October 2011 ~ New York and Chesapeake

Chronological Order

Day 412 ~ Jim DandyOctober 31st, 2011

Awoke to find ice on the dinghy cover and all over the deck.  A dangerous deck now, sloped but glazed over with a sheen of frozen dew.  Hmmm, time to head south.

I was just halfway through a bowl of the stalest Cheerios known to man when I heard some thumping and then the boat lit up with an ear-piercing shrieking sound.  Jim, the glass master, was at work grinding away the damage where the rudder struck the underside of the boat when it met Mr. Tree.  It's amazing how fast a 4-inch grinder will go through a glass boat.   In 15 minutes he had a nice channel ground out exposing, low and behold, an old repair that wasn't done all that well.  Jim grimaced; he is offended by cut corners.  

"We'll get her fixed right this time," he stated flatly through nicotine stained teeth, the few that remained.  Jim's one of those guys who would be easy to miss while passing in a supermarket aisle, for example.  He's of slight build, with weathered, drooping cheeks.  This voice, complexion and plaque build-up bespeak a committed smoker.

Mr. Smooth, the VP of marketing and sales here, said, "Jim is the best in the business" all the while quoting me astonishing prices.  Yeah right.

Well, turns out he is.  This guy with the quick determined gait and raspy voice is held in awe by all the other guys.   Every time I go through the shop they are marveling at some new example of Jim's perfection.  As I admired the rudder repair, a perfect match with the old one, another tech chimed in, "Perfection is personal with him, man, he's flipping amazing!"  He took a final drag on his butt and flicked it away shaking his head, "we all just watch and learn."

Well, I guess if someone has to chop into your boat, it may as well be Jim Ferguson, catfish aficianado, glass master.   Another book with a worn cover and a golden touch.


Day 411 ~ Time to tackle the toxinsOctober 30th, 2011

Ok, let's get one thing straight.   Boats live in water.   Critters, like barnacles, live in the water.   They are ceaselessly seeking a new home.   They find your boat, nice and clean, with water flowing past.  Perfect.

For thousands of years mariners have battled weed, slime and crustacea of numerous flavors.  Greek fishermen used to careen* their boats at high tide, let them dry out and then light it all on fire.  Controlled of course.  Eventually warships were wrapped with copper on which, it was noticed, things didn't like to grow.  However, this was heavy, and very, very expensive.

So, chemists in laboratories from all the coastal nations set to work.  They eventually found the answer in a chemical called tributyltin, or TBT.  It was a thousand times more toxic to mussels and bivalves than anything else they had previously found.  Perfect.  TBT paint was widely used for years and worked great.   Over time, however, people started to notice strange things happening.  Whales were going deaf, certain shellfish were half male-half female.   Dolphins were found dead with really high concentrations of TBT in their livers.

So, it was banned.   This set the industry back years in terms of effectiveness, but it was probably the right thing to do.  The problem for boaters is, what now?

Well, for $240 a gallon, you can buy paint loaded with a cocktail of fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and, you guessed it, copper, the old standard from Paul Revere's day.  The challenge, though, for old boat owners is, first you have to prepare the bottom.

Kind of like sanding the inside of pesticide factory after 40 years of accumulated dust.  Any takers?  I asked around but no one wanted to help so nothing else to do but suit up and go for it.

As bottoms go, our boat is in really good shape, actually.  The previous owner didn't skimp when it came to bottom paint, putting on the best, most expensive in the business, Micron 66.  Twenty minutes with a pressure sprayer and the bottom looked good enough to go right back in the water.  But, since we are out, may as well give it a sand and recoat.  Oh, and did I mention that Lisa likes purple?  The guy at West Marine gave me a funny look when I bought one gallon of blue and one of red.

"I have a catamaran", I explained.  "I am going to do one side red and one blue, just for fun.  He looked at me, incredulous.  

Just kidding.


*Turn a ship on its side for cleaning, caulking, or repair


Day 410 ~ Cold, Wet and RainyOctober 29th, 2011

They say a big storm is coming.  Snow in Washington D.C.  We are about 140 miles south, so should just see rain and wind and cold.  Nice.

Worked indoors most of the day on computer projects and actually made some progress.   While walking to the Marina bathrooms, I ran into Adrian of Lalize.   One thing led to another and he invited me up to their place for dinner.  I say up because theirs is a 53 foot monohull so the deck stands some 12 feet off above ground level.

For the rest of the day, it was nice to look forward to a warm home-cooked meal.  In the spirit of heat and food, I whipped up a batch of my favorite Coconut Macaroons to bring along.  I arrived promptly at 6:30 and was not disappointed.  Yum.  The Macaroons disappeared shortly thereafter.

Boating is a funny thing.  I really have nothing in common with Adrian or Leslie.  They are old enough to be parents, he is from England, she is from North Carolina.  If I saw them in the grocery store or pumping gas beside me at a 7-11, our conversation might extend only to a hello.

But boats, and sailing in particular, give us enough breadth of common experience that there's plenty to talk about, compare notes and debate.   Is it really a good idea to leave the full main left up in 30 knots of wind?  Adrian does all the time.



Day 409 ~ The Elements WinOctober 28th, 2011

Awoke to a falling thermometer.  It as 46 at 8am, and 44 at 5pm.  The in-between times weren't much warmer.  Intermittent rain and wind gusts drove most of the boat live-aboards to the lounge, which is heated.   The whole gang was there at 8:30 when I went to check out the courtesy car situation.   However, there was already a line three-deep, so headed back and tackled a few boat details.

Got the car about 11am and checked a few more items off the list.   There is a strict one hour per user rule on the car and I had it back at 12:07.   Then what?

Drizzle makes outdoor projects a non-starter; cold gives indoor ones about the same viability.   There's always the library.  It was cozy, had power and fast internet.  The bike ride there in shorts and flipflops was bracing, but not much to complain about.   Made some serious headway on long-delayed paying work which will, if we are lucky, make this boat yard thing a break-even experience.   Hope springs eternal.


Day 408 ~ Man versus PipeOctober 27th, 2011

Remember how it felt to endure finals in college?  You wake to a beautiful morning, and then remember, oh yeah.  In this case, it was a 29 and 1/8" tube of aluminum stuck fast right where it was installed 20 years ago.

One thing lead to another and I eventually snapped it off at the point of worst corrosion.  Since Jim planned to Sawzall it out, no big loss.

The official policy here is the same as is in most yards.  No tools loaned out, don't even ask.  As I was headed to the bathroom last night I saw Jim mulling over a small boat project.   It turned out to be his own, which he tinkers on over the lunch hour and on slow evenings.   It's a 1969 that's in the process of being mostly rebuilt.  Loving boats, I asked questions, discovered his thinking and found that Jim really loves it to catch and eat catfish with his wife.   Not a bad pastime.  As I was turning to leave he said, "Come on by and find me with you are ready for the Sawzall."   Hmmm.   A flicker of light on the horizon.

It was time to call in the favor.  He offered me a huge wood-chewing blade, "It'll eat nails."   Which is true and I was concerned that it was a bit too aggressive for this project.  After finding all the marina bikes pedal-less or with flat tires, I broke out one of our own and pedaled off to True Value and was back in 10 minutes with a selection of fine-toothed metal blades.

It was tight, it was hot, sweaty, dusty and, after the first half hour, entire legs were numb from contortions.  But, slowly, ever so slowly. progress was made.   I finally had the tube sliced and diced.   Then it was necessary to run a dremel around the base to cut all the sides free.  Another run to True Value, another 10 bucks worth of parts, lots more dust and all the old corroded parts were finally in hand.

