WHEN MOST ARE THINKING CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
August 19, 2012
We are still in Texas awaiting the repair to our roof and water damage as a result of a recent storm. Since we are planning to leave here bound for Why Knot in a couple of weeks or whenever the work is done, we are back to monitoring cruising sites and weather patterns. As of today, some friends who set out a year or so ago on their Round the Gulf Odyssey will make their home port in Corpus Christi, Texas. Our current thinking is that we may never sail Why Knot back to Texas though that is a possibility.
So it is that summer is speeding down the track to the history books and sailors, both retired and otherwise, are making plans for the winter. Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club is assembling a list of those planning to return in an effort to put crews in touch that might want to "buddy boat" back to the islands. As mentioned earlier, we are on the voyage of discovery and plan to stay in the Chesapeake this winter. It is fun and interesting to read the questions and answers about gear, timing and destinations for those planning to duck the cold and seek warmer climates and those crystal waters of the islands. We are constantly asked why would we want to suffer winter when all we have to do is set a course for the Keys or the Islands? The answer is simply that we have never done a winter in the Chesapeake and we admit it might happen only one time but it is part of the adventure that put us to sea in the first place. Even if we ultimately set Why Knot in her slip and get in the MSU for warmer destinations, we will have yet another chapter in our log book and minds memory bin. Events of recent months including loss of friends and Bear's back have emphasized that we are fortunate to be able to sail albeit somewhat slower than in the past but we still can. To those who head south and sail past Zahnser's Yachting Center in Solomons, we wish you most joy and a great winter. If you happened to stop, look us up. We are on K dock or somewhere in the Bay enjoying the fall. To the other fools that choose to stay aboard when they don't have to, good luck. I wonder when the crabs start walking north?
08/14/2012, Home-the Land One
August 14, 2012
Almost mid August and just a few weeks at most until we start phase VIII. We have not been in a procurement mode this trip home as in previous trips since we now have finally made Why Knot ready to go cruising. Though our sails are old and out of shape so to speak, we will attempt to get some additional time from them. Our days of racing, hence sitting for seconds looking at how we can tweak them are done. They still move us at respectable speed and that is good. That being the exception, we now have the boat list past the necessary things into the secondary things with the exception of that infernal forward head. That will be a high priority as long as we live in the water world.
Our time home has been filled with things to do, some of which have been very high priorities. For instance, our water well electrical conduit chose this time to fail thus requiring us to retrench 150 feet and install a new one. That one we did ourselves. Then last Friday, we had a storm with lateral winds that took out a dozen mature Oaks and Juniper trees and a major portion of our roof shingles. With a bit of luck we can get that repaired including substantial internal water damage before our intended departure date. One can speculate about the timing of such events since we consider this to be a dock side event. By that we mean that over the years, many things needing repairs have happened at the dock versus at sea, some just as we were pulling away. We view that as a good thing since anything that breaks at the dock is far easier to fix. Makes one sort of wonder what it happens that way to some sailors.
So, we did procure two things for the boat and crew. One is a Speedseal™ for the sea water pump on the engine. We have used this product before on other boats. It is a very cleaver device that replaces the impeller cover with a precisely machined one having an "O" ring for a seal rather than the paper one used originally. The good thing is that it is removed using "user friendly" thumb screws rather than those tiny slotted screws I no longer see in the dark. Methinks that gizmo will take a few minutes off the impeller changeout. My record is 16 minute in the ICW of Louisiana over two years ago. Might I get that down to something like 8 minutes? Did I mention that one version of that product has a sort of thrust bearing built in so that the impeller wear is greatly reduced?
The other procurement speaks to the issue of walking on icy docks. I know, I know that walking on icy docks is an alien concept since a mere 1,400 miles to the south will eliminate that. It is a product that fits over the shoes and using small cleats, becomes crampons of sorts. ICE is a dirty word when existing anywhere other than ones drink or food preservation but we are told we will definitely experience it in the Solomons this winter. It is no stranger to our area either so if we decide to jump ship some January day and head home, they might be useful here. We don't do falls well especially Bear. This trip poses a bit of a challenge since we just removed heavy clothing. Do we rig for winter or wait until after the trip home for the holidays? Does Scurv need snowshoes?
