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Archive for the ‘US Atlantic Coast’ Category

OK, so it’s been a pause of epic proportions… more than 4 months in duration if I’m being honest.  In the last few days, I’ve had two different friends/readers check in to see if we are OK, having not seen a post in a great while.  Mike would tell you I’ve been talking about needing to get caught up, and indeed, there is a lot to catch up on.  I’m considering myself nudged.  Note that I’ll be backdating posts to come to maintain some sense of chronology.

Since I left off blogging in early February in St Augustine, we’ve been…

… south to the Vero Beach area where we hung out on a mooring for awhile, caught up with some cruising friends and met some new folks, as well hooked up with some long-time friends from Ohio, several of whom were camping in the Kissimmee area for a stretch.  How fun it was to compare our boat life with those who’ve recently taken up camping with tow-behind campers…

… then back to St Augustine for another couple of months where I celebrated another birthday as did some friends, made a return visit to both the bird rookery at the Alligator Farm and the Gamble Rogers Music Festival among other things…

…during which time we also rented a car for a month-long road trip from north Florida to Los Angeles and back with many fun stops along the way…

… and we helped some friends move their 51′ Morgan Out Island from St Augustine to Ft Lauderdale, my (Lori’s) first real adventure on a monohull except for occasional day sails, about a 3 1/2 day offshore adventure.

Just ahead of the beginning of June, which is also the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, we moved our Cheshire up to a marina off of the St John’s River, not too far from downtown Jacksonville where we’ll hang out through the summer-into-fall.  We’ve been here a couple of times before, but for shorter stays.  This time through, we plan to dig a little deeper.  It’s a comfy protected marina with great amenities including a pool and free laundry, both of which will be handy as we move further into the summer.  I’ve found a local yoga studio and we’ve sorted out the JTA  (Jax’s public transportation system) for when our folding bikes aren’t up for the distance.  We’ve got a running list of places we want to explore and Mike of course has a long list of restaurants he wants to check out.  As always, there will be some routine boat chores/projects, but as of this writing, nothing too heavy duty, and definitely to be scheduled in the early and late parts of the day… it’s already quite warm here.  My mid-day plan is to hide out in the air-conditioning and blog.

Time flies…

Today happens to be the 6-year anniversary of our moving aboard our Cheshire.  Just for fun, I re-read an early post (the text of which I actually sent via e-mail lists before I had the blog up and running)… find it here if you too are interested in the flashback.

We’ve also just sent our passports off to be renewed, reminiscing a bit about the places we’ve been in recent years and options for the years to come… and picked up some “alternate” passports to keep us occupied in the meantime.

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Stay tuned, and thanks for checking in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As I write, we’re wrapping up a six-week long stay in St Augustine.  After our engine drama and yard time in Oriental, NC and a frigid couple of weeks with even more engine drama getting south, we vowed to take a break from projects, rest, relax, and regroup.  We spent the Christmas holiday with Mom in the FL panhandle, and the weeks that followed back in St Augustine catching up with “old” friends, some who are here and some passing though, and making some new friends as well.  We’ve made visits to some of our favorite restaurants in the area, and have explored some new ones that have appeared on the scene since our last pass through.  Digging a bit deeper than the ever present tourists, we joined in a silent march and ceremony in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the Unity in Community March, a sister march to the Women’s March in DC.  The latter was particularly well attended, with the crowd estimated at about 2,000 strong… not bad for a town this size.  As luck would have it, we also caught a bit of the St Augustine Film Festival.  In between all of the above, we’ve enjoyed, as we always do, the Nights of Lights;  St Augustine does look pretty dressed up in her holiday finery.

I promptly signed up for an unlimited month of classes at the nearby yoga studio that I was introduced to a year or so back.  Several times a week, I take a short pedal from our marina, along the pond at Oyster Creek which offers some great birding, particularly at low tide, through a quiet residential neighborhood to the studio.  It’s been a great habit to step back into.

Along with some  small, routine cleaning and maintenance, I did decided to tackle one of my least favorite cleaning chores.  We have a storage locker at the foot of our master bunk (we refer to it as the foot locker), a wedge shaped space that reaches out under the foredeck.  With virtually no insulation, any kind of temperature fluctuations lead to condensation, and with little to no air circulation, gets pretty funky.  Our cold run south recently had pushed it over the edge of tolerable.  Cleaning it out requires half climbing into the barely-big-enough-to-do-so space.  While I had it emptied and relatively clean, Mike decided to install a 12-volt “muffin” fan between the foot locker and the adjacent hanging locker, in hopes that some improved air circulation will keep the funk down.

