Honey Bear Don’t Care

Monday November 19, 2012

Quick post about the rest of our time in Charleston. It’s almost perfect that the weather was too bad for us to leave our bed yesterday because after the good time we were shown on Saturday night I don’t think we would have been able to. Our plans had originally been to leave Charleston this morning but after realizing we’d only spent one day actually exploring the town we had to fit another one in before we could force ourselves to go. Wanting to see a few of the parks along the water I tried to memorize directions from the miniature map on our Waterway guide. Going past some of our favorite houses on Montague we hooked a right on Ashley were all I knew is that we had to follow it until it dead-ended in the water. Getting there we could tell it was a big money area although the houses looked much newer, mostly made of brick with large staircases and porches. If we were here three weeks ago this is definitely the area I would have hit up for trick-or-treating. We came up to the park where tours on horse driven carriages were being given and the area was surrounded by cannons, gazebos and statues. If it was a sunny warm day it would have been the perfect place to have a picnic and lounge around just reading a book or listening to music.

 Since it wasn’t a day for that though (remember, just let me rant) we kept walking along the waterfront back into the antebellum area and stopped at every house with a plaque to see how long it had been there and who originally built it. Following the Cooper River now we were dropped out in another park filled with benches off to the path on the side with tables ready for games of chess or board games or just a place to set your cup of coffee. The sun was beginning to poke out and throw it’s light on a large fountain in the center where wading was allowed and children were running around. Picking up the pace on our walking tour of the city we ducked in back towards town and wandered through an enclosed market/bazaar where things like knit hats, cloth purses and reed baskets were being sold. Walking through without actually stopping at any of the stands Matt joked that it was the perfect pace to view the shops. Souvenirs are never very high on his list. We’re not giving gifts this year and there is absolutely no space on the boat for such things.

Doing some more gazing through the town we ended up at a Moe’s which we always seek out on Mondays for the great burrito specials they offer then. With access to the internet in the warmth I was content to sit for the next hour and a half and get as much work done as possible. It’s surprising but with being thrown around the boat and touring cities and visiting with friends there isn’t room to do much else. (You can tell I’m joking, right? I love this life) With lunch done we felt we had actually seen most of Chuck Town and headed to the grocery store to get ourselves prepared for the next few days of traveling. It seems like every town we go to has a different chain of grocery stores and each chain has it’s own club savings card. This town was no different and as we entered the Harris Teeter we signed up once more and added to the collection of plastic cards growing in our wallet. You may ask why we even bother but it only takes us five minutes and we usually end up saving $5-$10 so for us it’s worth the time. We were told that Harris Teeter was more of a high class grocery store and it did not disappoint. Rode Trip would have gone crazy here as they seemed to have every exotic kind of food or sauce or spice you could ever need. I actually turned a little foodie myself and bought hoisin sauce from the Asian aisle to try my hand at sesame chicken sometime.

When we were out in the parking lot taking everything out of it’s cardboard box and stuffing it in the backpack it was starting to get dark out and we made our way back to the dinghy. Attach to one of our handles was a plastic bag and I tore it open to see what kind of present was left for us. As I opened it up I saw a jar of honey, a ginger root and a postcard. Quickly flipping it over I saw it was from Scott and Kim on Anthyllide. On it they had written a recipe for ginger tea that settles upset stomachs. After our journey in from Winyah Bay they found out that the confused waves had made me sick a few times and wanted to give me something to make me feel better the next time. Amazingly nice people and we’re so glad we’ve met them as they’ve always been there before so they know just what we’re going through. The best part of the gift was on they bottle of honey shaped like a cute little teddy bear they had written Honey Bear Don’t Care, a reference going back to the Honey Badger clip online that we just introduced them to a few weeks ago. I think even just seeing that bottle now will be enough to make me feel better.

Just after we had started the motor we joked about how low the fuel was in the tank and hopefully it would last us long enough to get back to Serendipity. We rounded the 2,000 feet of dock separating us from the dinghy dock and the Ashley River we got 200 feet out and the motor started sputtering and died. The current was so strong that it took less than five seconds for us to stop moving forward and actually start floating backward. Very quickly the paddles were unattached and Matt was starting to row us in. Looking at the boat next to us it took him a good two or three hard minutes of rowing just to get past it. From where we were we could barley see Serendipity. It didn’t take very long to figure out there was no way we’d make it to Serendip. Sitting much closer to us though was Anthyllide and we thought if we could just get there they’d have fuel for us or could tow us or at least let Matt rest until he gained enough strength back to make it the rest of the way. Continuously encouraging him we made it inch by inch closer to the aluminum boat that would give us safely. When we were just a few hundred feet off I saw Scott out on the deck and started yelling and waving our dinghy light in the air. Matt turned around to look as well and we could see they had just lifted their dinghy out of the water and deflated it on their deck to prepare for jumping out in the ocean the next day. What we didn’t expect is that there was another dinghy about to pass by on their other side and they were able to flag him down and send him our way. As the guy pulled up next to us he tied our rope to the back of his tender and with the 25 horses on the back had no problem bringing us the rest of the way home. We were so thankful and grateful and all that he asked is that we return the favor sometime to anyone in need. I don’t see a problem of that being arranged.

When The Sun Goes Down On Chuck Town

Saturday November 17, 2012

Finally dragging ourselves out of bed and off the boat for the first time in five days we were ready to tour The Holy City (named so because of the number of steepled churches around) with no real destination or plans in mind other than we’d stop at a hardware store at some point to finally break down and buy cans of propane to attach to our Coleman heater and warm the cabin at night.  Not even sure where to go we only knew there was a dinghy dock at the marina we had anchored in front of with a charge of five dollars a day just for dinghy access alone.  Following another dinghy in as we always do when we’re not sure where to go we got talking to the couple and found they were also anchored in the harbor on a sailboat named Serendipity.  Very nice people and quickly got the approval to carry the same boat name as us.  Locking up the dink we wandered out into the main road and found out the direction we were planning on heading had a flooded road.  Taking a side street and then trying to get back on course again that road was also flooded and we were forced back to our side street.  As luck would have it we were lucky to have to travel on the little side road we did as this is where all the antebellum homes from the 1800’s were lined.  This is exactly what we wanted to see while we were in town and we gawk and peek through gates and snap photos (ok, that was just me) like a couple of crazy tourist.  When I came across the big while home that was used in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I almost lost it.  I could not imagine what the upkeep to own one of these homes would be, but the history is immeasurable.  If I can get this excited over something two hundred years old, imagine how geeked I’d be in Europe.

Having found our way to the hardware store we stuffed our backpack with more propane than it could hold and made our way back to a part of town that looked really interesting.  Landing ourselves on King St. we were surrounded by upscale boutiques and designer labels that are usually only found in Manhattan.  We didn’t go in any of the shops but consumer part of me still let my mouth water as we passed Kate Spade and Anthropology.  What consumer part of me also realized was we were severely underdressed in this area with our cruising uniform of sneakers, jeans and sweatshirts.  Everyone else was wearing the designers being sold on this street and dressed down meant you were in designer athletic wear.  Peeking in some of the windows we circled around the other side and kept walking until the shops went back down to our social class and were starting to find bars and restaurants lining the road.  Stumbling upon a park we found there was a farmers market going on and went in to check it out.  Although there were a few goods actually being sold we were more interested in the foods and wandered from booth to booth where there was Nutella Crepes, homemade ravioli, and gyros.  Landing on the Mediterranean cuisine we sat down at a plastic table in the park and listened to a live performance of someone playing on a stage with their guitar.  Even better was the park offered free wifi and I was able to get some work done before my fingers went numb from keeping them exposed for so long.

