July 2012 ~ Oriental and Beyond
Day 656 ~ MaelstromJuly 1st, 2012
Went to church this morning. Mostly elderly people, but there were 3 other kids with their parents. And, it was air-conditioned, a welcome relief from the excessive heat that drapes Oriental.
After we returned, Tiger and Nina went for a sail in Amazon. I followed in Sea Pearl but returned for Nana and some weapons (squirt guns) to have an Amazon battle on the high seas (or at least in the Oriental Harbor).
About 3pm, clouds formed and turned black and foreboding. We immediately pulled all the kids out of the water and tied things down. An hour and a half later, lightning bolts ripped through the air over the Neuse River and the clouds crashed and rumbled overhead. Rain followed and then...chaos ensued. A rolling line of boiling dark clouds darkened the sky and, WHAM! A huge blast of wind slammed us sideways and the crescendo built. Visibility dropped to a few hundred yards.
All 5 boats in the anchorage were manned but one. Engines came on and, when I had a chance to glance, I saw bodies crawling over decks and engines running at full throttle while pushing into the rising din. One anchored boat turned sideways to the wind and skated past us and toward the rock jetty. A French boat which had arrived just a few hours before veered off the wind and was headed towards the wall as well. I saw a naked figure clinging to the bow desperately bringing in his anchor, hand over hand, braced against the wind and driving rain. They whipped to the side and headed straight for Alexina. In one ferocious blast I saw Amazon (Alexina's dinghy heel sideways and flip upside down).
Motoring into a driving wind is difficult because as soon as the anchor line is slack, the slightest shift in the wind or tweak of the rudder will cause the bow to be caught in the maelstrom and driven sideways, at which point the thrust of the engines pushes it off to the side, one way or the other. That was happening to us and, looking around, I saw Alexina and Yindee Plus swerving right and left as blast followed blast.
The one unmanned boat was the only one that didn't drag.
We held station pretty well, but the anchor just wasn't holding. As long as Lisa had the engines going strong we held station, but after the initial storm wall, the winds had seemed to back off to the 40 knot range. We put the engines in neutral and I could tell immediately that we were sucking Bruce through mud slowly skidding back towards the jetty. Blasts in the 60 knot range from different directions didn't help matters either.
We motored forward during a relative lull of 30 knot winds and retrieved Bruce. Then out came Mr. Brittney, aka "The Monster", 76 pounds of steel. Carrying this guy forward is about all I can do, but on a bucking boat is another matter. I grabbed a huge coil of anchor line sitting untouched in a locker since Grenada. Slipped a quick bowline through his shackle and dropped him in the churning soup. Lisa went to neutral and we fell back on him, the 7/8" 12-strand nylon came tight like a springy rubberband and pulled our bow into the wind. Once on the bottom, we still were blown about but Brittney didn't budge an inch. The wind continued on for a couple of hours in the 40 knot range and eventually died down enough by 6:30p in order to venture out again.
Our neighbor, who ended up by the jetty, thankfully came to rest on the muddy bank before hitting the rocks. Somehow his anchor bent so he had to repair that first. I took the dinghy over and towed him off and back to his original spot, but the winds returned from the opposite direction and ran him against the marina dock, narrowly missing another sailboat. This time, he didn't try to move back, but tied himself to the pilings.
It wasn't until after 9pm that the winds finally subsided and we were all able to relax. Crazy.
Day 657 ~ A Missing ShoeJuly 2nd, 2012
After breakfast, Lisa began to unearth and clean out the depths of the boat. She started with books and moved on to linens about the time I went to the RV to work.
Helen came over later to ask for the girls' help in a shoe search along the breakwater. After Amazon, their Walker Bay sailing dinghy, was flipped by last night's wind, they managed to recover most items like rudder, keel and one shoe each for Tiger and Helen. Her morning search of the jetty found Nina's flip-flops and Tiger's missing shoe wedged in amongst the rocks. After lunch, the kids boarded Amazon and walked the rocks keeping their eagle eyes open, but were not successful in finding Helen's shoe.
By the end of their round-trip search, it was time to head over to Pecan Grove pool where Bill and Lynne again invited us to cool off. After an hour, more kids showed up to play. This weekend is Croakerfest and the Regatta, on which this week's sailing camp focuses, so there are extra kids in town for the festivities. It appeared that most ended up at Pecan Grove when camp was done for the day.
Cooled by the pool and cleaned by a real shower, we dinghied back to the anchorage. The wind had died by late afternoon so the inside of the boat was roasting. We opted to eat dinner on the tramp where it was cooler. Handy, at least before the mozzies came out in force.
Day 658 ~ Pizza FestJuly 3rd, 2012
Yesterday at the pool, Bill & Lynne invited all the boats to join them for 2-for-1 pizza night at Silos tonight so we made a plan to meet them there at 6pm.
I went to work, the girls tackled their math and Lisa plumbed more of the boat's depths. Ed wasn't around to arrange a storage unit for varnishing the table, but when I called him he told me which unit to take so I had Bill's saw horses set up and the first coat of Epifanes varnish applied within the hour.
When I returned to the boat for lunch, the kids were all ashore and sitting in the shade because it's even too hot to play. French friends of Alexina, who had just arrived back at their boat stored at SailCraft, invited Tiger to swim with their son. They agreed to also join us at Silos afterward. I went back to the RV to crank out more projects and returned shortly before 6pm to help haul our anchorage crew of 11 to Silos. Between our 5 bikes and the Tahoe, we managed to get everyone there in one trip. Alexina's friends came along later.
