November 2012 ~ New York & Bermuda
Day 784 - 808 ~ Meanwhile in Alaska...November 30th, 2012
The girls and departed DC in the early morning. We had an 8 hour layover in Seattle so worked out a visit and haircut at my sister's house along with a ride there from a long-time friend (we've known each other almost 40 years!). In the car we got to catch up on life. At Denice's we kept busy. She cut 4 heads of hair and colored 2 in amongst the visiting. Shannon had to leave so Denice took us back to the airport 6 hours later. Whirlwind, but nice to be able to see her.
We arrived in Anchorage around 9:30pm to temperatures in the single digits. Mom and Dad picked us and our bags up. Nice to be at the end of our travels, but boy it was cold!
We hit the door running. The girls donned their snowsuits before breakfast the next day to try out their sledding hill. They were very excited to at least have some snow, even though it didn't cover the rocks all the way. It remained near zero for most of November but we had plenty of warm places to hang out, including a car with a heater (i.e Look Ma, no sea spray!). We visited friends, the kids played in the snow, we attended birthday parties and had tea parties. My brother's two girls came to stay overnight and then swapped houses the next night. They all had loads of fun and very little sleep.
Mom's birthday comes November 11th and we celebrated at, you'll never guess, IHOP! Mom's philosophy is if the grandkids are happy, then she is happy. I won't mention how much food went down the hatches, but suffice it to say I don't think Grandma got much over a couple bites from her complimentary Sundae.
Thanksgiving was shared with my brother and his family, my parent's renter, his lady friend and her son. We couldn't fit another person around the table or another pot of food, but had good conversation and fellowship among family and friends.
Day 808 ~ Stuck or Laid Over?November 30th, 2012
Jeff was packing his bags this morning for departure when he remembered to bring Lisa's printer cartridges. Wow, dodged a big bullet with that one.
Steven ran him ashore about 10am and then did a round of laundry, which was generous. I did some cleaning and general preparations for waiting out the weather situation. Mummy, the lady at Yacht Services, suggests we not think of it as being "stuck" in Bermuda, but merely being here on a "layover".
I guess it's all a state of mind.
Day 807 ~ Dithering Away a DayNovember 29th, 2012
This morning the weather forecast has changed entirely again and now it's even worse; a nice set of 40-50 knots right in the middle and headwinds for the last two days. So, glad we didn't leave this morning, although the potential complications of being crewless in a few days is troubling. We are in a nice protected spot here; the anchor is set well (blew hard last night and we didn't budge) so it could be worse.
Spent the day working on the computer at the Yacht Services building, catching up on some projects and watching Jeff nervously work through the implications of missing some key meeting back home. He think he can "finesse" things to fit a schedule that includes sailing another 6 days with us, but I am skeptical. At this point, there is just no decent weather on the horizon.
Our mascot, the Aloe Vera plant is looking really piqued these days. I added some soil, water and pruned it. From the looks of things, the poor thing might not make it.
Day 806 ~ Letdown CityNovember 28th, 2012
We had the scooters for a few hours this morning and had a blast pretending they were Harleys and we were big bad biker dudes. Big bad biker dudes with engines the size of a small chainsaw. They even sounded like chainsaws, but it was fun. They topped out at 70 kilometers per hour, which was probably a good thing. At one point I was coming around a blind corner and there, I kid you not, was a chicken crossing the road. I just about ran the poor guy over. Only a quick flap of the wings and a few lost feathers kept him alive.
There are some beautiful beaches and cliffs on the southeast side of the island off which Jeff theorized would be worth jumping. Right, Jeff.
Ran around getting water, fuel, last minute provisions and working desperately to get a client's website up and working. On top of all that, it rained and blew pretty hard making the water transfer bucket brigade a bouncy and wet experience. By about 8pm it was all looking pretty well in hand. The water tanks had been purged, cleaned and refilled with fresh water from the nearby fuel dock. We had ferried 10 gallons of diesel, I had gotten a hair cut and we had a few more provisions aboard. Ready to sail. If the usual Trade winds would blow as they usually do it would work just fine.
So, we went to dinner and, on a whim, pulled up passageweather just to confirm the forecast we had seen the day before. Well, now it was different, with a huge lull right over the northern Caribbean which would have us running out of wind about 270 miles short. 100 miles might be motorable, but 270 was just too much.
Major let down. Once I realized there was no way we were leaving, I told Jeff so at least he didn't have to be the bad guy. Hey, the weather isn't cooperating, it's not your fault and better to not risk missing that upcoming critical client meeting.
One nice surprise was that it's only 830 miles to St. Maarten, not 900, reducing the trip time by half a day but we still aren't going anywhere. If Steven is game, we will sit here for a few days and see how this dead spot matures. We may be able to leave in 2-3 days and have the Trade winds fill in by the time we get there.
Day 805 ~ Visiting HamiltonNovember 27th, 2012
Once James and Ronan were off to the airport, we decided to use the scooters and see some of the island. The roads are twisty and mostly narrow, but they are well maintained, clean and smooth. Well above normal Caribbean standards.
It was a fun ride. I was little nervous having not driven a bike in years, but it came back pretty quickly. At one point rounding a corner and climbing a hill, I was stunned to see a volley ball rolling down through traffic and towards me. Cars were dodging too and fro. I wasn't sure what the guy across from me was going to do so ended up bouncing over the curb and onto the side walk. No harm, no foul. Good thing they have a helmet law that is rigorously observed and enforced.
Breakthrough on the phone front. I was just about to send it back to the USA with James which would then involve untold mailings, fixes and expenses. Bermuda is totally geared for sailors. There is an entire "sailors only assistance club" kind of thing with bathrooms, an internet lounge, a local phone and a helpful old lady with curly white hair who knows everything about the island. She put me onto a local place that fixes Apple stuff. Guy there said, "Yeah, bring it in."
Long story, but got there about 1pm. He dropped what he was doing and had the phone apart in 30 seconds. After another 30 seconds, he had the problem spotted (water had gotten to the back the power plug) and the part on the shelf. I could have walked out with it right then, but he wanted to charge and test it before it left the shop. So Jeff and I went and found lunch, checked on local cell phone data options and then returned. It was 1/4 charged and working like a champ. All data in place. $95. No sales tax. No income tax here either.
Jeff and I explored Hamilton on foot and did some light provisioning at a local grocery store. Prices aren't as bad as I had anticipated from all the customs duty talk; higher than Alaska, but not terribly so. Took a shower at a local marina. Pretty pathetic water flow but it does feel nice to be clean after nearly 6 days. Had a ton of salt in my hair and didn't really realize it (not like I am brushing or anything).
Late here now, 11pm, and it's all catching up to me. Tomorrow will be crazy as we get ready to depart first thing Thursday. Need water, fuel and a Customs checkout. Weather looks good to leave and excited to get underway again.
Day 804 ~ BermudaNovember 26th, 2012
We are nearing the entrance to Bermuda and have already talked to the Bermuda radio control. We should clear customs here about 5pm Bermuda time (4pm NYC time). James and Ronan will fly out tomorrow at 3pm.