Mike also installed an AC/shore power monitor allowing him to geek the AC power numbers the way he does the DC numbers.  Of course the breaker tripping issue that prompted said installation ceased to happen immediately after the monitor was installed. Go figure.

So far we’d stuck to our plan… no big projects, rest, relax, regroup…

Then some local friends announced that they’d be leaving town for a week; we decided it was an opportunity to borrow some project space for the big project we’d been putting off… recovering the settee cushions in the salon.  When we’re inside the boat and not sleeping, we’re in the salon, kind of a combination dining room/living room/office.  It gets a lot of wear and it’s been looking progressively rough.  It’s been 2 1/2 years ago that we ordered new fabric, but at the time were distracted by other more priority projects.  Last winter while in Marathon, we ordered new foam cushions, but then the fridge died unexpectedly and replacing it became the priority.  We stuffed the new foam in the old cushions and threw some towels over the top to cover the holes.  It’s a project that takes some ample clean space, so it went on hold while we cruised up north last summer.  Our friends’ kind offer of their condo presented the perfect opportunity.

Step one was shuttling the cushions, materials and a monster-heavy sewing machine to the condo.  We spent 5 solid days disassembling and reassembling the cushions, 5 in all, 3 different shapes.  The horizontal ones required some complicated sewing.  The first cushion took a whole day and was pretty much a disaster.  Overnight, the Captain came up with a new design, and life got much better.  We recovered 7 cushions in all.  Three were  horizontal ones that took some tricky sewing.  The remaining four vertical ones required removing a gazillion staples from the plywood backing, re-stapling the new fabric, then making and installing a dozen fabric covered buttons.  I’ll just say that Mike continues to fine-tune his sewing skills, our heavy-duty stapler is awesome, and I have a whole new appreciation for covered buttons.

The process:

A before shot… taken during one of our first few days aboard back in 2011.  We were in the process of  emptying lockers and sorting out the junk that came with the boat purchase… patio furniture cushions anyone?

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settee, the early days

The following were taken last winter… the holes that prompted us to prioritize the project again, then the stripped down salon without cushions, while stripping/refinishing the back wall.

 

Here’s what it looked like during the project… cockpit cushions and every other available cushion and pillow on the boat pressed into temporary service.  ls_20170126_185344-settee-during

Finally, the the after photo.  Almost looks like grown-ups live here, doesn’t it?

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new cushions installed

We even had a bit of fabric left over, enough to cover the headboard in our master cabin.  Very fancy…

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new headboard in master cabin

Many thanks to our friends Dawn & Paul who lent us their space and helped shuttle materials to, and to a fellow yogi Tamara who helped us shuttle it all back to Cheshire.

We’ve now finished our short list of departure chores, and had a few good-bye dinners with friends. Rested and recovered, tomorrow we cast off the dock lines and head a bit further south.  Stay tuned.

 

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In 2011, our first year cruising, we got what we thought at the time was a late start moving south; we left North Carolina in early November and putzed our way south, making it just south of Charleston SC by the beginning of December.  The following year we were delayed leaving the Chesapeake Bay when my father passed away rather unexpectedly, but still managed to make north Florida by December 1st, as we did for the three years that followed.  This year would be a different story.

Friday, December 2nd — We were still on the hard, but the Red Queen and Cheshire were finally reunited.  The reinstall went smoothly, or so we thought at the time.

Saturday, December 3-4th — Cheshire hung in the slings of the travel lift for the weekend while we touched up the bottom paint on the spots where she’d been blocked.

Monday, December 5th — After a bit more than 6 weeks, Cheshire was back in the water.  While we were in the well with a cherry picker accessible, Cheshire also got a couple of new spreader boots, had her screecher halyard re-rigged and her wind instrument tightened up.  The rest of Monday and Tuesday were spent getting things put back together, the dinghy back on the davits, the sails back up, essentially undoing all of the hurricane prep we’d done pre-Matthew.  In anticipation of some cold days on the water, we also put our eisenglass cockpit enclosure up, which we almost never use but are thankful to have when when it gets cold.  After topping off water tanks and some final provisioning, we bid farewell to our friends in Oriental and were ready to go.

Wednesday, December 7th we finally got off the dock.  The 16 days/15 nights that followed would prove to be some of the coldest we’ve experienced since moving aboard 5 1/2 years ago.

