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Time Bandit
Flying South
23/11/2015, En Route Beaufort NC

Well, the "Least Bad Day" turned out to be a storming reach for first 72 hours only fading in the last 24 hours. Unfortunate;ly this meant we missed our forecaster's rather ominous sounding "get in by sunset Sunday".

It turned out the reason to get in by then was 36 hours (here he goes; moaning again) tropical downpour with accompanying 30 knot squalls. That kept us busy. A bit wet, but busy.

Fortunately the 30 knots was always going our way so in typical Time Bandit style, off we went into the murk, spray flying.

Our route was down the Atlantic side of the Little Bahama Bank and the Abacos Islands. This is where 1000 metres of Atlantic meets 3 metres of the Bahamas. If you can get through the few cuts in the reefs you can pass from exposed mayhem to, well, a big pond. On a couple of occasions we were tempted to make the transition but a recent evening diet of Hornblower DVDs said we should keep our sea room. Ha haarrrr.

And so, our cruise down the Bahamas is more Cruise Missile than anything else. One day we will learn to slow up but with a northerly when the prevailing wind would normally be on the nose, and we've a flight to catch, it makes sense to "make hay".

Well, I am. The farmer's wife is conked out.

Museum Fest

There are many signs we are getting south, albeit slowly.

The fall colours are way behind, the Ospreys are now Pelicans and the accents are getting stronger.

Unfortunately it's not getting any warmer. The sun seems to set really quickly. By 5:30 it's almost dark. By 6 it's pitch black. drops really quickly

The east coast US estuaries have one thing in common. Probably hundreds of square miles of water flood out through the constricted entry channels at 3+ knots.

I don't think we've hit one right so far. Of course it would be best to plan arrivals and departures to work with the tides but it just never works. At 6 knots, we should have been here 3 hours ago but then the wind died, too mean to motor so now we're plugging away, full sail on a reach in 10 knots, 2,000 revs and we're still only doing 3.2k.

We are currently chugging our slowly past Fort Sumter at the entry to Charleston, South Carolina. This is where the "Ironclads" in the civil war slugged it out trading shots for hours on end before ...... well, I guess one of them one.

Our plan was that at this time we would be en route for the Bahamas. Problem is, from tomorrow night, our weather router is warning that there's a big nasty lump of weather coming up from the Caribbean. There's no sign of it on the GRIB files but as we're paying him, and he's a pro, discretion and a few days in hand dictates we duck in here while it blows over.

Six museums, five historic homes and three scenic parks in Charleston's "Museum Mile" await.

So, it's out with the smart shirt, loafers and casual slacks for a few days sight seeing in Charleston.

Haud me back!

Hurry Up And Wait

Jeez. Never imagined getting south would be such a prolonged game of watch the weather windows.

We haven't helped the situation by dithering here and there enjoying the local sights, not to mention an inability to avoid a "duvet day" in Belhaven.

Some nights we go to bed committed to an early start. Early as in UK early 'cause when we slide open the hatch st our crack of dawn, everyone's long gone.

Then, it's "Ohhh. Bad weather in the forecast. Let's just stay in bed. It's chilly and wet out there." And then along comes sunny weather to force us into action but again, there's trouble down south and plans for a quick dash to Bahamas looks threatened. Again.

So, we've relaxed for a couple of days in Beaufort NC meeting up with Hugh and Linda (from ARC Europe 2012) and the Hobnob's for a meal last night where even a simple thing like that is confusing.

"Chips or French fries with that?"

In one of our multi national meals when confronted with another statement of culinary confusion between Dutch, Scots and English our US hosts piped up and said, "we're the only ones here that speak English"

The Dismal Canal For Me

Southbound Armada

With jaggy winds and big nasty seas forecast until early or mid next week we decided to hit the Ditch or the Intra Coastal Waterway to give it its proper name.

We're following Moonbeam of Argyle's route down to Coinjock and on back to Beaufort where we landed back in May. It will take 4 days and only win us 125 miles southing but a) we'll see the scenery and wildlife and b) we'll not get blown away by the gales around Cape Hatteras, quaintly known as the headland of wrecks.

As previous entry, the Gulf Stream is squeezed and accelerated around the Cape which pokes its nose east out into the Atlantic. We needed a gentle wind with a north element in it to get around, or calm. 35 knots wasn't going to cut it so here we are on the Intracoastal with a small armada of trawlers, stink boats and yachts all taking the shortcut on the annual exodus south to the sun.

