Monthly Archives: October 2013

In Beaufort NC, Halloween and the end of leg two.

It’s Thursday morning, the sun is just peaking over the horizon and it’s Halloween. Speaking of Halloween, it seems a bit odd to me, as it did last year, to be aboard for a holiday that is largely ignored by the sailing community.  In years gone by, this holiday was a big deal for us and our boys.  Now, hardly a ripple.  Times change.

However, for some it seems, dressing up in costume is a big part of their lives and Halloween is just one more excuse to head into overdrive and really dress up.  I heard that after Christmas, Halloween is the second most “decorated” holiday. I believe it.  One particular group that I expect falls into that category of “decorated” for Halloween are the folks that live aboard a pint size “pirate ship” here in the harbor.  Celebrating pirates is very popular with all sorts of festivals, dressing up as swashbucklers (the friendly type) doesn’t become less important as they age.  

In any event, here’s a shot of Beaufort’s own pirate family lair.  And, believe it or not, I think it’s a live-aboard pirate ship.  No part time pirating for these swabbies. They even have a lookout on board.  No, make that an ex-lookout.It will be interesting to see what other sorts of “seasonally adjusted” evil doers we will encounter today.

On our run to Oriental the other day, we shared the channel with a barge and tow. We tend to think of the ICW as being for pleasure boats, but other than in the Dismal Swamp, there is plenty of commercial traffic.  As they say, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”.  Brenda didn’t want to steer as we s-l-o-w-l-y. passed this tug and tow.  Pretty big. There are more sailboats than power on the ICW and you very occasionally see a beautiful classic.  I expect that the guy on the bow is not a lowly crew member. He certainly looks the part of “owner”. Speaking of classics, this was one of two Chesapeake oyster buy boats that passed us.  Very pretty.  Shrimping is big business here in the warm shallow inland waters of the bay and the shrimp boats are in abundance.  I find it hard to believe that they can get a decent buck for their catch when competing with the farm raised variety from Asia, even if they taste better.  We have seen shrimp boats in various ports. How about a sunrise over the fleet in Oriental?Sometimes, if you ask nicely, you can buy seafood from a commercial boat. I Approached the owner of this one, the Lady Bella, and was able to buy a few pounds of shrimp, head and all yesterday morning.  He said that he normally only sells a minimum of 25lbs.  Too much.  Reminds me of buying a “peck” of oysters in Elizabeth City last fall.  I only wanted a dozen.  A peck?  That’s a lot of oysters. We ate the shrimp last night.  Very good.  However, I think it took more time to “head” them and peel the shell, than it took to eat dinner.  Isn’t that always the way for good cooking?It was fun to watch them unload the catch.  After being taken out of the hold they are cleaned on a conveyor belt.  After cleaning they are put in bags, boxes and plastic bins to be sent off to market. A really BIG bag of shrimp.  Big… Shrimp… Seems like a contradiction in terms.  Hmm…Big or shrimpy, that’s a lot of shrimp.  Getting my two pounds, which turned into about two plus pounds, cost me $10.  A lot of shrimp for the price.  Of course, with heads on, there was a lot of waste but still a bargain.  Brenda didn’t like looking at them with their heads on.  Looked to much like a “living thing”.  “Are you sure the are dead?”  

Speaking of shrimp boats, how about these two rafted together, Redemption and Forgiven.  I expect that the know each other.   “Forgiven calling Redemption. This is Forgiven looking for Redemption”.   They found each other, Praise The Lord!  Yesterday we headed from Oriental NC for the 20 mile run to Beaufort.  Speaking of Oriental, as I logged into my site to begin this post, I realized that I had not published my last post.  Not sure how that happened as I though I had but it was still in draft form.  Alas, two posts in the same day.  Not really, the unpublished work of Pandora… The lost post… Not exactly.

In coming here from Oriental yesterday, it was flat calm, just like it’s been for some time.  However, Chris Parker, the weather router we use, says that’s all about to change when a cold front comes through later in the week.  The big question is just how windy it’s going to be over the weekend when I head out, with crew, to make the run to Florida, the final leg of this current delivery trip south to stage Pandora for our winter in the Bahamas.

Leg one, the run from Essex to Annapolis, earlier this month, went without incident as did the run, with Brenda, from Annapolis to here.  That’s of course, if you forget some of the “technical” issues with the engine.  And no, I still have not called the yard in Deep River that bungled the work on the engine to talk about some sort of adjustment to my bill for pain and suffering.  I am not particularly looking forward to such an “awkward” discussion.   Perhaps today.

Beaufort is one of our favorite stops on the ICW as the down-town area is very pretty with some shopping on Main Street along with scenic homes on the nearby streets.  Shopping for provisions isn’t particularly easy as the supermarket is more than a mile outside of town.  On top of that, it’s pretty clear that my starting battery is kaput and not holding a charge overnight, so a visit to West Marine or another marine supply spot is probably in order.  I’ll have to get that done prior to the arrival of my crew on Friday night.

Regarding our departure from Beaufort, that depends on when the front comes through, bringing with it brisk northerly winds, something that we will need if we are going to make a fast run south.  And, another question is just how “brisk” the winds will be and how long they will last prior to shifting back to a more southerly direction.  I am happy with “strong” winds, a relative term, when they are from aft but am not thrilled with the thought of strong winds and seas if we are beating into them.  I should be able to learn more from Chris Parker in the next few days.

One of the downsides of using crew for a run like this, is that they inevitably have schedules and have to be home by a particular date.  And, having a deadline makes for problems as you might find yourself heading out when it’s not a particularly good idea, or worse.  It is often said that the most dangerous piece of equipment on a boat is a calendar.  Needing to be somewhere by a particular date can cause all sorts of problems.   Oh well, perhaps we will get lucky and get symmetry between calendar and schedules.

Well, crew is arriving on Friday night, late and we will have to see how things develop.  Here’s hoping that like today, our trip south to Florida will be more treat than trick.

