jiggity jig

 

         Journal Excerpts from May 6, 2017 to May 27, 2017

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sailing plans change as the weather changes, on a whim. On Wednesday morning the forecast was calling for strong conditions on Chesapeake Bay, small craft advisories had been posted but I thought I would try to cross the Bay anyway, it was only thirty-eight miles from the Wye River to Baltimore.

I never got out of East Bay. By ten in the morning the wind was blowing twenty five knots and up with waves kicking up to three feet. I turned north to a little pocket named Crab Alley and dropped my anchor in a protected cove. I was lucky to have found it and stayed there until the following morning. Getting tossed around must have loosened debris in the fuel tank because I was losing power coming in so I took the opportunity to change fuel filters. Thursday was much quieter and I sailed across the Chesapeake with only the jib out and the engine running smoothly at high idle to the Maryland Yacht Club in Pasadena, Maryland tying up at their fuel dock just in time for lunch. Not bad for thirty-four miles.

The MYC is the oldest yacht club on Chesapeake Bay, it’s over one hundred and has many friendly members, one of the club’s governors came out to my slip to say hello and talk about his old Tayana 37 and his new 42. Later I had a soothing hot shower and a good supper. Friday morning two club members, Nancy and Jim on Nansea Gale (clever) invited me to go along with them to a supermarket. Also, I met Tony and Lisa who were surprised that I had known Lisa’s uncle Ken Bushee, further proof that the sailing world is a lot smaller than anyone thought.

There had been a buffet dinner planned for Friday evening in the expansive MYC clubhouse which their crew had just finished painting, all ready for the weekly dinner and a wedding on Saturday. Weddings are an important source of income for the club and keeps them solvent I was told. The wedding went on today but the buffet was canceled because the cook called in sick. No matter, everyone just gathered up food from our boats and we had a cookout. The show must go on.

I was going to Baltimore today but this morning the wind piped up with a vengeance so I’ll stay in this comfortable slip another night. Maybe it’ll be better tomorrow. I would like to see the city or at least what I can of it in a day or two. The conditions for rounding New Jersey are not looking good until after May fifteenth, more than a week away so I have time to burn.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I stayed at the MYC Saturday night and probably should have hung around for one more but I was feeling impatient with my progress and still wanted to see Baltimore so I left Sunday morning, or at least tried to, when the tide was at it’s peak. The water was calm but the wind was gusty and as I backed out of my slip the boat went sideways and my poor dinghy snagged a piling. One davit block ripped right off and so did a tow ring. I thought for sure that I was out of an inflatable. Now after a few days it looks like I can repair it if I get a chance. Anyway, after stopping at the fuel dock to fix things I waited two hours until the wind changed direction just enough so I could leave without further damage and motored ten miles to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore and tied up at the so-called Public Docks.  No Docking signs reserved most of the good spaces for triple-decked tour boats and water taxis. But there were no signs between the docks so I slipped in and stayed two nights.

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I had never been to Baltimore and knew nothing about the city other than what Randy Newman sang… “Baltimorrre, it’s harrrd…” And maybe it was once upon a time, but thriving Baltimore is now a major player in the port business. It is, or soon will be, the major east coast port for auto imports. The city has the rail service and is a lot closer to major markets on the east coast and in the mid-west than southern ports. It looks like a hard working town.

On Sunday afternoon I walked around the harbor area getting my bearings. No other boats came along so I was the only cruiser on the docks. The docks have very little security, maybe that’s why. Groups of people who were waiting for their excursion boat ride would wander along my dock taking pictures. Walkabout is going to be in many family albums. I worried about the situation and locked up, even zipping the cockpit’s enclosure when I took a walk. I returned every hour to check but no one was so bold as to step on her deck.

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Police were everywhere, in cars, riding on bicycles and golf carts. Their presence and the security cameras all over were enough of a deterrent.  Even so, the sidewalks and plazas have plenty of panhandlers who will ask you for a dollar at every turn.

Monday morning I went to the National Aquarium. The distinctive glass buildings are on two small peninsulas built out into the harbor connected to each other by an elevated bridge. I paid my thirty-four dollar admission and went to see the Australian exhibit first, it was very well done with fish displayed below and birds above with gators in between.

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As I was headed for the main displays the kids showed up, hundreds of grade schoolers. I enjoy children in small doses but this was a mob. Oh well, they were having a great field trip so I waited my turn at each fish tank until the kids had seen their fill. They certainly know how to use their smart phones to take snapshots, better than me that’s for sure! The aquarium took four hours to see then I went back to the boat to check for interlopers – all good.

