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sail Magazine rated Beaufort General Store's as the nicest laundry on the ICW, and so far I'd have to agree. It's not all that exciting to most people with washers and dryers at home, but having new machines, and lots of them, is a very cool thing! The past few places we've been have one, maybe two, machines that are ancient. Here, they have a dozen washers and over a dozen dryers! OK... I just realized what I wrote. I can't believe we've only been out here for 3 weeks and already I'm getting excited over laundry!
The best thing that's happened to us since arriving in Beaufort is that we've met another cruising family - one with kids the same age as Casey and Kaitlin! We were just getting off Pelican to head into town when they walked up and asked if we were living aboard. It turns out that they are from s/v/ Evolution, a wonderful 53' Roberts designed cutter built of steel. Their girl, Marit, is 9 and their younger son, Olaf, is 12. They have an older 15 year old son, Lars. They are from Holland but have lived in the states for a few years, and left New Jersey at approximately the same time we left Annapolis, but they plan to circumnavigate.
We've been hanging out with them every day, and it's fascinating to talk to them about the differences between our culture and theirs. The kids get along great, and are planning to have a sleepover in the next couple of nights - Kaitlin and Marit on Pelican and Casey and Olaf on Evolution (sidenote: I'm not sure how we won having the two girls).
Yesterday we moved from the town docks to an anchorage on the other side of town. We were paying $100 a night for a slip, and while we enjoyed having shore power, fresh water, showers and being tied up to a slip, we can't justify staying there. I've updated our location to show the exact position of our anchorage. The move was straightforward, except our starting battery has pretty much died - we couldn't start the engine, so we had to start the generator to start the engine. I guess it's time for me to take the new starting battery I have sitting on the floor next to me and actually install it.
Anchoring is fairly new to us, but, knock on wood, we're not dragging. It was 35 degrees and windy when we moved yesterday, and the first time we dropped the hook Kristen forgot to count how much we were putting out.
There's a formula to how much chain and rode you put out. You figure out what the water depth is (with your depth sounder). You add the distance from your bow to the water and add that to it. Then you figure out the tidal variation and add that to the figure. The rule of thumb is that you want to put out a 5:1 scope, or 5 times the total figure you come up with, in normal winds. In heavy winds or storms you want to put out 7:1 or even 10:1. We're sitting in 12 feet of water, have two feet to the water and a 2 foot tidal variation, so the minimum rode we should have out is 80 feet at 5:1. If you don't follow the "rules", there's a good chance you'll drag your anchor and end up grounding or hitting someone else's boat.
Since Kristen forgot to count, we had to haul the anchor back in and reset it. With the cold and the wind, and the fact that we have a manual windlass, it wasn't fun but we did it. She still refuses to let me get an electric windlass that would just haul the anchor up by hitting a switch. Grrr! Perhaps a few more times of hauling and resetting, or anchoring in nasty conditions, will change her mind. Don't tell her I said that!
Our plan for the moment is to spend Christmas Day here in Beaufort and then leave for Charleston on Friday. The winds are looking OK so far, but we're keeping a careful eye on the forecast. For Christmas, we have a leg of lamb, stuffing (yeah - no turkey since it won't fit in our oven, but we have to have stuffing!) and a whole ton of other food. Our friends from Evolution will be joining us. This will probably be the last time we see them since they plan to head directly to the Bahamas from here, but I'm sure we'll meet plenty of other wonderful people along the way!
Here's an "it's a small world" story for you. Our old autopilot broke on the way down from Connecticut to Annapolis, so I took the part that still worked to Bacon's, a sailing consignment shop in Annapolis. The day I took it there, someone posted, on a message board I frequent, that they needed the exact part I took to Bacon's. I pointed them in the right direction, and less than 24 hours after I brought the unit there it was sold. Fast forward to this week. On a different message board I posted a question about our trip to Charleston. A member of the board said that their kids were about a week ahead of us and that I could call them if I had any questions. They reached out to their kids to let them know that we may be calling them, and it turns out that they were the ones that bought our old autopilot! What are the odds?
Anyway, I'm off to do, well, stuff. We'll talk to y'all soon!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
propane canisters and some leftover Tostito scoops. Little
known fact - you can put M&M's inside the scoops, stick
them next to a propane heater to melt the chocolate,
and have an excellent sweet and salty snack plus some fun!
Us on Pelican taking a picture of a Pelican.
"I've had the name a lot longer than you!"
said the bird.
water is only 2-3 feet deep to the left of that mark,
and that there is a continuous row of submerged pilings
lining the channel to prevent shoaling? This is
NOT a channel you want to make a mistake on!
sitting on your sail!!
Isn't Kaitlin studious?
Entering the Alligator River-Pungo Canal
Casey starting his watch for logs and snags on
Casey 10 minutes into his watch for logs
and snags on the canal
Casey 20 minutes into his watch for logs
and snags on the canal
Friday, December 19, 2008
Kristen here – I could go on forever about the amazing things that happen every day. Every time I do a blog entry it seems I’ve forgotten a few stories. I’ll try to remember them this time.
