11/11/2010, North Carolina Welcome Center
They chose to take the Dismal Swamp Canal. Since Earendil only motors at about 8 mph, taking the route with all the boats going 25 or 30 mph and throwing off wakes reminiscent of the ride at the end of the Chesapeake was not appealing. So putting aside Bud's worries about depth, they took the slow route.
Early in the trip there is a lift bridge. It does not lift from 6:30 until 8:30 AM because of morning car traffic. Getting there before 6:30 meant starting in the dark. Bud didn't want to do that, so they arrived at 8:30. Unfortunately, that meant they arrived at the first lock at 9 AM and its next scheduled opening was 11 AM. The lockmaster told them they could tie off or anchor in the channel. They chose to anchor, and did so without too many problems. Rick did have to get a couple of kinks of chain out of the hawse pipe.
Before they got there, they went under a 65-foot fixed bridge. We measured our mast, twice, at Annapolis because Bud wanted to make sure we would make it under these bridges. We thought our mast was 63 feet from the waterline, but it actually measured less than 60, and when I looked up the brochure I have on the Norseman 447 it listed bridge clearance at 58 ½ feet. But anyone who's taken a sailboat under a bridge anywhere near the height of the mast knows it's a nerve-wracking experience. You have no depth perception looking up the mast and you're sure you will hit. Bud stood and watched the VHF antenna as Rick took the boat under. It never bent. Immediately after the bridge the Dismal Swamp cut off to the right. Bud missed one buoy and Rick had to turn a 360 right in front of the bridge. Gave the commuters a show.
When they finally made the first lock, there were 5 sailboats going through at once. The lockmaster put on a regular show for them. The lockmaster explains all the local attractions and even plays a song on a Conch horn. It took 50 minutes to clear the lock.
The 5 boats went on together. I asked Bud if he touched bottom, but apart from the initial turn into the canal there has been plenty of water. He said there was one snag but the group went around it. The problem turned out to be trees! At one place the Army Corps of Engineers must have been dredging. They had the pipes floating along the edge of the canal and where they were working they took up over half the width. Rick was at the helm and he actually touched one of the floats holding the dredging pipes as he was trying to stay out away from the trees. The branches hit the furled genoa, well below the top of the mast. No damage was done except some greenery on the deck, but Rick was pretty worried.
The 5 boats all ended up tying off for the night at the docks at the North Carolina Welcome Center. The center also serves the highway there. There were also 4 other boats at the center. The dock would accommodate 3 boats, so the boats are rafted 3-deep; Earendil is in the middle of one group. It didn't really matter because there is no power anyway.
Bud hasn't tried to run the air conditioner/heater because it hasn't been that cold. They were warm today, even though the temperature was still only 55 degrees. It was sunny and protected in the canal. The entire crew, including Fuzzy, enjoyed the change from yesterday. So it was a good day even though they only made 28 miles and if they want to get where they'd like to end up tomorrow, they are going to have to skip the free dock (with power) in Elizabeth City, as it's only another 22 miles along.
(Check out the Reedville entry, I added a photo. That may be the only one that gets posted until I get back, as Bud is having a hard time with the technology. Rick Sindoni was not much help. He suggested mailing the camera chip to me.)
11/10/2010, Portsmouth, VA
Bud said it was an awful day today. They were cold all day. The waves were about 5 feet and the wind was completely astern, so they couldn't get a sail to hold wind and stabilize the boat. Everything on the settees ended up on the floor. The bag of bread and bananas that had been tied to the grab rail above the dinette was sitting on the dinette because Rick and Bud had some of the bread for breakfast. When next they checked it had fallen on poor Fuzzy's head. To make matters worse, Fuzzy got seasick. Bud tried to get a Dramamine down him, but it was too late. Fuzzy remained "agitated" for the rest of the trip.
Despite all they pushed on for just under 70 nautical miles. I asked Bud if Rick was getting ready to jump ship. Bud said Rick says he's having fun. I think Rick is just a really good friend. Besides all the fun of being freezing cold and rolling crazily all day, Rick started out by braving the bathrooms at Reedville. He said they weren't that bad and he didn't really mind the cockroaches.