Once there, we discovered that Silos isn't real big and no one had of even thought of making reservations for our large group. Since it would at least be a 45 minute wait for tables, Bill & Lynne offered their house instead so we ordered a pile of pizzas to go. With his grandkids visiting and his son over from next door, we totalled 9 kids and 11 adults, quite the full house. Chatting 'til late, we managed to get everyone in 2 cars to pick up the bikes and ride back to the dock. A full but fun night.
Day 659 ~ Daily RoutinesJuly 4th, 2012
We had a quiet night but eventful morning. Our 2 neighboring boats began the wee hours by having some sort of conversation with each other, each from their own boat. It escalated and, by 4:30am, they were yelling at each other. About 5:30am, two cop cars showed up at the dock followed by the Coast Guard in a launch. They picked up a Sheriff and in a few minutes had extricated Mr. Belligerent in handcuffs. Something like this rarely happens in Oriental and we were the ones with front row seats and a short night of sleep. Great.
Not including our early-morning wake-up call, every morning now follows a familiar pattern. Up early, before it gets hot. Tackle a quick boat project or two, then head to storage yard, sand the table and get a varnish coat down before 9am when the sun starts to bake the place. While I am working away, the kids do math and Lisa cleans, vacuums, counts teak...and more.
Just after noon, Lisa, Sue and the kids, armed with leftover pizza and boxes from last night, foil, black plastic and glue, headed to shore for a science lesson. There they created their own solar ovens in which to warm their lunch. Despite only one glue bottle for 7 kids, they had them together and 'cooking' in no time. Those who were patient enough actually got to eat warm pizza. The rest just wolfed it down at tepid temperatures, the kind where the cheese melts in your tummy instead of on the crust.
At 3pm, I returned for a bit of lunch before taking the whole crew over to the Pecan Grove pool. Bill & Lynne's grandkids joined in after sailing camp was over. The water is quite warm, but so refreshing these days where both the humidity and temperature meet up in the mid-90s. The real shower afterward is a huge bonus for us boaties.
Back home, we enjoyed our dinner out on the trampoline with a light breeze. At the last bites disappeared, the girls noticed Courtney, Hardy and kids. We invited them over for a visit.
Never a dull moment in Oriental.
Day 660 ~ CruiservilleJuly 5th, 2012
A quiet anchorage and steady breezes helped us catch up on much needed sleep. After a quick breakfast, I went off to the A/C'd RV to keep my ever-increasing clients happy while Lisa prepared to do some errands in the next town with the Tahoe. About 9:30a, I brought the car round to the dock and Lisa, Helen and Sue met me there with armloads of thrift store bags. More importantly, though, there were no kids bobbing about. Yes, the ladies left men and kids behind and sought refuge with each other for a few uninterrupted hours of sanity. They hit 2 thrift stores, 1 grocery store and the recycle yard to dispose of Yindee Plus' European butane bottles, the produce stand, the fresh shrimp lady and, finally, the cash machine. They didn't return until 1:30p.
At Paul's Produce Lisa was surprised to see the lady selling shrimp had moved to the driveway next door. She asked about it at the register. "We got a letter from the state health department a few weeks ago saying she was too close to our produce and had to vacate the premises. Bureaucrats in Raleigh think we're dumb hicks out here, so we just let 'em. We played along with them for a few weeks but eventually, we had to comply, sorry."
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the kids fed themselves, sun-doped up and went ashore. Lisa finished a few errands by bike and then ran the girls and Yindee Plus boys over to the Pecan Grove pool to cool off. With Croakerfest on our standing Friday 'swim day', Bill swapped pool days so we could get one more in this week. Nice guy!
Another British boat that Yindee Plus knows anchored in the harbor in the afternoon. That makes four for Oriental (one left just this morning), something that Oriental probably doesn't see too often. While the adults were 'nattering' (English for chatting), we took the boys back to our boat for fun, food and a bit of Narnia.
Just after dinner, Jess and Arlene from Starchild, came by to say hello. They came to Croakerfest from New Bern last year and are back again.
The girls hardly made it to lights out at 9:30p, the adults followed shortly after. Looking forward to the homemade ice cream stand at Croakerfest. Been thinking about it since Puerto Rico.
Day 661 ~ Croakerfest SweepJuly 6th, 2012
Croakerfest, Day 1.
Off to work at the crack of dawn. Last coat of varnish today. Girls did math, then they and Lisa biked to the grocery store and Dollar General to get necessary items for Nana's Orange Cake baking contest entry. We have some extra teak pieces on board that we won't use, so they also hung up a 'for sale' ad at Sailcraft.
Nana went to work making her cake, saving the sauce for just before entry was due. One of the sailing camp instructors dinghied by the boat to say Nika could get a t-shirt even though she did one day so all the kids piled in and we dashed off to get that as we still had some time to kill. We then headed to Alexina until just before 4 when Nana and Lisa went back to make the final sauce for the cake top.
Nana entered her cake and the kids hovered around the baking table watching the activity and judges until the winners were announced an hour and a half later. Nana won 3rd place in the Under 12 division!
