The Voyages of s/v Lucky Bird

06 August 2019 | Village of Brockport
30 July 2019
27 July 2019
21 June 2019 | Wickford Cove Marina
20 May 2019 | Antlantic Yacht Basin
13 May 2019 | Homer Smith Marina, final Salty Dawg Destination
21 April 2019 | Frenchtown, St. Thomas V.I. Easter Celebration
20 April 2019 | Brewers Bay, St. Thomas VI
11 April 2019 | Nanny Cay Marine, Tortola, BVI
28 March 2019 | Green Cay Marina, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
25 March 2019
24 February 2019 | Jolly Harbor Marina, Antigua
21 December 2018 | Jolly Harbor Marina, Antigua, W.I.

Erie Basin Marina, Buffalo

11 August 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
The Erie Canal passage is past tense and we are so glad to be done with the hours and hours of running under engine. Close to 400 miles and eight and half days.

The first portion of the canal is essentially the Mohawk River with locks and dams to keep the water depth at around 12 feet. Most of the time it was much deeper but on those few, thankfully, instances where it dropped to less than 8 we were just truck'in along. When it dropped below 8 we slowed LB just in case we bottomed out. We need 6' 1/2". It takes twenty locks to reach the highest elevation of the first section. Then it's down for two or three and then back up to the level of Lake Erie. The middle section is a combination of rivers and man-made canal cuts, fewer locks and it went smoothly.

As we had read about the third section we became a little anxious. The guides warned us that the bridges in this section had clearance heights of just 15 feet. I had carefully measured the clearance required to safely pass our AIS antenna, 15.5 feet. The guide also said that water levels many vary making the 15 foot clearance questionable. Here's my favorite situational descriptive word, ARG!!

So I climbed our stern arch with the Admiral pushing on my a** while I unscrewed the AIS antenna and angled it so its clearance became a little over 14 feet. We cleared all the bridges and locks of the first two sections and as we approached the first bridge of the third with a charted clearance of 15 feet we slowed LB to a stop. What-tha-heck, it was 16 feet or more, no problemo. The same for the next bridge and the next. So, after passing the first few we were able to determine bridge height clearance as we approached. It turned out the books and charts where all wrong.

Let me offer a comment about the friendliness and hospitality of the towns along the way. We spent eight nights in the canal and anchored only one. Each town where we chose to stop offered free docking, electricity for a very reasonable cost, water, showers and lots of local restaurants. After a long day on the canal, knowing there would be a safe and comfortable place to spend the night really made the passage more tolerable.

36 locks including the Black Rock Canal lock in Buffalo. This being our second canal crossing I'd say the Smithies are pretty lock proficient, dont'cha say?

So here we are tied up in the Eire Basin Marina. LB is almost back together and we've visited with my brother's family. We'll share a dinner with them this evening and then tomorrow start heading west on the Lakes. Getting closer to Kenosha and our home in Addison.

The chart plotter odometer is reading 8,500 nautical miles since leaving Kenosha back in September 2017. LB has treated us so well and we've treated her well in return. It's a fair trade and as I've said before we are blessed.

Understanding the word SLOG

06 August 2019 | Village of Brockport
Robert & Alice Smith | A rain squall came through this afternoon and we couldn't see either side of the canal
Yup, plodding along, working at keeping LB safe in the locks, some 35 or so, holding our breaths when the depth drops to 7.9 feet, passing under bridges that the chart says have 15 foot clearances, but here we are in the Village of Brockport getting ever closer to Buffalo. The villages along the canal have really done a great job providing safe places for cruisers such as us to tie up for the evening. They offer a free docking, charge minimal for water, electricity, laundry and wifi.

We only had to anchor once due to crowding at the place we chose to stop. Anchoring in the canal is'nt like dropping the hook in the islands. Here the depth shoals quickly and there is always a little current to consider. So we turn off the channel and slowly, very slowly work our way toward shore attempting to keep inside a channel marker. We have no anchor light so I have one of those collapsible led lights that I leave on illuminating the cockpit.

The lock are the most stressful part of the trip. Alice and I are getting pretty good at selecting a set of ropes and slowly angling LB toward the lock wall to reach and secure us to the ropes. Alice is on the bow and grabs the first rope as I try and maneuver LB to time it so we stop just in time that she can pass me the rope and then go forward and try and snag the second one.

Somehow we lost the boat hook in one of the locks so my imaginative Admiral wife started using her umbrella to snag the ropes. She is really cool. That's since been replaced with a really neat boat hook that extends to almost 10 feet. No more worries about catching the lines. But we now check for the boat hook before we leave each lock, LOL!!

There is very little traffic on the canal which is good for us. We've seen only a couple of boats going west and one or two going east. Maybe it's the time of the year, maybe we're early but we're thankful.

A couple of more days before we arrive at the marina where we will re-step LB's mast and then.... we are once again a sail boat, hurray!! Hopefully weather will permit several overnight sails to help us keep to our target schedule of being in Kenosha in early September. We'll see

All Set To Go

30 July 2019
Robert & Alice Smith

Here's LB Tuesday July 30th just waiting for us to fire up her engine and head north up the Hudson to Troy. We expect to be there in the early afternoon with help from the current flowing along with us. We're waiting until around 10:00 to try and get the maximum boost.