Back on the road we were just walking up and down random streets when we got a message from Tasha and Ryan.  Their friends Bill and Grace whom we had met in Manhattan were in town visiting and everyone was going out that night to celebrate Ryan’s 40th birthday.  Jumping at the chance to get out and explore the town at night while at the same time hanging out with friends sounded like a good idea to us.  Back at the boat Matt napped to prepare for the night while I tried to get myself a little more fancy by actually styling my hair and trying to find the classiest outfit I could wear while still keeping warm.  These bars deserved more than my U of M sweatshirt.

We started out at  Hideaway for a pre-bar cocktail that evening and before I knew it cabs were being ordered to take us into town.  Assuming it was just going to be a bar hop the two of us had already eaten but it turns out dinner was in the plans for the evening as well.  Trying to make last minute reservations in Charleston on a Saturday night does leave you with a 9:15 reservation though so when the cab dropped us off on East Bay St. at eight o’clock we had a little time on our hands to kill.  Trying to find a wine bar to pass the time at, Tasha and Ryan starting asking a girl at a local shop what places we could visit and she made it abundantly clear that our jeans and foul weather jackets would not get us in the door to the wine bar here and our choices because of our attire would severely limit our options.  Not even realizing that jeans might be an issue in the area Ryan quickly ran over to where we were having dinner next door at Magnolias to see if they would let us in.  Coming back he stated that there might be somewhere in the back they could stick us in as not to offend the other classy diners but our reservation still stood.  Still having that hour to kill we found a microbrewery just down the street that would accept us and threw back a pint while waiting for our reservation.

When it did come time for dinner we were in fact lead to to a back room of the restaurant and were sat down with white tablecloths and lots of silverware that I was once taught what to do with but now can’t really remember.  I had only been planning on drinking a beer while the rest of the group ate but before I knew it there was a wine and a champagne glass set in front of me where the champagne glass was filled up and a bottle set on the table with instructions to bring another as soon as it was empty.  The four members of Hideaway ordered steak and seafood meals while Matt and I  were forced to get something so I went with a blue crab soup while he put in an order for dessert.  The food was absolutely delicious and the company was even better.  Who would have ever thought that the six of us would wind up together at some swanky restaurant in Charleston?  Raising a glass to toast Ryan I commented on what a bit of serendipity it was which started each member to go around the table and add to the toast with their own boat name.

As the glasses emptied our voices grew and you could tell the people around us trying to have quiet dinners or enjoy a special occasion (hey, we were too) were surprised that such despicable company was allowed through the door.  It unfortunately did not help us to become quiet and we closed down the restaurant with the staff glad to get rid of us I’m sure.  They were very persistent on trying to order a cab to take us out of there as soon as possible.  Instead of going back to the microbrewery or any other bars in the area we made our way back to Hideaway where the party continued until 4 am.  Cats were cuddled too hard, drunken hugs were abundant and we even picked up a stray college kid to come aboard and have a few drinks. If this is how you ring in 40 I have no problem getting there. Even though it was someone else’s birthday we were wined and dined in one of the most beautiful places, had the best time ever, and it will surely be a night to reflect back on for years.  The time the sun went down on Chuck Town…..

Birthday boy Ryan and his beautiful wife Tasha.

And the silly-ness begins.

Tasha, Grace, Ryan, Jessica, Bill & Matt

Coast Guard Approved

Friday November 16, 2012

When I got back to Serendipity after enjoying a few cocktails and playing with two adorable cats on Hideaway on Wednesday night Matt uttered some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard. The waves might still be too big to jump out tomorrow. We never discussed it much further after that, Ryan’s Painkillers had put me into a sleep coma, and we went to bed with the alarm set for six-thirty the next morning. As we were letting the engine warm up Matt made a comment about how far he thought we’d make it that night which I interpreted as another day on the ICW instead of going out Little River Inlet like we’d originally planned. As soon as the anchor was up I turned right into the ICW. We passed through some small towns and casino boats and came up to the town of Little River. Surprisingly we had been the first ones out of the anchorage that morning and the following current was pushing us along at over seven knots giving us a very big head start and making sure no one was behind us. Passing under a large fixed bridge there was a swing bridge ahead of us so I called in to try and get passage through. Coming back on the radio the guy immediately asks “How many boats are behind you?”. “None”, I replied. After going back and forth a few more times he could not comprehend that during the busy season for boat traffic there might actually be a time where there might actually be one all by itself without the chance of someone coming up behind them in the next few minutes. Still being polite about it he must have still thought he was right because he said it would be ten minutes before he could open, meaning that in that time surely someone would catch up. In the mean time we were now fighting the strong current trying to push us into this immovable structure. Handing the wheel over to Matt as usual he eventually couldn’t fight it any longer and had to start circling the area until the bridge swung open. At which point we passed through alone.

 Seeing that there were two more swing bridges along the way that day he started grumbling that we should have jumped out that morning as we’d be doing so much better pounding into waves than waiting for bridges to open for us. Promising to make him happy since we had always been going by what I want to do for awhile now I told him that we’d jump out at the next class A inlet and keep traveling until we hit Charleston. Turns out that inlet was sixty miles from where we had anchored that morning and now it was a race against the sun to get to it before dark. The day was another cold and crappy one which I actually have something to say about. I know I’ve been complaining about the bad weather lately but it is something that does have a huge effect on cruisers, especially if your boat isn’t fully outfitted like ours. I’ve talked about it being in the 50’s and then I start to get a lot of slack from our friends back in Michigan that I should be thankful for 50 degrees because it was now down in the 30’s there. That is true. If I were walking outside from my heated home to my heated car to the heated grocery store, wandering around in 50 degree weather for ten or twenty minutes at a time would be quite pleasant. But that’s not even close to what we experience. We get up at the crack of dawn when it’s still in the forties and put ourselves outside for ten hours at a time. The wind is blowing hard, the sun is not shining, and there is no escape. The only relief is when you run below deck for a few minutes and no longer have the wind blowing on you. The bus heater runs while the engine is on but the heat always escapes by bedtime and we’re left sleeping in a room that’s in the low fifties when we go to bed and in the forties when we wake up. And then we do it again and again and again. It’s all going to be worth it in the next month when we get down to warm weather and I’m happy to make the sacrifice for the benefits I’ll reap later, but when I start to complain about it, just let me rant because it’s the only way I have to deal with it at the moment. Sympathy votes actually do make me feel warmer inside.

This particular day was so cold though that even though we both usually stay up in the cockpit together all day we started taking turns to go below and enjoy the heat pumping into the boat for a few hours at a time. Then the rain started in and I was just happy we weren’t in the ocean. In late afternoon when the rain quit and winds were starting to die down below twenty we were both in the cockpit when we were hailed on the radio. At first I wasn’t sure if it was for us, they were calling for a southbound sailboat, but the only other boat I could see was a little powerboat and we were in a wide river with plenty of room to pass. When they starting getting more specific and asked for the southbound sailboat passing marker red whatever it was I knew the call was for us. It was a Coast Guard fastboat and they were preparing to board us for a routine inspection. The whole process was very easy, we were allowed to keep our course and speed, and two guys jumped on and brought out all their paperwork to start checking Serendipity and making sure she was up to code. I let Matt go below and show where all our safety equipment and necessary papers were while I stood behind the wheel next to the other guy who was just asking basic questions. In the end we were all up to code except we didn’t have a sticker for waste and that was just a write up but not a fine. They were on the boat less than thirty minutes and it was painless and easy. They said they usually never stop sailboats but their numbers were down and they needed to meet quota. Oh well, I’m sure it would have happened at some point and now if we’re boarded again we just flash them a little paper and they leave. Which I’m happy about going into Florida because I have a feeling the Coast Guard there isn’t always as cordial as these two guys (basically boys) were.

