Monday, April 27, 2015

A Naval Battle of our own

 After 7 days we are beginning to finally recover sufficiently from the incident that occurred last Sunday during a beautiful sail on Chesapeake Bay to be able to recount the story without further emotional consternation, well almost! On the morning of our departure from Norfolk a most ominous fog bank rolled in that had the appearance of a dust storm thousands of feet high, perhaps a portend of things to come but once that cleared we enjoyed a two hour motorsail up the River to Hampton Roads then out onto the Chesapeake sailing north between Cape Charles and Cape Henry with a destination of Yorktown. With 12 knots on an east wind beam reach doing about 7 knots we suddenly heard a “thunk” but saw nothing in front or behind. About 10 minutes later we recognized that our bilge was filled with water and Cindy went on communications detail calling in the MayDay to the Coast Guard while Jay investigated the source of the leak. The short version is that our propeller shaft was “gone” (later found to have slipped backward and jammed against the rudder) so Jay commenced stuffing the hole while Cindy coordinated assistance and packing the kitties into a single carrier with lifevests attached around it, and threw the valuables into a backpack in case we needed to abandon ship.

 Within minutes 2 powerboats were on escort duty while we sailed on (no motor drive available and limited steerage) toward land, then the Coast Guard arrived in about 30 minutes to board us to assist in water control and to help take the sails down later under wind pressure. Under escort we sailed up the York River about an hour more until the towboat arrived to take us to Jordan marine (on Sarah's Creek in Gloucester so literally "up a creek without a paddle"), where the boat is once again up on the hard for repairs. The gist was that the set screws which hold the propeller shaft in place in the coupler had either managed to vibrate loose (the shaft being kept in place by the forward motion of the propeller shaft when we were motoring, but once under a strong sail set pulled backward by the resistance of the water on the prop) or were not properly installed in the first place. The jury and insurance coverage is still out on this one!

 We have tried to make the best of our time while here this week and the owners of Jordan Marine have been great trying to get our boat repaired in less than 10 days (in 2 days the prop dent had been fixed and the shaft checked with a new more stable system in place for the set screws, and a new strut – holds the shaft for those who don’t know – ordered and shipped in) so we can still get north in time for the opening of the charter season on the Chesapeake and return home.

 Owners Charles and Julie Duke also invited us to their home for a crab/oyster bake as they have a seafood business as a second business to the marine repairs, and it was amazing to taste blue crabs , clams, and oysters fresh within hours of their removal from the water. Well at least for Cindy as Jay does not care for crustaceans of any variety except shrimp and snails, but he did manage to swallow a quarter of an oyster Rockefeller.

  During our time we have been cleaning the boat and relocating storage items up to Havre de Grace Maryland, things we were going to do once we arrived there but doing now to save time at the end of our travels that we now won’t have to spend.
We also ventured to Yorktown Battlefield where we learned that at the beginning of this momentous battle that was the turning point of the Revolutionary war, there was a naval confrontation between Cornwallis’ English fleet and the newly allied French one just off the entrance to the Chesapeake from the Atlantic very close to where our own seafaring battle began (Jay stood next to a cannon with a view of the area in the background).

       Walking the trenches and redoubts were awe inspiring, and Jay made a new friend of the owner of the local Ben and Jerry’s, Bob, who gave him a lifetime 10% discount pass on their ice cream – he’s in heaven. Most interesting artifact at Yorktown Battlefield visitor center was the Lafayette
cannon with a dimple in it caused by a shell, which allowed Lafayette to apparently emotionally recognize it during a later visit.

We skipped the more Disneyland like Historic Williamsburg, now at $41 per person for entry, for a trip to Jamestown. This first permanent English settlement took place in 1607 predating the arrival at Plymouth, and was the site of the Virginia Company’s council of government upon which our current governmental system later became based.                                                           
A truly amazing story of survival against horrendous odds including a multi- year drought that strained the at one time friendly relations with the Powhatan Indians, a situation that was made peaceful with the marriage of Pocahontas to planter John Rolfe. The marshes offered the makings for tar and the church was rebuilt over the initial foundations in 1907 to commemorate the 300 year anniversary of the landing, as was the obelisk.

 So our revised revised revised revised revision of the trip is that instead of taking 10 days to enjoy some areas of the Chesapeake, once the boat is repaired (cross our fingers just two more days) we will motor or sail the last 200 miles in a very crunching 2 max 3 days; then the drive home now that the truck has also been repositioned at the north end of the Chesapeake in Havre de Grace for charter over the summer with BaySail.

  Our next and last entry will be a recap of the “best of”s. For now we are happy to be dry and safe. This has admittedly not been the trip of which we dreamed, but has provided other insights into our characters that may not have been possible otherwise. Perspective is Everything!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nights in Norfolk

 Our crossing of Abermarle Sound was peaceful after again negotiating the tricky Manteo channel, arriving in Coinjock in time for a much deserved nap after worrying most of the previous night. After a brief stop at Atlantic Yacht Basin for the most reasonably priced dockage anywhere at $1 per ft., we travelled the lock and bridges leading to Norfolk. We used one very long 14 hour drive day to retrieve the truck from its storage in Charleston, with a brief hi to friend Brad Wade. Then decided an extra day or two was needed to explore Norfolk a bit more after we had enjoyed one of the most unique experiences ever.