We'll spend the night at the canal entrance and then tomorrow our almost final journey begins.


We've Been Busy

27 July 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
Once LB was back in the water in Wickford we sailed to Newport where we hooked up with OCC members for the Southern New England Rally.

Sailing here brings back so many memories of the times back in the 70's and 80's when we chased America's Cup races, raced our own boats on the bay, bought two boats a C&C 35 and a new Beneteau First 42 for racing, cruised all the islands, Nova Scotia, and Maine.

Having met our OCC friends, we sailed from Newport To Bristol, RI to celebrate the 4th and watch the oldest 4th of July parade in America; it went on and on and on. Next to Cutty Hunk, then New Bedford, back to Newport then Wickford to pick up our daughter Diane and her four boys.

I bought an inflatable paddle board for the boys and it was a super hit. We sailed back to Newport and the boys fished and played on the board. Then it was off to Block Island. I wanted to take the boys to the ocean for body surfing. The first day there were huge waves crashing on the beach. I thought the kids might be intimidated but no way, they loved it. After threes days of swimming, an island tour by car, we were ready to move on so off to Mystic and the Mystic Aquarium.

Di had figured to head back around the 20th so after two days in Mystic we left in really thick fog and headed back to Wickford. It was a terrific visit and we adults kept the four boys going constantly.

I'm sure most of you can relate to the feelings of sadness we shared when Diane drove out of the marina heading back to Wheaton, Alice and I were along again on LB and now we would focus our planning on the trip back to Kenosha.

I know this sounds like a broken record, but... we sailed back to Newport to our favorite, and free mooring to do our planning. The next day we sailed to Point Judith Harbor of Refuge for the night. Next was Duck Island along the Connecticut shoreline. Across Long Island Sound to Port Jefferson where we experienced another one of those severe late afternoon thundershowers. 35 kts and rain so heavy we couldn't see the boats on moorings right next to us.

All along Alice wanted to meet her life long friend who lives in the Brooklyn. We thought this would also be a good opportunity to visit Ground Zero of the 911 terrorist attack. We sailed to City Island, stayed on a mooring at the yacht club, took the bus and subway to the World Trade Center and the 911 Museum. A trip to the top of 1WTC for the awesome views and to try and soak in the the incredible building our country has created in response to that devastating terror attack. Then to the reflecting pools and the museum. For us it was a roller-coaster of emotions. We felt the highs of being so proud of our country for building such an incredible memorial and then the museum! So much thought and effort dedicated to preserving the events, the sights, sounds, the pictures of the people whose lives were lost.

For us 911 is no longer that event we followed on the news. Seeing the two inch steel beams bent and torn apart; seeing the pictures of the people, looking at the actual foundations of the two towers embedded in the bed rock makes it all so real and we are thankful we made the effort.

So now we are at the Hop-On-Nose marina south of Albany and Troy where LB's mast gets stepped and laid across the deck. This is in preparation for our upcoming trek across New York via the Erie Canal.

Our chart plotter says we've traveled 8,230 nm since leaving Kenosha back in September 2017. We've got a few more to go before making our landing back at Southport Marina, hopefully in very early September.

Along the Way from the Chesapeake

21 June 2019 | Wickford Cove Marina
Robert & Alice Smith | Rainy, Uckky!!
We are in Wickford, Rhode Island, a town where we lived so many years ago. We are at Wickford Cove Marina on the hard to repaint LB's bottom and do some other small projects.

So let me tell you a bit about our trip from the Sassafras River, Chesapeake Bay non-stop to Wickford, R.I., I guess about some 300 or so kms.

We left the Sassafras River at about 0630 on Tuesday morning, June 18. We powered through the C & D Canal with the current into the Delaware Bay. No wind so we powered all the way to the mouth of the Bay. By now it was about 1830 the same day. We decided to push on to Rhode Island some 230 miles to the north. The winds were light and we started sailing. We had to sail due east out to sea due to the wind direction, not towards R.I. After a couple of hours I thought we could jibe and head toward R.I.

Nope, the winds shifted and we were sailing north but only along the New Jersey coast. After a couple more hours the wind quit, so on with the engine, once again. We left the main up to sort of help with our speed over the bottom, all-the-while we could see lightening to the south.

We powered onward toward on our desired course and the lightening got more frequent and brighter. Again, the main was still up helping us power sail so we decided to reef it in case the winds picked up and BAM!!! we were hit with a wind gust in excess of 35 maybe 40 knots. And then another BAM, as the wind drove Lucky Bird around almost out of control the mail sail out-haul blew apart and now the main-sail was flogging uncontrollably. We couldn't furl it because we could no long tension the out haul. I hollered as best I could to Alice to drop the sail to the deck. Fortunately when she release the halyard jam it dropped, but unfortunately the wind blew it into the water. I immediately put the engine into neutral and went outside to pull the sail aboard. Alice went and got some line so I could secure the sail to the boat. Wow, have you ever had to pull a full sail from the water in the dark with 30+ winds and rain? Not so easy dont'cha know.