Crew from the three boats wandered around Croakerfest taking in the sounds and smells when we all discovered the kid park was open. The kids played Twister until long after nightfall; there was one round where adults were invited so Lisa, Sue and Helen practiced their contortions 'til their muscles gave out. The final competition pitted all the previous winners together and Tiger from Alexina was crowned Twister Champion or Oriental with Nina following right behind in 2nd place.
Needless to say, the crew fell into bed and didn't move 'til morning.
Day 662 ~ SeedyvilleJuly 7th, 2012
Croakerfest, Day 2.
We started early with parade at 10am. You can tell a lot about a community from its parade floats. Pamlico County is an odd congenial mix of rednecks, shriner, shrimpers and sailors who don't take themselves too seriously. Refreshing.
Alexina had moved over to the town dock and became Croakerfest HQ. When the final float went by, the kids left their loot on the boat and we all headed to the festival. The folk band at Noon was great. Less wind today so it was quite hot standing on the pavement. Nothing like a few servings of homemade ice cream to take the edge off. Kids made a beeline for the kid park and tried out the watermelon seed spitting, limbo and hoola hoop contests and watched animal balloons being made and karaoke singers.
Lisa, ever the inquiring mind, wondered where they got the seeds for the watermelon spitting contest. She watched. Before the games began, the referee recruited some boys, whacked into a watermelon and produced a few cups. You can guess the rest. Nope, they don't take themselves too seriously here.
The coloring contest entries were due at 2p. Among the winners was another of our anchored boat contingent. Wilf from Yindee Plus won the 8 year old division. When all was said and done, at least one from each of our three families had a winner at the local festival. Not bad for visiting boat hippies.
Both British dads commented on all the patriotism they saw. Flags everywhere, flag floats, flag tattoos. It was a bit over the top, I agreed, but wasn't atypical. Americans, particularly rural Americans, like flags.
Funny, they countered. You have to have a permit to fly a flag in Britain and it's only done at Post Offices and government buildings. In fact, flying a Union Jack from your backyard ("garden") would be considered churrish and in bad taste.
I was taken aback. It's one thing not do it out of choice, but needing a permit? Bad taste? How can that be? They explained: when millions of British youth were marched under the patriotism theme into the teeth of the trenches in World War I the flag lost a little shine. Well, a lot of shine. Peter of Alexina explained that so many young men died that the average height of males in Britain dropped about 3 inches. An entire section of the gene pool was lost, and now the whole flag thing just makes people queasy, even generations later. Hmmm. I walked back to the waterfront with another ice cream mulling over what it all meant.
The entire crew brought munchies over to our boat to watch the fireworks from the trampolines. Many a boating tale was heard, blown water pumps, jammed toilets, torn sails and gales.
The kids were fast asleep before their heads reached their pillows.
Day 663 ~ Baking but SmilingJuly 8th, 2012
We just enjoyed 2 days of Croakerfest in the small town of Oriental, NC. There were contests, kid games, food, fried "food", fried candy bars, music and lots of stuff to buy. The anchorage is filled those from nearby towns as well as other cruisers we've talked into coming, and staying, for the festivities. Since three of us have kids, we have been quite active in participating to the fullest.
And the winners are...
- Nana Torkelson, 3rd place ribbon for her Orange Cake, Under 12 Baking Contest
- Nina Torkelson, 2nd place red ribbon, Twister game.
- Tiger Sturdgess (s/v Alexina, who we first met in Staniel Cay), Grand Champion blue ribbon, Twister game
- Wilf Bright (s/v Yindee Plus, first met in Charleston), 1st place ice cream cone, 8yo division of the Coloring Contest.
- While not a ribbon, Nika Torkelson was quoted in the Sun Journal, the newspaper from New Bern, 24 miles away (PDF file).
Everyone is quite exhausted, but a good time was had by all and we had an excellent showing among visiting cruisers.
After our breakfast of champions (aka Swedish Pancakes) and a close pass of the Dragon Canoe, the girls rounded up the neighborhood (minus Wilf who was not feeling so great after a long festival day...hmmm) and went for a row about the harbor. Tiger's Arabian costume kicked their imaginations in gear and soon they were on shore making tents, playing musical instruments and pretending they were deep in the heart of Arabia.
The high reached 97 on the thermometer, not including the humidity factor, "RealFeel was 109 degrees." I tackled a much needed repair of our step support while the temperature mounted. With the help of our cutting board and a saw, it was done quickly. An invitation to the Sailcraft pool by Alexina's friends made the afternoon a bit more bearable. Just after that, Bill called to invite us for a cool-down at his marina's pool as well. Since they had only an hour, we chose SailCraft and piled in the Tahoe to meet the French crew of Noix du Cajou at the pool.
Several hours later, much refreshed, we headed back for an evening of dinner and Narnia before, again, zipping off into La La Land.
Day 664 ~ False AlarmJuly 9th, 2012
Another hot one, though it stayed a bit cooler in the morning. Nina and Nika biked with me to run some errands. Then it was back to complete their math duties. Drew arrived to fit the NuTeak for the steps and to make final adjustments then I went to work.
Later, the kids went ashore in afternoon 'til yet another thunderstorm hit. The ladies were also ashore just starting to make their recycled bag bags when they saw the tell-tale clouds coming. With the July 1st storm still fresh, they dashed to the boats to prepare for wind and whatever else may come. Lisa took all the kids to help stow since Peter was the only one not on a boat.