Needed to get some air, so walked down to the docks to check out the boats and catch of a glimpse of the distant blue horizon.


Day 407 ~ Sometimes you LoseOctober 26th, 2011

Up one day, down the next.  Today Shawn, the project manager, and Jim, the glass man, come over and check out the boat.   Suspecting that the rudder repair is going to eat most of our budget, I say no to most of the things that would be really nice, but that we can live with out.  A hard top for the bimini, teak replacement on the back steps, square sink installation for Lisa.  

Jim pokes and prods making sounds that don't bode well.   I don't see any extensive damage, but it's clear that the old rudder tube which houses the shaft has got to go.  It's corroded so badly that daylight shines through it in parts.  Naturally, its a metric size.

Shawn and Jim head back to the office to compare notes.   I hop on the web and, much to my surprise, find the exact tubing on-line, and at a reasonable price.  Well, it looks like the right stuff.  Guess we shouldn't count our chickens before they hatch.

Shawn comes back to invite me to a pow-wow in the office.  That's not a good sign.  Jim says he won't know what we really have until the rudder post comes out; he can't touch it until Monday and estimates a half a day to get it out.  Half a day at $75 an hour.

"I can do that," I offer.   Since it's a nasty, cramped and messy job they all look at me with skeptical half smiles.   I have been combing my hair lately, so the Alaskan cruiser side is incognito, evidently.  "Well", Jim responds after a pregnant pause, "If you want to give a shot it would definitely save us some time."

Based on what he knows now, Jim estimates 4-5 days of labor.   That's thousands, not including material.  I feel sick.  I knew the rudders needed some attention, but thanks to Mr. Tree it's going to be nasty, expensive and probably kick back our schedule to some unknown future date.

Spent the rest of the afternoon trying to stay busy enough so I don't descend into a funk.   Do a ton of miscellaneous research on still missing parts and pieces, take the head sail off as it needs some minor repairs; pretty much anything to keep the my mind off the money pit that's eating us alive.

Slam together a taco for dinner.   Come to think of it, the only thing I have eaten the last three lunches or dinner on the boat is tacos.   This bachelor thing is going to get ugly.


Day 406 ~ ShowtimeOctober 25th, 2011

The 3am howl of a freshening breeze in the rigging woke me with start.  Argh.  Flipped on the anchor alarm (GPS monitoring system that makes a loud noise if the boat moves outside a given area), brought a few loose cushions in, and went back to bed.   Not to sleep.

Now, in a haze half-awake nightmare, I envision getting blown against the steel docks that hold the Travel Lift or mashed against the leeward (downwind) dock which bristles with bow pulpits and anchoring hardware.  What if I can't get the anchor up to start with?   I only have 6 bumpers, which is plenty for docking one side of the boat to a pier, but not nearly enough for both sides.

I finally drift off about 5am and get a couple good hours of sleep.  At 7:40am, the north wind is still whistling along.   A perfect day for sailing south.  More Mischief, my Canadian neighbors, decide to leave early.  He had agreed to come aboard and help me out if I needed a hand, "unless we decide to leave."

The yard calls at 9am, time to get moving.   It takes a few minutes to get the bumpers set up and nearly 15 to recover the anchor since it's now gusting 10-12 knots.  Good sailing weather, trivial in most circumstances, but 90 degrees to the path I must cut to put myself into the Travel Lift's shoot (meaning the wind wants to push the boat sideways against the sides).

Matt and I had agreed on a back in process but, as begin to do it, the operator hollers out for me to come in forward instead.   Most of the bumpers now must be moved.   I put the boat in neutral and run around moving things, all the while trying not to get blown into anyone or anything.

Finally, it's time to fish or cut bait.   I know that the wind bites harder when the forward motion is slower (because the keels aren't grabbing undisturbed water) so I come in slightly upwind and intentionally a little fast.  At the last minute I realize that the wind isn't pushing me as much as I expected and throttle back, turning to hit the slot.

BANG.  I hit the wood piling at the upwind side with a nice smack, but it deflects nicely causing no damage.   There are 6 guys at the finger ends of the piers, all grabbing and hollering.  With enough muscle, they get things to slide in.  There is so little extra room that the pulleys of the travel lift have to be raised so our widest point can fit through.  We jockey the straps around for a bit to grab the most meat.  I am inside while being lifted the first few feet.   The motion is very strange, swinging like a baby in a huge cradle.

They let me off and run her well in the air.  The first thing I notice is a nice shark bite out of our port rudder.   The log hit harder than I realized.  Ouch.  They pressure wash the boat, then a tech comes over and drops the rudders.   He's sharp, quick and savvy, never forcing anything, being careful and methodical, thinking several steps ahead.   This is service that's tough to get in the islands.   The first rudder drops after 20 minutes or so, the second in less than 10.

Good news.  The starboard lower rudder bearing comes right out and everything looks good.   The port side is another matter.  The lower bearing is cracked in several places and seized with marine growth.   It takes nearly and hour of persuasion, and finally with a propane torch, to coax it out.

The new starboard bearing goes in and, 15 minutes later, the rudder is in place and nice and tight.  As boat repairs go, it doesn't get any better than that.  They move the boat to a slot and block her up.  Then, I am alone again.  All the buzz is over; decompression time.  We're here, we're on the hard, nothing got broken, a good feeling.   I scrape barnacles for a few minutes but, over all, the bottom paint looks great.   Could probably go back in the water without another coat, but since we're in the hard now, may as well do it.  I pay the fee to use the Marina facilites for two weeks.  $78 isn't too bad for unlimited hot showers, courtesy car, bikes and fast free internet.

We have a very rare steering system in the boat, rack and pinion with tie rod ends.  Off and on, for a month now, I have been chasing new tie rod ends with little success.   Finally find one in France that cost 86 Euros, plus shipping.  I just about ordered one just to see if it's the right part, but opted instead to rip out the one that is loose and clunking and measure it properly.

It only takes 10 minutes of Houdini body twisting wrench work and the part is in hand.   The calipers measure it at 19mm.  19?  Standard sizes are 18mm and 20mm.   I flip the calipers over.  Wait, 19mm reads as 3/4", exactly.   Hmmm.

I borrow the courtesy car and stop by True Value.  This time the guy who helps me is only old enough to be my dad, but he knows a thing or two about threads.  "Those looks like a fine 3/4 inch to me," he says through thick reading glasses propped atop his shiny bald head.  He digs around in some trays and comes up with a nut,  "See if this matches."   It looks really close, but as an acid test I buy the nut and bring it back to the boat.   It threads cleanly and perfectly onto the armiture.  Turns out that in 1991, in France, they used American tractor tie rod ends.   Go figure.

Within 10 minutes, I find two of them in stock in Illinois.  I order both, for $22 US dollars each, with a click and a smile.   Sometimes you win.


Day 405 ~ Mellow MondayOctober 24th, 2011

Sun broke through at dawn with a shower of golden hues.  It was a windless morning, the sea cut from a planet size sheet of crystal.  Today would be a perfect day to maneuver into the narrow shoot used by the travel lift to put us onto land, but there was a rental car to return and several errands to run while wheels were still available.   I stopped in the office to talk with Matt, the yard sales guy.  We agreed that tomorrow would be the day.  By now, you can probably see how boat yards work - delays, extensions, delays.  

Ran around town for a couple of hours, visited the sail loft.  They can convert the used Newport sail to work with our existing gennie roller furler for $200 or less.   The $500 it would take to buy a new head sail makes it hard to complain.