The Lexington Market is an eclectic collection of food vendors and it’s only a mile away the brochure said.  I walked over, got a bit lost but found it after asking two reluctant people for directions. Eclectic? It’s mostly a collection of ordinary fried chicken, Chinese buffet and small meat and fish market stalls set up inside an old building with a floor that slopes steeply downhill. Probably so they can hose it clean. I didn’t buy anything and became less and less hungry as I have a limited appetite for chicken gizzards.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

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Sassafras River anchorage

Tuesday was a pleasant day, there was little wind when I left Baltimore at seven motoring down the Patapsco River and then north toward the C&D Canal. My anchorage for the night was five miles up the Sassafras River where Jeanne and I had stayed once before in a protected spot with nice view. The anchor went down at three.  I took a needed nap and then had supper. As I have almost daily traveling up the coast I called home but to my surprise, even with many homes along the Sassafras’ shore there was no cell service, so no chat with the wife. I knew that she would worry, and she did, but there was nothing I could do.

Wednesday morning I pulled up anchor for a twenty mile motoring trip to Chesapeake City. The tide was with me and I was in the lagoon and anchored by noon. During the ride the sky slowly clouded over but the sunlight stayed strong enough to warm the enclosed cockpit. I would duck down into it to warm up because I had to stand on the after rail for most of the trip watching out for floating debris. As I approached the entrance to the canal lots of sticks and junk were in the water and occasionally a half sunken log which could break a propeller. It demanded my full attention. So, get this.  I’m standing a vigilant watch with my 7X50 binoculars looking at the river, passing boats, and small farms along the shore and what do I see? Zebras! Three of them, with their own pasture and barn.

I phoned home later and sure enough Jeanne had been pretty upset not getting her evening call. We have both agreed that the daily calls are great, but when one is missed it causes inordinate worry so, what to do? I like calling home and she wants to hear from me as well, the only solution is to have faith and not fret when it doesn’t ring.  There is usually a good reason but not a catastrophic one.  I told her don’t worry unless you get a call from someone else.

The weather has put a hold on moving for a few days. The anchorage here at Chesapeake City while not too convenient is the best in these parts to wait. There is plenty to do. The boat needs cleaning desperately and the dinghy has to be repaired. I mixed up some glue yesterday and put the tow ring back on, today I’ll flip the dink over and fix it’s handles. Dingo’s seat was lost in the fracas and I didn’t notice until I hauled it on board. When I get home I’ll have to build a new one, a better one to salve my feelings. Of all the close calls and near misses I’ve had on this trip that bumbling departure last Saturday was the worst.

It may change, as plans often do, but it looks good for the two hundred mile run down the Delaware and up the New Jersey coast to New York starting Monday. I was able to talk to Chris Parker this morning on the SSB radio – first time in a long time – and he thinks the first part of the week is good for travel with favorable but fairly light wind and good weather.

Friday, May 12, 2017

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Chesapeake City. Note the ship under the bridge.

Chesapeake City’s lagoon is as good a place as any to wait, and with less than pleasant weather predicted for tomorrow and Sunday it will suffice. Not all day Sunday, I’m going to a marina for a night before I leave for Cape May. The marina is only seven miles east on the C&D canal and that will cut an hour off the Delaware River leg of the trip. I have to top off the fuel and water tanks and a shower would be nice as I won’t get another chance for any of those things until I reach the Hudson River and maybe not even until Catskill, a week away. I’ll get to Cape May rather late Monday and get going early Tuesday with no time for fueling.

My dinghy is repaired as best as I can. As badly as it got damaged it still holds air and can be used. The seat is a minor loss, if I have to row I’ll sit on an overturned bucket. Not having a dinghy would be a major inconvenience. It’s like a cowboy’s horse, you’re stuck without one.

Oceangoing ships pass by this lagoon at all hours. They are so large they loom over the treetops, looking like steel mountains sliding by. The C&D canal is a major route to the ports of Philadelphia, Trenton and Baltimore connecting the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River. Both bodies of water are navigable far inland making them essential to east coast commerce. These mid-coast ports, coupled with the New York/New Jersey port complex make up the largest in the United States. This country is ridiculously rich, we just won’t admit it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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Keeping the shipping lanes open.

Today was certainly a change, it was sunny and warm, the temperature rose to seventy this afternoon. I  pulled up the anchor this morning and drove East along the C&D Canal to Summit North Marina where I bought diesel fuel then tied alongside their transient dock. That’s what I am, a transient. I worked on getting Walkabout ready for the New Jersey transit, besides fuel I took on water and cleaned the speed indicator paddle wheel which had stopped. It supplies speed data without which the wind instrument can’t calculate true wind speed which is good to know particularly when sailing downwind. It also gives the distance logging instrument data to figure how far through the water you have gone, that’s handy too. Little creatures grow on the plastic spinner that sticks down under the boat and eventually their shells will clog it and have to be removed with acid. That done I took a much needed shower and cleaned more inside the boat, a job I started yesterday. Jeanne is joining me next week and I can’t have her seeing how I’ve been living. Just kidding. I can’t stand the boat when it starts to look like deer camp. The Navy taught me well.

