28 December 2011

Sailing School...and Other Misadventures

By now you must be wondering, as are we, what we do from day to day as "live-aboards."  The short answer to this is: learn.  There are an endless amount of things--no, strike that--there are an endless number of areas of knowledge that we need to absorb in order to be safe mariners. It is necessary to have, for instance, a working knowledge of marine diesel engines, two or four stroke (largely depending on what you have), outboard motors, diesel generators (similar, but not identical to engines), refrigeration, air conditioning, 12 and 120 volt electrical systems, and plumbing.  The successful sailor will also know proper sail handling techniques, including storm tactics, and vessel handling especially in emergencies such as crew overboard, how to make accurate weather forecasts, or at least make prudent decisions based on forecasts obtained elsewhere.  On the subject of obtaining weather forecasts, there are a number of ways that vessels at sea communicate including, VHF radio for short distances, SSB (Single Side Band) radio for very long range communication, iridium phones, satellite phones, etc.  Then, of course, there is the whole subject of navigation, coastal and off-shore, including chart reading, course plotting, ded reckoning, etc., etc. And maintenance of every part having anything to do with all of the above plus the parts that are counterparts of houses.

25 December 2011

The Best Laid Plans

"Sometimes," to misquote a line from an episode of the new ABC drama, Pan Am, "the stars misalign."  I should have known our mission was doomed to fail when, on the day before our pilgrimage, the dinghy outboard konked out.

21 December 2011

Land Ho, Ho, Ho!

JOY proudly flies her Bahamian courtesy flag
Two pieces of cloth have forced wind to move us 467 miles over an ocean.  How is that even possible?  Fairly easy to understand; impossibly difficult to comprehend.  Days (3 of them) of nothing but water and sky, nights of water and starlight and not another ship in sight.

We make our way, aiming at a microscopic point on the face of the earth, trusting our instruments to "see" where we are in this featureless world and to point JOY where we want to go.

Jane is in her element, her reflexes honed to supple precision; I am dumb with awe, dimly able at best to assess situations in real time.  Jane periodically records Things of Significance in her iPad; I ponder continually and unsuccessfully how to relate this voyage, this event without resorting to hackneyed metaphors, unsure of whether there is anything to say at all since nothing is going wrong, but knowing that to describe it as "perfect" is to do it an injustice and to make for a short and boring tale.  All I can say is that we set our sights on making it back for the one year anniversary of this amazing, insane, life changing idea and wonder of wonders, we have!  I think if it and weep with disbelief and, yes, joy.

Beyond that, I give, I resign.  I try, but I can't.  I can't differentiate context from content, can't distinguish between the story and its events, the forest and the trees (for you hackneyed metaphor buffs).  This is not my tale to tell, clearly.  Jane?  This one's all you.  Take it away.

We are SO here!

Lots and lots to say very soon, but just a quick note to announce that we arrived in Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas at 11:34 Tuesday morning. All are fine. Much JOY right here.

17 December 2011

The Power of Yes

Just a couple of things to add to Ean's update.  I'd like to offer a public apology and thank you to René and Steve, former owners of Joy, who have been so patient with us.  They are keeping track of our progress (or lack thereof), and they are surely worried that we’re going to kill their boat.  But we continue to learn from them.  It was René who suggested that if we were stocking up on meat, we should ask the butcher to FREEZE the meat for us, so we don’t tax our reefer.  At the Piggly Wiggly from Port Royal, SC, we put her advice into action.  Now, first, I have to admit that we, as urban dwellers, have always viewed the presence of a Piggly Wiggly as a sign of the end of civilization.  But shame on us.  Paul from Piggly Wiggly was AWESOME.  He agreed to freeze the meat, introduced us to his accommodating manager, and picked out the best cuts of meat to put into our box o’ meat.  It is SO easy to say NO, and often times, people enjoy exercising the power of NO.  Paul could have easily said, “No, sorry, we can’t do that.”  But the people who use their power to say YES are so inspirational to me.  Paul said, “This is what we do at the Piggly Wiggly.  It’s all about customer service.”  How cool is that?  I LOVE LOVE LOVE Paul.  Paul is why life is worth living. 

16 December 2011

Cleared for Take Off!

Port Royal Landing Marina,
the last time we set our feet on American soil?
We've made our way to beautiful Beaufort (that's byoo-fert, remember?), SC.  Spent last night at Port Royal Landing Marina hoping we would be able to detach ourselves from the damnable ICW and exit the U.S. from Port Royal Sound.  Jane made arrangements with noted weather guru, Chris Parker, for a new forecast with an expected departure date of Friday the 16th or thereabouts.  We've topped off our fuel and water and emptied our holding tank.  We found an anchorage in Stations Creek, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the ocean.  We've attached the jacklines, tied down the fenders, tested the tethers, put the ditchbag in the cockpit.  We even performed the renaming ceremony (thanks, Amy--  I'm pretty sure Neptune/Poseidon and Aeolus are as ibreniated as we are.), all while waiting to get our forecast from Chris who'd already contacted us to say that Saturday was looking good.  (It's just as well that we had to wait until Saturday.  Every mariner knows with what certainty disaster befalls any vessel that embarks upon a voyage on a Friday.)

