I talked to Chris Parker this morning and told him of my plans to leave on the 30th for Marina Hemingway. He said that the entrance to the marina was difficult to navigate in northerly winds and he expects a cold front to sweep down there on Friday. He recommended that we get going Thursday and make port by Friday at the earliest time we can. Will doesn’t know of this and it may change by the time he arrives but as of now I’m planning to leave on Thursday morning.
Our permit does not jive with the weather of course but I can’t help that.
There is a pot luck lunch/dinner tomorrow afternoon at the marina. I will make an Italian cabbage salad, I bought the fennel seed today and have everything else. Got to bring something.
Once again it’s Christmas and I’m feeling pretty lonely even if it’s my own doing. There is a dinner at the marina building this afternoon and that should help. Will is flying down on Wednesday, don’t know exactly when, I hope we’ll have enough of the day left to get some supplies in because the next morning I plan to sail. A cold front is moving down by Friday night and we have to get in the harbor before it arrives. It’s 123 miles and will take all that day and night to traverse. There is the current to consider as well. It would be better still if we could get going Wednesday late. That would give me time to get there even if our speed dropped to four or so knots. I’ll let Will know the details today.
The weather yesterday was very nice, 77 and drier than it’s been. Today the pattern has reverted with an easterly wind, occasional rain and 80 degree temps.
I made a salad as my offering to the boater’s Christmas pot-luck. People really put on the feedbag including me. They had a buffet spread and a line a hundred cruisers long stretching down the side of the building. Well worth the wait. I joined a table with folks who had been out for years living on their boats and another couple who had just started. It was great fun and I picked up a few good things to know. Somehow flying had gotten mention, one couple lives in Colorado, and in the course of conversation they said they had met a guy from South Africa who gave hang gliding lessons and was on a boat and… I knew just who they meant, met him in Salinas, Puerto Rico two years ago. Boy, do cruisers live in a small world. Big ocean, small community.
Each morning in Marathon on the VHF radio channel 68 there is a cruiser’s net which gives a weather report, welcomes new boats, says goodbye to those leaving and notifies us of any activities that may be going on that day. This morning I heard of an outboard motor for sale in town and followed up on the lead by riding my bike to the shop where it was. It was a wasted trip of course, I already have a well used motor. But, it was such a nice morning I took the time and pedaled from one end of the island to the other riding in a bike lane or on the sidewalk. I guess I’m getting used to it because I wasn’t as tired as the last time out. I’m far more cognizant of traffic too, now I wave an arm when approaching an intersecting side street so the driver might notice me. It works.
An activity mentioned for one o’clock today was Mexican Train dominoes, a game I like to play so I thought I’d give it a go. So as not to waste a dinghy trip I brought a bag of laundry to pop in the machines. Apparently the game isn’t as popular here as it is in other places, at least with men. I ended up playing at a table with seven women, all good players. I was tolerated and had an interesting time, my laundry made me miss a couple of rounds but they invited me right back into the game. The women are all serious cruisers, some have been at it for years and years. And one lady said she was never going back to live on land again. But, unlike a men’s domino game these women began to clean the tiles with handy wipes… all of them. All I could do was laugh, and, when the timing was right, said: “See, you washed all the luck off”. Ho, ho.
Will Patten is flying down today to join me for the Cuba leg of my trip. I hope he has an open schedule. It will be a good change to have someone else onboard, it is safer and I can use the company.
Dec. 29, 2016 Marathon
Will arrived safely late yesterday, delayed in the Miami airport miasma and Route One traffic. He is enthusiastic about the trip and has plans for our Cuban visit. He will be our activities director. I have enough to do just getting us there.
The boat is ready for the trip, all I have left to do is fill the fuel tank and that can be done on the way out of the harbor. The weather and our schedule are in disagreement, a strong cold front is coming into the area on Friday and the next two days after it passes will have powerful winds from the east. I thought about going to Key West because it is a few miles closer to Marina Hemingway, about twenty as the crow flys, but with the wind factor it’s a better plan just to hang out here in the river until Monday. Besides, Will has a rental car so we can go anywhere we like until then. We’ll use it today for provisioning.
I met the people who bought the old wooden boat anchored next to me. The girl said they were trying to get out of the deal but sighed, admitting they had been impetuous. What do you mean impetuous? It’s a wooden boat, built in the thirties and the transmission is shot, what’s not to like? And the fact that it had been towed to where it is might have tipped you off that the $5000 asking price was too good to be true.
Since Will kept his rental car for a second day he and I took the opportunity to visit Key West driving down there on the Overseas Highway. It takes about an hour to go the forty miles, traffic was heavy due to the holiday weekend and no one was in a hurry. Key West was packed with tourists. I had been there with Jeanne some twenty years ago and thought the town was a zoo then; and Will said he remembered good times from his college days, certain places that he’d like to revisit. But Key West changed. The funky, laid-back little city has been changed over to a throbbing commercial venture that has little, if any, soul. Maybe it was the forty dollars it cost to park. Or, the singer in Sloppy Joes, the bar Will reministed about, who should have been playing on the pier. At least on Mallory’s Pier at sunset the buskers showed real talent to the cell phone toting tourists. Two cruise ships were in town contributing their passengers to the mob. So we wandered around settling in at a joint where we felt comfortable, near the boat docks, and spent the rest of our time talking to well-heeled boaters.
Today the much publicized cold front is moving into Marathon and the Keys bringing cooler air and very gusty winds. Walkabout is backed into the mangrove trees, her anchor dragged a few feet during the week and the rudder is in the riverbank at low tide. Not much of a problem so far and we hope to leave Sunday afternoon. The wind predictions are for strong east winds tomorrow and less for New Year’s day. I think we can have good sailing by starting early in the morning Sunday arriving outside the channel to Marina Hemingway Tuesday at sunrise. It won’t be a placid trip, the waves will still be seven to nine feet when we start but should go down as we get closer to Cuba.
Craig and Donna from Mighty Fine got here yesterday, we ran into them last night at Overseas, the restaurant across the road from the city marina. They plan to stay in Marathon for the winter and have a slip at Sombrero. We’ll join them on the beach this afternoon.
Will and I ran errands in town this morning turning in our marina cards and getting some last minute internet. I biked up to Publix and bought a carton of milk and some eggs. On the way back a guy in a white SUV pulled out of a store driveway and knocked me off my bicycle. If he had not slammed on the brakes I wouldn’t be writing this. Luck was on my side and I wasn’t hurt, only shaken up. The driver was all apologies of course and waited anxiously while I got my wits, and temper back. Later I complained to the marina manager, not that he could do anything but that he should warn other visitors of the problem. Biking on the sidewalks is a given, the highway is far too dangerous, but drivers don’t always know you’re there. The manager knew exactly what I was talking about but said this time of year there were just too many idiots in town…
On that note, at eleven we cast off the line to the mangrove trees, pulled up the anchor and headed out of Dodge. Picked up some diesel fuel at Burdine’s dock and motored out of the channel anchoring again in the spot I took ten days ago where we will stay tonight. The plan is to leave around seven tomorrow morning and set a course directly to Marina Hemingway. The marina is nine miles west of Havana and we should be at the sea buoy outside the entrance by eight or nine Monday morning with a southeasterly wind coming off the land. NOAA’s wind and wave prediction for the trip are Southeasterly wind of fifteen knots and seas up to six feet but averaging four and a half feet. If that comes true we should be able to sail the whole way which would be a real treat.
Happy New Year to everyone!
Journal entries from Dec.5 through Dec.22
St. Augustine, FL to City of Marathon on Boot Key, FL, the staging point for Cuba.