Got to the rental car agency before the other boat yard guy, so dashed over to Lowe's to rustle up a few items.   Forgot serveral others, of course.  Enterprise drove me and the other guy back to the boat yard about noon.   More minor projects, some computer work, the sun sinks low.  Forgot to eat lunch.  Whip up some more squash and chicken, more computer work.

Trying not to get nervous about driving our 24' 7" boat single-handed into a 25' wide steel box.  Hopefully, the wind will remain calm tomorrow.  Every other time I have stressed about driving into a tight place, for fueling or whatever, it's worked out fine, so trying to take the lesson to heart.   "Ah, it'll be fine," is what you say when it's someone else's boat.


Day 404 ~ Sleepy TownOctober 23rd, 2011

Fussed with the troublesome starboard water system for the first several hours of the day.   I am no plumbing genius, but the principles at work here should be simple.   For whatever reason, however, the pump doesn't seem to be priming properly; it's brand new.  Finally gave up and shifted gears to some other errands and tasks.

Ripped out the transom shower that failed months ago.  Since we haven't been swimming much it's kind been mostly forgotten.  Spent more time trying to find a proper replacement without much luck.   The best parts are, ironically, in St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies.  Apparently, Americans like shower hoses that only reach to your neck.

Driving through Deltaville on a Sunday afternoon gives one that ghost town feeling.  Everything is closed, dark and quiet.

Tackled some long delayed client requests until the chill drove me to bed.  At 52 degrees, it's hard to stay on task.


Day 403 ~ The Big EmptyOctober 22nd, 2011

The girls were so wired from last night that they awakened at 3:30am, started talking and wiggling around. Stern words were needed to get them back in sleep mode. The alarm went off at 5:25am; it was pitch dark outside. Lisa was up and going in a few heartbeats, with so much to think about, and moving around was enough to ignite their short fuses again. I crawled out of bed to four little mothers running around telling each other what not to forget.

The Hampton Inn offers brekkie (aussie for breakfast), to which the girls were very much looking forward. Aside from cereal, bread, fruit and eggs, they even had a waffle iron and batter to pour into a cup. How cool is that? Just being at a hotel gives Nana the excitable wiggles, but a breakfast smorgasbord with all their favorites was just too much. They took one bite here, one there, then talked excitedly. "Girls, get those jaws chewing, the shuttle will be here soon!"

The shuttle dropped us off a few steps from the check-in counter which was prompt and friendly. Then, down the stairs and through security where we had a tearful parting. Their leaving was an idea up to that point, but waving goodbye and walking back out alone was surreal.

Back in the hotel, the mangled beds  leftover apple cores all reminded me that life was, just a few minutes ago, very much more engaging.

I tried to check out the Mall area again, but several parades and a big sports game had all but a few roads closed off, just like Central Park in New York City a month ago. Guess we should plan these forays for mid-week.

Picked my way out of traffic, then decided to just keep the pedal to the metal and head back to the burgeoning metropolis of Deltaville, a sleepy little backwater similar to Oriental in many ways. Among the knick-knack shops that lined the one main street was and a True Value hardware store where half the old guys shuffling around helping customers could easily be my long-lost great grandfather. Things don't move too fast.

It was a beautiful ride, fall colors, tree-lined expressways winding through rolling hills and diving down into dells only to burst up the other side and present a sweeping vista of sun glistened hay bales. The air has the autumn bite to it that says winter is right around the corner. I stopped at a veggie stand where the lady assured me they grew everything they sold; well, except the squash I was looking at or the beans I bagged up. But, it was local and it looked real.

Grabbed a couple of grocery items and found our dink right where left her a day ago. The three little life jackets were stacked neatly. The boat was waiting patiently. The scramble aboard now involves a juggling game of the painter, bags and one body. The boat is tidy: I think there might be a message there about how it's supposed to be when they come back. Tidy, but very quiet, very empty. A stuffed doll here, a sun hat there. A stray wash cloth. A perfectly made, but icy cold, bed. This could be a long 6 weeks.

The best approach, I find, is to stay busy. Out came the troublesome water pump, off came the squeaky starboard Bomar alternator with its belt nearly shredded. Sure enough, the entire thing rocks on it's mounts. This is going to get messy before it gets better. Got the water pump exchanged and installed. Seems to work fine, just like the other one did for the first month. Time will tell I guess.

Sat outside in the cockpit as the sun went down and a deep, damp chill fell over the mirrored water of Jackson Creek. A bird flew in and landed in the cockpit, eyeing me suspiciously with glittery beads of coal. What was I doing here, as still and silent as a statue? Was I going to die and join the food chain again?

No, not today, I guess. But weeks alone, as good as it sounds on some days when the kid crazy factor is over the top, is losing luster already.

I can imagine myself choosing a different road, the solo road, as many sailors do. You see them out here with every line run perfect, no grape stains on their teak, no mushy cheerios on their cushions, no chocolate smears on their solar panels. It has a certain allure. Boats bring out the perfectionist side in some males, and I feel that gravity.

But the end game is all wrong. The dwindling capacities, the soft serene nights at anchor when I get the feeling that such beauty is like a fine meal cooked for one. Lost. I realize that lives lived are like a movies endlessly playing in empty theaters. I realize that the future, written only in our hand, can only grow smaller with each earth spin. Like a top spun on a table, alive and dancing, trying harder and harder to grasp the dwindling momentum before the topple comes.


Day 402 ~ Driving to D.C.October 21st, 2011

I dinghied to Deltaville Boatyard first thing to inquire if the yard's courtesy car could get us to Enterprise. However, it's not supposed to go outside of Deltaville so we had to hope for the best when the van came around 10am. We finished packing and picking up, then loaded gear into the dinghy, barely leaving room for the people and waited around the marina yard for a half an hour until the van came. Thankfully, we were there early because, after seating myself in the van, two more came out of the lounge for the remaining single seat. They, like us, had to send one emissary to fetch and return with the car, about an hour and 15 minute round trip. That was close.

By noon we were finally off, our initial plan of seeing the Air and Space Museum had faded with each hour of car coordination. We drove through pretty country, flat but with lots of leafy trees. Many had lost their leaves while others were in process of showing off their many colors. We drove through Fredricksburg and stopped for lunch in a nice park; it looked like a cool historic town to explore.

With the help of GoogleMaps, we were off again and found the hotel at 3:30p, quickly unloaded and set off for the metro to catch an hour of the museum. However, after asking a security guard how the subway worked, we discovered that we happened to land in the highest priced time slot, rush hour. It was going to cost $25 just to see the museum for an hour. Returned to get the car and managed to lose ourselves in the National Mall before finally finding a parking spot. We opted to walk toward the Capitol Building to get a closer view and then returned to the car before it got dark.

We decided that we needed some cheap food to fill the bottomless pits and Costco just happened to be on the way back to the hotel. Lisa had gotten in touch with a friend, Helen, now living in DC, and she was able to meet up with us there. We chatted while the girls wolfed down their pizza and chicken salad. Acting still as if they hadn't eaten in days, a second salad vanished with the same amount of fervor after which Peter took them to the hotel. Second only to food, the girls had "pool" on their minds from the time they saw the photo on the website several days ago. After Lisa and Helen caught up with the last decade, it was then time for showers and bed in preparation for an early day tomorrow.


Day 401 ~ Ending with a BangOctober 20th, 2011

The girls' sailing career comes to a close today, at least for the next six weeks while they are home in Alaska. I don't expect grandma to take them out on any sailing adventures.

The winds were predicted to be 15-18 knots with gusts to 20. Once turning out of the York river, however, the wind kicked up and held consistently over 20 with gusts to 28. There's a big difference between 18 and 28. Glad I left a reef in the main. I tacked through a couple of turns to avoid jibing when we had to turn up the bay. We were zipping right along when I noticed some old pilings ahead, and some to the side. They were everywhere. I jibed to turn back towards the commercial shipping channel and when the main flipped over I had the traveler line uncleated. 

