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Posts Tagged ‘weather’

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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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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We had planned for our stop in Port Washington to be a brief one.  We would visit check out one more Gold Coast mansion, get our much used/abused bikes tuned up, top off provisions, do some laundry, and plan our way through the East River and on south.  That, however, was before Hermine decided to stop by for a visit.

On the way here though, of course there were more lighthouses.   The sinister sounding Execution Rocks Light and the Sands Point Light mark the point we rounded to enter Manhasset Bay. Execution Rocks is now privately owned and apparently being renovated but is available for overnight stays for $300/night, double occupancy… think air mattresses, port-a-potties and camp stoves, bring your own bedding food and ice.  Check it out here.  Sands Point has had a couple of private owners, including William Hearst for a time, until it was sold to a realtor who subdivided it for a 1 acre/lot residential development.

A cruising friend of ours recently described Port Washington as the cruisers Gateway to Long Island.  It’s proven to be just that.  Unlike some of our previous stops, Port Washington is welcoming of visiting/transient cruisers.  They have transient designated mooring balls that are available for free for the first 48 hrs, and after that, only cost $25/night.  Even better, the $25 mooring fee also included unlimited rides on the local shuttle/water taxi, which we’ve taken advantage of.

We arrived last Wednesday, just before the Labor Day weekend in hopes of beating the crowds.  Who knew that Hermine, who would make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast the next day as a Cat 1 hurricane,, would also be such a big factor for us.  By Friday, we knew we’d be here for a bit longer than planned.

After dropping our bikes off for much needed tune-ups, we hiked on up to Sands Point Preserve.  This is a massive place, very much open to the public.  The grounds are extensive and include 3 mansions.  One, Castle Gould, is not open for tours, though part of the facility serves as a visitors’ center, others used for public events, and some private ones; in fact they were setting up for a wedding at our visit.  This 1904 100,000 sq ft limestone mansion was built by Howard Gould, however his actress wife Katherine Clemmons decided she didn’t like it, so it served instead as a stable, carriage house and servants’ quarters.  Nearby Hempstead House was built instead and would be their main residence.  Gould and Clemmons later divorced, and the estate was eventually bought by Daniel and Florence Guggenheim. Hempstead House was not open for tours at our visit, but we did opt to tour Falaise.

Our tour ended up being a private one, just Mike, myself and our tour guide who was most informative.  Falaise was built by Harry Guggenheim, son of Daniel and Florence, and his wife Caroline, on estate property gifted to him by his parents.  Designed in the style of a 13th century Norman manor house, it is beautifully furnished with items they collected in their travels about Europe.  Harry sounds to have been an interesting guy, for a time served as US Ambassador to Cuba, flew in WWI and WWII, and was a close friend of Charles Lindbergh among other things.    He also had a curious relationship with Bill Moyers whom I’m a big fan of.  Details in this Wikipedia piece for those who may be interested.  Again, no inside photography allowed,

 

Come Saturday, we did a bit of provisioning, picked up our tuned-up bikes and did some storm prep of Cheshire.  Given the forecast, we opted not to strip all of the canvas/sails off… a big deal, but did secure them, including some extra lashing of the mainsail.  We put out some extra lines to our mooring ball; the extra cleats Mike installed some time ago came in very handy. (For previous storms of significance, we’ve either been hauled, or at a dock; this would be our first “named storm” on a mooring.) We also secured the dinghy as we do for offshore passages, that is removed the outboard engine and cinched in in tight to the davits to minimize sway/motion.  This also takes a bit of doing, so we’d use the shuttle/water taxi service for the duration of our stay.  Finally, we did some extra lashing of the solar panels; good thing Mike is so handy with line/rope/knots.

Then, we waited.  And walked about town.  As we’ve gotten closer to New York City, there’s more of an ethnic presence.  We had some great Mediterranean take out from Ayan’s Marketplace/Cafe ,  BBQ from Harbor Q our afternoon exploring Sands Point,  a great splurge Italian meal one night at Toscanini Ristorante, and some most delicious cheese blintzes (Lori) at Port Washington Diner for breakfast one morning.

