October 29-30, 2009... Carolinas Ocean Voyage

We started our two-day trip just before dawn on Thursday leaving the Beaufort NC channel, confident that our refit in Annapolis would support the requirements thrown at us by the weather. We expected and got north and northeast winds for our southwest journey. The day shaped up great - our rebuilt traveller, preventers and new lines helped us capture the wind in all three sails and we flew downwind. A few hours in we recontacted our weather routing service by SSB and requested an update. Their prediction was that the winds would be a little stronger than the forecast delivered Wednesday and the waves would build with a northeast swell. Well, they were right. As the day went on the wind and waves got bigger and were kicking our collective butt. We were safe, and nothing broke, but it was getting more and more difficult to manage the helm and work the sails. As the night progressed, our muscles ached, and we were flagging. We quit sailing and started motoring as we couldn’t set and forget the sails -- the winds required lots of jibing and sail changes. How we wished we had a crew! So we took turns at the helm and slept in the cockpit when off the helm. The night passed very quickly - just one commercial ship out of Cape Fear passed us and the VHF ch. 16 was quiet. Only a handful of sailboats were out - it was nice not to have to listen to constant chatter from other boats. With morning we were well on our way in South Carolina waters, but we thought it would be dark before reaching Charleston, so we decided to bail out early and go into Winyah Bay - a bit up the coast from Charleston. The wind and waves were still high -- they hadn’t modulated at all over night, so we put up our staysail for some stability and motorsailed into the very well marked channel. We decided to anchor off the beach by the Georgetown lighthouse. Another beautiful place, 200 miles from where we started yesterday.

Other than the satisfaction of making the sails move a 45,000 pound boat, the high point of our voyage had to be the dolphins. As soon as we left Beaufort, our boat was surrounded by them. A couple of dozen played all around, swimming under, in front of, and beside us. It is hard to express how uplifting it is to see these fabulous creatures. More welcomed us on arrival outside the Winyah Bay entrance. These South Carolina dolphins jumped completely out of the water for us so that we could see their entire bodies. Our own private SeaWorld. One more nature note - later as we were looking out for markers, we found a surprise on deck. Apparently while plowing through the swells, some flying fish flew to their doom to our boat. Poor things. We got rid of them, but we are still finding fish scales all over the deck.

Winyah Bay, SC: +33° 13' 15.60", -79° 11' 13.50"

October 27-28, 2009... Beaufort NC

Yes! We made it to Beaufort Tuesday morning -- our jumping off place for the ocean voyage to Charleston SC. As we exited Adams Creek Canal to the outskirts of town we were welcomed by a dolphin! A good omen perhaps. We had trouble finding anchoring space in Taylor’s Creek opposite town, so we meandered down the channel and found good depth off the beach at Radio Island. The sun came out and dried up the rain so we splashed the kayak for the first time in a month. Our target was the Rachel Carson Reserve on Carrot Island. This place, only accessible by boat, is a bird rookery and wild ponies live there, so we thought we would try to see what we could see. And did we! Herons, egrets, white ibis, oystercatchers, sanderlings (or were they plovers?) and PONIES!! 25 of them grazing along the shore, some wading in to eat the marsh grasses. We kept going aground with the kayak on hard sea shells, so we weren’t able to get very close, but WOW!!! (Photo from cell phone - sorry about the quality) That was very gratifying and the exercise was great after being on the boat for over a week. We even went to town for a nice dinner.

Wednesday morning greeted us before dawn with monster winds. Our calm anchorage was all churned up and John did anchor watch while Patti tracked the weather to try to find an end to the aggravating winds. John also did some more nature photography with a real camera and got some great shots of the pelicans around the boat. The National Weather Service promised that the afternoon would be calmer, so having confidence in our Rocna, we left the boat for town to get a new shackle for our dinghy davits and to re-provision at the Piggly Wiggly. (Did you know they still smoke in grocery stores in North Carolina?) The dinghy ride back to Anhinga was a hoot. We decided to sit on the floor instead of on the tubes because, guess what? The National Weather Service was wrong and the winds hadn’t died down. Our course was into the wind -- very wet by dinghy -- hence the turtle routine. Back safe. Checking our SSB email, we had our first installment from the weather router we hired to go offshore. Confirming our analysis, tomorrow is go day. Charleston, here we come!

