so it begins

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Back Creek, Annapolis, MD

 

(This is taken from my daily journal, so there may be repetitions.)

September 22, 2016

We got started yesterday morning at 0630, barely half an hour after our planned departure.  The lake was calm and remained that way even with the wind building from the South.  Will Patten had signed on as crew and was getting his bearings with this boat so he steered many miles.  Going through the locks is a tricky business so his company was very much appreciated.  I had taken over the helm at the Narrows and was pointing out where Jeanne and I had tied up for a night when we suddenly and violently bottomed out and came to a stop.  It was a quick jolt of reality and I thought “Well now we’re in trouble”.  But a Canadian boat which had been following us for a couple miles came to our rescue and pulled us off the sandbar.  Jackie and Christian on Que Syrha are now our newest best friends.

We are just now getting ready to cast off for the next lock and then on to Mechanicville.

Jeanne drove all the way over here to bring me a cell phone cable I forgot.  She stayed for dinner but didn’t want to sleep over.  She also gave me a number to call about the Coast Guard form I submitted.  I’ll add more to that later.

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The coast guard were inflexible, they want a revised form sent that specifies the two week limit to stay in Cuba that I was trying to eliminate.  I will do that but if I can I will stay longer and just say it was due to boat trouble or bad weather.

Jeanne got home alright from Whitehall and is expecting to drive down to Catskill when we get there on the 24th.

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September 23, 2016

Will and I cleared the Champlain Canal’s lock system and are now in the Hudson River a little south of Troy, NY headed for Catskill.  I called Mike at Riverview Marina this morning asking him if they could step the mast tomorrow and it looks good if we can make it there today.    Jeanne will come down and bring home the lumber for the cradle so it will be available when I return in the spring.

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Foggy morning at Catskill, NY

It’s a cloudy morning, a few drops of rain fell earlier but now the sun is poking through and clearing is forecast for tonight so it may be a good day for stepping the mast after all.

September 24, 2016

Today was a productive day.  Walkabout’s mast was stepped this morning and after Will, Jeanne and I put on the jib and main sails I spent the rest of the afternoon attaching wires and rigging lines.  With the exception of one light bulb, which I will change in the morning, the boat is ready to go.  I hope to leave around ten tomorrow catching the outgoing tide and anchor in the Mt. Dunderberg anchorage by evening.  If I can do that then I can get to NYC by Tuesday.

Jeanne drove all the way to Catskill this morning to pick up the cradle boards.  Will rode back to Fair Haven with her to meet his wife Kathleen who drove down from Hinesburg to pick him up.  I can’t thank him enough for helping me through the locks, and for his good company too.

I washed some laundry late this afternoon and got a shower before going to dinner with Jackie and Chris, the Canadians on Que Syrah.  Nice folks, and I’m sure we will meet again along the waterway or in the Bahamas.  They have grand plans: sailing to the Baltic next Spring, returning to the Eastern Caribbean and then on to the Western Caribbean and then to the west coast of the US and Alaska.  They have alloted ten years for their journey.

September 25, 2016

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Looking North from West Point.

Left Riverview this morning at 0915 into the Hudson River.  It was slack tide so I could drive along at five knots.  The wind was coming from the North and I tried the jib to help the boat along but it was too light for any effect on my speed.  As the morning went on the tide ebbed faster and faster until by early afternoon we were going over seven knots.  The speed continued until we passed West Point at 1700 (5PM) and then slowly dropped as the tide switched but I made it to my destination for the day, an anchorage in shallow water across from the Indian Point Reactor in Bucanan, NY.  When we had stopped before at that anchorage frieght trains would go by all night making a racket but the tracks were being repaired so I had a peaceful night’s sleep.

September 26, 2016

Monday morning I was underway by 0830 into a river covered with fog.  The sun breaking through made it a very bucolic sight.  Again, like the day before the tide picked up and at 1100 we were barrelling by the new construction on the Tappan Zee Bridge.  The concrete structures are huge yet appear graceful.  It should be finished within a year I’d guess.  The cost must be out of this world.  Walkabout passed under the George Washington Bridge two hours later and turned into the mooring field at the 79th St. Municipal Marina an hour after that.  But the tide at 79th Street had reached full ebb and it looked like I was going to have my hands full picking up a mooring.  I tried compensating for the tidal flow by motoring up to a vacant ball, two tethers streaming away from it. I slowed the engine and walked quickly up to the bow and leaned out with my boathook to grab a line but the boat was moving too fast and before I could prevent it the boathook was pulled out of my hand into the river.  Blast!  Wheeling the boat around I could see my hook floating in the water moving downstream.  I was not going to lose that valuable item without a fight.  Matching its drift I got Walkabout sideways in the stream and almost got it aboard but missed!  One more turn around and in between the other moored boats.  I was getting encouragement from onlookers and snaked the vagrant utensil back aboard on the second try.  But I still had to moor my boat.  Lesson one: Go slow. Real slow. It took two attempts before I could attach a line but it got done.  Never hurry around boats.