Our first few days out were cold, but uneventful.  We were up before first light most mornings, and underway before sunrise.  With the engine running, we’d have engine-driven heat, and with the sun shining, our full cockpit enclosure behaved a bit like a sun room.  Don’t get me wrong… we were still wearing layers, wool socks, hats and gloves, even inside, but it was manageable.  We’d stay on the water as long as we dared and still manage to have the anchor down before dark.  The latter was easier than we thought, as we didn’t have much competition for anchorages this late in the migration season.  Our evening routine was to cook a hot meal, then huddle under fleece blankets reading until bedtime.  The following morning, we’d get up and do it again.

Instead of hoping offshore, we opted to stay inside (in the ICW) at least to start with, partly due to the cold, but mostly because we wanted to give the engine a good solid test.  It ran well, the weather was cooperative, we had anchorages to ourselves and the bridge tenders were most pleasant (translate: it’s their slow season).  We opted to pause in Holden Beach at their new “courtesy dock” which, contrary to the info we had, was not free.  It did have power however, and after three days on the boat, provided a nice chance to walk a bit.  And of course, the Captain found chicken wings.  And we had heat overnight.

The couple of days that followed took us into South Carolina, along the beautiful-even-in-December Waccamaw River.  We made a stop at Osprey Marina, a favorite of ours, where we scored another jar of their yummy hot pepper jelly and again warded off some freezing overnight temps.

 

Then things got interesting.  As we started to close in on the end of day 5, we were deep in the marshes of coastal South Carolina, surrounded by lands designated as national wildlife refuge  and national forest lands, translate: beautiful and the middle of nowhere.  Looking ahead, the following day would put us in the Charleston area, and we talked of maybe taking a lay day.  It was just after 4pm, daylight was fading quickly, and we were headed for a familiar-to-us anchorage, having calculated we’d just make it before dark.  Mike was at the helm when he noticed that the engine temperature gauge was not right… like reading that the engine was not hot, which is better than too hot, but still…  I took the helm while he popped open the engine compartment in the back of the cockpit, only to find engine coolant spewing.  Not good.  After a few minutes, he figured out that the bracket that holds the coolant hose onto the engine block was missing a bolt, and in its loosened state, had been too close to the alternator belt which had chafed a hole in the hose.  In the middle of nowhere…  With dark fast approaching…

While I stayed on the helm, “steering” our Cheshire without power in a wicked tail current down a creek lined with marsh grass, punctuated with the occasional wooden dock, Mike managed to jury-rig a fix, first with so-called Rescue tape (which didn’t work on a messy hose), then with heavy-duty duct tape (my Dad would be pleased).  He then sat on the cockpit floor for the next 35 minutes, which seemed more like 35 hours, with a fiberglass pole jammed into the engine compartment to hold the hose off the alternator belt, while we fired the engine, held our breathes and motored into the nearest anchorage.  We were anchor down right at dark and on the phone with TowBoat US before the night was out.

For those who are not familiar, TowBoat US is like AAA, except for boats.  There are a couple of companies that provide the service, but in 5+ years, we’ve never had to use it.  Until now. It saved our butts, and is worth every penny.  I don’t even want to think about what the tow would have cost without it.

We made arrangements for them to collect us from the anchorage the next morning.  Jason, our towboat operator couldn’t have been nicer.  He showed up even earlier than expected and towed Cheshire and her crew without incident to Tolers Cove Marina, another familiar-to-us spot near Mt Pleasant SC.   Tolers Cove is mostly a sportfish marina with not a lot of room for transients beyond a day or two, but they were kind enough to let us hang out on the backside of their fuel dock for a few days.  Three hours under tow, including some skinny water and a restricted bridge, and we were safely tied to a dock mail ordering parts.  At least it was a Monday.

Mike found a replacement bolt at a local hardware store, but the funky shaped hose had to be mail-ordered.  We opted for expedited shipping, but weather in Michigan and a “mechanical problem” with a cargo plane delayed things a bit.  Our parts finally arrived mid-morning Thursday.  The hose replacement actually went fairly smoothly.  Then we decided to go ahead and do that earlier-than-usual oil change our mechanic in Oriental had recommended.

Mike started the engine up to let it warm up… except the engine didn’t warm up.  Apparently the low temp reading on the gauge wasn’t entirely about the coolant hose leak, rather a weird coincidence of timing.  Mike decided to pull the thermostat and take a look. (See photo below which in my humble opinion doesn’t resemble any thermostat I’ve ever seen).  Apparently it’s a pretty simple open or closed devise that got stuck in the open position by a tiny piece of debris. At least we were fortunate that it didn’t get stuck closed, which could have resulted in the engine overheating!  In any event,  Mike was able to dislodge the rock, reinstall the thermostat and all was well.  Given the late hour, we opted to skip our planned grocery run and instead walked down to Sullivans Island for a splurge meal at the Obstinate Daughter where the martinis were most delicious.