Yesterday morning we left Coinjock, NC. The fog was a bit less dense, and everyone was feeling good. I decided to try something different with the homeschooling. For the past week, schooling has taken at least 4-5 hours each day. It seemed that no matter how early or late we started, we were always getting done just before dinner. This is definitely not how I imagined it. It was not how the kids imagined it either. We had reached the point where everyone was dreading school time. So, I decided to try schooling each kiddo separately. It worked! We got done much faster, each kid got more individual attention, and each kid had much less school time. Win, win all around.
Yesterday evening we anchored just outside the ICW channel at the base of the Alligator River in NC. Contrary to its name, there were no alligators to be seen in the alligator river. This was our first night at anchor during this trip, and it didn’t prove to be a dull one. Our anchor setting (making sure the anchor was set and holding) went perfectly. As soon as that was done, the kids wanted to go for a dinghy ride. Well, mostly Casey wanted another test of the new superfast dinghy engine. I was eager to explore the coastline, so a-dinghy-heaving we went. We took the camera with us and got some amazing pictures of Pelican with the sunset behind her. Once again you will have to wait for Chris to post those. We discovered that the coastline was just a mass of rotted tree stumps and bug laden swampland. After seeing if the dinghy could go faster than the jet, we headed back to the boat because it was getting dark.
We had dinner and did dishes and then went up top to check out the darkness. We were in a spot that was completely desolate, and were excited to see a beautiful starry sky, unmarred by unnatural light. Unfortunately, the fog had set in and there was not a light to be seen. It was eerie. There was nothing on which to orient your position. Also a film of bubbles had appeared around the boat. (Later we realized that this was the soap from doing the dinner dishes) Not wanting to get completely freaked out, we retreated below. Later that night Chris and I went up top again. With nothing to focus on, I tried to tell whether the boat was stationary or swinging on the anchor. As I stared into the absolute darkness, I could swear we were moving at quite a rapid pace, but truth was we were completely motionless. It’s a very disorienting feeling.
Now, you would think when we finally did see an extra light it would be a relief. Not so much. Remember we were anchored just outside the channel. We allotted for swing room (making sure if the wind changed direction and we faced 100 feet in the opposite direction, we would still be outside the channel) when we set the anchor. We were most definitely certain that we were well out of the channel. But when you see a light in the darkness coming straight for you, you begin to doubt. ¼ Mile away it looked like a small fishing boat. As it moved painfully slowly closer it looked like the small fishing boat had a spotlight and was searching for his crab pots. Moving at a snail’s pace the spotlight was now a good distance above the water and we began to think this may be a tugboat. It was beginning to look and sound like a freight train floating on the water. By now everyone was on deck, and I was getting quite nervous. The spotlight had hit our boat a few times. He must have seen us. I know the channel aims right for us and then turns before our boat. I know we’re out of the channel. I’m going to go below and get our spotlight, and flash it around just in case. I flashed our spotlight in the tugs general direction. Now I can see another series of lights in front of him. Oh great, it’s pushing a barge. Now the tug has made the turn and the spotlight is aiming away from us and we’re safe. We can see the side of the tug and it looks like a floating house with each window lit up. I can even see a person inside. A collective sigh of relief was issued before finally hitting the sack.
Warble, Beep, Warble Beep. Huh? What was that? Is it time to get up? Why did Chris set an alarm? Honey, the anchor alarm went off, we’re dragging. Now, with the image of the tug fresh in my mind, how quick do you think I raced up to the cockpit to see where we were? It’s 4:30 at night and the wind has picked up a bit. The two lights we could see before going to bed (one red to the right and a green to the left), were now switched. The boat has made a 180 and we’re facing the opposite direction. Thankfully, I can see that the channel marker is still a distance away. After watching shore for a bit to determine that we were no longer dragging, and checking our swing path on the GPS we went back to sleep.
Today thankfully was relatively uneventful. We pulled up our anchor and quite a load of pitch black mud. School again went quicker and the new method has become official. Tonight we pulled up to an old shrimping/fishing dock. The guide said it was mostly commercial, but they accepted transients. We couldn’t pass up the $.40 per foot nightly rate! And that was with power! When we pulled up, it appeared that more fishing boats had rammed the dock then had tied up to it. Our first attempt brought us aside dockboards that looked like they would fall into the waterway at any moment. A bit farther down it looked a bit more solid, so we tied up there. Expecting a lively shrimp processing area where we could maybe load our freezer with fresh seafood, were surprised to find a run down ghost town littered with rusty chains and old fishing nets. Next to the abandoned looking processing area we found a small store with commercial fishing supplies, a warm wood stove, four rocking chairs and Roy. Roy entertained us for the next hour or so. We all plopped into a rocking chair in the 80 degree, dusty old store and listened to Roy.