Happy Halloween!




On to Oriental and 41 years to the day…

It’s Tuesday morning, the sun is out and it’s a beautiful (WARM) day here on the Pungo River.  I have to say that Pungo sounds like some sort of a character from a Dr. Seuse book.  I like it.  “Watch out!  Quick, find cover, there’s a Pungo on the loose!!!” I digress.

We are under power and on our way from Belhaven, where we spent last evening anchored off of the town,  to Oriental NC, a run of about 40 miles.  There is barely a ripple on the water and we are in the company of quite a few other boats, perhaps a  dozen, who likely have the same plans for the day. There aren’t many towns of any size in this part of North Carolina and what land there is is only a few feet above sea level.  When Brenda and I went for a walk yesterday, one of the locals pointed out a spot on a tree by the water where his father had marked the highest point that water had reached during Katrina, one of the many hurricanes that had hit this coast over the years.  Believe me, the mark was plenty high, perhaps 5 feet above ground and the ground was perhaps an additional 5 feet above the normal water level.

In the NE we are used to having tides that run in the 8’ range while here there is virtually no tide.  The only time that the water level changes is in response to wind.  When the winds blow hard from the north, the water is pushed out of the bay.  When it’s from the south it piles up.  Otherwise, there isn’t any appreciable change in depth.  The actual depth of the bay here is only around ten feet so a rise, or drop, of just two or three feet is a big deal and will flood many areas.   And, believe me, when the weather folks say “beware of flooding in low lying areas”, this is the place that they are referring to.

The biggest hill in these parts is measured in tens of feet, or less and often a lot less. Well, this is a very pretty area with stately homes lining the water.  This one, in particular, caught our eye.   We saw another very nice home on the same street that was for sale.  I looked it up and for a less than $500,000, you could have a lovely southern plantation home overlooking the water.   Looking for something more modest?  There are plenty of waterfront homes around that could be yours for about $200,000 and probably less.  The only problem, what to do for a living.  Detail…

Yesterday was a big day for me and Brenda as it was 41 years ago yesterday that we went on our first date.  I’d like to say that that momentous occasion was a spectacular and unique bit of planning on my part but I’d be lying.  While the date is certain, October 28, 1972, what we did together on that date isn’t quite so clear.  We think that it was the day that we went for a walk in a local nature preserve in Weston CT called Devil’s Den.   We do remember that it was a rainy day when we went for that walk and recall that it took me several hours go summon up the nerve to say something lame like “I like you.  Do you like me?”  I’d like to say that it was more than that, but what do you expect from someone who had only been 17 years old for a few months.  How pathetic.

Well, I guess Brenda didn’t consider me totally pathetic as here we are, 41 years later, still hanging out together.    Fingers crossed she won’t wise up.  Time will tell.

In the interest of completely honest reporting, both Brenda and I were unaware that yesterday was October 28th, , although this is a day that we mark each year, and it wasn’t until we received a text from her sister Sheryl congratulating us on another milestone, that we were brought up to speed on what day it was.  Yes, we knew that it was a Monday but the date itself, not a clue.  Such is cruising where every day blends together, like the landscape.

I am sure that you are now on the edge of your seat wondering what we did to celebrate such an important event.  We went out to dinner, although that might not be exactly the first thought that came into your head.  However, I’ll just have to leave you guessing on that score.

Anyway, we went out for a nice dinner in what is likely the prettiest dining spot in Belhaven NC, the Spoon River Artworks and Market.  An odd name, but fun, never the less.   I guess an eclectic name for a place that is eclectic.  Form, or at least name, following function. I highly recommend it, the food was terrific and decor even better.  I have to say that to happen upon such an interesting restaurant in a “non metro” spot was a real treat.  How about this shot of the dining room?  Pretty unique.  I have never seen paper lanterns in such profusion outside of China Town.   Of particular interest was the wine room/store adjacent to the dining room where patrons could pick out a bottle of wine to have with dinner.  They had a great selection and it was fun pursuing the shelves to pick one.  Much more fun than looking at a list on a menu.

Earlier in the day we also visited an impressive hardware store, that sold hardware, as you’d imagine, along with an eclectic mix of other items, including wine (if you can believe it) and even a nice selection of purses, on sale.  So, for 25% off and about twice the price of a quart of lamp oil, I know as that bit of esoteria as that’s what I purchased, Brenda got a very nice new purse.   A fine fashion accessory crafted of the hide of a royal Nauga.

In case you are wondering where the hide of a Nauga comes from, we learned compliments of Google and Wickipedia, that Nauga originally came from Naugatuck CT, near where I grew up.  Who knew?  The farm must have been huge as there are plenty of Nauga Hides around.  So, how big is a Nauga anyway?

Isn’t it just  amazing what sort of information you can find if you have your “smart phone” handy.  Who would have ever thought that a phone could be “smart”.  Yet another wonder.

Oh yeah, there was a nice sunset too. Well, we had a great dinner…

Today, on to Oriental.  More to come and it’s still a beautiful day.

Warmer weather as we continue toward Beaufort. That’s good!!!

Yesterday we moved from Elizabeth City to the Alligator River, our destination for the day.

I am happy to report that the work that the mechanic Dave did on Pandora’s engine the other day seems to have worked out perfectly.  No dripping of fuel or oil.  A big improvement, that’s for sure.   I plan to have a discussion with the yard that worked on Pandora this summer.  I can’t really say that I am particularly looking forward to the discussion as it is likely to be plenty awkward.  Wish me luck.

I can’t really describe the depth of frustration I have felt along with a burning anxiety of what would happen if the leaks suddenly got worse.   As the fuel leak was getting worse each day, I am confident that it was only a matter of time until we were really stuck.  That would have not been fun.  I can’t even imagine what Brenda’s reaction would have been.  Not good, I am sure.

Anyway, we spent the day motoring along on very flat seas and settled in at an anchorage just outside the Alligator/Pungo canal.