Another 2 1/2 days on the water brought us to the Savannah area where we’d arranged to meet up with cruising friends Dawn and Paul who were road-tripping up to New England for the holidays.  They gets bonus points for flexibility, messaging back and forth regarding timing, location options, etc.  We were tied up at the dock at Bahia Bleu Marina before noon, allowing for some much needed laundry.  Mother Nature even sent us a freaky warm day so I was able to wash our few, much worn cold weather clothes.  We had a great albeit short visit, including a much needed/much appreciated grocery run.

Our final push, 3 1/2 days, brought the cold weather back, along with some damp rain and occasional fog.  The Captain resorted to taking a pair of scissors to a perfectly good pair of gloves, cutting out the thumb and index finger of the right glove, enabling him to use the iPad we keep at the helm for additional navigation assistance.  We wound our way through the marshes and across the sounds of coastal Georgia, and were disappointed that the sun remained hidden even as we crossed into the Sunshine State.  A bit south of Jacksonville it finally cleared, and our last morning at anchor for this stretch was lovely.

The numbers:

This run from Oriental NC to St Augustine FL was approximately 600 statute miles or about 522 nautical miles, and took us 16 days.

Of those 16 days, we were underway for 12, plus 1 under tow.  We had only 3 lay days where we stayed put, but for repairs, none for weather, the latter of which is remarkable given the season.

Of our 15 nights out, we spent 8 of them at anchor, and 7 at a dock… which is more dock time than our usual, but we splurged a couple of times for dock power on the particularly cold nights (dock power = heat overnight), spent 4 nights on the dock for the engine repair (which included a couple of cold nights as well), and another to hook up with friends for an afternoon/evening.

In a nutshell:

It wasn’t our most pleasant cruise; the engine issue was particularly challenging, but not as bad as it might have been.  I was reminded once again how much I appreciate that Mike is scary smart and able to fix so many things.  We managed to survive the cold, but were reminded that we really are fair weather cruisers. We so missed our usual slower, more relaxed, stop and explore along the way pace.

In the end, we made it to north Florida/St Augustine in time to grab a rental car and spend Christmas with my Mom in the Florida panhandle.  Now we’ll hang here for a few weeks, appreciate the relative warmth and sunshine, catch up with some friends,  and regroup/plan for what comes next… which hopefully isn’t another boat project.

As always, stay tuned.

 

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Today is November 30, the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season… whoo hoo!  It also marks the end of our second month in Oriental, the stay that we’d anticipated would be one month maximum.  And we haven’t left yet…  Assuming we actually do get on the water and moving at some point in the not too distant future, it will officially be our latest start south to date.  We’re also anticipating some of our coldest days on the water, but I’m trying not to freak out about that just yet.  Last but not least, the reason for our still being here, today also marks a solid month since we sent the Red Queen off to the diesel hospital.

In all honesty, autumn in eastern North Carolina has been lovely.  For the most part it’s been cool, clear and sunny.  Occasionally overnight temps dip into the 30’s, and occasionally it rains… like today, but mostly it’s been beautiful.  The cooler temps wouldn’t even be so bad if we were in the water and could use our reverse cycle air-conditioner/heater.  On the hard however, we have only our little ceramic disc space heater, which on our uninsulated boat takes the edge off at best.  We move it back and forth from the main cabin/salon by day to our forward cabin overnight.  Between the space heater and two fleece blankets, we’re pretty toasty overnight.  Some evenings we find a way to be off the boat soaking up the heat of one of the several restaurants in the area.  Other nights we layer up, cover up and read.  Mornings are generally the more challenging.  Often times we’ll take a walk or go out for breakfast while the sun warms things up a bit.  Climbing up and down the ladder umpteen times a day also keeps the blood moving.

Another challenging aspect of living on the hard is that we don’t use the sinks, particularly when we’re doing hull work.  Normally, our grey water discharge drains through a thru hull into the water, which on the yard would make for puddles around the boat, after running down the sides of the boat.  We opt instead for using minimal water (translate: washing hands, rinsing dishes) into a stainless bowl about the size of our sink that I dump and clean out each evening, but actually washing the dishes is done off the boat utilizing a bucket and a hose.  Not so bad actually, until you realize that we’ve been doing this for pushing 6 weeks now.  Needless to say, we’ve been keeping meals simple… one pot if possible.