As Murphy's Law dictates, we were all prepared when the front hit so the top wind speed reached only 40 knots, sustained. Not all "monsters" are bad. No one budged this time and the wind only shifted within a 90 degree radius over all. When calm was again restored, Sue and Helen returned to our boat to finish their bag instruction. The kids played on.
Clients kept me hopping 'til late. I returned about 8:30p to find dinner in progress. Yum.
Day 665 ~ Another Hot Grind with Evening StormJuly 10th, 2012
Math is about all the lessons that get done in the midst of numerous boat projects. But, it's good for the kids despite the whining. Life isn't all fun and games, right?
Drew arrived with our NuTeak pieces so we began gluing them down on starboard side. Yindee Plus went to Deaton's to purge holding tanks so their boys came to our boat. Once the glue was set, I caulked steps while Lisa took the kids to Pecan Grove at 1pm. Bill called an early invite hoping to get some pool time in before any storms. Sure enough, the sky darkened about 5pm as the pool crew returned. Winds, rain and more rain, but the Brittney held us firm.
The rain kept pouring on into night so we ate dinner around the galley where it was dry.
Day 666 ~ Melting DaysJuly 11th, 2012
By now, the days are melding together. Another hazy sunrise, unbearable heat by 10am, dim tedious projects in the air con of the RV, swim afternoons for the kids. The boat torn to pieces with projects left and right. The kids are happy to do what they do each day. Well, maybe not math, but the potential for kid play keeps them focused.
Day 667 ~ Rain, Rain Go AwayJuly 12th, 2012
The kids went off to play after their math was finished. Calling excitedly on the radio, they reported that the missing shoe (from the July 1 storm) had been found amongst the rocks by the little dinghy dock! Celebration was in order and Helen, as promised, took them all to The Bean for ice cream.
Drew came to install the starboard side NuTeak. After he left, I got the caulk gun out hoping to get done before the seemingly inevitable afternoon showers arrived. I just wasn't fast enough and the rain clouds came just as I was done with first of 4 steps. I already had purchased a tarp for this purpose, so we covered the steps and secured the tarp.
Then the waiting game started. The rain just never came. I fussed around frittering away a good 30 minutes while cloud watching the entire time. I tried to calculate their arrival time and water content but, like a watched pot that never boils, the vapors hung mockingly at a distance.
Finally, more out of out of frustration than rational, I decided that caulking was more productive than stewing. The rain came just as I finished and we again covered the steps with tarps. Looking at the radar, I caulked through an Oriental size hole in the clouds as they passed around us. Providential timing? Not sure I like where this headed.
Day 668 ~ Shortcake at LastJuly 13th, 2012
Sue and Lisa drove to New Bern to tackle some more necessary errands and had planned to return by early afternoon. Kids played on shore, then over at Alexina. It rained a little, but by now we expect it and the storms seem to be getting less forceful. I worked on the boat for about four hours, then went to RV for an hour or so.
Sue and Lisa returned about 6pm as town trips seem to always take longer than anticipated. We also can't beat the fresh shrimp they brought back for dinner and strawberries for long, long overdue strawberry shortcake. Yum.
Day 669 ~ Birthday BoysJuly 14th, 2012
Isn't it great to be nine years old?
Today was a busy birthday day. The Yindee Plus twins, Wilf and Sid, turned 9 today. Due to the recent string of storms, we all decided that an early party would be wise. Chris and Sue prepared a treasure hunt at 10am, followed by group games and tons of food. And, yes, the rain did drive us back to the boats to close hatches but thankfully not until we had eaten a good and proper English lunch complete with "sandwiches." Our American girls were excited to find this meant plates of little tea style wedges from which you could pick and choose at will.
I found myself marveling that our country, founded by rebels who pioneered the west and tamed the wilderness, serves sandwiches, one for each person, in proper individualistic style while our European brethren put a pile of variety on the table and lets you eat to your heart's content. That says more about two views of life than one might care to digest in a single sitting.
We waited for most of the rain to pass and then finished with cake on Alexina.
Nika was invited to spend the afternoon with Emmie so she went with Courtney and crew to Harry & Melanie's house for games. Post-party, the remaining gang went swimming at Pecan Grove pool for a couple of hours after which Alexina served 'everlasting pizza' to the kids. The other adults ended up on Yindee Plus so no one went to bed early...again.
Day 670 ~ Swimming Away the HeatJuly 15th, 2012
The day has come to say good-bye. It's time for Alexina and Yindee Plus to head north. We would go to, but we still have a few project irons in the fire. Cushions undone, the engine guy yet to come, and more.
After waving to the departing boats, I headed down to clean the engine room in preparation for Ronn, the engine guy, to come tomorrow. Lisa headed to the marina to get some washing done and hung up in the sun to dry. Once it was getting warm, it was time to eat our traditional Swedish Pancakes.
Being Sunday with no clients calling to pester, Peter and girls head off on a bike ride to Sailcraft and around town. However, Courtney had just arrived at the pool with her girls so the bike draw was diminished. Nika, already in her swim top and shorts, stayed while the others returned for their swim gear. Lisa went back with them and I tackled some more projects. So much for Papa-kid time. Alas.
All were back for dinner, a read and then bed.