There was the usual slam and bang followed by a screeching zip, a millisecond pause and then a cascade of Torlon bearings burst from the port traveler car and bounced around the deck, rolling with each surge of the swell, like BBs in a bucket. I winced, expecting the second car to burst under the load and release the boom, but it held.

I turned upwind to off-load some pressure on the sail, and rigged the preventer as a backup traveler support to share some of the considerable load.

Once in the shipping channel, we turned back downwind and really started flying. Chesapeake Bay is shallow and tidal currents are swift. The result brings some really compact, sharp and steep sea states. We were going downwind so the swells were pushing us right along. I caught 14.6 knots of speed on the GPS the only time I took my eyes off the horizon long enough to watch a wave roll under us. Occasional cross seas made for a lively, and bracing, ride. Standing at the helm I caught a nice 40 gallon burst that drenched my shorts; it's amazing how wet bare legs feel like in 20 knots of wind. We had one wave board us from the port forward quarter and run up the main salon windows nicely. That got the girls' attention.

After an hour of a ride that was a little too hot for a family affair, we were able to turn in toward Deltaville. As we converged with land, the swell slowly shrunk while the wind held firm. Smaller waves move slower through the water. There came a point where the wave speed nearly matched our boat speed and we were able to surf a single slope for second after second, accelerating down the face, then holding our station as its crest tumbled and broke underneath our sterns. It was a rush.

Arrived near Deltaville about 2:30. After a quick lunch, Nina and I dropped the dinghy to check out the narrow entrance channel and stopped by the boatyard office to meet Matt, the guy coordinating everything. He confirmed what our informal soundings had shown, it was safe to cut the really steep corner by buoy #3.

With Lisa at the helm we found our way in without a touch and dropped the hook in the protected inner harbor of Jackson Creek. By contrast, we enjoyed a peaceful dinner. Sailing in conditions like today's are draining and, when my eyes shut, it was precious oblivion until daybreak.


Day 400 ~ Rain rain go away!October 19th, 2011

Rained on and off all night with occasional twisting blasts of wind off the nearby slopes. Slow start with lack of sleep. The rains seems to have let up with the coming day.

Today is 230th anniversary of the British surrender of Yorktown, the battle that essentially effected the end of the Revolutionary War. Yesterday, we had inquired into a special program of events, but the ranger only shrugged and replied, "As of now, everything has been cancelled; there's an 80% chance of rain." These people would never make it in Alaska. We also heard from a local that they often close the schools when there's a predicted "chance of snow" for the following day.

Oooo, scary. Good thing General Washington didn't call off his campaign because it was wet and cold at times. If he had, we'd all take comfort on snowy days with our cup of tea and a few crumpets.

While getting ready to go to shore, we heard some fifes and drums. Hurriedly, we dashed up the hill to find the source. It was a parade of sorts, but there were no crowds lining the streets. When we were a block away, they stopped playing and all went into a building. We were close, but not close enough. Turned out that the building was the Yorktown Fifes and Drums' headquarters but we were told that they would resume playing in the yard a few minues later. We didn't completely miss them playing after all.

After the mini concert was over, we mailed our packages from the little Yorktown Post Office and wandered around town looking for any type of celebratory event. Coming up short, we ended up at York Hall where there was a fundraising display of local artists' handiwork and a museum of sorts in the basement. With the exception of a three mile "surrender walk", everything else had truly been cancelled even though it only lightly sprinkled a couple of times that morning. Wimps.

We went back to the boat for lunch about 2pm when it began to sprinkle harder. The rest of the afternoon was casually spent. When the rain passed again, Papa took the girls to the beach while Mama packed and took a much needed nap.


Day 399 ~ Counting Down on One HandOctober 18th, 2011

Four more days before the Alaska trek begins. The girls began counting down by hours last night. They started with 47 days; 1,128 hours seemed a bit overly complex.

We watched a Navy cruiser motoring through the swing bridge at 9am. We then got ready and lunches made so we could return car to Ramona. When all was said and done, we ended up with 10 minutes to spare for the last shuttle from Williamsburg to Yorktown at 3:30p. Once back at the NPS visitor's center, the girls got their long awaited, much worked for Junior Ranger patches and certificates, complete with an official presentation by a real ranger. We also met a contingent of Frenchmen from Besançon who were here for the 230th anniversary of the French-aided Yorktown victory. They were fully dressed in Revolutionary War attire and ready for a celebration.

Schools in Britain strangley don't get taught about the Revolutionary War. Students in America can get a diploma without being able to coherently distinguish the three Washingtons or find two of them on a map. But guess what? French students learn all about the American Revolution and their country's part in breaking up the Royal power system.

Back on the boat, the water was flat calm and it was not raining. There are several accumulated tasks that need to be done, but up the mast, and putting them off won't make them go away. I hate going up the mast, but this is only the second time in a year, so best to just suck it up and go for it.

Re-strung a halyard that was lost, replaced a worn fitting from the genoa halyard, re-taped some shroud covers and was just about ready to rip off the $450 defunct anchor light when I had a thought. Having traced wires below and jostled things around, perhaps I should check if it works now. I hollered down to power it up and covered the light sensing diode with a hand. Expecting nothing, I was shocked and surprised that it worked! I shook my head to be sure I wasn't seeing things. No, it worked a second time, and a third. Go figure.

At least now I know the light is fine, it must be a wiring issue accessible from below. Sweet relief. Put all the screws back in, plugged the wire holes with sealant and finally, after another hour and a half suspended from gravities reach, landed softly back on deck. There was one hairy moment when a wake came through and I swung around for a few desperate seconds, trying to avoid violent contact with the big metal stick.


Day 398 ~ Colonial WilliamsburgOctober 17th, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg, the restored historic area of Williamsburg, Virginia, includes buildings dating from 1699 to 1780 which made colonial Virginia's capital when it was moved from Jamestown in 1698. For most of the 18th century, Williamsburg was the center of government, education and culture in the Virginia Colony. The houses are restored or reconstructed in the traditional manner. The people (paid actors) wear period dress and engage in traditional crafts, such as gunsmithing, shoemaking, silversmithing, etc.

Not sure if it's post-tourist season, or Monday, or what, but most of the craftsman weren't doing anything but talking and answering questions. The weaver was out for the day, the blacksmith was on a lunch break, the cobbler was closed and the silversmith was just jawing away. Bummer dude. The bright spot, however, was the Wig Maker who was, imagine this, actually making wigs while she talked. The girls were entranced. Turns out wigs were so expensive that they could only be afforded by 5% of the population and served merely as status symbols in the day. Like four months wages, or the equivalent of a half-acre of land, for a basic wig. Vanity gone arwy.

We did learn from where some of the many terms we use. Tow refers to the leftover flax fibers of lesser quality that were removed in the combing process before spinning and weaving it into fabric; the term "towhead" describes children, in particular, whose hair resembled these strands. "Taking the stand" in a courtroom is because there weren't any chairs in early days. Passing the bar is taken from the bar, or railing, that separated the common people and witnesses from the inner court where the attorneys and judge sat on chairs. Only the latter could pass the bar. The high seats on the side weren't for witnesses, but for the bailiffs to see over all the heads and make sure no one passed the bar.

Colonial Williamsburg seems a bit long on marketing, high on pricing and short on value. But wait, they have hotels and restaurants too! You need to try those, for sure.

