Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chugging up the Chesapeake

This is the lower Chesapeake.We travelled about 55 miles today to just north of the Potomac River on the western shore. It is the large river at the top left of the map. We left Norfolk, Virginia two days ago. We are now in Maryland.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

We had a warm day in Norfolk as I woke early to get the Easter ham in the oven (some things never change) and scurried after the Easter Bunny, helping him hide eggs and drop a few treats for this wonderful morning.

We had a late morning brunch with Tess and Tony on Endurance and Tony and Stu on Georgia E, on the sun deck near our boats where someone had graciously left a set of patio furniture.

We headed to Nauticus, although Aidan opted out. Wise choice. The four of us got there and we were worn out and barely had the energy to enjoy the place. We dragged ourselves back to the boat by 5, had a conference with Endurance and Georgia E and were all heading out tomorrow for Deltaville.

We're going to take advantage of these south winds and sunny, hot weather as long as it lasts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making miles while we can

We've just seen our first Canada Geese, squirrels and pines since we returned. We have had spotty Internet signal through these patches of North Carolinian marsh and wilderness so it proved difficult to have a chance to update the blog again.

We left Morehead City Wednesday and had a terrific sail up the Pamlico River to the Sound where we found an anchorage.We're travelling with Tony and Stu on Georgia E, a sailboat from Toronto, and we are finding great comfort in having another boat to chat things over.

The forecast had suggested the weather was moderating but it really didn't. We commenced down the Alligator River and as we got closer to the narrows of the river as it spills into Albermarle Sound, the waves grew and the wind took us on the nose. Messenger's bow was sprayed with the dark brown tannin-stained waters and we started to worry about trying to cross the notorious Sound in these conditions. The decision was taken out of our hands when the Alligator River Bridge was closed due to high winds (gusts up to 30 knots) and so Messenger and Georgia E had to retrace 7 miles back to an anchorage with a bit of marsh to hold back the winds and squalls. We ended up passing a quiet night and crossed the Sound yesterday with strong easterlies but at least we could motorsail and plow through the winds. Elizabeth and Reg were a touch seasick but soon recovered once we got back on the North Landing River.

Then it grew cold and damp and grey and we started having trouble finding a suitable place to stop. We had expected that a couple of anchorages in our Waterway Guide would be deep enough but Georgia E, always the willing guinea pig with her shallower draft found that wasn't the case.

We tried again and again but kept pressing on, even a few marinas were closed as it was Good Friday or business had been bad and they had closed up for good.

Finally, we reached Great Bridge and managed to squeeze our two boats into the Free Dock - making the day an 84-mile run. We were tired.

We fell into bed and then this morning started heading through a series of bridges and the Great Bridge lock to make our way another 12 miles to Norfolk. We are going to Portsmouth, actually, next door to Tidewater Marina where we'll spend Easter there with our friends on Endurance. The three of us will do potlock and maybe the Easter Bunny will come.

We're starting to see Canada Geese, squirrels and evergreens like at home and it's making all of us quite homesick. Aidan said yesterday it even felt cold enough to feel like home.

Today a soft south wind blowing 20 knots is clearing the skies and warming us up.

We'll stop a few days in Norfolk and the five of us can get off and away from each other, as we've been cooped up together for four days (without showers) and we're getting a bit crazy. I'm actually surprised at how well we did fare, considering the circumstances. Reg found a place way at the back of the boat the night we had to turn back, tuning into his iPod and trying to imagine himself away, I think, as we each sought out a piece of space to ourselves. Aidan and Elizabeth are a bit more acclimatized to life on board but even they are happy to be going to Norfolk.

We'll do some sightseeing perhaps and I can do a monster LAUNDRY and showers and big boat cleanup.

Then we'll plan our trip through the Chesapeake and get ready to jump out in a couple of weeks to New York. The Great Bridge lock is positioned midway between Charleston and New York.

We're getting closer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cape Fear Revisited ... ugh

We had yet another exciting experience on the Cape Fear River again today.

Last fall while transiting the river down to the ICW going 9 knots with a 4.2 knot current on the stern, we snagged something on the prop.

We limped over to a marina where we tied up to the dock and Scott had to jump overboard in his wetsuit in the dark red water and cut away a piece of burlap or net sacking.

This morning we had a fuel tanker come off the ocean and up the Cape Fear River right up to our stern. If that wasn't worrisome enough, a machine-gun toting coast guard pilot boat ran over alongside of our boat with lights flashing and PA that we were within the 500-yard security zone around the vessel. Now, keeping 500 yards away from a ship is very difficult in a narrow channel on the river with shoals on either side. As soon as we could deke out, we did, into deep enough waters. We slowed down to let the big guy pass, as did our friends on Georgia E but wow, a bit shivery and it wasn't just the cold.

