Monday, 05 Nov 07
Mears Point Marina, Kent Narrows, MD.
It's 1430hrs and Jane has just left the marina. She's heading back to the house while I stay on Galena. Galena and I are ready to go south. Jane did a hell of a job finishing up all the tasks to get me on my way. She really worked hard procuring all the right food and packing my clothing and other gear on board. She completed the sewing on the cushion covers and bimini. She headed home thinking I would be departing the marina early tomorrow morning. But the weather may not cooperate and I might have to postpone the departure a bit.
The weather forecast for tomorrow indicates 20-kts of west wind gusting to 30-kts. I don't need that! West winds are usually good for sailing on the Bay. But I would prefer to have things a little quieter on my first day out. I may stick around the marina for another day or so waiting for the wind to not be so sucky.
My cruising buddy, Capt Tom on s/v Evergreen said he would depart whenever I decided to go. I told him that I may want to wait till Wednesday the 7 th. He asked, "When will you know for sure?" "Late tonight," I answered. "There's a forecast at 2200 and another at about 0400 tomorrow."
Tom wants more specificity. He doesn't like the current uncertainty that I'm feeling OK with. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) this kind of uncertainty is a big part of cruising on small boats. Often we have to make decisions at the last minute as to whether we go or not. Making a firm plan (or to use the dirty word of cruising: schedule) can get you in trouble out there.
So tonight I'm sitting on Galena listening to Rod Stewart sing the classics, having a beer, waiting for weather reports. The waiting for weather part means I've already started cruising, even though I haven't left the dock yet, and that’s cool. The choice of music just means I'm old. And the beer, well, I'm not sure what that means. But I’m feeling very good about the trip and we have not even cast off from our slips yet.
The new forecast still calls for 20- to 25-kt wind gusting to 30-kts. But now it’s out of the north with 3- to 4-ft waves for tomorrow. If that doesn't moderate we will wait until Wednesday. But I really don’t want to wait until the winds swing around to the south. That would be bad for us since our direction for the first three days is generally south.
Tuesday 06 Nov 07
The wind is now blowing at 20-kts out of the northwest. It's raining and the temperature is a bone-chilling 48° and dropping. At 0300-hrs the winds were 5-kts out of the southwest with the temperature at 57°. This is just an overall crappy day. And they say tomorrow may be just as bad. I could leave this afternoon and only go as far as Dunn Cove; about 25-nm south of here. I’ve used that anchorage as an overnight stop-off before. There’s nothing there but a quiet, protected cove to wait for better weather. Going there would get me a few hours down the road and, more importantly, I would have at least started the voyage. There is some considerable value to that.
Tom just returned to the marina. He had run to his house to complete a few last minute details. The sun is shining and the wind is blowing from the west at 10-kts. The temperature is still 48°. We’ve checked the weather and decided that we're definitely departing tomorrow at 0600-hrs!
Tom brought me a slice of cheesecake. It tasted great but is very bad for me as I'm supposed to be on a reduced sugar diet. I did, however, enjoy every bite of it.
In the past few weeks I've created GPS routes for the entire winter's voyage. Part of the fun of cruising is looking at maps, reading cruising guides, and making plans. That’s another way of saying dreaming about cruising. Part of that planning is to actually draw routes on maps. I use Coastal Explorer software and the most current electronic charts from NOAA. After I get a good, safe route drawn I push it into my Garmin GPS.
I’ve made routes for each segment of the trip. I’ve made routes for just about all the possible off-shore hops between Beaufort, NC, and Miami. I’ve also made routes through the Florida Keys and through the Exuma Islands. Many of these routes are based on my actual tracks from previous trips through those areas. My GPS is now loaded with more routes than I will actually use. And there’s more on my computer for contingencies that might be required. Like for the off-shore run from Charleston to Jacksonville I have charted several routes heading in from the ocean to the ICW.
Tom has not done as much planning. So I'm going to give him a copy of my routes and show him how to move them from his computer into his GPS. The routes might help him find his way through some of the trickier parts of the ICW. Tom said his plan was to simply follow me to Miami. That’s not really a good idea. We might get separated.
Last night I went over to Mad Mark's boat. In the course of the evening Mark loaned a book to me: How to Sail Around the World by Hal Roth. I saw the book on his shelf and told Mark that the reason I'm sailing right now is that I had read another book by Roth called Two on a Big Ocean. That was the first sailing/cruising book I had ever read and I was enchanted by the story. Roth is an excellent writer and carried me with him and his wife as they made the “ Pacific Circle.” So Mark hands me the book and says, "Take it. Give it back in the spring." What a guy!
