June 2012 ~ Northward

Chronological Order

Day 655 ~ Learning CurveJune 30th, 2012

The morning broke warm and hazy.  Temperatures today are predicted in the 39 celsius range.   If that doesn't mean much to you, consider that your body temperature is about 37 degrees.

Hauled water first thing as it's best to get the heavy work over with as early as possible.  Learned by now that several small trips spread over the week are easier on everyone than doing one or two large ones.  The teak guy is supposed to come Monday to do templates.  We'll see.   In preparation though, there is some left over black caulking around each stern step area that needs scraping.   Since, by 7:30am, it wasn't too warm yet, I tackled the starboard side where Lisa had left off and had them done by about 8:30.   Only four more (port) steps to go.

Since our table is half done in New Bern, we had to make the trek one more time.   The A/C chilled windshield time doesn't sound too bad, but I wasn't sure what I'd find once we get there.  We took Chris from Yindee Plus so he could do his Lowe's run that got cut short a couple of days ago.   Lisa and Chris dropped me off at Precision Mouldings and headed out to do their big box duties.

Bill Henry was "glad to see ya!" and took me out back where, to my surprise, the table was probably 70% done.  Only the top of the small folding leaf side remained untouched, the larger side only had a few remaining patches of finish.   Bill directed a guy to set up a fan for me, provided a nice top-of-the-line orbital sander and a nice stack of Klingspor German sanding pads.  "I expect you to stay busy," he boomed with a southern drawl as he handed them over.

No worries about that.   I want this project done, and the sooner the better.  I broke out the chemicals and tried a small test area on the underside.   While it was doing its magic, I hit the larger top with the sander.   It was a relief to watch the saw dust fly into someone else's space.   If this stuff were blowing all over the boat, Mama would not be happy.

I turned around 10 minutes later to check on the chemical action.   Everywhere the Nasty Nasty had touched, the finish was lifted off and easily removed with a plastic scraper.   Guess I should have saved myself $100 and done this in the first place.  Live and learn.  I removed all the finish on the bottom, then flipped it over and liberally applied it to the top.

An hour and nearly a quarter of Kutzit stripper later and the leaf side was finish free.   Another half hour of sanding and both tops looked brand new.   Wood is a beautiful thing.

I shot the bull with Bill for half an hour waiting for the shopping crew to arrive.   He regaled me with tales of mill fires and teak politics.  "The Chinese have locked up the market!" he exclaimed with a two hand fist gesture and a dire tone.  "I just paid $7,500 for a bundle of teak that wouldn't fill the back of a pickup truck."

Chris and Lisa arrived.  We loaded it all up and were back in sleepy Oriental a half hour later.   Now it's starting to simmer.  The kids were all tucked into Alexina making Swallow and Amazon flags, trying to stay out of the sun.   Lisa's synopsis is: "Life is busy but nice to have so many adults to manage the kid chaos."

You can say that again.  Peter and Helen on Alexina have been doing the heavy kid lifting of late, so we took the whole gang while they and Yindee Plus went for an adult evening out.

 

Day 654 ~ Dirty JobsJune 29th, 2012

The temperatures are rising here in sunny North Carolina.   I headed out to the RV for some overdue electron massaging while Lisa (who gets in these fits) decided she had had enough of our scummy waterline.   So, after picking old caulking off the back steps for an hour in the blazing sun, she hopped in the dinghy and scrubbed until she was sore and sunburned.

When I questioning the wisdom of such a rash cleaning move, "It looks much better!" was her rejoiner.  Ok, you go girl.

Much to Lisa's relief, she got her first real haircut since November 30th.  In the meantime, she had chopped her own a few times in the Caribbean and even enlisted my subtle trimming expertise on one desperate occasion.  She returned sporting the shortest cut I have ever seen her wear, and a smile.   Nana spent the afternoon with Caroline while the other boats in the anchorage (Alexina and Yindee Plus) went to the Pecan Grove swimming pool on an invitation from Bill and Lynne who live nearby on Green Creek and are hosting their grandchildren for a few weeks.  Nice to cool off.

About 3pm Bill, aka Sweet Willy, called.  "I have some good news and some bad news." was his opening line.   "You'd better give me the bad news first," I replied.   Turne out they have spent their allotted four hours on the table but there was still quite a bit left to do.   He apologized for the extra time, but at $34.50 an hour for skilled services, I am not too stressed out about it.  I asked if I could come by tomorrow to take a look and perhaps use a chemical stripper on the remaining stubborn finish.  "We'll be fully cooperative," was his closing statement.   I like that.

Rumor on the street has it that our main sail repairs are complete.   Peter ran into the Doyle guy at the grocery. Gotta love that small town thing.   

I went to SailCraft pool later on, talked with Chris and took a dip myself.  We then all rejoined and had a light dinner with Key Lime Pie for dessert.   Never really got into limes before, but the heat takes something out of you that limes put back.   Yum.

 

Day 653 ~ Sweet WillyJune 28th, 2012

Nina and Nana went to Art Camp for three days this week and the local newspaper was there to document the 'art show' afterward where the kids displayed everything they had created along with snacks for the guests (parents).  This morning, we went on the town's website and there was our Nana:  TownDock.net

All pumped from watching the 1950s movie, Swallows and Amazons, the girls were up and raring to go sailing with the kid crews.   They had already made crew lists, packed all manner of "essential tools and supplies" and took to the high seas of Oriental harbor and its tributary rivers at 9am sharp.  In a weak moment, I had bought a huge jelly roll for the adventurers.  I sliced it into 8 slabs and handed it over at the last minute.  Nina's eyes glowed, "Is that thing healthy?" she asked.  Well, no, but it's fun.

Lisa, Chris (Yindee Plus) and I used Bill's loaner car to head into New Bern for more box store craziness.  Sans enfants, it was a pleasant, productive trip.   We found some outdoor fabrics and pillow forms that will help make the new cockpit a complete seating set.  To our chagrin, we also found that the costly Dryfast foam, for which we paid a premium to be shipped from Michigan, was available right here in New Bern at half the cost.  Guess we should have checked local first.

After many calls, I finally found a business that will sand our cockpit table.  Precision Mouldings, for the eye-popping rate of $34.50 per hour, even include the supplies in the price.   The place is run by an old guy with flowing white hair and a booming voice.  Bill Henry is his name.   "I know that's expensive." he offers holding open two huge meaty lumberman hands, "but that includes supplies like sanding pads and belts."

The table is blown from my mind by the persona of this guy.   He's a southern cross between Santa and a pro football umpire, complete with red suspenders and an office crammed with old woodworking tools and piled high with rare wood specimens.  "It's a bad habit I have," he explained with a sigh as I admired turn of the century hand planers.  He answers his phone with a brisk and booming, "Bill Henry, go ahead."

When a late thirties employee with a sawdust impregnated shirt appears in a huff and ejaculates, "Sorry to interrupt Popsie but we have a problem in the planing room," I get a fuller picture of the man.   "Popsie" was addressed with deference and geniune respect, without the slightest trace of irony or satire.  "Popsie" apologizes and bobs away, walking with the rocking gait of a man whose knees have seen a better eras.

He returned shortly.   We had just starting talking again when his cell phone rang.  "I'm sorry" he said and answered it.  "Bill Henry, go ahead".   There's a pause.  A voice crackles in his ear.   "That's Sweet Willy to you!" he boomed back.   Forty years in the wood business has, apparently, cost him some hearing.   I wondered how long one had to know him to earn the right call him "Sweet Willy".

We discussed the project and, when it was clear I wanted it done, he said, "we'll get started today" and sealed with with an iron handshake.   I had the unmistakable impression that once the hands came together, no rising tide of cultural compromise could change his mind.   There would be no 'island time' and no excuses.   I had the sudden flash that 50 Bill Henrys could turn the Caribbean into a beehive of economic success.

We were back at the town dinghy dock by 3:30pm.

The kids headed ashore to play while the sun and temperature waned.  Quick dinner, some Narnia, and crash.  Poor Nika fell asleep while were were reading.