Our motion during the madness was that of a carnival ride, walls of spray, desperate for sleep but so wired you can never drift off. At the worst point I had slept 5 hours in 72. Getting punchy tired, slurred speech, etc. At one point James asked me if there we had any paper cups, I opened my mouth to answer and nothing came out but "ahhhhh" as I stared into the distance. He got a good laugh out of that.
So after the insanity, we had 30+ hours of ideal sailing. Then wind died so we motored this morning from about 9:40am - 11:00am. Then the wind filled in again and we were able to sail all the way right up to the entrance at "Government Cut" or "Town Cut" (man made channel into the inner harbor). We had contacted Bermuda radio ahead of time so they had customs people waiting for us. When I called on the radio, I gave our boat name and said, "I emailed a form about 4 days ago." The operator answered and said, "Standby please."
In 15 seconds she was back, "Yes, I have all your paperwork here and it looks good. Please confirm your registration is Alaska and you are a 47 foot white sloop rigged boat." After that it was just a few details about when to call in next, and that was it. Very professional and courteous.
You have to take your boat to the customs' dock and tie up. I was nervous about it, but the dock was a nice one and very easy approach. There was no wind which made it really easy. Steven jumped off and had us tied up in no time. A lady came out and confirmed who we are (she had a print out of all our details) and that there were 5 people aboard. She said, "Just come into the office as soon as you are ready and we'll get everything taken care of."
Walked in the office and there were five forms all laid out with five open pens sitting next to each form, all neat and tidy.
Other than the immigration form and signing a small customs' form, they fill out all the paper work for you and just ask that you confirm a few details and sign. It did take a while to get it all done, but much, much more pleasant than any other island (other than the French ones which are still the best).
Anyway, we got the paperwork done, and then pushed off the dock in the twilight after sunset, motored out 2 minutes and set the anchor. Backed down on it and it jerked us hard.
We had had perhaps two real meals in 4 and a half days, everything else being just snacks here and there, a couple of scrambled eggs kind of things. Just too much going on. Steven and James really wanted to go out and eat something nice and real so as soon as the hook was down Steven was lowering the dinghy. Took a bit longer than that to get everyone rounded up and going. Town is stunningly picture perfect, SPOTLESSLY clean and manicured. Lights strung everywhere give the streets a soft glow. It's just so perfect, like something from a movie set.
So we wandered around and found a restaurant. Had a nice dinner but I am still too wired to be really hungry, so just had a light pasta dish. James and Steven (the protein fiends) each had a huge slab of prime rib. Jeff went for the scallops. A fun evening with lots of stories, laughter and rehashing our adventure, things we learned, tactics that worked, etc. General consensus is, "wow what a ride, but probably not as dangerous as it seemed at the time." For me, the net result is a huge boost in confidence in our boat. She really shone under pressure, and in the waves, dancing and riding gracefully, never burying her bows, responding quickly and predictably etc. James was very impressed.
So, all's well that ends well. Very tired now, numbly so, and feel it all catching up to me. The anchorage is flat calm and glass smooth. No bugs, only gentle crickets singing in the background. And most importantly, WARM. Not hot, just a nice neutral warm, 64 degrees and 60% humidity.
Need to get James and Ronan off tomorrow a.m., find the apple store, and see about getting some repairs done before we leave for St. Maarten. Preliminary weather reports look like a good window develops in a few days and Jeff is hot to take it so he can get back home to clients and family. One wave blew out 1/3 of the windscreen on the starboard side above the cockpit/salon door. huge wave rode up and over the top of the salon and punched right through the glassine, ripping the right side in half, and ripping through the Velcro straps in the center panel.
When I buried the bow with Sea Pearl on it, I neglected to mention in my first account that it ripped off Sea Pearl's forward most ratchet strap. I looked forward a moment later and saw her sideways, half hanging over the tramp. It was only the painter that Nina has tied to the shroud that kept Sea Pearl from being washed away. Good work, Nina! Jeff steered while I headed forward and attached a new strap which succeeded in keeping her in place for the rest of the madness.
That same wave shredded the hatch fabric cover that goes over the forward storage hatch. I am going to see about having a new one made. Other damage is a broken toilet seat, numerous dishes, the iPhone and probably a few more things yet to be discovered. I think the cell phone might be fixable, and there actually is an Apple Store on the island.
Day 803 ~ Night of the Howling BansheesNovember 25th, 2012
James proves right, hand steering is the only way. The focus and energy required quickly tire the driver into a fatigue that leads to reduced response times and a potentially disastrous error. So, we keep the watch change going. By 5am, every stitch of cotton pants I own is saturated with sea water and I am on my second pair of underwear and third shirt. My foulies are completely sopped inside and out. When the call comes at 4:45am for a changeover, I am snuggled down under double comforters, my toes just starting to regain feeling. But I am up and out in a moment and sliding into soggy, freezing garments, again.
This proved to be the pattern of what we now call the "Night of the Howling Banshee". It was a week-long night, 7 Monday mornings in a row, 2 hours apart, each one greeted with a transition from blessed warmth to freezing clammy. And then suddenly you are ON, desperately keeping the boat in balance, surfing the crests, dancing around their tops and running down waves the size of parking garages, one after another.
But you notice some changes now in yourself. By the 5th cycle, your hands are benefiting from muscle memory and move quickly and confidently of their own accord. Your mind, cleared of the basics, starts to recognize patterns in the waves and anticipates the next needed move before there are any outward clues of what it should be.
You feel yourself being promoted from desperate defender to able competitor to master of the high seas. I see a triangle top coming and instinctively know it will decay before striking, but its follower is a factor. My hands wheel the helm to port in anticipation of this coming crest. It develops right off the starboard stern, lifting the boat effortlessly. But this time I am ready. With a flick of the wrist I wheel the boat around its top and then back over while squaring off the stern for an arrow straight surf ride out the back side. There have been some misses, but I nail this one and enjoy a long, long ride down the giant's watery back.
Boat speed leaps forward, matching the speed of the decaying water wall beneath. But this one keeps going and going. I feel a slight sag and heave as this wave hands us forward to the preceding one as a runner passes a baton. This double whammy gives our speed a new kick as this wave rises under the boat. My fingers are doing the thinking as they make numerous 1/2" helm corrections port and starboard to keep our craft dead centered on the tracks of the outward run. A rush floods my brain as the boat speed goes off the charts. I see foam flashing past in the moonlight at a car-like blur.
A few moments later, James pokes his head out the door, "That was INSANE! I just saw 20.9 knots on the GPS!" (about 24mph). If we had water skis and a death wish, it could have worked.
I am sure the night has lasted forever and a day. Each watch hand-off tentatively reports improved conditions but then is beset with higher winds and growing seas.
About 4am, I awake to a new shriek in the rigging and a headlong rush of acceleration. In the darkness of the room, I am convinced that I am trapped in a barrel that is sliding down an icy mountain. I stumble upstairs in a daze and find James and Steven on edge as the wind meter tops out in the mid-40s. That's "apparent" wind, meaning wind the boat can measure. True wind is the apparent wind + boat speed, which is somewhere between 12-14 knots. The gust passes and settles in at 38 knots for the time being.