Roy was born in 1918. He didn’t look a day over 70. He remembers the first radio, when cars first came around, and when you had to carry a shovel to get your car out of the dirt ruts. He remembers the depression. He told us of the rise and fall of fish species in the area. “I’ve seen certain species die out and come back twice, and it’s a 30 year cycle. We’re due for them to come back in a couple of years. But that is just my observation”. Most fascinating to us was his telling of when they built the ICW. “I used to live over there (pointing across the ICW), and you could take a road through the swamp to get to my house”, he would say. He described steam driven machines that sounded like today’s tunnel borers, mounted on swinging arms on a barge that dug the channel right through the woods. “Well, they cut the trees down first of course”. He loved to talk, and we soaked up every word. It was another daily affirmation of why we are doing this.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
One of the places we passed through was so wide you couldn't see the other side. The whole area was about 2-5 feet deep except for the small channel dug out for the ICW. It was here that we experienced the high winds. My guess is because of the open space. Once we got back to the tree lined area, winds died down.
Coinjock is pretty much a dock, a restaurant and a marina store. The store had lots of cool t-shirts and "Coinjock Marina brand" food. We bought some peanuts, honey and pickled okra. This morning we had grits to celebrate being in the south, and we put the honey on the grits. I'm most curious about the pickled okra. The restaurant was famous for its large prime rib. Chris, Casey and I shared it last night and couldn't finish it! Kaitlin had fried chicken. Casey went nutso over the hushpuppies. Finally we're in real southern hushpuppy territory. We had a few for appetizers and they were simply delicious.
Today it was raining and foggy when we woke up. Everyone was tired, so we decided to hang out here for another day. Who could pass up one more visit to the marine store!! I do have to admit, they even had a North Carolina keychain for Kaitlin's collection.
Tonight was leftover night for dinner. We had stir fry from two nights ago's dinner, hushpuppies from Cantlers restaurant in Annapolis, MD (nothing compared to last night's hushpuppies), french fries and fried chicken from Coinjock, NC, and artichokes bought in Chesapeak VA. Three whole states in one meal!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I have only been sailing at night twice in my life. Once was on the very familiar Lake Champlain, an the other was when I took a sailing course in Florida with a trained captain next to me. This time I would be handling a watch by myself, with my daughter at my side. It was a big responsibility.
During the day yesterday Chris went over the new autopilot system with me. It was pretty straight forward. Then 8:00 PM came and it was watch time. With a full moon giving us a good bit of light, a slight breeze blowing and plumeting temperatures, Kaitlin and I watched the various blinking and solid lights around us. I instructed her on how to find a light, count the seconds between blinks and then use that information to find the light on our charts. She likes using the GPS. We also learned various techniques to tell the difference between shore lights, beacons and ship lights. At sea they all tend to look the same. We used a blanket to plug up places where a breeze was coming in our cockpit enclsure, and maxed out the small propane heater. We figured if the cockpit could take the Bahama sun, it could also take the heat of our propane heater.
Kaitlin and I had a great time. We stayed awake by singing every song we could think of together. At about 11:30 Kaitlin's voice diminished, which if you know her you'd know that that doesn't happen too much! I turned around to find her cross legged in front of the heater with her eyes closed. After I woke her up, she curled up a good distance from the heater and slept the last 1/2 hour of the watch.
As it turns out, night watches aren't scary at all. In fact when the sun started to rise at the end of my 4:00 to 8:00 watch, I missed all of the helpful blinking lights. During the day, ships mix in with the background of shore and there is just so much more to look at. Night was a peaceful time. The moon was reflecting on the water, the wind was low and the waves were calm.
I'm looking forward to the next night watch. Hopefully in warmer weather!
This morning brought us into Norfolk, Virginia and the beginning of the ICW (intercoastal waterway). As we entered, massive Navy ships lined each side of the waterway. Casey took many pictures which I'm sure Chris will post soon. I just love that the kids can see this stuff. I could teach them the power of an army, war and our country. But only by seeing these colossal ships could they instantly feel that power. The sheer undertaking of building just one of these giants that dwarfs our boat is unimaginable. It is quite a feeling to see 20 of them lined up in a row.
At about 1 mile into the ICW, two birds came up behind us. I looked at them and said, "Those are the biggest seagulls I've ever seen!". Then I realized they were pelicans. The two pelicans split behind our boat and one on each side ushered s/v Pelican into the waterway. How appropriate!
The rest of our journey today brought us under several bridges. One of which had a scant 10' clearance above our mast. A collective sigh was let loose after that one! Then a lock with a 2' drop. After the 15' drops on the Champlain lock system, 2' was simply funny. We tied up to a free dock right after the lock. Groceries, restaurants, a hardware store and three drug stores were w/in 1/4 mile of the dock. We loaded up on many more propane canisters for our heater and a few more groceries. Then it was early to bed for everyone! Me too, good night.