Yet another challenge is operating w/o a freezer, or more specifically with a freezer that freezes only intermittently.  We’ve learned that our fancy new fridge, the one we installed just last winter, works like a charm, except when the ambient temperature is really cold.  Overnight lows where the cabin temps dip into the 50’s count for cold.  Not unlike dorm fridges, the shoebox-sized freezer box is not really separately insulated.  The problem is that when it’s cold, the fridge doesn’t run as often, which means the freezer doesn’t stay frozen.  Except when it’s a bit warmer, then it’s fine.  Our alternative is to dial the Engel (our secondary fridge used mostly for beverages) back to freezer mode, which we may do at least temporarily when we head south and don’t have the option of grocery shopping a day at a time.

OK, enough about the challenges.  There has been plenty to be grateful for as well.   As always, we’ve enjoyed being back in Oriental and catching up with friends who are based here.  We joined in a new-to-us Oriental tradition, a Thanksgiving morning bicycle ride; rumor has is there were about 90 of us pedaling that morning.  After our simple meals on the boat, a complete Thanksgiving dinner at our friend Mike’s was a real treat, as was the opportunity to “housesit” for our friend Laurie while she was away for a few days over the holiday.  We were reminded of how much we enjoyed a gas fireplace when we last lived on dirt.  In addition to our favorite haunts, there are a couple of new restaurants in town since our last visit, including a Mediterranean place called Layla’s.  Here’s hoping they make it… the location has not been kind to previous restauranteurs.  I’ve also found a local yoga studio, which has been an especially nice counterbalance to some of our boat projects.

At this point, our big yard projects are done.  We’ve replaced a faulty thru hull, completed some routine maintenance on the drive leg, buffed and waxed the hull and put a couple of coats of bottom paint on.  More recently Mike has replaced a couple of fans that died painful rattly deaths, and transformed 200 feet of 5/8″ 3-strand nylon into 6 fancy new dock lines (including splicing the eyes… most impressive to watch I might add).  Meanwhile I’ve been on a cleaning spree, trying to keep the mildew and mold at bay in these damp conditions.

At the risk of jinxing us, I believe the end may be in sight.  The good news is that the Red Queen wasn’t terminal, but did need some professional TLC.  Her transmission spent a stretch in Marblehead, MA in the care of a Westerbeke transmission specialist.  It’s now back in Pamlico County where our mechanic Darrell is putting her back together with some new bits, including a new engine main seal that was backordered for what seemed like forever.  The plan, as of today, is for the Red Queen to be returned to us this Friday.  We’ll spend the week-end in the lift doing the last touch-up of bottom paint on the spots where we’ve been blocked.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll go back in the water on Monday.  We’ll spend a couple more days getting things put back together, undoing our hurricane prep.  The dinghy, stored on a rack at the marina for the last couple of months will go back on the davits.  The sails and cockpit enclosure will get dug out and put back together.  We’ll do some final laundry and provisioning and then, as soon as weather permits, we’ll be on our way.

That’s our plan… in the sand… at low tide.  Here’s hoping…

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hurricane_matthew_cumulative_wind_historyMany apologies to our readers… it’s been a solid month since my last post, and a busy month at that.  Those who also follow us on social media know by now that we survived Hurricane Matthew without damage.  Mike stayed in Oriental and tended to Cheshire while I spent two weeks doing my annual triangle trip (Cheshire > IN > FL> Cheshire) helping Mom with her move down to Florida for the winter.  It was a stressful stretch, binge-watching the Weather Channel as Matthew barreled its way up through the islands, up the coast of FL and beyond, leaving an incredible amount of destruction in his path.  Our beloved St Augustine, FL was hit particularly hard; this piece from the local newspaper has some details and photos, as does this blog post by a fellow cruiser currently based in St Augustine.  There were boats washed up into the marshes, at least one marina destroyed and hundreds of homes lost.  This NPR piece has some before/after aerial photos of the shorelines just north and south of the city.  Needless to say, they are still very much in recovery mode and will be for some time.  Had this storm hit last year at this time, Cheshire and her crew would also have been in town and might not have fared so well.

Further north, Oriental saw only a bit of high water, but no more than a strong nor-easter might bring.  The winds were a bit stronger than in previous storms we’ve weathered here,  though Mike says our anemometer (wind instrument) was being wacky, so we don’t know exactly  how strong.  A bit further inland in eastern North Carolina though, there was some significant flooding.  All in all, we consider ourselves lucky, having dodged another one.