Tomorrow I plan to be in the Delaware River when the tide is almost slack. The ebb tide may give me a boost as I run down to Cape May. The wind is also supposed to be blowing in the right direction. We shall see. I’ll anchor Monday night in the harbor next to the Coast Guard station and leave Tuesday for New York.

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Screamin’ down the Delaware

Monday, May 15, 2017

What a day for sailing! I ate a big plate of hash and eggs to hold me all day, I would be too busy later to even make a sandwich. The C&D Canal was almost deserted, only one sailboat was out in front of me and he had a good start. The current was running fast, my speed over the ground was eight knots. The clean paddle wheel was spinning off six knots of boat speed, there was two knots of tidal current going my way. I planned my departure on an ebb tide in the Delaware River and was correct, for a very short time my GPS was reading 9.8 knots SOG, faster than I’ve ever seen Walkabout travel. It’s deceiving though, you are not really moving through the water that fast, just to where you’re headed that fast – and that will do.

Walkabout passed the big nuclear generating plant on the eastern shore of the Delaware and had traveled five miles further when a call came over the VHF radio:

“Mayday, Mayday. This is Carina, we need medical help!”

A sailboat, which I had noticed less than an hour before anchored off Reedy Island, had experienced an accidental gibe. One of her crew was knocked out and was bleeding on deck unconscious. The Coast Guard responded immediately and I followed the progress of the incident for as long as I could. When eventually I lost radio reception a medivac was imminent. Good thing too, the injured man was fifty-six years old, had been unconscious for more than five minutes and when he came around couldn’t remember anything about the day.

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The close to shore route around Cape May, NJ

Accidental gibes are common but sailors try not to let them happen because they can hurt crew and break stuff. Let me explain. The wind is coming from behind, the boat rolls in the waves. The mainsail gets turned perpendicular to the wind for a second and is suddenly driven to the opposite side of the boat. That’s an accidental gibe. The boom swings with great force from one extreme to the other usually with a loud crash as the rigging tries to absorb the shock. If a crewman is struck by the boom it can kill, even on a small sailboat. Large boats use boom brakes to slow down the passage of the boom from one side of the boat to the other.  Another commonly used safety device called a preventer locks the boom on one side of the boat when running downwind. Also, most modern cruising boats are designed with the boom high enough and short enough that crew are not exposed to the danger.

I hope the crewman on Carina ended up alright. My choice today, since the wind was directly from behind blowing twenty knots gusting to twenty-eight, was to use the jib alone and let the motor run at half throttle just in case. I didn’t feel overpowered and had a good day.

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To avoid the shoals near Cape May and an extra ten miles of travel I took a route close to shore coming within a hundred yards of the beach near the lighthouse. People were waving as Walkabout sailed by but it had me nervous. The water was thirty feet deep and the waves had flattened out but I was glad to get out of there. I had the hook down by five and will head out tomorrow morning for New York as it looks to be another fine day.

Friday, May 19, 2017

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Staten Island Ferry

I left Cape May into a flat calm sea. It didn’t stay calm, the wind when it came blew in the low twenties from the southwest which was directly from behind until Sea Girt where the New Jersey coast turns almost due north. Then the wind died and I motored slowly along, intentionally because I would have reached Raritan Bay before dawn on Wednesday and I don’t like arguing with big ships in the dark. Traffic was heavy with tugs and barges even though I was within the three mile line. Just before noon I grabbed a mooring in the Hudson River at 79th Street Marina and stayed there Wednesday night.

After a shower I walked around in the city for a couple hours. I found a little grocery store on Columbia Avenue and bought bagels and cheese. It was a New York thing to do. In the morning I tried to catch the tide upriver, tugboats began to push their barges then so I was hopeful. After two hours of very slow going (3 knots) the current increased and Walkabout began to make miles. I passed up many anchorages and by seven Thursday evening arrived in Highland where there was a new town dock empty and waiting just for me. Lucky thing too, I was expecting to tie up at Mariner’s Restaurant on their rickety wooden dock but apparently they are out of business, no dock and no place to anchor either. Next door I saw people fishing from a steel bulkhead and then noticed there were large cleats on top of it. I swung the boat around, carefully eased in watching the depth and asked if it was OK if I tied up. No one objected so I did. Like most free docks this one has it’s problems, mostly wakes from passing boats, we bounce a lot but with all my fenders out so far so good.