Another big stinkboat, 56 feet, has appeared round the last corner, maybe a mile or so back down the canal. He won't be popular with the neighbours powering along trying to catch this locking while his wash drops another 6 inches of their garden into the canal.

Oh! The Crinan Canal for me,
I don't like the wild raging sea,
It would be too terrific to cross the Pacific,
Or sail to Japan or Fiji.
A life on the Spanish Main,
I think it would drive me insane,
The big foaming breakers would give me the shakers,
The Crinan Canal for me.

Oh! The Crinan Canal for me,
I don't like the wild raging sea,
The big foaming breakers would give me the shakers,
The Crinan Canal for me.

It's the Crinan Canal for me,
From sea terrors there you are free,
There's no shark or whale that would make you turn pale,
Or shiver or shake at the knee.
I would nae like leavin' ma bones,
In a locker beside Davy Jones,
From Ardrishaig to Crinan's the best trip A'hve bin in,
The Crinan Canal for me.

Aye the Crinan Canal for me,
It's neither too big nor too wee,
Oh! It's lovely and calm when you're frying your ham,
Or makin' a nice cup of tea.
You can go for a stroll on its banks,
To loosen your muscle bound shanks,
You can darn your socks while you're still in its locks,
It's the Dismal canal for me.

So, here we are, sat in the lock waiting on the next opening. 967 miles from Eastport in Maine. 717 miles from Boston and 1,236 from Key West. How do we cover so many miles? (By taking the first footstep says Confucius). By spending loads on diesel says I.

Anyway, it's a stunning day. The sun is blazing. T shirts, shorts and sun cream are back out yet, the autumn leaves are blowing into the cockpit.

Nice contrast.


So that was Coinjock NC. A few houses and "marinas" either side of the river which is running now at 1-2 knots because of the wind pushing the bay to the north down through the canal. That will help speed things up a bit although it does complicate getting off the dock as we're squeezed between two boats.

It must also be a bit downhill given we lifted three feet back at the lock.

The ICW winds its way on through but flat lands, dead trees and rotting tree stumps lining the river. The early morning hunters and fishermen are out, all dressed in camouflage which of course makes them quite hard to see, if they didn't have a dayglo vest on. Some go for the full camo look head to toe, boat, seat covers and even the outboard. Some looking like lost extras from a scene in Apocolypse Now.

The channel is well marked but as it is colloquially known, it just a ditch, or perhaps more a trench, dug out the surrounding marshes. It's not a route to relax on as while in places there could be half a mile or more of water either side of you, to wander out the channel will quickly have you stuck in the mud.

Tis the Season

Our final delivery of parts arrived this afternoon and so we're now set to go. Only problem is that come Sunday there's a gale due from the north which will bash head on into the Gulf Stream making things somewhat unpleasant. While we're tempted to stay another few days until this lot clears it would mean another 3-5 days parked outside our hosts house and while we are more than welcome to stay, we are going a bit stir crazy. It might also stop us spending money on boat bits which we've been doing like crazy. Come the Bahamas I have a work list a mile long. New solar panel, salt water at the sink, Duogen service, varnishing. Fixing your boat in nice places! All true but it beats working!

So, sad as it is, we are going to miss Santa's arrival at the Mall tomorrow and head off down the Intra Coastal to Beaufort. A hundred and something miles of picturesque canals and creeks interspersed with visitor centres and in 6-10 feet of water and multiple low bridges. In Coinjock, where we should be Saturday night, the challenge is to eat a 32oz steak and thus get it free. Tempting but I doubt I'd walk again.

From Beaufort if the weather dictates we might coast hop a bit and maybe take in Charleston or one of the other stops down the coast.

Meanwhile, its movie night or, we might actually take in a play. Hmmm. Decisions decisions.

Voting for Christmas
02/11/2015, Norfolk.

Church going

Well, the madness of Halloween is over. Little kids are in the yard (garden if you're from UK; yaaad if your from New England) clearing up the now sagging somewhat forlorn carved pumpkins, soggy gouls, ghosts and skeletons from the lawn and fake spider web from the trees.

It's a good time of year in the USA. It's a long run of "holidays". Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving then it's a run on down to Christmas and New Year. A good time unless you're a turkey.