For the last two days we have been traveling with our friend Dick and friend Denise aboard Willoway a 40’ Freedom.  We were thrilled to run into them in Elizabeth City and enjoyed hanging out with them for the last two days.

Another great thing about visiting Elizabeth City is that the town offers free dockage which I happily took advantage of.  Staying at the marina where Pandora’s engine was worked on was fine for one night but we really wanted to be part of the action for the second night, along the waterfront.  This photo shows just how pretty the spot we were tied up to was.  Most of the boats were tied up bow or stern too a bit farther down the way but tying up alongside was much easier for us in the breeze that popped up when we arrived on Saturday. One of the best things about cruising are the impromptu events that spring up when boats meet along the ICW.   Elizabeth City is known for their Rose Buddies but unfortunately, they don’t throw parties for visiting cruisers on weekends. 

However, that didn’t stop us from having a party as I just passed the word on Saturday afternoon that everyone should meet for cocktails under a tent on the waterfront.  Word got around and at 5:00 everyone showed up with drinks and food to share.  It was great fun and, once again, we had the opportunity to reacquaint with old friends.  I’d guess that there were about 30 in attendance and everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves, me too.

Fortunately, the weather has moderated and it’s now getting warmer during the day and evenings.  That’s not to say that we don’t miss our heater but at least you can’t see your breath in the cabin in the morning.  That assumes that you don’t think low 50s is too cold.  Burrrr…

So, last night we will tucked into a little cove on the Alligator river and hang out with Dick and Denise.   We got together for dinner and it was nice to catch up and share the sunset with them.  In the spirit of the moment and to celebrate heading south I blew my my conch shell as the sun set behind the cypress swamp.

Yes, we are getting closer to “south”.  Tonight we visit a nice little town, Belhaven.  We haven’t been there before so we are looking forward to checking things out.

The Dismal Swamp, Elizabeth City and our new “Boat Buddy” Dave.

Yesterday we made our way from the Visitor’s Center in the Dismal Swamp Canal to Elizabeth City where we are now.  We left the Visitor’s Center dock at 7:15.  It was pretty chilly with a low mist on the water.Along the way, we motored through some of the most magnificent scenery you will find anywhere on the ICW.  This is where we first saw Bald Cypress, the sort of tree that grows in the swamps. They have the distinctive “knees” roots that stick up around the base of the trees.  I guess that means we are now really in the south.  The view was spectacular.

Our trip through the two locks at either end of the canal were uneventful.  The very pleasant lock tender Robert, was as helpful as always.   We entered the first lock, the Deep Creek lock, to begin our 8′ lift into the canal.  The gate was closed and the water rushed in. Here we are “all risen” and ready to go. It seems that it is part of human nature to measure.  This list in the canal tells visitors how far they are from nearly everywhere.  Only 1,087 miles to go to Miami!
Brenda did a great job in handling Pandora in the locks.  Perhaps it was the flowers.
As we came through the lift bridge into Elizabeth City we were treated to a display of perhaps the greatest “big boy toy” I have ever seen.  A massive crane that was dropping this huge metal thing into the water, over and over again.  It seems that they are crushing an old bridge foundation.   Here’s the crane preparing for a “drop”.  And, the drop…  I want to do that… I’d probably wet myself as I pushed the button to let her rip. OK, enough about yesterday, so it’s now Saturday morning.  I have to think about that for a moment as the days do run together, and all is well on Pandora.  The sun is up and we are on a dock which means that it’s warm in the cabin. Unfortunately, the diesel heater has been on the fritz for much of our trip from Annapolis.  It seems that the “overheat sensor” failed and that means that it thinks that it’s too hot to run.  Ha!!!  NOT.  It’s frigging cold actually.  Anyway, we were warm last night as we tied up to a dock and plugged in our little electric heater. 

While the last few days have been pretty chilly, in the 40s at night, with last night dipping into the 30s, the next week promises to rise to meteoric highs of 50s at night and 70s during the day.  No, that’s not too hot by “southern standards”, but it’s warm enough to get by without a real heater and unplugged from a dock.

Spending time on docks isn’t something that we do often as the cost can really add up at docks where fees often run as much as $3-$4 a foot per night.  However, the dock we are on here in Elizabeth City run $35 per night for any size boat that can fit and that includes electric.  Low dock prices are the norm here as the town let’s visitors stop at the town dock for FREE for two nights, and they throw in a cocktail party, again for free.   “Stop at Elizabeth City on our free dock and we’ll buy you a beer, or two.”  In exchange they will give you a sales pitch on why you should spend some money in town while you are here.  It’s hard to compete with FREE so the local dock prices are pretty low.

Along with the free beer and wine at the town docks each night, each lady aboard is presented with a rose from the town garden.  The nice folks who present the roses, mostly retired men, are real southern gentlemen are thus nicknamed the “rose buddies”.   You can read about our first experience with Elizabeth City in this post from last year when we came through town.

That’s all great but the thing that has made our visit to EC this year all the more remarkable is the gentleman that visited us yesterday to work on Pandora’s engine.

You may recall that I had lots of work done on Pandora’s engine over the summer up in Deep River CT.  I had this work done as the engine had 3,500 hundred hours on the clock and had not been really worked over since we purchased the boat seven years ago.  With this in mind I gave them the charge to take apart, check and replace whatever they recommended so that she was fit for another long run to the Bahamas and back.   If you have been following this blog, the results were not as good as I had hoped.

Over the last few weeks aboard the engine developed leaks of nearly every sort of fluid an engine can leak.  “So, Bob, tell us what sorts of fluids an engine can leak?” Thanks for asking.  The engine started leaking salt water from the intake water hose on the new raw water pump.   That was the easy one as it was a loose hose clamp on the hose.  “Easy” is a relative term as had it slipped off, and it was plenty loose, water would have been rushing into the bilge at an alarming rate.  It’s a 1 1/2″ hose.  Luckily, I caught it before it slipped off entirely.