Right after they left we were in the home stretch for the inlet.  Getting myself prepared I popped a Dramamine and put on my pressure point bracelets.  I was ready to go.  Entering the channel in pitch black the waves began to roll in and throw us side to side.  I kept a close watch on both the chartplotter and the lights ahead of me to make sure we stayed right in the middle and didn’t bash into the rocks on the side.  It was a very long channel and took us almost an hour to get out.  I thought we’d be much better off once we turned southwest towards Charleston since we should have had the waves on our stern now, but there was a large shoal we needed to go around so there was another hour of bashing into waves.  Matt came up to relieve me for my 9:00 sleep time and we had also gone far enough to switch to our desired course.  Most of the waves were now on our stern which did make for a more comfortable ride overall, but every so often one would hit us on the side.  Those weren’t so bad while sitting in the cockpit, you just braced yourself a little more, but down below deck it threw around all our belongings and trying to put them away while pitching side to side was not doing wonders for my stomach.  Finally I was able to take off my gear and lay down, counting the seconds between rolls.  One, two, three to one side.  One, two, three to the other side.  I’m not even sure if I fell asleep during that shift.

Waking up for the next shift I was told there was twenty miles between us and the beginning of the channel to Charleston.  I think the math was a little wrong and we were going much faster than anticipated by doing 6-7 under headsail alone and just as I was getting Matt up for his 3-6 shift we were coming up on the channel.  Staying up with him a little longer to spot beacons I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and went back to bed.  This channel is also so long as well that when I woke up three hours later we had just entered the harbor and were making our way to the Ashley River to anchor.  The sky was just light enough that we could make out where we were going and could miss the unfortunate sunken ships in the harbor.  Dropping anchor at 7 am we passed out and did not wake up until afternoon.  With the winds howling outside and my stomach still on the fritz we stayed on the boat all day and did nothing but lay in bed and watch movies.  There was a nice visit from Anthyllide later at night as they had gotten in just a few hours before us.  We all made it in safe but what I realized is  the overnight trip was basically for nothing because even if we kept on the ICW we would have gotten in tonight, well rested and with a boat that didn’t look like a hurricane blew through it.


Even Score

Wednesday November 14, 2012

Waking up to another cold and blustery morning we continued on our way down the ICW, making our way to the Cape Fear Inlet where we’d decided if we were going to jump out or still stay inside. Winds had been howling all night and into the morning and it wasn’t making me feel any better about going offshore again. Rounding through the channel to get to the marina we passed Hideaway at the dock and waved good-bye as they wished us well with our ocean voyaging, should we choose to go that route. Filing in line behind the other boats on the ICW we were treated to a few dolphin sightings and two even came up right next to the boat. They popped their heads out of the water and stared at us for a moment before continuing on their way. After seeing the dolphins Matt told me to keep an eye out on the marshy islands separating us from the ocean as they were supposed to have wild goats roaming around them. Since we had been lucky enough for the ponies (and probably only because Rode Trip was with us, they seem to find every kind of wildlife there is out there) I didn’t have high hopes for a goat sighting that day.

 Traveling down the waterway you could tell this was the area where big money was coming in to play. All of the homes on the water started ranging from wood-shingled Hamptonesque homes to gaudy Malibu mansions and everything in between. There was even a spot on our charts called Money Point. And they homes placed there looked like they had it. When the homes began to turn to marsh again I looked over the little islands to the east of us and could see what looked like white foam in the distance. We were coming up on Carolina Beach Inlet, the one I almost mistakenly brought us to the night before. The shore flattened out and all you could see and hear where thunderous waves crashing to shore. Coming up on the actual opening to the inlet it was rolling seas as far as the eye can see. I know that the crashing waves are only close to shore and we’d be rid of them once we were a few miles out, but it was not helping Matt’s case to want to go out in it that afternoon. One thing I did see there as well was how shallow the entrance looked. It’s a very good thing that Matt had caught my mistake yesterday or there’s a really good chance we would have run aground on our entrance and probably have run into some of the buoys because they were very small and didn’t look to be marked with lights. Add in that there is no place to anchor in the area and the end of last night could have been much worse than it was.

With both of us wanting to seek the shelter of a warm comfy bed I let Matt go below to lay down in the late morning while I manned the helm. We were coming up to the area where the ICW connects to the Cape Fear River which eight miles later flows out to the Atlantic. Fighting a decent current to get through the connecting channel it more than made up for it once I got into the river. I thought we had been doing great down the ICW at six to six and a half knots but the river shot me into the upper sevens and close to eight. This also made me happy because it meant that I would only be traveling down the river for an hour before I had to make the decision to jump into the Atlantic or continue on the ICW and Matt would most likely still be sleeping so I could make the decision based on what I felt comfortable with and not having him coax me into anything else (can you guess which one he’d like to do?). Not only did Serendipity keep moving forward at that fast pace, but she kept speeding up. I brought out the camera to snap a photo when we hit nine because I wasn’t sure Matt would believe me, and then just a moment later we were up to 9.9, the fastest we’ve ever seen her go. I throttled back a little bit to bring her down since if the current was going to carry us we could reserve a little fuel but before I knew it we were at the fork in the road and I had a decision to make. Probably knowing in my head all morning I would make this decision if it were up to me alone I turned right into the ICW with many extra miles and hours but guaranteed safety. I’m sure we would have been fine if we jumped outside but I was still too intimidated by the day before to take on another ride like that in the overnight hours on watch by myself.

When Matt woke up he asked where our stop was that night, aware I had made the decision and there would be no ocean sailing for us that day. As a compromise I found an inlet forty miles south of us that I told him we’d anchor near and jump out in the morning, once we’d had one more day for conditions to calm. He seemed fine with it although I could tell he was a little disappointed to not be out riding waves again. But he’s very familiar with the saying ‘Happy wife, happy life‘ and acted like it was no big deal that I had just added another day on to our journey. Settling in to spend the rest of the afternoon on the ICW we took turns at the wheel and read from our e-readers. As I was sitting in the companionway enjoying the warmth from our bus heater below I looked up to see the bow of a boat overtaking us and didn’t think much of it. When I checked again it was Hideaway and immediately jumped up to talk to Ryan and Tasha in the cockpit. We compared notes for the day and found out we were both planning on anchoring at the same spot that night. When we told them our plans for the next day Ryan looked at us surprised and in his British accent shuddered, “You mean you’re going out ….there?” and pointed past the lavish mansions to where the Atlantic was sitting on the other side. We told them that conditions were supposed to lighten and we had a report from Rode Trip a few hours earlier verify that winds were only 20-25 and waves were 3-4 ft on their stern. Our optimism didn’t seem to rub off on them and they established they were still going to continue down the ICW all the way to Charleston. I don’t blame them.

