Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holidays in the Islands

We celebrated Christmas with some of the same traditions - ONE present to be opened Christmas Eve and turkey.

The local grocery store, Maxwell's had a deal on last Tuesday buy one turkey, get one ham for free!!! Of course, I had no room in our tiny fridge but I couldn't pass it up. I bought both frozen solid and we took everything home from Marsh Harbour to Treasure Cay in the rental truck we got to drive mom and dad to the airport.

I cooked the ham on Wednesday and invited Sandra and Sebastian from Jamoco and Ken and Sarah from Skedaddle to dinner and it was a great feast and very festive. Sandra also brought French chocolate truffles. Yum.

We decided to run to Marsh Harbour on Christmas Eve because the Jib Room at Marsh Harbour Marina hosted a potluck for cruisers and they supplied turkey and ham.

The boys and Scott did a dive on Thursday on a shipwreck and were totally pumped. We had a terrific sail on Friday and sang Christmas carols as we dipped around 6 knots on a great reach into Marsh Harbour. We took a dock (thanks to some Christmas $$$ from Uncle Gary) at the marina and we're here for a few nights because of the blow today (Boxing Day) of 30 to 35 knots.

Santa still made his way to our boat and the kids got lots of dive stuff and snorkeling gear and art supplies, etc. It was a good day. We missed family and friends, to be sure, but as Molly said, we were making new memories for our family here on a gorgeous day. By the way, my mac and cheese was the hit of the day, if I do say so myself. I also made a great coffee cake for the morning along with gingerbread. Maggie on Water Hobo made terrific shortbread so we didn't suffer for treats. Elizabeth also received a few small gifts from our new friends here, much to her delight.

It's blown and hard here today and our skype connection isn't as great as we had hoped to chat with family back home.

Still, we are sitting cozy at the Jib Room, playing cards, watching football and enjoying the company of our fellow cruisers.

I'm doing two loads of laundry (now that the water pressure is back up) and trying to get motivated to clean up the boat from Christmas festivities.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting into the groove

It's amazing how it does take a few days to gear down from the hyperactivity of the past four months of go go go to finally be in a place that is definitely not on North American time.

Lots of places we go, the store keepers are taking a break mon, things move slowly here and it's just fine.

Internet access is iffy sometimes, and you just have to wait.

It's still been stormy here and we've had a few tense moments navigating around Hopetown, a gorgeous town with a fabulous surfing beach. But overall, we're getting into the groove.

Tonight's our last night with mom and dad before they head out on their tiny plane to Nassau. We had Christmas dinner on board last night with turkey and all the fixings, it was steamy down below and a gale outside.

Mom and dad had a damp and cold ride back in the dinghy and today it hasn't warmed up too much but the sun was brilliant and we just took it easy by the pool and beach and hung out. It could be worse.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's better in the Bahamas

The still waters of the Bahama bank
Yay - last week we had got ourselves down to Lake Worth near the inlet to be ready for any possible weather window. It was only a little over a week to Dec. 14 when Lisa's mom and dad and Reggie were to meet us in Marsh Harbour in the Abacos in Bahamas and we were growing more anxious with each day.

We had met a couple from Maine in a boat called Civil Twilight. They and friends of theirs had crossed a few times over to the Bahamas and we had talked to them about reading the weather, etc. We met up with both couples in Lake Worth where we were all anchored and waiting.

We thought Friday looked good. Then at 5:45 a.m. Alan and Geri from Civil Twilight emailed us to say that they were leaving Wednesday, that day because a brief window had opened up to cross the Gulf stream - we were leaving!!!!

We threw some groceries on board then headed out to sea. The wind was blowing 10 to 15 knots from the northeast, not necessarily ideal due to the northerly 4 knot current but it was supposed to die. Of course it never did. The gulf stream was incredible - we left at about 3 p.m. from Lake Worth and in the daylight we could see it ahead of us, like a roiling river in the middle of the ocean. We started crossing the Gulf tream and the waves were about 4 to 6 feet with the occasional 8 foot wave. We took them on our stern quarter and Elizabeth started feeling seasick. Once we were across the stream, about 7 hours later, she perked up and we tucked into bed and started watches. We crossed into the Bahama Bank. It had been so cold in Lake Worth, below freezing and the gentle breezes and calm in of the bank was a welcome change. We motorsailed across the northern edge of Grand Bahama and finally tossed out our anchor at a small cay 26 hours after leaving Florida. The next day we cleared customs at Green Turtle Cay and headed out across the Whale Passage to Treasure Cay, where mom and dad had reservations.

The Whale, as it is known, is a small cut through some islands from the ocean into the sea of Abaco. It can be deadly and treacherous due to to the steep shelf and the currents between the ocean and the islands meeting. We started taking big seas on the bow, about 8 foot giant waves that picked up Messenger like a plaything.

We motorsailed behind friends of ours on their boat. The sun was shining, the sea was a sapphire blue and the uninhabited island on the lee shore was dotted with palm trees.  Although it was scary, it was exhilerating - we had to whoop and holler. It was either that or puke.

We tucked into Treasure Cay, a beautiful protected anchorage. We gathered together on the beach bar and had a celebration beverage.

The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. It has taken us days to absorb the fact that we've made it here.

Mom and dad and Reggie came in yesterday to Marsh Harbour. We'd sat tight in the anchorage all day Monday due to a 30-knot blow that came in on sunday night and the weather was still cold, about 60 to 65.

Oh yeah, and just to prove it is a small world, we had gone to the community church here on sunday and met a lady who was not only from Jarvis but Eleanor (Johnson) Grimm was also the daughter of scott's grandma's best friend, Marg Johnson.

Eleanor and her husband Fred had kindly invited us to dinner at their beautiful oceanside home for dinner but we'd had to cancel due to the weather. What a pleasure to meet them though!

we're now planning to tour some of the Abacos with mom and dad for a few days and savour our time with them. Reg flies home New Year's Day to spend January back at home doing exams and then he'll join us hopefully in Georgetown, in the Exumas further south in the Bahamas chain.

It's warm there but it has to be pretty terrific to compare to the waters and beaches of the Abacos.

It'll soon be time to find out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

we're here!

we made it to the Bahamas thusday. posting from my kindle so will post again tomorrow hopefully.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A week aboard Messenger

A lot of non-boaters may think that life aboard is all romantic sunsets and beach parties. Well, we have seen some amazing sunsets and sunrises, we have walked some pretty fantastic beaches in Florida and the water is blue here, deep cold blue with a frothy salt spray.

We've also seen dolphins,pelicans, manatees and beautfiul birds soaring above us and the marshlands and mangroves that dot the landscape.

Darn good thing too, because life aboard is busy busy busy and an endless series of projects, big and small.
When life depends on the maintenance and upgrades to your vessel, priorities snap into place.

So we are on our way to Lake Worth today after spending a week in Vero Beach, Florida. We can't believe we spent a whole week there but here's a snapshot of life aboard Messenger:
Saturday, Nov. 24(?):
Arrive in Vero Beach at about 1700 hours after driving about 53 miles from Cocoa, a nice village on the ICW, not far from Cape Canaveral.