Our weather forecast has come in and Saturday is a go!  You should have seen us doing our happy dances.  (On second thought, maybe not: what they displayed in delight they lacked utterly in grace.)  So, we finished off the rest of the god's booze and had a steak dinner with ice cream for dessert.  Jane is napping; she'll probably be up long before dawn making last-minute preparations and taking last-minute Dramimine.  We'll weigh the anchor and tie it down at first light and then big, blue water here we come!

Our last ICW buoy?
Owing to the fact that we're on the Sprint network, we probably won't have Internet capability once we get a few miles offshore, so this will likely be our last post from the United States of America.  You can still follow our progress by going to the "we are here" tab here on our blog.  We expect to arrive in Treasure Cay on Tuesday, whereupon we will commandeer Jane's mom's Internet connection to report on our arrival and recount all of our adventures at sea.  It looks as though we may get Tipsy Turtles for Christmas, after all.

New Old Home Week

Remember Michele on Catito, the French Canadian who rescued us from our first grounding during our first day on the ICW?  We were sure she had long left us in her wake.  Jane just happened to be looking out toward the channel at the exact right moment and saw Catito cruising by.  No way?  How on earth did JOY pass her?  Jane hailed Michele on the VHF--we do still owe him a bottle of wine and homemade chocolate chip cookies.  It turns out that Michele had docked Catito in Beaufort for three weeks, flew home, got his wife, and they are now continuing on their way south. They are also headed for the Abacos, but aren't as confident as we are of good weather (or, more accurately, feel differently than Chris Parker does about the forecast) which means we may get there before they do.  We'll have his cookies and wine waiting for them when they arrive.

And speaking of the other B-e-a-u-f-o-r-t, got a call from Craig from Eastern Marine Diesel.  They're the guys who fixed our stepped-on fresh water pump over the Thanksgiving holiday.  He hadn't seen a blog post in a few days and was worried about us.  I mentioned having been saved by another cruiser and out of the blue he asked, "Was he Canadian?"

Wow, what does that say about us?

I have one more call to make/email to send before we lose touch with the land of our birth (Tommy  & Amy, if you read this, we're thinking about you.  Thanks for the renaming ceremony, wish we'd done it before we left.)  We are deeply grateful for the new friends we have made and equally grateful for the friends still back in the North.

Cheers.  See  you in The Bahamas...yee-ha!

14 December 2011

Good Prop, Bad Prop

Moving aboard JOY was like purchasing admission to a grand Easter egg hunt, so many surprises have we discovered over the almost two months we've lived aboard her.  Hidden among more identifiable (even to me) items were odd objects that would have been relegated to the "thousand mysteries" pile had they not been charitably "gift wrapped" in blue painter's tape and labeled by JOY's previous owners, Steven and Rene' Slack.  Even still, it took a phone call from Steve to explain to me which "egg" I needed to attach the fixed prop.  Truth be told, we were so embarrassed when he called, we couldn't bring ourselves to answer the phone.  We were sure he'd be beside himself, nonplussed at our stupidity.  We didn't even want to listen to his message.  We could just imagine what he'd have to say about this latest debacle.  "How on earth did you lose a propeller?  Bend, even brake off a blade, I could understand, but lose the whole thing?  OK, that's it.  Give me back my boat.  You're killing her, slowly and cruelly."

What he did say, when we finally worked up enough courage to listen to the message the following morning, was that he'd lost a prop a couple of times.  "OK, I guess I can call him back."

"I called Max Prop," he said during our conversation.  "They told me that that happens every so often."

Nice business model.

Imagine it without barnacles.  It's a beauty.
"You don't even need feathering props on a catamaran," he went on to explain "because with two engines you don't get prop walk when you're in reverse."  Fixed props have numerous advantages over feathering or folding ones, it turns out, like how much easier they are to install underwater, (for those who go underwater) and how much less they cost.  A few hundred bucks versus $3100 for a new Max Prop.  All you sacrifice, Steve reassured me, is about a half knot of speed.  A half knot is not enough to outrun bad weather and other than that we don't care how fast our house goes.  "Good," I said "I'll buy several props and just wait for the other one to fall off."  Although, as I think about it, with my penchant for going aground I'll probably help it.

Ted the diver happened to be in the neighborhood, came by about an hour after I called him and 15 minutes after that we had  prop wash, beautiful, wonderful prop wash.  A little while earlier, the electrician that Hazzard Marine called mostly fixed our port engine problem.  Just a wire that broke loose from the starter solenoid.  I really should have caught that myself, but because the symptoms were restricted to the port engine instrument panel, I was sure it was a wiring problem at the panel, not on the engine.  The alarm functions still don't work, we don't know why, but all that means is that we won't get any warning before the engine blows up.  No biggie.  At least it starts.