After we had been passed by Hideaway and Northern Cross, one of the boats we’ve been seeing on and off since Norfolk, we were trying to beat the sun so we didn’t have another nighttime anchoring. I had left Matt at the wheel while I went below to try and perfect my pizza dough, something that’s getting better each time but still isn’t quite there yet. As I was kneading the dough I hear Matt moving around above and pulling out the headsail. There was less than five miles left to our anchorage and when I called that up to him he said he was getting bored and needed something to do. The line must have gotten stuck on one of the stays so with the autopilot on he went above to release it. I should have warned him that depths had been changing frequently and to keep a close eye on it at all times, but in the time it took him to run up to release the line and come back into the cockpit we had run off course enough to run around in five feet of water. Throwing it in forward and reverse we could wiggle around but could not get free. We were good and stuck once again. That now leaves me at two and puts Matt up at one. I wasn’t even upset at all, in fact I was kind of glad the score was getting evened. The bottom was soft so there was no damage to the boat and the only thing it was costing us was daylight. Checking the tide tables we saw that high tide was coming up in three hours and by then we should have enough water under us to keep moving along. As if knowing we needed a little spirit lifting once again Matt looked off our port side to the little islands that separated us from sea and called, “Look, … goats!!” Sure enough a heard of about four wild goats were making their way down to the water a few hundred feet behind us. Knowing we weren’t mobile anyway (at least in the large ship capacity) I suggested we dinghy to shore to get a little closer to them. “Who knows”, Matt replied, “Maybe they like carrots”.  Putting down the dinghy I thought he was actually going to bring us to the goats but instead he tied a line to the boat and pulled us off.  It’s amazing what a 3 hp engine can do.  Getting to the anchorage just after dark we laughed about the day and I tried to mentally prepare myself for another ocean voyage tomorrow.  I can do it, I can do it.

The inlet I almost brought us in the previous night.

Following the well laid markers.



Bad Weather Always Comes Early

Tuesday November 13, 2012

Up with the sun this morning the plan was to make the 60 mile jump from Beaufort, NC to the Masonboro Inlet near Wrightsville Beach, NC.  The weather report was calling for 5-10 knot winds through most of the day until five in the evening when things would really pick up and start blowing 20-25 and increase waves to 5-7 feet.  Nothing that Serendipity can’t handle, maybe an uncomfortable ride, but we were planning on dropping anchor around that time so all was supposed to be well.  The winds were predicted to be so fair in fact that Rode Trip was going to wait an extra day and then follow us out since they didn’t want to use their motor.  Winding our way through all the channels we were back in the Atlantic around 7:30 am and there was a low swell with winds under 10.  The motor went on and although the mainsail was also raised it wasn’t doing much to help us out at the moment.  After a few more dolphin sightings we started our nap shifts and Matt was down below in the comfort of bed while I stayed above and tried to stay warm.  The temperatures had dropped from high’s in the 70’s to highs in the 50’s and although it’s not unexpected for us anymore it’s never any fun.

When it was my time for a nap I promptly passed out and besides stirring a little bit to tell Matt had also unfurled the genoa I was comatose for three hours.  I could tell the winds had raised and the waves must also have as well because it was becoming an obstacle to get my foulies back on as we rocked back and forth.  Making my way up on deck the winds were reading the 20-25 that was predicted, but four hours early.  Trying to stay on the high side of the boat I kept my spot as Matt asked to go back below as he never actually slept earlier.  Sitting out there by myself I got into the motion of the boat as it would rock from one side to the other.  Then the winds kept picking up and the rocking became even steeper to each side.  Watching the degree of heel, the boat speed and the wind speed keep picking up I began to get a little anxious.  Thinking I could slow us down and level us out a little I let out a bit of the headsail.  All this did was to bring our speed from 6.5 to 7.2.  The heeling didn’t stop either.  Since the winds were now a steady 30 knots I called down to Matt that his nap was up and he needed to come back on watch with me.

Noticing the conditions getting worse we rolled in part of the headsail.  This did slow us down a little but now it was the waves that had me worried instead of the wind and speed.  We were going in a direction that both wind and waves were on our beam and every fifth wave would throw us way on our side until the rail was in the water and then we’d right back out.  I don’t think my legs have had as much exercise as holding my body up against the high side each time a wave would try and slide me out.  We were both tethered in at this point and it’s not likely that either of us would make our way out in the water but each time that fifth wave came I held my breath and prayed for land.  Double checking our course on the chartplotter Matt did notice that I had set the waypoint incorrectly, about 10 miles south of where we actually wanted to be.  Fixing that mistake and setting our new course this shaved an hour and a half off our expected arrival time and was not only nice because it would have taken us out of the waves but we were also getting close to sunset and any less time spent in the dark was fine by me.  While the wind blew over our side at a constant 35 now with gusts up to 40 I counted down the minutes until we’d be safe inside a jetty.  It eventually came with an interesting ride through the channel in the pitch black knowing those jetties were surrounding you but not being able to see them at all.  The anchor was dropped and we were safe for the night.  75 nautical miles traveled in 12 hours.  A new personal record for Serendipity.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning?

Hideaway passing us in the morning.

The waves never look big in photos.

If At First You Don’t See A Pony, Try, Try Again

Monday November 12, 2012

Our last day in Beaufort and we weren’t going to leave it without seeing a pony. Nevermind that we hadn’t seen town at all and checked out the local stores and shops, we know what’s really important. After the first attempt, the only two we saw were across a deep marsh that we couldn’t have walked over but it looked like the dinghy would be able to make it’s way through. So caravanning with Rode Trip in their dinghy we made our way down the parts of Taylor Creek where no one has their boat anchored. Getting my binoculars out of the bag I started focusing them on shore just so I could search down and try to find the inlet when something whizzed past my sight. I don’t know if it was a pony or a bird, but looking back at Rode Trip they were pointing to shore and taking photos as well so I figured it had to be something. Deciding to pull our dinghies off to the side there we walked up a small hill and saw groups of ponies grazing in the grass. They were still close to a mile away and some definite marshy-ness between us. Now seeing that the inlet was just a few hundred yards away we piled back in the dinks for a better approach.

 Slipping through the channel that a few other small boats were fishing in we crept up to the ponies as quietly as one can with an outboard running although I don’t think they even noticed or cared we were there. Bottoming out a few times I jumped out in the calf high water and dragged us to a point it was deep enough to run the motor again. When we finally crashed into shore we were less than two hundred feet from a group of four ponies grazing. Grabbing a carrot out of a bag Matt and I started slowly walking toward them not wanting to startle them and send them running. The ground we were walking on was thick and muddy and acted like a suction cup on your feet. We basically had to sneak up on them because we couldn’t move any faster than that. While Matt went straight for a group of three I stayed off to the side, partly so I could try and get a photo of him feeding his carrot to the pony should that ever happen and party so I could come up on a female all by herself that kept watching me. Maybe we had some kind of special connection and she’d let me ride her off into the setting sun?

While Matt came up on the group of three they ignored him until he started getting a little too close and then turned their backs to walk away. Thinking they might want to come back to us if they knew just how good our carrots tasted he haucked it in their direction only to frighten the crap out of one and make it do some fancy sidestepping. I kept working my way toward the female who hadn’t moved yet but kept watching me. Just as I was getting to a 5-10 foot distance she also turned her back to me and trotted away. Just as we thought we were getting nowhere (we including Stephanie now, Brain was hanging back at the dinghy with his cousin who had come along) a large male a half mile off to our left threw his head back and neighed, bringing up a group of four other ponies behind him. We joked that these must be the show ponies, the ones that come out for the tourist. Changing course now we began stepping and sliding in their direction getting stuck in the mud with every other step. Finally making our way through the marshes and over to them we stopped for just a minute to let them take us in and then began taking small steps forward, only one or two at a time, before stopping again. Either these were the show ponies or our baby steps were working because they seemed to care less that we were less than ten feet away.