So now I'm downloading waypoints to try and avoid shoals up ahead while serving up breakfast and getting school going. We'd like to make 60 miles today, just 40 miles from Beaufort, NC.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Still in Myrtle Beach

A set of fronts is passing through the Eastern Seaboard today, forcing us to stay in Myrtle Beach again today.

Winds are forecasted to exceed 35 knots and there's to be a series of thunderstorms. In those conditions the bridges don't usually open on the ICW. We're just twiddling our thumbs a bit, trying to stay away from the Barefoot Landing shopping strip.

Our need for a barber shop or hair salon is becoming critical. Aidan hasn't had a haircut since Hampton last year in October, and mine was in Vero Beach in Florida in December. My haircutting experience with Scott was not entirely successful so we're all waiting for a professional.

Hard to accomplish this when we're on the move all the time and many salons need appointments. We likely can get this done in Norfolk, Virginia. Another week or so won't make much difference at this point.

Tired today. Down to the bone tired. Not sure why. Seems like a good day to park and rest.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Myrtle Beach and busting out the wallet

So we rediscovered the power of the credit card this week as we toured our first mall in more than four months and commenced staying at marinas with full washrooms and cheap laundry. Wow, we are burning it up.

That's OK though because Scott bought a new guitar with the card and he and Reg are working out a few tunes they can busk on the nearest street corner to help pay the bills.

OMG - we visited Myrtle Beach's boardwalk today complete with Ripley's Believe it or Not. Believe it or Not, it was almost worth the $76 admission for the five of us. It sure seemed like a better value than the $26 we paid last night for four ice cream cones. Yes, four.

Today we ate lunch at McDonald's - an orgiastic experience for all of us, except the fries were so salty we actually didn't finish them.

Then, to top off our salute to North American-style capitalism, we headed to the mall where I proceeded to slide more plastic around than a ClingWrap factory. The kids tried to comfort me by telling me we had 'saved money' at Aeropostale and elsewhere because of all the sales. Right.

There's no way to justify the junk I bought at Wal-Mart.

It's been so long since we've spent much money because our needs were so simple in the Bahamas - you buy fuel, water, food and occasionally laundry.

Why did we leave?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What a ride - 400 miles, 47 hours

We left Green Turtle Cay last Wednesday, Reg's 17th birthday to head to Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited island on the north Bahamas Bank. We were hoping we could sail to conserve fuel as we started the first day of what could be a four-day trip back to the United States, hopefully Charleston.

It was a fantastic sail, with dolphins and clear, clear water and we flew in the light chop, easily making the 60-mile run by sunset. We had a quick chat on the radio with Civil Twilight as we tucked into bed for a good nights' sleep.

The plan was to get up early on Thursday and make our way to the Gulf Stream, trying to reach the waypoint for the maximum strength of the current. Alan on Civil Twilight had talked to Chris Parker, a kind of weather guru about the lat and long and so on his advice we set our course.

We reached the Gulf Stream about midday and by the time we got to its centre axis, we were humming. We motorsailed and started picking up speed, 5 knots, 6 knots, 7 until we started to reach 10 knots. The south wind filled our sails and every now and then Messenger would dip her bow into the waves, pushed down from the speed of the boat. It was breathtaking. (To convert knots to statute miles, multiply by 1.1).

Best of all though, no one was seasick. Reg, Elizabeth and I all wore scopolamine patches behind our ears - they're good for three days. Reg felt so good he was able to stand a watch from 9 p.m. to midnight after I helped get him set up and he did the same thing the next day.

Friday's sunrise was spectacular. Aidan stood our early morning watches at 5 or 6 for two hours, giving Scott and I a much-needed break. However, Scott never really sleeps off watch, he struggles to relax while not at the helm. That changed a bit on Friday night though when he kind of collapsed on the salon berth tucked in a lee cloth to prevent him from falling off.

I had made all of our meals at Green Turtle on Tuesday, sweating furiously in my bathing suit in the galley and boy were we glad. We had baked chicken, beef stroganoff, beef stew and on Thursday while underway I made homemade bread and stromboli (a baked sandwich) for a special treat.

On Friday we managed to not only sail all day but to also average about 10.5 knots, the same speed as momtorsailing. At one point we had hit 11.7 knots and Reg said no one at home would believe it.

At dusk the wind was shifting and light so put on the motor and started to work our way off of the Gulf Steam to head toward Charleston. This is somewhat like trying to step off a giant converyor belt going full tilt. Messenger was tossed in the swirling eddies and building seas and winds in the night, making for a very bumpy ride.