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Almost to the 79th Street Marina.

September 27, 2016

Last night was vicious moored in the Hudson River, waves rolled up the river on a south wind blowing twenty knots.  Coupled with wakes from the ferries and tugboats Walkabout reared and swung so I couldn’t get around the cabin without hanging on for dear life.  The mooring ball was another matter as the current, sometimes as much as three knots, pushed the boat over the ball banging its metal hardware against the hull. Little sleep was to be had.
I did some small repairs this morning, sewing and cleaning, then went ashore in the dinghy to walk the streets of New York City.  What a zoo.  I tired of it quickly and after buying lunch and some essentials at the grocery went back home to my boat.  I’ll stay here until Thursday then move down to Atlantic Highlands, NJ to wait for a weather window to sail offshore around New Jersey and down to Norfolk.  According to the weather service Sunday might look good.

September 28, 2016

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I walked over to the MET today, it’s on the other side of Central Park, about a mile and a half following 79th Street and then up a few blocks.  Central Park is a kick, if you think New Yorkers are pussies you should walk with them sometime.  I couldn’t keep up.  Although I’ve been to the museum before it’s always different because they change the exhibits frequently, you’ll never see the same things if you go as seldom as I do.  This time they had artifacts from Jerusalem dating back to the time of the Crusades, 1000 – 1300AD.  The presentation is superb as you might expect from the foremost art museum in the country. I walked until I couldn’t anymore.  On the way back to the boat I stopped at a cycle shop on Amsterdam St. and bought a tire pump, something I just didn’t have, and then went to the Westside Market again for a few subsistence items and then back to my boat.  It was a long and tiring day.  We think because we live in the country we’re really outdoorsy but I’ll rethink that and perhaps make amends to my lifestyle…

September 29, 2016

After all the walking yesterday I must have been more exhausted than I first thought because I had to force myself to get up.  At seven-thirty Chris Parker’s weather program starts and the clock read 0746, a bit late, but so was Parker and I caught the rather dismal forecast.  It doesn’t look good for travel down the coast until Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Monday are OK but by Wednesday things start to get dicey.  Tropical storm Mathew is due to arrive near the Carolinas by next Thursday and it just might be a good idea to be in a protected place, where I’m not sure.  If I can get the boat to the Inland Waterway – Norfolk, VA is where it starts – I could tuck in to the Dismal Swamp Canal which, I think, may offer some shelter from storm winds and certainly surge.  Anyway, I bought one more night on my 79th Street mooring and may leave tomorrow in the late afternoon.  It won’t be perfect but I think it may be the best option.
Chris and Jackie on Que Syrah are here and want to travel with me, why I’m not sure, but it will be good to have company.  Misery loves company.

September, 2016

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Freedom, out of Mystic, CT.

I went to the marina building this morning and very slowly did a small load of laundry.  The Quebecers were all there discussing their next move, I was included but there is a language barrier so while I think I know what they’re up to I’m not absolutely sure.  After going back to the boat and hauling the dinghy up on the davits I called Chris on Que Syrah and said that I would be at Liberty Landing for fuel and water; he replied that they would follow in half an hour.  It took almost an hour to get to the marina and find the fuel dock. It is very confusing, they have two fuel docks and when people say “Over here!” on the radio the directions aren’t always clear.  But they were very nice and helped me tie up and handed me a water hose so I could fill the tanks before getting fuel.  I filled the front tank while standing in the rain talking to Mike, another customer, about boats.  Then I started to fill the main water tank.  Meanwhile the engine had been idling all this time and I went and shut it down.  The sound of the boat’s pressure water pump reached my ears – that shouldn’t be – darn, a hose has come apart.  I turned the pump off and went to look for the leak, sure enough a coupling had popped and water had been pouring into the bilge.  Not from the first tank but from the 100 gallon main tank that I now was in the process of filling.  It was taking much longer than I had expected!  Then I looked in the bilge.  Water had come within three inches of the floorboards.  Pumping like mad I got it all out in twenty minutes, now I was soaked inside and out.
I got my diesel fuel and left.  By now the wind had picked up out of the northeast to twenty-eight knots and New York Harbor was a turmoil of waves and ferry boats that I was charging through at over seven knots.