Monday, December 5, 2016; St. Augustine
Hiked to the supermarket on A1A, it’s always a challenge since traffic is relentless. I took the conservative route not crossing the street anywhere other than on the crosswalks, dragging my handy cart. Coming back it was loaded so much one of the bolts holding it together broke free but I had reinforced it with zip ties and it held. I did laundry later in the day and also posted an update to the blog, this time the story of the nosebleed. That should bring a few comments. Also gave a woman a ride back to her boat, her outboard motor wouldn’t run right and the captain was off at a bar. They have been out since 2010 on their 47 foot sailboat, she loves it.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016; Daytona Beach
Motoring to Daytona this morning was uneventful, good weather, but with no wind. Fighting the current in places made this leg longer than I expected getting into Halifax Harbor Marina at 1630. I got pumped out there with the slowest pump so far. Cost of the slip was $66.77. I hiked to town and had dinner at an Italian restaurant at the outside tables.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016; Titusville
Fast 53 miles today, lots of fog leaving Daytona and had trouble seeing the markers for almost two hours. Even traveling slow because of the fog I got to Titusville by one-thirty, mooring in the municipal mooring field. On the way I spotted three manatees, two were mother and offspring, the other was huge, likely a male. I could see propeller scars on his back.
The dinghy’s outboard motor wouldn’t run, payback for my good deed the other night, so I can’t get ashore. I think it may be the same problem that it had back in the Spring, a clogged jet in the carburetor but I will have to get it up on the rail to take it apart without losing parts.
I ate leftover steak in a gravy made with onion and mushrooms thickened with mashed potatoes. It wasn’t bad.
Later the Kennedy Space Center shot off a rocket into Space and I got to watch – while taking a video of it – with one eye.
Thursday, December 8, 2016; Titusville
I was going to try and make the first bridge opening but the fog is so thick I can’t see the big bridge right next to the mooring field. It should lift in an hour I hope. The goal today is Indian Point, alias: Dragon Point, which we have stayed in twice before even though it’s not the best spot. That is halfway to Vero Beach at 36 miles and I can get there on Friday.
In my attempt to repair the outboard motor yesterday gasoline siphoned out of the tank into the dinghy. I mopped it up and have a quart or so left to dispose of at Vero so I’ll pour it into a jug this morning before I leave.
Friday, December 9, 2016; Dragon Point
Running with the wind down the Indian River. Just great, and would have been better if the channel wasn’t so narrow. The rain came and went all morning disappearing by noon and all was going well. The jib flying for an hour with the engine off made for the first real sailing in over a month. At one o’clock I found myself in between mangrove islands and the wind was becoming fluky so I started to furl in the foresail just after passing under a highway bridge. The channel widened to the left, I was hauling in the sail when a wind gust hit the boat hard and pulled the line right out of my hands. That got my attention! I quickly wrapped the line around a winch and started to crank the sail in… but I should have had my attention on where we were headed and the boat bored right into the mud and stopped.
Now, when this sort of thing happened before I would go nuts, but not this time even though we were hopelessly grounded, she wouldn’t move an inch, I just went below and called the towing service; then made lunch and waited for rescue. The operator showed up right on schedule, threw me a fat towing line and started to pull my boat out the way she went in. After ten minutes of no apparent movement suddenly she popped out and we were free.
An hour later I was in Vero Beach getting fuel and some replacement non-ethanol gasoline for the outboard. I spotted Craig and Donna Lewis dinghying by the fuel dock and whistled as loud as I could. They heard me and turned back, happy to see another Vermonter, and I ended up rafted next to Mighty Fine last night. We all went out to dinner at the Riverside restaurant in their dinghy and had a good meal with six cruisers at the table. It’s never dull around the Lewis’s. They will be here until next week waiting on a boat part.
Sunday, December 11, 2016; Vero Beach
Saturday I made a morning of trying to repair the fuel system on my Nissan outboard motor, again, with some success. It still doesn’t run right, good power and speed but no low end which makes it hard to put it in gear and get going. I replaced spark plugs and a fuel line purchased a la carte from West Marine. All the parts are now new except for the hose fitting that goes on the engine, the salesman gave me the wrong one and I will bike over this morning to exchange it. If the engine still won’t perform maybe one more carburetor cleaning will work, but after that there isn’t much to do other than wait… maybe it’ll fix itself! Stranger things have happened. Right now it’s raining hard so my little trip will have to wait.
Monday, December 12, 2016; Vero Beach
I got right up and at it this morning taking my balky, flaccid dinghy over to the marina office to sign in (I’ve already been here three nights) and then to a small cove at the southern end of the anchorage where I could glue a patch over a pinhole leak. That was successful but the outboard started to drip gasoline while I was mixing glue for the patch and I had to choose which to attend to – the patch won out. But that gave me a clue about the motor’s troubles and when I got back to the boat where I could take the carburetor apart again I found the real cause of the motor’s poor performance. The float valve’s rubber tip had an almost invisible crack that must have kept it from seating properly, controlling the flow of fuel. I super-glued the little rubber cone back together and, lo and behold, the motor worked normally. I called around to a number of shops but so far no one has a new valve but there was one fellow at the marina who gave me one that looks very similar and it just might work, but first I will see how long the glue holds before I tear the thing apart again. That’s what they say, cruising is mostly repairing your boat in exotic places.
Now I’m off to do laundry.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016; Vero Beach
Craig and Donna were grilling chicken when I drove back from the marina office and asked me to join them. Craig’s famous chicken was just as good on his boat than at the RSYC’s barbeque dinners. I settled in early after a call home hiding in my mosquito netted bunk and read some more of a foolish novel. Jeanne said it was in the teens back home in Vermont but last night in Vero it was warm and sultry. Today it remains warm and without much refreshing wind.
I took the bus this morning to the Indian River Mall to get some engine oil, I changed it yesterday and I like to keep my stock replenished. Without a car you would be severely hampered living in Florida, while it attempts to be pedestrian friendly the distances to stores and services are large. It took four hours round trip to the two stores riding two buses. I did meet another cruiser on the first bus this morning: Lee, eighty and single-handing his sailboat Sporting Lee to Florida’s west coast. He was cool.
Actually, after traveling around without a vehicle over the past six years (when on the boat that is) Jeanne and I have found most of the country difficult to access. I dread to think of the shock we would have if personal transportation were ever to become too expensive for ordinary Americans – an event more probable than we might think with oil now climbing again in price. I’m also dismayed over the fact that we have let our country become so disassociated. We’ve lost the close knitted communities of a century ago and now insulate ourselves in our own little caverns, whether it is a car, apartment, house or boat, content to look out at the world through our technology and to communicate by sound bites and birdlike bursts of witty comment.
Thursday, December 15, 2016; Stuart
The trip from Vero to Stuart yesterday went without a hitch except for the shoaling that had developed at the St. Lucie inlet. That gave me an anxious moment. The depth sounder went to 0.1 feet and I was mid-channel. No fair! Didn’t bottom out somehow and I continued on: The anchorage at Stuart, Florida is five miles up the St. Lucie River and to get there you follow the Okeechobee Canal which is marked like the Intracoastal Waterway with red triangles and green squares on tall posts. And, like the ICW, you mustn’t stray from the channel even if boats around you are going in all directions. There is a bascule bridge at the end of the run, I could see it’s double spans raise from two miles away and thought it would be a wait for the next opening but when I got near it and called the attendant he started stopping traffic and I passed through in a few minutes. The city of Stuart has an extensive marina and mooring field immediately to port when you clear the bridge and I slowly made my way among the balls and chose one near Mighty Fine. Craig came by after I had tied Walkabout up and informed me of the social schedule for the evening, and, of a “lavish” party the marina was throwing on Friday night with free food and drink. “You are staying for that, right?”. Of course.
The marina is pretty lavish for a municipal partnership venture, they call it Sunset Bay and it offers, besides the moorings; dockage, showers and laundry, all in a secured building with a covered patio. Restaurants and stores are within walking distance along a boardwalk that skirts the river bank. You can borrow a bicycle and they have a shopping bus that goes out to stores twice a week. It’s well run, not cheap, and it escaped the wrath of hurricane Matthew with only minor damage to one dock. A lot of boats are here. I will stay until Saturday morning.
