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).