Day 671 ~ ProjectitisJuly 16th, 2012
After breakfast I set to work cleaning up the rest of the engine in preparation for Ronn's arrival. However, when he called to say couldn't come until tomorrow, I went to the RV to work instead. Lisa headed off to Bill's house to pick up three of his kayaks for the girls so they could join Emmie and Caroline for some creek exploration later.
Our boat can't handle the power required from an iron so Lisa arranged to use Courtney's at the chalet. While the girls played, she pressed hems and sewed them down on the steering station covers she started back in the Abacos. These will keep water from getting into the engine controls when it rains and protect the hardware from corrosive weather; had we sewn these in Grenada, it's possible that we wouldn't have to drop a pretty $169 a pop to replace the ignition switches tomorrow. Ouch.
Like all projects, the hemming and sewing took longer than expected and, four hours later, Lisa was finally done. Not that the kids minded. By the time she was ready to go, it was late afternoon and dark clouds were approaching. She towed the kids back to Bill's and then returned to get me at the dock.
We stashed everything on the boat in preparation for the defined line that was heading our way from the West. We expected winds on the front line to reach 50 or 60 knots by the look of the hard edge. But, after a few blasts followed by almost an inch of rain, it was over. It lasted long enough to eat leftovers in the cockpit.
After a long day of play and a short Narnia adventure, the girls were off to Dreamland in an instant.
Day 672 ~ Airing Dirty LaundryJuly 17th, 2012
You know there's not much happening in a town when they air your dirty laundry on the front page of the town's website. Yep, our (clean) laundry made TownDock.net, the e-center of Oriental and all who long to be there instead of where they really are.
I changed the oil filter and flushed out the watermaker. Ronn, the engine guy, arrived at 9am to change ignition switches and install new exhaust hoses.
The girls were invited to the Inn to play with Emmie and Caroline. They two had planned a little surprise going-away party complete with gifts. Lisa tackled getting the last bits of stuff to and from the RV. Later, Hardy took all five girls to the pool.
In the late afternoon, the fated moment arrived. Deborah and her husband, with cushions in hand, arrived for a few days. We took two trips to dinghy them to the boat, but when we put them down they were too wide. Deborah was shocked and disappointed and we likely wouldn't be leaving tomorrow. We talked over some shipping alternatives but, without a fixed address, we decided that it would be better to delay our departure (again) and stay an extra day. Her husband turned the car around and they made the 2 hour drive for home. They should return again Thursday morning.
Deflated and hot, Lisa and I went to Pecan Grove for a quick dip and real shower then met the rest of the pool gang for pizza at the Inn. It was 'two-for-one night' at Silos so we all ordered take-out and ate on the patio.
Day 673 ~ Kayak AdventuresJuly 18th, 2012
Lisa took the girls to Bill and Lynne's house to borrow kayaks while I did RV final storage prep and brought our table back. Nika and I then headed toward Blackwell Point in kayaks to meet the James' girls in theirs.
Returned and the kids played on the boat and paddled around a bit until 1pm. All 5 girls paddled back to Blackwell Point while Lisa followed in the dinghy. After returning our own borrowed boats and visiting with the Pedersens, our crew returned to the boat for some pre-departure chores. The girls took Sea Pearl to shore and scrubbed 3 1/2 weeks of goo off her bottom. Amazingly, it all came off and it became white again. They raised it up to the deck and tied it down while I folded up the bikes ashore.
Once all the hot work was done, it was time for a cool-down swim. Bill & Lynne were already at the pool so we got to chat with them and say goodbye. They've been so generous with their vehicle, water craft loans and pool invitations. After a final real shower, we dropped Lisa off at the boat for some quiet time and the girls and I took our leftover pizza to the RV to eat. We also took the RV for a little spin around the block to get the juices flowing, something that the girls have been anxious to do the whole time we've been here.
By the time we were done, it was time for bed.
Day 674 ~ Underway at lastJuly 19th, 2012
Deborah's husband arrived with the cushions at 7:30am. We were all a bit nervous, but they fit perfectly, a huge relief. We still had a few more details to wrap up before departure. The bikes were stashed bikes, the boat tidied, breakfast consumed. Then, we all piled in the Tahoe to return the RV key to Courtney, drop off our teak pieces and other items at the consignment shop and pay August's RV storage fee. We didn't return until about 10:30am. It was finally time to raise the anchor.
We heaved and hoed, cranked and pulled. First the slimy line and then the mucky Brittany. I'm afraid there was some yelling involved as 78 pounds of goo-coated sharp-angled iron came aboard. But, no complaints, she held like a rock through many a vicious squall. We should have been much farther north by now.
We finally landed the monster at 11am, motored slowly out of the harbor and turned north...at last. After cleaning the mud off everything within 20 feet of anchor and chain, we raised the genny and shut off the engine. Ah, silence and movement. It felt great to arrive in Oriental, and feels even better to leave. The weather is just too hot to handle and our bottom is growing grass and who knows what else. Boats are meant to sail.
Slow, easy sail down the Neuse, averaging 6.8 knots, and into Pamlico Sound until we turned West toward our intended stop for the night. There, we averaged 3.2 knots while heading into a 25-30 knot wind that sent spray and waves over the bow and sometimes into the cockpit. Once anchored in Wysocking Bay, it felt like it might get nasty with little to protect us, but turned out to be a reasonable spot.