Up and down the eastern US coast, the recovery continues.  In addition to the damage done to boats, marine facilities, and homes along the waterways, the coastlines themselves have been rearranged, with inlets where there didn’t used to be, shallow spots where the bottom of the waterway has shifted around, and many channel markers blown off station if not blown away all together.  The Great Dismal Swamp Canal is still closed.  Many bridges were affected and we’ve heard of numerous cruising boats with taller masts than ours having to wait for water levels to recede before they can pass beneath some of the tall bridges along the ICW.  As anxious as we are to get moving south before the weather turns cold, we’re also OK with allowing some of the dust to settle, so to speak.

Meanwhile, in Oriental, we’ve been staying busy.  Within 48 hours of my return to Mike and our Cheshire, we were hauled out and onto the boatyard for yet another round of projects.  Living aboard on a boatyard is no fun, but I have to say, it’s way more comfortable in North Carolina in October than in north Florida in August.  We had a bit of rain this morning (hence my finally pulling the laptop out for some blogging), but otherwise its been clear and dry, perfect for getting some projects done.  (Rollover the photos below for captions.)

The primary reason for this haul is to have some engine work done.  Our 27-horse Westerbeke diesel has been hemorrhaging various fluids for a few of months now… a bit of coolant, a bit more engine oil and a scary amount of transmission fluid. We watched closely/topped off frequently, hoped to avoid a catastrophic failure further north, Plan A being to pause in Oriental and have her tended to.  Thankfully the Red Queen was on board with Plan A.  (For those familiar with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen moniker is a reference to the movie character…  small, loud and demanding of much attention.)  Unfortunately, it took 10 days after our haul for the planets to line up for having the engine pulled… which won’t be a huge deal unless we’re still in North Carolina for Christmas.  Mike made good use of the delay and saved us a bundle in labor costs by doing much of the engine disassembly in advance.  In any event, the actual engine pull was no small task, involving the travel lift’s crane, and several hands; I mostly tried to stay out of the way and take photos.

As I type, our Red Queen lies in the diesel hospital.  We know she’s got a bad seal… not such a big deal/expense to replace.  We’re awaiting word from a specialist about the condition of the transmission… potentially a much bigger deal.  For now we wait…

In the meantime, there are other as-long-as-we’re-hauled-anyway projects to keep us busy.  Mike’s tending to the messy ones… replacing a defective thru-hull and performing some routine maintenance on the drive leg.  I on the other hand have been distracting myself with cleaning.  After hearing some horror stories lately regarding rigging failures, we decided to dismantle/inspect and reassemble the headstay hardware… the bits that hold the jib (forward sail) and mast up.  Thankfully they were in fine shape, just needed a bit of polishing.  I’ve also been polishing and waxing the hull… always forgetting how much surface area there is on our cat until she’s out of the water.  It’s a big job, but kind of a zen thing for me, wax on, wax off…  I’ve also found a local yoga studio; my body is appreciating the occasional class to help balance all of the more strenuous work.

Other projects on the list… we’ll definitely scuff and apply a couple coats of bottom paint.  Depending on what happens with the engine, Mike’s also wanting to replace the shift and throttle cables, but that’s on hold for now.

And sometimes we play… We’ve gotten to catch up with some old cruising friends, as well as meet some new folks as they come and go with the cruiser migration.  The annual Chili Cook-off was a great success, raising big bucks for the local theatre’s badly needed roof replacement.

Especially being on the hard where cooking/dishes are more challenging, we’ve been supporting some of our favorite local eating establishments and checking out a couple of new ones.  I can also personally vouch for the Pumpkin Spice Latte ice cream currently being dipped at the Bean down on the waterfront.  We love Oriental, and it’s nice to be back for a stretch, but the temperatures are starting to drop.  Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for our Red Queen.

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Our inside run from Norfolk, VA down to our official home port of Oriental, NC was uneventful… not a bad thing.  We took a week, which included catching up with cruising friends Alex and Lisa aboard s/v Tiki Trek, first at the Great Bridge Free Dock and again at Coinjock.  We also made a stop at Belhaven, one of NC’s many little water front communities.  Belhaven itself, albeit tiny, was quite nice.  The free dock there is also quite nice, solidly built, a short walk from town… but unfortunately doesn’t get enough traffic to keep the birds at bay.  We were the only boat there the night we stayed, and it was absolutely thick with bird shit.  Serious nastiness.  We did find a nice hardware store, and had a great meal at Spoon River, a fun and funky farm-to-fork place in Belhaven.  The icing on the cake so to speak was free dessert, compliments of another cruising couple who we’d met at Coinjock who arrived for dinner shortly after us.  For those who might follow: skip the free dock and go for either the less-expensive town dock or the nearby marina.  The Belhaven Memorial Museum, while on the National Register of Historic Places, in our opinions was just downright creepy.