It was still early enough in the afternoon for us to leave the marina with our two functioning engines.  Our new old prop rewarded us, (with a little help from the wind and current) by pushing us to a new personal best of 9.5 knots at 2,500 rpm,  so we got about 14 more miles and dropped the hook.  JOY rides again.

Tonight we are at mile 472, just south of, probably still in the suburbs of, Charleston, SC.  We've had a day and a half in a row with no drama.  Sunset was lovely and the evening was warm enough to watch it sitting in the cockpit with a Partagas and little too much Knob Creek (no, we don't get paid for plugs, but we're not opposed to it...just in case anyone wants to know).  On one bank of the creek in which we are anchored is the ubiquitous-for-the-last-hundred-miles marshland, on the other a street with cars whizzing hither and yon to home, I suppose, and houses whose lights come on in the twilight like the stars.  A Gabe Dixon lyric paraphrases itself in my head:
...And the world turns, and the world turns, and the world turns, and the world turns.

In my whiskey haze I watch the birds overhead and the planes overhead.  I am witness to other worlds from my own and that suits me just fine.  

10 December 2011

Propeller Part 2

Ted came by.  Ted dove down.  Ted came up.  Ted said, "I've been doing this for 35 years and I've never seen this before.   Your starboard prop isn't bent or broken, it's gone."

But wait, it gets better.

Our port engine won't start.  Nothing on the port engine panel works.  It was fine this morning when we got underway.  Now, nothing.  No engine, no alarm, no test lights, zip, nada, bupkus.  Pretty sure the problem is electrical since the starboard panel is fine, but I can't find the wiring that supplies the panel, so I can't check for loose connections or burnt fuses.

To recap:  starboard engine, no propeller; port engine, no power. 

Even Jane, who is constitutionally incapable of feeling defeated and prides herself on that, remarked that she was done with this whole project.

"You mean this whole sailing project?"

"No.  We haven't done any sailing." 

...I'm beginning to think we should have named this boat "more JOY everywhere else.

Ground to a Halt

Oh, we had plans, big, big plans.  We were gonna make 52 nautical miles and end up in Georgetown, SC last night, slip right past Charleston a day and a half later and wait for our weather window somewhere just above Savannah.  We like to do that sometimes, make plans, that is.  It gives us the impression, however fleeting, that we’re in charge, that things will go the way we intend.

08 December 2011

Back to the ICW Grind

Many cruisers love the ICW.  Some do it multiple times - down up down up.  Some do it EVERY YEAR.  The snowbirds, as they are called, travel south every winter, and back north for summer in the Chesapeake, or Maine, or wherever they call "home."  My parents did the ICW three times (down up down) before they wised up and settled in the Abacos.

But, alas, Ean and I do NOT love the ICW.  I believe we have what's known as an "attitude problem."  We're tired of being cold.  We don't like "driving" down this watery highway with unmarked lanes, ever fearful of falling out of the channel and going aground.  We've visited some interesting places (towns, anchorages), but we'd rather be in the Bahamas.  We are having trouble feeling a sense of accomplishment after traveling a BIG FORTY MILES in ONE DAY.

Today we planned carefully for a bridge that we would need to have opened for us: the Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge, at mile 337.9.  We read in our multiple guidebooks that the bridge opens hourly, on the hour.  We throttled back to less than 4 knots, so we wouldn't need to mill about aimlessly while waiting for the opening.  As we slowly approached... hey wait, that's a BIG bridge.  Dat dere bridge don't open at all.  It's one a' dem new-fangled FIXED bridges, with at least 65' vertical clearance, that we can slide right under (just barely cringing, nowadays, experienced ICW-ers that we are).  Tip for all who aspire to travel on the ICW: shell out the big bucks for the MOST up-to-date ICW books.  Things change.

A few miles later, we went aground while trying to anchor.  But it was a GOOD grounding.  Low tide, just a soft slide into the mud, back away slowly, no biggie.  Unlike our PREVIOUS experience, which was a BAD grounding: broken crockery, near-heart attacks, cursing and flailing, rescue required.

This is our life.  We are trying to appreciate where we are and what we have.  "BE HERE NOW" (so I was told by an aging lesbian hippie on an Outward Bound trip that I took two decades ago).

07 December 2011


Deb and Rev
Ean has been hogging the blogging lately... actually, we're finding that he is much better than I, at capturing the details of our adventures.  Thank goodness he is keeping up with events, since I am vague about specifics, and already I find myself saying things like, "Remember that anchorage where we.....  ?"  And how can I already be confused when I can still count our anchorages on my fingers (if I could remember them all, that is)?  

