Another Degree South

Wednesday October 31, 2012

Today we get to start making progress south again and it is desperately needed for the cold temperatures starting to settle in around here. Having done some pre-planning with Rode Trip we planned on rise with the sun to have anchors up at seven-thirty and then make our way the 45-50 miles to the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area. Almost as if because I wished it we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a sunny day. As if we had practiced our synchronized both anchors were lifted at the exact same moment and we were on our way out of the little creek that protected us from the hurricane. Winding through the little turns in the creek as we exited we noticed there were no other boats anchored out besides the two cats that had been in our sight during the storm. I guess this well known hurricane hole wasn’t as popular as the marina had made it out to be. Traveling an hour down the river we were dropped back out in the Chesapeake and able to raise our sails. Weather reports had been forecasting SW winds (directly where we needed to go) at ten to fifteen knots. Winds were as predicted and raising both the head an the main we shot out east into the bay at nearly seven knots. It was great for getting ourselves away from shore but each time we added a few degrees to start making our way south we’d point closer and closer to the wind, gradually losing some of our speed. We also had a pretty big current pushing on our beam so even when the course looked good on our chartplotter we kept getting moved off course and would have to point even farther into the wind. Somehow Rode Trip looked like they were able to be on a direct course towards Norfolk and passed us right by. Not used to getting up so early I went below for a nap and left the wheel in Matt’s hands.

 When I came up land was almost completely out of sight and we were headed right for the shipping channel in the middle of the bay. He mentioned it was just about time to tack so as we got ready I put the bow through the wind until it could catch on the other side. Our steady speed was cut down to almost nothing as it looked as if we were still too close into the wind. Adding five degrees here and there we finally had good sail trim when I looked at the chartplotter to check our new course. Headed directly for land, as in there was no progress south. Trying to subtract a few degrees to at least have us headed a little bit in the right direction the sail would flap and luff. It looked as if the only way to make progress would be to head west into land and then on a southwest course toward where we needed to be. It looked as if Rode Trip was having the same problem and as we went in toward shore they crossed in front of us going out toward the shipping lane. Gaining our speed back and making it a few miles in toward shore we tacked once again, finally able to line up our course with where we eventually wanted to be. By this time Rode Trip had not tacked back toward land and were quickly getting far out of our sight. The new goal now was to try and catch them. Racing mentality kicked in and all I could focus on was the shilouette on the horizon and how to make that dot far in front of me a dot far behind me.

While following behind the sunny skies we had been having all morning were becoming overcast and dark. Temperatures were still in the low fifties and the twenty-five knot winds blowing off the cold water was making it feel much worse. For a long time I took the punishment of sitting behind the wheel without any protection from the wind, my eye on Rode Trip and my finger ready to adjust the autopilot at any moment. Matt sat behind the protection of the dodger and kept asking why I wouldn’t join him up there. Stubborn as always I kept my post as waves splashed up over the bow and side, sending sprays of cold salty water over my jacket and face. Soon my lips were becoming chapped from all the salt layering on them but I wanted to stay where I had constant overview control over the course. Matt gave up and started napping out in the cockpit while I eagle eyed Rode Trip ahead, never being able to gain on them. While crossing through a shipping lane of the boats starting to come into shore our speed dropped to the four knot range just as we were in front of a large six hundred foot shipping container headed right at us. Without having the engines on to just get us out of there as fast as possible I wished for more wind or our speed to pick up so we could make it out. The ship was still a few miles away but they normally move at a speed of fifteen to twenty knots and could quickly come up on us. As if answering my wishes and more our speed suddenly jumped up to over six knots and we were soon out of the channel and back into open and empty waters.