Mark also pointed out some new battery powered LED stick-up lights that he had just bought. I noted that something like that would be useful over my ice box. It's dark down there and the cabinet over the ice box prevents most light from getting down there. He said, "Take one of mine. Consider it a going away gift.” Works great to light up the inside of the box. I should have thought of that before. Thanks, again, Mark.
1700hrs, Wednesday, 06 Nov 07
Anchored at Solomons Island, MD
Temperature is 50°, wind is 10 kts out of the north
Trip: 50 miles. Total: 50 miles.
First day out and what a day it was!
To start with I couldn't sleep last night. Just standard pre-voyage jitters, I guess. So I got up at 0400-hrs instead of the 0530-hrs as I had planned. We ( Galena and Evergreen) departed the slips at 0625-hrs, just a few minutes after my planned departure of 0615.
I went through my last-minute departure drill. I had to make sure that I did the simple things like disconnect the shore-power cable. I usually leave my dock lines in the slip. But this time I had to gather them up and store them aboard. The engine started easily and the sounds got Mark up and out to wish us, “bon voyage.” Mark was taking pictures of Tom and I as we coiled dock lines and motored off.
I foolishly tried to get a picture of the empty slip as I left. As a result I almost didn't get Galena turned down the fairway in time to miss the boat moored directly across from Galena’s slip. And the picture I took turned out blurry. After taking the picture I looked back toward the bow of Galena and had to do a big correction. I had to tell myself to focus on what I was doing. I told myself, “Drive the boat out of the marina without hitting anything. Then you can do the optional stuff like pictures.”
Galena's route from the marina to the Bay
As we left the slip the wind was west at 5- to 10-kts and the temperature was in the upper 40’s. I had a good sail south through Kent Narrows and into Eastern Bay. When we turned southwest toward the Chesapeake we were hard on the wind and pounding into 3-ft waves and 15-kts of wind. Until we got to the turn into Eastern Bay we had a nice sail. Now, with all sails up (main, stay and Yankee jib) the fun is gone and I'm working hard at driving Galena toward the Bay.
I kept telling myself that I was way over-canvassed. I had everything up: Yankee Jib, Staysail, Full Main. Galena was heeled over to 25° to 30°, making 5- to 6-kts. But also making about 20° of leeway! That's a clear indication of being over-canvassed. I'm also luffing the main to keep the weather helm to at least a controllable level. As I approached the Chesapeake Bay from Eastern Bay and tried to turn south (downwind) Galena simply said, "No." There was just too much sail up to let me turn south. So I let her head up and ran forward to the mast to shorten sails. With all the wind now on the nose I had a heck of a time getting the sails down and tied up on deck.
I put two reefs in the main and dropped the Yankee jib leaving the staysail up. In that configuration Galena was much happier. She stood up straight and her leeway went down to about 5°. Most importantly she let me turn her downwind and south. The speed went up to 6.5-kts with some moments of over 7-kts as Galena surfed down the 6-ft waves. Often as we surfed down the waves Galena tried to broach about to windward. It took all my strength and full tiller travel to keep her heading downwind. I should have reduced sail even more. But we were really moving fast in the right direction. So I put up with it.
It wasn't until about 1300hrs, as I passed Cove Point and got into the lee of that point that I started getting relief from the waves and wind.
Galena's new sea curtains kept the wind off me quite well. So well in fact that a couple times I thought the wind had died sufficiently to shake out a reef. But when I got out on deck and stood at the mast I could feel the full force of the wind. There I realized that we were still in need of both the reefs so I crawled back to the cockpit.
Tucked into a corner of the cockpit with a cup of coffee
One really disappointing thing that happened on the run to Solomons Island was that my main dinette table came loose from its storage position (folded up against the main bulkhead) and came crashing down to the deck. In so doing the folding leg didn't unfold in time and, with no support at the end, the heavy table ripped itself off its hinges and ended up laying on the deck with the hinge dangling from the split and shattered wood on the bulkhead.
On top of that, a food locker had previously popped open in all the violent motion of those first few hours of sailing. A bunch of junk food had fallen out onto the deck in the cabin. Cookies and crackers and chips were all over the place. I had seen that when it happened but figured I’d clean it up after I anchored for the night. But where did that big heavy table land? Right on that pile of junk food. Now I have bags of crushed cookies on my floor.
This table had come loose a couple times before. The latching mechanism that I designed and thought was so cool needs to be redesigned. That was just one of the many things that I was going to do 'Real Soon Now." Now I have to do something right away or I'll have no place to set the computer and write this log.