We slowed down to come into Charleston in daylight. We were welcomed into the beautiful harbour by a flock of pelicans.

We slipped into a dock at the Charleston City Marina and our friends on Endurance came in later that day as well!

We spent the next few days visiting my cousin Tom and Sharon, and getting ourselves and the boat back together. Tom took me to Wal-Mart to re-provision where I was dizzied by the choice and amount of food in one store. I overcame that though and managed to fill up two shopping carts. We topped up fuel, water, propane and we'll head out today to go down the Intracoastal Waterway for the next big leg on this incredible journey.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting ready to say goodbye

We came into Green Turtle Cay Sunday. We rounded the Whale Cay Passage and it was so pleasant and glassy when Elizabeth came up she didn't recognize it, it was that differently looking in calm conditions.

Dolphins jumped in our bow wake and as we came into Green Turtle, giant rays greeted us as they majestically swam by.

It was beautiful here, with friends on Civil Twilight, Artful Dodger, Marguerita, Sheet Music, Diamond and Falco all gathered here.  Such fun.

The cruising families decided to go on a snorkeling expedition so we all headed out for the ocean beach with its spectacular reefs. Unfortunately, Reg had to finish his CYA course so he stayed on board but he said that he had enjoyed diving so much the day before he was OK with taking a break.

Elizabeth was the star that day, diving down 18 feet or so to grab a giant Queen Conch. Scott got two more, as did Craig on Diamond and Christine on Sheet Music. We made conch fritters that night, using a recipe from a Bahamian cookbook mom had given me.

Lisa from Sheet Music and I decided to share a big walk down the beach after snorkeling, as we are all leaving the Bahamas over the next few days. We had a great conversation, catching up on our adventures.

We talked to Alan and Geri on Civil Twilight about leaving together - funny as we came here together from Lake Worth in Florida four months ago. They have more experience than we do - and they're a lot of fun as well. We're taking from their courage and we're going to try to capitalize on a fantastic weather window opening up later this week.

We'll try to sail to Great Sale Cay - an uninhabited island in the north Bahamas bank tomorrow. It's a long run, about 60 miles. Then the next morning we'll head out early and run to the edge of the Bahamas bank, and enter the Gulf Stream and hopefully ride it north all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. It's about a 360-mile passage (I think) and we should arrive on Saturday sometime. It's a long passage and our biggest worry is the calmness of the seas and the need to motor. We carry just enough fuel to make it but we'd like to try to sail to take the pressure off our fuel reserves.

Today we're running into New Plymouth on a golf cart to pick up a few groceries for the trip (and for Reg's birthday) and we'll head back this afternoon for laundry and cooking up our meals for the week. We'll also get Reg started on his seasickness meds tonight to ensure he enjoys this big adventure.

Then it'll be time to say goodbye to some friends here and to the Bahamas.

What a gift this trip is - Reg and I took a long walk on the beach yesterday searching for sea hearts - I found my first here Sunday - and it was so lovely to share that time with my teenage son who is too quickly growing up.

That's not something that would have happened at home.

The time spent here is so very precious. We've managed to grab some time to watch our children grow and explore a beautiful piece of the planet.

We have so much to hold in our hearts.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Time to change scenery

We love Treasure Cay for lots of reasons but we've been here a week and it's time to go. A series of fronts and the need for high speed Internet for Reg's CYA sailing course, PADI deep sea diving and other reasons have kept us here.

We are all itching to head to Green Turtle Cay.The trouble is that we tide to get out, we need calm conditions to do the Whale Cay Cut - a passage that is infamous for its 'rages' of white water and dangerous rocky lee shore.

Once around the Whale, we can slip over to Green Turtle - the island where we dropped anchor last December 12, dinghied in to get our Bahamas cruising permit and headed to the lower Abaco islands.

It sounds like a great settlement with lots of interesting local colour, restaurants and marinas. There is currently a forecasted very big blow (gale force) winds on Tuesday. Green Turtle looks fairly protected. On top of that, we have several friends there, some with kids. It's a great spot to stop and watch for a weather window to carry us across the north Bahama bank, out to the Gulf Stream and then over to the United States.

We're not sure if we'll head to Fort Pierce, near Jacksonville, Florida (an overnight passage) or to Charleston (a three-day passage). The big variables are weather, weather and whether Reg's stomach can handle it.

We have stored up Scopolamine(spelling?) patches for him,and we provisioned by car in Marsh Harbour so we're pretty much ready to go.

It's time to go. We'll have to see if the winds agree.