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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Norfolk the Navy town

Today we left Deltaville and headed across the south bay to Norfolk, VA, home to one of the largest US Naval bases.  Along the way we heard some interesting things on the radio.  There were two Korean war ships in the bay, apparently in for refueling.  That's not something you see every day, at least not where we are from.  We could see them off in the distance, but never got very close.

As we approached Norfolk, one of the US war ships (that's what they call themselves - War Ship 72, or War Ship 66) was alerting everyone that he was departing at 2:30 and to be on the lookout.  Well, just as we were getting ready to turn into the Elizabeth River, out came War Ship D72.  I tried hailing him on 13 (the standard bridge-to-bridge channel that all ships in the area use to coordinate passages), but they didn't respond.  I just decided to give him a wide berth and continue on our way.  A little later I heard War Ship 66 trying to hail him on 13 as well with no response, so I didn't feel so bad about being ignored.  99% of the time ships respond right away and happily coordinate passes.  For whatever reason 72 wasn't monitoring 13.

War Ship 72 leaving Norfolk Naval Base as we head down the Elizabeth River

Air Craft Carrier 77 - George Bush

Stealthy looking ships of some sort

Now THAT's a Cargo Ship.  I'll bet you could drive a sub inside and take it for a ride.

And a Hospital ship to clean up the mess.

Going through Norfolk and the surrounding towns, there is no mistake who butters the bread.  The Navy.  I've never seen so many ships in various states of refurbishment.   Have you ever seen an air craft carrier hauled out of the water?  We did.  And it was one of three carriers that were there at the time.  Plus a Hospital ship, and a huge rear-loading cargo ship.  Check out the pictures.

A bit later we experienced the 1% of commercial captains who are not so cooperative.  We were gaining on a tow and an unladen tug working their way up the Elizabeth river and I wanted to pass them, so I called and asked to pass on their starboard side.  They said fine but as I was getting closer they started turning to starboard, and soon after got on the radio asking where I was going and said I should pass their port side.  Umm?  I'm not sure where the miss-communication happened, but it did, and highlights the need to always be alert.

A few more miles down the river was the Top Rack Marina just past where the Dismal Swamp turns off.  We stayed there for the night, ready to transit the Dismal Swamp the next day.

Is this the north or the south?

Lots of things distinguish the north from the south, and clearly we are on the boarder.  Today's trip took us from Annapolis, MD down the Chesapeake to Deltaville, VA.  It was a long trip, but tomorrow looks to be bad weather so we figured we'd just go for it.  Plus, we are meeting up with friends and Nordhavn owners Wytie and Sally aboard Happy (isn't that a great name?).  It was a very uneventful trip except for the funny large birds we kept seeing.  They kind of looked like pelicans, but in all our time on the Chesapeake we've never seen a pelican here.  I associate them with Florida and Southern California, not Maryland.  Maybe their range has changed over the past 25 years, maybe it's the time of year, or maybe we just never went far enough south in the bay to see them, but sure enough, they were brown pelicans.  I guess we are getting south, aren't we?

But then, at the same time, there was as loon floating not too far from the pelican.  To me, loons are the ultimate northern bird whistling in the lakes in the summer.  So I guess we are still in the north while at the same time we are the south.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cape May to Annapolis

An update is long overdue.  When we last left off I was debating whether to run inside the NJ Inter Coastal Waterway (NJ-ICW), or head back out and run a long the coast.  The forecast called for continued Small Craft Warnings and anywhere from 3-5' seas depending on where you were.  A call to Sea Tow in the morning sealed the deal.  They said that hundreds of boats have made the trip as long as you go through at mid-tide or above.  A quick look at the tide charts revealed that low tide was right around noon which meant that we would be traveling at mid tide and below, not mid tide and above.  So outside we went.

The route from the Barnegat inlet into and across the bay to the marina where we stayed was quite the circuitous path.  None of the markers are on the charts since they get moved all the time as the shoals shift around.  The way back out was a bit easier since we could just follow our previous track on the chart plotter.  But it turns out that wasn't good enough and we still bumped the bottom at one spot even though we were well inside the marked channel.  I guess that's the NJ-ICW!

Running out of the Barnegat inlet was even more of a wild ride than coming in, but once we were clear and able to turn south we had most of the seas behind us so the ride was bearable.  Next stop, Cape May.