At least they are in a pretty nice marina for the night. Earendil is one of the little boats. Right on the end of the dock is a boat they said must be 120 to 130 feet. (I asked them to get a picture for you, Justin.) So things are looking up...except that Bud thinks the pump on the air conditioner/heater quit last night. He's hoping it just overheated and will work again; otherwise they are down to the little ceramic heater.
But they are at mile marker 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway. Tomorrow they have to decide if they will do the larger, more popular Virginia Cut, that has a lot of large boat traffic, or the smaller, more scenic and shallower Dismal Swamp Canal. They will probably touch bottom from time to time if they take the Dismal Swamp route, but there's a great free dock at the end of it. Stay tuned.
11/09/2010, Reedville, VA
The guys left Cambridge, MD at sunrise and pulled in to Reedville, VA just at dark. The log read 74 nautical miles. Except for the first trip when we sailed all night, I think this is the farthest the boat has made it in a single trip.
It wasn't a great sailing day like yesterday. They only sailed without the engine for about 2 hours. The wind turned light and went astern, so they did a lot of motor-sailing and just plain motoring. The tide carried them along for a good part of the day, and that helped, but mostly I think they made it on their own effort and determination. I'm not sure how many days like that they will be able to put in.
The marina they went to was rated by other boaters (on Active Captain) as easy to get to, easy to get in and out of, with cheap prices and good docks, but you don't want to use the bathrooms and showers. "Ah," says Rick, "We're not women." Thirty seconds later he was back out. I guess they will shower and use the heads on the boat. Oh yes, the other two notable things about Reedville are the best crab cake restaurant around...it was closed, and the fish processing plant, it evidently was not closed. Smell was not too bad so far. But Bud was determined not to get too far off the main channel no matter what.
Still no pictures.
11/08/2010, Cambridge, MD
This was my first day not on the boat. I left Bud and Rick at the pump out at Annapolis Yacht Club and took off for the Amtrak station at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. I spent the day going from one train to another lugging my very heavy suitcase, which I never was able to check. I also was the only person over the age of 8 that wasn't connected electronically through a laptop or a cell phone. I felt very alone. I never got to talk to Bud until Tuesday morning, so this update is late.
They spent the day sailing like mad down the Chesapeake. Rick arrived around 10:30 AM, it was about 11:30 before I left them at the pump-out dock, so I don't think they left the harbor until noon. Nevertheless, they sailed over 40 nautical miles (a nautical mile is 1 minute of latitude or about 1.1 statute miles). That's because for once they had great wind. Bud said they started the day with full main, full genoa, and staysail. They were doing over 9 knots (and the prop feathered immediately). They ended with a double-reefed main and a reefed genoa and no staysail. If anyone knows Bud and Rick, you know there was plenty of wind out there. I asked Bud how far the boat was heeling before they reefed. He wasn't sure, but said they were pushing a lot of green water on the low side.
They ended up in Cambridge, MD, which is quite a ways up the Choptank River. I had given Bud a couple of other marinas to call that were closer to the main part of the bay, but Bud being Bud, he just went for the one he knew would work without calling, not realizing until he'd gone a long way up just how much further it was. When I talked to him this morning they'd been out for over an hour and still weren't back to where they could sail again.
I realize I have no photo of the new crew. I will have to coach Bud on emailing pictures for the blog.
11/07/2010, Still in Annapolis
Today our good friend Rick Sampson visited us. Rick is from Newfane, our hometown, and we have known him since high school. He lives just north of Washington, D.C. and knowing we were in Annapolis came to see us. He took Bud to the grocery store and took us both out to lunch.
We also spent time talking logistics. I have to go help our daughter for a while. She needs to score well on the next part of her medical licensing exams to secure the residency she wants. With a house and 17-month old baby to take care of, she is not getting the study time she needs. So Mom is coming to the rescue. I can only do this because two of our friends have generously offered to come and help Bud continue to take the boat south. Rick Sindoni, our wonderful friend from Tuscarora Yacht Club, is coming tomorrow for a week. Rick Sampson is going to take the week after. We spent some time figuring out how to manage to get Rick 1 back home and Rick 2 onto the boat, and then eventually get Rick 2 back home also.