 

Day 652 ~ Surprise ArrivalJune 27th, 2012

For the first time in a long while we had a chilly night along with little wind.  We actually needed a couple blankets to sleep and the thermometer read 66 degrees just before the sun rose.  Feels pretty good if you ask me.  I took a battery charger over to the RV first thing in the morning.   Ran the extension cords and hooked it all up but the battery charger didn't want to charge.   It flashed a red light labeled, "check".   The volt meter read 0.0, not good.   Even a bad battery will usually have something, say, 4.4 for instance.   This probably means a new battery is in order.

We dropped Nina and Nana off at the art camp which ran until noon.  Nika and Lisa did some grocery shopping, strawberries being the key attraction there.   I biked over the Methodist church at noon to see the "art show" the kids were putting on with all their creations from the week.   There was a lot of "art".

Courtney then invited us over to the Inn for a quick lunch of hotdogs on the grill, which was much appreciated.   I headed back to do more computer work while Nika and Emmie went with Courtney to the Sailcraft swimming pool.

When Lisa and I returned to the harbor, the first thing I noticed was a large monohull anchored quite close to us.   "What's that guy thinking?!"   Then I recognized the boat.   It was Yindee Plus with twin 8 year old boys aboard, who we had met and enjoyed hanging out with in Charleston.   This was good news.

Alexina invited the whole gang over for a movie and pizza night.   We have all read the sailing adventure book by Arthur Ransome called Swallows and Amazons.  Since Alexina got a sailing kit for their Walker Bay, we have two sailing dingies.  The plan is for the kids to watch the movie then live it themselves first thing tomorrow morning.   Sounds pretty cool, even to a dad.

 

Day 651 ~ Bustle, Bustle EverywhereJune 26th, 2012

We had rain in the night but by morning the air turned cooler and dryer; nice change.  The kids were off to art camp first thing.  I went to see the camp director and told him that Nika is just not ready for an 8 hour camp.  He graciously offered a pro-rated refund.

Nika and Lisa dropped off the girls at art camp and then Nika helped with laundry, getting some quality mom-daughter time in.  It was a good day because the lower humidity allowed the clothes to actually dry completely on the lines.  I coordinated sail drop off, cushion replacements, engine fixes, back step teak replacement, etc.   Seemed to take hours.

After art camp, the girls and Tiger returned to the boats to make a picnic lunch to take to the little park by the dinghy dock.  Afterward, they spent several hours riding the bikes around and around while I worked at the boat and Lisa finished the laundry and caught up on some lost passage sleep.

I made a grocery run for fresh fruit and we had tortillas, yogurt and strawberries for dinner.  Wow, after being without for so many months, do they taste good.

 

Day 650 ~ Sara Grows Up, againJune 25th, 2012

The exciting morning started at 5:30am.  The girls are wired; sailing camp and art camp start at 9am.  Nika had her backpack on and ready by 7:30 even though it's a 3 minute dinghy ride to an event that doesn't start until 9am.  Lisa biked with Nina and Nana to the sponsoring church while I dinghied Nika to the camp dock.  She looked pretty small as I puttered away; another chance to let her stretch her wings.

While kidless, Lisa and I knocked down a few errands.  I checked on West Marine parts and canvas questions.  Lisa noticed the storage place office was open and stopped in to meet the owner and check on our RV.  On my way by, I saw the bike and went to investigate as well.  Our rig was surprisingly clean having sat in a humid environment all winter.  Nothing smelled moldy, musty or dusty.  A huge relief.

We then split off again and she went to get our mail from a friend while I checked off a few more things.  We returned to the dinghy to make a quick lunch for the girls and went to pick them up.  We ate at the park, then Courtney and Lisa went with her girls and Nana to the pool and I took Nina to meet Tiger as they had planned a Swallows and Amazons (good book) expedition. 

We made a few more exchanges of kids and I left to pick Nika up at 5pm.   As walked up from the dock I spotted her and knew immediately that something was wrong.   Her shoulders were slumped, her eyes on the verge of tears.   When she saw me a wave of relief washed over her.

Turns out they put her in a larger boat with a 13 yo who didn't know anything about sailing.  The younger kids were all boys, a few being troublemakers.  It was a long day and, in her words, "lonely".  We felt bad because she had been so excited to go, but it was just too much for her this year.  

We finally ended up at the dinghy dock while all the girls rode bikes in circles by the harbor.   Nika was laughing and pedaling around like mad, back in her free kid element.  Wind was picking up from the south with gusts to maybe 30 knots.  Just as we got up to go to the boat for protection, our friend from Green Creek called to say he could bring his Tahoe to leave with us for the week.  Blew hard the rest of the night, a welcome relief from mozzies.

Nothing like hitting the floor running.  Having bikes makes it all so much more do-able.

 

Day 649 ~ Oriental AheadJune 24th, 2012

After a breakfast of French toast, we were then ready to go thru bascule bridge north of Beaufort.  At first, we didn't think it was wide enough, but a commercial tour boat behind us radioed over and said we'd have no problem.  Motored up ICW, then sailed across the Neuse River into Oriental Harbor.  Felt like returning to a second home.

As we anchored, one of the girls spotted Emmie at the dinghy dock waiting for the girls - she saw us come in and came over.  We unearthed our bikes to shore to use while we're here.  They're not exactly in the best of condition after a year of being stored under a leaky hatch.  Spent an hour putting them together and getting them in usable condition with oil, special goop, pliers and wrenches.  Rust had taken over, chains bound and grated, brakes were stiff and inoperative.   It was ugly and sad since all three had been in tip-top shape when we bought them during our last stay in Oriental.

Nana went swimming with Courtney and her girls while Nina and Tiger rode bikes and "talked".   Nika found Kate whom she had met last year.  Kate was fishing in earnest with a pile of shrimp.  I asked Nika if she wanted to go get her gear.  "Oh yes!" she exclaimed.  A few minutes later she landed a big one.  Lisa, Nika and I then went to the grocery just before they closed, then to the boat for dinner and mosquito-fest.

Courtney had mentioned a local art camp which Nana was very keen to do.  Nina decided that she would try it for a day and see how she liked it.  Lisa got in touch with the instructor and found there was still room.

 

Day 648 ~ Beaufort ArrivalJune 23rd, 2012

Lisa took over for me at 2am when we were about 20 miles out from Beaufort inlet.  I tossed and turned for a few hours, then got up 5:30am.  We made some sail adjustments to enter the Beaufort Inlet entrance channel with all the flashing green, red and white lights.

We bounced our way into the inlet channel through sloppy seas and wakes from fishing boats bashing into the waves on their way out in the never ending quest for fish.  Arrived at Taylor Creek, Beaufort, at 7:45am.  We hailed Alexina to say that we'd arrived and took them up on their offer to come pick up our girls, who got their normal 9 uninterrupted hours of sleep.   What a blessing kids boats are.

About 1pm we saw Yindee Plus pull into the anchorage; they left Charleston about 6 hours after we did.  The bays and rivers were abuzz with Saturday boat activity.  We made plans to take the kids ashore.

Later, Peter (Alexina) and I took the whole kid gang to explore the sand dunes and beach, complete with wild horses, on the island just across from town.  The rain eventually drove us back aboard.

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:34.53099
Longitude:-76.77252
06/23/2012 00:43:58 AKDT

 

Day 647 ~ Back in the Big BlueJune 22nd, 2012

As nights at sea go, this one wasn't too bad.  Easy motion, gentle sounds.  That is until the wind shifted and the main started bouncing around in the gentle swell.  Getting up at 3:15 am and running around pulling things and changing sails is so much fun.   However, the peace afterwards was heavenly.  We're now running straight down wind with double head sails prevented off to port and starboard respectively.

I tried to get some more shut-eye, and perhaps got an hour or two before relieving Lisa at 6am sharp.   The sky was just starting to lighten in a glow of the softest peach.  I heard a distinctive puff just off the port side.  Dolphins!  A pod of 8-10 individuals danced under our bows as the sun rose behind a dense cloud layer.   As they exploded above the artificial edge, the sun cast a copper hued line of shimmering water straight into our bow.   With the new light, the dolphins became excited.   There were tail slaps and sideways lunges, then the full body flop just 8 feet ahead.