I spent today hustling in the hot sun getting the three sails down, rolled up and in their bags. I used my little wheeled cart to haul the sails back and forth to a large grass plot to do a decent job of folding them. When I lifted the heavy mainsail in it’s storage bag with my spinnaker halyard to swing it over to the boat’s deck I clipped the cart and it sank to the bottom between the boat and the dock. I was bummed and tried and tried to fish it out of the murky river and only by sheer luck snagged it with the boat hook and retrieved my sturdy cart.

Tomorrow I’ll get to Catskill for the mast disassembly and finally see my wife.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The mast is down and riding on wooden cradles for the journey north. Jeanne brought them down Saturday and is now with me as we bring Walkabout back to Lake Champlain. It was far too long for us to be apart. But Jeanne wintered well and is happy that my trip is almost over. In the days ahead we will examine what, if anything, this little saga has produced.

Since I had taken the time to remove the sails before I got to Riverview Marine in Catskill all I had left to do was to dissemble cotter pins, rigging lines and various wires. Sunday morning we were ready and removing the mast with Riverview’s big crane went quickly. Two hours later Jeanne and I had everything secured, paid for and were out on the river headed north.

Last night we anchored a mile up Schodack Creek in a marsh with no one else in sight. This morning four whitetail deer came down to the river for their morning ablutions then retreated to the woods when an Amtrak train hurtled past on the opposite bank. We left too, catching the tidal flow just right covering the fifteen miles to Troy, NY by noon. Troy’s Federal Lock, however, had problems and when Jeanne radioed to say we wanted to go through she was told it would be an hour’s wait because they were repairing a cylinder. I called after lunch and the lock operator said they would need another hour but would let me know when they could open. We settled in for a long wait. We had tied up to a towering concrete wall in downtown Troy and were not too happy about it, boat wakes and the current bounced us around and unseen vagrant people above were throwing bottles and cans into the water. I was thinking rocks could be next. But thirty minutes later the lock operator called us and we and another boat went through and into the Champlain Canal. We locked twice more before calling it a day at Mechanicville, NY tying up to the free pier they offer visiting boaters. The pier is the magnificent result of volunteers who not only upgraded the old pier but built and maintain a brand new shower facility to benefit travelers. We got the whole story from one of the guys responsible. What a concept! Two blocks away there is a good pizza place, Bucciero’s where we had supper with enough pizza left for the next day. Whitehall is next and Charlotte after that.  We could be home by Thursday!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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We didn’t get to Whitehall Tuesday we had to tie to the wall south of Lock 11 because of delays earlier in the day.  Lock 8 said we had to wait, why wasn’t clear but we think the operator was mowing the lawn. The locks close at 5:00 so we missed locking through and had to camp out. The next morning after the fog had lifted we set out and made it to Lake Champlain by noon. It was a beautiful day, one just made to come home in.

We arrived at our mooring ball in the afternoon Wednesday ending my eight month-long odyssey on Walkabout. All that remains to do is a ton of cleaning and repair work before she can begin the summer season on Lake Champlain. The poor boat is a mess with sea growth and brown stains all the way up to her rubrails. In one lock on Tuesday she was forced so hard against the wall that a fender was dragged down and broke a lifeline which now droops sadly on the starboard side adding to her forlorn looks. But with some effort and a good washdown in a couple weeks our sturdy sailboat will be looking handsome and ready for another summer on the lake.

My brother Arnold will drive up here to pick us up later today and take us back to our home in Ira. I’m looking forward to a night’s sleep with my old wife beside her old husband in our old bed. Then it will be readjustment to life on land: No more constant motion, no more watching out for weather and other dangers, no more running low on water, fuel or food, no more (for a while anyway) anchor dragging. It will be tough. Seriously, the biggest danger in the readjustment period is falling under the spell of television and all the rest of the crap civilization throws at you, while sitting on the couch eating chips. That’s not good and is very easy to do. I tell myself that won’t happen but it could. Jeanne will see that it doesn’t, she is an expert handler.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Home at last.

Jeanne and I finished bringing Walkabout through the Champlain Canal Wednesday with a run from Lock 11 near Comstock, NY all the way to Charlotte, VT and our mooring at Point Bay Marina. We stayed on the boat that night and packed our bags the next day. It was pretty dismal Thursday, it rained off and on all day long and we were thankful that we hadn’t loitered in the canal sightseeing. My brother and his wife Janet drove up after work and delivered us to our home in Ira. Even the cat was glad to have me back. Our pickup truck was still in Catskill so Friday morning we drove there in Jeanne’s car and followed each other back on the rain soaked thruway thick with traffic. A blunt reintroduction to life on land but I had better get used to it. I’ve been without transportation for so long that having a car available is a new thing. My bike is unusable, it failed the salt spray test and all its moving parts rusted.