Day 675 ~ Pinned in a Narrow PlaceJuly 20th, 2012
Sailed out of Wysocking Bay fairly early and turned north once again. Thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon which materialized upon entering the Old House Channel. Various scenarios are flying around in my imagination. Narrow channel, shallow banks on each side, pilings, barges, 60 knot blasts of wind and nowhere to go. We prepped the Monster anchor so he was ready to drop off the bow in a flash if needed and we dropped Bruce into the chute; we had our two largest anchors locked and loaded.
We dropped the main and sailed slowly up the channel with only the head sail. Finally, the dark clouds danced closer, lightning flashed under their flanks and the gray wall loomed overhead blotting out the sun.
Near Duck Island we opted to stop just outside the channel and wait for it to pass. We could see the sheet of rain coming but couldn't get the hook down before it hit. As I dashed forward to direct the anchoring, I found poor Nana huddled against the wind and driving rain holding the anchor control switch in her white-knuckled hand. The front line was definite and packed a 30 to 40 knot wind punch when it hit, though it didn't last long. Lots of water coming down in bursts.
We resumed our course around 6pm and motored the rest of the way through the channel. The wind was fairly light, relatively speaking, but was predicted to get stronger overnight so we opted to cross Albemarle Sound to Reeds Point to save beating into higher winds.
Calm bay, but arrived an hour after sunset and came too close to running into a group of old pilings. Thankfully, Nina's young eyes picked them up before I did and we veered off just in time. We allowed just enough distance from the stakes, in case there were more, before setting the hook for the night.
Narnia read and then off to bed. Tomorrow is another long sailing day.
Day 676 ~ Stop and GoJuly 21st, 2012
Got an early start since we have so far to go. At 7am, we were lifting the anchor and again on our way. Managed to sail the first couple of hours, then were forced to motor sail as we entered the North River and the wind died. We paused in silence as we motored past the site of last year's incredible bug battle disaster (Day 306). About 3pm, we looked ahead and, yet again, saw dark clouds and lightning at the end of North Landing River. Rather than slog through it and anchor a second time amid wind and rain, we dropped the hook just outside the channel just before the water wall hit. Good timing.
Continued on an hour later while the girls watched a movie (they LOVE it when we have to motor) but had to anchor again at 5pm due to yet another dark, stormy cloud over Chesapeake, our original destination. The river is wide, however, and quite pleasant despite the rain. We made some pizzas, watched the rain and headed to bed.
Day 677 ~ Bug Battle II and a ReunionJuly 22nd, 2012
Well, we got hit with the midges again last night. Being over 20 miles north of last year's spot, I didn't think we'd have the same trouble but we awoke to midges, midges everywhere. It was clear though, after a few minutes of buzzing battle, that they weren't nearly as bad as last year. Plus, in anticipation of the worst, we had emptied the cockpit and stored it all inside. What struck me most was the smell. Somehow I had forgotten that acrid burning insect smell, but one whiff now brought back all the painful visions.
Spent the first couple of hours of motoring through the ICW while shooing bugs. We made the bridges with little wait along with the Great Bridge Lock. Arrived in Portsmouth, VA, around 3pm. We hadn't told the girls that we were likely to find the kid boats again, but there they were, running down the waterfront jumping, waving and screaming. Our girls went ballistic.
Alexina, Yindee Plus and Matador were all there. With one questionable transmission, we played it safe coming in, bumpers everywhere and lines in hand. Plenty of dock hands were waiting as well. About 10 yards out a I pitched a line right into Peter's (Alexina) hands, a freak shot. He was able to slide us sideways and into our slip nice and slow. The city has a small free harbor next to a chandlery. Bob, the owner, offers a free ride to Wal-Mart or wherever you want to go. Wow, generous and smart. Boat people talk, and of course were then looking for an excuse to buy something from him which, on a boat, doesn't take much imagination.
Reunited after 7 days, the kids spent the remaining hours playing in the little park on the river side of the quay. After being cooped up on the boat for nearly 4 days, there was a little excess energy to go around. Burn baby, burn.
Day 678 ~ Kid TimeJuly 23rd, 2012
With the promise of kid play all afternoon, math lessons and correcting proceeded with a touch more dispatch than the last few days. Go figure. Lisa worked on sewing a homemade breeze booster most of the day. I removed the old caulk, or what was left, from a few seams in the cockpit floor near the bench in order to replace it. Bob from the chandlery made good on this offer and took Peter (Alexina), Sue (Yindee Plus), Steph (Matador) and I to Walmart to stock up. His wife came to get us when we were done.
In the evening when the air cooled, the gang came over for burgers. Stuart, Peter and Chris brought their guitars so we followed dessert with a jam session. Fun to be with friends again.
Day 679 ~ Going CrabbingJuly 24th, 2012
In the cool of the morning, I taped the teak in preparation for caulking later. At 10am, Michael, Alexina's friend who lives in Norfolk, along with a neighbor friend, Jude, came to get the crews of our 4 boats to go crabbing at Lynnhaven Inlet.
While I had the boat to myself, I tackled the black sticky goo required to caulk the seams in the cockpit floor teak then headed to the library to get some work done; interesting clientele. Rain came, but only enough to close hatches, not collect water. I tried to trim the edge off a piece of wood, but the saw began to spark and smoke. Ended up using the sander's sandpaper to rub it down by hand.