And we’ve waited some more.  I’ve done some laundry.  We’ve been frequent visitors of the local public library (free wifi) except when they were closed over the holiday week-end.  They have a great view from their balcony though; photo below.  We’ve read a lot.  We’ve checked in regularly with other cruising friends up and down the coast.  Meanwhile Hermine, who went from Hurricane to Tropical Storm to post-Tropical Storm, has continued to meander (really, apparently now a new weather word) all over the Mid-Atlantic coast.  Monday night the long forecasted winds arrived.  There’s now a bit of rain in the forecast, but the forecast seems to change by the day.  A couple of days ago, she was headed offshore; this morning, she’d taken a more westerly track.  This afternoon, we’re down dealing with what the NWS calls a small craft advisory.  Often we’re treated to a pretty sunset at day’s end.

In any event, we’ll stay put, for a couple more days anyway.  We’ll choose our window carefully though when we finally do depart, as we’re headed through the East River, including the potentially exciting Hell Gate, past NYC and down the Jersey coast.

As always, stay tuned.

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After several days in Reedville, VA, we agreed that we needed to step up the pace a bit.  The Chesapeake Bay is vast, and we could easily spend the summer and years to follow exploring its nooks and crannies, but for now, we need to pick up the pace a bit.

Despite the wind having a more northerly component than was forecast, and the fact that our Cheshire prefers not to go into weather, we managed a nice sail up the Bay, crossing the Virgina – Maryland border mid morning.  Being a Sunday, there were plenty of day-sailors out and about, but plenty of commercial traffic too.  On the ICW, it’s not unusual to see an occasional barge or tug, container ships, military vessels and in Florida especially, even cruise ships.  On the Chesapeake Bay, it seems they’re more plentiful;  thankfully, so is the water we share.

Earlier in the month, coming through Norfolk/Portsmouth, military vessels lined the waterway, and are jaw-dropping big, and consequently difficult to photograph, particularly from a moving boat.  Then there is the occasional cruise ship as well, including this one “sailing” out of Norfolk.

One calm morning, we motored past this Coast Guard buoy tender.

LS_20160616_081715 USCG Buoy Tender

USCG buoy tender

 

The most curious of all though came shortly after we crossed the Virginia – Maryland line (which is not marked on the water as it is on land, but I always keep track).  On our charts it’s marked as an “exposed wreck”.  Really?  In the middle of the Bay?  And they just left it there?  Of course, I had to do a bit more research.

From a distance it appeared as a dark silhouette, perhaps one of several cargo ships we’ve seen temporarily anchored.  As we got closer, you could see it’s a rusted mess, but still floating?  Turns out it’s not floating, rather was intentionally sunk in this spot… by the US Navy.  Not kidding.  In pretty sorry shape now, this vessel has quite a history.  Meet the American Mariner.

 

LS_20160619_121636 American Mariner

American Mariner, 2016

This vessel started her service life as a Liberty Ship.  I’ve written about them in a previous post a few years back (Liberty Ships of Brunswick GA), these vessels were built specifically for service in WWII.  This one in particular started construction in 1941 as a cargo ship, but before she was finished being built, was converted to a Coast Guard training ship for merchant marines and renamed American Mariner.  She did her time in the war and beyond, active from 1941 until she was parked/placed in reserve in 1953.  In 1958, the Army put in dibs, and she came back into service.  She underwent some serious upgrades, including some fancy hi-tech gear for her new role in the ballistic missile program, followed by some time in the Pacific as part of some nuclear testing with Operation FISHBOWL.  In 1963 she was transferred to the U.S. Air Force and NASA borrowed her for some stretches to help with the Mercury program.  By the mid-1960’s though, she was tired and not needed any more.  In 1966, the Navy took responsibility for her, moved her to her current location not far from Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay and sunk her.  She now sits in the mud and serves as a gunnery target for pilots who fly out of the nearby Patuxent Naval Air Station.  Kind of like a floating (or previously floating) Giving Tree I guess.