Our speed kept growing and I became excited as we were hovering near seven knots, sure that we’d make up all our lost time and speed from before. Sometimes Serendipity would start healing hard for a few seconds and then righting herself again. When we were at a constant ten to fifteen degree heel I didn’t think much of it but when the short heels up to twenty or twenty five degrees also became constant I started to worry that we might now have too much power behind us. I still let it go for a few minutes just trying to make up on distance, but when Matt woke up from his nap and we were heeling at twenty-two degrees while racing along at 7.2 knots we thought it would be best to pull in the headsail and turn on the engine. Afternoon was upon us and we only had a few hours left to go fifteen miles. Without directly heading at Hampton Roads, which we would have had to do to slow ourselves down under sail, we would have had to go further out in the bay and then tack back, possibly adding another hour to our trip. Satisfied with the sailing we did get in that day the engine went on and we left the main up while furling in the head.  Cutting ourselves a little closer into the wind we still caught enough wind with the main to keep us moving along near six knots.

It may have taken most of the day but we did eventually pass Rode Trip as they are much more stubborn with their engine than we are and sailed all the way up to the small river we were using.  By that time the two of us had already dropped anchor in a spot hugging the channel and trying not to edge into the three feet of water next to us.  Getting a little restless and not having stepped foot on land for a few days we lowered the dinghy and went in search of fast food.  During our trip down the bay we had heard commercials for Hardees, something we don’t have in West Michigan, and the advertised food was sounding so good.  Searching along shore we could not find a suitable place to tie the dinghy up so we grounded it on some rocks and ran the lock around a tree branch to keep it secure.  After we walked the mile through the cold and had our food which was more than I could eat and completely hit the spot we were back to the boat and ready to burrow under lots of sheets for bed.  One more day in Hampton Roads and then we start the ICW on Friday.

You’ll (not) Always Remember Your First

Tuesday October 30, 2012

I realize there’s a few days skipped since the last post and you might be wondering how I could jump over something so big as our first hurricane. The answer is simple. It was BORING. There’s really not much to go over. After we woke up from Hurricane Party 2012 the rain was continuing lightly and the winds were a steady ten to fifteen knots with gusts up to twenty-five. Having enjoyed HP ’12 a little too much we rolled out of bed close to noon, our heads still pounding from the Hurricanes the night before. Our big accomplishment was making it the ten feet from our bed to the settees. Matt was even adventurous enough to make it out on deck where the engine was started to charge the batteries and warm the cockpit. The slew of movies began, first with Cinderella since the bright colors were enough to overpower the glare on the tv screen from the light still making it’s way through windows and hatches. When one movie ended another began and we remained mostly immobile except for a few glaces outside the hatch to make sure we were not swinging too close to shore. One interesting thing was that the water in the creek had already started to rise enough that some of the docks around us were almost all the way submerged. We didn’t think it could be the tide and the rain wasn’t hard enough to raise the water level by that much so we wondered if it was the storm surge that was predicted for the area. Letting out more chain just to be safe we continued to read and watch movies, thankful there were still leftovers from the night before so the task of cooking a meal would not be necessary. We had lost internet that afternoon though which meant we were about to go into the worst part of the storm without being able to check updated weather reports or notify family that there still wasn’t much happening and they could ease their worrying. But now the last messages they’ll have had of us until we can get internet again is intoxicated Facebook posts of how great our party was. I was sure both our mothers would be having heart attacks by Monday night without getting any more updates on us.


Anticipation was a little higher when we woke up Monday since we knew the storm was supposed to make landfall that afternoon and didn’t have access to weather reports to see what wind was building to or what part of the East Coast it would land on. We were still anticipating fifty to sixty knot winds in the area but didn’t know how accurate that was or when it would happen. We tried keeping our VHF on for updates or in case Rode Trip needed to contact us, but every fifteen minutes it would emit a long and loud beep and automatically put on a weather report that stated gale force winds would be there within twelve hours and there was flooding in the area.. Nothing that really helped us out. Having to jump up and hit the ‘ok’ button each time it did this we got sick of it eventually and turned it off. Going through almost the same routine as we did the day before the engine went on as did the movies. Movies turned into reading and reading turned into napping. Since we were instilling an anchor watch that night while the worst of the storm would be hitting us I updated our monthly spending while Matt slept. Besides a few gusts up to thirty knots we were holding at a steady fifteen, waiting for the worst to come. As of dinner time nothing had changed. I had assumed by that time the winds would be consistantly strong and whipping us all over the place making it hard to cook a meal, but I was able to go about as if nothing was happening outside and it was just a normal night at anchor. After eating and cleaning it was my turn to sleep while Matt kept an eye on things. Even though we had planned our our usual off shore three hour shifts I was woken up seven hours later (only about four of them were actually slept). Keeping myself bundled under the one blanket that was left out in the cabin I put on a few movies, trying to keep myself awake and give Matt the seven hours of sleep he had given me.