Friday, December 16, 2016; Stuart
I’m off on the marina bus this morning to replenish a propane tank. It should take a couple of hours. Then I hope to wash the sheets so my crew will have a clean bed and if nothing else comes up, get ready for the get-together tonight. Tomorrow the plan is to go down to Old Port Cove, formally known as Lake Worth, and wait through Sunday and most of Monday before leaving on an overnighter to Marathon. I talked to Chris Parker yesterday on the SSB and he seems to think it would be a good time frame for coastal sailing. I figure it will take thirty hours more or less and may be a trick to get in at daylight. I may have to lie off the entrance for a while if I get there before daybreak. That’s normal, and wise.
I tried the new needle valve in the outboard yesterday and it works, I still need to tune the high speed adjustment to get it to smooth out. What a relief to have the motor running again. Now I won’t have to buy a new motor, and the little valve was free.
I walked over to Publix in the afternoon Thursday after tying up in the creek near A1A, dragging my cart and backpack. I bought water, beer and some food; a big load but I got it back. Traffic is intense and don’t expect drivers in Florida to yield to pedestrians, they just keep on coming. They are supposed to stop for someone in a cross walk but you should not assume they will. This is not California. I find it depressing. Too many rats in the cage and everyone of them hell bent on getting there first. The first thing I saw when I set foot on the plaza property where the grocery store is was a homeless man rolled in a blanket asleep in a dirty corner. The country is in crisis and nobody gives a rat’s ass.
Saturday, December 17, 2016; Stuart
Good morning Stuart! And, goodbye Stuart too.
At eight-thirty this morning with a partly cloudy sky and a brisk south wind I dropped the mooring and went over to the fuel dock, and after a messy docking filled the water tank. The lift bridge rose as I left the dock so I raced to get through, the attendant waited and I made it. An hour and a half later I was threading my way through the St. Lucie Channel again, this time with a rising tide. I stayed closer to the green cans this time and had much more water… Except for one little spot where the sounder read one foot, but I was out of that in a minute.
The rest of the day was spent fighting the current for thirty-five miles and waiting now and then for bridges to lift. On this short leg of the ICW there are seven draw bridges, plus the one back in Stuart. The Donald Ross Bridge attendant was on the radio saying he was waiting for his mechanic to arrive because the bridge wouldn’t go down and he didn’t have an estimated opening time for boats headed south. I heard this as I was passing Jupiter Inlet. The Indiantown bridge tender asked me if I wanted to retreat and go outside but the wind was way too much for that and I kept going. The Ross bridge was still not working; I inspected a few likely spots where I might anchor to wait but there weren’t many. Five boats were at the bridge when I showed up, all anchored. I was maneuvering into position to do the same when I saw the bridge span begin to lower. They it had fixed! Just in time for me as I got to be first in line when it went back up. What luck.
An hour later I anchored in Old Port Cove, a familiar basin full of boats. Jeanne and I had stayed here two times before, once for nine days. The only thing it has going for it is good protection and a lot of stores close by. I want to get ready for the offshore run to Marathon tomorrow and move down to Lake Worth Inlet Monday to leave at sunset.
Sunday, December 18, 2016; Old Port Cove
As I was hooking up the gas grill last evening I smelled a leak in the high pressure hose that feeds the boat’s cooking range with propane. Surely West Marine would have it, so I patched the leak with some of that new silicon tape and it held well enough so I didn’t blow up the boat. This afternoon I hiked North a mile to where the store used to be and then hiked back to where it is now but came away empty handed. Good thing I had tape but now I have to shut the tank off between uses. I took pictures of the hose and sent a request to Jeanne who just might find one. Will can bring it down when he comes. I can’t imagine having him on board and not be able to cook!
Visitors came over to the boat late in the day, a young guy whom I passed on the waterway, Jeff, who built his own catamaran Mojo and has sailed it all around the Caribbean, and Paul Edwards on Arriba II who has become a good traveling companion since we met back in the Carolinas. We sat around talking, and drinking my beer until it was gone, then they left.
I will leave for Marathon tomorrow around noon, maybe with a stop at No Name Harbor in Biscayne Bay but probably not, I’d like to just get there and become established enough so I’m satisfied that Walkabout is ready to go when Will arrives.
Monday, December 19, 2016; Lake Worth Inlet
Bill, formerly of Rondo, now of Cerret, dropped by this morning for a chat. He and Susan are going to leave today too and wait near the Lake Worth Inlet until midnight tonight for a run to Miami. From there they plan to go to the Bahamas. Maybe I’ll see them there. It looks like retirement agrees with him.
Last night one of the more colorful characters in the anchorage paddled by shouting as the three of us, Paul, Jeff and I were sitting in the cockpit drinking my beer. He was apologizing at the top of his lungs for waving Paul off when he tried to anchor; Paul said he had been told he was in too close. But the guy was quite apologetic, too much so we thought, but we all nodded at him until he paddled off, still shouting. Later, after my guests had left, I was eating lukewarm fried chicken I had bought at the supermarket, when I heard the guy hollering outside. Here it goes, I thought, my chicken too. But actually he was still apologizing and had a bottle of wine for Paul saying he didn’t know where Paul’s boat was. So I took the bottle and watched him paddle off into the dark. This morning I delivered Paul his prize and said goodbye to him. Maybe we’ll catch up in the Bahamas.
I hauled up the anchor at 1130 and went down the waterway to the inlet. On the way I was calculating the thirty hours it would take to get to Marathon and took Bill’s advice to wait near the entrance in one of the anchoring areas there and leave around midnight. So I’ll sleep a little this afternoon and evening then go down the coast. I can choose to stop or not depending on how I feel tomorrow but I think the wind will be better if I keep moving. Then I should get to the Boot Key entrance in daylight.
Thursday, December 22, 2016; Marathon, Boot Key
After trying to get some sleep without success, I pulled up the anchor at one in the morning Tuesday and slowly made my way out the Fort Worth inlet into the Atlantic.
Right off the bat I was in trouble with the law. Seems our new president-apparent was at his home near Palm Beach and our zealous security forces were out in force including a Coast Guard cutter parked a kilometer offshore. I knew nothing of the details although my wife had told me to watch out when we talked on the phone earlier that evening. I should first mention that my planned course down the Florida coast was to be one mile offshore because of the proximity of the Gulf Stream. If I got into the Stream my progress would fall to less than three knots. The planned course would get me to Boot Key in twenty-eight hours calculated on a speed of five and a half knots.
I saw a faint blinking blue light two miles South and made a course seaward of it, except there was an anchored ship in my way, I had to clear that first. Skirting the stern of the freighter at a safe distance I then made for a wider track from the shore which at that point was six tenths of a mile away. My radar showed a large target just ahead, a police boat. Then I made out the shape of a white Coast Guard cutter with it’s diagonal band with my binoculars. It was turning toward me! Coming abreast of the ship a crewman was shouting something but I couldn’t hear him over my engine so I radioed them on channel 16. “You are in a security zone”, the radioman said, “What do I do?”, I asked, “Keep on your course and continue on as fast as you can.” He replied. Growling to myself I throttled up a bit. “Already the new guy is throwing his weight around, what’s to come?”
The rest of the night went by without incident but now I understand that all next week the ICW itself is restricted: The anchorage I used is off limits and no one can stop when going through the area so once again my luck held.
I passed by Miami Tuesday afternoon and Key Largo by nightfall. The autopilot would not follow a route, just compass courses I would set and reset. Jiggling the wire sending data to the autopilot’s computer got it to follow a route again and, since I was sailing a broad reach, I set it and sat back to relax. I was enjoying the view and not watching the instrument panel for a bit too long and got another jolt of reality, the boat was a mile off course. Not a problem in the ocean but in the Hawk Channel it could have been a big mistake. More wire manipulation made the autopilot follow the route line once more but I didn’t give it another chance to fail going back to changing compass headings. I’ll fix it for keeps this week. At seven-thirty in the morning Wednesday I anchored outside the entrance to Boot Key and called home to report in. The tide was coming in so I had a bite of leftover chicken, a short nap and went into the harbor at eleven.
