Friday, October 19, 2018

Down the Bay All the Way

165 nm  N37 03.251  W076 17.240

Our original plans were for our next stop to be Queen's Creek, just south of Deltaville.  This would have been a relatively short day, but we like the Queen's Creek anchorage. 

However, there was a problem.  The weather forecasts showed a front coming through in the next day.  If we went to Queen's creek, we would probably wait there an extra day for the front (and all its rain) to pass so we wouldn't have to travel during squalls. The problem was that after the front passed, there was predicted be strong winds, almost gale force, that would keep us pinned down for another day.

This would be one more day than our small holding tank could accommodate! :(

After looking at the charts last night, I found that if we skipped Queen's Creek, and went directly to our next planned stop, a marina at Salt Ponds (outside of Hampton, VA), it would be about 45 nm.  We had done this kind of distance for the last two days, but this time the wind would be against us, having come around to SSW the night before.  Still, I figured if we motorsailed, and could maintain at least 5.5 kts, we would get there before dark.  The two marinas at Salt Ponds are very well protected on all sides, and would make a good place to wait out the weather.

So, off we went.  The dawn at Sandy Point was pretty, with little wisps of fog drifting over the water.  The boat was heavy with dew, and the temperature was 41 (Back home, they had frost!).
Dawn at Sandy Point
Once we got back out on the bay, it was apparent that we would be able to motorsail close hauled with both Main and Jib.  To my delight, this resulted in a boat speed of 6 kts, which would get us there in plenty of time.
Motorsailing with Main and Jib
As the afternoon wore on, we had to adjust our course closer and closer to the wind, until the jib would no longer pull, so we took it down.  Surprisingly, this didn't seem to hurt our speed, which continued to creep upwards by a few tenths of a knot.

The reason, of course, was the tide.  Starting around 1:00, it had turned in our favor, and was giving our speed-over-ground a boost.  Eventually, even the main stopped pulling, but our speed kept up at 6.2 kts.  It was total luck the tide was in our favor, as it gave us almost a knot extra for free.

We got in to Salt Ponds with plenty of daylight to spare, and the temp had climbed to 66, so we were in good spirits.
Entering Salt Ponds
Salt Ponds is a long, narrow salt marsh that lies just behind and parallel to a narrow barrier island.  The entrance is a rock-lined cut through the island, with a hard 90 degree turn.  Once inside, there are two large marinas, on on either side.  The Salt Ponds Marina and Resort had room for us, so we tied up to their floating docks, secure for the next few days bad weather.
Safe and Sound
Joan made another spectacular dinner of Pork in a tomato-based sauce, butternut squash, and applesauce.  We really do eat well while cruising!

Life is good.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Rather Blustery Day

114 nm   N37 49.394  W076 18.899

Be careful what you wish for!

The winds today did indeed come around to the NNW.  They were supposed to be 10-12 kts, but when we got out on the Patuxent River they already blowing 15.  By the time we reached the Bay, they were up to 20, with 2 ft following seas!  And dead astern.  We cautiously unfurled a deeply reefed jib (I was afraid if I let it all the way out, I'd never be able to get it back in!) , and flew along at 6 kts.  Within an hour, the winds had built to 25 kts, 3-4 ft seas, and we were doing 6-7 kts and wallowing all over the place.  The autopilot simply cant handle conditions like this, so we hand-steered

Joanie at the Helm

I got some video as well, and put it up on Google Drive:

Joanie was definitely feeling the cold today.

Southbound! Seeking 80! (degrees!)

Later in the afternoon, it eased off back to 15 kts, and then down to 10, so we rolled out the rest of the jib.  And when it eased further to 7 kts, we tried to come up into the wind and hoist the main to go wing-and-wing, but the seas were still lumpy and we were rolling all over the place, and I felt it was just too dangerous to try, so we aborted the attempt and continued on under jib alone.