Jeanne spent a lot of time while she was alone here in our hillside home this winter wallpapering and painting rooms so I arrived to discover a beautified house. I’ll have to be careful not to scatter my stuff all over it, at least for a while. However, her efforts put me on a spot. There is no way I can avoid completing my finish-the-cellar project now. And, there are lots of downed trees from the windstorm last month to be cut up and hauled off. She pointed them out to me yesterday but it was pretty obvious I have a lot of work ahead. Walkabout needs plenty of attention too. She is filthy from the trip and needs a VHF radio cable replaced before the mast goes up. She needs new lifelines too, those have to be taken off and shipped to the rigging shop. All in all, I’ll be busy.


What did I gain from this long trip?

Satisfaction, in the fact that I found I was capable of navigating from Vermont to Cuba and the Bahamas, and to get back. Satisfaction, even when things became truly frightening I could still cope. Satisfaction, at seventy-two.

Realizing that it took more than just myself. I found help from friends new and old when I needed it. Jeanne, Will, Kathleen, Craig, Donna, Mike, Jim, Karen, Greg, Paul, Joe, Nancy, John, Dale, Christian and Jacine, and so many others who lent assistance to an old fool traveling alone. You have my heartfelt thanks. Readers of my blog deserve thanks too, your responses kept me at it.  I hope it wasn’t too dull and you could find a chuckle or two in it.  Don’t think of it as a travel guide whatever you do.

When I took the time to look up from my boat duties there were wondrous sights to see.

The Intracoastal Waterway is a national treasure. I hope the ICW receives the care and money it needs to stay open.

Cuba was another world, a fascinating place that deserves another visit because two weeks were hardly enough.

The Bahamas are special, I love Bahamians and their islands.

The ocean… There is nothing like sailing on the ocean.

Memories, that’s my takeaway.

The voyage continues.

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rpk, 2017

 

a revolutionary education

Excerpts from Journal Entries from April 16,2017 to May 2, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I shoved off the fuel dock at Joyners Marina Friday morning at 7:30, a good time to start since the tide was going my way. joyners dock Tide and current are related but not as you might naturally think when navigating the waterway.  This morning as I passed the first inlet at Wrightsville we were going seven knots, a few miles further at the next inlet the boat speed dropped to 4 knots.  However, it does average out and arrival times can be predicted with some accuracy provided nothing else stands in your way.  And, of course, it did; three bridges are along the route to Mile Hammock and they each have to open for you to pass.  I reached the first bridge just after it closed and had to wait forty-five minutes to go through.  The second opened every thirty minutes so the wait there was only twenty.  And the last, a slow moving swing bridge that was hidden behind a foundation that will be, someday, maybe, a new high bridge forced me to wait almost a full hour fighting a fickle current in the narrow channel.  The bridges put my arrival time at the anchorage back over two hours.  Then, at the New River Inlet within sight of the Mile Hammock lagoon I ran aground at exactly low tide in a place very poorly marked.  Follow the marks, that’s good advice.  But what if the marks are not where they will help you, then what?  You go aground like me and wait until the tide lifts you off.  Three hours later a power boat came along and it’s wake bounced me free.  Now I still wouldn’t have known where the channel was unless two other sailboats had come along earlier.  The first boat felt its way through and the captain told me the water depths as he went.  I watched carefully and tried to memorize his track: It was close to the bank – where my charts showed nothing!  The second sailboat approached slowly and ran aground but quickly backed free.  I hollered for him to go closer to the sandbank and after another soft bump, he got through. Without watching those two boats I would have undoubtedly become stuck again.  As it was I got to the anchorage just in time to watch the sun set.

Such a peaceful place Mile Hammock, you would never know it is in the middle of a U.S. Marines training ground. I only saw two aircraft buzzing around, perhaps because of the Easter weekend.  There was an almost constant low level growling from the direction of the seashore, heavy equipment on the beach practicing land maneuvers maybe.  It wasn’t loud enough to be annoying, just more white noise.  I left at seven fifteen Saturday morning to get to Beaufort early in the afternoon and for once my estimation was close.  The sailboat that showed the way through the puzzle at the New River Inlet yesterday left right before me and I tagged closely behind since he obviously had better charts.  There was, on the way south last Fall, a tricky spot two miles north of the Mile Hammock anchorage and I thought by following this guy I would have less trouble.  But apparently that section has been dredged and is now shoal-free.