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Lady Liberty

I turned on the radar after nearly clipping a buoy, it’s bell clanging in the fog and rain.  Heading toward Coney Island to get clear of ship traffic I went under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and then bore East into rather large swells coming in from the sea.  To travel another eleven miles across Raritan Bay to get to Atlantic Highlands this late in the day and in such bad weather was foolish so I looked for an alternative place to anchor.  At 1640 (4:40PM) the hook went down in Gravesend Bay (isn’t that nice?) just north of the western tip of Coney Island.  The current is strong here but I’m hopeful it will prove a safe place for tonight, and maybe Saturday night too.

October 1, 2016

It wasn’t too bad in Gravesend Bay overnight, there was some swell coming in from the ocean but Coney Island blocked the worst of it so I got some sleep.  In the morning after I stocked up on a big breakfast I pulled up anchor and headed out to follow the Quebeckers who had stayed in Horseshoe Cove on Sandy Hook Friday night and had just contacted me as they rounded the tip of the hook.  My course had to be farther north following the shipping channel out of New York Harbor, so they went on far before me and I haven’t heard from them again.  The wind was blowing over twenty knots from the northeast and the ocean swells were from the southeast making for a confused sea but Walkabout rolled on all day nonplussed.  I was on autopilot most of the time and the few times I took the helm myself left a crooked GPS track.  The machine does a much better job than a human I’ll concede though in swells I can hold the boat steadier at the crests.  For the hours and hours it takes steering I’ll give it to Otto.

At night I had two encounters with tugboats pulling huge barges.  Both captains called on the radio warning of their presence and gave instructions to me on which way they wanted me to go.  A collision with a rig like that would be the end.  The electronics on those tugs must be phenomenal because the captains could tell where I was and where I was going better than I could myself.
As a single-hander you have to catch some sleep, I use a kitchen timer set for fifteen minutes which gives me time to doze and then jump up, look around, check instruments, and when I feel confident that nothing dangerous is about to happen, rest again. The radio is turned up as loud as possible and all the alarms set to go off if anything approaches within five miles. And that still isn’t enough to make me totally confident.
Even so, at six in the morning Sunday I was at the first red buoys near the Delaware River entrance, a place that always makes me think of my friend Carl Carlson who told me many stories of his days clamming those shoals; Prissy Wicks, Eph’s and Brandywine.  Carl was a fisherman’s fisherman.

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Ship John Light

I hit the tide just right Sunday morning along with some enormous ships and we all went up the river together at speed.  After ten hours Walkabout had not only made it to the C&D Canal but nine miles through it to the little Chesapeake City cove where I anchored for the night in refreshingly dead calm water.

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October 2, 2016

As I said before we got here at 1650 yesterday after 32 hours traveling from Gravesend Bay near Coney Island.  The trip was exhausting but I had to change the engine’s oil before I did anything else.  I made a mistake thinking that I had oil filters onboard and punctured the one on the engine to drain the oil out of it.  What a surprise that was.  I found that the Yanmar fuel filter uses the same dimensions as their oil filters so I substituted in this case.  Tomorrow I’ll search for the right ones but I think a filter is a filter and it will work long enough.
Had an OK burger for dinner and hit the sack after calling Jeanne who was glad to hear I was alive.  Tried to read but couldn’t and crashed.

October 3, 2016

Got a good night’s sleep in this super calm cove, nine hours of much needed rest.

First thing after a decent breakfast this morning was a dive over the side to check the prop for debris or crab pot line wrapped around it. I found nothing.  By the way the water was alright for swimming, dirty but warm. Then I took a much needed hot shower.
Carried my bike over on the dinghy this morning to ride to Middletown, DE where there is a NAPA store with #1334 type oil filters.  The trip was 16 miles round and went through semi-rural territory, farm fields interspersed with gated communities and an occasional single home.  The route I took had light traffic. The main road, Rt. 305 was thick with trucks but had bike lanes, a very good thing and one that should be everywhere.
Heather, the clerk at NAPA was ready with my filters when I arrived and was apologetic that they couldn’t deliver them to me but gave me a discount and a cloth shopping bag.  Earlier I had telephoned and asked if delivery was possible; “No” was the answer because of “Security” would you believe.  Maybe that explains all the gated communities.  I enjoyed my bicycle ride nonetheless, the land is flat as can be so it was easy, it’s been quite some time since I rode.

October 4, 2016

I left my secure anchorage at Chesapeake City this noon and headed south down  Chesapeake Bay towards Annapolis where I want to spend the rest of the week.  Annapolis is only fifty miles farther South and the storm predictions are for a strong northerly wind on Saturday night into Sunday morning but nothing over thirty-five knots.  In the creeks around the city there is good shelter.  The big sailboat show starts Thursday and goes all weekend.  I would like to find a replacement battery monitor and some good boat shoes at the show.  That isn’t a powerful reason for going but there are some people attending who I’d like to see again.