Crossing the infamous mouth of the Potomac was no more (or less) rough than we had experienced already.  In fact, by the time we reached Smith Point, we were motorsailing in order to reach our anchorage on the Wicomico before nightfall.

Point No Point, North of the Potomac
Smith Point, South of the Potomac
Another 40+ nm day!
We anchored inside of Sandy Point off of the Wicomico, despite the fact that it has no protection to the NNW.  The winds were due to come around to WSW before tomorrow, so I figured we would not be too uncomfortable 'til then.  and right after sunset they did come around and the water laid down still as a mill pond.

Joanie made a great dinner of homemade chili that warmed us up.

Life is good.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Our first Full Day

69.9 nm   N38 30.380  W076 27.540

After a peaceful night on the Rhode River, we got up early (6:00am) and did a 42nm leg today down the Bay to Solomon's

It was great out there today!  First half the day we did 5-6 kts broad reaching on the jib alone. Later it hardened up to a beam reach,then a little bit to windward. With main & jib we were doing 6-7 kts.  It was a bit chilly. Temps started out in the low 50s, but made it all the way up to 67. I was layered up like mad, including my foul weather jacket, and managed to stay tolerably warm. That wind really sucks the heat right out of you. It was blowing 13-15 kts. 

Saw a large bald eagle sitting on a piling as we came into Back Creek at Solomons. 

After topping off our fuel, water, and getting a pumpout, we anchored in the upper part of Back Creek. After end-of-voyage shots, the hard-worked foredeck crew took a well-deserved rest. 

Tomorrow, another 40nm day to Sandy Point on the Wicomico.

Life is good.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Finally Underway!

Well, the 14th slipped to the 15th and there was still a million little things to get taken care of before we left, so the 15th slipped to the 16th.  but we finally got underway today!

Bill Bredlow showed up to see us off.  The boat's engine gave us a little trouble starting (it doesn't like the cold either!), but we cast off the lines, got fuel at the MD Yacht Club, and were on our way by a leisurely 1 PM. 

The winds were forecast to be 5-7 NW, which would have great for our first (short) leg down to the Rhode River.  But they never materialized.  Instead we got 2-4 kts from the South, right on the nose.  So we motored.

5 1/2 hrs  and 27 1/2 nm later we pulled into the Rhode river just ahead of sunset, and set the hook back by the Smithsonian's Environmental Research Center on the upper Rhode.  There were two other cruisers there ahead of us, and one more came in later.

The high temp was 63, so we were a bit chilled, and hot soup seemed like just the ticket.  Of course, Joan couldn't just open a can.  We ended up with a wonderful homemade chicken noodle soup that hit the spot!

We'll get an early start tomorrow, and get in a full 40 nm leg down to Solomon's Island.  Winds are forecast to be 13-15 WNW, which should be perfect!   We'll see..

Anyway, once again, Life is Good!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Two years later and two weeks late

Well, here we are again trying madly to get the boat and house ready for our second trip South to spend the winter in Florida and the Bahamas.

Once again, tons of rain, and a tropical hurricane with a name beginning with "M", have caused us to be leaving later than I'd like.  Idealy, I'd have left on Oct 1.  But this slipped to Oct 6, then to Oct 12, then Oct 13, and now to (tomorrow) Oct 14.  And that's looking none too certain!

They say the hardest part of any sailing trip is leaving the dock.  I can confirm that this is true!

Meanwhile, its gotten cold!

The boat is basically ready. I completed the installation of a macerator pump, and repaired and re-installed the galley foot pump.  Joan went halfway up the mast to replace a broken flag halyard that we use to hoist the radar reflector, and we spent a marathon 7 hours yesterday loading non-perishable provisions and our dinghy aboard.  All that's left is the perishables, my clothes, and the generator and we should be good to go.

I can't wait!

Joan Going Up tht Mast


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Myrtle Beach, Carolina Beach, Swansboro

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Our next three days were pretty uneventful, and were repeats of stops we made on the way south last Fall. 