It must be fun to be a dolphin, or at least they must have short memories of the hard times, the shark attacks and the cold.

Sea birds were darting everywhere and the dolphins moved off.  All this activity could only mean one thing, fish.    Once Nika and Nana were up we dropped a couple of rigs in the water and waited for the action.

It didn't take long.  First the starboard reel sang, another micro-mahi mahi.   It's amazing how the little guys look like such picture perfect copies of their parents; the spots, the flashing color changes, the violent thrashing.  This poor girl just wouldn't see the logic of letting me get the pliers in her mouth.   But, at last she was free and dove straight down to safety.

We left the other line running and it wasn't 10 minutes before it to sang the sacred song.  It was immediately clear that this was no juvenile.  Line smoked off the reel until I could get the drag tightened down.  Thankfully we were only doing 4 knots straight downwind, so we had the advantage.   Eventually, he turned and began to see things my way.  In 8 minutes of fighting he was trailing behind the back steps, a sizable Tuny.   They aren't as fine eating as the yellow or blue fins, but make a mean tuna salad sandwich, so we welcomed him aboard with hospitality fitting such an honored guest.   It took 12 buckets of water to get all the blood overboard.

Nina decided she would rather fillet the fish than make bread for the sandwiches.   I was surprised, but encouraged.   Perhaps all those pioneer stories she's been reading have had an effect.   Well, perhaps, except for the part where she insisted on wearing surgical gloves.

She did a great job, actually, and had two huge fillets of deep red meat ready for the refer in 15 minutes.  You go girl!

We have one more really cool bottle we found ashore on Grand Cay.  The girls each did a piece of artwork and Nika did the honor of dropping over our 4th message in a bottle.   Haven't heard anything yet, but you never know.

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:33.50902
Longitude:-77.87531
06/22/2012 08:42:33 AKDT

 

Day 646 ~ Goodbye CharlestonJune 21st, 2012

Normally for a passage we are scrambling to leave first thing.   The idea being to get as many miles in the daylight as possible.   But there's no wind today until the afternoon.  The tidal currents that rip in and out of the Ashley River will be running out strongly by noon so there's not reason fight the current in order to motor our way up the coast.

We headed ashore and filled all three dinghy gas cans for $22.   Wow, it's nice to be back in the Land of Plenty.  Imagine that, gas for less than $6 a gallon.   We snagged another 14 gallons of water while we were at it.

Got everything aboard and tightened up by 11:30a.   It took 20 minutes to get both our anchors off the bottom.  Once again, the Texas style had dubious results, with the primary anchor becoming entangled in the line running to the farther, secondary anchor.   I'm thinking now that two-in-a-row is only sensible if your large anchor is the farthest out, and thus much less likely to get tripped out by the line connecting both anchors.

We raised the main immediately, but the wind was right on the nose most of the way out the river and between the stone jetties protecting the harbor entrance.   The jetties have the effect of necking down the current into a nice jet stream of flow that spat us out of the harbor at nearly 8 knots with a single engine running at 3/4 throttle.

Once well clear of the channel, we raised the genny and were soon scooting along at 6-7 knots in as much breeze for a dead beam reach (90 degrees to the wind), the boat's favorite point of sail.  Hour after hour wound by.   The water color shifted imperceptibly from brown, to tan, to gray-green to green to soft blue to true blue.   The condo studded coast slipped slowly past.

There's nothing like the feeling of heading out to sea after a couple weeks of town bustle.   It's like stepping out of a New York subway straight into the Canadian wilderness.

After dinner and a few games of Uno (during which Nika spent all her time giving me Draw Two and Draw Four cards and Lisa won 2 out of 3), the girls went to bed and the night watch set in.  The wind slackened a bit, but still pushed us at 5.5 knots.  We are quite pleased, especially considering the wind prediction of 5-10 knots.

As the sun sunk behind the sea, the wind shifted and died a bit and our average dropped to 3.5 knots.  As the wind shifted behind us, the clanking boom, not knowing which direction to fill, got louder.  Finally, I came up about 3am and we dropped the main and put the head sail out wing and wing opposite the genny.  Continued through the night at a consistent, comfortable speed with smooth waves.

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:32.76836
Longitude:-79.94025
06/21/2012 08:43:29 AKDT

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:33.15736
Longitude:-78.56308
06/21/2012 21:49:36 AKDT

 

Day 645 ~ The Daily GrindJune 20th, 2012

It's funny how bodies adapt.   I used to work 10+ hours a day without even a thought.   Now, the prospect of an 8-5 day staring at flat screens fills me with interminable dread.  At least the atmosphere is nice.  The Charleston College Library is a stunning jewel of fine woods, glass and stone.   It's like someone had $30 million to spend and had to work to find ways of doing it.   There are cherry desks by the hundreds, each equipped with a top of the line mesh chair, fast internet data ports and 120v receptacles that, you'll never guess, actually work.

Oh, and there's that quiet library hush drawn over the whole atmosphere, like an invisible blanket of peace and productivity.  After a cramped week on a hot boat, it's like stepping into air conditioned geek heaven.

While the girls did a second walking tour of old Charleston, I tackled project after project.  The hours flew past.  The cheese and egg tortilla packed for lunch disappeared.

The girls met Yindee Plus at the park for lunch and exercise time.  Sue went for errands and the kids played on.  They then went to the library for a bit and then back to the park before picking me up and going back to the boat.

Quick meal of pancakes and a Narnia read before bed.  We've decided to leave tomorrow afternoon despite the lack of favorable weather (i.e. just no wind in the forecast).

 

Day 644 ~ Walking CharlestonJune 19th, 2012

Charleston has a ton of history, and not all of it is good.  Sure, there's the Southern charm and the British history and the old buildings.   There's also the reality that 1/3 of all slaves brought to the new world touched the land of the free and the home of the brave right here.  Oh joy.

Lisa valiantly led a family walking tour, putting up with yawns and groans from yours truly who's just not into the guided tour thing.   She told me to shape up or I would have to do math when I got back to the boat.  The girls jeered and whacked me with sticks.   I expected to see an iron cauldron over a roaring fire around the next turn.

We started by the City Hall corner and learned about all kinds of things like earthquake bolts, fire marks and single houses.  Broke for lunch at Subway then met What If at the park until they had to go back.  Took a walk to find a furniture store to see if they had directors' chairs for the boat.   We found two perfect chairs made in Virgina by Kingston-Dale, complete with solid teak construction and stainless hardware.   Only a cool $240 a pop.

Well, maybe after college is paid for.

 

Day 643 ~ Boys and Their ToysJune 18th, 2012

Feels like a real life.   Up and moving early with quick breakfast.  Lisa then dropped me off at the dock and 20 minutes later I was stepping into a cool air conditioned office space for another day of computer work.   Things went fairly well and I was able to wrap up and get back to the boat for our main meal by about 2pm.

Yindee Plus came by and offered to take the girls to the "good climbing tree" town park.  Who could resist some kid play time?  The Yindee Plus boys are classic boat kids, talkative, outgoing, creative in play and respectful in demeanor.   They are a pleasure to be around, although the sudden appearance of bows and arrows does give one pause.  Somehow the girls just never think about weapons on their own.

The cooler temperatures and lower humidity have put Lisa in spring cleaning mode; she's been emptying out storage areas, having the kids clean their closets, wiping and spraying, finding and killing mold in many a dark corner.

You go girl.

 

Day 642 ~ Father's Day SpecialJune 17th, 2012

Another perfect morning: cool, low humidity, blue bird sky and the morning rays of the sun gently waking us to the soft slap of water tidal current tickling the keels on its way to the Big Blue.  Being Sunday morning, Swedish pancakes were on everyone's mind but the grown-ups had other ideas.   There are several churches nearby, so we decided to sample one and get to know Charleston better.

Turns out that City Church actually meets at a disco/bar called the Music Farm, which has previously hosted such attractions as G-Love and Special Sauce, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters.   A larger church a few miles away rents the building, right in the heart of downtown Charleston, for Sunday morning services.   It's an old railway depot complete with an exposed roof of hand-joined wood trusses and square headed steel bolts.  It's pretty cool.