Got a mooring ball all by ourselves but expect to raft off with other boats soon as most of the mooring balls have at least two boats to one ball, some with three. This is a major stop to reprovision for sailing snowbirds. We checked in with the marina after launching the dinghy then headed back to the boat and made dinner and crashed by 9 p.m.
No bus service today but we got up, made a decent breakfast and just after lunch walked a mile or so to the beach at Vero which was gorgeous with white sand and surprisingly warm water. We met a family from Quebec we've seenoff and on since New York who are headed for the Dominican Republic. We stopped for ice cream and walked back to the boat to make dinner. A game of Yahtzee finished off the night. We are trying to eat through the fridge so we can stock up on fresh provisions for our trip to the Bahamas.We also checked our email, did a quick skype with family and checked on our banking.
School is in from 9 to noon. Scott started evaluating the need for parts to mount the man overboard pole we bought last year and to switch the head over to an overboard pumpout. Our head, which I've already written about extensively, is a self-contained unit that requires marina pumpout service. But when we go to the Bahamas, pumpout service is not oftenavailable so most boats go three miles offshore and pump waste overboard via a thruhull. We had a thruhull but no Y-valve to switch to pump out the holding tank. We took the FREE bus from the marina up to a great little plaza with a West Marine on one side and a Publix supermarket on theother.We stopped at West Marine and discovered a great dive shop where we bought some gear and hose for the head and then we were ona mission to go up to the mall where there was a Macy's. It was a rushed trip because the bus service ended at 5 pm.
Scott caught an early bus to get parts for projects while Lisa and the kids did school. Then in the afternoon, Lisa did grocery shopping with three shopping bags anda dolly while Scott and crew did some work on the boat.
Provisioning day - all four of us left and caught the 10 a.m. bus to Wal-Mart where we proceeded to spend five hours shopping for food, engine oil, and miscellaneous items for the boat. Before taking a taxi home (we had three shopping carts full so couldn't ride the bus), we met a couple from Newfoundland who were taking all the cardboard boxes out of the bags and tossing themas they waited for the bus. I thought it was OK to take cardboard from the States onboard but the lady told us a horror story of bugs taking up residence from boxes of cereal onto their boat and it took them a long time to get rid of them. That motivated all four of us to rapidly ditch all the cardboard we had - boxes that held cereal, cookies, etc. Amazing how much packaging there was. Aidan was upset that no one seems to recycle in Florida, it seemed a crime to throw all that paper into the garbage.
Back at the dinghy dock, Scott and Aidan did three runs on the dinghy to get all of our stores aboard. Then Lisa spent two hours packing food away.Ugh. By 7 p.m. we were all ravenous so made dinner and fell into bed.
To our collective dismay, the day before we had learned there was no pumpout service to the head. However Scott was even more upset as he had to go to the holding tank and fix the Y-valve on. Elizabeth wisely opted to do schoolwork and keep on top of the laundry ashore while Aidan did school aboard and Lisa caught an early bus to pick up a few more things from Publix, namely the frozen turkey breast she wanted for Christmas dinner, as well as a few Christmas presents. She ran back at 11:30 and caught a bus after dropping off the groceries and went to the hair salon!!!! Yay!!!! First trip in four months. Walked the mile back to the boat and jumped into the shower as did Elizabeth. Elizabeth finallly got to see one of her favourite TV shows in the lounge after all the adults left and then we walked to a great restaurant about half a mile away on the river where most of us had fish.
We were going to leave today but because Scott was all day working on the head yesterday, we decided to do school, then go at the boat with a clean up. Scott installed the man overboard pole and changed the chain over on the anchors and straightened them up. After school, Scott and Lisa ran into do a few errands to pick up oil filters, a few odds and ends at the grocery store and a fishing pole for Scott from West Marine and some Christmas presents at a huge book store we found behind the plaza. Back at the boat Elizabeth and Scott travelled back and forth from the water dock with  gerry cans to top up the water tanks and then Scott ran to get diesel and gas cans filled up and topped up the fuel tank. Lisa also installed all of the electronic charts for the Bahamas on the two PC laptops, sorted out the EPIRB registration, did some emails and online banking and checked weather websites. Then it was back to the lounge to do one more load of laundry (does it ever end???),showers, and met two cruising families from Quebec who might be crossing with us in a few days (fingers crossed). By the timewe got back to the boat, it was so late we just had eggs and bacon and pancakes for dinner while watching the Christmas boat parade on the canal.
We stowed the dinghy aboard again and got ready to head out Saturday morning.

We hope to cross from Lake Worth inlet (north of West Palm Beach) to West End, at the northwest tip of Grand Bahamas Island. It's only 55 miles point to point, not much further than our jaunts across the lake to Erie, PA but with the Gulf Stream and weather patterns, it's not so easy.

We don't think we can leave for at least five to six days.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Away to Vero Beach

We anchored in Daytona Beach in a very tight, shallow anchorage two nights ago and didn't dare leave the boat. It was a bit frustrating because the strip was so close. We were still worn out from all of the running to Orlando anyway. We went to Cocoa yesterday - it reminded us of the trip we took years ago when the kids were little. We had taken them to Orlando to Disney and then drove out to Cocoa Beach.Aidan and Elizabeth don't remember too much except the Kennedy Space Center and Disney. Check out Elizabeth's take on this trip at

Time flies.

We see dozens of signs warning boaters to slow down to protect the manatees - an endangered species.The manatees often swim just below the surface and the props from speeding boats slice into their backs,injuring or killing them. About 30 years ago there were only 200 or 300.Due to the awareness campaigns, there are now about 3000 but they are still fragile, with decreasing habitat and speeding boats. Scott has seen two while driving - they are very large, gentle creatures, sort of like small elephants of the sea.

It's rainy today and we had a nice shower last night to wash the salt spray off the boat.

We're headed to Vero Beach, some people call it Velcro Beach as they get stuck there waiting nervously for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. We would like to find another boat to travel with but we're not too sure about success. Our boat is actually kind of fast,to put it modestly, and we'll need to find one that travels about the same speed.

We've also changed our minds a bit about where we're going to get into a spot for mom and dad and Reggie to meet us. We've decided that instead of crossing from Lake Worth Inlet (near West Palm Beach)to Lucaya on Grand Bahamas and then heading south to Nassau and then the Exumas that we'll head further north to West End or Memory Rock, then Great Sale Cay north of Grand Bahamas and then head to the east to the Abaco Islands. We think it may be less likely we can get south given challenges posed by weather and the distances involved.

We can meet up with the gang at Marsh Harbour or Treasure Cay and it's easy cruising for a week or so. There are lots of great day trips we can take from Marsh Harbour and there are plenty of places to stay for mom and dad and to fly in and out of.

We're all looking forward to seeing them so much. There's just so much to do in Vero, it's a bit overwhelming. Got to go add to the list.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time out - Hello Orlando!!

St.Augustine had its celebration of lights, getting us in the holiday mood.

So, we took a break on Monday and due to the upcoming American Thanksgiving, decided that we should go to Orlando and do the Universal Studios thing before the weekend.

We got a great deal on a hotel (!!!) and off we went in a rental car.

It was weird being off the boat - kind of a big room, probably not for some but for us, used to small spaces, the king-sized bed seemed a bit ridiculous.

Anyway, we had a blast at Universal Studios - visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The lineups were a bit much - earlier in the day there was a four hour wait just to get into Hogsmeade. There were also lines to go into the stores but the hour and a half we waited to go on the Hogwarts roller coaster was actually worth it. The ride was fantastic, bringing you on a broomstick ride through Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione urging you on. We saw the new Harry Potter movie in St. Augustine on the weekend so it was a good follow-up. It was long and fun and thrilling. We also stopped for a butterbeer - see photo of Elizabeth and Aidan - and of course, we also had to visit the Spiderman 3D roller coaster and Dr. Seuss Landing.

Today we picked up bushels of oranges and fruit and headed back to our home on the water.
Tomorrow we head to Daytona Beach. Its hard to leave this beautiful village, we'll have to stop here on the way back.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In St. Augustine . . . at last

We left Charleston last Tuesday and headed to Beaufort, SC on the ICW. It was a nice run with one stop on the hook just off Sam's Point. The water was deep, the night was still and we were tired. We slipped into Beaufort by 9 a.m. and decided to anchor for the night. We wanted to leave the next day to go offshore to Fernandina Beach, FL or St.Augustine.

What a day! Scott and Aidan headed into town on the dinghy for showers. While they were gone, Elizabeth and I worked on homeschooling and cleaned the cabin in readiness for the trip offshore. At the same time, the wind was building. It was to go to 15 to 20 knots which it quickly did. By the time Scott and Aidan had returned it was howling at 30 knots plus.

We didn't dare leave the boat and we watched in dreadful fascination as two boats near us dragged onshore. Our sturdy Rocna held and we kept checking it and watching the current and seas around us froth a bit.

We had plans to go out for dinner with Dave and Marilyn from Wind Sprite, a couple from Ottawa and finally by 5, it had calmed down enough for us to slip into the dinghy dock for showers and dinner. By 6 it had piped again to 15 to 20 knots. We spoke with Mirelo, a boat from Quebec who also wanted to travel offshore with us. We decided to reconvene in the morning to figure out what to do.

We got back to the boat about an hour and a half later and realized an apparently abandoned Catalina Morgan 42 had dragged a bit closer to us. It was now dark and stormy and we decided to take in some rode and watch her closely, assuming the owner would return. It was clearly a newer boat and all equipped for the trip south. THe owner never appeared. Scott was up all night checking on the boat. I got up at 6 to check on it and it seemed fine. The tide changed at 6:30 and suddenly Boom! The Catalina had slammed its anchor chain into our port quarter. We ran up in pyjamas and shoved it off. It dragged away with no owner in sight. We decided to pick up anchor and move (a bit late) and moved closer to the marina. We set the anchor facing current and the dying breeze. That was our first mistake. Messenger with her fancy racing keel likes to ride a current and race up the rode. We took a quick run into the heads ashore and came back to discover Messenger had tangled her rode between the keel and the rudder. The current had pushed the boat with such force that the rode was tight against thehull and slipped under her hull. We tried for about an hour and finally got it out when we untied the rode completely from the bow and tied it to the stern. I was in the dinghy at the back helping feed the rode around while Scott and the kids lifted it up. Unfortunately, the prop seems to wiggle a bit now and we'll have to assess.

We were exhausted and wet and muddy and following two sailboats out to sea. Yikes.

The weather window was too good to pass up.

We had a very pleasant offshore passage. Elizabeth and I had taken seasickness medication - Bonine - early in the morning - so we were a bit drowsy but with when Messenger caught the wind, she took off at 7 knots and we galloped for about 6 hours with a NW wind on our beam. At night, we furled in the genny and motorsailed all the way to Fernandina Beach.

A stout breakfast out, we took a walkabout around the historic village and did laundry.

The next day was busy as we made the 60 miles to St. Augustine, did some paperwork, homeschooling and general navigation - whew.

