We found out a few days ago and are really excited about our new crew. It was good to have my mom at the ultrasound with me but sad that Mark couldn't be there. I'm really glad that we had a few in Fiji before I left and will probably do another one when Mark gets home just so that he can see the baby moving around in there. I can definitely feel him moving on a regular basis - mostly at night. He has also figured out that if he kicks me in the kidney I'll eat something so I have to make sure I don't go to long between meals. I'm totally overwhelmed with all the baby stuff out there. I went to BuyBuyBaby and Babies R Us just to take a look and see what they have. I have no idea what we need. There are so many options for everything. I mean seriously - how many different types of pacifiers can there be? Plus, I have to think about what we can transport to the boat and is boat friendly. They don't exactly make a line of baby boat products. We will be home for a few months and my mom will be setting up a permanent grand-baby area (my sister is pregnant too) in her house so there are some things that won't be good on a boat but will be good to have the first few months and not go to waist after we leave. I'm open to suggestions regarding anything baby.
I've also been keeping busy helping out my mom. She closed on a new house last week and we have been busy getting it together all weekend. I have to be careful what I work on but we purchased all natural cleaning products so that I can help with the cleaning and I am wearing a mask in the house so I don't breath in any dust. My mom's husband (Andy) will be putting in new flooring so I pulled all the floorboards off in preparation for that. My mom and Andy have been busy painting the house. I stopped by to drop off dinner earlier and it looks so great - amazing what a nice fresh (and decent color) paint can do to a house!
Mark and Roberta are still in Vanuatu doing boat projects and will hopefully get to head out within the next few days. I wish he would get moving so that he can get home!
07/12/2009, Washington DC
We were thrilled to finally arrive in DC at the James Creek Marina, where we had reserved a slip for our stay. This turned out to be the first time since Ft Pierce that we were to stay in a proper slip, rather than tie up along a dock, and the slip was a bit of a tight fit as we only had a foot to spare on our beam. There was a bit of wind off our starboard coming into the slip and boats on either side. It took 3 tries to get into the slip. We aborted on Dana's attempt at which point there might have been some raised voices heard aboard the Northfork ("If you don't like how I'm doing it, then you can do it yourself") and Mark found himself taking the helm. Of course, people realized that this was becoming interesting and we started to attract a crowd, which made it somewhat annoying for Mark to abort his second approach. The third try was a charm.
This was a big step for us as we had achieved the first major goal. We had gone from never having skippered a boat, to safely sailing over a month and 1000 nautical miles, including several multi-night legs.
When tying up to the slip, we made the mistake of leaving our fenders too low, so they were soaking in the water. The DC water was not the nicest, and by the time we left DC our fenders had changed color and taken an awful smell. A week later we spent an unpleasant day cleaning the fenders and washing the fender covers.
James Creek Marina was unfortunately not in the nicest area of DC, though it was redeemed somewhat by being sandwiched between Ft McNair and the Coastguard Headquarters, which gave you some sense of security.
We met up with my buddy Jason, who was in DC at the Pentagon, of which during our stay we were happy to get a tour of.
While in DC, we had a problem with the generator, it would die after a few minutes from an "engine fault". Amel had not included the optional temperature gauges on the generators, so we didn't know the cause was overheating. Mark worked through the manuals diagnostic steps until he opened the impeller cover and found that the impeller had disintegrated. The impeller is a rubber wheel-like device that pumps sea-water through the heat exchanger so that the sea water can cool fresh water, which in turn cools the engine. Ed had several spare impellers on board, which Mark was able to replace. He then chased down impeller bits that had flowed through to the heat exchanger and threatened to partially block it.
Mark also spent a day or so on the raw water pump for one of the heads, which wasn't working. When the pump ran, it made an unsatisfactory popping sort of sound instead of the deeper pumping noises. This hadn't been urgent because there are two heads on board, but it did need to be replaced. Mark disassembled the pump, cleaned it, and replaced it but without fixing the problem. Mark also tried swapping the hoses between the two pumps, which allowed him to confirm that the problem was just with the pumps, not something else such as a blockage in a hose. Ed had also provisioned a spare pump, which Mark also tried, again without luck. After consulting Ed via email and finding this problem had occurred before, Mark followed Ed's advice of lowering the pump somewhat and running it which had the effect of getting the pump to prime itself and then run. Ed indicated that when you replace the pump to its position, it kept running, which wasn't Mark's experience. At this point, Mark realized that if it wasn't priming itself, some seals in the pump must not be good and were letting air escape. So he opened the pump again and thoroughly cleaned it and applied silicon lubricant to all the rubber seals. The pump then resumed working. Mark also lubed the spare pump which also must have had the same problem, before re-stowing it.