Beaufort NC: +34° 42' 47.28", -76° 40' 45.24"

October 26, 2009... No Room in the Inn

Today we thought we would laze the morning away and take the short 8-mile run to Oriental and anchor there around noon. However, when we got to Oriental we saw that the harbor was full (with only 4 boats - very small) and we heard on the radio that the marinas were full. So, with much of the day left we decided to head over to Adams Creek and anchor in Cedar Creek. The weather today was pretty horrible - overcast, gloomy, rainy and windy, so we motorsailed all the way. Jib is getting a workout. With the anchor down early we planned our ocean voyage out of Beaufort. Looks like Thursday will be the right day to travel. We'll keep watching the weather forecasts. Too bad no one in Oriental will be able to separate us from our money today.

Cedar Creek: +34° 56' 1.26", -76° 38' 53.34"

October 25, 2009... Sailing!

Ok - so today was the best day yet in the ICW because we were actually able to sail down the Pungo River and across the Pamlico River. Great sailing - bright sunshine! But then we had to do some more boring canal passages before getting to the Bay River and the Neuse River. Someone told me the Neuse could be difficult, and indeed it was. We don’t know where these winds came from, but we were clocking over 20 knots on our way into the anchorage at Broad Creek, just north of Oriental. And it got cold again. The pelicans are everywhere - diving without fear into the water for dinner - love to watch them.

(StM 173) Broad Creek: +35° 5' 21.66", -76° 36' 55.80"

October 24, 2009... The Long March

he weather forecast was grim -- 20-25 knots all day and chance of showers. We had two choices: stay put in the Little Alligator and go tomorrow, or get up early and see how it seemed. Of course we chose the latter option. Out at 7am -- the wind was only 10-15 knots until about 11am and we made most of the way down the Alligator River before starting to see the 20s appear on the anemometer. We had some choppy waves until we made our turn into the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal. Some crazy gusts (one registered 33!) but with some off and on protection from trees alongside the canal, we were able to manage pretty well. It even got hot and we were both in shorts and T-shirts (yay!!) But, how boring can this be? Twenty miles in the canal, staring at the depth finder and trying to keep away from logs and stumps. And, giving way again and again to the passing power boats. One good thing, there was the smell of honeysuckle everywhere. We exited the canal into the Pungo River around 3pm and the wind smacked us in the face. Constant 20-27 knot winds had us change our plans for the rest of the day. We had planned another 15 miles to our selected anchorage, but decided we weren't up to the challenge. So, right turn into the first creek and here we are. Hope the Rocna doesn't disappoint tonight!

(StM 128) Pungo River: +35° 34' 4.20", -76° 28' 48.42"

October 23, 2009... Day 2 of ICW Trek

Another early start -- out of the anchorage by 7am. Fog everywhere with a beautiful sunrise. Picked our way through (thanks to GPS) and got back into the channel. The morning was uneventful and we made lots of miles. Saw a heron. Not as much wildlife as we expected -- geese of course. We were down to Buck Island by noon and decided we could get across the Albemarle Sound without too much trouble, though we were warned off going unless it was a perfect day. The wind was on the nose as usual, so we went a little off course in order to put out the jib and motorsail -- gaining another knot. The waves kicked up as we were entering the Alligator River so we were concerned about a suitable anchorage. The best one we could find on the charts was 20 miles south. So, we challenged ourselves to a little exploration and tried the Little Alligator River. There was the dreaded ‘shoaling reported’ notation on the chart, but we slowly inched in around the mouth to get out of the wind and fetch. Found constant 7ft bottom, so we anchored. It is so quiet here. We are the only ones around. As long as we leave before duck hunting season, we’ll be ok. We counted 15 duck blinds around the shore of this river. (StM 81) Tomorrow, Pungo River.

Little Alligator River: +35° 56' 0.12", -76° 1' 30.42"

October 22, 2009... ICW Journey Begins

Up early and out of Willoughby Bay heading for Sewells Point and the Elizabeth River. Just as we are about to round the Point, Navy Warship 17 exited the river -- we scooted over to make room, then headed in. Lots of Navy ships, lots of container port stuff -- interesting, but not scenic. Finally we made it to the official start of the ICW - Statute Mile (StM) 0. And the wait for bridge openings begins. The ballet of boats waiting for the openings is really no fun. In the first 15 miles of the ICW, there are 9 bridges and a lock. Sometimes we hit them just right, sometimes not. At least we now have evidence that we fit under the 65’ bridges -- did 2 of those today and nothing broke off the mast. And the lock was sort of fun, though the water only dropped about a foot. The best part of the day was when we got to the North Landing River and a bald eagle buzzed our boat! It was nice to see some wildlife after trudging through all the ports, gravel pits, barges, and other industrial sites. We decided to stop early and anchor further down the river near Pungo Ferry so that we could relax with some daylight -- without the sound of the engine. It’s a pretty little place, marshland and not much else (StM 27). Tomorrow, North Carolina!