Anyway.  If I might add....  Since we've started our new life,  we have met some AWESOME people - interesting, generous, quirky, intelligent, fun.  Most recently: Deb and Rev of Sea Breeze, here in Southport, NC.  I could mention the several times Rev drove us to the hardware store, grocery store, propane filling station, etc. (with some sightseeing along the way!).  Or describe how he "helped" us replace our bad breaker, fixed the handle on our freezer door, and gave us tons of good advice about how to be boat owners.  Deb and Rev hosted us on their BIG BEAUTIFUL BOAT (which is more like a condo than it is like JOY), fed us sloppy joes, introduced us to the fabulous Annabelle and Henry (clever and captivating corgis), and offered us books, magazines, DVDs, and finally, a flashlight (because we are, truly, pitiful).  Rev, when he's not helping hapless newbies or working on his own boat, is a blues musician (lately of "Reverend Dippermouth and the Little Muddy Buddies"), and he sang to us and gave us his CD - GREAT blues.  As when Michele helped us when we went aground in the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, we are reminded of the imperative of "paying forward" the generosity of which we have been recipients.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we  receive them or only seldom.  But the benefit we receive must be rendered again line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."

Honestly, though, what we appreciated most about Deb and Rev is that we had the chance to laugh and talk politics (RECALL SCOTT WALKER!) and swap stories with some kindred spirits.  We have made new friends!  

06 December 2011

A Thousand Mysteries

Mystery Object #1 of an ongoing series
Whatever this is, we're probably very glad we own it.
Sometimes we happen upon a phrase that we think would make a good name for our next boat, should we decide to newgrade someday.  We've accumulated about 80 of these so far, more than we'll ever be able to use, of course. We are considering writing genre fiction, just to use up the extra names.  The one that is the the title of this post came to me the other day when one of our aforementioned malfunctioning pieces of equipment healed itself, as happens occasionally.  While economical, self-regenerating boat systems are annoying in that they confound even our tiniest hopes of diagnosing problems.  Our starboard outlet breaker has been one such mystery.  This one, however, was solved by Kevin of Martins Marine Service who was really here to refill the R-134a that leaks copiously from our refrigeration system, but took pity on us hapless Yankees.  In a real-life game of "Fortunately, Unfortunately" one solved mystery (a bad breaker, probably from overloading and resetting it too many times...our bad), lead to another when he tried to kill the power to the electrical panel.  Unplugging us from shore power plus flipping the main breaker plus switching off the power from the batteries to the inverter plus cutting the inverter breaker didn't work.  Nothing worked.  In other words, it seems there's no way to depower the inverter.  Lest you think that means I know what I'm talking about, all I know is that no one (including me, now) is going to stick his or her hand in our breaker panel to replace our bad breaker.  $o, another my$tery to $olve.  Not what we wanted to hear.

Speaking of things we don't want to hear, we're compiling another list.  This one we call, "Things You Never Want to Hear Said on a Boat."  Not just the boat you own, but any boat you're on.  The first two  belong to Skipper Dan on Delia out of Sturgeon Bay, WI, the last is from our own rapidly growing experience.

  • "Hey, have you noticed that no one else is out here today?"
  • "Not many captains would go out in weather like this."
  • "I've been working on these for ____ years and I've never seen anything like this."

But perhaps the greatest mystery is how on earth (figuratively speaking) we've made it this far.

05 December 2011

Down and Out

Isabel helps me model the latest in foul weather gear.  They're
warm, soft, and don't leave marks on the deck.
We have arrived in Southport, NC a.k.a. ICW mile 309.  It may be the last ICW mile for us and I really hope it is.  Three hundred miles at 7ish miles an hour of early-winter marshy grassland and swamp is about all I need to see in this lifetime.  We're still cold most mornings.  The day before yesterday, it was 29 degrees when we weighed the anchor and of course we were motoring straight into the wind.  On the upside, it's often difficult to get enough exercise on a boat, so shivering for 6 solid hours definitely helps burn off those extra cocktail calories.

Jane contemplating the
voyage ahead
Yesterday, we were in Wrightsville, just this far (hold index finger and thumb about three-quarters of an inch apart) from the Atlantic.  A short dinghy ride and equally short walk away gave us our first glimpse of it.  Seeing the ocean for this first time in this context, we felt a new, though much anticipated sense of accomplishment.

29 November 2011

28 November 2011

Thar She Blows!

Jed (left) and Craig of EMD Fuels
Ok, only about 200 feet or so, but, hey, it's something.  We moved from our dockage at the end of the pier to the prime real estate by the boardwalk, spots usually reserved for boats that go for way north of seven figures.  It's actually only so that Craig and Jed, the mechanics healing our boo-bood engines, can have easier access to them.  But we're closer to the bathrooms for which we are grateful.  If all goes well,  we might be underway once again by early afternoon tomorrow...yeah, what are the odds?