I quote Wikipedia: “She appears to have been the only ship to have served in the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy after being built for service with the United States Merchant Marine.”  Find a nicely written piece, including a couple photos from her earlier years here.

Interestingly, our anchorage that night would be just off the PAX Naval Air Station.  Thankfully all of the planes and helicopters appeared to be grounded during our stay.

 

The following day, we were up and out early and spotted this beauty off our starboard side.  She’d have been even prettier I think with full sails up. This tall ship is a full-sized replica of the original ship of the same name, a Dutch-built merchant ship that brought Swedish settlers to North America.  Check out their website here for some history, current events and some photos of her under full sail.

LS_20160620_075648 tallship Kalmar Nyckel

tallship Kalmar Nyckel

 

We ducked into Harness Creek off of South River, not too far south of Annapolis.  A nearby park complete with dinghy dock gave us a chance to stretch our legs and hit a grocery store.   A relatively short run the next day took us within decent photo distance of a couple of interesting lighthouses, as well as under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  The Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is a big deal.  The Chesapeake Bay was full of these screwpile lighthouses  once upon a time, but as automation came to the Bay lighthouses and many became unmanned, these structures became victims of neglect and vandalism.  Thomas Point Shoal Light is the only one still in its original location; a few others have been moved and are now museums (including couple that we’ve visited… previous posts/photos here for  Drum Point Lighthouse in Solomons, MD and Seven Knolls Light in Baltimore).  Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, was apparently not so captivating.  It was auctioned off in 2006 and is now privately owned.

We dropped the anchor early afternoon, partly to avoid some opposing current and mostly to duck out of a nasty thunderstorm.  The upside is we managed to top off our water tanks, and Cheshire always appreciates a fresh water rinse.  Another early morning run put us in Chesapeake City, MD  (more on this spot later) where we’ve taken a lay day. Tomorrow morning we’ll top off fuel and head into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

As always, thanks for following along…

 

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We’ve Got Rain!

…which is ordinarily not an exciting occurrence, but today it’s very exciting.  It rained buckets in January, but as soon as we finished our solar project in mid-February, it stopped.  We’ve barely gotten a drop since.  After near perfect weather over the recent week-end for the Key West air show, this morning we woke to cloudy skies and mid-morning the rain started falling.  Seriously, our neighbors in the harbor have been crediting us with the nice weather of late.  But today we have rain, and the Admiral is doing a happy dance!

One reason for the excitement is that it’s been a long time since our Cheshire has been dockside with access to a water hose, so she was desperately in need of a fresh water rinse.  The other is that it’s the first chance we’ve had since installation to test our rain water catchment system.  Some will remember that the new solar array has some added bits for just this purpose… an aluminum channel across the forward edge and for a short run around the corners with nipples  on the underneath side of the forward corners which allow for slipping a hose onto.  Find details in an earlier post here.

The Captain’s design allows for the option of running the hose to either one of the 6-gallon jerry cans we have on board or directly to the tank fills which are on either end of the mainsheet traveler on the back of the cockpit.  At the tank fill, we use an elbow to attach to another short length of hose that bypasses the vent that’s located a couple of inches down the fill tube.  The vent allows air to escape the water tank as it fills with water, which is a great thing, but I’m not sure whose idea its placement was.  When we first moved aboard, it was a bit awkward, not to mention wet, until we figured out how to bypass the vent.

In any event, we filled the jerry can that was empty and topped off the tank that was low.  We figure we collected about 15 – 20 gallons of water in a fairly short period of time, at which point we were full, but the rain continued.  The Captain is happy with the design, so we’re considering it another project completed and tested.  Check!

Coming up later this week… we’ve decided our Cheshire is needing some serious blood work done before our journey north.  Stay tuned.

 

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