Second, an I have to number them as the list is long.  Second, the new oil pressure sensing switch was leaking oil.  Not a lot, but enough to make a mess in the pan under the engine.  That was new since the engine was worked on too.

Third, the fuel lift pump, was leaking.  This pump delivers the fuel to the high pressure pump.  It has a cover plate with six or so screws.  Apparently, several of these were loose and fuel was leaking from around the seal.  Annoying and messy but not a huge leak.

Fourth, and this was a big one, it seems that the high pressure hoses from the fuel pump had not been properly seated when they were put back on after the injectors were checked and replaced.  These metal hoses carry fuel from the injector pump to the four injectors to run the engine.  In a diesel engine fuel is delivered to the cylinders at something like 2,500 pounds per square inch.  That’s a lot of pressure and if the fittings are not put in place perfectly, the fuel leaks out.

Well, after leaving Essex I began to notice that there was a small amount of fuel finding it’s way into the pan under the engine.  Not a lot but after running for 30 hours getting to Annapolis, the leaks began to get worse.  I noticed the accumulating fuel but there wasn’t much.  However, that changed by the time we made our way down to Hampton as it was now a lot of fuel, perhaps a cup after a few hours of motoring.  I was told by the mechanic, Dave, yesterday that these sort of injector leaks tend to get worse each time the engine heats up and runs.  If the compression fittings are not set properly, they leak more and more each time they heat and cool.

I guess he was right as the leaks had gotten pretty bad and as the fuel ran down the side of the engine I could see it smoking a bit.  I tried to tighten things along the way myself but wasn’t able to do anything to help improve things.   So, two days ago, as we were making our way from Hampton through the Dismal Swamp, I made a reservation at a marina in Elizabeth City to have the engine worked on.

Enter “Dave the Mechanic” who dropped everything to come and work on Pandora.  He spent over five hours tracking down the leaks, all of which seem so straight forward now, but believe me, finding them was not a simple feat.  Diesel fuel is very viscous and as it runs down the engine, tracking where it came from is very difficult as it wicks everywhere on it’s way down to the bilge.   Anyway, after many false starts and restarts, we finally identified the “leaks” and there were a number of them.

I won’t belabor the point “Sorry Bob, too late”, but after 5 1/2 hours we did a final check by running the engine and checking and rechecking for new fuel leaks, and were fairly confident that they were all resolved.  I sure hope so as I am so tired of dealing with the anxiety of leaks getting worse and worse and the fear of loosing the use of the engine.

As the day was progressing and Dave ran out to get more tools and to the auto parts store for oil pressure switches and the like, I was getting anxious on what this whole deal was going to cost.  Remember that I paid the marina in Deep River plenty over the summer and now I was paying someone else to redo their work.

So when Dave finished up at nearly 6pm I took a deep breath and asked him how much I owed him.   He seemed to think about this for a long time.   Long enough for me to fear what the number was going to be.  Finally, after an interminable pause, he said “Make that $40.”  My reaction was to say “are you kidding, you were here all afternoon”.  His answer… “You saved me from working on my own boat and I just felt like being a good Samaritan today.  You can pay me $40, including the cost of the oil pressure switch.  That will be fair.”

My jaw dropped.  And Brenda who was sitting in the cabin with us just stopped knitting and probably dropped a stitch, or two. I questioned him on this a number of times and his story didn’t change.  I didn’t know what do to and as I reached for my wallet I was thinking “$40 for more than 5 hours of work.  What’s that per hour?”

So, I got my wallet, pulled out two 20s and then another two.  I approached Dave and said “Ok, here’s your $40 and I’d like to give you another $40 as a tip.  That’s what I would really like to do as you put in a lot of time and $40 just isn’t enough. Ok?”  He accepted the $40 and reluctantly agreed that he’d split the difference with me and took an additional $20.  I couldn’t believe it.  I also asked if I could buy him a case of beer to which he replied, “I haven’t had a drink in 25 years”.   I was out of ideas on how to make this right.

So, it seems that Dave, like the guys who give roses to each women who comes to Elizabeth City by boat, is also a “buddy”, no make that a “motor buddy”.  Hard to believe that such hospitality exists anywhere these days and it’s alive and well here in Elizabeth City, NC.

Epilogue:  Brenda and I had a glass of wine after Dave left to consider what had happened (we have indeed had a drink, or two, in the last 25 years) we decided to go to the waterfront restaurant near the marina and who should we see sitting at a table having a nice steak but our “boat buddy” Dave.  AHA!  A chance to get even!!!

I pulled our waitress aside and told her that Brenda an I were buying Dave’s dinner.

Here’s a photo of Dave and our very nice waitress Jennifer, a recent transplant from New Orleans.  It seems that Dave is a regular here.All and all, an amazing day.

But wait, there’s more…

We were boarded by the coastguard too earlier in the day and happily we passed. Not with flying colors but we passed.  It seems that I didn’t have the most current Coast Guard documentation documents for Pandora on board.  I don’t know how that happened as I recall renewing it.  Anyway, they let me off with a warning because I was “cooperative”.

Here come the Coasties.Perhaps Dave let us off too because we were “cooperative”.  I’ll never know.

Moving down the ICW, really soon.

It’s Wednesday morning and we are sitting on a dock in Hampton VA.  It’s raining but the forecast calls for clearing later today.   Hope so.

Over the weekend we enjoyed a visit, here in Hampton, with other boaters at the first Cruiser’s rendezvous which attracted some 40-50 boats.  The local planning crew put on quite a show with great seminars and terrific sponsored (free) meals and even some free drinks thrown in for good measure.  Anyone planning to head down the ICW in the fall should add Hampton to their itinerary.  It’s a great place to visit an well worth the stop.