Today we went through lock 3. Going through lock three was pretty fun. This lock was a lot different because if you wanted help you wold go on one side, and if you did not need any help you would go on the other side of the lock. We went on the side that you didn't have any help on. It went pretty well docking in that lock. After lock 3 we went to a dock right after that lock. The dock is getting crowded. There are three boats on the dock. It is not really a dock. It is a place where you can tie up to a wall that is 3 feet tall. That is all I can say for now.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Things are going well here. We left at approximately 9:30am after putting our dinghy on the foredeck. I think we made a big mistake getting the heavier, bigger dinghy. Even with the 6 to 1 lifting tackle, it was still VERY difficult to put it on the foredeck. Hopefully we'll figure out a better system over time. The good thing is that it fit, though, so I'm sure we'll get it going.
Once we left Back Creek, Pelican's home for the past month, we found the new autopilot didn't want to keep us on a straight course. We're guessing that it had something to do with trying to calibrate it yesterday when it was blowing 25-30kts and there were 2 foot waves pushing us around. We ran through the calibration again and things seem to be going well. We also figured out how to slave it to our GPS so it will automatically hold our course. Very cool! It's not that I care about whether it will automatically turn for us, but it will make sure that it doesn't deviate from our layline by more than a few feet. I love it!
The full enclosure that, well, encloses our cockpit was a great thing earlier today, and once the sun went down we appreciated it even more. We pulled out the propane heater we bought at Home Depot, hooked it up, and now it's fairly toasty in the cockpit. It's 28degrees actual outside the enclosure, with a 10-15mph wind in our face (if we were actually outside), but it has to be in the 50's inside the cockpit. Awesome!
We got to sail for a few minutes today. The wind was on our stern for the majority of our day, and it was pretty suckish, so we ended up motoring. At one point, it shifted into a better spot and picked up to 10kts or so, so we raised sails and immediately saw it die (the wind that is). We lallygagged along for a couple of hours at about 2-3kts, and then decided to turn the engine on again.
There's a full moon out tonight and everything is crisp and clear. It's a beautiful night to be out. Casey and I just came off our 4-8pm watch, and Kristen and Kaitlin are on the 8pm-12am watch. Then it's back to Casey and I. Dinner was wonderful - Chicken and rice. Everything tastes good when you're underway - even Gene's boiled beef tips and heinz gravy (the guys who joined me for the trip from CT to MD know what I'm talkin' about).
Well, I'm supposed to be napping. We'll see how that goes. Until later!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Our neighbor, Scott, went to our house to check on our sump pump, and the water is almost to the top of the sump hole dug in our basement! A few more hours and we could put Pelican in our basement. Fortunately, Kristen's Dad has a generator and is heading to the house as we speak to power up the sump pump. Scott said all of the generators in the region are sold out at this point, so Poppi's generator (Poppi is Kristen's Dad) is going to become the communal generator for a few days to run everyone's sump.
On top of the power issues, we have a bunch of limbs and trees down around our yard, but it sounds like none of them are threatening our house - yet. We also had one of our gutters come apart and it poured water onto the side of our house, which then went to the inside of our house. I didn't think we'd have to worry about leaks in our house - just our boat!
Today was final wrapup day on the boat - our last chance to take care of the last minute details before we do our first hop to Norfolk. Kristen schooled the kids while I borrowed a car from Chuck and Mary, two wonderful people I met online on Sailnet. I stopped by Bacon's to drop off our old propane tank and our old outboard mount to put them up for sale, and while there I found a used block and tackle I could use to lift our dinghy. I love that place! Then I stopped by True Value to fill our propane tank (yes, Poppi, I used your account so you get the points), and I ended up at West buying a few more random items.
We took Pelican out this morning to "Seatrial" the new autopilot. It was blowing pretty good out there - we saw wind gusts to about 30kts. The first go around of calibrating the autopilot didn't go so well, but then we realized that we had placed Kristen's new Sailrite Sewing Machine right next to the autopilot compass. The Sailrite machine is about a 50-60lb chunk of steel, and that might have had something to do with the erroneous compass headings :). We moved it elsewhere, and all of a sudden the autopilot calibration worked. Go figure!
Returning to our slip was easier said than done. The piers that jut out from the dock allowing you to board your boat are all really small in this region. I don't know why they do it this way, but they do. Anyway, everyone backs their boats in down here to make it easier to get on and off of them. Well, Pelican doesn't back well to start with, and having a 20-25kt breeze catch your bow EVERY time you start backing into the slip makes life difficult. 5 tries later, I just pulled in bow first. Alright, I caved, but, well, whatevah...
Tonight we stopped by Cantler's, a great seafood restaurant just outside of town, for dinner. We always enjoy going there, and we figured it would be a nice treat since it is our last night with a car for a while. After heading back to the boat, I stopped by Matt's place (Matt being one of the people working on Pelican for the past few weeks, and also one of the people out there I can truly say cares about not just his work, but the people he's doing it for) to pick up our XBox. If you ever need mechanical, electrical or electronics work done, specifically ask for Matt at Engineered Marine Systems in Annapolis.