Afterward we walked to the neighborhood Piggly Wiggly, "local since forever", and grabbed a few more essentials in the Land of Plenty.   "Essentials" like strawberries, yogurt and whipping cream.   We then met up with What If at the park for some kid play and hit the Friends of Charleston's Library book sale.   Sure we need another 50 lbs of books around here, trust me.   Nana's favorite was a book about the life and times of germs.

Back at the boat, the sacred Swedish pancakes were made and devoured.   Strawberries galore and real maple syrup, a first for many months.

As the sun was setting, we headed back into town.   Yogurt Mountain had advertised a free serving for Dads for Father's Day, and who could pass that up!?   Since I didn't see any fine print about bringing children to prove fatherhood, the girls just didn't get my money saving suggestion of going without them and eating one all by myself.

We were just slurping up the final drips when Lisa started gesturing and stammering.   Mike and Greg from Salty Paws, last sighted in St. Lucia 18 months ago, just walked past.  We ran out and had a fun time catching up before heading to the boat and shut-eye.

 

Day 641 ~ Farmer's MarketJune 16th, 2012

Rumor has it there's a Farmers Market in the Charleston public square on Saturday mornings.  Like roosters, they start early, 7am.   My minimal past experience with farmer's markets is that the good stuff goes early.  But the thought of missing the real eggs and tomatoes that actually have flavor wasn't enough to get me out of bed too early.  

It's a solid 25 minute walk to the main square, so the sun was casting pretty small shadows by the time mine darkened the crosswalk.  The place was abuzz with activity, the good stuff was still there.   It was more of a county fair than a farmer's market.  Most of the vendors had clean shirts and soft hands as they peddled local artwork, wind chimes and similar charms.  Ahhh, there was a real farmer.  Dirt stained apron, thick weathered hands and a table sagging with cartons of fresh blueberries, peaches that would never win a beauty contest and tomatoes whose rough random appearance bespoke real soul.  That's how we like it.

My waterproof laptop toting bag got heavier and heavier.  I sampled some Lime Basil ice cream made by a young couple branding their product as Roots Ice Cream.   "Do you sell this to restaurants or anything?" I queried.  "Ahhh, no we are just getting started, been doing it a couple of years."   It was clearly a sideline business, but the Blueberry Cinnamon was a perfect blend of chew, crunch and creamy smooth with a light, slime-free finish.   Perfect, they might have a future.

I topped off my weighted laptop pack with some fresh handmade herb pasta.   "Cook it for 45 seconds, no more!" the smiling pasta guru offered as she grabbed great globs with pasty fingers.  

A few hours at the office (library) and I then headed back home for a fantastic dinner of Béchamel sauce and grilled chicken topped with farm fresh cherry tomotoes and real available-only-in-the-land-of-plenty Parmesan cheese.  Now we're talking.

A few weeks ago, after parting ways with Remi De, we switched to a large meal about 2pm and dessert at 6:30pm constituting "dinner".   It's a pattern that's taken root quickly and really works for us.   It means that I am not cooking up a storm and making a huge mess at the end of the day when Lisa and I are both already whipped.  It means we go to bed with a light tummy and, best of all, we have an excuse to make real desserts.   Like, say, Key Lime Pie.   Now that's dinner.

 

Day 640 ~ Business DayJune 15th, 2012

We tackled lessons first thing while Lisa started the de-molding process.  Thanks to all our hatches, we have little mold trouble until the last few weeks in the Bahamas when it rained for days on end and the humidity made hot showers seem dry.   Those conditions produce a regular mold factory, and we aren't alone.   Even the million dollar boats complain of the same problem.

Today, Lisa, with bottles of nasty chemicals in hand and a used toothbrush, took the battle to the enemy until the walls and ceiling were again white.  One cabin a day is the goal.

While the combined kid boats of What If, Yindee Plus and our crew headed to the park, "the one with the good climbing tree", I hit the post office (to mail back my BGAN network SIM card), the Apple Store (to replace broken back glass on iPhone 4), and Enterprise Car Rental (to recover bag of Walmart loot left a few days ago when we rushed off in the rain).

The tree climbing gang stopped by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to check out the Return to the Sea Saltworks display by Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto.   They loved it, we rendezvous'd back at the park for the mass mile trek back to the marina.

 

Day 639 ~ A Weather Change at LastJune 14th, 2012

Woke up this morning to a strange, new and wonderful feeling.  Dryness.   Skin without a film of slime.  Cushions that don't feel perpetually damp.  Floors that aren't tacky to the touch.

The wind shift to the north, the same one pinning us here in Charleston against our will, also brought blue skies, mid-70s temperatures and a drop in the humidity from 90% to 60%.   Hallelujah.   The teaming masses of Charleston residents who live in perpetual AC probably didn't even notice.

We had talked about a walk to the park; poor Nika was just itching to climb some trees.   She would ask every day, "is today the park day?"   Between laptop purchases, Walmart marathons and incessant thunderstorms, the answers day after day had been, "sorry kid."  Her cute little face always looks so crest fallen.

Well, today was the day.   We mobilized and met What If, whose 12 year old boy, Derek, was ready for some kid socializing.   We find the tree park and chatted with Derek's folks, Dean and Kris.   A weather question came up, and I grabbed the iPhone, only to find the glass on the back was shattered, and breaking off in shards.  Ouch.   Guess that earlier fall to the floor from the nav station wasn't a painless as I thought.

Walked to a frozen yogurt shop called Yogurt Mountain.   You serve yourself and then pay by the ounce.  The cups are large and sturdy, telling you to be generous.  The kids had a blast building their "mountains" and then eating them down, a million years of erosion in 4 minutes of munching.

We caught the free trolley back to the waterfront area.  It was a great day in a sun that wasn't too hot, for once.

 

Day 638 ~ Doused AgainJune 13th, 2012

We were up and off again as we only had car until 4pm.  Our first stop was to the local Walmart for returns and other items that the other store didn't have.  I made a Costco run.  By the time we reconvened, it was 2:00p and we had a 20 minute drive back to town. I  dropped Lisa off at the town laundromat with 5 huge loads and the girls and I loaded our stuff into the dinghy before returning the car.

Dry up to now, it was at this point that the clouds burst open.  We dashed into the library while our purchases, patiently waiting in the dinghy, got soaked.  Not realizing it was a private library catering to college students, not the public library, we wondered why the kid section was so small and devoid of the normal kid accessories.

Once the rain subsided to a sprinkle at 5:30, we found Lisa just folding the last of the towels. We waited nearly an hour for the free shuttle before finally calling cab.  As the cab drove up, the trolley bus came - it figures. By this time the sun was poking out of the clouds and now safe to maintain dry laundry on the trip home.

Back at the boat, we unloaded, dried off and packed away all our purchases. Everything was soaked but mostly contained to outer boxes so nothing was ruined.  The laundry somehow motivated Lisa into cleaning mode and the next thing I know she was wiping down all of Nana's walls and hallway of mold.

One-fourth mold-free at last, we sat down to dinner of fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, pineapple and grapes with a side of shortcake biscuit and yogurt.  A long day coming.  Yum.

 

Day 637 ~ Playing Catch UpJune 12th, 2012

We haven't seen real civilization since sometime in November.  The girls have outgrown their shoes, their undies are thread bare and we need a working computer, badly.  All my paying work is on hold until we have one.  Since our phone has picked up a 3G signal, I've spent hours on craigslist searching for a laptop.  Today I finally found one that was the right year and feel unlike, "Dude, I can't find my power cable or anything.  The battery's at my parents' house 3 hours away.  No, I don't know what size the harddrive is; I, uh, forgot."  Right.

Finding nothing legal-sounding in Charleston, we realized that a rental car was our only option to make the exchange 2 hours away.  And, as efficiency rules, while we have wheels and a large trunk we may as well provision while we're at it.  We had just pulled out of the lot when my first of three teleconferences this week started.  Lisa navigated her way out of Charleston with the iPad and headed for Columbia, South Carolina's capital city.