 Just blocks from our Portsmouth dockage is the Commodore theater which is styled in a nightclub dining set up with tiers of tables for two and four people, but instead of live entertainment you watch a movie while eating. So just hours after our arrival we found ourselves at the Wed. matinee eating sandwiches that were quite tasty, popcorn and a pitcher of diet coke while watching “the Woman in Gold” which we can highly recommend. The persons who recommended we do this are the owners of a nautical reclamation and antique store that is amazing, Skipjack’s which has a website at

 Friday we walked around Norfolk downtown with its amazing MacArthur Mall, and drove through the historic
district and Hague

residential areas, and stopped at Dumar’s – flagship drive in of the inventor of the original waffle cone machine, which is still at this location but originally at Coney Island where Abe Dumar first displayed his idea. Ice cream connoisseur Jay was in heaven -  Out to dinner at local Lobscour restaurant with a terrific early dining special that included some of the best hushpuppies we have ever had.

  We decided there was so much to do and see in this beautiful waterfront city

 that another day was justified to take the Naval Base cruise. Learned more about battleship, submarine and aircraft carriers in one day than in several years (and for Cindy a lifetime’s worth), followed by a walking tour of the USS Wisconsin (one word - huge)

, and the Naval Museum. The might of our nation’s navy was never more evident, and really evokes pride.

We enjoyed the convenience of a ferry just blocks from our Portsmouth marina to downtown Norfolk


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mastering the shallows

With a great weather forecast we departed from the ICW at Little River Inlet, and for the first time sailed into the Cape Fear River going past the shoals at Bald Head Island on a well planned wing-on-wing sail set. By doing so we enjoyed a beautiful sail on the Atlantic and bypassed two of the more notorious shoal areas of Shallotte Inlet and Lockwood Folly to arrive in Southport just in time for their Spring Festival, which we opted out from in favor of a burger at one of our favorite waterfront restaurants, Provision Company.

Then it was a successful passage thru a very tricky area at marker 63 where the depth was less than 5 ft at high tide with a quick S turn between two temporary buoys about 25 ft off the shoreline, the same spot we first ran aground last fall when 7 boats were stuck in the same area. This time we not only had our own experience but followed a fellow cruiser, seasoned on their 6th trip, thru the area after we both had anchored at a terrifically scenic basin at Camp LeJeune. It was Easter Sunday so no live fire maneuvers were taking place luckily.
 On to a couple of nights in Beaufort to catch up on our mail, thanks to Sharron for forwarding, get re-provisioned,
and a dinghy ride to Shackleford Island and the Rachel Carson preserve. This was definitely a highlight of the entire trip as we took a walk through the marshes and got to see the wild horses up close and personal.


A nice crossing of Pamlico Sound and two more nights at anchor, one somewhat windy but wide open and nice depth and the other very protected

(which was very desirable after a close encounter with a massive storm cell during the day)

   but shallow, and then to one of our not so favorite places at Alligator Marina (aka the Shell Station) but nicely position for the next day’s journey across the Abermarle to Manteo on Roanoke Island, yet one of the very most shallow and narrow entrances we have ever witnessed (there is even a video on youtube to explain how to get into this place).

 A procedure often done but Harbormaster Carl was one of the most friendly for our check in

, and then it was on to another traditional first stop around the corner for Jay’s ice cream,
 and to a bar to watch the Masters, along with a grooms party prior to their wedding at the Manteo Lighthouse.

Manteo Lighthouse

 A bittersweet year as not only are we not home to host our annual Masters Golf party but friend Ben Crenshaw played his last competitive round. this year on Friday.

 But  no matter what the situation the cats always seem to find a place that feels safe.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

No April Fools

April 1 No April First Fooling our boat is finally performing well after 5 days in Savannah getting the alternator problem correctly diagnosed and repaired. We left last Friday and spent several nights at beautiful anchorages with an overnight at Hilton Head’s Harbortown marina and an afternoon of golf. Then on to Georgetown with several more overnights in the marshes and a day sail on Charleston Bay waiting for the tide to rise enough to make it through a shallow area near Isle of Palms. It is amazing just how many areas of concern there are and we have several more to go in the next five days, so we plan our times of being on the water to correspond as best we can with a rising tide. However, we are at a bit of an awkward time as the sun comes up around 7 and high tides are an early 8-9a or pm after sunset for the next several days in SC heading to NC; but then get more midday allowing for greater distances just as we get to the sounds where it won’t matter as much. All thrown off by our unexpected delay in the additional repairs but we are still on schedule for reaching our Chesapeake destination by May 1.

After several nights at anchor the shower was great and we celebrated with a shrimp po'boy "dinner" at Big Tuna's while Pounce watched over the boat.