We're here in beautiful St. Augustine. It's lovely here. Our friends Klaus and Barbara from Toronto are here, as is Jock from Port Dover and Heather and Murray Rand - the Bahamas gurus - who are waiting to leave themselves and have a car!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Magnolia Plantation - Charleston

Upper image: Flowers from the garden
Next: The tragic reminders of the slave trade - the plantation's slave's quarters - home to dozens of African Americans.
Next: The current house on the grounds - built about mid-1800s - the others burned to the ground.
Next: the beautifully managed gardens

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We are at the Cooper River Marina in Charleston, a clean spot with great staff but it's way out of the way.

However Tom and Sharon have rolled out the welcome mat and are treating us to three days of car usage. What luxury!

We arrived Thursday and left the boat in a mess but ran into Charleston with them, had a tour of the city with Sharon after Tom went to work. Then, Elizabeth and I had a chance to go to the College of Charleston, where Tom is a faculty member, to hear Greg Mortensen speak. He's the author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into School. He spoke of his efforts to bring peace through education, particularly girls' education, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Elizabeth had read the children's version of Three Cups of Tea and really enjoyed his talk.

Off to bed and then Friday we went to Magnolia Plantation after a morning of errands.

More on that later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some navigational notes . . . South Carolina and the ICW

I should mention that for those considering the waterway through the Carolinas that we skipped the upper portion of the North Carolina waterway to avoid groundings. We heard a great deal of chatter on the radio about boats running aground (many power boats as a matter of fact) as well as trying to hold position before a swing bridge in a two plus knot current.

We went offshore at Beaufort Inlet and entered at Wrightsville Beach (Masonboro Inlet). This is not an easy inlet, not a Grade A anyway, mostly due to the nature of the currents, wind and waves that can cause four-foot standing waves or more at the inlet.

However, if timed correctly and after considering the weather forecast, we found the inlet easy with clear buoys marking the channels. We went to starboard after entering the inlet and anchored just inside the beach in about 16 feet of water. Currents and tides are significant factors to consider when anchoring.

We found the water a bit skinny between Wrightsville Beach and Sunset Beach bridge. We stayed at Dock Holidays Marina in North Myrtle Beach. There is a West Marine and Food Lion a five minute walk away. We also got a taxi card and after trekking to the beach about two miles away - well worth the effort by the way - we called thetaxi driver and paid $8 for a ride back. The best part for us though was a chance rendezvous with our friends Dale and Lynne Leonard from home who were in Myrtle Beach proper on a golf holiday. We had a great dinner out with them and said our goodbyes.

Water was decent between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. It was in fact, quite beautiful along with piece of the ICW - Spanish moss hanging from trees, winding rivers through woods bordering the water.

We wanted to anchor outside Charleston and so started out early from Georgetown at about 6:30 a.m. with about half an hour left of falling tide. We picked up the rising tide as we crossed Minyah Bay and thank goodness we were on high water. There were several points along the way which would have been too shallow to pass - about five feet likely - we had 11 feet with the five-foot tide. We also had Skedaddle, a catmaran skippered by Ken and Sarah who kindly went ahead of us and told us what parts were growing shallow.

We joined them on the spectacular Dewee Creek for a sunset anchorage with dolphins jumping around and birds settling in the marsh.

Today we head to Charleston, but need to wait for a bridge so are having a leisurely breakfast and we'll pull up anchor at 8:30 for the 15-mile trip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Words to live by: don't feed the alligators

We arrived after a lovely day on the ICW, deep water and gorgeous surroundings. We made it to Georgetown, SC. It's got a restored historic downtown on the Sampit and PeeDee rivers.
It's also got gators. Yep, for real.
There are all kinds of signs around the waterway suggesting one shouldn't really feed an alligator. No kidding.

We got in yesterday during a two plus knot current and had a walk into the downtown from the marina. We were tired, so ate out at a little place on the water, watching the sunset.

We watched a couple of boats dinghy from their boats to a dinghy dock, wondering if an alligator could climb aboard.


Anyway, we're headed to an anchorage near Charleston as 70 miles is a bit far to go in daylight hours. We've seen dolphins today playing alongside our boat. The red tannins in the water prevent us from seeing these joyful animals under the water. We're winding through marshlands here with the curious effect of seeing masts appearing as if on the horizon in a marsh but are actually in the water. It's about 75F, sunny with a cool wind off the ocean close by. Every now and then, the tang of salt mixed with earth blows by in a breeze.

We also had some excitement when our hot water hose clamp cap came lose and started flooding the cabin floor. It was quickly stopped up and we suddenly had water to wash the floor and the decks.
Never a dull moment.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So we were looking for adventure . . .

And we got it. .

Today after resting up last night from our ocean passage we headed toward the Cape Fear river and inlet. It was tricky navigation as marker 182A in Snows Cut had drifted onto the shore and it was a key marker to enter the river.

We had a four-knot current behind us as well as a north wind. We were flying along at about 7 to 8 knots and planned to turn to starboard back onto the Intracoastal Waterway at Southport. It is also possible to head out to the Atlantic via the Cape Fear Inlet. Frying Pan Shoal stretches out 30 miles to sea offering protection from Cape Fear down to Charleston. But it was cold and we were weary from our travels so we decided to stay in.

About five miles from Southport I was at the helm when I felt a wrench on the engine. Something was on the prop. I threw the boat into neutral and Scott came running up from down below. We tried throwing it in reverse a couple of times but no luck. Scott had noticed a sign for a marina we had just passed. I hailed the marina, also the landing spot for a ferry to Bald Island. The ferry heard us and kindly offered to guide us in as there was severe shoaling at the entrance. We limped in, going only one knot against the current. We docked at the gas dock. Scott dug out his wetsuit and snorkel gear and with knife in hand, Crocodile Dundee style, he dove on the prop and got his prize - a bit piece of black netted burlap. We fueled up and headed back out.

The tricky thing about this passage however is the few available deep water marinas or anchorages for about 50 miles. We had to go slowly threw several inlets but were racing to get to the Sunset Bridge pontoon bridge (another fixed bridge to replace it is slated to open in a week or so) and low and behold there was B&G and a catamaran waiting there. The bridge was closed due to mechanical failures. We threw out our anchors in the channel. It grew dark and the prospect of trying to find a safe anchorage in the blackness. The bridge tender has indicated that he opens all night for commercial traffic but we think we're going to try and hold tight here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hurling on the high seas

Elizabeth and I had a non-stop competition in the wee hours today as we headed out of the Morehead City/Beaufort Inlet - who could hurl the loudest and most. I think I may have topped her performance.

Aidan came in with a pitiful showing of a half-attempt at 4 a.m. Then he pulled himself together and helped Scott with the steering as we ripped along at 6 to 7 knots.

We only had a our roller furling jib out as Scott was short-handed and besides, we didn't want to overtake another boat that was kind enough to help us navigate the 80-or so mile passage, B&G, a Canadian vessel. Apparently they had a similar experience with their crew. The seas were confused when we came out of Beaufort but then just around sunrise they steadied off.

Scott and Aidan managed to raise the main and instantly Elizabeth and I felt relief as Messenger dug in and sliced through the waves. If only we had done that earlier!

Honestly, this boat does perform well. It was cold, very cold though, only low 50s F and we huddled in our enclosure with a variety of fleece and gear but even with the sun streaming into the enclosure it was nippy. There are frost warnings tonight up and down the coast so we're pulling out the thick comforters and sleeping bags. It's that darn Canadian weather again.

It is beautiful here though - pelicans, egrets, cranes, all kinds of gorgeous birds and big sandy beaches.

We're tucking in tonight as we get ready to tackle the ICW again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Heading to sea

The last couple of days we've had some big runs in the ICW leaving Hampton, Virginia on Oct. 31 to Great Bridge, stayed two days there and then started down the ICW to anchor our first night just north of the Abermarle Sound, then we crossed the sound in building seas and rain to enter the Alligator River. We made safe passage there after some careful navigating. Two power boats were not so lucky and we passed them hard aground just outside the channel (they followed their charts instead of the markers).

Then we headed down the Albermarle-Pungo canal through some beautiful remote wilderness with changing trees and birds. We were definitely not at home anymore.

The rain picked up as we entered the wide Pamlico River and had some very unnerving bends and turns through some shoals, thanking our stars for the Garmin chartplotter we purchased in New York.

We anchored in pouring rain at a great anchorage with about 15 other boats tucked in for the night. We agonized over whether or not to stop. It was 5 p.m. and visibility was dwindling but our friends Art and Linda had called earlier and had said they wanted to meet us in Bellhaven that night. We had no cell phone signal nor Internet. But it was another 9 miles to Bellhaven and it just wasn't safe.

The next morning we headed out, and I finally got a signal on the phone from Arthur that they would meet us that night in Oriental. Relief.

We had yet another windy, rainy day but were fairly comfortable in our 'oxygen tent' - our enclosure around the cockpit. The wind piped up to over 20 knots and we managed to wind our way into a slip we reserved in Oriental.