One of the presenters during the day of seminars was Mark Doyle.  He and his wife Diana, long time ICW cruisers, have a series of guides that detail their favorite anchorages along the 1,000+ miles on the ICW between Hampton and Florida.  The “On The Water ChartGuides” are a must for anyone taking the inside route.   As Mark was presenting, I was struck by how different he looked than most of the folks I have seen standing in front of PowerPoint slides over the yeas.  In my “old life” the dress code was a bit less casual.  Mark and the others, including me, at the seminar were dressed in “T” shirts and shorts which Mark rounded off with Crock sandals.  Not your usual corporate meeting presentation wardrobe.  I am just so happy to be in the “crock world” now.  After the meetings, we rented a car and traveled north to CT for a funeral for my late uncle Dick. Dick and his family were a big part of my younger years and it was very nice to participate in such an important event.  It was also wonderful to see many of my relatives and old friends, some of whom I have not seen for years. All and all, it made me and Brenda feel good to make the trip.  It was exhausting, as we drive about 1,000 miles, round trip, in two days.  We didn’t actually leave CT until around 6:30pm on Monday evening after the reception and finally stopped in a hotel to sleep around 3:30 on Tuesday morning.  I had hoped to make it all the way back to Pandora but ran out of steam before we made it back.  Besides, the idea of making up the bed (we had stripped the bed to do laundry while we were away) and climbing into bed as the sun came up wasn’t too appealing.   Yikes, I was pooped. Yesterday we were pretty worn out and weren’t very productive.  I am definitely getting too old to stay up that late, or early, depending on how you look at it. 

Last evening we had cocktails with some old friends and made some new ones aboard Pandora.  In particular, we ran into Pete and Stephanie from Brilliant, who we ran into last fall on our run south.  Pete and Stephanie began cruising in the Med, crossed over to the Caribbean and have cruised up and down the east coast over the last few years.

We hung around with them for a while last fall and in particular, they were the ones who rescued us when we fouled our prop with a plastic tarp in Savannah.  It was nice to run into them again.  It seems that they are planning to spend the winter in the Bahamas too so we will probably see them along the way.  I hope so.

We also had two couples aboard who were staying in the marina where we are and talked about the trip south as it the first time for both of them.  We enjoyed telling them about what to expect along the way.

I continue to marvel on how often we are running into folks that we know and look forward to seeing other friends as we move along.

Today we will be leaving Hampton in the late morning to begin working our way down toward the Deep Creek Lock where we will enter the Dismal Swamp.   The “official” beginning of the ICW is mile marker “0” and is located in Norfolk off of Hospital Point, where we were anchored for a few nights last week.

We are not planning to try and make it all the way to the lock today as there is a nice little anchorage just before the lock.   This suggests that we will make the 8:00 opening on Thursday morning.  After that we will mosey along the first 18 miles of the canal to the visitor’s center.  No point in rushing.  Besides, there is a small dock, just after the lock, where we can stop and visit a supermarket that is a short walk from the dock.  We never want to give up an opportunity to provision with fresh food when we can.

Not much to post in the way of photos so perhaps a shot of Pandora sitting on the dock is about the best I can do for now.  Pretty neat to have her stern too on the dock as getting on and off is a cinch.  Don’t ask me how it went backing her into the slip though.  Not a pretty picture.  Glad that it wasn’t in front of a big audience. Oh well, that’s what rub rails are for.I guess I had better sign off for now.   The day’s a wasting…


Pandora in Hampton VA for the Cruiser’s Rendezvous

On Friday we did a bit of backtracking from Norfolk where we had spent a few days to Hampton for the much anticipated Hampton Cruiser’s Weekend.  Several locals, some involved with SSCA, a group that Brenda and I are members of, are putting on a terrific event to attract cruisers headed south for the winter.  The goal is to encourage folks headed south for the winter to visit Hampton.  It seems that many boats just keep going when they enter the Newport News area and pass right by Hampton.

I am very impressed with what the planning folks did to make this first event a success with discounted dock space at only $.75 a foot per night and, believe it or not, sponsored cocktail parties and even meals compliments of local merchants and town government.  Wow!

Friday night’s opening reception, included free drinks, two per person and free food, if you can believe it, I learned that there were some 40 boats signed up for the event.  Pretty amazing for a first year.

In planning our rendezvous in Essex last June, I can’t say that I had even a thought of going to the local government and asking for funds to encourage folks to visit. Actually, I don’t expect that would work very well as Essex isn’t particularly focused on bringing in outsiders and seems pretty happy with the tourists that stop there already.   Besides, I am not sure that I have quite enough energy to pull something off that’s so elaborate with everything else I have on my plate.  Besides, as they say “I’d rather be sailing”.

All I want is for folks to visit a nice spot on LI Sound, Essex, and enjoy the company of other cruisers.  Having said that, folks on the SSCA board would like our event to grow so adding more activities to our weekend in June probably needs to happen.  I guess I’ll work on that while I am home over the holidays.  Perhaps I need to put an alarm in my phone calendar to prompt me out of cruiser’s mode when I return from Florida in early November.  Yeah, a loud piercing ring on my phone with a note saying “Bob, think about the SSCA Gam in June!” would get me in the mood and snap me into action.   Perhaps.

Our stay in Hampton will be extended as we plan on leaving Pandora for a few days while we head back north by car for the funeral of my late uncle, my father’s brother, who passed away after a long illness.   Brenda and I really want to be there so we have rented a car and will leave Sunday for the 10 hour drive to CT and back.  The service is on Monday so we expect to be back to Pandora on Tuesday.  With luck, we will be able to continue our voyage on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.   We will have to make a stop at our home in Essex first as we don’t have anything but jeans and casual clothes aboard.  Super casual is fine for someone who’s in cruiser’s mode, but not so good for a funeral.  

Perhaps I will have a few hours to clear the yard of leaves while I am home.   Now, that would be fun.  NOT!!!  Have I mentioned that we have a LARGE yard?  What ever happened to “downsizing”?  I guess we missed the memo.