Getting the attention of another female I walked ever so gently forward with my arm extended and a carrot in my flat palm. She didn’t move away as I inched closer and actually appeared to be interested in me. I let my body stop about three feet away from her and leaned in with the carrot. Instead of going back to grazing on the dry grass she leaned her head in toward my hand and took a sniff of my palm. I didn’t know what to expect since it’s been about fifteen years since I’ve fed anything to a horse and I was just hoping my hand would still be intact at the end. The same hand that had just jammed it’s way into a block a few days earlier. The pony sniffed a few more times, her soft snout brushing my hand, and turning the carrot down went back to her grass. Stepping a foot closer this time she didn’t want what I was selling and turned her back to me as she walked away. For five or ten more minutes the three of us continued to step up to the ponies surrounding us just to have them turn away at the last second. I don’t know what I was originally expecting of these wild ponies, eating out of my hand, letting me run my hand across their coat, but they were making it pretty clear that they were interested in looking but not touching. Deciding we’d let them be we bid our ponies farewell and rode our dinghies back home.

With the unusually nice day we were having the rest of the afternoon was spent lounging outside in the cockpit just for the fun of it. I don’t think that’s been done since we were in Deltaville, before hurricane Sandy. It felt so good to get the outdoor living space to our boat back. As we were sitting there with the fabric of the dodger blocking the view to our sides I could hear another boat was anchoring and a British voice calling out instructions to the person behind the helm. I didn’t think to even look up but when they began chatting with the boat behind us I thought another anchor dispute was about to breakout as we had experienced one earlier in the day (not involving us) with the boat behind us and a guy dragging a grappling hook in the area looking for his lost anchor. Let’s just say that he caught the anchor of the boat behind us (liveaboards in that spot for the past six months) and things quickly escalated to Jerry Springer level. But this time the boat behind us was welcoming in the new one and I popped my head around to take a look. Right away I recognized the name printed on the side, Hideaway, as it belonged to a hopefully new friend of mine, Tasha. Although we had never met in person she had found our website through her friends that we had met in Manhattan (Bill and Grace). She e-mailed when we were back in D.C. to let me know she was following and that her and her husband Ryan had just left out of Manhattan and were also making their way south. We’d sporadically message each other on Facebook and I kept an eye on her location through her website, TurfToSurf.com to see if they were catching up with us, and boy were they! As soon as their anchor was down I was busy sending her a message that we were right next to each other and they should stop by that evening for a drink. Quickly stopping by to say hi and introduce themselves while on their way in to town for a quick bite to eat and a little exploring they were over at Serendipity. Trading experiences on the way down so far and finding out they had it a lot worse in Sandy than we did just due to the winds in their location we were soon joined by Brian and Stephanie.  Through the night new friendships were formed and I was able to add another couple to the Young Cruiser’s Club  I’m planning on starting.  It was a great day from start to finish and just reinforced why we’re out here doing what we do.


Carrot Island

Saturday November 10, 2012

Not that we had chosen this anchorage for a reason, but we happened to be anchored next to Carrot Island which is rumored to have wild ponies roaming it. At first I was a little skeptical, but after checking my good friend Google it showed lots of images of the island and it seemed to be overrun with them. After finishing some projects in the early afternoon (Matt was glassing in a bulkhead to the anchor locker and I was roaming around town trying to find an internet signal) we jumped in the dinghy at low tide and beached ourselves on the sand. Throwing down the dinghy anchor since tides change so much in the area and we didn’t want to come back to no ride home, we started to make our way forward to the hills and trees of the island. Standing in our way though was lots of marshy grass and ankle deep water. This wasn’t a problem for me as I had borrowed Stephanie’s rain boots but Matt was walking around in his Merrell water shoes taking the full brunt of the nastiness. Getting to dry land we had to make our way through thick brush and branches but after a little bushwacking we were in the clear.

 Walking up the sandy grass we got to a high point on the island where we could see the Atlantic on the other side but could not see any ponies roaming. Treating me as if I had a sixth sense Matt asked me what direction we’d find them and I pointed to the left (only because that side had more land to cover) and we began making our way over. Although we weren’t seeing any wild animals at the moment it didn’t take long to discover that they were actually there by the gargantuan amounts of horse poo all over the island. It was all over and most of the time you had to be careful where you stepped as not to walk into a big pile of it. It was starting to feel like we were back on Mackinac Island again. Getting scientific we started searching out fresh piles thinking it may lead us to the ponies. Walking up and down the dunes and through the trees we did not see anything moving except a few birds. So far this search was looking fruitless. Marking our way from the solid ground towards more marshy land in the center I pulled out my binoculars to scan the area. Looking all the way across the island as far as I could scan I stopped as I saw a dark figure in the distance. Going back and focusing in a little clearer I saw two ponies grazing. Pulling the binocs down I looked in the same spot to just be able to make out two dark specs. Getting excited I handed the binoculars to Matt so he could see and started formulating a plan to get ourselves over there.

There looked to be a miniature lake separating a straight path to them so we hugged the sometimes solid and sometimes soft ground that lined the water. Every few minutes the ponies in the distance would become a little clearer and my excitement grew. We walked for close to a mile and just as I could start to fully make them out with my own eyes our path was halted. Not only was there a lake between us and the horses on one side, but now there was a channel blocking our other way around. We weren’t sure how deep it was or if it was crossable, but a fishing boat sitting off to the side verified that it was nothing we could make our way through. The journey ended here. Standing there with disappointment I thought I’d never get to see my wild ponies when we noticed the fishing vessel disappear. The channel must lead out to Taylor Creek which means we could get in to it with our dinghy and practically land ourselves right next to the ponies. Hope was growing high again but unfortunately the sun was not. By the time it would take us to go back to the dink and ride it all the way out here again it would be close to twilight. The hunt would have to wait. We made our way back through the marshes and high ground and back through the branches to where the dink was still sitting waiting for us. Getting back to the boat we consoled ourselves a little by making up some big juicy hamburgers to throw on the grill. Being treated to another beautiful sunset and a quick dolphin sighting I watched the sky slowly turn black and the smoke from our grill send clouds across the anchorage.

So close yet so far away.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Thursday November 8, 2012

Our destination today wasn’t a very long one, only about twenty miles, going down from Oriental to Beaufort. This was originally where we were going to sever ties with Rode Trip as they headed into the Atlantic and make a six or seven day trip to the Bahamas while Serendipity continued down the ICW. Not ready to get rid of each other just yet we both changed our plans that we’ll still go to Beaufort together and then make the jump out in the Atlantic and come back in at Charleston, about 200 miles down the coast. Originally thinking they’d be leaving from Beaufort though, they had their last immunizations scheduled at the Health Department here and needed to be to Moorehead City right next door this evening. Letting ourselves sleep in just a little bit because of the short ride we upped anchor at eight-thirty and pointed our bows directly across Neuse River to Adams Creek which would take us directly into Beaufort. The sun was semi-visible but it was better than clouds and rain. Since we on Serendipity had no idea where we’d be anchoring that night we let Rode Trip lead into the channel and followed not to far behind. Behind the wheel as usual (Matt came too close to hitting a few markers in the water, no attention span I tell you) I was called up by Brian on the VHF. Switching to 71 as we usually do I was expecting to hear a course update or some kind of detour when Brian exclaimed “Dolphin sighting off our port bow, keep your eyes open”. Almost dropping the handheld I put on the autopilot and started scanning the waters ahead of us. We had not seen dolphins yet on this trip and I was determined to do it before we reached South Carolina. It seems like everyone besides us has seen them so far on their trip and are always surprised when we mention we haven’t come across any yet. Just like the bald eagles that seemed to be everywhere except where we were, the dolphins that had been eluding us were a daily occurrence for most people. I was not going to let this day finish without seeing one now.