08 Nov 07, 0300 hrs
I laid down at 1830hrs yesterday for a nap after a nice dinner of hot soup and sandwiches. I woke up once at about 2100hrs and did a quick anchor check. It was quite cold out. But we had not moved at all. We hadn't even swung around. This is a very safe and quiet little spot; that's why I like to stop here. Since everything was fine I went back to bed. Now it’s 0300hrs and I can't get back to sleep. I guess I'll have a long day today.
Tom had some problems with his radio on the run into Solomons yesterday. I hope he has them resolved today. We'll do the "talk on 68 but scan 16, 13, and 9" thing for the rest of the trip. Single-handing is nice but being able to talk to your buddy reduces the feeling of being all alone.
08 Nov 07, 0840 hrs
We departed Solomons at about 0630 hrs. The sky was just getting light. Our next stop is about 45 miles south of here and we need all available daylight hours in these short winter days to make it that far before dark.
This is a nice winter day: Cold, low sun, steady breeze. The sky was overcast with high cirrus clouds, which really cut down on whatever warmth the sun was trying to give me.
A cool, winter day on the Chesapeake Bay
Behind me is a low dark cloud bank. It looks like it's raining back there. If that catches up to me I may have to climb into my full foul weather garb.
Evergreen fell way back a few minutes ago. It actually looked like he came to a complete stop! Strange when Galena, a boat infamous for her slow speed in light air can pass anyone, let alone a C&C Landfall 38. Seeing Tom sit there like that made me think of how the wife of my friend A.O. described his sailing style:
I noticed that my now 2-yr old jib sheets are showing some serious wear. In fact the starboard sheet has a frayed spot where the covering is about worn off. It's about 10-ft back from the clew. I'll do an end-for-end with the sheet and hopefully that spot will end up aft of the working section.
About 1030hrs we slowed to 1.8 kts. The GPS gives me an estimated arrival time at my destination based on current speed and distance to travel. It's saying we'll arrive at Fishing Bay at 2100 hrs. Way after sunset, which today is about 1700 hrs. We'll have to divert to my old standby, Belles Creek. It's a quiet little spot just north of the Rappahannoc River, off Indian Creek. There we will find 9-feet of water and all-round protection and enough room for about 4 boats.
Since I had dropped the headsails while motoring, I decided to 'fix' the jib sheet. I have always used a large snap shackle for the jib sheets. And the sheets was really just a single, 7/16" double-braided line with the snap shackle tied into the center of it. To do an end-for-end of one side required that I remove the snap shackle and cut the line into two sections; port and starboard. That also means that I will now have to tie the sheets to the clew. Since I bag my head sails I'll have to do a lot of tying and untying from now on. But not having the weight of the big shackle out on the headsail might let her fly a little better in light air. So I did all that and, yes, the frayed stop is now aft of the working section of line. (I think it took longer to describe all that than to do it.)
I found out why Tilly (our Raymarine autopilot) was making funny noises: she was coming apart. The motor section of the tiller pilot was pulled out of, and crooked with relation to, the main body. It looked as if I had sat on her. I just twisted her a bit and she poped back into line. Now she sounds just fine.
And one more small thing. I'd been wearing one of my longer earrings. It's sort of a spike-shaped thing. Well, the point has been catching on the high collar of my foul weather jacket and pulling on my ear. Now my ear is all red and sore! (I know, I'm whining like a little girl.) I'll have to change to one of my smaller earrings.
As I turned into Belles Creek Tom was following me pretty closely. I told him to back off and let me set my anchor. Once I was anchored he could come alongside and we'd raft-up again. I motored to about the center of the little anchorage slowing to about 1.5-kts. I looked back and Evergreen was right behind me. And I mean within a boat length or so. I waved him off and signaled I was stopping. I selected idle-reverse, locked the helm and walked to the bow to drop the anchor.
Once the hook was down and I had lain down about 50-ft of chain Galena backed away for about a boat-length before the 35-lb Bruce bit into the rocky bottom. As this was happening I looked back and saw Tom narrowly missing Galena's stern. He had gone around in a circle and was heading for my stern before I was anchored. As he went by I said, "Tom, you scared me a little there." He said, "Yeah, me too!" Not the thing you want to hear.
08 Nov 07, 1630 hrs
Trip: 48 nm, Total: 120 nm. Engine: 1327 hrs.
OK, Tom and I are safe and sound with Galena and Evergreen all rafted-up here in Belles Creek. This is going to be a cold night. The high temperature today was only about 53 degrees. I really need to get further south; this cold weather sucks!