We're hoping after two more weeks the guys have been able to move the boat far enough south so Bud and Fuzzy can comfortably wait for me to get back for the final leg to Florida.
Just as Rick Sampson was getting ready to say goodbye for now, there was a knock on the boat. Jon and Arline had found us again! They were here with their son-in-law Jeremy who lives in Dover, Delaware. What a treat. They are leaving soon to drive to Florida and their boat, so the next time we see them we hope to be having those cocktails in their cockpit. This time, we had Jeremy take pictures, so I have a photo of Jon and Arline on the boat.
I didn't get a photo of Rick Sampson, though. I'll have to rely on Bud to take a picture while Rick's official crew.
It's going to be hard for me to leave. I was just getting comfortable with all of this. I will miss the adventure. On the other hand, I get to go play with my grandson and visit my daughter, and when I come back it will be to a port that is much warmer (I hope). In order for the blog to say more than "We sailed, we stopped, we drank beer", I'm going to call Bud every day and try to get as many details as possible from him and I'll write the blog.
So if all goes well, Bud, Rick Sindoni and Fuzzy leave Annapolis tomorrow for points south and Jill goes north to Detroit for a few weeks. I'll keep you posted.
11/06/2010, Annapolis, MD
Today was the eighth straight day of moving along. This morning we left Chesapeake City and headed out into the Chesapeake Bay. As soon as we passed the light that marks the end of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal we put out the trusty staysail. It was giving us a bit of a boost. We motored with the staysail only for a while. In the upper reaches of the bay you have to stay pretty close to the shipping channel, as it gets shallow quickly on either side. There were a lot of barges and tugs. In one area they were going every which way. They may have been dredging and bringing barges in to take the fill. It wasn't dredging with pipes and pumps like you see; there was one barge with a huge bucket and the other barges were coming up to it. Anyway, it was pretty confusing as we approached it.
After we got past that confusion and out where the bay opened up we raised the main (yes, lesson learned, the main was ready to set when we left the dock). We were hoping for some good wind but there wasn't much. Bud wanted to pull the genoa out, too, but I asked if we could wait until we had more room. We postponed the genoa, and as it turned out the wind started to drop. We ended up motoring with both the main and staysail for a while. Eventually we had to drop the staysail, but we left the main up. I'm not sure how much good it was doing, but it made us feel better. We have been out for three and a half weeks, we were moving 17 of those days, and we've had the engine off for 2 hours.
The current did more for us than the wind. We left just before high tide, so there was a slight current against us to start, but by time we were into the Chesapeake we had 2 knots of outgoing tide to help us along. We hoped to make Annapolis, but weren't sure we could. Thanks to the strong tide we got here at 4 PM. The tide was slack again by the time we arrived, but had done its job.
Our route took us out of the shipping lanes and across the bay on a diagonal. That's when we discovered the joy of crab pots as foretold by Jon and Arline. The buoys used to mark them are tiny. Sometimes they have a little piece of flag flying, and sometime just a bit of stick. To make matters worse, we were going southwest under a November sun, which never gets very high in the sky, so in the afternoon we stared into a sea of sparkles for hours at a time trying to pick out the little sticks and flags before we ran them down. We did manage to miss them all, even the one or two we didn't see until they were behind us.
True to form, as we turned into the Annapolis harbor and prepared to drop the main, the wind came up. A sailor's life! Once we get to warm weather we need to change our pace to match the wind.
We got a berth at the Annapolis Yacht Club. They put us just past the drawbridge on Spa Creek. Fortunately, we arrived in the creek at 3:56, as on the weekends the bridge is raised on the hour and half hour. Bud held the boat in the approach channel for only a few minutes while the Annapolis junior sailing contingent went zipping by in their little boats, and other power boats went in and out. Soon enough the bridge opened. Only one small section in the center of the bridge opens up. As you come up to it, it looks like you have about a 20-foot gap to get your mast through. We were still trying to get straight through the gap in the bridge when we spied the dockmaster indicating a slip just past the bridge. Bud had to stop and back a bit to make the 90-degree turn into the slip. Once we were here and tied I mentioned that it was a really difficult spot. "Not my favorite." was Bud's typically understated reply.
But here we are in the sailing capital of America, even if we have only sailed for 2 hours in our quest to get here!