The trip was uneventful until I reached Morehead City, NC.  Some of the cruising people we have met over the years say they avoid traveling on the ICW on weekends.  That makes a lot of sense.  Good Friday, however, should be considered part of a weekend.  It was about one o’clock when I entered the commercial turning basin at the head of the Morehead Ship Channel which leads out to the Atlantic.  There were literally hundreds of small power boats, some anchored for fishing, most just roaring at top speed in every direction filled with people “recreating” on the water.  I bore across the mile-wide basin then down the ship channel heading to a secondary channel which I would follow to Beaufort.  Traffic picked up, now dozens of boats were charging up and down the channel, leaping over the waves, spray flying.  And there, twenty feet off my bow a boat load of people suddenly appeared, panic in their eyes.  Thank heavens I saw them and spun the wheel in time.  There was no looking back and I’ve been shaken ever since. I have a small mental box where I store all incidents like that and open it from time to time just to check. Then slam the lid.

I’ll start off again tomorrow.  Weekend will be over and it’s a short hop to the town of Oriental which is good for a night, or two if shrimp are available.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I started out from Beaufort with a short delay at the lift bridge, got there half an hour early and had to wait.  By the time the operator lifted the spans ten boats had gathered and it was a mad dash going through.  The ICW divides into two lanes a couple miles north of Beaufort.  The main route goes to Morehead City, the other, called Russell’s Slough (sluff) winds it’s way to Beaufort.  Shrimpers use that route and many of the shrimp boats were parked along its edge.  Where the slough joins the main ICW channel things became easier, the water deeper and better marked.  I cruised up to the Neuse River and passed by Oriental, NC by eleven, much too soon to stop for the day and went on to my favorite marina River Dunes and took a slip for two nights.  river_dunesIt’s a great place, not overly expensive and is like going to a fine hotel.  I borrowed their van and drove down to Oriental.  The hardware store filled my empty second propane tank, I like to keep ahead with my cooking gas supply, and after that I visited an outdoor tiki bar for a beer and small talk with the locals.  Then dinner at the Toucan Restaurant: very good shrimp bisque and a burger which prepared me for a visit to the grocery store (not hungry at all) where I bought a loaf of commercial everlasting bread and some meat.  It’s a good idea not to go food shopping on an empty stomach.  My errands done I drove back to the boat for a good night’s sleep.

Oriental, NC
Oriental, NC

Today I’ll spruce up my vessel a little, and partake of the marina’s amenities: a soak in their Jacuzzi and another steam shower!!  Then tomorrow it’ll be back to camping mode.  I think I can be as far as Portsmouth, VA by the weekend.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Walkabout is parked in the north ferry boat landing in Portsmouth, Virginia where we will stay until tomorrow or Tuesday depending on the weather.  The city will let you tie here free of charge for 48 hours but boaters often stay a lot longer and nobody minds, I think.  I came up the ICW from Coinjock, NC yesterday in wonderful conditions, warm, sunny with a moderate breeze from behind.  Not sailing, the channel was much too narrow for that, but motoring along at a peaceful pace.  Traffic was lighter yesterday than the previous two days, the motor yachts had almost all disappeared over the horizon leaving slower boats to plod on to their next stop.

While walking on the dock at Coinjock Marina yesterday I was greeted by Randy Chapman from Chesapeake City and a former Vermont resident, who had just bought our friend’s boat, Both Sides Now, and was driving it home.  Ken Bushee from Danby, VT, and a Lake Champlain sailor, wrote for a long time on his blog of the adventures he and his wife Francine were having on their voyages. Jeanne and I first met Ken in the Bahamas and continued to read about his exploits in his blog.  He had switched from a sailboat to a trawler recently and had planned to travel the Great Loop but unfortunately passed away in January. It was quite a coincidence meeting his boat’s new owner but it is in good hands.

As soon as I arrived in Portsmouth yesterday afternoon and had let the wind blow me down to the rickety pier and tied off, the rain began and then thunder, lightning and a deluge forcing me into the cabin to tighten down hatches and portlights.  It let up at dark but the wind still roared and the temperature dropped into the high fifties, not what I’m used to and this morning is drizzly and downright chilly.  I’ve got to slow down!


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Maintenance

Knowing something about boat maintenance costs (it’s frightening) I’m looking across the river at the General Dynamics shipyard operations where US Navy ships are being refurbished around the clock and think: Unimaginable amounts of tax dollars and debt dollars are being spent on the war machine.  For all the hue and cry against social programs from the Right – giving away our/their/corporations? hard earned money, and so forth – all the welfare programs put together would not come close to what, I believe, this one shipyard spends in one month on warship maintenance.  The multi-national military industry has grown so large that it dwarfs anything else: Health, education, infrastructure, social programs, Social Security, anything. But manifest militarism does a far more insidious injury to our people, it brings us down to the level of wanton killers, an overbearing aggressor of a nation whose leaders will fabricate reasons to attack lesser peoples or acronymics and then propagandize us with fear so we will support more aggression. When have we not been at war?  When did we hand over the reins? About the time when American women began to get tattoos…

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Walkabout has been sitting here at the ferry landing in Portsmouth now since Saturday afternoon.  The rain let up today and the sun appeared for a couple hours. Now it’s right back to drizzle.  And its been cold, at least for me, when the thermometer shows sixty and its damp like this it feels frigid.  But, for the short time the sun was out today the temperature shot up fast.