In the time we were anchored in Norfolk we saw one massive ship after another pass us by.  The harbor is teeming night and day with ships arriving and departing at all hours.   Ironically, the largest ship we saw while we were there, in spite of the huge naval presence, was a cruise ship.  It’s hard to describe just how big these babies are and to see them dock without the aid of tugs, using their bow and stern thrusters, is a sight to behold.  As if moving one of these behemoths onto a dock in the wind and in very tight quarters isn’t enough, they do it in the dark.  It’s sort of like watching someone dock an office building, no make that two or three office buildings stacked on top of each other.  These ships move from port to port at night so that the passengers can enjoy the sights of the various ports during the day. Makes sense but certainly must keep the crew busy.

I have been trying to find a way to illustrate just how big these ships are and as we left the anchorage yesterday, I had my answer.   This cruise ship was moored along side of the WWII era battleship Wisconsin, on the left, now a museum ship in Norfolk.  Just see how downright diminutive the cruise ship makes a battle ship look?  When it was built in the 50s, it was one of the largest ships in the Navy.  How times have changed.  I guess it takes a lot of room to house, and FEED, all those passengers.  Big ships for big passengers.  “I think I’ll visit the buffet again honey…”

Speaking of navy, we visited the museum “Nauticus” while we were in town and were very impressed.  The museum includes interactive exhibits about the history of the area, an IMAX theater and the WWII battleship.  And, the ship is very well maintained.   In spite of the fact that today’s ships pack far more firepower, the Wisconsin is still quite a sight.   Her guns could lob 16″ shells, that weigh as much as a VW, for miles.  Later in her career she was outfitted with cruise missiles and fired quite a few in the Desert Storm conflict.  She had a very long commissioned life from the early 40s until the 90s.   To stand on her forward deck and look at the huge guns was awe inspiring. A lot of grey paint, something like 350,000 lbs of it, we were told.

The Navy has some big ships too, including the aircraft carriers.  These troop carriers probably can house even more passengers than a cruise ship but I am guessing with a lot less comfort.  “Wait, where’s my balcony?”While we were in Norfolk we also went to a movie in a great old time dinner theater.   We were sitting in our cockpit having an evening cocktail and a couple from a nearby boat stopped by and invited us to join them to go to a movie.  The theater was a spectacular old time building but with a very modern projection and sound system.  The Commodore Theater interior was classic Art Deco and each patron was seated in a plush swivel chair.  What a great time.  Here’s the two happy couples as photographed by a very enthusiastic theater owner.  While this photo doesn’t begin to do justice to the room, you can get a feel for how it looked.  Each table had it’s own light that was dimmed from a a common control panel and there was a phone on each table to place your order.  Very nice indeed.  The Commodore will certainly be on our “must do” itinerary for next year. Almost forgot.   The movie was Captain Phillips and it was particularly interesting to see a movie about the hijacking of a container ship as there are loads of them in the harbor.  

Each year there is a late season schooner race from Annapolis down the bay.  It’s a big deal and the regatta concludes in Norfolk.  While we were headed back to Hampton we passed a number of them along the way.  The Pride of Baltimore II is a particular favorite.  Oh yeah, I should also mention that my foul weather gear was waiting for me at the Hampton visitor’s center, compliments of our son Rob as planned.   I also became the proud owner of a “smart voltage regulator” from Hamilton Ferris that I was able to successfully install.  I have to say that, as simple as it was to install, It took me several hours to pull out the old unit and strip out unneeded wires from the old system.  I also needed a bit of hand holding from “Ham” himself, the owner of the Hamilton Ferris company (Ham owns Hamilton? Get it?  Pretty clever.), to be sure that I wasn’t screwing things up.  He patiently walked me through the process.   It took some time to get it installed and to check and recheck that I had done it right, it’s now working swimmingly.  

Pandora’s batteries will once again thank me now that the engine can charge things up smartly as we motor along.  When you need your next piece of electronic equipment, especially if you are looking for something with blinking red lights, I heartily endorse Hamilton Ferris .  I have purchased items from them off and on over the years and was impressed to see how much they have grown since I placed my last order.  It seems that they are now big into alternative energy for homes too.  I guess that they have taken advantage of the increased interest in alternative energy.

As I finish this post on Sunday morning we are headed up to CT and are right now on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel.  (No, I am not blogging and driving. Not a good idea. Brenda is driving) Don’t you just love mobile computing?

We had just a terrific time at the rendezvous and both Brenda and I were just amazed with the number of folks we met that we had seen in the Bahamas last winter and had seen us.  Some we already knew and some we met over the weekend.   It was sort of like an aquatic college reunion of the Bahamas School of Hard Knocks.

It’s hard to believe that I will be in Florida in a few weeks.

Downtown Norfolk, and Pandora in the heart of it all.

It’s Thursday morning and the sun is not quite up yet.  Well, it’s coming up now that I am finishing up on editing this post.  So, how about the sunrise over the city? We are anchored in downtown Norfolk, just across the river from a mass of office buildings and a mall.  On the other shore, close to us, there is a large city hospital and huge ships are coming and going constantly.  Interestingly, as the ships, some over 1,ooo feet long, pass by they leave barely a ripple as they are going so slowly, usually accompanied by the ever so attentive tugs.  Did I say that I just love tugs?  If you haven’t heard that you need to read more of my posts.  I love tugs. 

This huge, 1,050’container ship (I know that because of AIS) came into the harbor just as we did.  I did my best to stay out of his way.   Anything this big can’t be “her”.  This is an alarming angle to see such a big ship from.This fishing boat gave way too and steamed right by us.It’s hard to believe that there was a time when this fort was the major defense for the city.   It’s funny to think that the officer’s quarters were outside of the walls of the fort.  I guess when the enemy approached they would sound the alarm and say “quick, run away, behind the walls, quick”.   What a guy will do for a view.  Hard to see the water from behind an earthen wall.  Today’s navy could level this with in a single shot.  That’s progress, I think…As we entered the harbor yesterday evening we decided to head down here bypassing Hampton for a few days.  Unfortunately, I underestimated the distance that we would be backtracking as we still plan on going back to Hampton for the cruiser’s weekend and to pick up a few items that we have ordered.   I guess we will catch the tide on Friday and head back up the harbor, TEN MILES, that’s a few hours at Pandora speed, to Hampton.   However, it will be fun to be there.  We also have a few friends coming down from Williamsburg to visit us while we are there.  Another plus for Hampton.