The phone was hot by the time I was done an hour later.  Moments later it rang with Nina's dear friend from Alaska days who had received our email that we were back in cell coverage.  They talked until our arrival and then the marathon began. I dropped the girls off at Walmart while I took care of the computer purchase.   All seemed to be good, so I gave the guy my wad of cash and took off.   I found the girls still in Walmart about halfway through Lisa's list.   By 9pm we were hungry so we took a dinner break at Subway, conveniently located at the entrance.  Lisa and the girls then returned for a few last items until after 11pm, actually.  I just sat in the Subway, all locked up by now and worked on configuring the new machine while the staff mopped the floor around me.

Then our sudden "spending spree" with car rental, gas, Subway and several Wally's purchases after months of non-use put us on VISA's block list.  Lisa went to pay but our Visa card was rejected, the 'payment declined' message loudly announced through the Self Check-Out speakers.  That took another half hour and two customer service agents to sort out.

At 11:30pm, we began our two hour drive back to Charleston and arrived at 1:15am.  Of course, this was the first of many steps to sawing logs.  Rental cars are the pits because there is always so much to do and clock is always running.  Since all the waterfront marinas have large "unregistered cars will be towed" signs or 'pay lots of money to park here' lots, I took a chance and pulled in a Visitor Parking spot at Ashley Marina, where Bodyguard picked us up last night.  None of the other 'visitors' had tags, so I figured we were pretty safe to find our car still there later in the morning.  I then had to walk to other marina, return with the dinghy, load up, motor out and offload onto our boat.  Needless to say, we didn't get to bed until 3:30am.

 

Day 636 ~ The Land of PlentyJune 11th, 2012

As if in a twisted nightmare, I was jerked awake to the howl and shudder of a tremendous wind blast.  It was 1:00am, again.   There were curious crashing thuds in the cockpit as the gale struck us from the side.  I stumbled up the companionway steps.  

With our last dragging experience painfully raw, I had the iPad in my hand in a moment.  It clearly showed the track we had left setting our anchor, and the extent of the current-induced swing thereafter.  Of course, the wind wasn't driving us the way the anchor had been set, but instead straight towards a sheetpile wrapped commerical dock at right angles to our previous swing.   With 50 meters of scope down, that's nearly 70+ meters of distance for the boat to build momentum before coming down hard on the anchor which would be forced to roll over and reset.

I watched as if in slow motion as our little dot drifted step by step towards the steel edge.  The city lights of Charleston were obscured by torrents of wind driven rain and spindrift.   Before the dot on the iPad stopped moving, I felt the unmistable jerk of arrested momentum, and our bows turning smartly into the vortex.   Bruce had found his grip.

I sank into the couch.   It didn't look like I'd even have to get wet.   The wind wall passed over in another 3 minutes and left behind it a pathetic 20 knots breeze that slowly clocked through 90 degrees.

But how hard was that first blast?  Here's how you can tell.  Take three average sized potatoes and a large white onion.  Place them in that little notch where the hood of your car meets your windshield.  Nestle them in reasonably well, but don't force or cram anything.   Now get in your car and head for the freeway.   When all three potatoes and the onion lift off your hood and fly off the car, look down at your speedometer and tell me what you see.

That's right.   I don't have a clue how much wind there was, but what I do know is that the first blast of air hit us from the side.   We have a veggie net strung up in the cockpit which had in it three average to large size potatoes and a large white onion.   The wind hit so hard that it lifted all three veggies up and out, and shot them 8 to 10 feet across the cockpit.   It didn't just knock them out as they would have landed on the table or the bench.  No, it ejected them from the veggie net and launched them to the opposite side of the cockpit.

This is preciely why I hate the East Coast in the summer.  It's one squall line after another, night after night.  They never blow in the same direction and we can't set our anchor in anticipation of them; we just have to take them as they come and hope for the best.

Wider awake now, I strip off my clothes and set up our rain catchment system.  Five minutes later the tanks are full.  Since we hadn't moved with that first torrent of air, we were counting sheep 20 minutes later.

Morning came late after an exciting night.  We ate breakfast to use up ham and eggs in case the Customs guys take all our pork products, which has happened.  We then called Border Patrol and arranged to get fuel at the City Marina in order to waive their $5/hr docking fee.  Two agents came in short order but, unlike last year, didn't come aboard. They just asked to see passports, chatted with us a little about Charleston and that was that.

I just can't reconcile this experience with the hyper-security it takes to drive to Vancouver from Seattle.  I mean, this boat is big. I could have had 14 Cubans hidden inside and they would have never known. Insane, but nice not to have to surrender what modest food we had left.

We then motored across the Ashley River channel and find a spot with plenty of swing room.  We had heard some anchoring horror stories so attached our old 42lb CQR to our 30 kilo Bruce for a two in a row set up and dropped in 7 meters of water. There is a ripping tidal current here and we have some 20+ knots of wind coming so wanted to be prepared for more flying potatoes if need be.  We have an interesting mix of neighbors. Some are just masts sticking out of the water, some probably should be sunk, some are in good shape but seemingly unoccupied and a couple are nomadic live-aboards like us.

We leave the dink at the dinghy dock and hoof it 1.4 miles to the Visitors Center. Charleston is a really cool old town so it was a fun walk, in addition to a chance to stretch our legs after being boat-bound far too long. We get there, figure out a few things we'd l like to do then walk to Piggly Wiggly (grocery).

I really like that first culture shock of walking into a superstore right after a decent spell at sea. The girls were bedazzled and Nika just blurted out "the land of plenty!"  It's so true.  I felt like saying, no, the land of excess, but then it's really nice to see strawberries again.

We buy more groceries than we should have and hop one, and then a second, free downtown trolley back toward the marina.  The driver noted the closest stop for us but it turned out to be nearly a half mile away.  Everybody was loaded to the gills with veggies and not exactly light things like real milk (not in a box!).  We were also keeping an eye on the really dark thunderstorm line coming, so I get into hyper mode and start growling at the girls to walk faster, etc. Not my finest hour.

After a quarter mile at a snail's pace it's clear the rain is going to beat us.   I deposit the fam and all the bags under a entrance of some waterfront business building at the closest marina we come to and jog, as well as one can in crocs, to the marina where we left the dinghy.  It's there but sitting on a tidal mud flat high and a gooey 40 meters from the nearest water.  I gingerly put my toe in; the mud is super sticky and instantly covers my croc with the promise of making it to my knee.

By now it's almost 7pm and the place looks deserted. A few mega yachts with lights on but otherwise no live-aboards I can see. The gray wall is approaching fast and the air has that pregnant, still, electric feeling that comes just before the punch. I hightail it back to the family.  Anticipating my imminent dinghy arrival they have moved out to a floating dock whose keypad lock gate was left open.

Then, the rain hits hard and heavy. We grab our bags and dash back under cover. A quick tide check on the phone shows the next high at 1:00am, six incredibly long hours away. We're wet. The flour bag is wet. Broken eggs are oozing out of a carton. The rain is falling in sheets. We have another hour of light and then the mozzies will be out in force.

Normally, we are around other boats we know at least in passing and could call for a dinghy lift.  However, we have been here for a whopping 18 hours and don't know a soul. We don't even know any boat names to call.

"What about that boat we anchored by, the one with the funny name?" Nina asks. "Was it Body-something?"

"Bodyguard!" Nika shouts. Now if we just had a radio.

"I have one," Lisa smiles with that Girl-Scouts-are-always-prepared glitter in her eye.  She had brought a handheld marine VHF radio to Piggly Wiggly.  Why? To talk to the tomatoes?  She didn't know, she just likes to be prepared.

It's now 7:30pm and the rain is still pouring down. Why should a small teal monohull flying a Dutch flag even have their radio on at this time of night?  Taking a deep breath and firing a prayer skyward I keyed the mike and called, "Bodyguard, Bodyguard, this is the sailing vessel Day Dreamer on 1-6," bracing myself for the cold, anonymous silence that alien life hunters know only too well.

Incredibly, beyond all rational hope, a thickly accented male voice responded in seconds. We had a few missed channels but eventually I explained that we were the family on the cat anchored behind them and then about the tide, the dinghy, the kids and the groceries. I left out the mozzies; he already knew about the rain.