SOON PHASE VIII
August 8, 2012
Yup, we are heading back to Solomons at the end of this month to continue the dream. Having made the decision to winter over there, we have been seeking advice from those who know the Chesapeake in the winter. Nearly every one said don't do it. However, we think we may have chosen a harbor that may not be as exposed to the darkest side of winter there specifically the location close to the Bay and the Pax River. For sure there are some things with which we must deal. Marinas turn the water off at the docks. Ice on the docks is dangerous. Auxiliary heat will be required for the boat as on board heat pumps cease operation below 40 degree water temperature. So, why do it? Why not just sail south to the Keys as originally planned? We have several reasons to do it. The late summer and fall on the Bay, we are told, offers wonderful opportunities to visit places that are crowded in the summer. We have never seen the leaves change in the area. It is part of the adventure. We can always get in the MSU and head south. Knowing we may never pass that way again (weather wise) why not see how it works. We get the Froze Toes merit badge and see stuff not seen by us before. We will take it in two phases: VIII will be September and October and phase IX will be after the holidays in deep winter or not.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH
July 19, 2012
Almost three years ago, we finally dropped the dock lines and started living our dream. Leading up to that moment we did a great deal of planning, questioning and boat renovation, not that she needed it. One of the top questions was how to outfit her for the effort. Among our cruising friends were ocean crossers (as in Atlantic and Pacific), coastal cruisers and what we now call island hoppers. All seemed to have a "must have" list. As it turned out, we sort of evolved into coastal cruisers, not for fear of the sea or lack of motivation but simply because we like it. Simply put: there is so much we have not seen in this country that we could find little reason to go elsewhere. We no longer formally race hence the ARC or other efforts at ocean crossing does not appeal to us at our age. True, it did seem like part of the dream twenty years ago. Then again, we've found that semi-foreign lands may be obtained for these Texans by simply sailing to the Keys and hanging a left. That said, there are some things we discovered which we readily admit may be unique to our particular style. No attempt is made to suggest these are the right or wrong way to cruise.
Necessities, the things we think we need to make it fun, safe and comfortable:
• A back scratcher- sounds crude but in the absence of one's mate at 1500 hrs whilst at the wheel, there are places that can't be reached without one.
• Fly swatters- several scattered about the cabin. Don't bother to have one topside since one will never "get 'em all".
• Liquid soap- ever try to grab a bar of soap whilst in a pitching sea? Besides that, liquid soaps like dish soaps work well in fresh and salt water.
• Velcro™ straps (various sizes)- a grand 20th century invention to keep stuff coiled, in place or simply attached temporarily. Get them at a hardware store not a marine supply place and get a lot of them
• Ziploc™ type bags- all sizes for not only foods but as a keeper for charging cords, loose parts while inverted under the engine, and charts. Ziploc™ had a wide range of bags including some biggies that tame a chart in the cockpit during a squall. Try this: put something to be heated in one and lay it in the sun. Once used for food, they can be converted to hold stuff like batteries, dirty socks if one has to have them and even yucky stuff like grease guns or spare parts. Get lots of them.
• A small, hand held garden sprayer dedicated to fresh water only. You can use it to sprits your tee shirt on a hot day or harass flies in the cockpit. It can be fun to keep 'em flying. We have found it useful to dilute spills and wash them into the scupper underway. It is a good way to keep the salt on the dodger under control.
• Rubberized cabinet shelf liner which doubles to keep stuff in place and mute stuff rolling around.
• Moisture tight salt and pepper shakers-
• Sun screen panel for the bimini- one does not need a full set but one to move around is great. It can make a hot day tolerable and it can double as sort of a privacy screen.
• Mesh type laundry bags not just for laundry but for stuff like spare lines of all sizes.
• Spa type bromide tablets for lockers that ship water intentionally or for the strainers to hold down cootie growth.
• Lanocote™-a smelly goat grease that keeps thing from corroding. It is good for coating fasteners to keep from seizing when dissimilar metals are involved, and for electrical connections. One tub will last forever and it might attract some cabrito on the hoof in a pinch.