I will be off to Yorktown tomorrow morning.  I have to leave before eight because if I don’t the tide will cover the dock next to the boat and I’ll have to wade to untie the lines.  That’s the one big shortcoming of this free dock, twice a day you have to wade to get ashore, or get back back on board.  One of the boats behind me has their dinghy out, maybe that’s a solution.  I called the municipal dock in Yorktown this morning and have a reservation. The American Revolution was decided there and there should be plenty to see.  If it’s not too expensive I’ll stay for a couple of days before moving further north.

Since it rained so much I haven’t gotten much done except for one grocery shopping run Sunday afternoon.  The store is quite a hike from the dock but I dragged my little cart and brought back enough food to get me to New York I think.  That’s only three weeks away.  Day by day I’m getting closer to home. bikeThis morning I visited the local bicycle shop and bought a new seat post.  The old one was snatched away one day at sea by a jib sheet.  The bike was useful in Marathon and I rode it some in Cuba and Bimini but it’s taken a beating out there on the deck. I worked on it this afternoon to break down the rust but it may have gone too far, the chain, brakes and shifters are frozen and will take lots and lots of WD40 to free up.  The bike failed the salt spray test I guess.

This evening I’ll walk down to High Street to Baron’s Pub which I like for one last mug of Sweet Baby Jesus† beer and a bite for supper.  I would go across the street to the Commodore Theater for a movie but later I would have to traverse the flooded dock to get home and with sacrilegious brew in me might step off into the abyss.

Thursday, April 27, 2017tug.2

Starting out from Portsmouth yesterday morning there was a lot of traffic, the river was churning with tugboats going out for their next tug.  I hugged the edge of the ship channel on the starboard side which put me near the string of U.S.Navy ships parked at their docks.  You are supposed to give Navy ships 1500 feet of clearance but that would have put me in the way of tug traffic so I stayed right on the line.  When I passed a watchtower whistles blew and lights flashed and I could see a watchman behind his window waving his arms.  Must have been for someone else, I just kept on going.

Zeus
Zeus

Later, as I turned the corner to head out into Chesapeake Bay a U.S.Coast Guard cutter appeared; I had been taking pictures of an unusual Navy ship that had passed me on its way to the yards so I took shots of the cutter too.  Next thing I heard was a call from the cutter asking when my last inspection was and that they were boarding boats that morning and I was next!  Great.  I scrambled below to fetch my papers and thirty seconds later the boarding party was climbing over my rails.  It sounds worse than it was, all they want is to see if you have your safety gear, extinguishers, life jackets, and your registration.  The two guardsmen made quick work of it, filling out a form which I signed and ripping off a copy for me to keep (but the form was defective, my copy was blank, they had to give me another!) and hopped back in the chase boat that was skippered by a young, capable guardette and were gone.  I watched for a minute and they immediately boarded a motor yacht nearby so I guess I wasn’t singled out.

Here's Looking At You!
Here’s Looking At You!

The wind came up when I got out into the bay and I motorsailed for three hours until my course put me directly into the wind.  But the wind died anyway and I drove up the York River in flat calm water.  The Riverwalk Marina sits in the center of Yorktown’s harbor and consists of two large floating concrete docks jutting out into the fast flowing York River.  The marina, like many I’ve visited is municipally owned and operated, but this one is a professional operation from what I’ve seen so far.  Attentive people, fair pricing and clean facilities; what more do you want?

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Just a half mile walk away from the dock although there is a free trolley is the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.  I spent four hours there bulking up on history.  The eight year conflict is laid out in the museum’s exhibits that even extend outdoors with reconstructions of military encampments, demonstrations complete with cannon fire, and a settler’s farmstead which includes a slave quarters and a tobacco curing shed.  That part of the museum is only a month old, the buildings have a new bright look.  School kids out for a field day trooped through the place, their leaders trying to keep order which was hard because gunfire had made them excited.  Better than bored.

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I’m going north in the morning, only forty miles like yesterday.  This time to Reedville off the Rappahanock in a small creek that is well protected and has water deep enough for Walkabout.