"No problem," he said, "we are just sitting down to dinner. I'll come get you, rain or shine, as soon a we are done."

A lot has been written about comradarie among sailors. About how, like the sea which gives birth to it, this invisible bond spans continents and cultures uniting people with little else in common. Normally I don't really go in for that kind of kum-ba-yah mush. At least the idea of a connection in the abstract doesn't hold much allure.

But, when some guy who strains to understand you says he will putter a half mile into the rain and tidal current to pick up a bunch dripping kids and grocery bags it's no longer an idea. The sailing brotherhood becomes tangible and turns out to be pure gold of a color most Wall Street bankers just can't compute.

Sure enough, the light faded, the mosquitoes started to appear and before half an hour was up our handheld crackled to life. "Day Dweamer, Day Dweamer, Bodyguard."  It's the wife, "Mie huzban ees come now to git yoo."

I dashed out into the rain to see figure hunched against the driving rain in a bright red slicker winding his way between the bridge pilings towards the pier.  Let's go girls!

Bags in hand we slither and dribble our way aboard. An 8 foot inflatable is a bit crowded with 6 bodies and 10 bags of vittles but our host is all smiles and friendly chatter.  Five minutes later we are aboard and scrambling to get the groceries out of the rain.  We made it before 1:00am and with only a bite or two from the bugs.

Good thing I yelled at the girls to get them moving.  Blockhead.

 

Day 635 ~ Strawberries, Here We ComeJune 10th, 2012

We ripped right along all night.  With the genny down now, we're much better positioned for any squalls that may come.  There's supposed to be a full moon, but the cloud cover is pretty heavy.  Lisa did the heavy lifting once again, taking the 1:30am to 6am slot.  Getting close to the under sea ledge which defines the edge of the Gulf Stream.  The seas became more and more triangular and confused.   We slopped along, with plenty of bridge deck slams to keep us on our toes.   I finally called it a watch at about 1:30a and, as I was brushing my teeth, a squall hit, adding torrential downpours and 30 knot gusts to the random confused seas.   Lisa bundled up and stood dead center in the cockpit holding on and keeping eyes wide open.  The wind angle was good for us and we flew along and off many elephant shaped swells.  Lisa saw 12.4 knots of speed a few times.   I was exhausted, but trying to get to sleep was like climbing into a washing machine.  The autopilot was like a rock.  Hand steering would have been crazy insane, and very wet.

About 3am we were past the ledge.   The squall passed, the seas evened out and I drifted off into a blissful repast, only to wake up a couple hours later at 5:30am.   Lisa was carrying on, but was happy for the relief, as you can imagine.   This little land girl has turned into a hearty sailor, and nary a complaint is heard.  Wish I could say the same for Yours Truly.

It calmed finally and we had peaceful sail throughout the day hooking several baby mahis.  Lisa finally landed a sizeable Tuny, which we promptly turned into tuna salad sandwiches.  We arrived in Charleston harbor at 8pm and anchored near the entrance in a calm spot.  Only one try to get good anchor set.  Imagine that, a bottom in which anchors actually set.  Go figure.

Some current in the channel but not too bad.  Weather forecast is thundershowers for the next 4 days.  Nice.  We did our duty and called Customs but have to call back in the morning.  Here we have to go to an approved marina or dock to clear in.

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:32.11744
Longitude:-79.82907
06/10/2012 07:17:04 AKDT

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:32.73427
Longitude:-79.83536
06/10/2012 15:08:40 AKDT

 

 

Day 634 ~ Riding the Gulf StreamJune 9th, 2012

Lisa retired about 10pm and relieved me about 1am. The wind had slacked off and thereby reducing us to burning diesel for a couple of hours.  By midnight, however, the breeze had filled in from the northeast and we were able to proceed strictly under sail power again.

Cloudy all day with several good rain dousings. We found the Gulf Stream by mid-day and saw speeds over ground as high as 13.6 knots.  A rougher ride with a confused sea state due to the raging current under us, but making great time so happy.   Decent wind on the starboard beam, so flying with the genny and a reefed main.  Crew lethargic in the motion.  We finally got around to launching a message in a bottle.

About 4pm, a nasty dark squall line loomed ahead.  Lisa was asleep, the girls were listening to stories.  I waited as long as we dared then called "all hands".   Lisa was a trooper and in a few exciting moments we had the genny down and under control.   Two minutes later, the wind shifted 50 degrees and went from 10 knots to 25.   We unrolled the jib, de-powered the main and flew threw a Niagra Falls worth of rainfall, so much that it completely flattened the seas. and reduced visibility to 1/2 mile or less.

Twenty minutes later, we saw the sky brightening ahead and a half hour after that the sun popped out and we sailed into a haze blue sky.

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:28.93567
Longitude:-79.2088
06/09/2012 07:18:05 AKDT

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:30.72779
Longitude:-79.89725
06/09/2012 19:14:09 AKDT

 

Day 633 ~ Goodbye Bad HoldingJune 8th, 2012

I was jerked awake by a wall of squall-driven air that slammed the boat from the North-Northwest, an exact contradiction to predictions and complete opposite orientation in which we set our hooks.  The first blast was incredible, 50 knots if it was 5, that only lasted a minute but it was enough.  Since we had been strung to the length of our rode scope 180 degrees contrary, the boat had plenty of time to build momentum before hitting both anchors.

A thick 100% humidity haze obscured visibilty.  The laptop, which supports our anchor alarm, is completely dead as of two days ago.  The iPad popped right on and pegged our location as less than 100 feet off the beach.   Impossible!

I braced myself  against the wind and stepped outside.   Grand Cay's telephone/radio tower was nowhere near where it should have been and looming far too large.  My flashlight  illuminated a hazy strip of sand behind us, but it was hard to judge distances.   Then a bold of lightning etched reality into drowsy gray matter.  We were dragging both hand-set anchors, and fast.

For an eternal moment I had that fear as my hand darted to the engine ignition.  The one where the copier dies when it senses you really need it most.  The starboard Yanmar fired immediately.  Relief.   I punched it into gear as Lisa prairie dogged up with the grind of the engine.  "We're dragging!" I hollared above the combined dim of the turbo-charger and the howling winds.  

It could have been much worse.  It could have been raining buckets and I could have started tucked into the beach like I used to do.  As it turned out, our 300 yard buffer was just what the doctor ordered, giving me a few precious minutes of drag time before hitting something solid.

Another flash of lightning revealed the beach way too close. We had to move, but threading our way through a rocky channel when it's blowing 35 knot gusts is not prudent.  If our computer was still alive, we could conceivably follow our track in to get back out.  But, no computer.

Nothing like one last hurrah in the islands, Mon.

Lisa drove in a wide circle venturing only as far as we deemed safe, based on the areas I had snorkeled, while I cranked in our two anchors and replaced them with "the Monster," our 78lb Brittney, last wetted during Hurricane Irene in Maine.  On a pitch black night pinned against a lee shore nothing feels so good in your arms as a hunk of steel with two huge teeth that you can barely lift.

While Lisa kept us from the beach, I rigged it to the back of our Bruce, dropped the combo overboard and reeled out tons of scope, 45 meters in 4 meters of water.  Then Lisa backed down hard.   We could feel the 30 kilo Bruce just bouncing along the grass, it's huge jaws jammed with ripped grass strands rendering it nothing more than a blunt object.  Like dragging a bowling ball along the bottom.

Then the scope between the two anchors became taut and our bows snapped around; the Monster had spoken.  Knowing it could well blow hard all night, I insisted on seeing the anchors so we puttered around in the dink.  Try to find a chain and hook in an inky black universe using a pencil sized underwater flashlight beam.  We finally gave it up and I slipped into the black brine.   Sharks, what sharks?  I wasn't thinking about them, at all.   Promise.

It took 2 minutes in the water to find and follow the chain first to Bruce, lying hopelessly on his side in a tangle of grass, and then another 30 feet to the Brittney whose huge jaws were set deeply in the bottom.   He hadn't moved more than the 8" it took for his incisors to bite.

Back aboard, I did a quick lightning-illuminated shower on the back step in a near gale, whipped my goose bumped skin dry and crashed.   I slept like a baby, one who likes monsters.