After the second movie the sky was starting to get light and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Popping my head into the v-berth I grabbed out the sleeping bag and unrolled it onto the settee. Quickly sticking my head out of the hatch I looked around and saw that we were not in danger of hitting anything. Getting myself warm under all the blankets the next thing I remember was Matt calling my name three hours later. Promising that I had been ‘keeping my ears open’ the whole time I layed there for another hour before forcing myself out of the warm blankets and into the coldness of the cabin. Matt went above to turn the engine on, now a daily habbitt to keep the batteries charged and get a little heat. He stayed up there putting the boat back in working condition while I forced myself to get the cabin tidy again, something we somehow couldn’t find the time for while stuck in it for three days. When being asked if I wanted to visit Brian and Stephanie who were also putting their boat back together I piled on my foulies and realized I had not even stepped out of the cabin in sixty-five hours. There was still a light rain outside but it was so cold that it felt like it could turn into snow at any minute. After spending less than five minutes on the deck of Rode Trip we were invited below to where constant heat was running.

All of us agreed that we should head out the next day and start making our way south as fast as possible.  Days and nights were getting too cold to stick around this area any longer.  While planning out our next few stops our foodie friends decided that we should have something nice and warm to drink to heat ourselves up.  Stephanie told us about a Thai tea she makes which is a combination of orange tea that is cooled and then condensed milk is added to sweeten it.  Brian thought it would be a perfect time to throw the buttery biscuits he had been making into the oven.  Soon we were celebrating tea time at actual tea time (four o’clock, right?) with sweet tea and biscuits covered in honey or homemade jam.  I love coming over to Rode Trip because we’re always treated with something awesome to eat.  Soon the afternoon started getting late and the two of us had to go back to Serendipity to get the headsail back up and finish the last few touches before leaving in the morning.  It’s finally time to leave our hurricane hole, and even though the storm had absolutely no excitement to it I think we’ll all be happy if it’s the only one we ever have to live through.

I’m in a hurricane!!



Hurricane Holing

Friday October 26, 2012

We interrupt the next scheduled post to bring you preparations on Hurricane Sandy.

 This morning we had to leave our sweet little spot in Jackson Creek to find a hurricane hole to settle in to for the next few days. Already having gone over it countless times with Rode Trip the guys had found ‘the perfect secluded spot’ that we hoped no one else would know about although I was never shown the map on the touchpad and had no idea the name of the location we were headed to except for it was off the Piankatank River. Making a quick stop at the marina we filled our disel and topped off the water tanks which were getting low enough to worry us should we be stuck for longer than expected. After we had upped anchor to get to the marina another boat had just come in the channel and into the creek. Passing us by they asked if we were on the way to the marina to be pulled out or if we were on the move. We quickly replied as they passed by that we were on the move and the answered they were in line to pull out and wished us a safe journey. Then speaking to a few fellow boaters at the docks while self serving the fuel Matt got into a conversation with the other boats around and all of them were being pulled out as well. So far it seemed we were the only souls brave enough to stay in the water. This of course to Matt meant that we surely were crazy and everyone else must know something if everyone else was being pulled out. We knew our insurance we cover a good portion of it and we shortly debated if we should follow the pack. Going to the office to pay for the fuel I made some small talk with the clerk on the situation since he looked like he had been around long enough to see a few of these roll in before. Knowing their schedule was jam packed already I asked if he thought it was wise for us to pull out at any of the marinas in the area, trying not to have his decision made by if they had time to squeeze in one more boat, and he asked where we were planning to go. “Up a river, up a Creek” was all I could tell him since that’s all I really knew, “Hopefully someplace no one else knows about and it won’t be crowded”. I didn’t even give him a remote location and he replied with “The locals know. There isn’t a hurricane hole around here they don’t know about. And we’re telling anyone who asks to go to Wilton Creek, about a mile up the river here. You’ll be fine though.” Hmmm, his broadcasted location sounded eerily similar to what the guys described to me and if there was one thing I didn’t want it was a hurricane hole full of other boats.