The trip today at first was slow but gained speed steadily until we were going over seven knots, that held and I got in just at sunset at the south anchorage right across the Severn River from the US Naval Academy.  The wind had been increasing all day as well and by the time I dropped anchor it was over twenty knots.  That continued overnight so conditions were pretty rough, not like the nights in NYC but bouncy enough to be less than pleasant.

October 5, 2016

After a night of pitching and rocking morning came full of sun and less wind.  The Navy cadets were moving their training ships back and forth in the Severn River, fueling up I think, as I hauled in the anchor to move Walkabout to a less exposed place.  Since I had anchored south of the city in Back Creek a couple times before that’s where I went.  Quite a few boats were there but I found a spot upstream from them and have room directly South behind me in case the North wind on Saturday night is worse than they say.  I’ll stay here until next week, by then most other travelers will have moved on and maybe I’ll have less traffic to worry about.

October 6, 2016

Jim Leavitt and his friend Karen met me on the Fourth Street dinghy dock late this morning and then after lunch drove me around Annapolis to aquaint me with the grocery stores and marine supply shops close by my anchorage that they thought I might need.  Jeanne and I met Jim back in Granada almost two years ago and he graciously made the offer just before I arrived.  It’s a great community this sailing bunch.  We all believe in helping one another when the opportunity comes.

October 7, 2016

I walked over to the Annapolis boat show this morning.  It’s big, no doubt about it with hundreds of people attending if not thousands, it’s hard to tell because the show extends from piers on land to docks in the water which limit foot traffic.  But it was a beautiful day, sunny and the temperature climbing into the high seventies: Sweater shedding weather.  I meandered through tents and exhibits showing everything from water makers to the latest in vacuum flushing toilets!!

img_20161007_161554 Out on the docks new boats were being boarded by shoeless gawkers, fifty footers, seventy footers with prices to match.  Fantastic craft.  Blunt bows, hydraulic winches and furlers for the sails, hands off sailing for anyone with the money. Dozens of them, Beneteau, DuFour, Bavaria, and on and on. If you make anything for sailboats this is the place to get some recognition.

Lo and behold my friends Jim and Karen showed up and we had a mini-party before I headed back to the boat.  If you know where to go at the boat show you can have a really good time!  For free!!

Now I have to install a new line-lock for my boom vang. Don’t understand?  Look it up.

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The Royal Savage Yacht Club held a pursuit style sailboat race from Burlington, Vermont this past Sunday south ten miles to Town Farm Bay.  A bunch of club members and their crews sailing on seven boats participated.  I took Walkabout up to Burlington harbor on Friday to secure a mooring for the weekend.  It’s a crowded place, all boat slips in the marina had been taken for months and moorings are first come, first served.

Single-handing is something I haven’t done much of since Jeanne and I have owned our boat.  On our travels we met a couple of Tayana cruisers who do it, real independent guys, but not on Lake Champlain.  In fact I’ve only taken our boat out by myself four times.  But a pursuit race is fun and I hadn’t been out much in the past month so I went – as soon as Jeanne said she would be OK with it.

Friday afternoon was flat calm and I motored the whole way, the sails stayed in their bags.  Other RSYC members who went to Burlington on Saturday had super conditions for sailing and were talking about it endlessly…

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Lady Dragonboaters

Lounging on deck Saturday morning I got to watch the dragonboats practicing maneuvers in among the moored boats next to the harbor breakwater. The paddlers try to be as coordinated as possible, an effort which must take endless drills.  Paddles cut the water in unison to the coxswain’s chant and drumbeat.  By Sunday morning three thousand paddlers had gathered in teams at Burlington’s lake-shore complex racing the long, slender, colorful canoes, the sound of taiko drums banging out cadence over the cheering crowds.

I wandered off downtown in the afternoon to watch some of the ‘Festival of Fools’ activities and to replenish my spice supply at the co-op.  There never is a lack of excitement in the big city.

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Blue Moon Saturday Night

Saturday evening there were impromptu drinking parties on a couple of club member’s boats and then groups of us drifted off for dinner at local restaurants.  The west wind that had blown strong all day calmed down for the night but by morning slowly picked up again, now from the south and by race time was blowing smoothly at ten knots.

In a pursuit race every participating boat has a start time, determined by the boat’s PHRF rating, a handicap calculated from a number of esoteric features of that boat’s design.  The ratings are a source of unending speculation. Walkabout has a PHRF of 180, accordingly I started pretty early.

If all goes as planned the race boats should converge at the finish line more or less at the same time, using the staggered start formula.  It took me four hours of beating into the wind, which picked up to seventeen knots by late afternoon, to finish and even though my boat was last, by a nose, I enjoyed it.

RPK