07/11/2009, Washington, DC
The Potomac turned out to be much longer to sail up than we had
expected. Dana and I have been learning the geography of the East
Coast as we sailed along, and hadn't made a careful estimate of how
long the Potomac was. Of course, we were going against the current
as we headed up, but that never seemed to amount to more than a 1nm
As we said, we no longer had digital charts for our plotter, so we
had to switch to paper maps, which we had luckily purchased (thanks
to Captain Rich). While the Potomac is fairly wide most of the way,
in much of it the navigable area is fairly small so we had to follow
the navigational aids (buoys/daymarks) pretty carefully. We did have
our GPS coordinates which we could use to get a fix our paper map,
but that was a bit of a pain and not nearly so easy as having an LCD
screen with a picture of boat right in our exact location.
Navigating required pretty constant attention in many places, with
one of us working the map and the other locating buoys with
binoculars. The green buoys could be particularly hard to see
against the lush green banks. At one point, Mark missed one of the
buoys and misidentified the next one for the course. Luckily, Dana
happened to wake up and check our position on the map, which
prevented us from almost certainly running aground, something only
Dana has done to this point.
We stayed at the Pirate's Den Marina on Cobb Island for the half-way
point. The marina is in a very thin neck of water separating an
island from the mainland and the navigable channel going in is very
narrow. Dana tried to convince Mark that the buoys entering the
channel were place opposite to the normal "red right return": instead
of the red buoy being on the right, she said that the red buoy should
be kept on the left. Mark disregarded this advice, deciding if he
was going to run the Northfork aground, he would much prefer to be
following the rules at the time.
07/10/2009, Chesapeake Bay
On pulling into the Chesapeake, we were passed on the left by a surprising vessel. A submarine cruising on the surface. See the picture.
We also noticed that we had run out of chips for our plotter. This meant we could no longer easily track our exact location on the plotter. We were very happy with Rich's advice to bring paper maps with us, which we now relied on. In order to get a good fix on our location, we now had to look up our GPS location on the map by hand. Maybe this doesn't sound like much a difference, but it has a significant impact on navigation, especially when getting into confined spaces, which we were about to do in the Potomac.
07/09/2009, Cape Hatteras
As we were sailing past Cape Hatteras, Mark noticed that the genoa had suddenly developed a massive tear along the leach. [Pic from grass.] Mark cursed something appropriate to the situation and furled the sail and started the engine. At first, we thought about taking Northfork back into port in order to deal with the sail. We had 4 spare sails stored below, but we hadn't gone through them and frankly didn't know what was there and whether we had a spare genoa. There was also the issue that while we had handled traditional (non-furled) head-sails, we had not changed furled sails, much less ones like the Amel that have several tracks in order to handle having multiple sails at the same time.
But we decided if we were going to be out sailing, we need to be able to deal with stuff like this. Also, the weather wasn't so bad, so we figured this would be a good chance to screw up the head sail furler on our new boat.
Of course, just looking at a spare sail in a bag, it can be hard to tell what kind of sail it is. After some puzzling, we decided on a likely culprit that we dragged to the cockpit. These sails are enormous, were very heavy, and barely made it through the passages. We put our harnesses on and went forward on the boat, dragging the sail in its bag, along with a bunch of short pieces of line to use as sail ties. Mark was a bit concerned about not being able to put the replacement sail up after taking the first one down, so we brought a camera to take pictures of how the furling equipment was setup and ropes were tied.
The seas were very light, but Dana was already feeling a bit sick and that just got worse as we went onto the foredeck. Soon, she was taking occasional trips to the side of the boat to peer over the lifelines.
Dana lowered the halyard and Mark tried to fold the sail and keep it under control, worried a gust could grab it. As it came down, the sail seemed gigantic on the deck. We made the mistake of dragging it back to the cockpit without getting it folded well first. It wasn't for another day that we were able to get the sail folded well enough to stuff it into the sail bag. We raised the replacement sail and were surprised that we could get it up and working properly.
07/04/2009, Charleston, VA
We enjoyed our stay on the Megadock (TM) at the Charleston City Marina. It was enjoyable walking past a quarter mile of large yachts constantly being polished by professional crews in uniforms.
Just as we were about to pull away from the dock, we realized another boat (the Office [?]) was about to pull in just behind us on the dock. There wasn't enough time to get away before they docked, so we kept moving forward with our preparations to leave. Suddenly Dana ran to the stern when she saw that the boat was about to clip off our outboard which was mounted on the aft starboard side lifelines. Dana was able to push the other boat away to save the outboard.
Unfortunately, the stern of the Office had a radar platform mounted on it, and it had clipped our SSB antennae. Before we realized it, the antennae had been torn from its two mount points.
The captain of the other boat (James, out of Melbourne) came over and apologized about what he had done. Then he proceeded to make light of the damage. The worst was when he noted that there were some plastic ties on one part of the mounts and he said, "I don't mean to be an asshole, but this has been repaired before." I was left speechless by this.
Ultimately, we were able to get an estimate for the repairs ($125) and James paid this amount. Of course, we fully expected the ultimate cost to be much higher, but it seemed best to get whatever we could from James, as he indicated we would not be able to chase him down later.