After our escapade on the Wacamaw, we had ended up further North than planned, so it was only a short 27 NM trip to Myrtle Beach, including the infamous "Rockpile" section of the ICW.  We took a slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, where, by good fortune, our friend (and fellow P-323 owner) Dick Martin was at his boat for the weekend. We got together with him and his wife for dinner.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Today's run would take us into North Carolina and up the Cape Fear river to Carolina Beach, a distance of 46 NM.  We left early, at 7:00 am, in order to time the tides on the Cape Fear River to not be opposing the winds.  This had happened to us on the way South, and the resulting "Rage" of choppy and confused seas had made for a difficult and uncomfortable passage.

And it was well that we did.  By the time we were were northbound on the Cape Fear River,  the winds had risen to 30 knots, gusting to 36, out of the South. We were at the tail end of the rising tide, just ahead of high-slack, but the wind and tide still combined to push us along at 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 knots! As is typical for downwind, it really didn't feel like that much wind, until we had to turn ENE to head for the canal, called Snow's Cut, that leads to Carolina Beach.  Then it became really apparent just how much wind there was!

In Snow's Cut,  the wind and current boosted our speed over ground  to almost 9 knots!  It makes for quite a "sleighride" up the narrow canal!

Once at Carolina Beach, we headed for the mooring field.  Given how hard the wind was blowing, I was glad we had elected for the security of a mooring.  But there was a down side. The wind was so gusty and veering that it was extremely difficult to pick up the mooring pendant.  It took us many tries and over a half hour before we successfully snagged it and had a proper two-rope bridle set up. Things got a little heated at times, but that was just our frustration.

And then, shortly afterward,  a trawler pulled up to a nearby mooring and gave us a repeat performance, complete with lost pickups and increasingly sharp words between the husband at the helm and the wife on the foredeck.  I couldn't help but laugh, not at their discomfort, but at how it reminded me of how we must have looked!

Eventually, they got it secured, but to my concern, I noticed that they had rigged a single-rope bridle, from their port cleat, through the loop on the end of the pendant, and back to their starboard cleat.  This allows the line to saw back and forth through the loop on the pendant, and can wear through it in a matter of hours!  And with the way the wind was blowing, we were "sailing" around back and forth a lot!  The way to avoid this is to use two lines, each one going from a cleat, through the pendant loop, and back to the same cleat.

I was afraid they would break free in the middle of the night and end up in the weeds.  I tried to raise them on the VHF to warn them of the danger, but they must have had their radio off.  So I contacted the harbormaster who runs the mooring field and explained the situation.  He too was concerned, and later came out in his dinghy to show them how to set up a two-rope bridle and helped them do it.

I'm sure everyone slept better that night.  I know I did.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

 Today we were going to duplicate our longest leg on the ICW, a distance of 69 NM from Carolina Beach to Swansboro.  We had done this in the other direction the fall, when the days were short, but it was a stretch, requiring getting underway pre-dawn and arriving minutes before sunset. With the longer daylight hours now, I was confident that we would make it without trouble.

And we did.  Upon arriving at Swansboro, we once again took a slip at Dudley's marina.  It's a bit rough, but at $0.75 per foot (including power)  it's hard to beat! 

Tomorrow, we'll continue northward, past Beaufort and up on to the Neuse River.

Life is good.

Friday, May 19, 2017

An Alligator, a Jerk, and an Angel

Friday, April 28, 2017

Got a leisurely start at 8:15am and left Charleston, bound for McClellenville, a distance of only 36 NM.  Got there about 2:30pm and anchored again in Five Fathom Creek, where we had stopped on the way south last fall.  This deep creek is just off of the channel used by the commercial shrimp boats to get to the ocean, and they sometimes anchor there overnight.  We went far enough into the shallows to be well away from them.