Pushing ourselves out of the slip we saw Rode Trip lifting their anchor and we all made our way back out the narrow and winding channel and toward Fishing Bay where we’d enter the Piankatank. Even though yesterday was sunny and warm and beautiful the temperature had taken a big plummet and the wind whipped through cloudy skies. As soon as we were in open water again the wind jumped up to twenty-five knots and the bay became choppy. A light fog rolled off the tree tops and chilled the air even more than it already was. Although I knew better it looked as if the hurricane was only a day behind us and all of a sudden didn’t feel so silly or over prepared for staking our location three days before the storm was predicted to come. Making our way further up the river the protection of trees on each side calmed the wind down five to ten knots but it was still blustery and cold. Just using Rode Trip as our leader since I was still in the dark of where we were actually going I scanned ahead on the chartplotter to survey each creek coming up. Most of them appeared to be pretty shallow, about five to six feet even at the entrance, so I assumed they were not the ones we’d be staying in. As we passed the last bend in the river before a low clearance bridge we would not be able to go under there was only one creek left on the map. It was long and started out deep going down to five feet near it’s head. I scrolled further in on the chart. Name: Wilton Creek. Now knowing for sure that this is where the marina was trying to send everyone and their mother I just hoped we had gotten there early enough to find a spot far up the river so if anyone else came in the creek they’d have to be behind us. After Kim & Scott’s stories the night before my worst fear was some unbenounced cruiser who’s anchor was dragging and they came careening right at us with not much we could do to stop them. Rounding the corner into the creek we saw no one. Moving further up the creek we began to see boats on docks but so far no one was anchored in the middle. Going up to the point where the charts showed a six foot depth our sounder was still showing nine feet and we figured we’d keep going until it showed seven.

Spacing ourselves widely apart, Rode Trip dropped their anchor just north of us and we dropped close to an inlet in the creek we thought would give us better wind protection. After backing down on the chain at a six to one scope though we realized that we were alarmingly close to shore and when more chain needed to be let out for higher winds there was a good chance we might swing in to shore. We though about moving to a few different locations but because of a dock on one side and and piece of land jutting out on the other we couldn’t see a good spot that would give us 360 degrees of swing with 100 feet of chain out and not bash into something somewhere. To get a little perspective we dropped the dinghy and went to visit Rode Trip to see how their spot was and also check some weather forecast since they usually have internet on their touchpad. Sitting on their deck and assessing the situation we found we were much further from them than we had originally thought and if we came a little closer there may be a spot in the middle of the creek that gave us the swing room we needed. Working the windlass the anchor came up covered in a thick heavy mud that seemed to have suctioned it down. Even though it smelled like crap I was happy to see the creek should be giving us good holding. Making sure to mark on the charplotter where we dropped anchor this time we backed down once more but still weren’t sure of our decision, based on the predicted wind directions for the next few days and where we may swing. Now we seemed too close for comfort to the jutting land but as I mentioned to Matt, we still had a few days before the storm to get a better prediction of winds and could still change location if necessary.