• A heavy bucket or two with lanyards for reaching the water without bending over. Never can tell when some seagull might pick your deck for his necessities or that anchor chain that doubles as a mud retriever.
• A floating handheld VHF- key word "floating".
• Floating dock/mop pole- we have a really salty looking brass boat hook with some cutie marlinspike decorations that sinks quicker than a drunk mouse. We are on our second one. Now we use the floater most of the time.
• Detachable chart plotter- while we are impressed with the large instrument pods, particularly those that are so tall they block forward view, we have decided that a modest sized screen on a detachable mount at the cockpit works just fine. We power it from a 12volt plug at the helm. When in port, we remove it so it does not block the sun. It is self contained with its own antenna thus no need to have a bunch of wires attaching it to the boat.
• AIS is nice and since it is our duty to stay out of the way of the bigger stuff, there is little need for them to see us. I was told by a tow boat captain that they tune out Class B signals anyway so the transmitter part of the system is not really required. The "receive only" AIS unit give one what is necessary to stay out of the food chain and is way cheaper.
• A headset type flashlight with night light capability is invaluable and it removes the need to light up the entire cockpit just to locate the missing sandwich.
• A small Swiss Army pocket knife of the type easily lost in the pocket. I never carried a pocket knife before the cruise but I find the thing invaluable to keep screws tight, cut line, scrape stuff and remove my fingertips whilst underway in a lively sea. Who knows when some tentacle might come over the transom and grab me some night and I can use it to get loose.
• Little Mag Lite™ type flashlights placed everywhere on small lanyards. There is nothing like trying to find a light to open a combination lock in the dark. We must have four or five hanging about the boat to cut down in broken toes from roaming about the cabin in the dark.
• Ding-Ez ™ has been an absolute wonderful addition to our dink. It allows almost graceful boarding and unboarding with a greatly enhanced safety. My mate's back surgery made us try it but we can't describe the added convenience it offers. Ever see the flools standing up Ben Hur style in their dink whilst skipping along at 30 knots? This thing allows one to stand up safely. www.ding-ez.com
• Cockpit cushions for the whole thing. We have a set of C Cushions™ from a company by the same name from Rockport, Texas. They are now over nine years old and have been in the sun for five years. They make that area, stern friendly and definitely cut down on the bruises. One word of caution is that if one decided to wash up whilst sitting on them, at least sit on a towel as Joy soap and bare hide make for the world's most frictionless surface. Thy that in 14 feet seas.
• A big first aid kit with plenty adhesive strips, aspirin, sun tan lotion.
• Mace for the obvious. We also have wasp spray for defense since it will incapacitate an intruder at fairly long range.
• A product that works well to keep bugs away is sold by Avon (I think) called Skin So Soft. A very similar product is available at CVS by a different name. Said stuff does not melt plastic, does not smell like petroleum and is not greasy. We learned this from watermen along the Low Country. Even those horseflies and "green heads" won't be so aggressive with this stuff. Caution: prolonged use may result in baby soft hide.
• Latest electronic and paper charts.
• A good pair of binoculars.
• Lots of sun glasses since Neptune really likes to collect them, especially the expensive type.
• Backpacks, canteens and something to hold cold stuff such as a small collapsible bag that will fit the backpack.
• Folding bicycles are a great way to extend range on land.
- Wide brim floppy hats are a must.
Stuff we seldom use:
• At the risk of great debate, we purchased and installed a very expensive SSB radio which we very seldom use and really do not need for our type of cruising. It is great to tune into the latest long range conversations about the nature of the waterway, the next island harbor or even weather but there are many other ways to get that done. Fact is that the VHF and cell phones work in the first world just fine. Unless one is planning on being in the second or third worlds very long or being way out in the blue, it is hard to justify one.
• Crew headsets otherwise known as marriage savers- we have developed very useful hand signals that work without stressing our relationship and they really work. Our headsets have been aboard now almost two years and we have yet to use them.
• Lifeline hangers for fenders- we have some that use two ears to hold the fender on the life line. The problem is that they are plastic and over a few hours, they will simply let go. We tie the fenders on anyway and that means that we did not really need to spend the money on them. Storage then becomes the problem.