Finally, I am called up at 5am and there is a lightness in the sky to the southeast. Heavy cloud cover obscures most of the sunrise, but eventually it's clear that the light is winning. In the dim haze I pick out two huge triangle waves coming our way. I execute the standard crest-dodge-move-turn away, and then arc back under its breaker only to run nearly headlong into this guy's twin. I completely bury the front half of the starboard hull into the breaking melée. The noise is tremendous and several hundred gallons come aboard sloshing over our waists and disappearing through the cockpit floor.
The next moment I look forward and see something amiss. Sea Pearl, our sailing dingy is askew. That last impact ripped her forward ratchet strap off and now she is wobbling around, secured mostly by her painter that is lashed to the shroud fitting. There's nothing to do, but go forward and deal with it.
Being careful to tether in the whole way, I get up on the tramp and see more damage. The portlight cover on the starboard bow is torn to shreds. I quickly run a new ratchet strap over Sea Pearls back and crank it down tightly. It's a surreal place here, forward. There's a trememdous amount of salt in the air and the ions are tickling your brain while the sun sparkles off the wet deck and fittings. Everywhere you look large indigo swells crown with white triangle tops which break with a growling roar. The boat's acceleration down the wave faces give you that carnival ride sensation. It's glorious really, beautiful beyond words. So this is how it feels to space walk, tethered to your ship by a single white line. You feel your full vulnerability as a little speck in a huge, gorgeous and hostile universe. A world that would swallow you without a trace just as soon as look at you. You feel the rise and flow this ocean machine under your knees and know to the core of your sould that she is your only connection to the world of men.
Jeff takes over and steers for nearly and hour and a half while I make some oatmeal and eggs for the starving. At the next watch change, about 8:30a, we sense conditions moderating and believe the autopilot might be able to handle things. We try it, but Steven decides to hand steer for a couple of hours to be on the safe side.
The air is warming, and the wind and seas moderating by the hour. Steven finally punches the Auto button at about 11am and we all get a much needed breather. We sit around shell-shocked and senseless. James finally decrees that he is hungry and happy to cook, but when we look in the galley there's not a square foot of bare floor. It's a spaghetti tangle of kitchen implements, broken dishes, smashed sand dollars and pumpkin goo. James generously offers to clean up but it's not a buck that's easily passed. For a dazed minute I stand there just trying to figure out where to start. "Would you bring me a large garbage bag?" turns out to be the best beginning.
A half hour later and things are mostly put back in order. James whips up some "Sailor's Delight", his dad's passage making concoction of potatoes, mayo, tuna and onions. It's fast, it requires one dish and quickly disappears down the hatches of a hungry crew.
Naps are taken in turns, but sleep proves elusive for me – adrenalin still running hot.
By mid-evening the winds are picture perfect, made to order. We are flying along at 8-11 knots, the boat motion is smooth and gentle. Motivation finally kicks in. Jeff and I clean the starboard pantry area and salon. Jeff vacuums for nearly 30 minutes sucking up handfuls of Bob's Gluten Free Brownie Mix and most of the contents of a crushed box of Baking Soda that had blown its contents over much of the floor.
I found globs of craft paint, now dried to a powdery consistency, saturated books and more. The "highlight" was finding my iPhone at the bottom of a kitchen sink piled high with dishes and leftover drippings. The phone charged for a bit, looked like it was working but now doesn't respond to any kind of coaxing. Ouch.
James announces that he is now "really, really hungry" and heads down to make a large batch of spaghetti with red sauce. After two pounds of beef, two of pasta and the leftovers would fit in large cereal bowl. It's the first actual meal we have had in three days of oatmeal, leftover pumpkin pie and an occasional snack.
We iron out the watch plan for the evening and then head our respective ways. James takes the 9am - 12 midnight watch for starters. He and I debrief on the lessons learned. We boil it down to two keys:
1) Keep boat speed up. Traditional thinking was to slow the boat down and put her in a defensive posture by heaving-to or running out a parachute style sea anchor. But, in the last 10 years there has been a wave of thinking that says it's best to keep moving. We agree. It was our fast forward momentum that gave us the sure-footedness to weave our way among the worst swells and accelerate away from many breakers that would have pooped (broken up and over the back) many slower or stationary boats. Time and again a huge wave would rise, the crest would start to break and we would accelerate down the face leaving the mayhem behind.
2) Prevent fatigue which leads to mistakes. When we were fresh, the intense concentration that steering required was doable, but after hours we both noticed ourselves loosing edge, quickness and clarity. Thankfully we had enough bodies to fully staff two separate watches with one person to steer and one to stand by in case of problems; that at least allowed the driver to rest for an hour or two at a time.
Since I am not coming on until 3am I finish cleaning up the salon and then finally retire.
11/25/2012 10:44:19 AKST
From Saturday 10:16 AKST to Sunday 10:44 AKST, they made about 140 miles.
11/25/2012 23:19:11 AKST
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Day 802 ~ Cold AffrontNovember 24th, 2012
Flying along in 20 knots of wind on the beam.
James called Commander's weather service and they took our position and informed us that the cold front would overtake us in the next hour or two and that it would pack more punch. We could see a line of dark clouds coming but hated to lose the speed the genny was giving us. After some debate, we decided to take her in. We turned downwind and the genny came down smoothly and was soon stuffed back into her "grouper" (the bag).
Not 10 minutes later, about 10am and well ahead of the dark line, the winds kicked up from 10-12 to 20-25 knots and the temperature dropped to Long Island minus. Brrrr. The main was already reefed and so we unfurled the small head sail and started making tracks. Squalls began to develop and at times the wind would peak out in the 28-30 range, but overall the ride was fast and smooth with modest swell.
After several hours, about 1pm, the sea state was still modest and the winds even. Commander's caution of 50+ winds with the cold front seemed completely out of touch, so we decided to keep the main up with a single reef in to keep the boat moving. What do those desk jockeys know anyway? After a slow start, it felt great to be leaving occasional rooster tails. We saw 13.4 knots at one point and were thrilled with the speed.
After tweaking the sails for an hour, the cold was getting to all of us. Without really talking about it, we all migrated into the salon and found comfortable places to nestle in for the ride as the auto pilot wove us, dancing, among the waves.
Twenty minutes later, it struck.
I was typing the blog, at the nav station when some inarticulate change in the environment caught my attention. I looked around and nothing seemed wrong. I looked back at the page, and then heard a rising moan in the rigging. The headsail tried to tack, but its self tacking car went amidships then slammed back into place with a resounding boom. That's not good.
I donned foul weather gear and a harness and headed out to tie on a preventer (line to hold the sail in place). As I clipped in and rounded the corner heading for the foredeck, I sensed a new energy in the wind and waves. Spray was flying off the bows and occasional cross waves were slamming into the bows and throwing spray into swirling vortex.
My fingers fumbled with the knots, the boat pitched down and then a confused cross-swell exploded up and through the tramp. In a white flash I was completely buried in an avalanche of water clawing at my clothing and pushing me down and back. I grabbed the sail car and hung on. It washed over and off in rush and was bathwater warm. I sputtered and realized that finding a solid footing was probably a smart first move.
Two minutes later, with the preventer secured, I made my way back to the cockpit. Now the winds were piping hot, the wind vane reading 36-38 from our starboard aft. Adding the 10 knots of boat speed put the wind in the mid-40s.