Once the main was secured we moved on to the next task, securing the wildly flapping enclosure side panels. Pull them in, zip and snap each side and only then we started to feel more in control. Fortunately we were some thirty miles offshore and there were no boats around us, we turned on the running lights, the streaming light, the auto pilot, the radar and the AIS. We got LB settled down onto a reasonable course to Narraganset Bay and we rested.

We power/sailed in total fog using the two hours on, two off schedule for that night, the next day and our final night into Narragansett Bay. We saw lots of boats and ships on the radar and AIS but visually saw nothing. Visibility was less than a couple of hundred yards all the way. I've never used the radar as much as on this trip. We turned it on a couple of times each out at a range of 6 miles just to be sure there was nothing to put us in harms way. As we rounded Montauk Point, the radar was on continuously until Wickford.

Things happen on LB. Stuff ears out, breaks and simply stops working. It's to be expected when you work something as hard as we have for these 4,000+ miles of powering, and some pretty rough sailing.

For comparison, think about your home; water heaters give up, air conditioners stop working, toilets need repair, furnaces need cleaning and replacement. Windows need to be replaced, driveways need seal-coating, outside surfaces need painting, decks need staining and the list goes on and on, right? So the issues we face on LB are somewhat similar and I personally enjoy the mental challenges of figuring out stubborn electrical problems, or a fresh water leak, or the need to change the engine oil and filters, or when the auto-pilot failed or most recently when the main-sail got stuck and would not unfurl. This list on and we accept it as part of the cruising life.

We are blessed with a fabulous boat, I am blessed with a life partner who is truly my soul mate and with a family who supports us from ashore.

So What Else Can Happen?

09 June 2019
Robert & Alice Smith
We are cruising the Chesapeake Bay, it's June 7th.

First the western side in Virginia and now the eastern side in Maryland. So many places to anchor, so many creeks and bays. We are though on a mission to be at St. Michaels on June 9th to meet up with the Ocean Cruising Club rally.

So let me back up a bit. The topic is in-mast-furling.

We have a Seldon mast with in-mast-furling. So far over the course of some 11 years we have probably unfurled and furled our main a hundred or so times with few problemos. We have, though, had some problems, that's an arg!! We roll it in thinking all is good and then when it's time to roll it out, guess's stuck and won't come out.

We were in Deltaville on our way to Smith's Creek. I decided to give the Admiral a break furling the main. Alice, the Admiral, usually does the furling while I steer and give commands. (It's not a good idea to give commands to an Admiral). I rolled up the sail thinking all was good and we anchored in Smith's creek for the night.

The next day we went to go sailing, started pulling out the main and it was stuck about half way out. So we ended up sailing with jib alone to Solomons. It was my fault the sail was rolled improperly and I learned a very valuable lesson. Let the Admiral furl the main.

Now we are anchored in Solomons with a main that won't unfurl. We had invited folks from two cruising boats to join us for cocktails and story telling that evening. One of the couple was from New Zealand and they filled our evening with stories of their journeys half way around the world. Later I asked the two guys if they would help me up the mast to try and fix our problem. “Of course”, were their answers.

At 0800 they showed up, and it was time for this old guy to go up the mast, uck!! I've done this before so I had an idea what to expect. Pulling up and out on the leach where it exits the mast usually frees the sail a bit at a time. This time I only had to go up almost to the first spreaders when the sail popped free, hurray!!. I asked the guys below to pull the sail down but it was stuck. It unfurled but would not come down. Now what? Hoist me up higher was my command.

I got to the top of the sail and discovered it had pulled out of the luff grove in the furling extrusion. With both hands around the mast trying to force the luff tape into the grove while having the guys below slowly release the halyard, voila, the sail dropped. I was a hero...., so I thought.

Now this story could go on further, but to save your eyes, we were not out of the woods. Alice and I tried to re-hoist the main only to find that it would go about ½ way up and stop. Now this is a triple arg!! It wouldn't go up nor would it come down. Now we were screwed with a main sail stuck half way up.

Alice and I were able to hoist me back up the main high enough for me to start wrapping a line around the sail to keep it from flogging.

We got into the dinghy and went to the marina office to talk to a rigger.

Now a long story even shorter, they gave us a space at their work dock, two riggers came on board, called the US rep of Seldon, presented me with a solution and within two hours and a couple of hundred US dollars later we were good to go. And since then we have unfurled and furled the main at least two times with no problemos.

We are in Don Creek with one of the couples from Solomons. Cocktails tonight, and tomorrow we head to St, Michaels to start out next OCC event.

Vessel Name: Lucky Bird
Vessel Make/Model: 1990 Moody 425 cc
Hailing Port: Kenosha, WI
Crew: Robert & Alice Smith
Alice and I have spent considerable time together on the water; cruising and racing on the waters of New England, the Caribbean and Lake Michigan.

Sailing is our passion and together we've been fortunate to experience the thrills, the camaraderie and the enjoyment boating provides. [...]

We seek the freedom, excitement and challenges of voyaging.

Lucky Bird's Photos - Journey of s/v Lucky Bird
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Added 25 December 2009