Boot Key Harbor is packed with boats, no moorings are available and slips are in short supply. I can’t afford a slip at three dollars a foot per night, so I looked for a place to anchor. Nothing, although I toured the whole bay slowly creeping up and down the channel. My friend Craig had told me to anchor in Sisters Creek so I cautiously pointed Walkabout down it drifting in idle. The water remained ten feet deep around the first turn, at the second I was losing water, down to eight feet but still enough. Two boats were anchored there, a sailboat stern-tied to the mangrove trees and a rusted steel derelict that looks like it has been there since Bogart left it.
Soon there was fifteen feet of depth and I turned around. After one aborted attempt I got my anchor hooked solid and, later with the dinghy, looped a line to a substantial mangrove tree off Walkabout’s stern. We stayed put all night. The only bad thing so far is that gnats come out at dusk, they bite with a vengeance and come in through the screens. I sprayed Off on the screens, that seems to slow them down. I’ll buy citronella candles when I go to town.
Walkabout is on the waiting list for a mooring. She’s 17th in line so I doubt she will get one. We leave on the 30th for Cuba.
I took a break and went home for three weeks to enjoy the thirty degree weather for a while and split some wood which is good for the soul. Had Thanksgiving dinners, three to be exact, with family, friends and neighbors. And gained eight pounds.
Then I flew back to the boat on the 29th full of trepidation since there had been a big boat fire at the marina, and who knew what else. Everything was fine and I got going South again on Saturday and am now in St. Augustine getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for Daytona.
Here are some pictures:
Friday night after I went to bed I was suddenly and unpleasantly jarred awake by a nosebleed. It had been years since the last one I can remember. At that time, my doctor cauterized the weak spot that caused it. Welding smoke he speculated. So this was unexpected and, as it turned out, pretty demoralizing. I quickly went to the head and turned on the light, blood was just pouring out spattering the sink. It was also cold, and when the bleeding didn’t stop after an hour I started to shake. I tried to put on a jacket but couldn’t get it on, things were just too messy. I had used every tactic I knew of to staunch the flow and nothing was working. Two hours later it was still dripping away. I had cleaned the sink over and over again with a sponge; the blood was running down the drain and I, cold, shaking, and worrying (that’s what I do) rested my head on my arm and just let my nose bleed out – that’s how I was thinking by then. The blood going down the drain attracted fish and they were going crazy with expectation, splashing and banging the hull. I was thinking thoughts of “Jaws”.
Just a nosebleed? You weren’t there. I was contemplating calling 911 but I was on a boat… out in a river… in Florida! Who would come? I had never heard of anyone dying from one anyway so I took my wet sponge, pressed it against my nostrils and lay down in bed.
I must have dozed off because I woke up choking. I looked up to turn on the light and couldn’t see. Everything was a blur. God, I’m going blind! I lurched off to the head and flipped on the light. There in the mirror was something I hope no one ever has to see; an apparition with black, blood-filled eyes and streams of red running down its face and neck. Time for a selfie? No. The sponge had dammed up my bleeding nose and blood had filled my sinuses while I dozed and then ran out my tear ducts. It was gastly. Talk about dejected, I was at the end of my rope. Lucky for me the bleeding was at it’s final stage. It tapered off after the horror show and I gratefully slept the remaining three hours sitting up.
The trip in the morning went OK – yes, I went anyway – motoring down the St. Johns River to Jacksonville. My head was still stuffed up with the remains of the nosebleed and I gagged a bit before that subsided. It was a nice day, cold with wind on the nose, pun intended, but nice. Had to wait an hour in the strong current for the Main St. lift bridge in Jacksonville at noon then went on to Blount Island where I made an anchoring error and grounded in the mud. Even that had a good ending, the tide came up and I reanchored Walkabout in deeper water by eight o’clock then enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep at last.
Joyner’s Marina in Carolina Beach, NC had some good memories for me, Jeanne and I stayed there for a week in 2015 waiting for a tropical storm to pass. So I stopped there again Friday afternoon after a harrowing day, bouncing off the bottom twice on shoaling in the waterway. Boats were going aground ahead and behind me and I didn’t want to be one of them. Pumped in some diesel and stayed for the night at the fuel dock – which isn’t the best spot, boat wakes rocked me until late. The blog got another post entered but it took until midnight with the slow WiFi connection. I’ve got to edit my entries better <ha!>, the post had almost five thousand words in it. I won’t have any readers. It’s like anything else you make yourself: You fall in love with it and can’t chop away like a real editor would.
This morning I left Joyner’s and ended up in Southport, NC in a cove where the ICW joins the Cape Fear River – where I’ll head out into the Atlantic tomorrow if the forecast allows. I hope to get to Charleston, SC by the next day and, if conditions are good enough, I’ll extend the trip as far as Florida going in at St. Marys near Fernandina. My other plan is to get the boat into a safe and secure boat yard for a couple of weeks so I can go home for Thanksgiving.
This evening I had dinner at Fishy Fishy’s about fifty feet off my boat’s stern. While I was sitting at the bar a fellow sitting next to me asked if that was my boat. “Yes.” And the stories started. Ice-breaker, that’s my boat. Well Dale and his wife Terry were interesting, being boaters themselves and he has a most interesting career, soon to end in retirement. Another couple joined in and mentioned boaters they had met: “Vermonters”,
“Do you know them? ”
It’s the same everywhere I go.
(Offshore 10/31 – 11/2)
The forecast was for winds NE 15-20 knots Monday increasing a bit overnight and then falling off on Tuesday near the Georgia and Florida border. I went for it, leaving Southport, NC out the Cape Fear Inlet on a course (210°M) set for St. Marys Inlet 250 miles away. As predicted the wind came up behind me (060°M) and I was able to rig the jib out on a pole and the double-reefed main hard on a preventer line to starboard, wing on wing.
That sail configuration is one of the slowest and most dangerous but I had made it very tight and it stayed secure even when Walkabout rolled so heavily that the boom dipped into the water. Not a pleasant ride and all I could do was sit, tied in the cockpit day and night eating crackers. I sailed that way for over a hundred miles. With 94 miles to go Tuesday evening I rolled the jib up and had to center and harden the main to slow the boat down to a crawl so we would get to St. Marys Entrance channel after sunrise. That didn’t work as planned and I had to drive up the fairway in the predawn dark. Daybreak doesn’t come until seven-thirty it’s so far to the West. No real problem, I only passed two outbound shrimp trawlers as I felt my way in and they went close to the channel’s edge. Probably had to dodge sailboats before. Inside, much relieved, I got the mainsail down and motored up the winding St. Marys River for a couple miles, and, not finding the marina there open, anchored in the river alongside some other “vessels”. Then it was a quick, much needed breakfast and a nap that lasted well into the afternoon.
St. Marys village is a little tourist town with a nicely developed waterfront, parks and docks, uncluttered streets with small shops and restaurants. I’ll try one of the latter tonight. To the north of town is a U.S. Navy submarine base to which the town owes a lot of its prosperity. I didn’t meet any submariners yesterday on my walk to a (in)convenience store but then again the Navy isn’t like it was when I was a sailor back in the sixties. My biggest gripe is the working uniform they have to wear, kind of a dappled blue camouflage getup. I can see camo on soldiers or marines but not on sailors, the uniform has absolutely no class. We used to have bell bottom blue jeans and chambray shirts that you could iron a crease into and look sharp; the more they faded the sharper they looked. Then again Navy ships don’t look like the ships I knew: multi-hulled monsters built for speed and warships that look all the world like Civil War ironclads, but faster. I have no idea whom we intend to fight on the seas but we are ready. Just don’t fall overboard sailor in that sea-colored camo.
Since I’m leaving in the morning heading for Jacksonville I took an hour, two as it turned out, to go to the St. Marys Submarine Museum. Somewhat eclectic, the museum has collected a little of everything, it’s an admirable volunteer effort. A lot of history is covered inside their small brick building, on the first floor there is a working periscope that you can focus and turn to see the harbor over the rooftops, a mock submarine helm with real steering yolks, and case after display case of artifacts from the inception of sub-surface vessels up to WWII. Upstairs is devoted to the modern Navy’s nuclear powered subs with displays of models and an endless variety of submariner mementos. Veterans who had served in the submarine service now give their time as guides for visitors and enjoy the job. Having, almost, gone in that direction when I joined the Navy I can appreciate their enthusiasm.