We needed laundry, hot showers and some extra water and fuel would be good. But best of all, Art and Linda were there to meet us.

In Oriental we met another Canadian boat, Believe, with three crew on board. The skipper was a delivery captain at one time and more importantly, had done been aboard a few boats traversing the ICW. He said this next portion to Wrightsville Beach was dicey, especially for a boat with our deep 6' draft. We travelled behind him to Morehead City today - saw porposies!!! - and we ended up at a fantastic restaurant, the Sanitary Restaurant for local seafood. We are leaving early next morning at 2:30 a.m. to make a run to Marlboro Inlet, near Wrightsville Beach. From there we can either take the Cape Fear River to the inlet at Cape Fear or the ICW to Charleston.

The winds are forecasted to be out of the NW and about 10 to 15 knots, building to 15 to 20 knots. We are going to be about 8 or 10 miles offshore and then head south.

We are a bit nervous but we secured the boat down, the kids clothes are all laid out and Aidan is geared up to help us in the wee, dark hours. It's supposed to be cold so we've got our woolies and warmies.

We've studied the charts but are a bit concerned as our laptop chart plotter and the Garmin chartplotter at the wheel are taking turns at crapping out at the most inopportune moments.

We'll post again once we're safe in harbour with a good Internet signal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Into Albemarle Sound

We're heading from our quiet anchorage last night south of Buck Island to the entrance to Albemarle Sound, across about 20 miles to the Alligator River and then hopefully we'll get to Bellhaven tonight. It's about 60 or so miles we've got to do today so we're hoping for good weather. It's a bit warmer today but very cloudy.

We got a great tip from Kathy and Dave Dieter on Orion to check out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website to reposition wapoints on our chartplotter for the entrance to Alligator River - there's a great deal of shoaling there.

Thank goodness for our Power Squadron lessons.We put them on our paper chart after mapping them out and hopefully we won't hit bottom.

We may meet up with our friends from home Art and Linda Alyea - part of our home-based pit crew.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On our way south

We're heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway, otherwise known as the Ditch. We now know why.It's a bit hairy with extremely shallow water on either side of a rather narrow channel that winds through rivers and canals. We've just crossed into North Carolina from Virginia after leaving Great Bridge this morning.We're hoping to reach Coinjock today - about 45 or 50 miles from our port this morning.There are few places for us to stop due to our 6 foot draft keel. The deepest parts of the ICW in NC are only about 12 feet with many 9 foot or shallower bits in between. It's a bit unnerving. Once we start, we're committed.

Scott changed the oil last night -something that has to take place every 100 hours or so on the engine.Our last oil change was in New York.

We met up with our Irish friends on Wendreda last night but they wanted to take a day and rest after a long night rocking on an anchor near Fort Monroe the night before.

There are several boats travelling together in this stretch. The bridges send crazy shivers down our spine as we cringe with our 57 foot mast under a fixed 65 foot bridge. You have to have faith someone didn't make an oopsy with the measuring tape.

We just bought a new camera and need to figure out how to upload pics. Once that's done, you can see the lovely wilderness along this North Landing River.

We love our enclosure especially on days like today when the wind is gusting up to 15 knots in chilly temperatures. Scott is wearing a toque and mittens and the rest of us are doing schoolwork and other administrative things wearing fleeces and blankies. It's warming up a bit though this afternoon. What a switch from 80F Saturday!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hanging out in Hampton

So we're chilling out here in Hampton now that the weather has come off a high of 81 F this week. Great spot to get the boat readied for the push south. There's a Halloween Bash at the Virginia Air and Space Museum Saturday night and the boaters here are ready for trick or treaters so we're staying until Sunday morning to keep our little goblins happy.

The Caribbean 1500 heads out Nov. 1 and the Bahamas 900 is also gathering. On top of that, there is a big homecoming football game at Hampton U so it's busy here. Kate the dockmaster rocks. Kathy and Dave on Orion have taken us under their wing and have helped us enormously with passage planning, touring the sites, figuring out where to do laundry, etc.

People here are awesome. We've also hung out a bit with Jock on Unleaded, a fellow Port Dover boater.

We're planning on heading out Sunday, All Hallow's Eve in the morning, with a hoped for arrival that night in Great Bridge on the ICW. Then we hope to get to Beaufort sometime at the end of the week and possibly jump out on the ocean for a run to Charleston.

Our friends Art and Linda Alyea are once again heading this way so we may have a visit from them.

This is a cool spot. Hampton is redeveloped with an interesting downtown, and a decent bus system that we took last night to the cinema. We were only a couple of miles from Langley Air Force Base. We can also hear some interesting chatter on Channel 16 on the VHF from warships hailing small vessels in their way.

We stopped at the Virginia Air and Space Museum Wednesday - fantastic museum. We had a blast. The kids did a unit on flight before going and had a ball at the museum.

Today we had a good school day and Aidan has worked off and on all day helping Scott install a solar panel - quite complicated actually. And expensive.
It's a 90-watt panel that should help us keep things running with its 7.5 amps - enough to keep our fridge cold and maybe run a fan or two. We also have the gas generator to augment our energy needs.

It's amazing really how much power stuff needs, computers, lights, fridge, Aidan is going to chart our consumption next week and I know it will be eye opening.

We're also pretty careful with our water - we can live comfortably on 80 gallons of water over two or so weeks but boy do we watch it. Our head uses fresh water (and electricity) as well, so we're trying to track our usage of that. We have two jerry cans now for water as well but will likely need more once we get to the islands. We have five diesel gerry cans (25 gallons worth), one gas can, the gas generator and one extra 10 lb tank of propane lashed together against a board on our deck.

All of this is lined up colourfully on our deck. We'd stand out on Lake Erie but down here, it's normal. Some boats strap on kayaks and bikes. We have an inflatable kayak tucked in the cockpit locker. Our liferaft is lashed to the foredeck as is our inflated dinghy.

We're definitely getting into the cruising groove.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

White knuckles

Check out the link to on Google Maps that shows the entrance to Deltaville, VA. It was hairy to say the least. We left Solomons on Friday, a 50 or so mile trek down the western shore of Chesapeake Bay and we had a great sail. Wendreda, the Irish boat we met, was following us. They had been to Deltaville before and told us it was a bit tricky getting in.

We had a fantastic run down, averaging 7 knots most of the way, but hitting 9 knots and passed a catamaran and a trawler!!!

All of our guides suggested we hug the green markers guiding boats in the channel into Deltaville. We tiptoed toward the rather scary looking markers within jumping distance of a beach (yes a beach) and hit hard. Real hard.

Scott had a bit of a concern - OK, actually a total panic - and I decided we were NOT going to stay there. I got behind the helm and put it in full reverse for a few seconds, we broke free and I shoved it in forward and steered counter-intuitively for the shore. We were suddenly in 6.5 feet of water (we draw 6.2) Scott took the helm and drove to the next buoy where we rode up on a sandbar. Ugh. He reversed and again drove away. We finally ran an obstacle course in about 7 feet of water around about 20 boats at anchor and decided to just throw out the hook where we had some swing room. As it turned out, a boat which went just a few feet up the river from us was on the hard at low tide. Yikes.

When we got into shore, the marina manager there told us that normally the advice is to stick to port in the tiny channel, but this year, it's starboard. We didn't get the memo, clearly.

Wendreda came in safely and we ended up spending an extra day there as we had had such a good time together.

This morning we left and were very tense in a low low tide. Even more beach evident at the start and end of the channel. Very unnerving.

Today we sailed/motorsailed to Hampton. So exciting to finally be here. Soon we start our trek down the ICW as we are only about seven miles away from Mile 0 of the ICW. We also ran into Jock again on Unleaded and may share a car and some thoughts about the next few legs this week.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some days are good for sailing, some not.....

This is a short video of our very quiet day from Baltimore to Annapolis. It was warm and beautiful, no waves and unfortunately not enough wind to make it under our own steam so we motorsailed. Today as we left Solomons Island to make a 55-mile run to Deltaville, we became increasingly concerned about the wind and waves. At the mouth of the Patutexent River the bay started to swell and the wind was stronger than predicted and more south than southwest. We carried on, bashing our bow into the wind, rolled out a scrap of sail and decided, rather uncharacteristically, to turn back.

The wind was forecasted to build rather than subside and tomorrow's forecast is for about the same strength but out of the northwest, giving us great conditions for a run down the coast.

We were anxious to get to Hampton tomorrow, but we're fair weather sailors now with kids aboard who were not keen on pushing on - and after all this is not a survival test, this is supposed to be fun.

So, we'll get to Deltaville tomorrow and plug on from there. It was cold today, first time I've worn mittens and it's time to push south.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A tour of Maryland

We finally got off the hard in a shallow slip this morning in St. Michaels Harbour Marina.

The wind had come up and blown water out of our already shallow slip so we ended up waiting for the tide and water to come in. At least we had a chance to check the bottom which is quite clean. We left St. Michaels at 9:30 this morning and mostly sailed down Eastern Bay back into Chesapeake Bay and sailed down the bay to the western shore about 45 miles to Solomons Island.