Finally, last Saturday, Cheshire arrived home… at least to one of our homes, at least to the place where this mostly grand adventure started.  As always, Henry found a spot for us at the dock at SailCraft where we spent our first 5 months aboard back in 2011 and have returned to countless times since.  Our timing was perfect, just a few hours ahead of a potluck complete with entertainment where we got to catch up with some of our old friends.

Mostly the news of late though is Hurricane Matthew.  I joke with friends that these storms find us, that on the so-called spaghetti models that one of the lines always goes straight to our Cheshire.  But it’s not funny.  It seems they particularly find us in North Carolina.  In our first few months aboard we were visited by Hurricane Irene in September of 2011 who  brought with her a wicked 9.5′ storm surge.  (See previous posts 1st, 2nd and 3rd re Irene). A few years later, Hurricane Arthur’s claim to fame was being the only hurricane to make landfall in the US that year. He was kind to us though; more on that one here.    Matthew looks like he’s going to be mean and nasty.

As before, I’m more than a bit nervous, but there are two things that make this time around even more worrisome.  The first is that I won’t be here.  Yep, I’ll be miles and miles inland for an already postponed once trip/family obligation, leaving Mike to tend to Cheshire by himself.  To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about it.  We’d briefly considered maybe changing my plans again, however Mike insists that that’s not necessary.  We’ve spent the better part of the last couple of days doing some storm prep, definitely easier with two people.  Sails/canvas are down and stashed, the dinghy is off the boat and stored ashore, and misc. other little things.  Mike has spent the morning building a spider web of lines securing our Cheshire to the dock, but given that its a fixed dock and some storm surge is likely, all adjustable from the boat.  This morning I gave him lessons on how to use our Delorme InReach tracker so that if/when he loses phone service, we can still text updates back and forth.

Matthew’s track seems to change almost daily.  As of this afternoon, it appears he might make landfall near the SC/NC border and track west of us.  That’s a mixed bag actually… with that scenario we might get less storm surge as the wind blows the water north into the Pamlico Sound, but potentially more wind. That said, the storm track has been changing a bit almost with every update.  It’ll be Friday or so before we have a better sense of what to expect here in North Carolina.  Needless to say, my obsessive weather checking will continue.

The second thing that makes this time around more worrisome is that after cruising for 5+ years, we now know dozens and dozens of other cruisers, currently scattered up and down the US east coast, into the FL Keys, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.  That’s a whole lot of friends potentially in harm’s way.  As fed up as I get with social media sometimes, especially during the current political season, this week I’m very thankful to have this tool for checking in with others along Matthew’s path.

I’ll update my Facebook page (tagging Mike of course) periodically  as I hear from him and will follow up with another blog post when there’s more to tell.  In the meantime, we’re sending good wishes to all who stand (or float) in the path of this storm, hoping for minimal damage and destruction.  I really do need to think about a blog tag, something to the effect of “it’s not all sunsets and rum drinks”.  As always, stay tuned.

 

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When I was a kid, we used to play a game in the neighborhood called Red Light, Green Light.  If you’re not familiar with it, check the Wikihow description here.  After spending about 2.5 weeks getting from Long Island to Norfolk, I’ve come to the conclusion that cruising the Mid-Atlantic coast is a bit like playing a game of Red Light, Green Light with Mother Nature.  Mostly she played fair and everyone won.

From the Atlantic Highlands area of New Jersey, the only way back south is to go offshore.  Unlike the southeastern coast of the US where the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) offers the option of an inside/protected route from Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA all the way to Miami and into the Florida Keys, there is no such route along the Jersey/Delaware/Maryland/Virginia shore.  Yes, there are short inside stretches, but they are restricted by the occasional low fixed bridge.  To get south, you simply have to make some outside/offshore runs.  Our Cheshire however, is not a heavy weather boat. Consequently she and her crew are very cautious about weather, especially when heading offshore and particularly during hurricane season where conditions can change with little notice.

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Lori’s offshore survival stash

Everyday aboard starts with coffee and weather checks.  Not just the what’s-the-temperature-going-to-be and is-it-going-to-rain kind of weather.  Like all cruisers, we have multiple weather sites bookmarked on our various electronic devices.  We’re interested in wind velocity, wind direction, precipitation, sea states, storms, storm tracks, etc.  Then there are currents and tides, very important if coming/going from inlets where things can get dicey in unfavorable conditions.  For planning an offshore run, we’re interested in all of these things, but for multiple locations along our planned route, and not just for today, but for several days into the future.  When the planets line up and a weather window looks good, we go.