That brings us to the here and now. I've uploaded our course into our chartplotter for our trip to Norfolk. I've checked the weather like 12 times in the past hour, and it looks like we'll have enough breeze to sail down, although it might be a little bumpy in places. I've talked to lots of people with local knowledge. It's a fairly straightforward 24hour trip about 150 miles south, but since it represents the first leg of a much longer journey, I want everything to go perfectly. Well, I'll settle for adequate. OK.. I'll settle for getting there with all of us still on board and Pelican still floating. I don't know if I'll be able to do an entry while underway tomorrow, but hopefully our Spot will update the map correctly and you'll be able to see where we are every few hours. At the least, I'll update you when we reach Great Bridge, our stopping point just south of Norfolk. Tooduloo!
P.S. A few HUGE thanks are due... first to Scott and company for not just checking our house, but going out and getting new batteries for our sump pump UPS, checking our basement and just keeping track of our house so closely. You're beyond awesome! Another big thanks to the ever wonderful Poppi for jumping into his truck and heading right to our house with a generator. You're always there for us, and we appreciate it! And a large thanks to Chuck and Mary from Sailnet for lending their car to a few complete strangers! You made our lives a lot easier today and we owe you a huge amount of thanks!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Well, work on Pelican has pretty much wound down. All of the major systems are installed, everything has been moved on and we're just waiting for the weather to improve before we cast our lines free and head to Norfolk.
Today or tomorrow we're supposed to do a checkout and seatrial of the new systems (autopilot, generator, etc.) I have to install a new starting battery and we need to find a new pressure water pump - our current unit is starting to intermittently fail. I'm confident we'll always have things to do on her.
Yesterday we finished the install of the engine hoist to pull our new 20HP off of our dinghy and raise it to the rail. It weighs about 120lbs so it's not easy to just pull it off and pick it up. The thing is enormous and obscures a lot of our view to the stern when it's on the rail, but hopefully it won't be there often once we move to nicer weather. We attempted to lift our new dinghy onto the foredeck of Pelican, but found that it was fairly near impossible to winch to the deck. I have to head to West Marine to pick up a few blocks and 100' of line to create a lifting tackle with some mechanical advantage. There's always something!
The kids are doing great with their homeschooling. They've finally "accepted" Kristen as their teacher, and have spent 4-5 hours each day for the past 3 days at "Pelischool". They really seem to enjoy the extra attention during their learning, and are gaining a much better understanding of not just the "how things work" but also of the "why things work". It's really quite cool!
We got a phone call from Casey's old middle school today letting us know that they would be closing early due to inclement weather (looks like quite a storm heading for the Northeast!). I told the kids that school was getting out early today. Kristen didn't appreciate me getting them all excited, and asked me to have our number removed from the East Greenbush automated call system :).
Outside of that, there's nothing too tremendously exciting going on here as we wait. It's raining out, and cold, and we're just looking forward to getting going! Based upon longer range weather forecasts, it looks like we may be traversing the ICW for the majority of the way as opposed to jumping offshore. This means that the trip south will be far slower than we anticipated as we will only be able to navigate when it's light out and will have to wait for bridges and high tides in places. Oh well, we'll get there yet!
If anyone has any questions, feel free to post a comment!
Monday, December 8, 2008
On Saturday we unpacked half of the minivan and added a bunch of our stuff to the clutter of our cabin. Matt, one of the great people working on Pelican, graciously invited us to his apartment to hang out for a few hours. Kristen hung back at the boat to unpack (I pushed for us to join her, but she liked the idea of me leaving the boat for a few hours - hopefully not a sign of things to come :)) while I took the kids over to Matt's place. We ordered Thai food, hooked up our XBox to Matt's TV, watched movies, talked, laughed, cried (OK... maybe we didn't cry) and had a generally good time. It turns out that Nora, Matt's girlfriend, grew up in Rye, NY, which is where I, too, grew up. We had a nice time reminiscing about all the places we both knew. What are the odds? We had to leave before the kids finished watching "School of Rock", so we left our XBox for Matt as collateral until we return his movie. I'm sure he was extremely upset.
Sunday was/is a day of rest. Well, at least the morning was. I slept in until 9:30am for the first time in a few weeks. The kids woke me up since the decision was made, in my absence (OK - so I was sleeping - but I still wasn't there for the decision!), to go to Buddy's for brunch. Buddy's has an excellent all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch with everything from Eggs Benedict to crab claws to shrimp to grits to shish-ke-bobs to french toast and more. It's one of those traditional all-you-can-eat brunch buffets, just bigger. We ate our fair share and then, since we have to return the rental car tomorrow, we took the opportunity to pick up our sails from the sail loft (they were having some repairs done). The afternoon was spent unloading the last of our stuff from the car, doing a few more errands (grocery shopping, buying a propane heater for our cockpit for the cold trip south, buying a roto-zip tool [OK - that wasn't necessary, but you need something onboard to cut wood, don't you?] and various other highly exciting errands). We also picked Kristen up a set of sea boots at West Marine. I feel like Norm from Cheers these days. When I walk into West Marine they all greet me asking "Haven't you already been here like 12 times today?"