Crabbing for blue crabs involves only a stake, 30 or so feet of line, weights, raw chicken (they prefer the skins) and a net. You tie the string to the stake and push it into the sand, tie weights and chicken parts to the other end close together. Then, you toss it from shore and gently and slowly pull the string in. The crabs will start eating the chicken and follow the string in whereupon another does a quick move with the net to scoop it up.
Lisa and the kids caught several crabs at the beginning, but then they tapered off as the day progressed. The kids swam for a bit and then about 2pm we packed up and went to Michael's house to cook them. Jude and her husband, Larry, brought over a couple of salads, cooked some burgers and hotdogs for the kids (and those of us who aren't into cracking shells to get to the food) and had quite a feast. There's not much meat in the blue crab and Michael informed us that consuming 14-15 is pretty standard.
When the rain came and the wait for rush hour to pass, we went inside and finished watching Big Miracle that the kids had started in the cool of the A/C. It's about the 3 grey whales, iced in in Barrow, Alaska, who were brought to safety of the open ocean through a monumental community and national effort. Polar opposite of the 105 degrees that we are experiencing here.
Larry and Michael brought their guitars with the caravan returning us to the wharf. They came over to our boat and combined them with those of Peter (Alexina), Stuart (Matador) and Chrs (Yindee Plus) for another jam session.
Day 680 ~ Glass ArtJuly 25th, 2012
Knocked out breakfast and math first thing. Norfolk is just a dinghy ride across the river, so the moms and kids headed off to check out a museum and glass blowing studio while Chris and I did what boat dads do. Think caulk, varnish, busted knuckles and corroded wiring. Chris is installing his third, count it third, anchor switch solenoid and is really happy about it, as you can imagine.
The 3-boat kid crew left by dinghy at 11:30a to check out the Crysler Museum of Art and Glass Blowing Studio. We tied up at the USS Wisconsin and walked through the historic Freemason district. The glass demonstration started at Noon so we ate lunch while we watched. Next door is the museum, home to over 30,000 works of art, 1/3 of which were donated by the late Walter Chrysler, Jr.
We returned about 5:30p and the kids played while the adults visited, another late night.
Day 681 ~ At Sea, At LastJuly 26th, 2012
There's a reasonable weather window to head north today, so everyone is clearing out. With little rain for a week, we need some water, so Bob said, "No problem, just run a hose into my store." That kind of understanding and helpfulness is pretty hard to beat.
Took final group photos, passed around hugs and shed a few tears. Matador and Alexina were the first to leave. Bob drove Lisa and Sue to a nearby laundromat and then Food Lion for fresh stuff. Post cards purchased and written, thank you notes delivered and we were off.
Fought the current for several miles out of Norfolk, slowly motoring in the heat and light breeze. Thirty miles later, after crossing over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, we hoisted the sails and finally turned north. Sailed strongly into the gathering darkness until about midnight when the wind softened.
07/26/2012 21:10:49 AKDT
Day 682 ~ Engine ImplosionJuly 27th, 2012
Sailed through the night. By morning what wind there was evaporated and we were left rolling around in the swell, sails slack, slapping and banging about. I hate that noise.
Fired up the port engine and decided we would have to grind it out with diesel power. Wind is predicted to fill in a little later but I am getting skeptical. About an hour and a half into the motoring, however, I hear a funny beeping tone. It only last a quarter second. When it happens a second time, I realize it's the engine alarm. Either oil pressure or temperature, neither of which is a good thing. Of course, our engine stop solenoid died a few days ago, so to shut the engine off I had to put my body into the engine room and reach down and over the intake manifold to articulate the shut-off arm by hand. What takes a few seconds seems like an eternity when the engine alarm is now screaming ceaslessly. Nothing smells hot, so a quick dipstick check finds bad news: no oil.
The engine always burns a little so maybe it got away from me. I refilled with 2.5 quarts, enough to confirm my diagnosis, but less than a half hour later, the oil alarm goes off again. This is not good. With our starboard transmission on shaky ground, this port engine development leaves us near engineless and bobbing around 10 miles offshore, becalmed. A new low point I assure you.
There is a slight breath of breeze so, with all the sails up, we manage to poke along from 1 knot to 3 knots, just enough to maintain steerage. A nice shore breeze fills in about 5pm and we are rocketing along at 5 knots for a couple of hours, before it falls off with the setting sun. Alas.
07/27/2012 22:35:39 AKDT
Day 683 ~ Waiting GameJuly 28th, 2012
Lisa took over around 2:30am. About 3am, two thundercells approached from the south east complimented by frequent lightning displays. Lisa and I drop the genny in preparation for potentially heavy winds. They never come, but Lisa managed to ride their shifting winds from 3am to about 5am to take us the final slow 8 miles to Cape Henlopen at the mouth of Delaware Bay.
I top up the starboard engine transmission with lube oil and we motor into Lewes Delaware's protected inner breakwater harbor, dropping the hook about 6am. We collapse into bed, my disturbed dreams featuring chimeras of oil pressure drops, failed pumps, alarms and imprisonment on a floating platform.
Today is Saturday so the most I can do is leave voicemails for the engine contacts I have, none of whom call back, no surprise.
Chris from Yindee Plus comes over and suggests I email Stuart from Matador, who has considerable diesel experience. I outline the entire scenario and he writes back later in the evening: 90% chance it's the lower pressure fuel feeder pump. If that's true, it's a relatively easy, and inexpensive, fix. Time will tell.