We spent part of the weekend in Savannah (and the rest of it driving to and from Savannah).  To give you a sense of how slowly boats go, Savannah is roughly 400 miles south of Beaufort, NC which is 6 hours by car or 8 days by boat (albeit 8 sun up to sundown days, not 8 24-hour days).

22 November 2011

Thanks, Thanksgiving

We had intended to leave Beaufort on Thanksgiving Day.  Unfortunately, it seems our starboard engine water pump has been fatally wounded and will need to be replaced.  Thanks to Thanksgiving, the new pump probably won't arrive until Monday.  So we will be here for over a week.  This is a setback and makes our arrival at Jane's mom's house by Christmas more questionable than it already had been.  We are frustrated. It seems we just can't go for very long without a problem.  It's tempting to boycott the holiday altogether.  Tempting, but not wise and, more importantly, not appropriate.  Our reality is the dream of many.   We bear this in mind every day.  In the dream nothing ever goes wrong; in reality, it's just like other realities, good realities, even the best realities.  Some days suck.

So it's important, I think, to remind ourselves of some of the things we have for which to be thankful.
  • We are warm.  It's four in the morning and a wind is howling down (or maybe up) the creek. Only a few days and a couple hundred miles ago that would have meant even more frigid air, but I'm comfortable wearing shorts and a T-shirt.  One of our space heaters has been stored away already, the other sits on the floor unplugged.
  • We are at a marina this time where we can borrow a courtesy car to go hunting for a tea kettle.  
  • There is a restaurant in Beaufort (or Morehead City, or Atlantic Beach) serving Thanksgiving Dinner which will be much better than we would have done for ourselves while underway.
  • I have two drink tokens redeemable at the Dock House.
  • Savannah is 8 miles off the ICW. We've both always wanted to visit Savannah, but wouldn't have docked the boat and rented a car to get there.  It's only a 7 hour drive from Beaufort, NC and the boat's already docked, so what the heck?  We'll spend the weekend.
  • We have reason to believe krill are, even as I write, eating growths off our hull.  We can hear the crackling.  Growths on the hull slow a boat down and we definitely do not need to be slowed down. You go, krill!
  • Periodically pods of porpoises synchronously swim past.
  • I've discovered shrimp and grits, possibly the best thing I've ever eaten.
  • Except for  couple of sore spots apiece, Jane and I are both healthy.  The cats are also healthy and, as far as I know, have no sore spots.
  • We are still glad we've chosen this life.
Happy Thanksgiving from your more JOY everywhere crew.

Now That's More Like it

Low on water, concerned about fuel, turning our consumables into recyclables (for which we have extremely limited and awkward space) at an alarming rate, we had only one thought: Beaufort by the end of the day--a very long day with only one engine.  50 (statute) miles with one engine meant about a 10+ hour day.  We questioned whether the marina where we planned to stay would even be open by the time we got there.  There was one possible solution.  A last ditch effort, you might say.  The kind of stunt you only pull when you're desperate, which we were.  If it worked, we stood a good chance of making it to Beaufort in time.  If not, there might be yelling and screaming and hurt feelings all around.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Should we choose to take it, an opportunity would present itself when we reached the Neuse River.  We knew it was then or not at all.

"This is why we wanted this boat," I said to Jane.

She agreed.  It was time.

20 November 2011

Goodbye Frostbite, Hello Malaria

Joy sliding under a bridge
We awoke this morning to a comforting, if somewhat cryptic response.  Steve assured us that at 64 feet, we’d be fine, that it was not a fractional rig, giving us an extra four feet.  But an extra four feet from what, from the underside of a 64 foot bridge or from the original height of the mast?  We decided that was an issue for another day.  Assured that we’d “sail” right under the bridge, we forecasted another incident-free day.

18 November 2011

Hello, North Carolina!

We stayed in Mill Creek near Fort Monroe for three days until a mechanic could come out and look at our port engine.  By then the generator had konked out on us, too.  It turns our that they were related problems.  Without going into details, suffice it to say that low fuel plus churning waters equals crud in the fuel lines.  Crud in the fuel lines equals no go.  Good news, all in all. Our engine (and generator) are both fine and I got quite a lesson in fuel system diagnosis and repair.

Our backyard du nuit
Portsmouth, VA and mile marker "0" of the Intracoastal Waterway, finally, on Wednesday afternoon.  First stop: Tidewater Marina where we took on water and fuel and emptied our holding tank and garbage--all badly needed.  I remarked to Jane that the purpose of our boat is to convert fresh water and diesel into waste water.  "And miles," she added.  "Yes," I agreed, "waste water and miles."  The temperature reached 75 degrees and I got to wear a T-shirt and shorts for the first time since getting underway.  Got all our laundry done and had lunch at the marina's restaurant.  As the sun went down, with a beautiful view of the Norfolk skyline, we sat in the cockpit sipping champagne to celebrate having making it to the ICW.  It was one of those moments, still countable on the fingers of one hand so far, that reminded us of the point to all this madness.