I noticed something about Pelican today. On Champlain, she always rode about 2 inches above her waterline. When we brought her to Annapolis, she was riding 2 inches above her waterline. Today, she's AT waterline. In short, we've loaded so much stuff on her that she's down in the water 2 inches lower than she usually is. This is perfectly safe, as we're still at the waterline.
Tomorrow, before I return the car, we'll be running over to Bacon's, a used marine gear consignment shop, to drop off a few items we don't need. I don't think there are any other major errands, but I'm sure I'll have some the second I drop the car off.
Weather-wise, it was a cold and windy day today. Temperatures were around 30 and there was a gale warning. The winds were blowing hard so I made sure to snug up all our dock lines. The forecast still calls for rain from Tuesday through Thursday, but we're looking good to head out on Friday. We become "real cruisers" tomorrow when we lose our car. We'll either be walking, begging for rides, using the dinghy or calling cabs, but this is what we signed up for!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
After some hose tracing, I find a closed thru hull. Most of our thru hulls are labeled, but this one isn't. I open it and pray. Back to the foot pump. Success! I have salt water. While washing the dishes I realize that our dish soap isn't Joy. Apparently for some strange reason, only Joy will suds up in saltwater. Anyhow, I wash in saltwater, transfer to the second sink (we have a split sink), rinse in fresh, and transfer back to the first sink to dry. Phew! Now finally I can start my coffee...
Coffee is now heating up. Time do something while it percolates. Ah, it must be done by now. Oh? What's this? The burner went out? Turns out the propane was shut off at the tank. This better be some really good coffee! By now I'm also contemplating adding some extra *seasoning* to my coffee.
Back on with the propane, thanks to Bob for turning it on for me! Burner on, and coffee success! Now if only our milk wasn't frozen solid. But that's a whole 'nuther story.
Friday, December 5, 2008
I'm sitting here in our main cabin, surrounded by STUFF, piled to the ceiling in places. Kristen is asleep in the V-Berth and the kids are snuggled soundly in their aft berth. Sometime in the past few days I picked up a major cold - the kind where it feels like the snot starts somewhere behind your eyelids and quickly rolls down your nasal cavities, spontaneously exploding out your nostrils at the most opportune times. Couple this with sneezing fits of 30 continuous sneezes, continuous coughing, sandy eyes... I think you get the picture. Working on Pelican while trying to get healthy again is pretty much an oxymoron.
It's been a rather eventful week or so. I believe you read a couple of Kristen's posting about our move. Things went fairly well, except for the movers completely understanding that we were paying them hourly, and then taking full advantage of it. Even so, it still came in close to budget, which is good since little else has. We managed to lend enough stuff to neighbors so that we could fit most everything in our storage facility. Yep - I'm sure they are all complaining about having to store our wide screen TV, HD Tivo, Piano, Wii, PS3 and lots of other stuff (yeah - just try to complain). What we couldn't fit is going to Kristen's parents house. It's amazing how much stuff you can still keep after having ridiculously huge garage sales. Where did we put it all??
Speaking of Kristen's parents, I have to say that they have been absolutely incredible over the past few weeks. There is absolutely no way that we could be here today if it weren't for them. I know that it's hard for them to see us do this, and that makes me appreciate them even more for being with us day after day, laboring till the wee hours to help us pack, clean our house, paint, move and more. They are still picking up after us even after we have left. They are incredible, and my appreciation and fondness for them is too deep to even express. Thanks Noni and Poppi!
On Thanksgiving day we headed up to their place for a Thanksgiving dinner with family. Due to various reasons, several completely within our control, we ended up staying nearby for a few extra days. It was nice to be able to do a more gradual goodbye than just eating a turkey dinner, coming back in the morning for breakfast and then immediately heading to my Mom's. We also got to spend mucho time with Kristen's brothers and their spouses, and their kids too. Kaitlin pretty much stayed at their place the entire time, only pausing for the briefest of moments to say goodnight to us before she was back playing with her cousins.
From Kristen's parent's we headed south to Stamford, CT to see my mother, sister (and kids) and my 96 year old grandpa. I swear that he's going to outlast us all. I sometimes wonder if it's the last time I'm going to see him, but then I realize that he's still enjoying life, and that's a great thing. My mother cooked a wonderful meal while we all sat around and talked. It was great to spend time with her and the rest of my immediate family, and it all ended too quickly.
On Monday morning we stopped by Landfall Navigation to pick up a few random items such as Bahamas and Florida charts and a ditch bag (a fully waterproof and buoyant bag where we can store lots of emergency supplies). We then headed south to Annapolis, eager to arrive at our home for the next 20 months.