We were barrelling along down the road last week in our Hertzmobile when four enormous wild turkeys made a break for freedom sprinting in front of us to get to the other side of the road, nearly meeting their doom. That's not a sight you see too often. Mostly they're in a freezer bag. I can just imagine them hiding out in the woods 'till early January when it's safe to come out again.

Meanwhile, onboard, parked outside Gary and Greta's in Norfolk in the tipping rain we are waiting on the weather to turn. Us and 50 odd Salty Dawgs and 20 odd ARC Caribbean 1500 boats. The Dawgs are running late. They should have gone today but the weather and the Gulf Stream are against them so they are still parked up about 15 miles away in Bluewater Marina, Hampton. $100 a night so I'll bet a few aren't too pleased at the delay. Kerrrching. Stay a few days longer guys!

Up here in Norfolk the ARC Caribbean 1500 fleet leave on Saturday. We're on our jacko doing a solo effort bound for the Bahamas and Jamaica. Sunday is looking like a good time to go.

The challenge with this route is that there's a conflict of interests. The totters want a northerly wind to get blown south and east while the Gulf Stream is heading in the other direction at up to 3 or 4 knots. When you get this conflict enormous seas build up even when there's not too much wind. We heard on the Net this morning that in just 15 knots north east there are 20 foot waves out there. And these aren't you're easy rolling 29 footers. These are short, wind against tide seas and can really spoil your day. Pretty much every year boats are damaged and occasionally lost on this passage.

Timing is everything. You'd like a good northerly to barrel south but it's a non starter with the stream. It's therefore about looking for a lightish north element and making a quick dash across the Stream when and where you can. Fortunately there's a very good forecaster around here, Chris Parker from Marine Weather Centre. We've used him a few times including trans-Atlantic and he's been very accurate to date. When e rain eases we'll make a dash for the wifi cafe and sign up with him for our leg south. $90 but worth it although you can just tune in and hope there's another boat on your route getting the info you need.

We went to church last night. Us and Julian and Lyn who brought along other Dawgs Howard and Hope who we met in Virgin Gorda last May.

It's not that we've got religious. It's just that the poor church couldn't keep going so sold up and it's now a restaurant. Quite odd feeling sitting up in the rafters having dinner. My birthday dinner if I must confess. Good fun had by most.

And so, with the rain and adverse winds we are taking our time here, doing the usual maintenance stuff including five braided rope eye splices. I only needed two. One on the end of two bits of rope.....the old broken Genoa halyard from the other night and a new spare. I only need two splices but as usual it takes a few goes to get it right. That and a couple of metres of rope so the already short, broken halyard is now a wee but tight!

Must practice. Something to do in the rain I guess.

Typical (?) Day in Patagonia. Lovely!

We're crawling along just now under main and staysail. We really need the Genoa but it's just hanging there, the tattered end of the broken halyard waving in the air, the sail four feet from the top looking like Nora Battie's tights, the old dear from Last of the Summer Wine.

The temptation to unfurl, drop it, attach spare halyard and re-hoist is pulling me, I fear towards a bad decision. Ex racer me says "how difficult can it be" After all we used to drop and re-hoist at every reaching leg. However, that was with eight on board and the potential of a problem like it jams half in or half out. Half up or down or ends up over the side makes me leave it be. I think I'm getting old.

To brighten the day we pick up a hitchhiker. A wee warbler type birdie. Like a sparrow but with stripes on his head.

He's very tame, wandering about around us, hopping into our legs and arms before flying down below for a nosey.

Our wee bird stayed with us till dark then disappeared. Either that or he's in a corner having a kip.

Meanwhile, a double sonic boom makes me jump out my skin. Again.

We're obviously near a US military base and Top Gun is out doing their thing. You can't see them but boy you sure can hear them.

It's now Oct 27. Autumn, or Fall if you prefer is almost past and winter is looming. It's chilly and today's fashion conscious cruiser is wearing;
- thick, woolly thermal socks
- leather boots
- pants
- long johns
- fleece trousers
- foul weather trousers

And on top....
- T shirt
- rugby shirt
- puffa climbing bivvy jacket
- fleece Buff
- woolly hat
- hood from bivvy jacket
- foul weather jacket; with hood
- gloves
- life jacket

Cutting quite a dash if I say so myself. And what's more, all the above double nicely as pyjamas!

And the really dumb thing? Just a few nights ago we were talking with Toodle-Oo about how interesting it would be to sail to Patagonia!

Time to see a shrink.

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