• We put two very high intensity Q-Beam™ type lights aboard. Never used them since we do not approach anchorages after dark. Then again we'll keep one in case we do.
• Towels and clothes. We must have acquired a few dozen towels. About three per is about right. Clothes: much is written about this but if one is in the warmer climates, one only need shorts and tees. Leave the blazers and long pants home. But we have learned that deck shoes are unfit for hiking and we definitely recommend a good pair of hiking shoes. Water shoes are recommended for those coral beaches.
Things we wish we had:
• Deck/Anchor wash down system
• Dinghy davits
• Larger fuel tanks
• Even larger holding tanks
• Too many spare parts if there is such a thing. Given the fact that we did not, nor do we plan to spend a great deal of time in the second and third worlds, parts are easily obtained where we sail. That said, spare parts take up a great deal of room and it may not be necessary to lay in redundant parts beyond say one extra. The exception to that are filters. Diesel filters are a necessary and can clog when that nest of cooties gets into the lines during or after a rough passage.
• Dinghy engine size is debatable and before we left, we spoke with dozens of long distance cruisers on the subject. We have an AB rigid inflatable about 10 feet long. The consensus was that we needed a fifteen horsepower to get through those pounding surf events and "get somewhere". Fact is that at our age and inclination, we won't do that. Like sailing, a slower and very much lighter motor is better. It is rare when we have encountered the need for speed. It is even more rare that conditions would allow us to zip around some place or crash through breaking surf. We cannot take the beating as we have been beaten over the years. We definitely do like the rigid dink but it is way comfortable at six horsepower speed. At half the weight of the 15, a six or smaller is much easier to handle when lifting to the boat. On top of that, it will run about an hour and a half on a pint or three of fuel.
• Expensive wax for hulls and decks. We once spent a small fortune on some glitzy wax made in the Hawaiian Islands. Bottom line is that not only did it not work as advertized; it captured stuff on deck that has now been three years in the removal. We had a friend that went to a wax seminar where various types were mentioned. There is no such thing as pure carnuba because it would be in block form and unspreadable. Supposedly, it does not layer up because the new layer removes in part the old layer. We have found a product called Nu Finish™ works very well. It is about $9 at auto supply store and comes in an orange bottle.
These are the things we have noticed along the way. They represent the learning curve for us and could have saved significant cruising bucks and stowage space had we known them at the first.
July 10, 2012
We made the final log book entry for Phase VII when we left Why Knot on the day after Independence Day. As always it is bitter sweet but there is the reward of being home for a while at the other end of the 1,600 mile drive. If we have a plan at all it is to be back aboard in September or early October. Phase VII took us from Wilmington, NC to Solomons, MD and past several bucket list places. Norfolk/Portsmouth is one of those places that was intimidating as one looked on the charts while having never been there. It is something to sail past real Navy yards and immediately past a very active Navy Base then into historic waters where this nation defended itself for well over 200 years. My interest in that sort of stuff has been rewarded with much more yet to see. To those who live and asil regularly on the Chesapeake Bay, we are sure they do not consider the true magnitude of those waters, not only the history but also the concentration of places to go. Certainly, we got a deeper knowledge of the War of 1812 and we were surprised by a fellow who questioned all the hoopla over the 200th anniversary of those events. Said he: "Except for the Star Spangled Banner, there was little to celebrate as it was basically a draw with the key event being the British burning of Washington, DC." I mentioned, in spirit of argument that there was a little "tussle" in New Orleans that gave some pride to that endeavor.
Anyway, the crew of Why Knot is now on shore leave for a bit. She rests, in a nice, safe spot (we hope), with her lines doubled and rigged for bad weather, for all but a major hurricane. We managed to remove a great deal of stuff that is not necessary whilst cruising the "Colonies". I do not think I really need to haul around a dozen sea water impellers and two complete sea water pumps as an example. We unshipped the 15 hp dinghy prime mover and all the spares I acquired for same. All in all, I think we removed well over a thousand pounds of stuff. For the life of me, I cannot think of a reason to have two dozen towels and eight, count'em, eight pair of blue jeans. Nor do we need to keep aboard the charts of the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Mexico. The MSU was completely full.