Monday, May 1, 2017

On Friday I left Yorktown and motored north to an anchorage in the town of Reedville, VA that Jeanne and I had anchored in six years ago.  That time we were besieged with a sudden thunderstorm and had to fight to keep from hitting another boat.  Not a good experience.  This time I was the only one in the creek and had the pick of good spots, and the weather was not threatening so I had a good night’s sleep in a quiet place.
I left early the next morning for Solomon’s Island, another forty miles in much the same conditions.  Tried to sail but the wind was not cooperating.  I anchored in Mill Creek for the night in the same spot I was in back in December.  The next morning the air was still, the creek was also motionless at low tide, so I upped anchor at 0630 and raised my mainsail while sitting there in the calm.  By the time I had motored out into the Bay there were signs of wind, it was going to fill in and by ten it was blowing fifteen knots right from behind.  I have mixed feelings about sailing straight downwind, Walkabout rolls like mad and it’s hard to keep the sails full when she does.  But I had the engine off by eleven, the whisker pole out for the jib and a solid preventer holding the main out to starboard.  Wing on wing.  The nice thing about the wind Sunday was it did not vary at all in strength or direction for five hours, long enough to get me to the entrance of the Wye River over on the eastern shore.  There it collapsed to nothing in just a few minutes and I pulled in all the sails to motor up the river to where I was going.  That was ten miles further, in a small “creek” called the Wye East River where I called it a day and anchored close to Wye Island.dividing_creek

Last night was calm and I got a good rest.  This morning I woke to the wind picking up and blowing into my anchoring spot rocking the boat.  That wouldn’t do.  The main reason I traveled so far away from the bay was to get a secure place for the cold front that is coming tonight with high wind, maybe in the thirty knot range.  I pulled up the anchor, it was not easy but I got it up and left with it dangling in the water ready to quickly drop and drove two miles more up the creek and into a small but very protected cove on a side tributary called Dividing Creek.  Here I think we will be OK, it’s been howling all day but the water in the cove barely moves.

Wye Island is owned by the State of Maryland which is keeping it as an historical and ecological artifact.  The private island was a plantation since the seventeen century but fortunately its owners did not totally deforest it for agriculture as it still has a twenty acre stand of old growth forest that you can walk through on a trail. Presently the island is called the Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area, NMRA, and has picnic and camping areas, working fields, a bald eagle habitat and some original homesites.  But it is not, as far as I can tell, an exploitative operation because the island is being left mostly in it’s original wild state.  The woods are not groomed, the creeks and coves have fallen trees in them, and you’re on your own when visiting.  red_oakOn my walk today I did not see a single person on the trails and only one distant vehicle on the dirt road that goes down the center of the island. The old growth forest is spectacular, huge red and white oaks, sweetgum trees and loblolly pines soar a hundred feet into the canopy.  The footpath is the only thing attended to in these woods, fallen trunks lie mouldering among the new saplings reaching up to replace them. It was quiet walking through there by myself, a good place to reflect…  Who me?  Naw.

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One trail ended and another began, this one through a plantation of young market trees, farmed trees, many with plastic tubes placed around their slender young trunks, probably to keep off pests.  tree_tubesAnd that trail led me around to the highlight of the whole excursion, the 275 year old Wye Island Holly Tree, standing alone in a field of mowed grass with wooden marker poles set around it, presumably to warn off vandals.  The poor old tree however, looks it’s age.  The truncated trunk is enormous but you can see that it is hollow in places through holes in the smooth gray bark.  But the ancient tree is still producing bright red berries, which means it is still trying to make more hollies and its leaves are dark, dark green with very sharp prickers.  Respect me, she says.wye_holly.1

I’m at the mercy of the weather which is going to be ugly for another day.  Wednesday I’ll move again, this time to Rock Hall, still on the eastern shore and after that it’s a tossup, Annapolis or Baltimore.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The cold front came over the Wye River today, it blew hard last night and there were a few rumbles of thunder but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.  It was still good to be in this protected hole and I decided to stay until tomorrow, the wind was forecast to hit forty out on the bay this afternoon.  I went for another walk in Wye Island’s woods and fields today instead of battling the waves, the sun was out, the sky brilliant blue and the temperature was seventy-three.  It’s like early summer in Vermont, the hay here is ready for a first cut, tree pollen has coated Dividing Creek and I’m sneezing.

Tomorrow I’m going to sail to the Patapsco River and Stoney Creek to stay at the Maryland Yacht Club for a night: To refuel and get a pump-out.  I’ll ask if they recognize the RSYC as a reciprocal club – doubt it, but my ensign is flying just in case they do.  Thursday I’ll try to get a slip at the Baltimore Public Docks, I called today but they weren’t answering.  That would be a great base for touring Baltimore, the docks are right in downtown on the inner harbor.  It’s supposed to rain on Friday, all day, and some more on Saturday, actually it won’t be clear and warm again until the middle of next week.  My scheduling is becoming more critical too, I don’t want to be early getting to New York and by the same token the Champlain Locks are opening in just seventeen days.

Maryland Yacht Club Slip
Maryland Yacht Club Slip

 

† They were out.

rpk