With that taken care of for the moment we started hurricane preparations with the assumption we could get up to sixty mile per hour winds in hour hole. The first thing to go was the headsail which we rolled up and stored below. Then jerrycans were moved from the deck into the cockpit. All lines were tightened and wrapped. The dodger and bimini would be coming down as well but we wanted to leave them up for another day just to get their protection as long as we could. In just over an hour we had done everything we felt we could do that day and moved on to other projects like sanding the toe rails at the foredeck. While Matt sanded and I sat reading we had a visitor stop by, someone who lived in one of the houses on the creek who was out kayaking and came by to talk to us about the storm. He eased our fears when he said that usually not more than ten boats would ever be in the creek and not more than two or three ever came up as far as we were. That helped out tremendously as we were worried that there was too much space between us and Rode Trip and that some eager last minute sailor would try and squeeze in. As we talked to the guy a little longer he showed us where his house and dock were and said we’d be more than welcome to tie our dinghy up there if we wanted to get out and stretch our legs and if we needed a ride into town to the grocery store, ect., he’d be more than happy to take us. Then we found out he also had a Sabre 34 and the two guys went on about hull designs and specs while I smiled and nodded.

In the late afternoon Rode trip came over for quick use of our internet and we all went over weather reports and what’s predicted in the area. It sounds like the rain will start tomorrow, wind will begin to pick up on Sunday, and the storm will hit or come close to us on Monday. We looked at grib files for the next few days and also checked out information on NOAA about storm surges in our area for past storms. I think if it’s four feet or less we’ll be fine. All that was left to do was plan a time to get together and drink hurricanes (a combination of rums and fruity mixers) that Stephanie had stocked up on in town. We decided that Saturday would probably be the latest any of us would feel safe leaving our boats unattended and made plans to get together the next night. Stephanie and I like to joke though that we’ll end up doing a girl boat and a boy boat so us girls can hang out and play games while the guys talk boats and weather. I’m not sure if either of the guys feel good about leaving us alone on a boat during a storm. I think I’d have to second that motion.

Nice thick mud to drop our anchor in.

Gallery Place

Saturday October 13, 2012

Even though our friends on Rode Trip can’t make a port without running into some kind of family or friend, this was the first time that we were going to see a familiar face of our own. My cousin has been living in the D.C. Area for quite awhile and we couldn’t pass through without giving her a call to meet up. Letting her be the guide of the city we put ourselves in her hands to pick a location to meet for lunch. While getting some quick directions over the phone she had us going to what was called Gallery Place and told us to meet her under the ornate arch by the Metro. The next morning when we looked at our map provided by the yacht club (a very handy tool we used incessantly) we saw that Gallery Place was Chinatown. We always seem to miss going to Chinatown in any big city we visit, so we were quite excited that she chose a place we probably wouldn’t have thought to go on our own. With the Metro being just a half mile from the yacht club we decided to skip it and make our way on foot as it was just over a mile and we love the slow pace and getting to see more of the city. Once we got past the mall the streets became urban and slightly reminded us of New York City, which is always a good thing in my book. We could tell we were getting into Chinatown when all the signs for stores and restaurants were marked in both Engligh and Chinese. The only issue was I had forgotten the street corner we were supposed to meet at and then we were off on a search to find an ornate golden arch. After doing a circle of a city block we found it and waited just a little bit for my cousin to arrive as there was construction on the Metro that delayed her.

 When we all met up and she asked if we were in the mood for Chinese food, which we definitely were over the Fudruckers and Subway also on the block.  She mentioned a place she had been to many times with my Aunt and Uncle while they were in town and walked us down the street toward it.  Walking up the stairs into the restaurant we were greeted with tanks of lobsters and crabs, so large they put our catches to shame and just after I felt proud of them at the fish market.  The menu was pages and pages long and it took us a long time between reading and catching up before any of us were ready to order.  The food was brought out sporadically with my lemon chicken coming out what felt like ten minutes before the other plates of beef and broccoli or general tso chicken.  For the next hour we caught up with my cousin on what she had been up to since the last time we had seen her and also what was going on with the family in general.  She was at a wedding for another cousin of mine just a few weeks after we left and it was nice to trade stories from that time and when we had last seen everyone.