The seas quickly began to pile up. We were clearly in the Gulf Stream's raging hot torrent. The current and the cold wind were clearly not on speaking terms and had resorted to physical violence to work out their differences. The river-like currents were piling up the dual wave trains into odd triangles with breaking foamy crests. We launched off one and came down with a tremendous crash, a cabinet door burst open on the port side sending a stack of plates tumbling to the floor. Glass shards crackled into the corners.
And so it began. Two large wave trains were converging under us, one from the southeast that we had seen all day, and a new one from the northwest locked and loaded with steep fresh crests. The helm wheels whipped first left, then right then back again as the autopilot fluxgate compass and linear electric drive worked overtime to keep our heading on track. Like a freight train hitting a car on the tracks, a massive wave broke against our port aft corner with a gut sickening thud knocking our stern sideways like a child's bath toy. The autopilot took a moment to respond. I felt a sickening feeling as we wallowed just before the jib.
With 29 knots of wind on our tail, the mainsail, roughly the size of a generous living room, caught the wind from the opposite direction. After a half second pause, it flipped the 22 foot, 100 lb boom in a whipping arc too fast for the eye to see and slammed against the traveler. The entire boat shook with a tectonic shudder we felt resonate through our heels and into our spines.
James has seen this before on his Atlantic crossing. "We have to hand steer in these conditions," he asserted with authority. "The seas are too confused, the wind is too close to our stern." I punched the autopilot off and rammed the wheel hard over to starboard, trying to turn the stern back against the building pressure of the main. It was a tenacious battle. Slowly, glacially, with the wheel hard over, the stern came around and we jibed again with a thousand pound punch that rattles the boat to its core.
"I'll take the first watch." James offered as he suited up in full foul weather gear. It was 2pm.
Driving a sailboat with the mainsail up going downwind in confused seas with 50 knots of wind is a tricky undertaking. There are contrary and complimenting forces that are working against each other in a complex balancing act. To translate this roughly into everyday life, take a broom handle and two small watermelons. Skewer one watermelon on each side of the broom stick. Strap on a pair of roller skates and head for your neighbor's backyard trampoline. While bouncing on the trampoline in your skates, keep the broom stick balanced in your hands as you are tossed up and down and while your feet try to roll out from under you. The moment either watermelon falls off the stick you put your life, your boat, and your rig at risk.
If you imagine yourself jumping and balancing in the wilderness in a driving rainstorm 350 miles from the nearest hospital, you have a general idea of the equilibrium, the stakes, the focus, the arm strain and the exhaustion incurred during this endless, howling night.
James was able to go for an hour and then suggested we implement a rigid watch schedule of two men on two men off until the winds abate. Jeff and I felt pretty good, so we took the next two hours until about 5pm. The light was beginning to fade as Steve and James suited up and came on deck. The winds and seas were still building. Jeff and I unpacked our bodies from all the gear when a rogue wavelet from the side ran up our starboard and blasted James with a wall of salt spray, the first, of many, firehouse dousings. Despite being dressed in full foul weather gear, he was drenched to the bone when he came off watch at 7pm.
I started steering at 7pm. It was dark now, but a partial moon was peeking around low level clouds as they scuttled overhead in the darkness, like huge silver rimmed marshmallows caught up in a slow motion hurricane. The moon frosted the waves with a buttery icing lending precious shadow and highlight to the roiling swells as they stampeded under our stern.
The waves were more even, organized and building with occasional random cross combinations that would throw the stern over with a weight of conviction to which we could only do our best to correct by gripping the wheel with the tenacity of a farmer grabbing a chicken by the neck. A frozen chicken in this case. The temperature had evened out in the low 50s, but the wind, occasional rain and frequent spray made it feel like we were in a dripping freezer.
We would hear a rush behind us, like a subway train approaching over a track of broken glass. I would look over my shoulder to see a hill of moon glazed water rising behind, stories high. The boat would effortlessly rise and then slide down the studded spines of these giant, waking dinosaurs, their necks twisting away into into the blackness beyond.
Wave after wave, 6 per minute, hour after hour. Slap, correction, over-correction, re-correction; a hearty gust slams the mainsail, twisting the boat away from the authority of the rudders. As I wheel the helm I am intently focused only on the compass heading. My forearms are strained and screaming though a din of rushing water drowns out their plea for mercy. My hands are warmed by spray, then harden and freeze in the winds that follow. In a brief lull I kick off my saturated socks in the hope of a wind dried, warmer future for my toes.
Then there's a funny twist, a sinking and then a surge. I feel a thud and hear the tremendous crash of a fallen chandelier. An explosion of white fills my vision, a glow in the ghostly light. Then it hits. Instinctively I turned my shoulder and ducked just in time for the deluge, but this one is different. While previous waves blasted me with spray, this is a literal wall of water. There's a roar, flash and blur and I am underwater with a ripping current pulling me into the cockpit drains. I hear a muted yell as Jeff, who was sitting beside me, disappears under a white blanket. Instinctively my hands curl around the steel of the helm wheel clawing at something solid to resist these thousand talons of water.
Gravity takes hold drawing the water off and away. Opening my eyes I see that I am waist deep in green water that is rushing downhill towards the port side of the cockpit. We are both tethered in, but Jeff has been washed sideways and into the port helm station, saving himself a nasty knock on the head with a lucky snag of the wheel.
The cockpit drains evacuate the water quickly and in 4 more seconds we are back to "normal" and focused on the maintaining our compass heading.
Then we feel it; not a drip, not even a trickle, but a steady stream of cooling sea water filtering through your multiple collars, forming rivulets down your chest and back and accumulating into a pool of liquid in your pants, where the lowest part of our seated sides are depressing the cushion. Now, in addition to your inner ear telling you of every movement, the little lake in the pants rises, falls and sloshes with each wave. Our own, personal ocean heated by your core's last vestiges of energy. As the wind builds again and the helm is wrenched hard over by yet another tireless wave an uncontrollable shiver takes over the body from stem to stern.
11/24/2012 10:16:14 AKST
11/24/2012 18:21:55 AKST
11/24/2012 21:36:29 AKST
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Day 801 ~ Hydrocarbon windsNovember 23rd, 2012
Rounded Montauk Point about 4:45pm after motoring nearly 6 hours. Winds light and variable. Motored on until about 6pm when wind finally filled in from the northeast enough to make 4+ knots under sail. Winds pickup up some until about 8pm, then tapered off slowly. I went to bed about 9pm with James on watch and was awakened about 12:40a to the sound of grinding winches and a sloppy boat motion that told me weren't moving. GPS read 1.4 knots speed over ground.
Fired up the port engine and started motoring about 1am. Steven and Jeff went to bed and I kept an eye on things. Felt really tired about 5:30am as the sky was starting to lighten, but when I went down to wake someone up I just couldn't bring myself to do it. They were sleeping like babies in the rocking womb.
James got up about 7am and I tried to get some sleep but without much luck. Drifted off for an hour or so, but the grind of the engine and funky motion as we motored over large swells from the port side was just enough to keep me on a slight edge.
We motored the entire day. Somehow we got behind on our start and are sitting in a hole of zero wind. Just 60 miles east of us there is a nice breeze, but it's impossible to get there from here, so we grind on hour after hour. One one hand it's disheartening, but on the other we are making miles south and the motion is fairly easy and comfortable. So, it's not all bad.