Our trip home was taxing to say the least on the Bear. We took our time and stopped often so she could stand up. We were again rewarded by our first trip through the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains the Shenandoah Valley and some serious history. We did not stop to visit a few of them such as Manassas, Chancellorsville or the Wilderness battle grounds. That should indicate how focused we were to get back to Texas.
We have started to walk steadily on land yet the twinge of life aboard is still with us. The clock ticks on getting back to the boat but for now, we walk among the land dwellers. Gotta start using land language when discussing stuff such as telling the tire shop the low tire is the port stern or the dent is on the nose. It is rope on land, not lines, sheets, rode, halyards, toping lift, outhauls, downhauls and painters. It is rooms not cabins and restrooms not heads. The only wire around here is electrical. We do not listen to the morning SSB broadcasts and weather is not the first order of the day.
Of phase VII, we can say that we were not disappointed in the least though we did not make the Maine Coast this time. While the waters got colder the farther north we sailed, the sailing environment is great. The heritage of the sea brings one into a deep appreciation of what it took to simply "get along" during the days of sail. Portsmouth/Norfolk and the Chesapeake Bay are definitely keystones in America's survival over the centuries as are the small ports and towns that supported the New World efforts of settlement. While there is much written about just how they, the Europeans, wiggled their way on shore and convinced the indigenous folks to "scoot over" it is evident that much has been lost in documenting the original citizens' efforts to do so. The success of early Europeans is due in no small way to the support of the many tribes that lived along the Atlantic shores and it would be great if more markers told of their lives.
Phase VIII starts on our return to Why Knot in late summer. We will winter in Zahniser's marina and that might be an experience we won't want to repeat next year due to weather. After all, we originally thought about wintering in the Keys . Then again, it might be just fine and we will have an early start to touch Maine next year. Who knows? So far, except for the health issues, the time since dropping the dock lines in Port Aransas in January 2010 has been most enjoyable. Nearly every crew we've encountered along the way, particularly during the last phase, has been amazed at how we came to their harbor. Certainly, there are many that have come farther and some have done the whole mud ball, but we do not have a problem with our dream.
We will be posting many photos in the near future of the latest part of our adventure in the gallery part of the blog. I shot them in high resolution and must convert them to low rez to post. It might take some time.
LIQUID TO SOLID
July 4, 2012
Happy Independence Day. This is our last day a board for a short while since we leave here for Texas tomorrow. Why Knot will get some rest from her crew and we will learn how to walk on land. Today promises to be a lively day on the island and we are told that the fireworks display tonight will rival any. It is hard for us to believe that this time last year, we were dealing with the aftermath of a land event in a very quiet marina. In fact, we were the only crew in the marina in Wilmington last July 4th. It was very strange indeed. The events of the past year were, for the most part, things that we would have avoided if possible but we did finally make it to the Chesapeake. It only took three attempts to get here. Perhaps the best thing since last July 4th was the addition of our third crew member, the ABSD.
We have spent the last few days deciding which stuff to take home. No wonder we were having trouble with stowage. The MSU is full of stuff that has made its way aboard. It appears we have been hoarding towels and blue jeans. I wonder how we came to have 9 pair of them. We can even see some cabinetry we have not seen for months. Why Knot is riding much higher since we have off loaded the "redundancy". The MSU is loaded to the max but we have "misplaced" some things which remain lost. Now, if I could just locate our boat troll.
It appears that several of the crews on this dock have or will go elsewhere, some home, and be back in September. Most are heading to inland homes for the dog days of summer. The recent "land hurricane" as it is called has done serious damage to this area with over 1.2 million houses still without electricity. The authorities are saying that this is the third worst weather damage in history for certain areas around DC. Though we did not have a long power outage, maybe it is good to get off this grid for a while. One only hopes that this hurricane season will be mild and uneventful. We will be back for the peak part of it and I will rig the boat for rough weather so I don't lose sleep over her status while we are gone.
Once I get a fast connection back home, I will post the zillion or so pictures we have taken during phase VII. We start phase VIII in late August. Until then, we look forward to being back in Texas, The Republic Of, from liquid to solid land.