When lunch was over it was later in the afternoon and we didn’t think we’d have time to still make it to a museum since they all close at 5:30 and went to bring our leftovers back to the boat. Feeling bad that it was still somewhat early and we hadn’t done much we started looking through links of things to do in town. There were a lot of interesting things listed but most of them needed a full day dedicated to them or at least an earlier start. When we got to information on the Kennedy Center it gave information on a section that put on free concerts every night, usually just a single artist playing up on stage. Looking to see who was playing that night it was a Bluegrass artist that we had never heard of but we thought it would give us a chance to get off the boat and see some more of the town. Assuming it would be an outdoor concert at an amphitheater, usually where concerts are held, we packed our backpack with a large blanket and some hats and gloves. The nights were getting cold and I almost froze on the way back from the grocery store last night after the sun went down. Giving ourselves an hour to walk the mile and a half we left the yacht club with our noses buried in the map.  Having walked down the mall up to the Washington Memorial a few times now we took some side roads to skip that part but did cut in for the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial.  Back when I was in middle school I had come here on spring break with my family and we got up extremely early on Easter Sunday to go to a church service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and watch the sun rise over the reflecting pool.  This was Matt’s first time in DC but the sunset we saw was just as beautiful as the sunrise I remember and I’m glad we got to share in the beauty together.

With time running out and only twenty minutes now to make the start of the concert we cut across a few more side streets in search of the Kennedy Center.  Now we were going back and forth from the paper map in our hands and the map on Matt’s cell phone that pinpointed our location.  As we had the center in our sights we turned down one more road that we thought would lead us right there but only brought us to an expressway entrance.  Becoming a little bit more daring on the roads in our adventures I wasn’t adverse to running across the expressway, but on the other side it appeared as if there were only a tall cement wall with the center sitting on top and no good way to get up it.  Just as we realized we’d have to turn around, now with five minutes left on the clock, a flashy BMW pulled up next to us and asked if we knew how to get to the Kennedy Center.  The man was in a suit and his wife in a cocktail dress with pearls and we started to wonder if they were going to the same event as us.  Were we severely underdressed for this bluegrass concert?  Letting them know we were also in search and also lost they turned back up the road they had come down.  Trying to look for the quickest way possible to the next street over we cut through a covered parking lot and saw a bridge leading across the expressway.

We knew we were on the right track now and hurried as fast as we could.  The Kennedy Center is a very pretty building, but as we were coming up on it we noticed that there did not seem to be any outdoor concert space.  We also noticed as we came up to it that we were the only ones in jeans.  All the men were in nice slacks and all the women in dresses.  This was not looking good for us.  Walking in the door we wondered what would happen to the backpack and thought it might be searched or even held.  No one said a word as we slipped inside and tried to find out where to go.  What we did find out is there are many halls and stages in there and there happened to be three events going on that night.  An opera, a play, and the bluegrass concert we came to see.  After being pointed in the right direction by staff we walked to the back of the building to find the concert had already started all all the seats were full.  Standing in the back we listened to a few songs.  As we listened more and more people came in and pushed their way through in front of us so we could no longer see except for the screen broadcasting above the stage.  Once it got to the point we were squeezed in like sardines we realized it wasn’t worth it and walked out the door.

Heading back to the boat we did stumble upon another concert at a stage just next to the Washington Memorial.  It looked as if it started as a tribute to Indian music but by the time we got there an American cover band had just gotten on stage so we stayed to listen to a few of their songs.  I’m guessing the Indians were not to fond of Country music because after two songs almost the whole crowd had cleared out.  We stayed for a few more but soon the country became too country (a genre we never listen to) and the night became too cold.  Back at the boat we tried to warm up as best as possible, lighting a candle to throw out some heat, but it didn’t do much to raise the fifty-six degree temperature in the cabin.  All I know is that Rode Trip is getting in shortly and I think their heated boat might have a few overnight guests.