Remember the neglected foul weather gear and sandals that we left, by accident, with our son Rob in Baltimore?  The’ll be in Hampton so going there is a must. Ditto for the new voltage regulator I ordered for the engine as the charging system is acting up.  So much for the work done at the marina in Deep River.  They didn’t pick up on that problem even though the mechanic spent 3.5 hours messing with it.  Hopefully, the supplier, Hamilton Ferris, is right and the problem is a regulator one and not something bigger.  The guy I spoke with on the phone seemed pretty confident about his diagnosis.  And, he recommended a “smart regulator” with all sorts of flashing lights and glowing numbers.  That just has to be what I need.  So much for cost control and fiscal responsibility.  Of course, there is a version that was 1/3 the cost but it doesn’t have flashing lights and glowing numbers.  Flashing lights and glowing number have to be better.  I need one of those.  Let’s hope it’s smart enough.  Fingers crossed.

The problem is that the batteries aren’t charging properly as the sensor thinks that they are charged one moment and not the next.  That means that the supply of power to charge the batteries is all over the place, charging 60 amps one second and nothing the next, literally.  And that process goes on constantly.  Not a lot of charging being done.   Fingers crossed that the folks at Hamilton are right.  If so, that doesn’t do much to give me confidence in the mechanics in Deep River where I spent a ton having the boat worked on.

Speaking of the engine, after all of that work they did, because I didn’t think I would do it right, I am now the proud owner of a few slow (fortunately) oil and fuel leaks.  That seems absurd to me as there weren’t any leaks prior to the engine being worked on.   Now I get to hunt them down, the very thing I was trying to avoid by paying someone else to do the work.   Enough complaining for now.  Something to keep me occupied for a few hours today.  What fun.

Anyway, more to the point, Norfolk is a happening place if you like big ships.  It’s home to a huge Naval presence and there is a massive amount of commercial shipping coming and going all of the time.  Add to that, the lights of a big city and a waterfront mall, and I can see why so many cruisers stop here on their way south.

Here’s a sample, and only a small one, of some of the ships we saw as we came in.

Of course, I should start with this 1,050’ monster being docked.  This is the one that came into the harbor as we did.  We followed them down the harbor as did two tugs.  The tugs did an impressive job of turning the huge ship 180 degrees and pushing her against the dock.  The amount of water that was coming out from behind both tugs was quite a sight and to see them turn the ship in it’s own length, against the tide, wow.One pushed as the other pulled.  They turned her in her own length.  Smoke billowing.  “Beware, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”  That applies here too. They were really close. 

Tons of big grey navy ships, one more massive than the next.

This one is supposed to be less visible on radar.  Not so sure I buy that.  No wait, we all “bought that” and lots more like her.  Your tax dollars at work.  Perhaps I’ll turn on my radar when I next pass by in a few days and see if I can see her on the screen.  Big target?  I’m thinking yes…I”ll bet that this baby will show up just fine on radar.  HUGE!!!  Oops, they forgot to get all the planes off of this one. 
I guess that it takes a lot of fuel to run a navy.  This supply ship certainly has lots of hoses to push fuel through.  Oh yeah, and we saw pelicans.  I guess that they are happy to co-habitate with the US Navy.The coast guard gets to ignore the “no wake zone” signs, it seems.  Pretty neat though.  And, they don’t have to worry about the cost of fuel.Perhaps the neatest thing of all was the AWACS surveillance plane that flew overhead.  Pretty good view.  I wonder if they “surveilled” me.  Enough pictures of the things Congress spends money on to help us.  

Let’s go shopping too!!!

Today we will go ashore for a tour of the waterfront.  There are a number of museums on the water including one that houses the Battle Ship Missouri.  Hard to believe that something that big can be obsolete.    I’ll have to learn more.  

Destination Norfolk and our final day in the Chesapeake.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and we are motoring along on our way toward Norfolk, our destination for the day.  Last night we were in a little harbor/cove, our first in VA on this trip. 

The harbor was barely big enough for us and the two catamarans that were anchored with us.  Both were larger than Pandora, one 44’ and the other 47’ and I was happy to have passed each of them as I sailed down the bay.

Our spot for the night, Ashley’s Cove,  was very well protected with a really tight entrance.  There was barely enough water for us to make it in but then it opened up into a nice little peaceful spot.  Holding was good in soft mud.  Ashley’s is off of Fleet Bay just north of the Rappahannock River in VA.   Try saying Rappahannock three times fast.  Rapp….

This is a shot of the area surrounding Ashley’s Cove.  The number of small harbors available in the Chesapeake is quite amazing.  No wonder that waterfront property is less expensive than in the NE.  This is a closeup of the cove.  You can see how small it is.  To look at it on the chart did make me wonder if I would be able to make it in.  However, the guide book said.   “Go for it Bob!  You can do it.”   So I did it.The cove was surrounded by some very pretty homes, each more impressive than the last.   I particularly liked this one with a steel  roof on the barn. This one had an interesting structure on the cabana.  I am not sure if it was a wind generator or a kinetic sculpture.  I have seen generators that look like this.  And, what an amazing use of windows.  I’ll bet the local window store was thrilled to get this order. How about this palatial spot?  Pretty amazing.  And, I’ll bet that this is only used on weekends.   I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we saw our first pelicans of the trip.  This photo was taken way off so it’s not to crisp.  However, behold, a (fuzzy) pelican. So, as we continue along under power, we are making nearly 8kts with the tide.  That’s good.  We should be at anchor in time for cocktails.  That’s double good.