09 Nov 07, 0130 hrs
I went to sleep at about 1730 and just woke up. I had planned on getting up about 4 hours from now, but I have things to do to fill the time. I can wash dishes, make my lunch, make coffee for my thermos, etc. We'll be heading down to Norfolk, VA, today.
Today's forecast is for northeast winds at 5-kts. Good direction, but far too low a speed. So we'll probably have to motor all the way to Norfolk. Right now there is no wind and the water is quite still.
Also, I ache all over. This single-handing stuff is not easy. I'm constantly climbing around on deck or pulling on lines or changing sails or just standing in the cockpit and countering Galena's motion as she bobs and weaves beneath me. All of that that keeps a lot of muscles working that normally don't; especially on me.
09 Nov 07, 1630hrs
Trip: 48 nm, Total: 169 nm Engine: 1334 hrs.
All day the air was cold, the sun blazed without heat, and there was no wind. I changed the headsail from the Yankee jib to the 130% Gennoa. But even that didn't help. Tom and I have both motored just about all day.
Here Tom on Evergreen is zooming up on Galena
As we came into this marina I went over to a slip. The dock hand said I could take any empty slip on D3 dock. When I turned into the fairway, he shouted, "Which slip you going to put her in?"
I answered, "Whichever one she wants." It's not always just up to me when I’m putting Galena into a slip. It’s sometimes a little bit up to Galena when we have options like that. I may think I'm going to put her in a particular slip but she may decide otherwise. I’ve learned that it’s not often wise to argue unless the slip she wants to enter is currently occupied.
I got Galena turned stern-to and backed her into a slip without much trouble. I went over to the dock master's shack to fill out the paperwork and pay for the slip. The cost here is $65 per night for a 32-foot boat using a single 30A electrical hookup. Not bad. When I got there Tom had Evergreen at the fuel dock getting fuel. As he cast off and headed over the slips I jokingly said, "Hey, Tom, don't hit my boat when you get over there."
As it turned out Tom did have a bit of trouble getting Evergreen to turn into her slip. And much to my surprise he ended up backing past his slip and actually hitting Galena hard right on her new bowsprit. He didn't do any damage to Galena but he tore off Evergreen's new Bar-B-Que grill that was mounted on her stern pulpit. He was backing into a slip on the port side of Galena. He was backing toward Galena and tried to turn into his slip. But Evergreen didn't want to turn and he ended up driving right past his slip and into mine. That’s all hard to describe, but the event looked something like this:
Evergreen went from E1 to E2 to E3
Tom later dove down for his grill and actually found it. A brave thing to do when the water was about 50° and the air was about 48°. But it’s an expensive grill.
Tom also found that he has fuel in his crankcase. We don't know how that's happening. When he was at Belle Creek last night he noticed that the oil level was way high. His engine is not making the RMPs it should and is smoking badly. Both black smoke when he gets the RMPs up a bit, and white smoke when he throttles up. He wants to get to Beaufort, NC, before he has it fixed. I think that's a lot of motoring on a damaged engine. We are over 200 miles from Beaufort.
The wind was forecast to be gusting to 30-kts tomorrow so I'll stay here for two days. I'll walk down to the grocery store tomorrow and pick up a couple of things. Also, I can do some laundry. I had not brought many cold-weather shirts so cleaning clothes when I can is a good idea. It costs $2 to wash and another $2 to dry clothes here. That's a lot more expensive than at our home marina, but not out of line with other places on the ICW.
On the 10th I had Tom over for dinner. I made spaghetti while Tom supplied the venison for the sauce and also the wine for us to get sauced. We later played cards and I taught him how to play dominos. We had a nice, quiet evening. I mentioned to Tom that this was the very first time I had ever had anyone over to Galena where I had cooked dinner.
11 Nov 07 1430hrs
Great Bridge Lock, Chesapeake, VA
Trip: 23nm, Total 192nm. Eng: 1340hrs
The winds were north at 5-kts most of the day and the temperature never got over 55°.
I left Hampton at 0830hrs and motored through Norfolk and down the Elizabeth River. It's about 60-miles from Norfolk to Coinjock and I really can't cover that much ground before dark. Two things conspire against us: the short fall days, and bridges that only open on the hour and/or half-hour. Oh, and no one runs the ICW at night.
The Steel Bridge over the Elizabeth River is the second to last bridge on the way to Coinjock. That bridge is at ICW Milepost 8.8 and only opens on the hour. I arrived there at 1230hrs so we had to motor in circles for 30-minutes. In retrospect I should just drop the hook in cases like this. Motoring around is a pain in the butt. But where do you draw the line? 30-minutes or 15-minutes. By the time the bridge opened there were 12 boats milling about. When the bridge finally opened it felt like the starting line for a sailboat race. All the sailboats have to keep moving in order to keep control. The powerboats, with their duel engines and bow thrusters can just sit in one spot. Add to all that confusion a tug and barge docking right in the middle of the mill-about-area and you have a half hour of anxiety. Yeah, I should have just anchored.
