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.