Steven and Ronan were up about 8am and we all headed out to the tramp when the sun popped out from behind scattered low clouds at about 10am. The sun was surprisingly warm and pleasant. There was virtually no wind, or about 4 knots of head wind which was our own homegrown breeze. The sea became glassy calm on the surface but undulated unevenly with a couple of converging trains of large, long period swell, some in the 8-10 foot range which we easily powered up and over.
We sunned ourselves like a pack of sea lions on the tramp for hour after hour discussing all things boat and political. Finally, about 1:45p someone mentioned food. I whipped up a batch of spaghetti sauce and pasta which a few ate with enthusiasm while several crew, your truly included, nibbled at best. Working in the galley with the confused motion, gentle as it is, had taken a toll.
Steven headed to bed in prep for a long night watch while Jeff, James and I compared notes on topics of interest. The surface of the water started to show some rippling and a soft breeze came through the cockpit in a few tentative puffs. As the last hints of light faded, we upped the genny head sail again in hopes of capturing some of that long fabled free wind power. The geeks at NOAA say we'll have plenty in the next few days, but when the engine has been running for 13 hours today already one keeps hoping the wind will come sooner rather than later.
Overall motion is pretty easy and comfortable.
The engine ground on and on. I slept about 3 hours last night and none today, so should be really tired. But, motoring and knowing that a large cold front was bearing down on us was enough to keep relaxation on strike. The professional weather forecaster has told us to expect 30-35 steady winds with gusts to 50 at the squall line. The intense winds are for a fairly short period, 12 hours or so, so swell shouldn't have time to build too large. However, knowing it's coming, despite the tranquillity around us, has me on edge.
James and I discuss various tactics. He's excited to be out at sea again and not the least bit concerned, "We had these 40 knot squalls nearly every day we crossed the Atlantic (to Greece); nothing to worry about."
I finally talked myself into laying down about 8:30pm and try and get some sleep. It is noticeably warmer now than even last night, the double blankets and long sleeve shirt soon feel oppressive. But even stripping down, sleep evades me. I am listening to the steady rhythm of the engine, noticing its little knocks and rattles, its vibrations and hum when, as if in a hazy mirage, the tone suddenly changes, growling deeply and slowing noticeably.
I am out of bed like a lightning bolt and stumbling up the stairs in my skivvies. Steven and James are up and one is saying to the other, "I think the engine just changed…" I dash to the controls and ram my thumb onto the kill switch. In 2 seconds, the engine is choked to death and a gentle peace falls over the land. The sails are pulling some and we all take a guess at our speed. James guessed 1.4 knots, I gave a more optimistic 1.9. We were doing 1.4. Ouch.
I have heard this engine bogging thing before and it generally means fuel is low or otherwise unavailable. By my calculations, we should have another 13-15 gallons in the tank. Grabbing the kneepads and a few tools, I drop down into the engine room. Thankfully, the seas are virtually flat calm, so there's not much danger of getting off balance and knocked about. I unscrew the fuel filter cap and see, pleasantly, plenty of fuel. (When the engine is out of fuel it empties the fuel filter in its attempt to stay alive.)
The fuel filter is pretty clogged up, so we drop in a replacement, restart the syphon from the fuel tank and put it all back again. The engine fires immediately and runs smoothly; we are back in business.
At about 8pm we started to feel some more steady breezes and about 9pm felt that the sail would do most of the work. We finally powered off the engine after 30 hours of nearly continuous use. We sailed then gently, and relatively slowly throughout the night. The winds slowly built during the morning hours.
11/23/2012 02:37:39 AKST
11/23/2012 06:00:06 AKST
11/23/2012 10:12:39 AKST
11/23/2012 16:29:31 AKST
11/23/2012 23:17:48 AKST
Day 800 ~ Elvis Has Left the BuildingNovember 22nd, 2012
Date/Time:11/22/2012 06:54:41 AKST
Took better part of an hour to get the monster and spade up. Mud everywhere, but underway at last. The cut was a little dicey at low tide but we cleared it with 10" to spare. After 8 weeks, Elvis has left the building at last. It was the timing of the hook after passing between the sandbars that seemed the trickiest. Wave of relief as we passed the little buoy and the depth dropped off. Of course it was low tide, nearly dead low.
I have a 3.5 member crew for this trip. Jeff and Steven are from Alaska and have crewed for us before. James now lives in New York City, and brought his 9yo son for the ride. We first met him and his family in Martinique while they were cruising on their own boat.
Our first stop will be Bermuda so James can return to work within a reasonable time frame (aiming for Tuesday). We'll continue on to Sint Maarten as long as I still have crew, but that is too far in the future to decide for sure.
Been motoring now since departure. Grinding it out stinks, but it's a gorgeous day with bluebird skies, sunshine and light winds. A perfect day to get started, actually.
Took nearly an hour of wrestling with the Monster to get it up, and then it was gooped over in thick ooze; we weren't going anywhere with that thing down. Jeff probably spent two hours cleaning it, the deck and the lines, etc; really nice of him. The Spade anchor, behind the Monster, held us while we wrestled it aboard. Spade was pretty hard to pop out too even though it's so much smaller. Had Steven cranking on the halyard trying to pull it straight up and still took 10-15 minutes to get it free. At that point, I went back to the helm station and started the process of threading our way out of the cut.
Fortunately Lisa had the foresight to have the iPad's track feature on when we came in and it must have been at a fairly high resolution because the path had lots of detail. It was easy navigating between the spits of land, but then it got harder to see the right channel. Using the old path on the iPad was just the ticket. It was a wonderful feeling to watch the depth sounder numbers start to go up as I saw 1.2m at one stage, then 1.4. Whew.
James made some eggs about noon for a snack. As we rounded Gardiner island the first real swell was felt. Twenty minutes later Jeff, James and Ronan are all napping.
11/22/2012 12:14:42 AKST
Cut the engine. Light wind 4-5 knots. Chicken leg and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner.
Can just see a low strip of lights from Long Island. Down to 2 bars of cell coverage and about 10-15 miles offshore so made one last call to Lisa and the girls before we're cut off.
Day 799 ~ Everything ChangesNovember 21st, 2012
I opened the laptop today expecting more of the same wicked weather. It took a few cycles of the Passage Weather animation for it to finally sink in. I think there is a nice opening developing. I text James immediately as I know he has already made Thanksgiving plans. He shoots right back, "I just ordered a turkey!"
But, of course, sailing takes precedence over things like holiday traditions. He orders a weather forecast from Commanders and they agree, tomorrow early departure should be good. Nice to know they agreed with my take on things.
Steven and I downed a quick breaky and headed to the boat to put the headsail on and get the wind instruments re-installed. The breeze was building as we worked, but after the usual finagling, the headsail was on. Steven cranked me up the mast where, with freezing fumbling fingers, I managed to get everything re-installed. If feels great to have a working wind meter again.
The view from the top of the mast was fantastic. I studied the cut out of Northwest Creek at length. The tricky part seems to be the turn after the exit. You can clearly see the bottom on both sides and there's no clear route to an exit. The cut itself is dark and deep.
Using the extra muscle, we got the remaining old four house batteries off loaded and dropped off at an auto parts place for recycling. Back to the house in time for Posey's dinner and nightly rituals.