Solomons is an old fishing and shipbuilding village which now has several marinas and shipyards as well as a museum.

It is located at the mouth of the Patuxtent River, the next river is the Potomac which leads to Washington.

We hope to stay here a couple of days then head through the delta of the Potomac further south to Reedville or Deltaville where we'll stop before getting to the bottom of the Chesapeake.

This may be our last stop in Maryland if all goes well.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Waiting out the howling wind

Since Scott's parents arrived Monday night the weather has been mostly lovely, except for yesterday with the monsoon-like rains during our visit to Washington. The wind however is constant.

We came into a marina Tuesday night here in St. Michael's to make it easier for getting on and off the boat for our guests and to top up water and do some repairs.

The wind has howled down the mast most of this week and the temperature has dropped from 81F to 40 something in a day. We are waiting to see what will happen tomorrow with the wind. It is supposed to blow NW at 15 to 25 with gusts to 30 and there may be a gale pronounced on the bay. If so, we'll stay hunkered down here and keep knocking off chores on our list. The kids need to get down to getting some school work done as we have had a couple of days off with the visit to Washington and from grandma and grandpa. We're feeling a bit blue about saying goodbye to Molly and Jack but we had such a good visit.

Some chores are done.

Scott installed the new fridge - a new Frig O Boat with a swanky digital thermometer and bigger freezer. Scott also put a thick level of 1/2 inch RMax insulation all around the inside. He did this after a couple we met here last weekend showed us how they did it and they estimated it improved efficiency by 60 per cent, with their fridge only using about 20 amps a day. Their boat was a mid 80s as well so it was relevant.

Of course the fact that we are thrilled with a new fridge that is less than half the size of ours at home and twice the price shows how your perspective can change on the water.

After his parents left today, he installed a new solar vent in our hatch that comes with this cool night light.

I spent a few hours getting groceries with Molly. This afternoon I scrubbed the lockers down and sorted all of the food. It's amazing what you can pack on this boat if you've got a mind to. Scott made a new shelf to mount the new fridge condenser in a tiny locker. Under that shelf that is about a modest 16"X16" I happily fit about 14 cans of soup, two packets of crackers, and some fruit and pudding cups. That's the lunch locker. We've got condiments in the bilge under the V-berth, beer in the tiny bilge between the pantry locker and head and tons of paper goods, chips and more drinks in the space we've carved out above the water tanks. We sent back some junk with Scott's parents (thank goodness it's family) and seem to have a bit more room to fit new junk. Excellent.

Elizabeth and I did our routine of filling up the locker under her bed with drinks of all sorts.

We take all cardboard off the boat. It takes up space and besides which, that's how cockroaches get a free ride.

It is lovely here, the sky is cold and clear and the Miles River at our doorstep flashes reflections of light on its dark waves. The sound of the wind rises and falters as each gust moves across the trees. Halyards slap against masts and flags snap.

We plan to head to Solomon Island about 40 miles away as soon as we can. We're hoping for some good wind - not too light not too much, and out of the NW if you please.

Every now and then as I write the wind howls, the boat leans heavily on its fenders and gives a bit of a groan. But we're sitting tight, lines taut and all is well.

Time for bed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hello Grandma and Grandpa!!! and a new fridge almost

We arrived in St. Michael's on Saturday night and came into the St. Michael's Harbour Marina Tuesday.

Scott's parents, Jack and Molly Marr made the drive down in about 12 hours from Jarvis, Ontario and surprised us Monday night just as we finished Thanksgiving dinner.

It was 81F and a lovely night. We've had great weather and a great time, except maybe for Scott who has worked steadily since Tuesday on installing the new fridge. Scott's parents drove us around to some hardware stores and we purchased insulation and other bits for other upcoming projects.

We did a bit of homeschooling today before going to the Chesapeake Maritime Museum, a great collection of buildings with really top of class displays on the blue crab lifecycle and on the oyster industry which was so formative for the area.

We also learned about the ecological issues facing the bay with overfishing, overdevelopment, pollution and increasing erosion and rising sea levels. Fascinating. I baked some pizzas in the oven in an effort to use up our groceries in the now-warming coolers. It is getting cooler now, with the temperature dropping to the low 40sF.

We're enjoying Grandma and Grandpa, particularly the homemade cookies, muffins and pumpkin pie.

Tomorrow we head to Washington for a day trip to the city as it's only about two hours by car.

Poor Scott is still installing the fridge (Day 2) and is troubleshooting bits for the new solar panel installation he hopes to do next week. I'm cleaning up behind him, homeschooling, cooking and scrubbing decks and other bits, just so no one thinks I'm turning into a sloth. I also did three loads of laundry here at the marina. The downtown laundry here in swishy St. Michael's was $3.25 a load of wash plus a quarter for every 5 minutes of drying!!!! OK, so it had TVs,solar power, etc. but really,too high priced for this budget conscious traveller.

Scott's parents will be here until about Saturday and we are thoroughly enjoying their visit.

We hope to eventually get to Soloman Island sometime this week, about 40 miles away.

Grandma and Aidan are having a big cribbage match and things may get tough on this boat if Aidan wins.

Stay tuned

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Annapolis to Saint Michaels

We had a fantastic time in Annapolis. What a great sailing port. We had a front row seat to the construction of the docks for the show and watched all of the beautiful boats sail into their slips (photo on left).

We stayed there for a week and had some adventures on the public buses as the municipal bus system was in the midst of an overhaul and no one seemed to know which bus was going where when but we managed.

We did a bit of provisioning but with the fridge acting up it was hard to get much without worrying about it staying fresh.

We did (gulp) buy a new air-cooled Frig o Boat refrigerator at the show - Scott picked it up before we left yesterday by dinghy - and he'll install it hopefully today.

There were quite a few deals at the show, the fridge was 25 per cent off and we decided to buy a Honda gas generator and a 90-watt solar panel to augment our power generation. We now have to decide where to mount the solar panel and we'll have to wait for some parts to be shipped to us for installation. We'll likely have them forwarded to Hampton, near Norfolk, Virginia in two weeks' time.

We did get our rebuilt alternator delivered to Annapolis as well so that rounded out our issues with electric, or at least we hope it does. The alternator is probably not the one we should have purchased back in the spring but we already have two and at this point with money pouring out of our wallets, it just seems prudent to stick with this new configuration to power up the batteries.

We had the best sail yet yesterday from Annapolis across Chesapeake Bay, up Eastern Bay and into popular St. Michael's. We nicely passed a number of yachts on the way here - all those years racing do come in handy.

It was 80 F and flat water - awesome.

We tossed the hook at an anchorage we're sharing with about 50 boats (photo to right) just outside the main harbour. We headed out after having dinner (herbed pork loin and tortellini - yum) and had massive ice cream cones and then went on a ghost tour of the historic village. It was so much fun. Europeans started living here in about 1650 and has been a major port of interest for centuries. It provides lots of great stories.

There are so many old old homes beautifully restored, most have plaques with information about them. With its proximity to Washington, the price of real estate is out of sight. Apparently Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld have homes here - with secret service agents in front of Chaney's house.This community is apparently the most expensive to live in within Maryland.

We'll be off to the United Methodist Church this morning for Thanksgiving and then I'll see about picking up some turkey and whatnot for dinner tonight. Scott will be switching refrigerators so we won't buy too much.

Scott's parents Jack and Molly should arrive tomorrow night! We are very much looking forward to this visit and can't wait to explore the area with them by car.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Annapolis at last

Ever since planning this trip we hoped to be in Annapolis for the annual boat show - one of the reportedly best in North America.

Instead of going to the Magothy River today, we decided to go with the beautiful weather and just keep on heading to Annapolis. The harbour was jammed with everything from tall ships to ocean ships to tiny sailing boats.

We saw some moorings and went by a boat to ask about it. Turns out there were TWO moorings left - we took one and the other was gone in 10 minutes.

We lucked out big time. The Harbourmaster said we should light a flare to the sea gods on St. Mary street it was that lucky.

For $30 a night, we hang off a mooring ball (an designated anchored buoy) and the price includes showers, washrooms, etc.

We took a walk around the historic downtown, saw two weddings in progress and a number of young cadets from the naval academy here.

It is lovely beyond imagination. Boats flit in and around us on the mooring, music carries over the water to me as I sit and watch the sunset and the lights go on.

We plan to do a lot of shopping for the boat here and some repairs.

This is really our first big highlight - although Baltimore was pretty terrific as well.

More pics later (had to charge the camera battery).


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Still in Baltimore....

This was taken in front of the USS Constellation, the last sailing vessel commissioned by the navy and it served as an anti-slaving ship during the Civil War.

We're still at the Inner Harbour Marina in Baltimore due to concerns about the weather forecast. Tropical Storm Nicole is throwing the entire east coast into a bit of disarray. The harbour here has flooded up to several restaurants and it just keeps on raining. It's also calling for increasing winds into tomorrow morning then tapering off. That plus a tornado warning has us chickening out and staying at a marina instead of anchoring. We're up about four feet at our (floating) dock. The city docks across the tiny anchorage are underwater tonight. If it stops raining so hard we'll take photos.