 Excited himself but knowing how bad I wanted to see one, Matt took control of the wheel while I ran up on the bow with camera on hand. It felt like I was waiting forever and thought I had missed my chance once again when I saw the water begin to form ripples in front of me. This was it, I was about to have our first dolphin sighting. Two fins sliced through the water a few hundred feet ahead of us and then went back under. Waiting for them to come back up I kept my eyes peeled, not sure where they would move on to next. While looking far ahead one of them momentarily surfaced just off our starboard bow and went under our keel. It was very quick and if I had looked away for a moment I would have missed it. Having our two boats almost slowed to a stop while a few others behind us were quickly catching up we kept waiting for the fins to surface again. Now we could tell there were two pairs although they would just come up for a brief second and then go back below leaving us guessing to where they’d come up next. They must have been feeding because it looked as if they were on a mission and not interested in us or our boats at all. I really can’t wait for when we’re traveling on the ocean and a playful group follows us and jumps off our bow, but these four dolphins were enough to satisfy me for now and finally make us part of the club.

Getting out to Beaufort I still had no idea where we were anchoring and kept blindly following behind Rode Trip. After passing under one large bridge I could tell the ICW cut to the right while going toward Moorehead City, but we kept on going straight, closer and closer to The Beaufort Inlet which led right out into the Atlantic. Thinking maybe we were taking a trip out for another dolphin sighting I kept following behind until they made a sharp cut to the left, getting into a nasty current that was almost shoving their boat through sideways. Serendipity made it through without much problem at all and within a few minutes we made our way into Taylor creek where hundreds of boats were anchored or moored. Some of them looked like they had been abandoned or at least sitting there unattended for a very long time. When I saw that Rode Trip was swinging around in a semi-clear spot to drop anchor I followed suit in the next open spot behind them. The current in this area was also very strong, probably going against us at close to two knots, and we were barely making headway. When it looked like Matt was ready to drop our anchor I put it in neutral and waited for the signal to back down. Standing behind the wheel I noticed us moving backward and getting closer to the boats behind us. Having this be a normal thing while we let out however much chain we need I didn’t give it much thought until they started getting nervously close and then I looked up at the bow to see the anchor still sitting on deck.

Apparently Matt had been chatting with Rode Trip on if this was a good spot but never actually put the anchor down. Now we were floating backward at two knots in a field of hundreds of boats. The currents were starting to push the boat sideways and I was waiting for our bow to turn more before putting it in gear and moving us out of there. This process of turning was taking way too long and by the time the bow would have made it’s full turn we would have already crashed into the boat behind us, or a large channel marker that was also coming up. Getting into a full panic now I forced Matt to take over the wheel and stood by nervously watching as we came within just a foot or two of one of the boats before he punched the engine and we shot in front of the next one, narrowly missing it as well. Too scared to take the wheel back we followed Rode Trip further back into the creek where it cleared out and while they anchored we rafted up to them to discuss where we wanted to go. The big problem to the situation was they were going to Richmond for the weekend and we were going to keep an eye on their boat. With the strong currents and sardine-like anchorage they didn’t feel it was fair to us to have to watch our boat and theirs and they decided to move on to a marina. Thinking our original spot was just fine we went back to it although I made Matt promise to drop the anchor as soon as we were out of gear this time.

Later in the night a thirty-five foot catamaran dropped next to us and we weren’t sure if they would be too close but made sure to keep an eye on them. After it got dark and we were fixing dinner Matt went above deck to check on us and found the catamaran basically on top of us. This was not going to work as it looked imminent we would hit during the night. Getting a little too worked up over the situation he grabbed a flashlight and started shining it in the window of the cat until the owner came out and which point he started arguing that they were too close and needed to move….now. They guy came back that they had been there for hours and if we had an issue with them we should have said something earlier. That part I do agree with, although I told Matt from the beginning that since I have to do all the talking on the VHF (I do mean all, he’ll call me up if I’m below deck just so I can answer it while he’s steering) that he would handle all anchor disputes and I would have nothing to do with them. So it was still in his hands and he was not going to give up the fact that we were here first and we’d be staying put. The owner of the cat felt that if we were uncomfortable we should be the ones to move, and both men went back in their boats with no resolution to the problem.

An hour later I went on deck to make a call out to my parents and keep an eye on both boats. The cockpit of the cat was completely black and it looked as if they had made the decision to stay exactly where they were for the night. While most of the boats in the anchorage were all pointing the same direction, Serendipity likes to swing all over the place and I watched in horror as there were multiple times we came within a foot or two of the cat just to be pulled away at the last second. Continually going up to check we seemed to be settling into a spot that kept us far enough away from each other that there may not be a midnight collision.  After awhile I got tired of looking and put Matt on watch although I think he went the ignorance is bliss route because he never got up once to look.  First thing in the morning we looked outside to see the cat was gone and our boat was still intact with no new scratches we could see.  Now we just have to survive three more nights here.

(Above photos courtesy of Rode Trip)

This wasn’t even nearly as close as we were at one point.


Wednesday November 7, 2012

The next stop along the way for us is Oriental, North Carolina which is supposed to be a sailor’s haven. I’ve read in a few other blogs that this is some people’s favorite stop along the way and it’s hard to pull themselves away to keep moving a week or two after they arrived. We were blessed with another overcast day with strong winds once again and I could feel myself just overheating in temperatures of low 50’s that I was treated to. This is the kind of weather that every sailor dreams of where you spend all day lounging in the cockpit and don’t want to go inside for fear of missing out on your fingers going numb or making sure you’re wearing every layer of clothing you own. That’s sarcasm if you haven’t guessed. This cold weather is really getting to me and if we don’t have a warm day coming up soon I think I may lose it. I’ve been living in the long underwear my mom sent to me in Elizabeth City, I only take it off to bathe and then it’s right back on. We’ve still been forced out of the v-berth from the condensation that forms in there and have been sleeping on the settee since Hurricane Sandy. The cushions that have to come off to make it large enough for us to both fit on are constantly kept on the other settee and while airing all our belongings out everyday in the v-berth our living space has now been cut down more than half. On a thirty-four foot boat. I’m slowly going insane.

 The good news about our stop in Oriental is that our friend Yvonne from Old Glory is there. We met her and her husband Ed back at the beginning of the Erie Canal and have been keeping in touch ever since. Ed had unfortunately just left town for a few days but we were excited at the chance to see Yvonne and her dog Titus again. Having emailed her when we left Elizabeth City I told her we’d be there in a day or two. Then just after we got out of town we lost all cell phone and internet service and have not been able to pick any back up again. Even when we dropped anchor just outside the yacht club in Oriental where I could see Old Glory facing us we had no coverage and I thought I might have to surprise Yvonne by just walking up to the boat and knocking on it.

 Right after we did drop anchor the rain we could see coming over the horizon started a downpour on us and you’d think that we’d want to hole up in the boat where it’s dry and somewhat warm, but after throwing back a quick lunch we put on all of our rain gear and went to pick up Brian and Stephanie in our dinghy.  Tying off to the dock we set about on the main street to make our way to the Post Office once again.  This time to send items out instead of pick them up which is a shame because even though I was just showered with gifts a few days ago this is another day I could use some more.  Walking down the street while the rain thundered down on us I was looking for any excuse to get somewhere dry so when the guys spotted a boat consignment shop I didn’t put up any kind of hassle when they wanted to go inside and look through thousands of pieces of boat parts.  Stephanie and I engrossed ourselves in all the books on the shelves while the guys looked at blocks and shackles and other things that hold no interest to me.  As I was trying to find a new version of Jimmy Cornell’s ‘World Cruising Routes’ (I believe ours is a first edition from the 70’s), Matt threw a five pound shackle in my hand that will serve for connecting our sea drougue to should we ever need it which hopefully we will not.