We packed a lunch, which was smart, but by 5pm the little wolves were howling for food so we eventually wound our way to one of the saddest, most poorly lit and inadequately manned Taco Bells on the planet. But that didn't stop the pack from requiring a second round at the cash register.


Day 397 ~ A perfect day sailOctober 16th, 2011

Awoke to a picture perfect day.

The girls are infatuated with the glass blowing exhibit. So, Lisa and the crew head to town and shuttle to Jamestown again. The Mortiers, who have graciously loaned us their minivan for the last several days, expressed an interest in a day sail. The winds were light, but there was enough to keep us slipping along. They had a great time. I forget how cool sailing is when I haven't done it in a while. Part of me thinks I should charter day sails with the boat when we are done living aboard, but I wonder if sailing wouldn't become work after a time.

The shuttle schedule gave the girls just enough time to see the glass blowing again, watch the film at the visitor center and peruse some of the museum artifacts before catching the last bus back Yorktown. While the sailing crew was entering the harbor and anchoring, there was enough time to walk down Main Street to find a few answers on the girls' Junior Ranger activity sheet. Thomas Nelson's brick house has two cannon balls still lodged in its outer wall, one each from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, in addition to two other large round dents.

By the time they reached the end, we were anchored and the day-sailors were back at the dock. The Mortiers had invited us to an Alaskan salmon dinner at their house, so we gathered a few things for showers and headed over to Williamsburg. The salmon was delicious and a real treat; it's been over a year since we've tasted any and the girls were polite but firm, seconds must be consumed.

Mark pulled out his top collection, featuring tops from around the globe, most collected when he was stationed in Germany. Many were handmade and all were unique and clever in one way or another. Soon, all the adults were on the floor, alongside the kids, trying out each one.

After warm showers, it was time to go. The Mortiers have to work tomorrow and we've had a busy day. Thankfully the rain stopped as we putter back to the boat in the dark and falling temperatures. It's getting cold again.


Day 396 ~ Catching up with OrientalOctober 15th, 2011

A nice calm at night.  Day broke sunny, no clouds.   Various flavors of laundry popped out to take advantage of drying power that has been so desperately lacking.   Turns out one of the persistent cruising challenges is water water everywhere even when you have enough to drink.

With a Costco packet of strawberries attracting swarms of fruit flies, Swedish Pancakes were the logical choice for breakfast.  We ate outdoors, on the veranda, a rare treat these days.   Occasional bites were punctuated with cannon fire.  October 19th is 230 anniversary of the victorious siege of Yorktown so we are guessing they are warming up for a thumping round of blasting.   That would be fun to see.

Hardy, Courtney and girls arrived about 1pm.  They are the best of many friends we made during our long Oriental stay in June and July.   The girls were screaming an yelling and running around in a way that only makes sense when you are 10.   We did a picnic lunch in park under the vast spread of an oak tree.   We meandered down to the county dock where the Godspeed, one of three ships carrying passengers to the New World, was docked.   It was built in Maine, of course.  Rockport to be exact.   It's beautifully executed and surprisingly small, not much larger than many of the private sailboats we meet, yet had 52 plus cargo aboard her.

We wander through town, trolley to battlefield, trolley back to town.   The girls are long on play and short on history absorbtion.  But how much can a little brain take in in a week?   I have learned more about American history in the last three days than I did in 17 years of schooling.

Hardy suggestes a stop at Ben & Jerry's for dinner; no one complains.   As the sun sets, a chill falls over the water front and suddenly everyone is shivering.   It's time to part company.   

Whipped up some tacos back at boat for food and before long everyone is out cold.


Day 395 ~ The Glass is a SmashOctober 14th, 2011

Ramona offers waffles for breakfast; who can refuse?  She also offers the car for another day so we decided to take in the Jamestowne Settlement.  They excavated the old site some years ago and found a ton of artifacts, including skeletons with gunshot wounds.  The girls marveled at old padlocks, scissors and various items that weren't all that different than modern versions.  Didn't see any iPads among the relics though.

Hunger got the best of us, so we wound our way to Chick-Fil-A and enjoyed some good old Americana fast food fare, complete with a milkshake.  We then returned to the Glass Blowing exhibit where artisans create a variety of glass products using the technology of the day.  They do cheat in two ways though, using a natural gas fired kiln and stainless steel blow pipes.  "They last a lot longer than the iron ones" one of the blowers explains.

Despite the intensity of the work, the craftsman turn out to be congenial and talkative, explaining a wide variety of details and answering our many questions.   The girls are entranced with the glowing, gooey glass which is turned into beautiful vessels before their eyes as if by magic.

Touristas come and go.  Used to the pace and energy of television and Nintendo, most viewers watch for a minute or two.   Kids yawn, glance and leave.   An hour later we are still transfixed.   This is the coolest most engaging show we've seen in months.

The manager figures out we are actually paying attention and comes over to answer more questions, explaining the business side of things, how they decide what to make and how they market it.   She mentions a display case outside with some of the guys' work that they create after hours, called 'friggering', when they are allowed to make whatever they want.   A deer head, hand grenade and other memorabilia transfix the girls.  How do you make a deer head out of glass?

We finally tear them away in hopes of making it back to the boat before dark.   The dinghy is right where we left it and the boat sits patiently waiting our return.   We make personal pizzas from Costco naans, an Nana favorite.  The last four meals have included burgers, milkshakes and pizza.  Bah, who needs squash?


Day 394 ~ Noises in the NightOctober 13th, 2011

A noisy, bouncy night.   About 4am I heard a whining sound that was new.   Figured it was something the Coasties next door were up to.  An hour later it went on again.  Wide awake now.  Couldn't figure out what it was for a bit then realized it was the port engine room bilge pump.  Last check I couldn't get it to work; it was on the 'to do' list for the boatyard.   Glad it works, I guess, but it only comes on for one reason: water where it shouldn't be.

I was upside down in the port engine room with a flashlight a minute later.   Sure enough, the float switch is swimming around and there is a gallon of sea water in the engine drip pan.   This is not good.   Immediately, the log strike comes to mind.

I examine the rudder post closely now and find a hairline crack, only a couple of inches long but clearly weeping at the rate of a slow drip.   It doesn't appear deeply structural, the glass at the top of the post support is only millimeters thick where it tapers down to the top.   The inch think structural supports in a quadrant shape look fine.

I guess if you have to hit a log doing so at 4 knots, a week before getting hauled, is about as good as it can get.

Walk to the Visitor's Center up the hill from us to catch the shuttle to Williamsburg where Lisa's Alaska friend, Ramona, lives and works.  We picked her up, drove her to work, then tooks advantage of the use of the car.  Started with Costco, then to Fresh Market and finally wound around to find a shop that had a fuel filter for our dinghy motor. 

The outboard guy who has been in business in his garage for 30 years was quite a talker.   I figured out 15 minutes into it that he was going to talk nonstop so I may as well guide the flow.  I asked questions about outboard carburation, fuel problems and ethanol strategies.   Forty five minutes later, I had learned quite a bit and the girls were ready to lynch each other. 

We still had time for a Yorktown Battlefield tour, set up to do by car as the trail winds miles through the bulwarks and earthen trenches dug out with the sweat, blood and tears of soldiers long since forgotten.  Turns out the French won the battle that turned the war around.   They had the cannon, the ships and the men that sent the British packing.   Without them Yorktown would be just another sleepy dot on a the Chesapeake map and the Revolution would have dragged on for another few years, if not been lost entirely.   Funny I never gleaned that from the history books.  

Try as I might, I can't find a French flag flying anywhere and it doesn't seem right.   Sure, we paid the debt back in full, with interest, in 1918 and 1944, but at least now it seems more well-earned.   Their down payment was made in the hardest of currency. 