Day 684 ~ Stretching Sea LegsJuly 29th, 2012
Swedish pancakes to start the day right. Wind shifted and day dawned cooler, we topped out in low 90s. We tried to go into the lighthouse at the east end of the breakwater in the afternoon, but it was locked up. So, we wandered amongst the rocks to get some exercise and a little time off the boat.
Afterward, Sue and Lisa took the kids to the beach to play and I cranked out some work projects. With a cooler day, I was quite productive. In the evening, we were invited to a curry dinner aboard Yindee Plus. Yum. Nice to not think about engine trouble for a 24 hour period. However, I am dreading tomorrow morning.
Day 685 ~ Exploring LewesJuly 30th, 2012
Cooler night and morning. Nice change. Spent all morning on the phone with my engine questions and ended up with not so great news; both Yanmar tech support lines say the fuel injection pump needs to be removed and rebuilt a pro only, a very expensive and time consuming proposition. I see our Maine plans disappear in a cloud of diesel smoke.
We also have a 40 hour weather window to go back south and then north through the Chesapeake to Deltaville to get the boat hauled and worked on, but that means leaving today, and the sooner the better. The phone rings, it's Ronn, the engine guy from Oriental. "Sorry it took so long to get back to you, Man."
I explain the entire chain of events to which he replies, "Man, I am 99% sure it's your fuel feeder pump. It's a cheap part and should be an easy change out." Needless to say that's music to my ears. I get back on the phone with Yanmar and am referred to a local dealer for parts. I catch the guy and leave a message. A bit of phone tag later and the parts are identified and ordered. The local town harbormaster agrees to accept the UPS delivery for us, which makes it all possible.
So, rather than making rash return efforts back to Norfolk, we opted to stick around Lewes with Yindee Plus. At least the kids are happy. Lisa and Sue immediately plan a trip to town to see the sights and visit the Lightship Overfalls. Lightships were used in the early 20th century where lighthouses could not be built. They would anchor near an inlet or dangerous rocky promontory and stay for weeks.
I dinghied them to shore as there is no good place to land and leave the dinghy. Despite it being a Monday, the beach was packed. We found an opening to get us to the beach, but ended up getting the evil eye from several people informing us that we were in a swim zone.
Once ashore, the crew found the town to be really cool. There were flowers and blooming trees everywhere, designated paths through parks, playgrounds and lots of shops, though expensive and touristy. Sue said the buildings looked resembled Lewes, England, after which the town is named. We got to the lightship about a half an hour before closing, so we got the tour for half price. The ship was interesting and our guide informative and friendly. We were able to see all but the lower engine room. Sue told us the Portsmouth lightship limited visitors to only a few rooms and they couldn't even go on deck.
On our way back, we stopped by a playground before walking back to another part of the beach for a pick up (properly outside the swim area this time).
Chris (Yindee Plus) came over to provide moral support, spare wretches and some creative thinking to help remove the old low pressure pump. It took an hour to remove the first nut, and four and a half hours to remove the second 10mm nut. It involved removing the Balmar alternator, loosening the engine mounts and custom fabricating three versions of a specially shaped 10mm open end wrench before we could finally claim victory (the first fell overboard and the second broke in half). Could have done it myself, sure, but having Chris around made a huge difference and turned the entire ordeal into a fun bantering of oily jokes and observations. Once again, it's the fellow cruisers that make being out here really worthwhile.
The famished crew returned in the early evening. In anticipation, I had hot stew waiting, a quick read and then bed.
Day 686 ~ Pancake DelightJuly 31st, 2012
To get closer to the canal, town, provisions and expected boat parts, we upped anchor first thing in the morning and sailed due west to the mouth of the Roosevelt Inlet, the channel that leads into the heart of Lewes.
Ended up being a bit bouncy, but the two town trips we need to do will make managing the dinghy easier. I went in first thing to get the fuel pump, dispose of old diesel and make a run to the grocery. Lisa stayed behind to make the birthday cake for Nana's party that we planned to have before Yindee Plus pulls out.
It took a couple of hours to complete all the tasks, including motoring time down the 1.3 mile long channel with opposing current. Shortly after I returned and started the American pancakes, Yindee Plus came over. The huge stack of buttermilk cakes disappeared in no time. Sue brought her crochet project and Chris brought his grubby clothes to help me install the new pump. Considering it took 5.5 hours to remove the two bolts yesterday, it was nice to have it only take a couple hours to reinstall. It's also nice to have company when doing a messy project.
At this point, we needed diesel engine oil and called a local automotive store. Tim answered the phone and said they didn't have it and started to suggest another option. Lisa mentioned that we were on a sailboat with only a dinghy for transport so he called the other store, arranged for getting it to his store then kindly offered to deliver it to us after work. He suggested the yacht club, of which he was a member, because it was close in proximity to where we were anchored. Now that's service!
We planned to head in to town around 5pm anyway, so it worked quite seamlessly. We found the free dock and wandered through the lovely quaint town and out a half mile to the library. There, townspeople were already starting to gather for the free concert in the park with the band, Zydeco a Go-Go. Great foot-tapping music in a bug-free park on a cool day. A nice respite from engine rooms and bouncy anchorages.
We dingied back in tandem and found the sea flat calm under a rising moon. A wonderful, peaceful night under the stars.