Motoring out of St. Marys this morning, retracing my inbound track, I veered South passing the Fernandina Municipal Marina. It was closed due to storm damage and the town is having trouble figuring out how to reopen it, that’s why I went to St. Marys in the first place. The marina was pretty beat up from what I could see, the storm left tilted docks and torn rooftops. I counted seven boats tossed up on shore, one reduced to a pitiful pile of flattened fiberglass. Hurricane Matthew’s eye churned up the coast passing right overhead at Fernandina.
Continuing along the waterway the current increased and by lunch time Walkabout was traveling at the respectable speed of seven knots. The drawbridge at Sisters Creek has been replaced with a high fixed bridge so there was no delay there. The St. John River leads through Jacksonville, Florida and has two lift bridges side by side. One, a railroad bridge, is usually left open but you have to call to have the highway bridge raised for you. I called the bridge on the VHF radio three times before getting a response. That was a relief because the river’s current was intense dragging my boat closer and closer to the span. I had telephoned a marina in Jacksonville two days earlier asking if I could stay there a day or two but they had shoaling near their docks from storm surge and were dredging, so when I passed under the great blue lift bridge doing eight knots I decided not to try to stay there but instead go on to Green Cove Springs.
All I knew about the Green Coast Marina was it is a do-it-yourself boatyard where you can leave a boat in relative safety. What I didn’t know was it is located in an abandoned naval shipyard, defunct for forty years. The marina occupies two of the ten quarter-mile-long concrete docks and a little adjacent acreage to store boats on dry land. The water between the docks is where I was supposed to find mooring balls but my charts showed shallow depth. The wind had been picking up all afternoon and I had the jib out for extra power.
Approaching the row of old piers rain started to pour down and the wind picked up to twenty, then twenty-five knots, visibility was nil. It was only half an hour from sunset and I couldn’t spot the mooring balls. I called the marina on the radio but it had closed for the night. One fellow on a boat responded and gave me directions, bless him. With my binoculars I saw a line of white balls and moored boats between the huge piers and, getting closer, let the wind push me in to them. The depth sounder went up until there was only a foot of water under the keel. I picked the ball farthest out and after three approaches and two misses I got a line on it. What a day!
As I mentioned earlier I am interrupting my trip. I decided to take a break and go home for Thanksgiving, a three week sojourn to get my head back together and see Jeanne who is entirely in agreement. I’ll take a train on Tuesday and be in Rutland Wednesday evening. It only involves a taxi ride to the station and train fare is far less than a flight. It won’t be comfortable but I’m used to that. I’ll pack sandwiches and water.
I paid for one month on the mooring here so when I return from Vermont I will have a week or so to get Walkabout ready for her next move.
Tomorrow I’ll catch a train in Palatka, FL. The station is thirty miles south of here. I’m not that comfortable leaving Walkabout out on a mooring but I’ve done all I can to prepare her, chafing gear is in place, the canvas is down and everything inside and out is secure if there’s a blow. Theft is a worry and there isn’t much one can do about it other than lock things up. The marina is in a remote place though and it’s well patrolled by police, I saw them last night when I took a walk. I also found a better place to store the dinghy, in back of a boat shop in the underbrush. I just didn’t like the idea of it being tossed around next to the old pier and get punctured. So I’m ready to get back to Vermont even if it’s cold as hell there. I’ll be back on the boat for the rest of winter in the tropics.
When I’m home I will also try to straighten out my server, Jeanne tells me no one can read the blog.
Mr. Barron, an eighty year old sailor who has been living aboard his sailboat for many, many years drove me down to the Palatka train station Tuesday to catch Amtrak’s Silver Meteor that runs from Miami to New York. Barron has a one-man ride service, a very handy thing for the people at Green Coast Marina and I was grateful and entertained.
I rode all day and night on that speeding train blissfully ignorant of election day horrors and was too tired to feel the pain Wednesday. I made it home, and that is enough for the moment.
This morning I pounded my computer keys trying to solve the server problem and was successful, finally, and now I can go on to more pressing things.
This post is from Walkabout's Log from October 8, 2016 to October 28. Annapolis, MD to Beaufort, ND. About halfway to Miami...
Today was rather unproductive, no boat work got done and I haven’t gone ashore because it’s pouring rain and tonight will be windy. I did, however, manage to write and post a blog entry. That job took most of the day, the wifi connection was intermittent and I had an unknown problem with Windows 10 that locked my computer in airplane mode for a while. For another unknown reason it started to work just as I was about to throw in the towel.
I had a good time yesterday though, the boat show in Annapolis was super, I got some things I needed and information for projects to come. Now I have another Cuba cruising guide with the latest information on the North Coast, very important, and a new Nautos line locker for the vang line. That will allow use of the winch for the staysail sheet after the vang is hardened up. I may screw it down on the cabin top before dark.
I walked into town this noon and met up with two friends Jeanne and I had met and traveled with on our first Bahama trip in 2010-11. Laura and Graeham Parkinson hail from the great white north near Ottawa and keep a boat on the Chesapeake. Jeanne discovered they would be in Annapolis this weekend and told me to get in touch which I was happy to do and thoroughly enjoyed the visit. We sat in the sun in front of Pusser’s Bar on the deck reminicing for three hours. That’s two reunions in a week.
On my walk back to the dinghy I stopped at Weems and Plath where they had a tent sale going and bought a new ship’s clock and a fancy hook for my oil lamp. Like any lady Walkabout needs accessories.
Unfortunaxtely……….. its one tninv axfter axnotner on tnis boat.
tne coputer keyboaxrd is not functioninv properly.. maxyb.e i caxn vet ax substitute
i spilled wniskey on it wnen ax boat went by
now i caxn’t write axnytninv sensible
but maxybe you caxn reaxd it axnywaxy
There is a special app that allows one to type like on a cellphone and, as you might expect, it’s slow.
But if I use tne keys tnis is tne result
I’ll bike around this morning searching for another keyboard.
(later) Thanks to the gentleman who runs Fawcett’s Marine Supply, who gave me an old keyboard of theirs, I’m now back in business. Otherwise I would have been faced with a long, long bike ride on busy streets to find a computer repair shop. Another example of kindness between boaters.
On my shorter than expected bike ride this morning I managed to buy a new circuit breaker, engine parts and breakfast. A productive morning. Now I’ll install the engine parts (two small switches) and walk back to the boat show in Annapolis to spend the afternoon. The circuit breaker can be an evening job.
Tomorrow the wind is supposed to die down a little, it’s been howling for two days out of the north and Chesapeake Bay has small craft warnings today because of waves. Maybe, if I feel conditions are good enough I’ll move south a little, to St. Michael’s or Solomon’s Island.
The circuit breaker for the refrigerator failed shortly after leaving Vermont. Substituting the adjacent breaker for the seldom used washdown pump kept the food cool but the labels on the panel didn’t match function – troubling but not critical – and Fawcett’s had a replacement. I fitted it in place this morning, and now all is well… The laptop has gradually been recovering from it’s keyboard immersion incident and all but one key is working correctly. To replace the thing would be costly not to mention difficult to do. And in the end I’d still be stuck with Windoz ten, a travesty of monumental proportions.
The weather, after hurricane Matthew passed far to the south of Annapolis, has become sunny and much cooler. It’s supposed to hold like this until Thursday when a front comes down with winds up to thirty knots. I would like to move and will try the Broad Creek area on the eastern shore near the town of St. Michaels that Laura and Graeham told me was well worth visiting. Judging from the charts the small inlets off the main river are deep enough for Walkabout and are sheltered from wind and waves. If I leave Annapolis tomorrow early there should be time to carefully find a spot.