After the Steel Bridge comes the lock and bridge here at Chesapeake, VA. When southbound one encounters the lock first, then the bridge. Between the two is a small bulkhead where cruisers are welcome to tie up for the night at no charge. There are no services and no security. But there are some nice restaurants and stores within easy walking distance. The bulkhead has room for about 10 boats. But that requires everyone to tighten up and not waste space. Most cruisers are good at that; some are not.
I usually get to this spot on the ICW at about 1400 hrs. But I’m still some 35 miles from Coinjock. At 5.5-kts that’s just over six hours of motoring. Since that would put me into Coinjock just after dark, I usually stop here and have a relaxing afternoon wandering about the area.
While inside the lock Evergreen was directly behind me on the wall. As we sat there waiting for the lock doors to open I explained to Tom my plan for stopping at the dock. I explained that I would tie up first (he was following me) and then I would catch his lines and help him tie up. Here's what it looks like:
The lock is at the left and the bridge is on the right. At the center, on the south side is the free dock.
The bridge doesn't open until everyone is out of the lock and milling about between the lock and the bridge. And the dock is right there between the two. So I have to work my way up past the boats waiting for the bridge. As I move past them I try to indicate that I’m just going over to the dock, not trying to cut in line ahead of them. A big motoryacht headed for the dock right in front of me. He was going to take ‘my’ spot. But there was still enough room behind him for Galena and Evergreen. Before entering the lock I had attached bow and stern dock lines on the starboard side as preparation for tying up at this dock.
I maneuvered to the bulkhead, brought Galena to a stop about 15-feet behind the last boat on the bulkhead and about 1-ft from the bulkhead. I jumped off Galena onto the dock with both dock lines in my hands. There’s not much wind and, because of the lock, very little current. I temporarily secured Galena to handy pilings. Then using the dock lines I pulled Galena forward one piling at a time to get her up tight to the motoryacht. It's a slow process but I do it this way to avoid getting too close to that yacht on my bow. I tie off the stern line with ten feet of slack. I untie the bow line and pull Galena forward to the next piling. I tie off the bow line and go back to loosen and move the stern line forward to the next piling. And repeat until I'm 4-feet from the boat in front of me. That gives Evergreen the maximum room to tie up behind me.
But Tom is having engine trouble again. And he didn't have his dock lines rigged. And he didn’t see that I was not quite ready for him. So when I'm almost finished with my docking and moving operation I look back and see Evergreen heading right for my stern at about 2-kts. Tom is on the foredeck messing with dock lines. I shout at him to stop his boat. He says something about throwing me a dock line. I guess he thought that I would be able to stop Evergreen. But he can't get a line secured to Evergreen's bow in time. He realizes that this is not going well. Me running toward him and shouting probably helped put that idea into his head. Tom tries to run to his cockpit but ends up lunging for a piling halfway down Evergreen’s deck. But he can't stop 20,000 pounds of boat moving that fast. Evergreen's bow anchor hits Galena right in her Aries wind vane. Galena moves forward fast enough to give the captain of the DeFevor 44 motoryacht in front of Galena a heart attack. He's standing on the fantail with his hand out to grab Galena's bowsprit. But she doesn't move forward more than a couple of feet before her dock lines come taut stopping both her and Evergreen. Some people think my dock lines are far too big for such a small boat. But the 5/8” lines were just the right size for that moment in time.
Galena's strong construction (I had just rebuilt both her bowsprit and boomkin) kept her from sustaining any noticeable damage. None the less, I was more than a bit upset with Tom. I took his dock lines and tied him off. All the while he was apologizing for hitting me, and I was yelling at him in an effort to convey my displeasure with the situation.
I went for a walk down the dock to collect my thoughts. While walking and talking among the boats and boaters at this dock I had the pleasure of meeting Joyce and Tom Meers on s/v Stella Polaris. Stella Polaris is a gaff-rigged schooner. They have the most beautiful boat I've seen in a long time. And unique, too!
Tom did all the carpentry work on the superstructure. They've been working on her for about 8 years. Joyce said she wanted to go cruising even though the boat wasn't quite done yet. Tom, being a smart husband, agreed to put the finishing touches on hold and cast off the dock lines for a six-month trip down to the Bahamas.
Notice the conspicuous absence of stanchions and lifelines. Now that's salty.