Yesterday, not so much...

13 November 2011

It Was a Helluva Night

Jane is sleeping, comfortably, I hope.  She is probably warm, at least, what with a down comforter and an electric throw.  I think she'll sleep in late.  I slept well for a few hours and fitfully for another one or two.  We may not even get underway today at all and that would be fine with me.  We are exhausted, sore, shaken and deeply chastened.  We came far too close to doing severe damage to Joy several times last night.  Our misadventure was the perfect storm of naivete, hubris, and bad luck.  A combination that costs people their ways of life if not their very lives.  We are lucky to have gotten off as easily as we did.

10 November 2011

We Met Virginia

The enveloping fog we woke up to, the fog that was supposed to lift by noon never did, or if it did, it was so overcast that it didn’t much matter.  Undaunted (or, more accurately, not overly daunted) we hoisted the anchor and ventured forth, albeit at a prudent 3.2 knots at first.  We had less than three tenths of a mile of visibility; our lives were in the hands of our instruments.  Jane set the multifunction display to chart plotter on the left and radar on the right so we knew where we were-- exactly and we knew who and what else was out there as well.  Blind in the real world, making way by on one’s instrumentation is an odd sensation.  

Still the crab pots to contend with, but the fog was ironically helpful with that.  “If you can’t see ‘em, you can’t hit ‘em,” I reported to Jane.  She is our captain and so is on the helm most of the time.  I am line handler, watchman, deck hand, etc.  I like this arrangement; I don’t sit in one place for long well and this crew configuration allows me to move around more.  I’ve taken to sitting watch on the port side of the coach roof, binoculars at the ready.  Jane has an eagle eye and can usually see a buoy or crab pot with her naked eye before I see them with the binocs.  I know she’s got the starboard side covered.  I take the port side where her view is obstructed by the rigging.

Pea Soup, Anyone?

We weened ourselves off dockside life, yesterday by dropping the hook for the first time.   Between needing an anchorage near enough to our then-current position, one that would enable us settle in well before dusk in case it took us numerous tries to get the anchor set, and a thick fog that didn't clear until 10:00 our time underway was barely more than an hour--not much southerly progress, basically just across the Patuxent River.

Jast after the near miss.
Our decision to wait out the fog was confirmed when we saw two sailboats nearly bash into each other right in front of us.  For reasons we don't understand, neither had navigational lights lit, nor were they sounding their horns, which is more understandable--it was just past dawn--so it's not surprising that they nearly collided.

Precisely because we gave ourselves so much time to set the anchor, we got it on the second try.  Our traveling day was over by 12:30.  So what to do?  I decided to try out the oven by baking fresh bread.  It was not a huge success, but I credit its underperformance to bad yeast that didn't proof well.  Still quite edible, at least we thought so.  Jane made more successful use of her spare time by mixing up our first onboard batch of "Joy Juice."  It's our own sundowner drink recipe, but one, we've decided, which adapts itself to whatever we have on hand whenever we're inspired to whip up a batch.  That took three tries to "perfect."  Warmed by the heat of the oven, the bright sun, and significant quantities of Joy Juice, we barely minded that we were anchored by a naval air station carrying out training runs every few minutes.

Today, we are again blanketed by fog, but are thinking about maybe pushing our envelope.  We are very anxious to finally be out of Maryland and there's an anchorage we've chosen that we can get to before some bad weather sets in if we leave soon.  Otherwise, it will be somewhere much closer, still somewhere in Maryland to hunker down and wait out the blow.

07 November 2011

Escape to St. Michaels!

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Well...we're still at Hartge's, or back, rather.  They just couldn't get everything done by Friday, though they did try.  We would have settled up with them and left anyway, but one of the things they didn't finish was installing our new multifunction unit.  So, we agreed to give them one more day--today.

The thought of spending the weekend here was too depressing to even contemplate, so we decided to fire up our engines and our $10 chart plotter app from Navionics and head across the Chesapeake to stay at the St. Michaels Marina in the town of St. Michaels, both of which we highly recommend.

03 November 2011

Isabel, don't jump!

But she did, apparently.  And I'm not sure I can blame her.  We're still here at the boat yard.  No propane (they're installing a new tank locker), no holding tank (they're installing a new one), no tv (new antenna being installed), almost no internet (we're using my phone's hotspot which gets one bar at best).  The overnight low has been in the high 30s and low 40s (we have two small space heaters, one of which we can't turn up all the way because it draws too many amps and blows the circuit, the other one of which has been, hopefully temporarily, repurposed (see below)) And did I mention we're living in a boat yard in Galesville, MD, pop 363.  We returned our rental car yesterday and now are for all intents and purposes stranded in this quintessentially small town America town.  Not to disparage Galesville; it seems like a nice place to live, but...