Our arrival at Pelican was both joyous and a bit of a letdown. Every time I set foot on her it makes the world seem right, and this time was no exception. We arrived just before dark, and seeing her in all her glory stirred up some strong emotions in my heart - in a good way. The letdown was seeing her cockpit, and then her interior, after we climbed aboard. The cockpit was filled with wires, parts, tubes, hoses, tools, dirt, dust and more. Entering her interior seemed more like walking into a tiny closet where a 5 year old had just stashed all of their toys while "cleaning their room". Apparently the work being done was not as complete as we had hoped. Everything from every storage closet had been placed on berths and seats to make room to run ductwork for the air conditioning. The generator and autopilot were not completely installed, so maintaining access to the work areas was a priority while cleanliness was not.
In all fairness, the crew from Engineered Marine Systems was given a very difficult task with an impossible timeline. They have done a remarkable job of ensuring that things are done right while still trying to push forward to meet difficult deadlines. They are working long days, past dark, and we greatly appreciate their efforts. Of course, with our arrival, their list of to-do's got longer.
Let's see... what do we have going on? Completion of the generator installation, installation of sound shielding for it, completion of the air conditioning install, autopilot install, install of a wireless repeater, install of a cellular repeater, moving of our VHF charger to the helm, fix the refrigeration, install a new LED mastlight, install antennas on the mast for the repeaters, install engine hoist, install engine mount, install macerator, install additional 12v outlets, and much much more. In the meantime, we're working on our own projects just trying to get ready as quick as possible to head out. We're very late in the "season" to be heading south, and if we wait much longer it will be blizzarding as we have our sails up. We woke up two days ago with a skim of ice over the surface of the creek. I don't think Pelican was designed to be an ice breaker.
Tuesday night we headed over to my cousin Lynne's house. Driving through the traffic on the way there made me realize how much I can't wait to slow down a bit. She showed us some wonderful middle-Atlantic hospitality, and it was great to see her kids and her house and her life. Living away from my family, I realize how nice it is to have people make the trip to your abode so you can share it with them. We really enjoyed our too short time with her, but I'm sure we'll be getting together again soon.
Wednesday we pulled Pelican out of the water to do some work below the waterline. We had to enlarge one of the existing thru-hulls (holes in the hull) to allow for exhaust water to exit the generator. We also had to add a new thru-hull to allow the air conditioning to suck in water to cool or heat Pelican with. Kristen and I took the opportunity to do a few things ourselves, such as drill out the anchor mounting hole so it stays put on our bow (see our blog entries for our trip from CT to Annapolis), put marks on our anchor chain so we know how much we've put out as we drop anchor, verify how the anchor rode is attached to Pelican, change all the zincs, check all of our thru-hull valves to make sure they opened and closed properly (we had one that was sticking - it's better to play with it out of the water just in case the handle decides to break - you don't want water gushing inside your boat - that tends to be a bad thing), and service the propeller. We were out at 8am, and we made it back in just as they were shutting down at 4pm. They actually wanted to re-launch us the next day, but Kristen showed them her sexy smile and they put us back in the water posthaste!
A great longtime friend of mine (one of our two best men from our wedding and someone I've known forever) - Brian - drove in from DC to hang out with us on Wednesday night. We went to Joss Cafe, an excellent sushi place in Annapolis and one of the best sushi restaurants I've been to in the US. It was wonderful catching up with him and hearing about his... Wait - I can't tell you what he does or I'd have to kill you. He works for one of those agencies in DC that protects us from all the bad people.
What else is going on... Kristen has started homeschooling the kids. Kaitlin jumped right in, but Casey was having a few issues dealing with the changes of how his new teacher does things. I don't blame him - he's a guy like me. We're allergic to change. We should be able to stay the same while the world changes around us. It's our right, isn't it? Is that Kristen I hear waking up so she can punch me in the arm and tell me to shut up? Well, if it isn't, she surely will when she reads this blog entry :). Anyway, it turns out that Casey's science book is by the same company as his science book from last year, so once he saw that not everything was going to change he started going along with things. I can't believe he caved :)
We picked up our new dinghy today. We're upgrading from a 9' inflatable floor dinghy with a 6HP to a 10' rigid floor dinghy with a 20HP engine. Apparently, it's like going from a Yugo to a Hemi. Kristen and Casey motored it over from the dealer on Spa Creek to our slip on Back Creek. It's a few miles, yet she still arrived back at Pelican before I did, and I was driving our rental! Casey had an ear to ear grin - "It got up on a plane at only a quarter throttle!" Kristen just said "That was scary." I can't wait to try it out! We're having a big debate as to whether we're going to keep our old dinghy and bring it with us, or put it up for sale. On the one hand, it would be nice to have a second dinghy so the kids can go out and play and not strand Kristen and I on Pelican (that wouldn't be so terrible). On the other hand, it takes up a lot of storage space. We're still having this debate.