Soon the concrete walls and floors started to bring a chill over me and I knew that the guys would have to let us girls get some work done on our computers in a restaurant or coffee shop after the trip to the Post Office so I tried to hurry them out the door.  Along with the giant shackle we purchased an anchor sail which we can put up at anchor and hopefully keep us pointed in one direction instead of swinging all around like we normally tend to do.  Before leaving though the store owner (?) gave us the low-down on the town and told us just past the Post Office is a little restaurant called The Silos and they had a buy one get one pizza special going on that day.

Rushing through the Post Office, Stephanie and I were excited to get to a warm place with hot food and spirits were lifted as we walked up the street and saw the restaurant, shaped in two silos and surely giving it it’s name.  Walking up the stairs of the silo to where the restaurant was we ordered up cheaply priced beers and began chatting with a couple at the bar dressed in foulies, obviously cruisers as well.  When the pizzas came we were back at our table and life was good except the fact we could still not get internet signal.  When we finished eating we made our way out as the afternoon crowds made their way in and went in search of the local coffee shop that was said to have internet as well.  Walking in the door at half past five it was almost empty and we asked the girl behind the counter how late they were open.  She replied that it was usually sometime between six and seven, I guess they go by how busy the place is.  Ordering some hot drinks we sat down to get some work done and stayed until the mop bucket came out at seven, although the girl was very nice about us keeping here there until the latest they were able to stay open.  One thing we’re finding out is everything in this town closes very very early.

Walking through the streets the next morning back on our way to The Bean we ran into Yvonne and Titus on the street.  Although I had tried sending an email the night before to let her know we were in town I had no way of checking her response until we got to the coffee shop once more for internet access.  It turns out she had received my message just after we left the coffee shop but had seen our boat anchored out in front of her.  Wanting to get our attention to invite us over for a glass of wine she had slipped out the door and was thinking of sounding her fog horn to get our attention but after deciding it would probably just scare everyone in the marina and the anchorage she made her way back in to Old Glory only to find she had locked herself out.  I can’t remember the story of how she got herself back in, but it sounds like Titus may be a super-dog that can open doors.  : )   After doing a little chatting and catching up we made plans for the five of us to make our way back to The Silos that night where it was open mic night.

After spending hours and hours at the coffee shop to get minimal work done (I don’t think this town has a strong wifi signal anywhere) we quickly made dinner back at the boat before leaving again.  Pulling the dink up behind Old Glory we were invited on board for a quick glass of wine before walking the mile through town to The Silos.  Titus was in cuddly mode and as soon as we were invited on he was walking from lap to lap trying to find a warm body to rest on and get some scratches behind the ear.  When we got to the restaurant once again it was packed full and we managed to find a lone table near the back where we couldn’t see the stage very well but could still hear the music floating through.  It wasn’t karaoke style but rather groups or soloist playing guitars and bongo drums.  While the five of us sat in the back we caught up on travels and unfortunately got into a lengthy politics discussion since the election results had just come in that day.

Closing the bar down (at 9:00 pm, I told you everything here closes early) we made our way back to Old Glory for a nightcap that somehow lasted until after midnight.  It was really nice having kept in touch with Yvonne and being able to meet up with her again along the way as her and Ed were the first cruisers we met along the way.  We must know how to pick them because as we were leaving Stephanie turned to me and said, “You guys have the coolest friends”.  “Yeah”, I replied, “Except those people on Rode Trip.  We just can’t seem to shake them”.

Brian and Stephanie doing their Geronimo dance from Wind.  Can’t take these two anywhere.

Another beautiful day on Serendipity.

Blocks and shackles.  Matt was in heaven.

Cheap beer and good pizza at The Silos!

All the attention finally wore Titus out.


I Hate Mondays

Monday November 5, 2012

When we left Elizabeth City yesterday morning we only knew that we wanted to make it to Oriental as soon as possible and would try to make fifty mile days, leaving just after the sun rose and dropping anchor just as it was about to set. A lot of the other boats must have had the same idea as us and when Serendipity and Rode Trip pushed off the docks at six-thirty a.m. and made our way to the Ablemarle Sound there were already ten masts on the horizon. Once in the sound we were able to raise both sails and cut our engine with the constant twenty to twenty five knot winds blowing over us. While I was dressed in as many layers as I could find and still shivering in the cockpit (outside temperatures were in the low 50’s), Matt went to work with more boat projects sanding down the teak toe rails up by the bow so he’d be able to run some brightner over them and cover them in varnish. We didn’t even have to take buckets of water to wash them off as a downpour started over us and took care of it. Not letting the opportunity of fresh un-salted water go to waste, Matt grabbed a rag and a scrub brush and started cleaning down the deck and poles. The rain continued on and off all afternoon and stopped just as we were entering the Alligator River. There’s a swing bridge to pass through to get from the sound to the river and taking down our sails we slowed to a stop with one other boat while the bridge tender waited for the line of boats behind us to catch up before opening so he could get everyone through at once and not have to do multiple closings of traffic. Rode Trip was bringing up the rear of the pack and passed through under sail power alone, something we thought wasn’t allowed and were sure they’d get yelled at for although the bridge tender never said anything.. We’re still having a discussion on the subject as we can’t find anything in our books to support it but knew that we saw it somewhere. The great debate continues.

 With so many other boats in such close proximity there has been so much chatter on Channel 16. Just after we left in the morning both us and Rode Trip were hailed by a power boat, Tug-a-long, who must have known we were newbies to transiting the ICW and gave us some rules of the road. He mentioned that if a boat wants to pass you they’ll hail on the VHF, get your permission (does anyone ever say no?) and you slow down when they come up on you and just as they get in front you punch your engine and aim for their stern to avoid getting waked. After awhile I just stopped listening to the chatter since that’s all it was. “Boat A, I’m coming up on your stern, may I make a starboard pass?” “Roger Boat X, you can pass on our starboard. Have a spectacular day”. Very easy to drown out and there’s a chance I may have even missed a call or two to ourselves. You know what though? If you’re coming up on me and you see an opening, just take it, you don’t need my permission. And I’d like to think that I’m observant enough that I would realize when someone is coming up on me and avoid their wake. We’ve been doing it for 2000 miles now. Amidst the chatter I was trying to ignore there was information about logs in the water in Alligator River near certain markers and I completely forgot about it until chatting on 71 with Rode Trip on possible spots to anchor that night when I got a response of “Hold on just minute, I need to dodge this log in the river”. Looking around myself I started to see large pieces of wood not just floating in but jutting out of the water as if they were stationary and could do some serious damage if run in to. After that eyes were constantly peeled but we only had a few miles to go before our anchorage. Continuing our tradition we raided Road Trip after dinner and did some quick planning for the next day although I had already scouted out a spot early in the morning so that our whole evening could be spent playing games and having a few cold ones.