Jane and I are more determined than ever to leave tomorrow.  I guess Isabel decided that was too long and opted to take matters into her own paws.  Percy, our highly intelligent but equally highly strung ragdoll, has found a different way to cope with the stress of it all: he's developed a bedwetting problem--ours, that is.  So he'll be confined to his own quarters (the starboard aft cabin) at night, with his own food, water, litterbox, and heater in the hopes of retraining him.  We're augmenting his training by flooding his environment with calming pheromones: a calming collar, spray, treats, and plug-in diffusers.  It's too early to tell if it's helping Percy, but I think our already laid-back Tucker is becoming...eh...catatonic.

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The Monkey's Fist

31 October 2011

L-l-livin' th-th-the D-d-d-dream

We have SO got to get out of here!
...I betcha Milwaukee didn't have a snowstorm on Saturday.

We hired another boat yard to take care of our repair/upgrade list.  To that end, we had to do a bit of shopping, which is the only reason we were out and about in this (we don't even own clothing for this kind of weather anymore).

It wasn't all bad, though.  We did start of the day with donuts and coffee at Carlson's Donuts and Thai Kitchen--not kidding.

I never had a potato donut before...interesting concept, weird texture.  Jane reports that her apple fritter was the best one she's ever had.

The big news is that we made our first passage yesterday.  On our own, in our boat, we made the nearly 10 (statute) mile trip from our Marina on the South River to the Hartge's Yacht Yard on Tenthouse Creek.  And I'm happy to report that it was technically hitch free.  It was rather ironic having to navigate our way to the yacht yard where our gps will be installed.  One of us was sure we could manage it by going from buoy to buoy as listed on a paper chart.  The other one of us was sure that that was a recipe for disaster.  Not that we wouldn't get here eventually, but that it would be dark and even colder and we would be divorce court ready by the time we did.  We were just about to purchase a hand-held gps unit for over $500 when One of Us had an inspiration: There must be an app for that.  And sure enough, thanks to our $9.99 Navionics chart plotter and gps program for Android, it was smooth "sailing" (with only 1.9 knots at best, raising the sails would have been pointless) all the way.

On top of this victory, we managed to dock--at pilings, no less--on the first try, partly thanks to a guy who saw us coming in from his boat and ran to grab one of our lines.  Either we look amateurish even from afar, or else sailors are always just there to help. (The Slacks tell us it's the latter.)  So there we were, basking in the glory of our fledgling competence when no more than two minutes after I shut down the engines, a good quart of fuel spewed out of a through-hull in the starboard engine compartment (I'd wondered where that through-hull went to.)  I felt a little foolish opening the hatch and jumping down to see what was wrong as I was sure I wouldn't know what to look for once I got there.  But in fact I did figure it out...at least I think so.  A hose had come unclamped and the fuel was trickling out of it.  Given that it stopped gushing out of the through hull after an initial burst, I suspect it was a connection in the fuel return line (not its technical name).  I reclamped the hose, but now we have about a pint of diesel in our engine compartment bilge and the fuel system will need to be bled.  But, hey, we're in a boat yard.  No problem, well, not for me--this time.

And for our crowning achievement, we figured out how to use the propane grill.  That is to say, we figured out how to load a can of propane and get it to light.  Steak for dinner as our, may I say, well-deserved reward.

Yesterday's tiny taste of cruising has gotten us more excited about getting underway than ever.  I'm pretty sure we won't last much past Friday in these here parts.

29 October 2011

Snow in the Forecast

STILL in Annapolis...

Thanks to a combination of our reliance on the professionalism of the technician recommended to us by our broker, and his complete lack of same, we have spent nearly two weeks here and have yet to get any work done on our boat.  This now includes a new nav system, as we have decided to upgrade the one installed on Joy when we bought her.  The other items on our list have been either imposed on us by our insurance company or (a far shorter list) are things that will either make life aboard more good (like an hdtv antenna) or less bad (like a deck pump out for the holding tank--use your imagination--on second thought, don't).  However, the longer we are here in the cold, the shorter that list becomes.

At the recommendation of another cruiser (Cap, we'll let you know how it went), we have made an appointment with a different firm and we are scheduled to arrive at their yard on Sunday, sans GPS.  Well, not exactly--there is an app for that, of course.  They predict it will take two weeks to make all the repairs/upgrades we've requested.  Jane is determined to be on our way by Friday (her birthday), however, so we'll see what we end up with.  Really, as long as we have a navigational system, we can get to a boatyard further south to complete our list.

Jane getting the transom ready for "Joy"
We, did make some progress on other fronts today.  We got the name and hailing port on on the transom and the name on the starboard side.  The port side will have to wait until tomorrow as it plans to rain and/or snow today.