The ride was pretty uneventful until we got off Atlantic City.  We were out in clear water well outside the markets when up ahead I spotted something odd floating in the water.  As we got closer, it became clear that whatever it was, it stretched for several hundred feet.  There were some off floats along it, but it was otherwise unmarked.  We turned and went well around it, but what a mess it would have been if we were running at night and ran into it.  As best we could tell it was a dredge line (the pipes they use for dredging) that had been anchored there.

Once to Cape May, we decided to hang out for a day to rest up and get a few things done on the boat.  It's a nice spot, but I'm glad we were there off-season.

We left Cape Map at 7:00AM to catch favorable tides and currents and had a quick run through the Cape May Canal which cuts through to the Delaware Bay.  Once through, the Delaware bay was like glass so we decided to crank it up and put a few miles behind us.  Despite being a little overcast, it couldn't have been an easier run all the way up to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal just south of Wilmington.  Other than a tow exiting as we entered, there was no other commercial traffic - just us and a handful of sail boats.  We were thinking of stopping for the night at Chesapeake City which is about 2/3 of the way through the canal, but it looked crowded and it was only 11:30 when we passed, so we decided to keep on going.  On the Chesapeake side there were a couple of  places where we were thinking of anchoring, but again it was so early and the water was so calm that we decided to just go for it and run all the way to Annapolis.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Rat Bastard!

Shortly after I climbed into bed last night I heard a pitter-patter, pitter-patter on the deck over my head.  Although I hoped it was a bird, I knew it probably wasn't.  So with clothes back on and a flashlight in hand I went out to investigate and saw a rat scurry down the dock and dive into the water.  Little rat bastard!  They are actually cute, smart, and very fastidious creatures, but they belong in their own house, not anywhere near mine.  That's all the motivation I needed to push on, so after a restless night listening for his return, we departed NYC and headed for Barnegat.  It wasn't an awful run, but it wasn't very good either.  We were hammering in to head seas out through the Narrows and around Sandy Hook, then sloshing with a side sea the rest of the way down the NJ coast.

And entering the Barnegat cut was interesting.  Many of the bouys are in very unexpected places causing you to seriously question whether you are going the right way.  Add to that nasty side rollers coming across the inlet, including some that were breaking, and it's a bit stressful.  But we made it in OK and followed the snaking channel back into the bay where we have tucked into a nice marina for the evening.

All we could really do while underway was nibble on some oyster crackers, so promptly after arrival we grilled up some sausages and tortellinis for breakfast-lunch-dinner.  Ahhhh, I feel much better now.

We are now trying to figure out how bad an idea it would be to run inside tomorrow.  I've talked to a few locals but there is no clear answer so far.  Stay tuned......

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Made it to NYC

So far, so good.  We made it to NYC with little drama and have been hanging out at Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City right across from lower Manhattan and next to Liberty Park where the ferries depart for Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  It's a nice quiet spot with great access to the city.  But over the years I've had my fill of NYC so I've just been hanging out and catching up on boat chores.

As I mentioned, the trip down had little drama.  A little bit, but all-in-all very little.  My friend and former colleague, Jim Murphy, was crew and companion for the trip.  It was great to catch up on old corporate drama, and we've shared plenty.  Plus he's a great second mate.

The first leg was from Gloucester to Cuttyhunk, and was a bit rolly crossing Mass Bay with 4'-6' waves square on our beam.  But the stabilizers took out the worst of it and in a few hours we were at the Cape Cod Canal.   We timed the current well and had a nice smooth cruise through while we had lunch.  Then a couple of hours later we arrived at Cuttyhunk and grabbed a mooring inside since it was a 15-20kt wind the whole time.  If you have even been in Cuttyhunk you will know that the mooring field is VERY tight.  We were pulled snug up to the mooring we were on and when we would swing around the right way I could reach the mooring ball behind us.  The other challenge is that although the channel and anchorage are well dredged and marked, it ends abruptly and becomes just a few feet deep.

The first excitement was a good sized sail boat that came in shortly after us and promptly ventured beyond the mooring field and ran aground.  With wind against their beam holding them in shallow water, and the tide still going out, they were pretty stuck.  But they ran a line out to one of the moorings and by morning after the night high tide they were sitting pretty again.

Then, well after dark, two more pretty good sized sail boats came in and were hunting around trying to find moorings.  One of them got out of the channel too and ran aground.  But by leaning on their bow thruster and throttle for about 5 minutes they got free and finally picked up a mooring.

The next day we set out to cross Rhode Island Sound to Long Island Sound and found conditions better than expected.  The winds were still 15-20 kts and seas about the same, but now we had it all behind us so the ride was much more comfortable.  Skippy was working hard, but that's what he lives for.  So it wasn't a write-home day, but also wasn't bad at all.  We pulled into Westbrook, CT, topped up the fuel tanks, then had a nice dinner and relaxing evening.