North Landing River, VA: +36° 38' 32.76", -76° 3' 31.98"

Special Blog Entry for Our Friends on the Dock

So sorry we didn’t make it back to the dock to see you all when we were in Annapolis. Between repairs, family, and horrible, miserable weather, the time just got away from us. We learned to sail and how to live on a boat from all of you and are ever grateful. We think of you all often and hope we will see you in our travels. Enjoy Don and Bob’s picture from their visit to us in Weems Creek.

October 21, 2009... Heading for the ICW

Overslept to find everyone was gone from Fishing Bay. Oh no! Did we do something wrong in this ICW thing? Since this is our first time down the ditch, we are paranoid about every step of this process. So we hurried our morning coffee and motored out to join the armada of boats heading south. The parade stretched from horizon to horizon. We put out our jib for an assist, but as soon as we turned the corner around Gwynn Island, the wind was on the nose. So motor we did -- all the way to Norfolk. Harbingers of warmer weather were the pelicans that greeted us outside Deltaville. It was a clear, smooth trip with only one mishap. Just outside Hampton, one of the shackles on our dinghy davits failed, and our dinghy drooped. John rigged a line to hold up the dinghy, but we will have to replace the shackle soonest. (It’s always something, isn’t it?) We arrived in Norfolk just as one of the biggest container ships in the world crossed us in the inbound traffic lane. We rounded Fort Wool and went into Willoughby Bay to anchor for the night. Big place, plenty of room -- and now we know why. The Navy airplanes and helicopters fly low and run all night long. Who out there wants to know how loud a CH-53 is? Huh? I can’t hear you!! No wonder no one anchors here!

Willoughby Bay: +36° 57' 31.20", -76° 17' 45.90"

October 19-20, 2009... Southbound!

Departed Annapolis on another COLD morning, wearing every stitch of clothing we owned. At least the sun was shining. Sailed down the Bay for a few hours until the wind stopped. But, having had such a a good run and some settled weather, we decided to push through the night and head for Deltaville, VA (about 100 miles south where we bought Anhinga just a little over a year ago.) We encountered more commercial shipping on the Chesapeake on this trip than we did in New York harbor. Patti even had a radio conversation with the captain of a car carrier, assuring him that we would stay out the channel and let him pass. It surprised us how many ship captains called to speak to the ‘southbound sailing vessel’ and we realized it was us! The stars out over the Bay were gorgeous. Without the light pollution of land, you could see every constellation you knew and the whole Milky Way. Orion rose with our voyage and was with us all night. The weather stayed fine all the way through, but by 4am we were really starting to get cold. Listening to the marine weather we realized it was only about 40 degrees (then we felt colder.) We arrived in Deltaville just before 7am and the colors of the sunrise were beautiful. We had enough light to navigate the markers into Fishing Bay and had the anchor down by 8am. When we arrived there were about a dozen boats here. We went to sleep and got up in early afternoon and we were the only ones left. Everyone is going south. We’re writing this in the cockpit of the boat wearing shorts and tee-shirts and even sweating a little. Thinking about changing into bathing suits -- eat your hearts out northerners!

Fishing Bay, Deltaville, VA: +37° 32' 24.54", -76° 20' 7.38"

October 5-17, 2009... Annapolis Pause

Two weeks in Annapolis have been great, except that an early winter seems to have arrived in the Chesapeake Bay. For three days we have had temperatures in the 40s, 20 degrees lower than normal. And rain. A weather pattern more typical of December. All we want to do is go south! While here we fixed all our shakedown damage and bought charts and cruising guides for the Bahamas. (Did we mention it is cold here?)

We were also able to see John III, Alejandra and Sarah while they were here from Florida and gave them a taste of the cruising life. Sarah is very cute and didn’t mind the wet dinghy ride at all. Jay came to see us a couple of times and helped with electrical work on the boat. Who knows? Maybe a new profession for him! He also brought us a car that we used to full advantage to do shore chores. Karen and Ronnie rescued us from hibernation on the boat and took us out to eat at a warm Italian restaurant. Don and Bob from our old dock stopped by to visit - they were surprised that we arrived safely and lived to tell the tales of our adventures! It was great to see them. Over and over again while we were out, we put to use lessons from these guys that they taught us in early summer.

We didn’t go to the boat show, but took advantage of the seminars associated with the show. And of course went to the boat show bash at the Eastport Yacht Club to dance to the Tiki Barbarians. Great time!