10/12 Walkabout has been in Annapolis a week and it is time to move on. Today, after some chores I’ll will head a few miles south and over to the eastern shore to Broad Creek near the town of St. Michaels to find a suitable spot to anchor. Winds for tomorrow night are going to be strong from the north and, at least on the charts, the creeks look protected. We shall see.
The big sailboat show this past weekend in Annapolis was worth going to if only for a chance to see the newest products. I met and talked to the Nautos people, a Brazilian company new to the market that is enthusiastically selling well made, and competitive hardware. The large, established manufacturers, with flashy, overstaffed displays, might want to pay attention. To find a good deal, however, it’s best to wait until the last day of the show, vendors are willing to haggle a bit and sell something instead of packing it up.
It seems the average sailboat enthusiast today either wants a small fast boat or a huge catamaran. Prices for these toys are staggering, half a million is a good starting place. No wonder that the people I’ve met out cruising on a newer boat have sold their homes. I like the room on catamarans, similar to your own private island. Maintenance doubles and they can’t sail upwind but the space, inside and out, is spectacular. And cats always seem to have the most innovative names: “Catapult”, etc. There were lots of small sailboats at the show this year, racers and daysailers, trailerable boats that look easy to care for and fun to use. Hobie, the catamaran company had a pedal powered board, like a stand-up paddleboard, with a handle bar arrangement for steering and stair-climber pedals; you can fill your need for exercise and watersports both at the same time. The booths were giving away small advertising gimmicks, I’m stocked up now on beer can sweaters, pens, and floating key chains. The boat show business in Annapolis is an ongoing thing: The Fall powerboat show starts this weekend!
I visited the Chesapeake Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s today, it was well worth the time. I watched as museum volunteers hauled two huge logs out of the water on a marine rail lift. The logs are for boat timbers that they carve out for a reconstruction project on a bugeye fishing vessel. The museum covers acres and has a complete screwpile lighthouse, numerous boat building barns, a 700Hp steam engine, a water fowl hunting history display and enough other exhibits that I couldn’t see it all. I’m lame from all the walking.
Instead of staying another day in San Domingo Creek I went out early today into the Chesapeake for a forty mile motor sail to Solomon’s Island. Jeanne and I had anchored there twice before so I made it in before dark and anchored in quiet Mill Creek, out of the normal traffic, a good choice for a night of sleep.
Left Mill Creek at dawn after wiping off the dodger windows, the temperature had dropped to 48 degrees and the boat was heavy with dew. Cold sleeping even with two blankets but it’s supposed to warm up. As I was pulling the anchor, Sweet Chariot II went by on headed for their home port in Deltaville, VA and we waved goodbye once more. My destination today is the Indian River off Fleets Bay, about a fifty mile trip and it looks like a motoring day ahead.
Yesterday was a motorboat ride all day but I got into the Indian River just at sunset in time to watch the full moon rise over the houses next to shore. I anchored in Belle Cove, lined on one side by a row of new condominiums all alike. Around the rest of the cove are older, more traditional homes which match the setting far better. Such is progress I guess, but only three out of eight condos were occupied. The silence of the little pond was broken only by a dog barking and a deafening cigarette boat passing by on the river.
Today I had the longest day trip travelling on the Chesapeake, 54 miles to Portsmouth, VA just south of Norfolk. Tonight I am splurging a bit staying in a marina on a slip. The ride down this afternoon wasn’t thrilling by any means, the wind was on the nose most of the day and my speed varied between a frustrating four knots and a satisfying seven which can get you someplace. My concern was to get into the marina before dark, or before the staff went home because Walkabout doesn’t like to back up into a slip and I would need line handlers. But it was all good. Two marina guys helped me slide up to the narrow pier, tied me off and said “Goodnight, check-in in the morning”. I have a long list of things to do here in town, number two is to fix or replace my laptop after number one: a long hot shower.
Met a couple next to me on the boat Lady A. They are traveling from Maine to South Carolina out on the Atlantic all the way. They have a converted lobster boat, an extremely well built craft it looked like. They were gone this morning down the ICW and I didn’t get their names but if I see them again I’ll be more alert. On the other side is Philip who is traveling by himself, occasionally, on his sailboat Sounds Great. He is in no hurry, which is a very good idea.
Reports are coming in slowly with little specific detail about the condition of the Intracoastal Waterway other than there are higher than normal tides, up to three feet higher in places, and uprooted trees clogging the canal. I heard on the SSB radio this morning one cruiser saying he was in the Dismal Swamp Canal and might be able to move on in a couple days. The Coast Guard is working on it. Flooding from Hurricane Matthew is just cresting in North Carolina’s rivers and will subside in a week local weather says. All the more reason to find a place to hang out awhile.
This morning I took my bike and pedaled a dozen miles or so on High Street visiting two computer stores that were on my list to check out. The first was an Apple only place, couldn’t help, but the second store, much further away on the busy highway had a machine that I hope will do what I need. It was a fine day for a bike ride and was marred only once with a fall to the pavement. Lucky I crash well. Nothing hurt but my pride. And it was on the way out, not on the way back with the new computer in my backpack! I think I’ll have a sore right hand but it could have been worse.
I paid for two nights here at Tidewater Marina, I’ll move the boat tomorrow morning over to the town docks a couple blocks away for another day or two. The docks are free and there were only two sailboats there this afternoon. If they are full I’ll just continue south on the ICW to the nearest anchorage. I’ll be in the waterway until I’m down to Cape Fear then go offshore.
I made a short hop to Portsmouth’s North Landing ferry boat docks and tied up at the free pier. It was slack high tide so I didn’t need a hand with lines. According to the signs you can stay here for 36 hours, but I’ve seen boats stay here a week. It’s free but you get what you pay for, the ferry wakes will slam your boat into the pilings if the driver is going fast. Walkabout got a small scrape.
This evening I walked over to High Street to Baron’s Pub for a burger and a monster mug of Sweet Baby Jesus stout that one should sample at least once. That should hold me for a while.
After a quick bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee I was out on the Elizabeth River headed south again. Right off the bat I was dodging traffic, Navy workboats milling about in the middle of the river, a sailboat captain with tunnel vision sidled up a bit close before he saw me, and a monster of a vessel half a mile upstream listing badly and appearing not to be moving suddenly blew five loud blasts on its horn. Who, me? Another five warning blasts echoed off adjacent Navy ships and the big steel bridge I was going under. I headed for the only vacant spot and watched the obviously disabled cargo ship being pushed by a tug crawl on by. I got out of there as fast as my boat would go. Then came two drawbridges and a lock, the bridges each took a little time but the lock took over an hour and it only rises and falls three feet! In contrast, Will and I passed through locks on the Champlain Canal that have vertical lifts of twenty feet and we were in and out in only twenty minutes.
It was a good day though, went fifty miles motoring in a gentle wind and a nice, warm sun. I crossed Currituck Sound and by late afternoon got into the little town of Coinjock, NC and tied to Midway Marina’s dock for the night. Craig and Donna Lewis on Mighty Fine were there to help with my lines and later we had a small party on the porch. Hurricane Matthew did some damage in the area, the water is still very high flooding yards and roads in spots. Inland there is worse destruction, and I was told that some low-lying towns have to pump the water out, where to I can’t imagine. On the other hand, the extra water is great for us boaters traveling on the ICW as it means less danger of grounding (not to diminish the local folk’s problems). On the way I also waved to Lawrence of Elle and I whom I haven’t seen for a few years, he waved back but I don’t know if he knew me. Later I found they have mechanical problems and are waiting for repairs. Meeting people you’ve met cruising before is a pretty common occurance, the community is not very large.
For us who love wildlife I witnessed a rather disturbing thing. Close your eyes. Canada geese migrate through the great wetlands along our East Coast, the natural barrier protecting our shores, a nourishing littoral that feeds birds, animals of all kinds, and us. The geese seem to be everywhere, in the canal, people’s front yards, parking lots, flying overhead. It was just when a flock of a dozen geese, honking as they do, flew over my bow. One goose was leading and the late afternoon sun illuminated a long thread of monofilament fishing line streaming out behind it. The bird was distressed and landed in a pond alongside the canal. The whole flock followed it in and landed too. Well, I thought, what can I do? Not much, was the sad fact. Draw what you will from it but people kill a lot.