Getting up this morning the sun was shinning as we entered the Pungo River Canal. I had a Bigby Pumpkin Pie Coffee in my hand and the shelter of the canal brought winds down to seven knots as a current carried us along at six knots. It was looking to be a fantastic day and Stephanie and I were having fun on 71, joking that we needed our invisibility cloaks on so we could pass other boats unnoticed without asking their permission. We were moving along well and had passed a few boats (no we didn’t hail them, we weren’t even throwing up any kind of wake) and as I let Rode Trip lead the way I looked back to see a large line of boats quickly coming up on us. Radioing Stephanie once more I asked if she wanted to kick it up so we could stay at the front of the pack or maintain our speed and keep to the right to allow them all to pass. We agreed our speed was fine and if anyone wanted to get around us we’d just keep an eye out and stay to the side. This was working well as the long line of yachts began coming up on our port side and they’d wave as they passed us by. Intermittently I’d look back to see who was still coming and could see a catamaran weaving from one side of the canal to the other. First he looked like he was going to try and come up on my starboard side while I was already being passed on port and because so was already hugging the edge. Some docks protruding from shore forced him in line behind me and as soon as the boat on port passed he started making a beeline around me on that side as well. Feeling he was still a little too close for comfort I hugged the right a little more while still keeping my distance from shore.

As he came up on my side I felt a sudden deceleration of our speed and jumped up to throw the autopilot on standby while I grabbed the wheel. Seeing that we were still a good distance from shore I thought we were getting caught on some roots or branches sticking up from the bottom of the canal and throttled it harder trying to get ourselves off and back into the middle of the canal. As I throttled harder and harder we inched forward just a little bit and came to a complete stop. I don’t know how this happened since we have a draft of five feet and the depth sounder was reading six and a half, but we had just run aground. As soon as he had felt us slowing to a stop, Matt ran back to the cockpit took over, now throwing us hard into reverse to try and back us off. It was not doing anything, we were good and stuck. All I can say is that if it had to happen somewhere it couldn’t have happened in a better place. Not only did we have a buddy boat with us but there was a boat passing by every thirty seconds and no call to Tow Boat US and a $800 bill were necessary. Jumping onto 16 I hailed Rode Trip and Stephanie must have realized something was going on because she responded with “Serendipity, what’s going on back there?” “We’re aground, let’s go to 71”, I replied with and we switched over channels where she said they’d turn around and come back to yank us out. While waiting for a line of boats to pass so they could cut across the canal and come back the catamaran that had basically run us off stopped Rode Trip to see if we were ok. She replied that we weren’t and they were turning around to come back for us. Trying to make up for his mistake he also turned around since he had a much shallower draft and wouldn’t get stuck himself while trying to pull us off.

In the middle of being scolded back on Serendipity for throttling forward when it should have been reverse I tried to relay what Stephanie was telling me on the VHF. I was pretty upset and frustrated so I didn’t make out all of what she was saying, but it sounded like they had also become stuck but the catamaran was on it’s way back to get us out. “Roger that, catamaran’s coming” I acknowledged without really taking any of the conversation in. Did she say they were around as well? All I knew was that the cat was almost to us and we needed dock lines to throw him so he could tie us off and pull us out. I was instructed to go behind the wheel and ‘give it all she’s got’ once he started going forward as well. We came out surprisingly easily and I had to throw us into reverse to avoid hitting him once we were out. Taking back our dock lines we thanked him and waited for him to pass us once more although he hung back as we began to move again. Even though I was glad he came back to help us that almost frustrated me more. If you know you’re going to pass us again, just do it now. I don’t want to have to constantly look over my shoulder to see when you’re coming up and move over for you again. Forcing him to get past us by keeping it in idle we rode side by side with Rode Trip for a bit, talking about the experience. Somehow they had gotten themselves stuck in the middle of the canal but were able to rock themselves off with their tiller although a ton of mud had packed itself on to the bottom of their boat. I felt bad that I caused them to run aground trying to come back and save us but we all had a good laugh about the whole situation and I was able to lift my spirits again.

Things were looking up and I went below to warm up for awhile and got a little writing done while cheering myself up with Skittles. I could tell we had come out of the canal and into the Pungo River because Matt unfurled the headsail while I was below and we started heeling to the side. Figuring I should go back on deck in case he needed me I saw that the without the protection of land the wind was gusting up to twenty-five knots again and made it bone chilling cold outside. For as much as sailors are supposed to love their wind it has been driving me crazy for the past week because it makes the days unbearably cold. Taking shelter behind the dodger I sat on the lee side where the sheet for the headsail was wrapped around the winch. Giving me a lesson in tell-tales since I can never remember what they’re trying to tell you, Matt instructed me to look at the inside and outside tail and how to ease or trim the sheet based on how they’re sitting. Getting the sail perfectly trimmed I watched our speed grow higher and higher until we were at 7.2 under headsail alone. Proud of Serendipity I wanted to continue on but we noticed the marina that both of our boats needed to stop off at to fuel up was just ahead of us and we’d need to turn in. Since cutting across the river to the marina meant heading right into the wind we needed to turn on the engine and furl in the headsail.

While Matt grabbed the furling line I was instructed to slowly release tension on the sheet while he brought it in. I don’t know why my mind wasn’t working, but with my right hand clutching the line and ready to release it I had my left hand grabbing the sheet between the winch and the block it passed through probably assuming I could hold it in place if it released too quickly. Well with thirty knots of wind and I don’t know how many hundreds of pounds of pressure on the line, as soon as I began to release it the line shot backward to the block with an enormous force and took my hand with it. Rule number one of why you’re not supposed to grab lines between blocks and winches. My knuckle and pinkie finger became wedged in the block and the heavy winds creating a strong force on the line which was more than my right had could pull back on to release my left. People have actually lost fingers this way and all I could think to myself is, ‘We don’t have health insurance‘. Realizing I was in trouble Matt asked if my hand was stuck and as I nodded my head that it was he grabbed a winch handle and forced the line out of the block, freeing my hand. Even though it was still attached and there were no serious cuts it definitely looked like it had been chewed up and spit out with dog bite looking marks quickly disappearing after it started to swell up. Our big concern was that it may be broken although I was able to still fully bend it so I didn’t think that was the case. After docking at the marina and having Rode Trip pull in on the other side I sought medical advise as they had taken a course just before leaving and they agreed with me that if I was able to bend all parts it most likely wasn’t broken. Getting a bag of ice from them I kept it on my hand although the cold temperatures had made my hand so numb already I barely noticed a difference.

Back on the river we let out the headsail once more and left it just a little more lose to slow ourselves down and not worry about the thirty degree heels we had been starting to pull with the thirty knot winds just before. Taking a sharp bend in the river just past Bellhaven we were now on a strictly downwind course and lost a lot of our speed. Not in much of a rush as we knew we’d still make our anchorage at least an hour before the sun went down even at our new slower speed, one hates to take such a drastic deceleration and accept it so we rigged up the spinnaker pole to force the headsail to stay fully extended so any wind that hit it would come across an open sail and be able to push us forward. Right away we gained another knot and it looks like it will be well worth the purchase.

A few hours after our downwind sailing we entered another canal on the ICW and tucked into a completely secluded creek for the night. Brian being absolutely crazy took a dip in the fifty-seven degree water after he got a haircut and after dinner both him and Stephanie joined us for movie night on our boat where I tried to pop popcorn in our 700 watt microwave which usually only pops half the bag before burning it, and we took a request from Rode Trip to watch the movie Wind. It’s a little lame and a little slow moving but it is all about sailing and gave us a good reason to start sporadically saying “Whomp!!” to each other, based on a phrase from Jennifer Green in the movie. The day ended a lot better than it started and it’s always nice to have good friends around when something goes wrong. I think the Garfield ‘I Hate Mondays’ poster can safely be put away now and hopefully won’t make it’s way back out for a long time.

Setting off into the Albemarle Sound with lots of masts on the horizon.

Beautiful morning on the Pungo River Canal!

The herds are catching up.

I should have taken a photo later at night, my knuckle was purple!

But good friends and breathtaking sunsets make all things better.