We have been watching the weather patterns to determine our course south of Norfolk. Our current plan is to take the ICW to Beaufort, NC and go outside to Florida after that. But first...we have to leave Annapolis. Go day looks like Monday. We will try for a stop on the Potomac first night, then Deltaville, then Norfolk. Then warm weather!

October 4, 2009... Home Again!

We woke up early this morning and listened to the National Weather Service to get an idea of the conditions on the Bay in order to organize an eventual return to Annapolis. (We haven’t had much luck correlating the weather forecasts with reality...but what the heck.) So, they said small craft advisories in the afternoon. We figured, we’re up, we can get in lots of miles before the afternoon - let’s go. Well, on the northern Bay, the wind kicked up out of the west by 10:30. We were roaring down the Bay at 7-8 knots (until Patti made John reef the main - twice!) But the ride was comfortable with the reefed main and the staysail - some water and spray over the side (and some down the companionway once) - but no crazy waves. Relishing every landmark (the Bay Bridge from miles away, the radio towers on Greenbury Point, the Navy Chapel) - even tearing up - we made great time and got back to Annapolis in the afternoon. There are SO MANY BOATS HERE!! Guess the Sunday before Boat Show isn’t the time to expect solitude. We headed for Weems Creek where we had a mooring available (thanks Andy!) and picked up the pennant on the first try. Yee hah! It’s sooo good to be home!

Weems Creek: +38° 59' 58.44", -76° 30' 13.74"

October 2-3, 2009... Transit to the Chesapeake

Up early again to start out from Cape May for the Delaware Bay, Our original plan was to anchor behind Reedy Island on Friday night, then go through the C&D Canal Saturday morning and anchor somewhere in the Chesapeake like Still Pond Saturday night. Plans change. When we got to the Delaware Bay, we discovered the weather was HORRIBLE. With this small craft advisory we had gusts to 25 (we saw 26 sometimes...) and waves going up the Delaware that would have made anchoring at Reedy very uncomfortable. So, we pushed through, making the canal by 7:30 Friday night, and having our anchor down by 2am Saturday morning in the Sassafras River.

So, the passage was rough. We did have some good sailing early, with the SE winds giving us a pretty good downwind push up the Bay. But, with the wave action pushing the boat around, we did have an unintentional jibe, and the force of the shift broke our traveller and shredded some rigging. Oy. So, we motorsailed with the staysail. The Delaware Bay really has nothing going for it. It is blank to the sailboat passenger, and the ocean-like conditions don稚 fade until north of the Salem Nuclear Power Plant (which is very attractive as these things go...) However, we were welcomed early in the morning by dolphins that escorted us from the Atlantic to the mouth of the Bay. They gave us hope that we could do this. The Canal passage was fairly uneventful, though we were apprehensive at first about entering at night. But it was well lit; we found our way. We did have a couple of towed barges overtake us and a huge tanker come at us without notice. There were a few sailboats -- undoubtedly all headed south to find the elusive warmer weather. (We have been in foulie gear now for two days straight.)

We are now sitting at anchor in the Sassafras off the Chesapeake and the sun is coming out. It is warm and it feels good to be home in THE Bay.

Sassafras River: +39° 22' 25.74", -76° 2' 58.80"

October 1, 2009... Cape May, Here We Come

The day finally arrived. We were up early (John had the coffee ready so that Patti could function) and at the fuel dock by 7am. Tanks topped off, we headed out of the Absecon Inlet and back to the Atlantic. Sails up and we were on our way south. Waves were no problem, seas were only 2-3 feet as forecast by the National Weather Service. But the calmer winds promised (10 knots decreasing to 5-10) did not materialize. Again, we were out there stressing the boat and ourselves in 15 knot winds with gusts over 20. After about 4 hours of pretty good sailing (in almost the right direction) the wind finally gave it to us outside Townsend Inlet. The loop on top of the jib that holds the sail to the upper furler and forestay gave out. Nothing we could do but take the sail down. John worked on taking down the sail and getting it below for over an hour. Getting a sail that is a 60ft triangle below decks is hard work, and pretty funny to watch if you aren’t the one doing it. Once below we were able to continue on our way and finish the trip to Cape May. But we had more gymnastics in store after anchoring to get the sail somehow flaked and folded into a package that could eventually be taken off the boat for repair. Our arrival in Cape May was uneventful, but the anchorage was full. The snowbirds are all headed south, and those resting before continuing down the ICW were competing with us for space. We did find a spot though and rested too. Tomorrow, the Delaware Bay.

Cape May: +38° 57' 0.48", -74° 52' 54.36"