Day 798 ~ Prepping Just in CaseNovember 20th, 2012
Busy day here. Put 10 gallons of diesel in the port tank from the jerry jugs, then gathered our stuff and headed ashore in time to let Posey out at 9am. I worked in Joseph's office for a few hours, then we did a quick lunch and headed out to fill jerries and the dinghy gas tank. Did that and then some grocery and other miscellaneous shopping.
Back at home I worked some more, did dinner and now getting tired. No good weather window in the foreseeable future. Discouraging.
Day 797 ~ Chilling AboardNovember 19th, 2012
Steven and I stayed up late talking last night and got a late start this morning.
Did some computer work then headed over to help Joseph stacking his boats. I ended up cooking lunch for the gang as Marina was out with Aluna doing girl stuff. We soaked in the warm house for a few hours and I tested the BGAN sat modem. It worked fine after paying the usual pennance of having to restart it twice and figgle and wiggle.
Once the girls were back home we marshalled our forces and headed back out to the 48 degree boat. I am pretty much used to it, but it's a to Steven's climate controlled acclimated frame. Made Sloppy Joes at the boat for dinner, Steven's idea. Came out pretty well, actually, having never made them before.
Did a little more computer work this evening before heading to bed. Weather windows have slammed shut for now, so facing the reality that I might not get an opening while I have crew available. Not a nice thought. Winds are perfect for a sail to the Chesapeake starting tomorrow. Tempting just to get out of this one place, but not much advantage to being there.
Day 796 ~ Steven ArrivesNovember 18th, 2012
Did church in the morning with the Yacoe's. Steven called to say he was headed into LaGuardia this afternoon. So spent most of the late afternoon finding him ground transport from LaGuardia to East Hampton (ended up doing the Hampton Jitney bus to East Hampton).
Found him in East Hampton right on time. While we were getting in the dingy the tide was exceptionally low and I though I caught a flash of red on the bottom. Sure enough, it was my favorite Bosch LED light that had flipped out of my pocket while starting the dingy. Using a paddle I was able to recover it by pulling it up against the sea wall. It doesn't look too promising after a week long soak in salt water.
Day 795 ~ Toro Delivers, AgainNovember 17th, 2012
So our starboard windlass mounting platform has always been a little flimsy for my liking. Plenty strong I am sure, but I have always though it should be strengthened.
I searched the net for a stainless steel angle bracket that would fit properly, and be strong enough to make a real difference. Zero.
I had dropped off a cardboard template about a week ago, so decided to swing by the shop and see how things were coming. He had it done. It was perfect. I figured it would cost $100 or so. Nope, $20, cash, no papers. There was nothing to do but smile and say thank you.
I stopped by the hardware store and found some stainless bolts, nuts and washers that should fit just right. Spent the afternoon mounting it and must say it fit like a glove and came together nicely.
Beautiful evening on the water. Why would anyone want to leave?
Day 794 ~ Chilling RealityNovember 16th, 2012
Peaceful day aboard. Not too cold. Wrapped up a bunch of details for clients that have been put off this week. Got the blog updated, etc. Might take tomorrow off. I've about had it with the computer after this last week. Jeff and Steven have tickets. Weather looks questionable.
I am avoiding facing the reality that even with crew on hand, there might be no place to go. The thought of being frozen in here all winter is too scary to contemplate. I am afraid it might cloud my judgment when it comes time to decide go - no go.
Descended to new culinary low today in search of warmth. Heated milk, chocolate chips, Skippy and rice crispies. Sounded better than it tasted, but the calories were needed.
Day 793 ~ Grinder, GrowlerNovember 15th, 2012
Crazy work day. Up and working about 8am and finally paddling back to the boat over a flat calm mirror under the haziest of star lights. New York's incandescent glow defines the western horizon. Back at the boat the temperature was 44, but it felt nice and comfy. Guess the body is acclimatizing. Just think of the energy savings when we move back ashore. No heating bills until December!
As the patterns have been in the past, two small meals keep me going. A peanut butter covered English Muffin mid-morning and a roast beef sandwich at 4pm. My pants are having a hard time staying on. I think Homo sapiens once were hibernators. The genetic know-how is still down there, we just rarely experience circumstances in the modern world where it can raise its sleepy head.
Day 792 ~ Chill at the LaptopNovember 14th, 2012
The pattern emerging is: stay on the boat a day, go ashore the next day. There's something about 36 hours without heat that just gets a guy motivated to head ashore. The day after, I sit on the boat under a blanket cradling a warm pressure cooker between my ankles. When you have a sweeping 360 degree water view, loons coasting by, you think, "it's pretty nice out here, why would I leave?"
Looks like Jeff and Steven are headed this way. There's something heartening about having crew committed to coming. Movement, sailing, is possible. This is a lot of boat to handle by oneself and, although it's possible, it's intimidating.
Day 791 ~ Attack of the Box JellyNovember 13th, 2012
With a combination of back-breaking contortions and good old fashion sweat, I managed to finish the house bank battery installation this morning. All told, 1,008 lbs of batteries moved in and out of cramped spaces. Granted, the access on this boat is 3 times better than on our previous boat, a Fountaine Pajot.
Sore arms and back. Then, in a fit of good cruiser practice I ripped the starboard steering rocker arm out. The on on the port side had been stiff for a long time, but the starboard looked fine; looks are deceiving. As soon as I had the steering arms off I found it was very stiff and impossible to articulate by hand. This means the autopilot has been working much harder than it should just due to friction. Really glad I got bit by the 'rip it out' bug as fixing this could add years to our autopilot electric linear drive (robot arm).
Dropped the rocker off at Toro. At first he thought there was a problem and I was returning the original to him with a complaint, but a second later he figured it out. Nice to know that he knows exactly what do do this time.
Went to the post office to mail a package. Got in line and remembered I had forgotten to lock the car. Set the package on the counter to "hold my place" and dashed out. Locked the car, came back and was stunned to see my box, a converted Costco Gold Fish box, bright orange and very recognizable, coming out on top of a lady's stack of mail.
I was taken aback and, without thinking, reached for it and gently relieved the thief of it, lifting it softly from the top of her pile. "I think you have my box…," I said with an edge of conviction, my mind swirling with the possibility that somehow, among all the random chance of the universe, she had received her own package done out of a hacked up Pepperidge Farms Goldfish box that was taped up exactly like the one I had just set down. It was million to one and quickly dismissed.
She looked at me with the a queer half smile, "Well I thought someone had left it there by mistake...." I now had the package in my hands and just kept on walking in with a plastic, polite smile on my face.
So someone left the box there by mistake and you were just going to take it home with you to be nice to them? Really! I mean, what value could be in a Goldfish box anyway? No wait, it was packed with gems and gold nuggets. In fact, it was a box of sea shells I was sending home to the girls.
Long Island is a strange and twisted place. Greed is like the air you breath here, permeating everything.
Day 790 ~ Cranking BatteryNovember 12th, 2012
Stayed on the boat all day. Replaced the first half of the house battery bank this morning, but didn't feel up to finishing the job today. Had a couple of minor snafus, but managed to fabricate a new connector to get it all put back together. Otherwise, just another overcast chilly day spent cranking out client work, which will, hopefully, keep us afloat next season.