We've got the shamwows working again on this stubborn mast leak. Scott took a tube of silicone all around the mast again yesterday in advance of the storm and that has slowed the leaks but a few still remain. We're stuffing shamwows around the mast to catch a few drips. Aidan's port hole has also suddenly started to leak a wee bit - it was like a hose was trained on the window for about two hours tonight so I guess that's not much of a surprise.

Scott is working through a list of items to fix and we're starting to draw up a shopping list for Annapolis. Top of that list is a new refrigerator unit. The attempt to fix it in Georgetown hasn't held. Last night Scott and I went for a short walk outside the marina by a very high end condo complex and we rounded a dumpster by the parking garage. Scott's eyes lit up. There was pink insulation inside!!!! We very subtley (OK, hard to do on a major highway) positioned ourselves next to the dumpster and Scott dove in picking up fabulous pieces of insulation to put around the fridge. We happened to have our new dolly with us as we had intended to get groceries last night but decided we were too tired. We tied the big pink on to the dolly and nearly skipped back to the boat. The kids of course were horrified but to us, it was like Santa had dropped by. With the new refrigerator unit plus the insulation, we can keep our food nice and cold.

We have decided to anchor tomorrow night if the weather holds as it is supposed to and leave Baltimore Saturday morning.

We have loved this city - there is so much to see and do.

We met up with the Tellups at the wonderful Walters Art Museum in an area of historic Baltimore. (

The museum was impressive - particularly the ancient Greek and Roman pieces of art and the collection of 19th century statuary and fine art. Of course, Aidan and Mike Tellup enjoyed the armour the most. What set this museum apart was the placement of the various collections in lovely rooms which were in themselves an architectural study (check out Elizabeth's blog for photos).

Today we caught up on schoolwork, visited the pool and gym at the hotel and then Scott and I walked to a nearby Whole Foods to pick up some groceries for dinner and other provisions.

The kids and I will definitely head out to the science centre next door to us here tomorrow for a field trip - we'll likely focus on the life cycle of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab for a biodiversity study for Elizabeth and a data management unit for Aidan for their science curriculums.

Then it will be off to an anchorage and then likely to the Magothy River for a couple of nights of anchoring and then to Annapolis, a sailor's mecca.

I'm hoping to wrap up one freelance piece for The Hamilton Spectator and start in on another. I've also got some books to review and some research I'm trying to do into travelling. I'm interested in discovering why some people feel compelled to travel for long periods, not vacation.

I just finished Gavin Young's Slow Boats to China, a book recommended to me by my colleague Rob Howard at the Spec. It's out of print now and I picked it up for $1 on Amazon. Young, a British journalist, chronicles his experiences trying to travel from Europe to Canton in the twilight days of passenger vessel travel. It is funny and a bit poignant. He does get there, but there are many slow boats and many trials along the way.

Something like this journey.

Next is Blue Highways.

I also plan to start taking notes of our trip in a non-public pen and ink journal - amazing how much simpler these things are then worrying about Internet connections, wireless sticks and keyboards.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baltimore at last

We made it to Baltimore Sunday night. It's now Monday night and I realize I haven't entered a blog for a while. Elizabeth is so much more on top of this than I am (

It's been a bit of a tough go. We love the Chesapeake for its many nearby anchorages and inlets and it's sheer beauty. People are friendly and we've made great friends here.
But it's also incredibly shallow and so many new anchorages and places to go also means a sharpening of navigational skills and nerves.

After Georgetown we motored the two or three miles to Worton Creek and spent a night in a quiet anchorage at the mouth of the creek. We walked the little beach, upsetting a heron and the next morning decided we'd head down to meet up with Folie a Deux, the cat with a family of five we met earlier in Georgetown. The weather was incredibly hot - in the upper 90s and the pool was closed at the marina. Still, we decided to take a slip, visit with the Ramsays and try to deal with our new alternator which seemed to die. Scott and Aidan replaced it with our original old one (tech lesson for Aidan) and the yard at the marina has sent it off to be rebuilt. Tracey Ramsey (the other mom) borrowed a car from one of the guys at the marina (it's their home marina) and we headed to Chestertown to do major grocery shop and liquor run. It was heaven to have a car. Unfortunately I overbought and found trying to shove everything in my fridge (also dying) plus doing up two loads of laundry in 90 plus weather a bit exhausting. Tracey and Tim had a brilliant idea to have the kids hang out at the catamaran which had air conditioning while the four of us headed up to a nice restaurant where it was all you can eat oysters. I'm not totally fussy on them but three out of four had a great time eating raw (yikes) and other assorted oysters.

The next day we decided to run to Middle River - a large river just north of Baltimore. Given the forecast for crappy weather this week we thought it would be good to get into Baltimore where we could shop and visit museums etc. when it was rainy. We found Middle River to be incredibly shallow (9 feet at the mouth) but decided to keep forging to a supposedly deep anchorage of 6.5 feet (we draw 6.2 before the big shopping trip). We skimmed bottom and finally tossed out our anchor at the mouth of Frog Mortar Creek.

Scott and I took a dinghy ride up Frog Mortar Creek after he and Elizabeth had gone exploring. It was sweltering and when we all saw the pool at the Chesapeake Yacht Center we kind of lost it. There was also a Walmart, shopping and restaurants at the marina gate. The marina staff swore there was lots of water to the dock they found for us, plus water in the slip. It was on a rising tide so we started to head down the creek, of course plunking on the bottom a few times and Scott had to back in between a set of poles (that was our dock).

We breathed a sigh of relief and swore we'd leave just before high high tide at 10 a.m. the next morning. We had a lovely time in the fantastic pool and hot tub, nice cheap dinner at a local diner, picked up some stuff we needed at Wal-Mart and headed back to the boat.

Unfortunately there was no tide the next morning. The wind picked up out of the northeast and to our dismay the water was dropping, not rising. The fellow next to us mentioned that sometimes, in strong winds on the bay out of the north, the water is sucked out of the whole river. We threw off the lines as the forecast was worsening for that day and the next week and we didn't want to get stuck, literally, in this creek.

Scott pulled us out by hand for the first bit and then he gunned the engine. We dredged the channel until we got to a bend in the river. Then we hit. Hard. Aground.
So we called Tow Boat US - thank goodness we had purchased a membership before we left - and two and a half hours and six inches of a now dropping tide later we got pulled out of the entire river. The water at the mouth had dropped to seven or eight feet - lower than datum and we took turns having a fit of nerves. We made it to the channel to Baltimore and motored a good part of the way, dodging crab pots as we went. Then we unfurled the genny and motorsailed up the Patapsco River to the heart of Baltimore. Another 25 miles further south.

We were awed by the harbour here in Baltimore. It's amazing. Military ships, ocean freighters, schooners, you name it, it's here. The waterfront is lovely.

We had wanted to anchore in the inner harbour, smack next to the submarine the USS Torsk, the national aquarium and so on and after four or five failed attempts (OK, so I lost it more than once) to set the darn anchor, we kind of caught near the tallship the USS Constellation. It's a tiny anchorage. There was one tiny sailboat anchored in the middle and we kept on picking up bags of garbage which was totally gross as well as once pulling up two cement blocks. It was growing dark, our nerves were shot and we hadn't had dinner yet. Finally, the Rocna seemed to kind of hold and I got dinner going.

Then it started to rain. Then it poured. Then it teemed. Two days before Scott had splurged on some mast boot tape to stop a persistant leak around the mast. He had worked away in the heat, wrapping it and plugging up the leak. Or so he thought.

It was a bit of a last straw. We grabbed some shamwows, stuffed them around and fell asleep kind of.

Today the forecast warned of strong winds, thunderstorms and heavy rain. We called the Inner Harbour Marina about dockage. We broke the bank by coming here, but glad we did. For $2 a foot we have portable pump out at every dock (excellent), lovely location next to the science center, good security, and all of the incredible waterfront and best of all use of the pool, sauna etc. at a hotel a walk away.

This plus a visit to the Constellation, the Torsk and a lovely Barnes and Noble bookstore greatly improved our moods.

It's been a bit of a long haul. The kids, Scott and I are starting to weary a bit of travelling and need a break. We're missing Reg - each time we talk to him, we miss him more. This seems like a good place for a rest. We'll likely stay in Baltimore until Thursday or Friday, including one more night at this marina.

I'm trying to sort out this homeschooling thing as we all have taken turns panicking over meeting curriculum objectives and getting through material. I need to plan a bit more so tonight have spent an hour and a half thinking through science as we are visiting the science center tomorrow and I can work in a unit there for each. Lisa Tellup - one of the moms I've met has been incredibly helpful and supportive. What's awesome is that she is coming to Baltimore by car with her family to visit the aquarium with us. We are so excited.

We think this city has one of the best developed waterfronts by far and it's full of chain stores, eclectic neighbourhoods, great spots to visit and we can't do it all in a week. We'll definitely be back.

It's funny, this experience is such a mix of incredible work and reward. Something like this shifts perspectives, intensifies relationships and forces you to grow in ways you didn't know were possible.