The hundreds of acres of marshes look very different from the way they did in fall.  Then, they were all golden brown, as far as the eye could see, but now they were all vibrant green.  A little buggier than in the fall, but nothing our screens couldn't handle.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

After leaving McClellenville we continued to head north.  While crossing through a cut through the Santee Swamp, we encountered a 6-foot alligator swimming along the shore, headed for the reeds!  Joan managed to get a photo of it.  It's the only alligator we've seen from the boat on the entire trip!
Our day's travel took us into the beautiful Wacamaw river, where we were planning on anchoring once again in Thoroughfare creek, just off the main river.  Those of you who have been following this blog may remember that last Fall, this was the site of our anchoring fiasco that ended up with our anchor line wrapped around the prop, and me having to go diving in the pitch-black freezing water to untangle it by touch alone. 

I really wasn't happy with this location, but there are few good choices on the Wacamaw, as the water tends to go abruptly from too deep (35 ft) to too shallow.  So we carefully surveyed the depths back and forth, and found the one spot that that was good.  We set up just downwind of it and I hovered in place for a minute to give Joanie enough time to set the proper line length on the trip line float.  While we were doing this,  a big trawler named "Traveler" came around the bend, ignored the fact that we were getting ready to anchor, motored right past us and dropped their anchor right in the spot we had just picked out!  I was furious!  We then tried to work around them, but downstream of them it was too deep, and upstream we would be too close!  Holding my tongue, and following the philosophy that the only person whose actions I can control is me,  we proceeded upstream to look for another anchorage.

But it was fruitless.  The water was either too deep, or the depth was ok but the creek was too narrow to allow for swinging room with a proper amount of scope out.   After a half an hour of this, we gave up.  I turned the boat back downstream, gave the helm to Joan, and got out the charts in another hurried attempt to find a spot that looked usable before dark.

We spent the next 3 hours hunting.  The first spot I found on the charts wasn't workable at all in reality.  The second spot looked promising, but a large steel ketch named "Steel Away" was already anchored there, and there wasn't enough good water for a second boat.  The third spot was just barely usable, but it was a poor choice being just outside of the channel and close to the shoreline.  We decided to make the best of this, as we were running out of both time and river, as just North of us the ICW narrows into a canal that doesn't have any possibilities until north of Myrtle Beach!

As we were slowly going back and forth to find the best spot, a trawler passed us by, then hailed us on channel 16 to ask if we were having trouble.  Yin and Yang.  For every jerk, there's a good guy to balance out the universe!  Anyway, when we told him we were just looking for a spot to anchor for the night, he told us that if we could hold on for an hour more, there was a a real sweet spot just an hours travel north of us!  He said the depths ranged from 10 to 20 feet.  10 feet would work for us!  So, after thanking him profusely,  we crossed our fingers and headed north once again.  Now, we were committed, as daylight would be running out when we got there, and there would be no more spots north of there.  We would have to make this one work!

The location we were heading for is of a type called an "oxbow".  Its where a small branch of the river goes around an island and rejoins the main river.  Its ideal, as there should be no traffic on it.

When we got there, we found that there was room for about 5 boats, but 3 of the spots were already occupied.  We went into the first available spot and everything looked good!  The depth was great and there was plenty of swinging room.

But the anchor wouldn't set!  As soon as we started to pull back on it, tremendous amounts of bubbles started boiling up above the anchor, as it released gasses from tons of decaying leaves on the bottom.  The consistency was like mush, and the anchor just plowed through it without holding! :(

After two failed attempts, we retrieved the anchor and went to the last available spot.  This one was less desirable, as it was right in the mouth of the side creek where it rejoined the main river, so it was closer to the traffic in the channel.  But it was all we had left, and the depth and swinging room were both good.  Crossing our fingers, we dropped the anchor and trip line and paid out chain and line.  Once we had it out, I put the engine in reverse to set the anchor ... and it held!

Life is good.