Day 789 ~ Sunday, SundayNovember 11th, 2012
Going to try and not work today. After an insane week of marathon driving and coding, the thought of just doing nothing, or virtually nothing, sounds pretty good.
Joined the gang at The Shack for church. Dan was in rare form after a week off. The sun peeked out mid-day and the wind filled in from the south a bit. So far, we haven't had a south wind since we re-anchored, so wasn't sure how we were going to sit. Looks okay.
About 7pm the wind piped up to about 30 knots and I felt the boat move back some and then jerk. Evidently we had just been lying on our chain in the mud for most of the day. Still good clearance to the shore to the north of us, so all's well. Have to detach and untangle or untwist the nylon rode going to the Monster as we have spun around it. Don't want the chain and nylon rode tangled.
Day 788 ~ Another work dayNovember 10th, 2012
A whole ton to talk about today. Other than the fact that I am still breathing, there's not much to say. Worked all day on the computer.
Day 787 ~ Andy the Metal ManNovember 9th, 2012
There's a little sign above a ratty wooden door tucked in the corner of a parking lot in Sag Harbor. The hand painted sign is the size of a dinner plate and simply reads, "Toro," in black lettering.
Of course, you think Toro means "Toro", like the brand of lawn mowers and yard appliances. But, you would be mistaken. Toro, in this case, means "Andy Toro" and he's a legend, it turns out. Everyone to whom I mention him says, "oh, yeah, Andy's the best!" His shop is loosely organized at best. When I first walked in I was taken aback at the sheer scale of the clutter.
Andy suffers from some form of speech difficulty, whether it be English as a second language it's hard to say. When he called to tell me my part was ready, I thought someone from Brazil had called the wrong number.
Andy may not be first in line for your vote, but he's the master when it comes to metals. Boat parts, and French boat parts in particular, tend not to use standard parts for feature easy solutions. But, when I showed up today to retrieve my steering rocker arm I could tell he had cracked the nut with no whining. It had been brushed clean and I could see it was judiciously lubricated with lithium grease. It no longer was tight, no slop or play, and silky smooth.
Andy described in broken term his struggle to get the thing open. He showed me a custom punch he had fabricated to force the old bushing out. He showed me a broken pair of clamps making it clear, by a jumble of mumbles and gestures, that it had been a close run thing, but when I spun the fixed part in my hand smoothly and smiled, he smiled back beaming. Yes, see, he had prevailed.
Oh, and the charge? $80 cash, no paperwork. The bills went straight into his pocket, the way they ought to. If I had a boat yard do it, it would have cost $400 and they probably would have either broken something or whined about it the entire time.
Day 786 ~ More WindNovember 8th, 2012
It snowed last night and, despite all the super computer models, the wind continues to howl. Large gusts rocking the house pulled me from dreamland several times throughout the night. I was up with the first light and, after putting on multiple layers, headed to the wharf to check things out.
The boat was sitting right where it should be, solid as a rock. Took freezing fingers several minutes to get the dinghy mooring untangled and the engine started. This outboard does not like cold weather, like someone else in our family.
Finally got going and aboard. Both water gauges were pegged on full +, but thankfully there was no overflow. I did the dishes and scrubbed decks and back steps after filling all our jerries and shower jugs. You have to drink deeply when the rain finally does come.
I have to admit that a hard core sailor, as I like to think of myself, really likes to be tucked into a warm cozy house while it's driving sleet outside.
Worked all morning shopping for miscellaneous boat stuff that would be smart to order now, before we head offshore. A belt for the auto pilot drive and a replacement chair were on the agenda. How hard can it be to find a director's chair? Well, if you want one that won't fall apart in a few months of salt air, turns out it's not so easy.
Ground through reams of computer work all afternoon, then enjoyed dinner with the Yacoe family and some friends they invited over. Checked on the boat just before dark, she's still right where she should be.
Day 785 ~ Another BlasterNovember 7th, 2012
Growing up in Alaska I guess you just take cold in stride, but tonight it was just a bit much. I would doze for, perhaps half an hour, then wake up shivering and just couldn't stop. The trick, it turns out, is to heat a large heavy pot on the stove, then slip that into the foot of the bed. Curl your stocking feet around it, then cover drill under a pile of blankets and cap it all off with several layers of beach towel over your head. After that, things went much better.
Woke up about 6am to an increased howl in the rigging. By 8am we had gusts in the 40s. By 10am they were in the 50s. After Sandy, it feels fairly mild, but since we are on anchor now instead of a huge mooring, it seems smart to sit out the first few hours and be sure all 4 anchors are holding. That's right, I have the entire arsenal out, except one smaller Bruce. Thirty kilos of Bruce, 35 of Brittany, 20 CQR and 20 Spade for total of 110 kilos of steel on the bottom. Really, that ought to do it.
The proof is in the pudding. By 1pm we had several blasts that felt Sandy light, 60 knots or so, and the boat was lying quietly and firmly, the GPS showing zero movement.
Choked down a quick, warm oatmeal brekkie and decided that spending the night ashore in a warm dry house would have its advantages. Thought it all through, though, and brought all the computer gear, several changes of clothes and a nice pile of food stuffs. Don't want to have to dinghy back for that forgotten something.
The wind gets funneled under the bridge deck. As soon as the dinghy touched down, it was engulfed in wavelets and flying spray. I got in and got her unclipped as fast as possible, but still ended up with soaked pants. Loaded all the bags, then wrestled with the outboard for what seemed like an eternity. She's been starting pretty well actually, until the temperature falls to the 30s.
Finally got ashore and moored on Joseph's dinghy mooring, then walked inland. It's always amazing how much shelter there is among the trees compared to out on the open water. Protection, but you aren't going to sail far in the forest. Joseph welcomed me into the house with a firm handshake. The house was warm with a fire crackling. Wow, land does have advantages.
Day 784 ~ Marathon Drive, Chilly NightNovember 6th, 2012
Dropped the girls off at the airport at 6am. We hung out and ate our Costco muffins and yogurt with plastic forks sitting in plastic seats in an airport that felt abandoned. The airline agent said that many people canceled their business trips after Sandy hit. I guess that makes sense, but the upside for us is no security line.
After parting at TSA, I walked back out the Departures door. The glass slides open noiselessly and the shuttle and the shuttle driver were waiting as if frozen in time right were we left him an hour ago. It was a quick ride back to an empty hotel room with a few scattered remnants of yesterday's crazy fun. A pizza crust here, a grape in the sink. I gathered our remaining things and made two trips to the BlueCube. It's a cool, breezy, sunny day. A great day for a drive. I turned the key in the ignition. Click-buzz-click. Nothing. Joseph had mentioned that the van had a electrical gremlin that sometimes drained the battery. I guess of all the times for it not to start, this was the best. No planes to catch, no hotel to return to in the dead of night with two kids in the back freezing.
I found the jumper cables and flagged down a passing guest who had just checked out. Fifteen seconds later and the BlueCube fired to life.
Turns out the golf cart batteries we need for the boat's house bank aren't stocked at most Costco stores. Only the ones near large golfing areas stock them and at only at certain times of year. Go figure. So, Charleston, SC, had them and the closest Costco to D.C. with more than three in stock is located in Harrisonburg, VA, and hour and a half drive in the wrong direction. Nice.