Tonight we made new friends and had an awesome dinner with a bunch of Sailnetters, a message board I frequent and have learned quite a bit from (http://www.sailnet.com/forums). We went over to The Boatyard Grill which seemed like a fitting place for a bunch of sailors. It was great meeting new people, and their generous offers to help us while here in Annapolis were very much appreciated.
I'm having a hard time figuring out when we're leaving the safety net of our slip. We should be leaving tomorrow or Sunday, but there's still lots to do on Pelican, including moving in, before we go. Half our stuff is still in our rental, and the other half is spread out between our cabins, the floors, the cockpit and the dock surrounding our boat. I think we brought too much stuff. We'll see how it goes. Anyway, back to the leaving part. We should be heading south ASAP, but we're waiting to finish up the work on Pelican. On the other hand, there's a low pressure system bringing rain and other instability for all of next week. If we don't get out ahead of the system, we're here for another week. Every week we're still here brings us deeper and deeper into the middle Atlantic Winter, which brings cold temperatures, snow, ice and other nasty stuff that I'd rather not be sailing in. It's not really about safety, other than figuring out how to stay warm. Oh well, we'll figure it out.
Hopefully we'll continue to crank through our list tomorrow. It's all about going slow, so I have to learn to deal with things as they come up as opposed to stressing about them. A step at a time. With that, I bid you adieu until my next entry.
P.S. Once we get Pelican cleaned up and more of a pattern going, I'll get some pictures going.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
With a finite time to get our out of the water work done, we got to work quickly. Bob and Matt, our crew from Engineered Marine Systems had to put in a thru hull for the air conditioner, enlarge the generator thru hull, put in an above water hole for the air cond and make the various connections. I had to exercise all our thru hulls, service our prop, mark 10' increments on the anchor rode, drill a bigger hole in our anchor, and put new zincs on (note from editor [i.e. Chris] - I love the "I" in this sentence. I helped some!).
We were just wrapping up at 4:00 when the travel lift pulled up behind our boat. The guy operating the travel lift seemed to think we weren't moving fast enough, so he kindly mentioned that if we didn't hurry he could come back tomorrow.
As we were put back in the water, our good friend Brian came walking down the dock! He lives in DC, and drove down to visit us. After exchanging hugs and friendly insults we went out to the Sailyard for Hot Buttered Rums. Mmmmmmmmm...nothing is better than a Hot Buttered Rum after a hard days work in the cold! The sailyard knows how to do them right too!!!
After the Sailyard it was off to Joss for the best sushi ever. We lasted a couple of hours and started falling asleep in our sukiyaki. Brian dropped us off at our boat and we said our goodbyes. It was great to see you Brian!!!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The reason for the mess is that they're still working on installing the generator, air conditioning, cell and wireless amplifier, engine hoist and various other stuff. We've decided to keep our worldly possessions in the rented minivan until the workers are done. That way our stuff won't be in their way, and hopefully they'll be done faster.
Our first night on the boat was simply heaven! I haven't slept so well in ages. I was even rested up enough to go for a run in the morning. Life felt almost normal after a run and a refreshing shower. After that it was off to run errands. We had to check on engine work, get the kids foul weather gear (you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find offshore gear for an 8 yr old!), find a collapsible shopping cart, and buy a dinghy. We managed everything but the shopping cart. We also managed to fit in a trip to a favorite Annapolis restaurant, Chick and Ruth's Delly. Yes that's Delly and not Deli. It's an absolutely amazing Jewish Deli in the heart of Annapolis. Go figure!
Tonight we went to visit Chris's cousin Lynn and her two kids Ben and Sarah about an hour away from here. It was great to see Lynn (sorry we missed Karl!), and the kids were so cute. Casey and Kaitlin proceeded to chase Ben and Sarah around the house the whole evening with a 5 minute break for dinner! Thanks for the hospitality Lynn!
Tomorrow we get the boat hauled for the day. I believe they're putting in a thru hole for the air conditioning, and I'm going to service the prop. We also need to enlarge the hole in the anchor and mark the anchor chain. As Chris realized on the trip from Long Island, the temporary fix didn't work. Also we never marked the anchor chain, so every time we let it out it's a guess as to how much chain is out. Now that I'm writing this I realize that we never bought paint to mark the chain. Good thing we still have the car!
Speaking of the car, we only have it until Friday. This means it's a mad dash to get everything done before then. Once the car is gone it's kinda tough to run to Home Depot! Even for me :)
Oh, we also started homeschooling! Well, again, kind of. We realized that there is a ton to do before we have to give up the car, so school is happening on the way to places and during downtimes. I read through Kaitlin's history book and found out that God is mentioned an awful lot. Not that I'm against God, but I would like an unbiased history of the world. Not one that starts out with God created the stars. After a brief panic and a check of the web, Calvert is actually toted as the most non-religious home school out there. Phew!
So we're here but still in limbo. It will be nice once we can actually move on board and put everything away and get on our way.