Kudos to Jane who pointed out that had we still been on our original schedule, we'd still be in Milwaukee, where it is colder, mostly, dreading the oncoming winter.  So all in all, this is still an upgrade in our lives (a sentiment I could enthuse more sincerely if I weren't typing with cold fingers despite sitting near our beloved space heater, which, incidentally, we cannot crank all the way up because it cuts the circuit.)

Ah, but it wouldn't be an adventure if everything went right.

More news...and hopefully joy...to follow.

25 October 2011

Congratulations, it's a Girl

This evening it dawned on me that "Joy" is our version of having a baby.  I suspect we are like that
couple who discovers they're pregnant unexpectedly. We bought and moved onto our boat before we really knew as much as we should about any aspect of cruising and like expectant parents, we reassure ourselves that there really is no perfect time and that we'd never be as prepared as we think we should.  And here she is, this boat that I love but also live in dread fear of. Every unfamiliar sound it makes might mean something that needs attention, maybe something serious.  What will I do when--not if--something breaks?  Will I figure out how to fix it myself?  Will I have to call in a specialist?  Will one be available?  Am I already remiss in taking care of her?  Is there something I should be doing that I'm not and will this have deleterious consequences in the near or distant future?  Any moment of every day something could go bad.  Eventually something will.  Sooner or later, she'll come down with something.  What then?

Oh, sure, fix it or get it fixed.  But what if we (and by "we" I really mean I) suck at it?  I thought I'd be good at home remodeling and what a hash I made of that.  What if I just can't figure anything out?

There's really only one way to do this and remain marginally sane (an aspiration I frequently hear both new and not-so-new parents utter): Learn not to expect from us more than a day's worth of good intent and honest effort each day.  So at the end of days like today, when I nearly burnt out the fresh water pump because I was preoccupied with other matters and only peripherally aware that the washer had been on the same cycle for three and and a half hours because it kept calling for the pump to send it water which the holding tanks had none left to deliver, and then later dropped the BRAND NEW tool we bought to get the old name off the boat into the river before I'd finished the job, I have to console myself with the fact that at least we didn't sink our baby, so all in all, we're doing OK.

That, fortified by a good cigar and a few shots of JD (moms and dads, don't try this at home) helped me commit to put in another day's worth of effort and intent tomorrow.  Let's see how that goes...

22 October 2011

Sailing One-oh-whatever

[Update: This post was actually written by Ean, although Jane's picture would lead you to believe otherwise.]  So we've been on our boat, our new home, our seaworthy vessel for nearly a week now.  We've pretty much figured out where our migraine strength Excedrin should go and our warm weather clothes and our cold weather gear and even the cat scratching post.  All in all, we've gone a long way into settling into our new home.
Tommy, Sail Away Catamarans

Just one major thing left to do...operate our home which is, after all, a boat.

We confess, we hadn't once turned on the engines because, despite my four-day diesel mechanics course, we were, truth be told, afraid of them.  We hadn't done a vhf check, hadn't run the generator, hadn't even raised the sails.  In short, hadn't treated the boat like a boat...until today.

Enter our awesome broker and now also equally awesome instructor, Tommy Smith of Sail Away Catamarans.      Awesome because he spent four hours with us today teaching us about the particulars of our sails and the lazy  jacks/bag that they are set in, and about our rigging (our spreader lights are really tractor headlights--who new?!) and then we took "Joy" out for a spin.

Fast forward three hours...

19 October 2011

Tuesday, but Not "a Year from Tuesday"

The rest of everything we own.
 It was anything but easy; a few things got done poorly or not at all.  but we did it.  15 weeks ahead of schedule, we are live-aboards!

...but how are we going to fit it all on?
First, we'll cut down our Tempurpedic.

checking out the boat...
checking out the dock...

"ok, mom, this was fun.  Let's go home now."

a well deserved rest
Watch our brave cats explore their new world at http://www.youtube.com/user/morejoyeverywhere?feature=mhsn

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The Monkey's Fist

09 October 2011

Boat Show(s)

We are back in Annapolis for the boat show.  Attending shortly after buying our boat was a decision we bandied about quite a bit, actually.  Would we feel we'd been too hasty in buying the one we did?  Would we come down with a case of  the dreaded "two-foot syndrome?"  Would we lose all restraint and spend untold sums on pretty things  for our baby?  On the other hand, if we weren't interested in any of the above, why go at all?  We did go, of course, because it's the largest boat show in the country and it's simply the thing to do.

On the upside, we did manage to escape without spending a cent...except for the ball cap that I bought because I pessimistically expected fouler weather and my bald pate was suffering for my presumption. I am now the somewhat sunburnt owner of an official Annapolis Boat Show ball cap with integrated cap clip.  Had it not been for that simple bit of brilliance, I would've regretted the twenty bucks I shelled out for it, but as a devotee of good design, seeing it (along with the opportunity to kick myself for not coming up with the idea), was well worth the money.