Our tour was half completed when it was time to grab the laundry from the boat and get back to Williamsburg to pick Ramona up from work and start dinner.  Ate and visited until late so were invited to stay overnight and sleep in regular beds.   The beds aren't anything special, our boat bunks are nice enough, but the endless hot water is very nice.


Day 393 ~ Rainy ArrivalOctober 12th, 2011

Lisa took over around midnight.  

Sleeping underway the first night out is always a dicey affair.  With the sails pulling hard the boat cants forward a degree or two, putting ours heads lower than our feet.   Then the watery swishing sound below is like a river rushing and swirling past the headboard.  Add to this the sliding, swaying motion and the feeling, convincing in the dark, that we really are sledding down an endless mountain, in the dark, headfirst, at 50 miles an hour.  I expect a crunch any minute, but it never comes.  Finally, after an indeterminable time, I drift off to the motion and awake some time later, the sky still dark behind the hatch lens.  I stumble to the head and then crawl gratefully back into my cozy bobsled.   Eventually I drift off again into a shallow dreamless suspension vaguely aware of the flying sensation and breathe the slightest shortness of breath, as if the house might collapse at any minute and be swept away.

Awoke the second time to a darkened sky but feel more rested and sense that considerable time has past.  Lay there for a few minutes putting all the fuzzy pieces of a fragmented reality back together with painful slowness.   Finally realize that Lisa must still be up and getting pretty tired.  Stumble upstairs and find her in her perch, iPad in hand.  It's pitch dark out, the moon obscured by thick cloud cover.  It's 6:15am and the sun, it seems, should be well up by now.

By 6:45am the sky is starting to pale a little and the watery fields around us show their white crests.   The wind is fluky now, backing and turning, then falling off.  This wasn't in the GRIB files.  Guessing it's a local effect.  We hold our course and decide to cross over the tunnel portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel instead of trying to sail under the north bridge in questionable winds and current.  However, a tug pulling a huge barge was also going the same direction and, according to AIS, our trajectories were meeting at the same point, right at the bottleneck.  

The winds have picked up after a half hour lull and we are now making over 9 knots at times to his 6.6.   We could play chicken and probably beat him to the narrows, but this seems foolhardy and pointless.  We fall off and let him slide through ahead of us.   As we turn across wind and point for the tunnel we are looking right up his tail.  We can see the barge sliding every which way in the current; it acts like a kite that's being pulled behind a car at 60 miles an hour, only in ultra slow motion.  The barge is so skittish I can' t figure out where to pass him.  We call him on the radio and agree on our intentions, just kindly reminding us to pass anywhere in the big bay but between him and the barge.  He slows down to a crawl to let the barge settle down and we cross over safely.

Once past, Lisa went down for a long-deserved sleep.   We sailed out way up the bay, seas much smaller and regular now.  The wind is perfect and the incoming tide is shoving us along nicely.  We wind our way into the York River and decide to anchor as close to town as feasible, tired of long wet dinghy rides.  We drop the hook about 11am, 27 hours after leaving Cape Henlopen.  It's heavily overcast with light drizzle.

Despite the weather, we took the dinghy to shore as the girls were going spastic.  Started to rain, caught the free Yorktown trolley passing by and ended up at the NPS Visitor's Center.  Good opportunity to watch the film and go through the museum about the Siege of Yorktown that was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.  It's not raining in the museum, so the girls manage to focus a bit better than usual.

By the time the movie was over, the rain had stopped so took advantage of a ranger-led tour of the battlefield.  Guy was great and had a sense of humor while giving the Yorktown history-in-a-nutshell.  Between Lord Cornwallis' abandonment of the surrounding trenches just before Washington's arrival, his removal of cannons from his ships to bolster the land-based firing line and his sinking of his own ships in harbor to prevent a French takeover, it's no wonder we are American instead of British.  The guy didn't even have the decency to finally surrender in person, but instead claimed 'illness' and sent his second in command.

Returned to the waterfront via the trolley (cheap kid thrills), did a quick pasta dinner and hit the hay.   Sleep comes quickly despite the bouncy anchorage.

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Day 392 ~ Impact at SeaOctober 11th, 2011

After several days of sunshine and warmth, today broke overcast and breezy.  Time to leave.  The super-computer models tell us the winds will be light until about 2pm, but in general going the way we want them to go, South with the fading summer.

We fire the engines about 7:30a and are off the hook and moving shortly thereafter.   We motor for the first half hour, passing well clear of Cape Henlopen point.  The winds are light, so unroll the big gennie, now with every Mylar panel in shreds.  I expected it to disintegrate at any time, but it pulls us along nicely hour after hour.

We were making about 4 knots along the Delaware coast. I was sitting up front on the tramp, reading and glancing around from time to time.

From out of the blue gray rippling background came a loud BOOM, accompanied by a lurch forward. I sprang from the seat and dashed forward to the starboard bow, in time to see what appeared to be a log, about 8 feet long at first glance, slide off the front alma and swivel inward under the murky water. I ran aft, listening for the slide or crash as it impacted keels, sail drives or rudders, any of which could turn a sleepy sail into a floating nightmare.   

Silence. Slow seconds pass.  I expected to see it bob up in our wake and was just looking farther behind us when came a second impact.  Not as loud, but a dull, heavy thud that went straight to my bones.   The port side visibly shuddered, rose slightly and dropped. The rudder had taken a direct hit, two inches of solid stainless rudder post duking it out with a huge mass of water-logged wood.

A huge submerged tree, considerably longer than our boat is wide, rolled over, exposing a complete root mass, leafless branches and bark covered core, 8-10" in twisted diameter. Guessing it was actually 35 feet long.  After rolling, it exposed only a few stubs of branch above the water, and was invisible to stern in less than a minute.

Up came the floor boards; down into the engine rooms. No apparent damage, no water. Grilled the crew on any inside noises they heard that I might have missed outside. Nothing.  Whew.  Felt like we had dodged a huge bullet. Sure glad we are getting hauled next week. I am reminded how fortunate we are. Hitting a 1,000 lb tree like this at 13.7 knots, which we were doing just two weeks ago in Long Island Sound would have yielded a far more dramatic outcome.

Reminds me why Webb Chiles says that you can measure a sailor by their desire to be near land. True sailors, he contends, anchor and sail as far out as possible knowing that most danger lies near the shoreline.  At the time, we were three miles offshore and it seemed reasonable.  Somehow, though, the attraction to shore seemed less now, and we spent the rest of the 28 hour passage 10-13 miles off until turning into Chesapeake Bay.

DayDreaming Spot
10/11/2011 07:56:40 AKDT


Day 391 ~ Lazy Days in LewesOctober 10th, 2011

Thin wispy clouds made for a warm, but not hot day.  The girls worked at lessons while Lisa continued the cleaning process, favoring work now so there would be time to play once we're in Yorktown.  We disassembled Nika's and Nana's beds and set the mattresses out in the sun to dry.   

We tackled the moldy corners that Maine's intense dampness spawned.   We use a Danish product called Rodalone, which, as far as we can tell, is unavailable in America.   It works wonders, instantly removing mold and mold stains and leaving behind a fresh clean aire.   But be careful not to breath it. 

I took the girls over the nearby Cape and they did all things girls must do when surrounded by water and sand.   The warmth, sand and gentle breezes remind us that the tropics do exist, and that we belong there.  Soon.


Day 390 ~ The Sun at LastOctober 9th, 2011

Our first WARM and sunny day.  Lisa actually wore shorts and a tank top for the first time since heading to Maine.