Dawn broke with a heavy overcast and humid flavor.   Between squalls, I finished some engine work while the rest of the crew tackled other pre-departure tasks. With so much uncharted territory between us and the open sea, I was in no hurry and happy to wait for high tide.

We finally got underway about 11am; muscling our 65 kilos of steel off the bottom took a bit of time.  Lisa expertly threaded our way through the many islands and reefs that edge the North end of the Little Bahama Bank. The wind was light across our beam and we were finally headed north.

We read, played games, the girls listened to stories, caught up in Narnia and otherwise passed a pleasant rest of the day as we slipped along at 5-6 knots in a light westerly breeze.

We ate the last of our vegetables, carrots, for the mid-day meal and substituted canned strawberries acquired in Nassau for the oranges called for in the Orange Cake recipe as our evening snack. The berries tasted bit metallic, but weren't horrible.   Plus, real strawberries are waiting for us in America only a couple days away.

Departure:

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:27.30995
Longitude:-78.36267
06/08/2012 08:28:40 AKDT

DayDreaming Spot
Latitude:27.94649
Longitude:-78.83401
06/08/2012 19:17:06 AKDT

 

Day 632 ~ Taking to the WaterJune 7th, 2012

Today dawned cloudy and sultry, not a puff of wind could be felt.  By 11:00am we all were overheating and the no-see-ums started arriving at the boat even though we are nearly 300 yards off shore.  Thankfully, we have a nice swimming pool right off our back steps.   First me, then Nika, then Nina and Nana and finally Lisa took refuge in a long soak.   The girls demanded a story.

Once cooled and dried, Lisa continued on the steering station project. The snap and lock cushion project of yesterday seems to be holding nicely so Nina and I tackled the other bane to Lisa's existence, the ever slipping end seat where she sits during grammar lessons.

It appears that we likely will have a decent weather window for sailing to the U.S. coast tomorrow or Saturday.  We'll have to do without any fresh produce, but we have a couple cans of fruit and Nana helped by boiling some eggs and cooking up some ground meat in preparation for quick meals on passage.

Later, the wind came and made life a bit cooler but then died again by late afternoon.  The sun flies came out and we headed for the water again. It was so calm that the sea was like a mirror with a dusty green haze we could jump right through.

After a light evening snack, Lisa and I attempted another town trip for wi-fi, but in vain. Neither the iPhone nor the iPad, the only devices still working, would make the connection.  With the lateness of the day and the heavy cloud cover, we ended up returning in the dark.

A quick cell check for weather shows that it looks good to leave tomorrow. Being as though I have several client projects due and a laptop that just stares back with a gray screen, we've decided to go to Charleston, SC, in hopes of finding more replacement options.   Oriental, NC, our original target, is small and quite far from civilization so the likelihood of finding a craigslist laptop within a reasonable drive is close to zero.

Adding insult to injury, the wind shifted to the northeast, the only quadrant for which we have no protection.

Before leaving the Abacos, the condo to sailing vessel transformation will take some effort tomorrow so called it an early night.

 

Day 631 ~ Drenched, AgainJune 6th, 2012

Squall hit first thing this morning, about 1:00am. Rain poured down and I dashed straight into it stripping off my shorts as I ran.   Got the water tanks filled after a few minutes of deluge.  Thunder and lightning surrounds us so the sky seems to constantly rumble.   I deployed the jumper cables on the stanchions before going to bed; clip one end to the steel cable supporting the mast and drop the other overboard.   The old salts say it helps prevent lightening strikes.   Sounds like voodoo science to me, but it can't hurt.  The University of Florida did a big study on lightning hitting sailboats and found that the chances of getting hit in Florida were 6 out of 10,000 per year.   And Florida gets lightning.   So, you think about it, but it doesn't keep you awake at night.

Since the snap project went well, I got inspired again.   We dug out our other sewing machine (got to have two of those aboard!) and discovered that it works fine with our non-sine wave inverter.   Nina and I worked a couple of hours to sew a reinforcement piece onto middle cushion that was capable of holding snaps in order to keep it from constantly sliding out (and, thus, making Mama happy).   Nika pounded snaps; she likes hammering things.

Took the girls to explore the island.  The mozzies got the better of us so we just stuck to the beach where the breeze kept things survivable until another squall hit.   We found some really cool bottles that look like they have been out for a year or more.  We snagged two for sending messages while we are on passages.

Lisa began the process for making covers for our steering stations first by creating patterns out of an old sheet. She worked til the anchorage got so bouncy it was more work to stand and cut than it was to just go to bed.

 

Day 630 ~ Waiting for WeatherJune 5th, 2012

Lessons in the morning.   It looks like we are stuck here for the foreseeable future.   There may be a good wind shift developing in 4-5 days, but that far out the forecast is pretty iffy.   I know, being "stuck" in the tropics where most people spend their vacation sounds pretty rough.  It does get old though; all our friends of have left, it's miserably muggy and no matter how hard we concentrate the winds keep coming from the north.

Somehow, inspiration hit to do a project; perhaps a passing cloud and puffs of wind cooled things down a touch.   Nina and I installed some much needed additional snaps on our 90% window covers.  They have been flapping a bit, and have stretched some.  We moved some of the original snaps and placed 7 new ones so they fit tight and lie flat now.   Ahhhh.

Trying to make a larger afternoon meal so we can have a light snack before bed. Pressure cooked a turkey, potato and carrot meal.   Farm cooking is always happily received.

Headed to town in afternoon to get wi-fi and a few groceries. The only produce in the store was lettuce but it was yellow-green and slimy so we settled for some eggs, cheese, sugar and flour. Our laptop  has been acting up of late so we're not sure how long it will last.  The defunct fan has been causing it to overheat quickly and then freeze.  Now there are times when it doesn't boot back up at all.  Tried to get wi-fi but, though I saw a signal, I couldn't get connectivity so I couldn't take care of my client project or download weather. However, the iPad had the same issue so it's likely not our degenerating computer.  

Back on the boat, the laptop booted and I was able to use the BGAN satellite modem to complete the tasks I couldn't do in town, which will work as long as the laptop comes to life. We also may have a potential weather window on the 9th to cross over to the east coast.

We tried a beach run but, with cloud cover, the no-see-ums, locally termed 'sun flies', were out in force and drove us away minutes later. I then made some biscuits, read some Narnia and we all went to bed.

A squall hit around 1:00am but when I went to monitor our GPS, the computer wouldn't boot up.  We had read that laptops don't like life on the sea.  Could this be the end?

 

Day 629 ~ Yet Another Re-AnchorJune 4th, 2012

Lisa went to double-check some banking tiems on the internet while the girls did math.  The wind shifted to the south and, while we had decent protection, it was getting a bit choppy.  As the boat shifted with the wind, I looked at our depth guage which showed us .70 meters above the bottom and then compared that to the tide (still had .75 meters to drop); we would touch bottom before the tide turned.  Time to move...again.  I really love anchoring, can you tell?

Before taking the big boat and being disappointed, Nika went with me to have a look around the corner to the north.  According to the chart, there are no depth readings and it just shows the whole bay as a blue shallow area (the color from which we're supposed to stay away).  With snorkel gear and a screwdriver for checking the sea floor surface content.  I swam around and discovered it to have plenty of depth for our boat along with decent sand and grass for grabbing the anchor, good density and a flat rock shelf just below the surface.

Got both anchors up and the boat moved.  Sure enough, there was plenty of room and we only had to anchor once, a first for June!  Well, if you don't count the 2nd anchor I set out based on local advice.  The first guy we met ashore told us to "put down two anch'rs, Mon.  It blows here hard from the north many nights."  I placed a 20 kilo Bruce behind the 20 kilo Spade which had penetrated the grass like a knife.

Nika, who has been especially helpful of late, then assisted me in caulking the holes in our boat that have finally been able to dry out in the sun.   Turns out this little silly box has a keen interest in all things mechanical and enjoys helping me work on the boat, provided there's something for her to contribute.   It's a joy having her follow me around with the caulk and paper towels, asking intelligent questions and talking non-stop.