At first light this morning I was off, and got behind a tug and barge first thing and didn’t get to pass and be out of his wake for an hour. Just before the canal expands into Albemarle Sound the tug pulled aside and slowed so all the sailboats could get by. Albemarle is so large that one cannot see shoreline when in the middle, it’s like being at sea for a few minutes and then land becomes visible again. But that is the view from a sailboat’s deck not like that from a power cruiser’s helm high up over the water. We sailors live close to the surface. Sea level…
I motored all day as usual passing from the Albemarle through the infamous gap at Middle Ground, where channel markers were being repaired by the Coast Guard, into the Alligator River for fifteen miles. I stopped for the day at mile 102 where there is a slight expansion of eight foot deep water and a good anchoring spot and spent the night listening to military aircraft thundering in the distance.
What fog we had this morning, so thick you couldn’t see a hundred yards. I washed the boat’s plastic windows down with warm water so I could see and slowly followed three boats out of the anchorage. But the fog lowered and got so bad I stopped at the next wide spot and waited for an hour before going on into the Alligator-Pungo canal. Inside the canal, no problem. You can see both sides easily and shortly the sun came out with a southerly breeze and the day became very summerlike. Boat traffic increased, big yachts rumbled past me slowing down to pass. Politeness is rampant and I wish it were more so. The procedure to follow is, call the boat you’re passing, ask him to slow down, slow down yourself and pass. That way your wake won’t tip his boat over and dump everything inside it on the cabin floor. Or scald someone in the galley. Invariably we will have someone who, either because of ignorance or willfulness, will refuse to slow down when passing. I can handle it, Walkabout sure can too, but some others have a tough time recovering from a four foot wake.
I arrived at the Belhaven, NC harbor at two this afternoon and felt my way, with the help of Phil on Cyan, into the town docks at the far end of the harbor. The dock itself is well built but the slips leave something to be desired and no cleaning had been done for a long time so the dock is covered with guano. Coincidentally, Belhaven’s mayor walked out on the dock with a sidekick apologizing about the upkeep. No one came to clean it though. Once again, you get what you pay for. I don’t care, the wind is supposed to be in the thirty knot range tonight and tomorrow. I pedaled my bike a mile to the grocery store and later my new friend Phil and I will walk to town for supper and drinks with some other cruisers. Another couple, Amy and Bert on Sparrow came by in their dinghy earlier and I found that they are going to Cuba too. Perhaps a flotilla is forming.
10/22 Walkabout and Cyan were quietly swinging on their lines as their captains Phil and I soggily tramped back through the blowing rain and ankle deep tidewater after our visit to a tavern in town. The tavern owner felt sorry for us and lent us an umbrella and her husband drove us the half-mile to the dock. Nice folks in Belhaven. The wind and rain were short lived and I was settled in by ten. Something woke me at three in the morning, the boat had a different feel so I went up to the cockpit and checked the depth sounder – it read 0.3Ft. That’s four inches under the keel and she was bouncing off the bottom. I was afraid of that happening and lay awake in bed until daylight cursing my choice. In the early hours, half awake, the worst always seems inevitable but at eight o’clock the depth had risen to 0.9Ft and since I had tied up the day before at 1400 with 2.4Ft of water under me I hoped it would get deeper by noon. So I hiked around in the morning doing little errands and talked to one shopkeeper about the bay – he fished out there – and learned that the wind has more of an effect on the water level than the tide. That tidbit made me determined to get the boat out of her slip because the wind was blowing from the North at fifteen knots and probably would for days to come. Phil was on his boat when I got back and helped me with my lines as trusty Walkabout, who must have known the danger she was in, backed straight out of her slip for once into the wind and waves and we carefully moved out into much deeper water and dropped anchor.
Tomorrow we are off to the marina at River Dunes.
My well set Rocna anchor came off the bottom in Belhaven Harbor with a struggle, which was a good thing considering the wind blew over twenty knots all Saturday afternoon and night. We left with six other boats all heading South, sails up motors running, down the Pungo River through the Pungo canal and out into the mighty Neuse River. Waves were running two to three feet in the Pungo but had calmed down by noon. As we entered the Neuse I noticed what appeared to be two boats beside each other far ahead of me. As I got closer I saw a blue flashing light on one and realized the Coast Guard was just leaving a sailboat and mine was next in line. Sure enough, in a few minutes the cutter was coming up fast on my port side and a sailor on its bow was shouting that they were coming aboard for an inspection. Two Coast Guardsmen then jumped on board my boat armed with guns and clipboards and settled themselves down in the cockpit. I had never had an inspection, or been boarded in my home country before so this was a new experience. The fellows were courteous asking for my papers: Driver’s license, documentation, where my fire extinguishers were and if I had a lifejacket. All this while I was trying to steer the boat and stay in the narrow channel. One officer, I think his name was Jim, took the wheel while I went below to get what they asked for and was a little reluctant to give it up when I got back. Jim said he had never steered a sailboat. I passed the inspection and the officers hopped back on their cutter after giving me a copy to show if another USCG boat wants to board us. I’ll keep it handy.
I continued without incident and pulled into River Dunes at 1400, a quick 39 mile run. After fueling up and pumping out the marina crew found me a slip for the next two nights.
This is a day for computer work, the nasty little devils have taken over our lives.
The keyboard on my old laptop is toast but the plugin keyboard works. The combination is cumbersome to carry around but I’ll have to do it until my new machine has the apps I use installed and files transferred. The internet connection here seems adequate, I’ll get some of the tasks done.
I downloaded the diary app I use for this journal and chose the professional evaluation edition, I’ve used their free version for a long time and thought that maybe the pro version would be worth buying. But, when I enabled it the darn thing has a graphic plopped right on top of it’s workspace. How can it be evaluated? Such genius. So it’s back to my original program for a month when the new app reverts to free status, unless the ad stays then I’ll have to dump it.
I left River Dunes this morning driving out into the Neuse River and a stiff North wind which was raising waves up to three feet. Good thing I was going South, it turned into an eight mile sail, jib only, hitting six knots at times. Then we turned down Adams Creek for the long motor to Beaufort, NC arriving at 1300 and dropping anchor in Taylor Creek just off Carrot Island. The island is part of the Rachel Carson Marine Sanctuary and in addition to it being an important place in the study of marine life it also is home to a herd of wild horses which can be seen from time to time at waters edge. They were there today. Pretty Beaufort is on the other side of the creek with shops and restaurants strung out from one end to the other. It’s laid-back, seasonal; a quiet refuge to wait a day or two in. I’ll stay a couple days before continuing South.
This morning I tramped around with the Mighty Fines and the Mar-A-Lagos to the used boat stuff store and then went by myself over to the North Carolina Maritime Museum to spend a couple hours. The museum is a good one concentrating on local boat building, the oyster fishery and the pirate Blackbeard, whose vessel Queen Anne’s Revenge was discovered just offshore and has been the object of archaeological recovery for the past ten years. There were cannon, coins and all types of relics displayed making it quite interesting.
A young, fifteen year old, sperm whale was beached nearby some years ago and local amateurs with the help of some professional people (cetologists?) buried the animal and four years later exhumed it, treated and then reassembled the skeleton which now hangs overhead in the museum. There is no good reason not to visit because it’s free.
Everyone except me left this morning headed to their next destination. I didn’t feel much like traveling, instead I went out for breakfast at a local bubba restaurant and stuffed myself and then went back to the boater’s consignment shop and bought a fishing rod. It’s my birthday, maybe I’ll fish some. My friends and I went to the Mexican restaurant on Front Street last night where we had a good supper and then they sang happy birthday for me, wasn’t that nice? Little things like that seem special when you’re by yourself for any length of time – self imposed or not.