Now most might think that warm sun means beach and play.  However, after weeks of humidity, clouds, rain and fog, ridding ourselves of the ensuing mold got top priority.  After lessons and breakfast, the girls headed to their rooms to remove everything from their walls.  Then, Lisa and I attacked them with disinfectant and a wet rag.  The black layer came right off, thankfully.  Once white again, I went to tackle a few boat projects but Lisa was just getting started.  Once that girls gets sanitation in her mind, nothing will get in her way.

The girls were again sent down to completely empty their closets and take advantage of the sun's drying power.  The place looked like a flea market stall and Lisa was on a roll.  Every piece of clothing was spread over the decks to get hammered with some full strength infrared radiation.   It took a few hours, but cloths that had been damp to the touch for weeks, perhaps months, actually went back to their normal weight.

The bathroom walls, cupboards, doors, and galley had no chance.  Nana's bathroom and the chest fridge and freezer are both serving as additional pantry space, but were not spared either.

By late afternoon, with piles of food stores awaiting their new homes, we all decided to take advantage of some beach time before dark.  Piling in the dinghy, we head to the dunes where Lisa reads a book, the girls make dinner with the bi-colored sand and I attempt a dip in the big 'pool'.  The water is warm, but only the top 12 or so inches so cooling off was accomplished in record time.  We enjoyed the nearly deserted beach until the rising tide claimed our little island of sand.


Day 389 ~ RecoveryOctober 8th, 2011

After a day of craziness, we took today easy.  Got Sea Pearl in the water and ghosted around a little in fading breezes.  Nana packed a lunch and the girls and I sailed, slowly, downwind to a huge beach.  The girls proceeded to make sand cakes, explore and discover endless kid treasures in the form of shells and dried out crab legs.

We read some from Swallowdale and were headed back when Lisa met us with the dinghy.  We opted for a rescue, and the helpless damsel in distress consented to being towed back after shutting down her engine and agreeing that she was, actually, in distress.  Although, it had surprised her to discover it.

As the sun slowly sank to the horizon we grilled burgers and enjoyed a dinner on the veranda, the first outdoor meal in many cold, wet soggy weeks.


Day 388 ~ Annapolis Boat ShowOctober 7th, 2011

The real dinghy dock for Lewes is 2+ miles from our boat, around a distant jetty and up a river.  This is where my private property rights sensitivies collide with common sense.   One mile away and directly across from us is a huge private dock right with a nice tie up area.   The vacation condos surrounding it are curtained and vacant.  Plus, going in the bright morning sun wasn't that bad, but would it be light tonight, at say 11pm with a boat full of tired kids and groceries?

We opted for the private dock and walked over to the ferry terminal where the Enterprise rental guy picked us up.   It took a while to actually get the car, but finally we were loaded and ready to hit the road.   Once past the coastal craziness, Delaware proved indistinguishable from Indiana or any other agricultural state, flat as a pancake.

We wound our way through the Nanapolis traffic to the boat show parking and took the shuttle over.  Since I had taken care of more serious business in Newport, the girls got to indulge in their long-suppressed desire to see inside different boats of all flavors.  It's interesting to hear what impresses them.   Nika, for instance, greatly prefers monohulls, picking a nice 67-footer with gold fabric accents and teak decks; only $788K.   You go girl.  Nana found a racy trimaran named Three Little Birds that entranced her, only $350K.  OK.  Nina couldn't make up her mind but preferred the carbon fiber Gunboat 48, which tips the scales at $1.2m.   The sky's the limit, I guess.   Better get baking girl.

By 5pm they were getting tipsy.  We grabbed a bite at Wendy's, stopped at Food Lion for some provisions and were back at the condo development by 11pm.   There wasn't a soul around as we loaded our raft of provisions and boat show treasures then puttered out into the night under a brilliant 3/4 moon.   Nana fell hard asleep in the dinghy and had to be dragged aboard.  Poor girl.


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Day 387 ~ Playing Catch UpOctober 6th, 2011

About 1am, while Lisa was working on the blog and photos, there were a couple of bangs and crashes.  Soon, the wind was blustering into the cockpit area and items left sitting around earlier were moving and crashing to the floor.  Something didn't feel quite right, but she assumed it was current opposing wind like we had experienced in New York Harbor.  However, a quick check on the GPS discovered us to be well away from the anchor point and moving South at a steady 1.1 knots.  We were dragging, the winds were 20-25 knots and it was dark as cave outside.  

With Nina's help, I retrieved the anchor while Lisa tried to keep the boat facing into the wind.  Dropped closer to the shallower tailing pile and put out twice as much chain which seemed to do the trick.  Waited for a few minutes and watched the dredge lights nearby to see if we were moving.  Finally got to bed about 2am. 

The day broke sunny with the promise of much needed warmth.   By afternoon, the wind was all but gone.  With the exception of passing boats and ferries, the water was smooth.  A slight breeze came up so we lowered Sea Pearl.  The girls sailed around for a while and then made a fort under the mast.  No clouds in the sky, a first for many weeks.  Temperature was actually warm.  I took our water vessels and headed to the ferry dock seeking H20.   They said no problem, so puttered the mile back a half hour later with nearly 500lbs of water.

The sunset was picture perfect.   We were outside admiring the colors when we heard the unmistakable sound of marine mammals coming up for air.   Over the next several minutes a pod of dolphins moved through, some jumping and tail slapping for fun, others cruised over and checked us out.   It was surreal, the kind of moments people think happen all the time, but in fact are rare enough to make them special when they do.   The setting sun, the jumping dolphins, the flat calm water, the incredible colors, not sure I could imagine a better world.

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Day 386 ~ Sailing SouthOctober 5th, 2011

Finally slept from about 3 until 8am.  Awoke to a brilliant blue day with nice wind.  We got things pulled together pretty quickly and went to bring up the anchor.

I have read of anchor tangles, but this was the first time we experienced it in full.  We were in 5 meters of water but, with 30 meters still down, the windlass bogged down and refused to budge.   You could hear the chain scraping on concrete or rock.  This was not good.

By powering forward, then left and then right and cranking whenever there was slack, we were finally able to untangle the chain from what must have been a pile of old mooring blocks.   I was thankful to leave the bolt cutters where they belonged and we welcomed Bruce back to the family with more than our usual smiles.

We sailed throughout that brilliant morning and into the afternoon, crossing the Delaware inlet about 3pm and anchoring off of Lewes, Delaware, about 4pm.  Our first set was inside the inner breakwater, near the ferry dock, which proved a mistake.   The ferry people asked us to move, which didn't surprise us.   However, when the huge ferry pulled in and flipped a 180 right were we had anchored, we understood the picture better.


Day 385 ~ Goodbye New YorkOctober 4th, 2011

The nights in New York Harbor are flat and quiet.   We enjoyed a sweeping cityscape with a late dinner and awoke to a splashes of sun glinting off the steel and glass pillars standing aloof and cold against against the morning sun.   Gradually, atom by atom, the austere facades were coming alive as millions returned to work, each a partial of oxygen drawn silently into a tremendous lung.

The winds were light for the first few hours, but were predicted to fill in nicely by about 11.  We upped anchor and rode the tide past the Statue of Liberty which occasionally caught a ray of the rising sun.

It's difficult to describe the feeling I get sailing away from 250 million square feet of cubicle space complete with coffee machines, copiers, memos from the boss and missing faxes.  Forward was the open sea, brilliant under a  patch of sunny blue sky.   By 11am the winds had kicked in and we were sailing smartly past Sandy Hook under a blaze of much needed sun.   The boat slowly started to dry out.