We are still a work in progress in getting the hang of this new lifestyle.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exploring the bay

We had a great time in Havre de Grace and ended up heading up the Sassafras River for some poking about. It was lovely and we took a mooring at Georgetown Yacht Basin where we ordered parts and had the finicky fridge looked at by a technician. He added freon but since then it hasn't seemed to have totally fixed the problems with half the freezer going solid into a block of ice and running all the time. Scott was thrilled to get the water pump for the engine and fixed the blower and the pump. We met another cruising family, on Folie a Deux. The marina was lovely and had kayaks, paddleboats and a pool for guests. The kids took the kayaks up the river with the two moms acting as a chase boat. We spent some time in the pool. We were there for three nights as they had a buy two nights, get the third free. We anchored last night with Folie a Deux at Still Pond but a blow came through with sheet lightening putting an end to our twilight party.

Today we might be heading to Worton Creek as our new alternator seems not be charging all of a sudden. This could be a big problem if we can't start the engine. We'll have to see what transpires.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010Chillin in Chesapeake

We are thrilled to be in the lovely little port of Havre de Grace at the northern and fairly freshwater area of Chesapeake Bay. We took a bit of a quick tour of the village and we discovered a fantastic book shop and one great store.

Scott spent this morning working on the head (ugh) while we did school work and Lisa sorted out communications issues.

We've now transferred our Rogers account over to a prepaid account, thus cutting off our Canadian cell phone and gone with a very inexpensive pay as you go Net 10 U.S. phone. We've also got a Verizon wireless stick that is also pay as you go.

This is a lovely port at the top of the Chesapeake, which is mostly freshwater due to the Susquehanna River that empties into the bay. Chesapeake Bay is actually a drowned river - flooding about a million years ago turned this from a freshwater delta to a saltwater bay.

There is a bass tournament on one end and crab fishing at the other.

We are on a mooring at Tidewater Marina and can't wait to explore this lovely spot for the next few days, catch up on school and boatwork.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We're salty now

This family of Lake Erie sailors are now also blue water sailors. We left New York City Harbour at the 79th Street Basin in Manhattan at about 6 a.m.

Lisa's Dad Terry Grace came aboard in New York to help the crew make our long passage to Cape May or Delaware. We rode the current down the Hudson - dodging ferries, stopped in to get fuel (and a much needed pumpout and some water) and made our way to the channel that led under the famed Varrazano Narrows bridge. It was quite a sight - all of these big ocean freighters passing us on our way to Sandy Hook. We motored so as to get out of their way. We soon rounded Sandy Hook and set our course for a couple of miles offshore.

The problem for Messenger with this passage is that with her 6' draft, we can't stop anywhere except perhaps Atlantic City - about 90 miles from Sandy Hook - until we get to Cape May. Then in Cape May, we would likely have to anchor and then come back out to round the Cape to head up Delaware Bay to make another 56 miles up to the Delaware River and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. We couldn't continue through Cape May due to our 55' mast and a fixed bridge with only 57 feet clearance. Too close!

We carried on although to our dismay the wind piped up to 18 knots and was dead on our nose when it was supposed to be out of the west. We kept on motoring hoping it would shift. The seas built and we started slamming into the waves.

It did calm down at night but not until about 10 p.m. We made a simple dinner of chicken in the oven and rice. Dad was on galley duty and while making dinner he was checking out the charts when a weather alert sounded on our radio (a new feature on this new radio of ours which is quite handy)and it warned of severe thunderstorms with 60 mile winds, hail and rain, not to mention lightning. At the same time, NOAA warned of hurricanes and tropical storms building in the Caribbean. Dad said his stomach lurched when he heard that. But it was clear where we were - the storms were northeast of our position and the hurricanes were way south. Still, it was enough to put him off his dinner which we all happily wolfed down.

Dad, Scott and I took turns at watches with Scott in charge of navigation. We had purchased a GPS chart plotter in NY at a small West Marine store downtown but we are very impressed with this little thing. It was about $439 and also has tides and currents as well as all U.S. and Bahamas charts. We can also buy Canadian charts later when we go home. It sits right in front of the wheel (OK, so we just clamped it for the trip) but it helped the helmsman enormously, particularly in the Delaware.

All night we took on the waves with the mighty Perkins diesel.

We reached Cape May at about 6 a.m. but Scott and Dad decided that given the forecast, the helpful tidal current and the clear skies, we'd keep going toward the C&D canal up Delaware Bay.

We kept motoring as the wind nicely shifted with us remaining on our nose. We started to turn up the the bay and the waves and wind built all day. Then it got nasty. Waves built to five and six feet with only three feet max between them, breaking occasionally over the bow. On top of that, just outside the narrow channel up the bay which is very busy with freighters and tugs and barges is a series of oyster fishing grounds which pose hazards.

We caught sight of another sailboat motorsailing with the main. Dad and Lisa worked to get the mainsail up and then Scott came up after another failed attempt at sleep. The main helped enormously powering through the worst of the waves. The trip started to seem as if it would never end. We were getting a bit punchy and weary with lack of sleep, hygiene and covered in saltwater. Dad kept out spirits up though, just by being Dad. For example, at one point, a giant wave broke over the bow, knocking the jerry cans around and nearly sweeping our life raft overboard. Dad turned to us and said with a thrill, "Gee, this is like something you see in the movies!" I kind of hoped he wasn't talking about The Perfect Storm.

Of course, even though we were motorsailng, hadn't really slept in 36 hours and smelled bad, the fact that another sailboat was in our vicinity was a declaration of war to Dad and Scott. They turned off the motor, unfurled the genny and we heeled over and Messenger had a bone in her teeth and taught that Morris Yacht a thing or two. We screamed up the Delaware River at about 8 knots.

The fun only lasted about half an hour though. Then it was iron genny back on and we made our way up to Delaware City. Scott had put a roast beef in the oven and when we finally got into the municipal marina here we were grateful for that and the trimmings. The boat was a mess, everything was coated in saltwater but we were in safely after our first ocean passage.

Dad made plans to get a taxi to the airport in Philadelphia early Wednesday morning.

We were all sad to see him go - it was so nice to have him share our crazy adventure with us.

Hopefully he and mom can join us for a slightly more relaxing visit soon.

We spent a day in Delaware City washing clothes - we had a small leak in the anchor locker that became a big problem when we were imitating a submarine for a day or two. Scott patched that up, Lisa scrubbed the boat from one end to the next and the kids caught up on a bit of homework.

Scott also took off the blower on the engine which went during the trip and once again postponed fixing the beast that is our head.

We treated ourselves to dinner out at Kathy's Crab House and got a lesson on how to eat crabs Delware style. Aidan, a positive landlubber when it comes to food, was not impressed with the way we attacked our platter of seafood and escaped the restaurant after his hamburger.

We're planning on heading down the C&D canal tomorrow, perhaps getting to Havre de Grace to anchor in Chesapeake Bay.

It feels so good to get this far.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We're in New York !!!!!

You're never too old to be a toysrus kid apparently. This is the indoor ferris wheel in ToyRUS in Times Square.

We finally made it to the Big Apple - actually we pulled in on Thursday night - kind of a scary thing. It was blowing about 20 knots up the river and there was a three knot current down the river and we couldn't find a mooring ball at the 79th Street Boat Basin. After battling the elements, we finally hung on to a white (seasonal) mooring ball here at the marina and called over to the office. They had told us that at low tide we couldn't enter the basin and they only had one option - docking inside the basin as all the balls were taken. We hung on until 7 p.m. and then finally took the plunge and let go and headed to the basin where one of the really great staff members here deftly helped us dock in incredibly difficult conditions. We were so glad to be there.

The floating docks were heaving due to the wake and conditions, making it like a walk in the funhouse to get up to the office to register and use the washrooms, etc.

Lisa's cousin Sarah was in NY for work this week, so we connected with her and she took a taxi down to the basin where we shared dinner, shivering on the deck of the restaurant. Then we had tea and conversation on the boat. It was fabulous to see her.

On Friday, after tiring of being bashed up against the dock, we left at high tide and grabbed a mooring ball. We had already got showers and did a load of laundry. Then we took the dinghy in and walked about 10 blocks to the American Museum of Natural History. It was amazing but almost overwhelming. Then we went to West Marine - a dinky store in Manhattan and rather disappointing and then to Macy's - not dinky and not disappointing. Dad arrived a bit earlier than we expected and we were so happy to see him. We went out for dinner at a great little spot - Sarabeth's in the Upper West Side, just a few blocks from here.

We all crashed and got up Saturday and after a great trip provisioning at Fairway with dad and Elizabeth, we left after lunch to go to Rockefeller Centre, Times Square, Macy's (again), Lincoln Square (with Lululemon in the square) and Borders and lots of spots in between. We also managed to pick up this wireless device from Verizon which we're using now to update the blog. We decided to take the plunge and ensure we have wireless through the U.S. at least for the kids schoolwork, weather, email, banking, etc. We can also call family and Reg on skype this way.

We're on a prepaid option which is great, once you buy the device.