Friday AM we departed and on the way out of the channel I activated the stabilizers and the port side started moving back and forth spastically shaking the whole boat.  I tried resetting them, cycling power, etc but it kept up.  So I just enabled the starboard stabilizer and kept going while placing a call to ABT to see what they thought.  They called back quickly as always and we talked through what I was seeing, but I didn't want to try too many experiments while underway.  The boat was running fine with one fin and I didn't want to risk that spazing out too, so we agreed to resume the experiments when I made it to our next port.

Originally I was going to stay at the Harlem Yacht Club or City Island Marina, but neither one was answering their phone so I ended up at Capri Marina across the sound in Port Washington.  Once secured I went and inspected the actuators for physical problems which was the tech's first suspicion, but everything was in place and secure with no signs of leaks or other distress.  So I fired up the engine and tested them and guess what?  Everything worked perfectly.  It's the classic story when you take your car to the mechanic and it stops doing whatever was bothering you.  We agreed to monitor it as we travel and see what happens.

Saturday we left Port Washington to catch the ebb current down the East River.  It was a picture perfect day to see the city from the water.  Since it was still early we took a run up the Hudson to the GW bridge, then I started calling marinas for a slip for a few nights.  There was no room at the inn at Liberty Landing so we ended up across the waterway at Liberty Harbor.  It seems everyone is staying over waiting for conditions along the Jersey coast to improve.

Public transportation is about 200 feet from the boat so Jim was able to easily catch a train.  Sunday (today) Lindy's boy friend, Zagy, joined me for the trip from here to Annapolis.  Today we just did a few boat chores and have been hanging out.  Looking at the forecasts, I think we might sit out tomorrow too.  The sea conditions are supposed to improve tomorrow, but still be kinda crappy, but by Tuesday it's supposed to be pretty nice.  We'll check again in the AM.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment down below.  It's always great to hear from readers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Underway again

This year has been a very upside-down boating season.  We went on a trip for a week to ten days in mid June, and other than a day trip or two, the boat has been sitting on its mooring.  It seems crazy, but there is actually method behind the madness.

The first part is that both our kids have been mostly around this summer.  As their lives increasingly pull them off in different directions, it's nice to take advantage of the time when they are around.  So instead of cruising there were a number of weekends with gangs of people around, a couple of trips, and just general hang-out time.  It's been really nice, but I still get a little twang in my gut when I look at the boat sitting all lonely on its mooring.

The second part of the story begins today, and is the "upside-down" part.  This year all our cruising will be over the winter instead of the summer.  Today we begin the migration south with an ultimate destination of the Bahamas for another family get-together.

The trip will be in two stages.  The first will be from Gloucester to Florida where we will leave the boat while we return home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Then right after Christmas we will get back aboard and make the trip over to the Bahamas where we will stay for who knows how long.  Our return to the US will largely be driven by progress on our new boat, and getting our current boat on the market to sell so we minimize the likelihood of owning two boats at once.

Leading up to our departure has been a mad rush to get the boat and ourselves ready.  First, we decided that you can't go to the Bahamas and not go diving, so we went off and got dive certified.  And of course once certified, you need all the gear.  In most cases people rent gear as needed, but if you are on a boat in remote places you really need to have your own gear and be self-sufficient, so now the boat is jamb-packed with dive gear.  All this was no small feat.

Then there's the boat.  Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  There is always cleaning, including the boat bottom, props, thruster, and thru hulls.  These are especially subject to marine growth on a boat that has been sitting a lot, so I decided to do a short haul to make cleaning easier and to allow for inspection and replacement of the zincs.  Some of you may recall that we picked up a trap and line last summer stow aways discovered and expelled.  I've had a little wobble in the drive line ever sense so the haul out would allow us to get that checked out.  Well, to make a long story short, I now have two new rear cutlass bearings, re-tuned props, and re-aligned engines and the wobble is all gone.  It's great to have that taken care of before departing on a long voyage.  Other projects involved some wiring to install the Mac Mini and 24" monitor that I'll be using on the new boat.  I want to get completely familiar with Rose Point well in advance of the new boat.

As best I can tell, we are ready to go......

On a side note, one of the odd things about blogging is that it feels like you are talking to yourself, and in a lot of cases that's probably true.  I'd love to hear from readers about what you like and don't like, and what you'd like to hear more about.  Or just chime in however you like using the Comments sections below.