Our plan will be to stay in the Hampton/Norfolk area through the weekend and then begin to make our way down the ICW, Dismal Swamp Canal and on to Beaufort NC.  That part of the “ditch” was our favorite and we are looking forward to doing it again.

Bombing along aboard Pandora on our way south!

It’s Tuesday late morning and we are sailing south toward Deltaville.  I say Deltaville as I am not exactly sure where we will stop for sure but our plans are to continue moving with the idea of being in port before dark.  At this time we are making good time, around 5.5 to 6.5kts.  That’s good.

I guess SPOT will know where we are at the end of the day.  For now, the sailing is terrific.  A bit ago we passed a catamaran.  I just love passing other boats and will never loose the thrill of seeing a boat from the stern and then the bow as I go past. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, to call Pandora “fast” is a relative term.  It’s sort of like saying “my grass grows faster than your grass.   So there!!!”.

I mention this as I spoke to them on the radio to say that I had taken some pictures of their boat as we passed.  They took photos of Pandora so hopefully, we will be able to exchange them at some point soon.   It seems that we are both headed to the same places.  He did make a specific point that he wants to be somewhere where he doesn’t see his breath in the cabin when he wakes up in the morning.   Good plan.   It’s chance encounters like these that makes cruising so interesting.

Yesterday I took some photos of a boat we passed that had a neat hard dodger.  This isn’t common and I thought that the design made the boat look more substantial. Speaking of substantial, how about this group of tugs.  Pretty impressive group.  When it comes to “form follows function”, tugs can’t be topped.Last evening a couple from a catamaran nearby in the anchorage stopped by to say that they had seen us in the Exumas last winter.  We exchanged cards and I expect that we will run into them again.  It is a very small world.

Anyway, we are really moving along nicely and it’s good to be sailing as motoring isn’t that great and the fuel costs more than sailing.  I won’t talk about how much sails cost.  Sailing is good, the breeze just freshened and we are now going over 7kts.  I’ll take it.

Near Solomon’s Island there is a significant Navy presence, with jets taking off and landing all the time.  This is a photo of the base and hangers as we headed out today. It seems that when they went to the antenna/satellite dish store someone said, “I’ll take one of everything.   No, make that three or everything.  On second thought, how many do you think we can fit on 100 acres?”  Your tax dollars at work.“Oh yeah, how about a few patrol boats?  And, make them look really old and throw in a bit of a “bannana republic” look while you are at it.  I already spent my money on antennas with the last guy.”   One of them came by us as we were sailing along.There’s something in the cruising guide about a bombing range we should avoid.  Good advice.   The Navy has been hailing boats all morning telling them to stay clear of the range as they are going to be doing practice runs later today.

Speaking of bombs, we are bombing along on a broad reach at over 7kts.  So, exactly where is that range?  I don’t want to be a target and Pandora isn’t nearly fast enough to outrun a jet.

Back in cruising mode and on our way South!

It’s Monday morning and Pandora is making her way down the Chesapeake Bay on our way to Solomon’s Island, our probable stop for today.   Hampton is about 120 miles from Annapolis and we don’t have to be there till later this week so it’s not necessairy for us to cover a ton of ground each day.  Having said that, we may run into some headwinds later in the week so making time while the wind is favorable is a good idea.  As I write this we are under sail running wing and wing and making nearly 7kts through the water.  That’s good.

We returned to Annapolis and Pandora after spending the weekend with our son Rob and his girlfriend Kandice, at their home in Baltimore.  I was pretty glad to be off of Pandora for a few days given the fact that it had rained pretty much every day since my arrival the weekend before.  No, not exactly all of the time, but enough to make it feel like rain, rain and more rain.  Brenda joined me in Baltimore and we had a terrific time.  We had such a great time that we couldn’t even manage to leave with everything we arrived with.  How about leaving foul weather gear and a pair of Brenda’s sandals?   The gear will surely come in handy soon, if the last week’s weather is any indication?  And the sandals?  Well that’s a crisis as we are headed south and guess what the fashion of the day is there?  You guessed it.   What’s a girl to do?   Crisis averted, Rob is going to mail them to us in Hampton VA where we will be spending the coming weekend.

Prior to meeting Brenda at Rob and Kandice’s I had guests aboard from CT from Wednesday through Friday for the boat show.  It was fun having like minded folks on board to tour the show and they also kept me well fed and lubricated.  Actually, the lubrication was somewhat excessive but I have only myself to blame.  Having said that, I can’t say that they set a particularly good example.  It was fun, that’s for sure.

While Brenda hasn’t been in Annapolis since last Fall when we passed through here on our way to FL, we decided to head out today instead of touring the city to take advantage of favorable winds that are forecast for the next few days to make distance toward Hampton.

Last night was the first night that I really felt that we were back in “cruiser’s mode” as Brenda was aboard and we spent the evening with our good friends Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo and their friends from NY.   We sailed with Kalunamoo off and on last fall and winter and really enjoyed their company.  Maureen, perhaps more than anyone, tries to keep me in line so I don’t push Brenda too much.  When I talked about taking Pandora to Turkey, her response was “down Bob, down Bob, one step at a time”.    OK, OK, point taken but I still want to go.

However, they are not without guilt as they did ask us if we’d like to do the Salty Dawg rally with them this fall.  In the interest of full disclosure, it was Maureen that first said, “we are going to the Caribbean, want to come too?” when they visited us in Essex a few months ago.  That run will take them from Hampton VA to Tortola in the BVI,  a trip that I’d love to take.   So there, it’s not just me Maureeen!!!

For now I am happy to have Brenda aboard, being underway and headed south.  Yahoo!!!

No post is complete without at least one photo and since there haven’t been any sunsets worth showing of late (recall day after day of rain?) I’ll put in a shot of the boat show as we passed out of the harbor. Oh yeah, and how about a shot of the Thomas Point light?  This is a “screw pile” lighthouse and certainly a form that speaks the loudest that you are indeed in the Chesapeake and headed south.  Indeed!!!