From the Atlantic Highlands/Sandy Hook area, we made a 25+ hour/125 nautical mile overnight run to Breakwater Harbor near Lewes, DE where we’d pause to await the next window.  It turned out to be a long pause.  We were in a protected anchorage, but with not much for easy shore access.  There’s a beautiful beach nearby, Cape Henlopen State Park, but apparently the powers that be have gotten cranky about folks arriving via water, so landing one’s dinghy on the beach is apparently now a no-no.  In any event, we spent 4 days anchored here without setting foot off the boat.  Needless to say, we did a lot of reading.  At least we had a nice view of nearby Breakwater Light.  I was amused to watch the sight-seeing tour boats come and go.

We’d hoped our next jump would take us all of the way to Norfolk, but Mother Nature was having none of that.  One morning we finally had a small weather window (which I’ve come to refer to as a weather porthole) and decided to make a day run to Ocean City, MD.  Six hours and 32 nautical miles later we’d successfully navigated the inlet and were anchor down behind Assateague Island.  Shore access here for anchored boats is also limited, so we opted to move to a nearby dock the next morning for the couple of nights we anticipated we’d have to wait for our next window.  Unlike our last stop, we took full advantage of being attached to a dock (for the first time in nearly 3 months).  We did laundry, we did some provisioning, both much easier from the dock vs by dinghy.  We supported a number of local drinking/dining establishments.  Decatur Diner was a favorite, in fact we went twice.  Don’t miss the Pipeline for breakfast; we shared a half order.  Harborside Bar and Grill was good for beers and apps.  They’re famous for a drink called an Orange Crush; I (Lori) had the grapefruit version which was quite tasty.  At Martin Fish Company, a seafood market/take-out/eat-in spot, we had some good draft beers and shared a fried clam dinner.

One afternoon, we pedaled over to check out the and Life-Saving Station Museum and the Ocean City Boardwalk.  The Life-Saving Station was a mid 1970’s rescue/rehab effort and has been transformed into a nice maritime museum.  The Boardwalk dates from 1902 and was quite a trip.  The arcade was like none I’ve seen.  Tourist-trappy restaurants also looked to be plentiful but we limited ourselves to a bag of carmel corn as we strolled.  The small craft advisory level winds made for some impressive kite flying displays.

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Maryland’s Indian, artist Peter Toth

As we made our way back to our bikes, we stumbled upon an interesting sculpture.  Maryland’s Indian is one installment in a collection known as the Trail of the Whispering Giants.  Hungarian-born sculptor  Peter Wolf Toth set out to place at least one carving in each of the 50 states, a goal he completed in 1988.  His sculptures are a tribute of sorts to native peoples around the country.  See the website linked above for more of his story and some photos.

After three nights total in Ocean City, a window opened.  Alas, the tides and currents of the inlet dictated that we’d best plan for a late afternoon departure.  Cheshire got a much needed bubble bath which was promptly undone when we were waked by a ginormous sport-fisher before we’d even got out of the inlet.  But we did get out and had a beautiful run, albeit motoring, down the coast.  As the 37 mile length of Assateague Island is state park and national seashore land, it was mostly dark.  Little ambient light made for an impressive sky full of stars, and in the early morning hours, a pretty crescent moon.  See photo below, my weak attempt to capture the sunrise.  We caught a couple more lighthouses on this run, or three actually if you count Assateague Light on the southern end of the barrier island of the same name, but I saw only the flashing light during a night watch; sorry no photo.   Cape Charles Light was very distant in the early morning light, and Thimble Shoals Light  greeted us as we approached Hampton Roads inlet.  A morning weather check advised of a small craft advisory in the lower end of the bay (not previously forecast), so our entry was a bit bumpy.  Twenty-four hours and 115 or so nautical miles later, we were anchor down at Hospital Point, mile-marker 0, the northern most point of the AICW.  

We’d heard even before leaving Ocean City though, that there had been much rain and consequent flooding in the area, so much so that both the Virginia Cut and the alternate Dismal Swamp Canal sections of the AICW were closed.  Opening/closing bridges and locks alike don’t behave well in flood conditions.  Although we had hoped to do the Dismal again (find posts about our last trips here and here), it remained closed after the Virginia Cut route opened.  So we’re off, down the Virginia Cut.  Hopefully we’ll make Oriental, NC in a week or so.

As always, thanks for following along.  Stay tuned.

 

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