We had 10-15 knots of Westerly breeze coming off of New Jersey right on our beam, right where the boat likes it.   I had fun tuning the sails for an hour or so and watching a small of armada of monohulls fade into the horizon behind us.  But wait, there was one sail that wasn't fading; it was growing.  Slowly, by the must subtle fractions of inches, the sails became larger and larger.   I made a few more tweaks, but couldn't nurse another ounce of speed out of our overloaded condo.   As they drew near, I could see it was a larger catamaran flying a huge gennie, some consolation.

They called us as they passed.  We had many common friends and had seen their boat on the hard in Belfast, Maine, some weeks ago.  As they slowly drew away Greg from Escapade confessed, "well don't feel too bad, we are running an engine full out to make it to our next boat yard appointment."

We had planned on sailing through the night to Cape May, New Jersey, but later overheard Gone with the Wind talking to Escapade.   Liam and Anne were tucked in Atlantic City where they said the holding was good with plenty of room.  We kicked it around a bit and decided to head in and get a good night's sleep.   The entrance looked straight forward so we motored our way in and dropped Bruce where Liam suggested.   The anchor bit instantly.

Currents were strong, and counteracting the wind until about 3am, so I was up and down until then as the boat flipped and spun in the eddies of wind and water.

DayDreaming Spot
10/04/2011 06:42:41 AKDT

DayDreaming Spot
10/04/2011 10:10:33 AKDT

DayDreaming Spot
10/04/2011 11:19:29 AKDT

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Day 384 ~ The Big AppleOctober 3rd, 2011

The unseasonable "November weather" predicted by the bouncy blond weather channel lady persisted.  It was cold and clammy all night with near 100% humidity that gives the moderate temperatures a knife's edge.   We awoke to a cold clammy boat, every hatch rim dripping wet.   A heater would be great.  However, I warmed up boat and hearts with a stack of pancakes.   It's amazing how chipper everyone is after a nice hot breakfast.

Based on Google Earth, I think we can just dinghy a half-mile across the Hudson River to North Cove Marina and step ashore a block from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center.  Sure enough, we puttered our little beach scraped dinghy through the mouth of the marina and tied it next to a few other dinks bouncing around in the swell and flotsam.  None were locked, so we didn't lock ours.

We walked up the little gangway and were right smack dab in the middle of the granite clad Wall Street rat race.   Everyone was wearing suits and ties.  The ground was spotlessly clean.  We meandered around and found the 9/11 Museum and got a glimpse of the twin tower monuments that were closed for the day.  Peter and the girls wanted to ride a subway (Lisa had once visited here), so we opted to take one to the Museum of Natural History.  We paid our $11 fare for 5 people, studied the map for a minute and headed down into the tubes. 

Somehow, despite consulting the large wall map, we got in the one going the opposite way and, sensing something was amiss after several stops, got out to discover that we were not in upper Manhattan, but across the East River in Brooklyn.  The ticket agent, noting that we were "obviously tourists" allowed us back in the opposite side even though she was instructed to tell everyone that they are supposed to continue on to the next transfer station and change switch directions there.

Once at the museum, we enjoyed many of the displays.  The scale models of the solar system, red blood cells and germs got the girls' wheels spinning.  We hit as many displays as we could and closed the Museum down, then took the subway back to lower Manhattan.  We found a few provisions, and walked back to the WTC area, now dark and quiet after the close of another business day.  It was dark, but was our trusty dink was waiting, bobbing around right where we left her.

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Day 383 ~ Hell Gate and BeyondOctober 2nd, 2011

Sunday was a busy taxi day for the Linkas family (4 soccer games and 1 baseball game).  The winds for heading South were predicted to be decent so we opted to take our leave.  Chris started with his soccer game at 10am and gave us a ride to the boat on the way to the field. It took some time to load everything and clear the boat of salt-soaked Costco items set out to dry, but we managed to get it done in pretty good time.

Tides may be lower here, but currents dictate everything.  A 2 knot flow in the wrong direction can really put a damper on the day, and use extra fuel.  Hell Gate is the pinch point of the East River as well as the peak of the flows for both directions.  We wanted to be there at slack tide so we could do both ends with the current in our favor, a trick to the uninitiated.

We began motoring downwind, but by the time we turned 90 degrees under the Throgs Neck Bridge, we hoisted the sails and took a leisurely route.  Soon, however, the East River narrows and barge/boat traffic increased so we used the head sail to help the motor along.  We passed city scapes, frenzied traffic, barges, joggers, dog walkers and all manner of New York pedestrians along the way.  Coming out into New York Harbor we caught our first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.  Seeing a couple boats anchored near her, we decided to do the same just because we could.   However, little did we know why the other boat left soon after we arrived.  The harbor was not only bouncy due to constant traffic but strong currents opposed strong winds and made for a restless hour while trying to figure out an alternative.

Finally, at sunset, with few nearby options, we picked up anchor and moved to north side of Ellis Island hoping to pass a little calmer night, if not only to escape some of the current.  Once settled, we soon were bow into the wind, as it should be.  Relief.

About the time dinner was started, fireworks were seen over Manhattan, our fourth display this summer.  A quick Google search revealed that they were in celebration of the Indian festival of Deepavali which marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year.  For some reason, we never have those in Anchorage.

Cold snap had settled and the warm air from dinner preparations dissapated quickly.  For bedtime reading, the kids surrounded Mama to warm her up while Papa read Swallowdale.  Mama promptly fell asleep before the second page.

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Day 382 ~ Living like a LinkasOctober 1st, 2011

Weekends are busy for the Linkas family.  With four playing soccer and one also in baseball, Chris and Danielle's taxi service runs continuously all day long.  However, this morning was calmer than some and only one baseball game was on the schedule.  Peter, Chris and the kids went to the game while Danielle took me to the Apple store to figure out my phone options and then to a dive shop in Yonkers.  LeisurePro, where I originally planned to go while we had a car in NYC, turned out to be closed for Rosh Hashanah.  At this other shop, I asked about the availability of several items I wanted to buy, including two tanks in visible colors.  Instead of a yes or no, I was repeatedly told, "we have everything".  Their tanks include an air fill, a bonus that LeisurePro does not offer so off we went.

The Apple store was a zoo and, after waiting an hour an a half for a "genius" to come to my phone's rescue, was told that there was little hope of recovering anything as there was still a fair amount of water in both the inside and the camera. Rats.

The dive shop didn't have much better news.  Their "everything" store was considerably smaller than envisioned and had only 6 tanks available for sale, only one of which was in the high-visible neon yellow.  Red, blue and black just won't cut it at 40-80 feet.  However, since I had Danielle drive out of the way to the "everything" shop, I took the yellow tank and will just have to mail order the rest of the gear from Leisure Pro.

We returned to the chaos later in the afternoon.  Hugh Hall, their Maine neighbor, who we also met in Maine, came for dinner with his cousin Alan.  Peter and Chris whipped up nice steak dinner for the adults which was topped off nicely with plantains and ice cream.   Conversation ebbed and flowed naturally, with the central topic being boats, sailing and adventures of the wet and capsizing kind.   Lisa and Danielle did their best to stay interested.

The Linkas' have been so generous, and so real that, as I lay in a temperature controlled bed that night between fresh dry sheets, I found memories of land life flooding back; the good and the bad.   The warm endless showers, the huge refrigerator and the car standing in the driveway were all tangible reminders of the conveniences we have left behind.   But then, there were the schedules, the taxi driving and the timetables that were so real and so compelling for us just a handful of months ago.  This, along with the reality that when we looked out our window each morning the scenery never changed, no matter how vivid the dreams were the night before.