Today we're just trying to do a few boat jobs and make plans to jump out tomorrow from NY to Cape May. We'd like to ride the current down to Sandy Hook, about 30 miles from here but with the current it shouldn't take more than about 3 or so hours. We also met a guy here who runs a great website, that has loads of local info.

We might do a bit more sightseeing today - at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, if we can figure out how to get diesel, etc. We might just go pick that up at Liberty Marina on the way out tomorrow morning.

We're also thinking of picking up a Garmin chartplotter from West Marine today and installing that.

There are continuing problems with the head but on the bright side, dad's nose doesn't work too good and we've got access to a washroom here.

Now the fridge is working OK as well. Besides, we've had lots of retail therapy in the last couple of days.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Made it to Marlboro

We've had a great run today - all the way from Castleton-on-the-Hudson to Marlboro, just south of Kingston, NY (where the British came up and burned it down back in the American Revolution).

Great old lighthouses all the way and we got a heck of a boost from the morning tide - we were flying along at about 7 to 8 knots (about 13 to 15 km/h) and made about 70 nautical miles. Gusty though, enough to nearly blow the inflated dinghy off the bow. Yikes.

We're hoping to run to NYC at the 79th Street Boat Basin tomorrow - about another 55 miles.

There was a red tide alert in NYC harbour earlier this week - need to check this is lifted. Red tide brings a dangerous algae in from the sea - causes a great deal of harm to animals. It should be swept back out soon, we hope.

The kids are plowing into homeschool work, and we're ready for a trip to the American Museum of Natural History to do some social studies/history projects. Lisa is trying to awaken her French conjugation skills and it's coming, but slowly. Aidan has to be more patient with his teacher!

We're also hoping (at least Elizabeth and Lisa) to check out Macy's, and a few other bookstores and museums.

Lisa's dad is planning to fly in with a list of items we left behind - and help us on our first offshore passage from NY to Cape May.

We're excited to see him and of course, still missing Reggie very much. Reg is settling into school and football but it's not easy for anyone.

We've had a chance to talk to some friends and family in the last few days - thanks to a cheap cell phone company in the States, Net10, which allows you to make calls anytime anywhere - $30 includes the phone and 400 minutes. I called today to top up and for an extra $35 I got another 200 minutes and another couple of months.

I also got my Rogers phone bill and we've decided to give it the boot. It's ridiculously expensive and there are much cheaper options here.

We're really looking forward to getting south because that means we'll see him soon.

Hopefully we'll be able to upload some pics of the gorgeous lighthouses and this beautiful body of water.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hanging out on the Hudson

A lot of folks think that sailing away means sailing away from work.

I mentioned this to our community sailing crew last night and we all laughed. Really, sailing means constantly fixing your boat in exotic places. Every one of us in this mini flotilla has a system of tracking work on the boat. Some spend three hours each day in the morning, some all day off and on, some at night. We are still working on our system but today we tried to establish a routine.

Kids do school from about 8 or 8:30 to noon, then break and do their chores.

Scott does various jobs. I do cooking, cleaning, teaching and banking and help Scott out in the morning. That's the deal for days we aren't travelling.

Otherwise, it's breakfast by 7 or 7:30 or on the water later if we need an early morning start to catch a tidal boost. Lisa drives while Scott does some route planning. Lisa checks his work and we go back and forth all day with that routine.

We usually put off cleaning up the galley until just before we arrive somewhere or just after, depends on the day.

It's so great to get our mast back up. Messenger is starting to look like herself.

There were three of us yesterday who put our masts up: My Tumbleweed from Windsor with a singlehander on board, Paul, then us on Messenger and then Klaus and Barbara on Klabara from Toronto. Brian and Kathy Marsh stopped in to see how we were doing - new friends with whom we share mutual friends Murray and Heather Rand (on Windswept). Brian and Kathy have been sailing since 1997 and now have their Alberg 37 in Guatemala. They are great people who provided so much help yesterday. They're travelling with our other new friends on a trawler but Brian and Kathy are the pit crew in their camper.

We all put up a our masts at a do-it-yourself place at Castleton Boat Club. Nice spot on the Hudson and very accommodating hosts.

We plan to move again tomorrow once we're all straightened away.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Waterford, NY

Finally had a few minutes to upload some pics. These are from our last day travesing the 360-mile Erie Canal. Lisa is at the spectacular Lock 7, sunset over the Hudson in Waterford, NY.

We have enjoyed our stay in Waterford but are a bit anxious to get away. We've topped up water, fuel, groceries and Scott just walked a mile or so to the hardware store to get some parts for a variety of jobs on the boat. We've actually been quite busy.

One emerging priority is to re-vent the holding tank. The odour coming from the locker is distressingly bad - even worse than when we had a small leak last year around the sensor. We've torn the boat apart and realized that the vent hose runs the whole length of the boat, making it difficult to vent properly, it seems.

Scott is temporarily re-routing the venting hose to emerge out of our V-berth hatch to see if that helps. If it does, then the problem is solved. It's been nasty.

Unfortunately, we got our first stab at the vent on the transom (the back of the boat) wrongly identified and someone (maybe me) hosed some water to see if we could clear it out. It was the diesel engine vent, so Scott had to spend some time draining out the fuel with water in it. Sigh. He is also trying to fix a small leak around the water pump on the engine.

We have however enjoyed the big Farmer's Market here this morning and had fun walking around the downtown last night to see how many similar buildings there are to Waterford, Ontario.

Not sure, but think we might try to drive to Castleton-on-the-Hudson - it has a boat club where you can step the mast yourself for $60. There is a small flotilla of Canadian sailboats here and we all have the same idea and have agreed to help each other out. Some of the boats have made this trip before, one boat, Grand Cru, from Quebec City have done this twice already. Everyone is very helpful and supportive, making this stop even more memorable.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Messenger Travels: Blue day

Messenger Travels: Blue day

Blue day

Last night we had a wonderful surprise when our friends from PDYC Art and Linda Alyea dropped by in their camper truck to pay us a supportive visit. They had been in the Finger Lakes region and searched for us in Waterford, NY. At first they didn't see us tucked under the bridge as we are. They gave us a quick call, giving us a 20-minute heads up they were going to be here. Good thing because the boat and crew were dirty and stinky.

We all frantically scrubbed up and soon Art had me speeding toward the nearest laundry to do a big load and then on to a fantastic grocery store. Back at the boat Scott and Linda whipped up dinner which we all shared in the cockpit together. Then Art and Linda said they would drive Reg to a nearby Amtrak train station Saturday. It was two days earlier than we had planned to send him home but Reg wanted to get back for the first day of school. It was also logistically simple.

Mom and dad are around to pick him up tonight in Niagara Falls, Ontario so we packed him quickly this morning and Art drove the three of us to the station in Albany. It was a tough thing to say goodbye, but we'll see him soon enough.

Still, the boat seems a bit empty without him here. It's hard to stay upbeat. We're going for a walk to shake off the blues.

We're taking a layover day - Art also got us topped up in diesel and propane (for the stove and bbq) so that's a big relief. We were sorry to see them leave but thrilled to have them stop by. We are blessed with many good friends.

After all, we're on the Hudson River! We're ready to start heading for the Big Apple.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Feeling hot hot hot

The weather this week has been sweltering, apparently all over the region. This has raised the debate on the boat from the kids about why it is that we removed our HVAC unit with its brilliant air conditioning. The thing is we needed the space for a large water tank.

Still, when we walk a mile into town to do groceries or sight-see and then a mile back and are soaking with perspiration, I understand the need to question that decision.

Yesterday we made a hike into downtown Rome where we had breakfast and then we made a visit to Fort Stanwix, a rebuilt American Revolution era fort. It is a national historic site and is remarkable. There is an interpretive centre (air conditioned) and the rebuilt fort.

The feds built the fort in the early 70s in order to celebrate the siege bicentennial. They actually tore out a chunk of the downtown and dug down to rebuild it according to archeologists.

We started down the canal to make a six-hour run to Little Falls (about 38 miles) and it was so hot we just sat on the boat driving and sweated. Some of us took naps. We started seeing the Adirondack Mountains outside Utica. We got to Lock 18 and the lockmaster said that due to heavy flooding Little Falls had lost its floating docks and it was full. We despaired, desperate for showers and a nice place to stop.

We pulled into Little Falls though and saw Twin Spirits, Tom and Sheila's trawler (a couple we had met in Brewerton) and they waved us over to raft next to them. Then we had a great night of music and singing with them and all of their friends and family who had gathered. The night cooled and we hit the hay.

This morning Scott and I hiked into the village to pick up a few groceries and it is really lovely, stunning architecture, lots of antique shops. This with a waterfall and the mountains rising up around it. It's promising to be hot again and there is a hurricane that is causing problems in South Carolina.

It's unknown what it will do on the east coast, but we're running for Amsterdam today, another six hour trip to get us to mile 36 (counting down to Waterford, NY at mile 0). If we get stormed in there for a day or two it should be OK.

By the way, to get a different take on our trip, check out Elizabeth-Anne's blog at