Some locals came by in their day skiff and we chatted.  Land in the Abacos can only be leased for 70 years, not sold.  Some billionaire leased the big island several years ago, has since passed away and now his descendants manage it.  There is a house in the center in front of us and a few smaller cottages souunding it.  Turns out that several Presidents have come here to fish and stayed in the house.  The smaller cottages were built for the Secret Service to keep an eye on all angles of the island.  Always an interesting story.

Life without kid boats is considerably more subdued of late.  We read, we napped and the girls listened to stories to pass the time.  We forgot to make bread early so didn't get lunch til after 3p.  It was too close to the next meal so Nana and I made Orange Cake and called it dinner .  Normally I would cut it into 6 pieces, but this time I did 5 with a little extra whipping cream for each and a side of canned peaches for health's sake.  The girls couldn't stop raving about the generous size.   Nika, the most vocal about it, piped up, " I feel like I'm 21! They're such big pieces!"

Wind's supposed to pipe up to 30 knots tonight from the southwest.   We should be well protected, and with two anchor set, I plan to sleep like a baby.

 

 

Day 628 ~ A Town, Relatively SpeakingJune 3rd, 2012

West winds predicted were not to be.  Most of the night we bounced in a southerly wind and swell.  Didn't sleep all that well.

What's really going on is the tropical summer weather pattern has kicked in which means that local squall and thunderstorm developments control conditions and the super computer geeks in Miami just don't grind the numbers that fine.  The macro pattern might be westerly, but a local system can hang out half the night with winds from the east, or from anywhere.

After brekkie we decide to move.  The anchorage is quite exposed and, even through there is land north of us for the north wind coming, it's still long way off and will likely make for a bouncy night tonight.  We motored though the tight stpot at the south end of Great Sale Cay and then put up the sails.  Had a fantastic sail to windward while headed toward Double Breasted Cay.  However, we then decided to tack our way to Grand Cay where the chart shows a small town where we hope to find some internet and a few fresh items.   Several uncharted shoals are visible to the west and east where the water is nearly snow white, it's so shallow.

Arrived in Little Grand and tried to set the hook just off the narrow channel into town, but the bottom was, once again, light and smushy grass.  Lisa backed up and we dragged instantly.  Went out and around the East side and found a nice protected bay.  First try we dragged, but 2nd time we put Spade out and we held.  It seems the Spade is able to effectively get through the entangled grass matting and find better, deeper stuff below.  So, we're now 3 days into June and already have 8 anchorings under our belt.  Not exactly a recipe for a happy cruiser.  It's clear now why there are so few cruisers north of Green Turtle Cay.

Went into town to find some fresh produce, but Sundays in general and Sundays at 6pm are just not ones to find anything open or stocked.  We asked a local about wifi and he drew a wide circle with his hands just off the boardwalk and said, "here is good."  Chatted with another local, Onas, who's lived here 19 years, with a 7 year hiatus in Minnesota.  He gave lots of fishing tips and was overall just a friendly local.  Nice to have that.

 

Day 627 ~ A Wild DayJune 2nd, 2012

Winds made the bay bouncy by morning.  Even though we only used this place as a pit stop, it was time to move on, the winds were building.  Bruce tucked in a double reef.  I stuck with our single reef.  We reached northeast in building winds under a grey scuttled sky.  Rain lines were visible to the east and south, dark and menacing, but moving away.   Bruce called on the radio, "It's pretty hot out here, Mate, just saw 35 knots" of wind.   A huge blast hit a moment later, "that one was more," he called.

No kidding; my single reef didn't look so conservative anymore.  I let the main sheet out to depower the sail, allowing huge blasts of air to slide over and past it as we were rocketing along in a growing cross swell.  Remi De wasn't gaining much ground and the charts we had were vague at best.   I did what I could to follow his wake.   We were smoking along in the 8-9 knot range when Bruce suddenly spun to windward and dropped his main in one smooth waterfall of canvas.

He came on the radio a minute later, short of breath.  "There's baumies all around here, Mate, keep your eyes peeled".  The chart showed nothing.

I gave us another few minutes and was just starting to prep for the drop when I glanced to starboard and saw a yellowish green rock slide past with tendrils of seaweed trailing all the way to the surface, bobbing in the swell.  YIKES!  We feathered up and dropped our main in an moment.   There's nothing like a stack pack for getting the job done quickly.  We wove our way through numerous uncharted coral heads and finally dropped anchor in 2 and a half meters of water.

Bruce wanted to take the route between Yankee and Big Carters Cays but, due to the presence of so many baumies, they ended up anchoring mid-channel to wait for the incoming tide.  We took the East side of Big Carters and, after passing a patch of coral, we found it to have a flat bottom with nothing more to avoid.  Just as we were anchoring, a squall blew through.  However, expecting a deluge, what with the 30-40 knot wind ramp-up, we only got a light sprinkle as the system went past just south of us.

Our first anchoring attempt, Bruce just dragged across the hard, crusty bottom.  Just 50 meters away, we tried again, this time successfully with Spade.  Getting really sick of rotten north Bahamian anchorages.   In the Exumas, the pure white sand grabs us solid every time, in a moment.   These loamy, Abaco grass bottoms just don't hold well at all.

While waiting, Remi De decided to explore the area by dinghy and came to pick us up to join them.  We wandered around the old US Missile Tracking Station, picking our way through old Air Force dorms and electronics rooms, complete with hanging wires, empty server racks and old kitchen appliances.

While away, the wind made a non-predicted wind shift from NW to NE so now we were again exposed to the fetch.  As Remi De started back up, they decided to leave the Abacos and make their way to Florida.  The East side of Great Sale Cay is a better jumping off point for them, so they altered course and headed there.  Since we didn't have any specific plans, we went along as well only we took the East anchorage for a little better protection.

Nice sunset.  Said our goodbyes via the VHF since we're only a mile apart, as the crow flies.  We could see the shadow of their mast against the setting sun.  Read a couple chapters of Narnia and headed to bed.

 

Day 626 ~ More Rain, More ChainJune 1st, 2012

Juneau-like clouds covered the sky horizon to horizon in the morning.  The laundry, flapping gently on the lines, was almost dry much to Lisa's relief.  We had agreed to meet Remi De for an an 8am hike across the island so it felt like a morning ashore with violin lessons and the like.

We enjoyed a pleasant hour and a half trek, with few bugs and considerable shade.   The Abacos seem to actually have trees, or at least more of them than the Exumas.   As we rounded the beach with the dead turtle we were surprised to find it reduced already to bleached skull and bones.   The head was the size of a salad plate and would have made a cool souvenir if not for the remaining fleshy fragments here and there.   Boats have enough smells already.

Back aboard, we decided it was time to move on.  Bruce had his eye on Pensacola Cay.   We got our anchor up first and the main and genny up, our Remi De-killer combination.  Like the shiftless uncle who always promised to bring a present but never did, the wind wavered and faltered.  As it fronted us, Bruce reeled us in yard by yard.  It took him an hour and a half to make up our 1/2 mile lead.   Not as much fun as beating him, but not a bad showing.

About 10 miles up we lost wind as a squall moved toward us.  The entrance to Pensacola is not well charted and, with the heavy cloud cover, the sea took on a dark oily surface and obscured the bottom so we bailed out and set our hooks against the mainland just north of Coopers Town to sit out the squall.  Another two hours and another 2 inches of rain.  That's right, inches.   In less than an hour the dinghy was over half full of water so we had to pull the plug on it.  Everything is wetter than wet, again.

After the rain, we looked landward to see the dump's fire had been reset.  A column of black smoke was rising and drifting our way.   The wind is predicted to blow it right down on us all night.  Bruce brought Remi over to ride up to the lee of Crab Cay with us and she stayed for a dinner of omelettes and "chippies" (home fries).

Our first anchor drop landed on hard bottom.  We dragged Bruce one way and then another until its claw was completely jammed with grass.  Upped him again, cleaned him off and moved a few hundred yards.    This time he bit.   Nothing like anchoring three times a day.

Later Bruce and Toni came by for a visit.  Then, a couple chapters in Narnia and it was lights out.

 

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