The morning drive went well. I wrestled the batteries into the van, and took the old ones out for the core charge return. I then hit the road again. It was 1:30pm when I started and the iPhone showed 480 miles to go. Ouch. The hours blurred by. In the back of my mind I knew I would need gas and I passed dozens, scores, probably hundreds of trucker-type stops with huge gas price signs. My boat crew called; Jeff and Steven are coming, a big relief.
Now it's dark, 6pm or so. The tank is at 1/4. I see a sign welcoming me to New Jersey, the land of gas rationing; how did I forget already? Pulled off and stopped at the first station I saw. The line wasn't too bad, only 8-10 cars deep. Then I saw the big flashing sign. "Rationing in effect, even numbered license plates only on even numbered days" Today was the 6th, and my plate was odd. In a daze, I pulled out of line and grabbed a bite to eat, trying to figure out how bad my predicament really was. I could just nap in the van until midnight, but the temperature was dropping fast.
I decide to just try and be bold and go for it, maybe claim ignorance with our all lettered plate. I went back to the station and was surprised to see the line gone. I swooped in and quickly got my cap off and the pump in the hole. Then I heard someone yelling at me. Argh.
Turns out they were out of gas. "I'll get another delivery at 11pm," the attendant offered.
"Is there any place else that has gas?" I asked, not expecting any meaningful reply.
"Yeah, I think Bob still has some" he countered, "left at the first light, second right." He hadn't said anything about my plates.
Left at the first light, second right, I repeated to myself as I twisted through dim, crowded New Jersey neighborhoods. I can't see how people can live packed in like this. I guess you get used to anything. It seemed like the best course was the bold bluff. Just go for the gas and see what happens.
Out of the darkness emanated a glow, a gas station, a Raceway, to be precise. There were a lot of cars, but also a lot of pumps. I pulled in, waited 20 seconds and the guy ahead of me pulled out. The second time around I was even faster. Cap off, pump in, card swiped. I figured if I could get even 5 gallons I could make it home. Three minutes later, no one had said a thing and the gas was still flowing. Relief.
Back on the freeway, it's dark everywhere as power is still out in many areas. Signs indicated that I-95 was closed so had to detour over the Verrazano Bridge. By now, it's nearly 9pm and traffic isn't too bad. I whisk along darkened roads listing to NPR's election night reporting. Too early to tell much, actually, but it's not going to be a landslide one way or the other.
I finally slip onto Swamp Road about 10:30pm. Joseph called yesterday to say their electricity was finally back on. The boat is right where it should be. It's actually not terribly cold, 43. I leave most of the grocery items in the back of the van with natural refrigeration tonight. The boat is pretty chilly, and quiet as a tomb. Welcome home.
Day 783 ~ Rondy with Yindee PlusNovember 5th, 2012
The girls don't know the parents have been plotting.
We got the girls up and going in decent time and enjoyed a brekkie of muffins, fruit and yogurt. Nika is just reveling in the hotel lifestyle. The disposable cups, the ice bin, the free towels, the little table and chairs. Going to miss that girl.
We finally got out the door and in the van about 10:30a. Parking in downtown D.C. is insane. We finally found a place for a few minutes and got everyone dropped off. I returned the van to our free parking under the hotel and took the subway back to the city center. I found the gang at the Air and Space Museum. There were attractions left and right; I could have spent several days there, but instead had more fun catching up with Chris about all things boats and cruising the Potomac River.
We shared a lunch in the sunshine of the museum veranda then headed to the Natural History Museum. Bugs, gems and bones galore!
After a brief visit and some dinner on Yindee Plus, we took the boys for a swim at the hotel pool. Just like old times. Capped off the evening with a large Costco pizza snack which was promptly devoured by the masses.
Then the sad, indefinite farewell; a few tears were sighted.
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Day 782 ~ Cross Country in the Blue CubeNovember 4th, 2012
With a full tank of gas, we were all set to go. Lisa was mostly packed already, so we were to the van and loaded by 9:30a (well, with the end of Daylight Savings Time passing unnoticed, we thought it was 10:30a). If there was ever day that needed an extra hour, this was it.
The drive went well. Lisa called out directions as we weaved our way through the maze of old tunnels and bridges which make up New York City. We emerged on the New Jersey Turnpike and really started to move. Gas stations we passed had huge lines. We were down to 1/2 a tank or so but each station we saw had fewer and fewer cars in line as we continued south.
We finally found no line on the exit ramp in order to make a potty stop and then zipped into an open pump at the nearby station to top off the tank. Ahhhh.
The rest of the drive went well and we checked into the hotel just after dark, about 7pm. The girls did their usual bed bouncing and then long, hot showers.The Costco chicken was devoured hip and thigh.
Day 781 ~ Goodbye DinnerNovember 3rd, 2012
Packing from the morning into the afternoon. Having dragged our anchor last night and not achieved good placement in the blowing darkness of the night, we set out to re-anchor properly. However, we finally got it to stick on the third try. Concerned about our gas situation, Lisa called around only to find no gas in the immediate area. Joseph called the marina where Lisa dropped us off yesterday and happened to catch the owner, whom he knows. The owner agreed to stay for a half hour so we could get gas. I left with jerries and a wad of cash, since green was the preferred payment method when offering to be a nice guy on a day off.
I zipped in just as he was closing and he graciously allowed me to fill jerries and the Blue Cube's tank; $150 smackers at the boat rate of $5.27 per gallon. All you can do is smile; the alternative is fumes.
Kids to play in late afternoon, good-bye dinner with Yacoes and Loos families. Seems like we have lived here for years.
Day 780 ~ Cold PrepNovember 2nd, 2012
Cold, cold, cold. 52 degrees, but windy and cloudy. The day never really warmed up.
Marina's brother needs the mooring ball and we needed to retrieve both our anchors from Sandy prep so we moved a bit and plopped them back in. Stiff breeze blowing sent Lisa into shivers. The Yacoes invited us to breakfast and we cheerfully obliged. They are still without power, but the wood stove was burning brightly enough to thaw us completely.
Not sure when we're going to get to DC. Rumor has it there is no more gas on Long Island. However, when calling the nearby station, they were limiting customers to $40 and had 10 people waiting in line at the time. Lisa dropped Joseph and I off at Jeremy's trimaran up at Three Mile Harbor and went back to go wait in line. However, when she arrived, only the employees remained; they ran out. "The truck will call us when it's on its way; maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow. Sorry."
Returned to the boat before dark so Lisa could begin the packing process. She really hates packing and it stresses her out to only have begun the process so close to departure.
Wind picked up in the evening. The turn toward the north will bring even lower temperatures.
Day 779 ~ Library EncampmentNovember 1st, 2012
Cold, 48 degrees but sun was out and took the edge off.
You probably haven't noticed, but most public libraries are equipped with central heating. We have noticed. Lisa dropped me off at the Bridgehampton Library and left for some homeschool kid things at the Natural History Museum. When she got back to the library no one really felt like zipping right back to the boat. Go figure.
Took food to Yacoe's to cook in the warmth and snagged a warm shower while we were there. Ahhh, that feels incredible.