On The Mall

Friday October 12, 2012

We checked ourselves into Capital Yacht Club this morning and for only $16 a day are allowed to use all their facilities including dinghy dock, showers, laundry, and clubhouse.  There’s another marina next door which offers basically the same thing for just a few dollars less, but they didn’t have something we wanted.  Our friends on Anthyllide told us that here you could have all the fountain pop you wanted in the clubhouse.  I’m sure you’re aware by now that Matt is addicted to Coca-Cola and we even have syrup and a homemade soda machine trying to duplicate it although it never comes out quite right.  Loading all our shower gear into the dinghy we tied off and got ourselves checked in and headed straight to the showers.  I feel bad for the family that got in just a few minutes after me because even though there were two other showers I was in mine for a good twenty minutes.  It had been a month since my last one and I was not going to go quickly or quietly.  After we were all clean we walked out to see Andy and John were checking in as well, they had gotten in an hour after us the previous night.  They told us we had to check out the fish market next door and after dropping our shower supplies in the dinghy we walked over to check it out.

The market was huge and probably sold everything you could think of.  They had lobsters and Chesapeake crabs, surprisingly the same size we had caught ourselves.  There were oysters, octopus, and so many fish of which I’m not even sure what they were.  None of us bought anything at the moment but it was fun to wander around and check out the variety they had to offer.  Making our way back to Serendipity we quickly got ready and went back out to see the town.  We didn’t have any museum plans, but just wanted to walk around and see what was there.  We climbed a big hill right across from the yacht club, then through L’Enfant Plaza and were at the Smithsonian Castle.  It was probably less than a mile for us to get there.  We walked through the gardens around it and then across the street to the mall.  To our right we could see the Capital Building and to our left was the Washington Monument.  Through the afternoon we walked to the Capital Building, back around to the Washington Monument and even over to the White House.  By the end of the day we felt like we had seen almost every big sight in D.C. and were completely exhausted.  I can’t even describe how picturesque and pretty the area was, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Thursday October 11, 2012

Assuming we had a full days travel ahead of us today we didn’t pinpoint where we had anchored along the river except that it was right near green buoy 61. Curiostiy got the best of me when we had to make a sharp left bend in the river and I pulled out the map on our Waterway guide to get a rough estimate. That’s all I was left with and we continued motoring on in the calm wind.As we went around the bend and out of the wooded area to where very large houses were lining the water we would point to each other as they kept growing larger and larger. One very large mansion stood out on the top of a hill and this was the point where we decided to zoom out on the chartplotter and find out exactly what area of money we had just wandered in to. “I think that was Mount Vernon”, Matt said as we left the large mansion in our distance. Checking the charts we found out that we had in fact just passed Mount Vernon and were surprisingly close to D.C. As we passed the home to the first president I remembered something I read in my guide, According to a custom that dates back to the night of Washington’s death on December 14, 1799, mariners passing by Mount Vernon on the Potomac River toll the ships bell in his honor. The guide said to do that, and if you were visiting, double back and follow the marked channel to the pier. Not wanting to pass up such a long running tradition I ran below and dug out our ships bell from the box and plastic it was wraped in and brought it up on deck to toll it.  Participating in that tradition we decided that we would actually like to tour it as well since it was so early in the day and we didn’t have plans to check into the yacht club until the next day, so we doubled back to the marked channel. The guide mentions that if you tie up at the dock you must pay admission to the estate but it sounded like with anchoring you could avoid it.

 Dropping anchor all the way back next to the main channel since the water was only 3-4 feet deep for a few hundred feet from shore we lowered the dinghy and rode it into the beach that was reserved for visitors not using the docks. Water here was so shallow that the motor bottomed out fifty feet from shore and yours truly was volunteered to take off her shoes and warm fuzzy socks to jump in the water and drag us the rest of the way in. Fortunately (for me) the dinghy was too heavy for one person to pull and Matt was soon in the water with me. Ha ha ha. It took a lot of effort from both of us to get through the shallow water and sand that was enveloping our feet to get the dinghy on dry land. We landed it probably on the opposite side of the beach we were supposed to since it didn’t look very dinghy friendly, but we locked it up to a pole and hopped the stone wall into the estate.