Tomorrow I’ll get going again and try to get closer to the other Beaufort down in South Carolina where it should be possible to go offshore again.
(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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Slide for more pictures <...>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
It’s mid-August and the temperature has risen into the nineties for a few days. A southerly wind has been blowing since Tuesday pushing air heavy with humidity into Vermont where we now sit sweaty and immobile waiting for rain.
Two weekends ago we took a grandson out on Lake Champlain to sail around, something he had not done with us and to spend the night. Josh liked boat life it turned out, especially being helmsman, and all three of us had an enjoyable two days.
Jeanne and I got away in July for a week cruising with our yacht club around the lake spending each night in a different spot anchored or moored depending on where we were. In the afternoon of our first day out after an exceptional sail to Willsboro Bay, the West wind suddenly picked up and popped our anchor loose. We struggled to keep from being blown into shallow water, Jeanne cranking relentlessly on the windlass while I ran the engine at full throttle backing into the wind. I couldn’t tell if the anchor had cleared the bottom and I couldn’t hear Jeanne over the noise. She was waving one hand but was busy with the other winching and winching. The wind was getting worse, gusting into the high thirties and waves were getting larger. I wasn’t gaining ground and that shallow water looked awfully close. Then Jeanne ran back to the cockpit yelling that the anchor was up but had a huge ball of mud and weeds on it. I slammed the boat into forward gear and threw the wheel over hard to starboard and with mud roiling behind us and the depth sounder showing we were one foot off the bottom we swung into the wind and deeper water. Safe! Holy crap.
Some beginning for cruise week. Thanks to Steve on Spirit who found a sheltered place across the bay close to cliffs that went right down into the water. We spent the night there peacefully rafted with two other RSYC boats, anchors out in front and long stern lines run to trees on shore. Very secure and a good spot to have a sundowner party. The next morning I spent an hour scrubbing the mud off Walkabout’s bow and decks.
The rest of the week had no more extremes, just enjoyment: Watching the fireworks over Burlington Harbor, having a (not too) windy passage to Valcour Is., a very placid night in Deep Bay, and fun and games under the tent at Burton Island State Park to finish off Cruise Week 2016.
Jeanne’s garden is beginning to yield some great vegetables, chard, beets, bunches of lettuce, green and yellow beans and now tomatoes. We will be overloaded with tomatoes I think. She planted herbs too, basil, oregano, mint for mojitos, tarragon and parsley. We’ve been eating very well.
I am going to rename my blog. This time it will be “Cuba Bound” and will tell, I hope, the story of this year’s adventure on the sailboat Walkabout for which this website is named. Spinning stories about life in Vermont might seem easy but finding material has been difficult. It’s better to stick to one subject when writing a blog I’m told and Reflectionship didn’t do it that well. No apologies though. I’ve had fun writing most of my posts and have had good feedback. But next month the blog will have a new title and be more of a journal. Much has gone into preparing for the trip to Cuba, much is still being done and I would like to share those experiences as my crew and I travel along.
Nothing bites one in the ass quite so hard as watching your offspring marry. I’m no exception even though I was just an uncle this time. But isn’t it just so wonderful? These youngsters portray such a fine example of the continuity of the world and our place in it. Our kind will just keep on going and going and it is times like this that confirm the workings of God and man.
Eyebrows are being raised, I can feel it. Look here my friends it’s not every day we get to graze with the big cows over in the really green grass on the other side of the fence. It’s nice when you do, just don’t think it will happen often. Believe me, I had the best time of any wedding in recent memory and wish only the best for the newlywed couple. God Bless.
My niece Julia, oldest daughter of my sister Joan and her husband Jeff, lives in Boulder, CO as does her mom and dad and her new husband Andrew. However, Julia wanted her wedding to be held in the Connecticut town where she grew up so all her friends there could attend as well as her grandparents, who would have an easier time at sea level instead of in rarified Colorado. Wasn’t that thoughtful? Yes it was. That was not the only detail considered, as this wedding took over a year in the planning and nothing was overlooked. Not anything. The only glitch I was aware of was local traffic made the ceremony a few minutes late, which by the way, gave the sun time to tuck behind trees much to the relief of the audience and the photographers. It was all good as Martha Stewart would say. She lives nearby.
We drove there Friday and attended an apres-rehearsal party that evening where we met the bridal party and enjoyed cocktails and a delicious supper before returning to our hotel. Saturday was spent getting ready for the big event and, afterward on Sunday morning, we went to a outdoor breakfast down by Long Island Sound before our return trip to Vermont. Action packed, that’s us.
The honeymooners have flown to the Cook Islands, half-way around the world, a place where they can find themselves before they commence their new life as a couple. And to begin the cycle of life once more.
One might think people who live in temperate climates would be used to changing seasons and to expect the vagaries which always come. We do, for the most part, but in May when temperature swings can be extreme being-used-to-it doesn’t always matter. Last week was so nice, seventy degree days and lots of sun. Today our thermometer read thirty-eight to start and hasn’t hit forty-five. How can you not complain? And, to gently remind us that the approaching warmer months won’t last, Mr. Frederick dropped off two truckloads of firewood this afternoon!
Walkabout, our sailboat, has new bottom paint and some freshened brightwork, woodwork that is, and will go back in Lake Champlain in early June. She was pretty beat-up from two years in the Atlantic and needed some loving. She doesn’t know it yet but I want to take her back out there for another run this Fall.
Compliments of John Bootle, Jeanne now has her very own burgee. It’s the SWSC flag: Scared Wives Sailing Club.
She has another name for it…
This cold snap will be gone in a couple days and we can get back to planting the garden and mowing grass. Right now I’ll just feed the fire.
Over forty years have passed since I met Frank Avery. He lived in Mendon, the tiny central Vermont hill town where I grew up, and stopped by my shop in Rutland hoping to get his tractor’s tow bar welded. He spoke with a Vermont accent which even in 1973 was rare to hear. His broken part involved an easy fix and Frank was soon on his way, five dollars poorer. A week later he showed up again, not for business this time, just to visit.
He told me he lived on Journey’s End Road in Mendon with his wife. I was quite familiar with that country road and replied that I had grown up less than a mile away from where he lived and knew the area well. Avery’s house had been built after I had moved on from my parent’s home and wasn’t there when I had roamed those hills as a kid, but I knew where it was. We talked and talked. Frank, who was approaching eighty said he was retired and occupied himself making pine furniture in his garage and, setting the hook, that he had discovered a technique to keep bark attached to the edges of the boards. “Without glue” he boasted, “it’s my own process”. We chatted on until a customer interrupted.
Frank came by many times that summer always ready to tell another story of the old days. He had worked at many diverse jobs and could relate to almost any subject that came up, logging and farming in particular. He never forgot to mention his pine furniture. By autumn that year the thought of a Christmas gift for my wife flickered through my busy brain. We had recently moved into our first house so naturally I thought of Frank’s pine furniture. The next time he stopped in to visit I asked him if he could make a coffee table and two end tables for me in time for Christmas. Well, the guy took off like a shot and I didn’t see him again for a month. The subject of price was never mentioned…
The new furniture arrived just in time for Christmas and turned out to be not only very well made but had a craftsman’s flair. Frank’s bill was so reasonable that I felt embarrassed and questioned him about it but he assured me that he wanted what he wanted and was quite happy to sell me his creations. My wife was as delighted as I can remember her ever being over a surprise present. The three handsome pine tables stood up to years of use and the secret bark retention method worked.
That isn’t the end of the story.
I hadn’t seen Mr. Avery for a couple years when he came by my shop one morning. We caught up on our lives and as he went to leave he said something that has been ringing in my ears ever since.
Frank asked me in all sincerity:
“Bob, did you always live in Vermont”?
I told him, “Yes, my parents moved here when I was only three”.
Looking over his shoulder as he went out the door Frank replied with a grin,
“I knew there was something about you!”
What can you say to that?
There is one undeniable rule of life in Vermont:
If you’re not born here you can’t be a true Vermonter.