We entered in what was the farming grounds and were immediately greeted by fenced in sheep and crops. Walking up the dirt road we saw Washington’s invention of the treading barn and slave quarters which would house a family of ten in about 400 sq ft. Leaving behind the fields we walked up a path to Washington’s tomb and then up to the house itself. I had really wanted to take a tour of the inside of the house but we had assumed it would cost extra and were going to skip it. While standing out in the courtyard admiring the beauty of the house and a guide who must have assumed we were with the large group of school children visiting told us that the next tour was about to start and we should wait over by the door to one of the smaller buildings and they would start us shortly. We were the first ones in the line of this group and after a few minutes there were about twelve kids and three of their chaperones that joined us.  As we started the tour the two of us would walk all the way through the room almost to the next door to allow everyone else in as well.  The gentleman guiding this part ushered the children up next to us and told them to bunch up right next to their chaperones while gesturing at us.  Does this mean we get to yell at them if they get too loud?

Going from the first room out through a walkway to the main house we were told that no photography was allowed inside the main house and were then brought into the formal dining room to start.  It had a beautiful green color with intricate trim and painting that were original to the house.  Part of me was so tempted to slyly pull out my camera and sneak a few photos but I was sure one of the children would see and I probably would have been tattled on.  Being led through different parts of the home with a different guide for each we saw the original main part of the home that George Washington’s father built including the original dining space, a bedroom, parlor, and all the additions President Washington added including multiple bedrooms.  We saw (although did not get to enter) President Washington’s bedroom including the bed he died in, and his study which housed the same office chair he used over 200 years ago.  After being told that fun fact we noticed the legs had wheels on them and wondered if they were added years later or if that fun fact was not so factual.  While being led from one area of the house to another we waited on the back porch which overlooked the Potomac.  It was such an amazing sight.  Sitting perched on top of a giant hill while looking at the sparkling water below, knowing that our first president and his family spent lazy summer afternoons enjoying this exact same sight.  They weren’t lucky enough to see Serendipity anchored out, but I’m sure it was just as pretty for them.

Thinking we still had a good five hours of traveling before making it to our anchorage that night we strolled the grounds back to our boat and found that it was low tide and we’d have to drag the dinghy through a lot of mud before it was going to even hit water.  There was a lot of grunting and pulling while other visitors on shore watched, probably wondering who these crazy people were.  Once we finally pushed it into water and had the engine started we got it on plane as soon as possible, quickly feeling better about ourselves.  While Matt went down for another nap (is he pregnant?) I Googled Mount Vernon and found there was not actually a separate charge for viewing the mansion, it’s included in the $15 admission fee that we skipped by sneaking in through the water.  It only took us three hours to get from Mount Vernon to our anchorage in front of Capital Yacht Club in Washington DC.  Exhausted from the day I passed out as soon as the anchor was set.  I have a feeling there’s a long day of sightseeing ahead of me tomorrow and I’m going to need all the energy I can get.

Downgrading from foul weather to fall weather gear.

Highway To The Middle Danger Zone

Wednesday October 10, 2012

We should be safe from gunfire here!

Dragging ourselves out of bed for another cold gray day down the Potomac we motored out of Smith Creek and through the shoals to the other side of the river.  While keeping an eye on the charts to wait until we were in deep enough water to turn and keep a course, then being able to set the sails, I saw something coming up on us on the AIS.  I’m so used to large bodies of water where anything that pops up on there is some kind of tug/container ship I started looking down the river for something mammoth coming our way.  I could see a powerboat off in the distance but that was it.  Keeping my eye on it as it got closer I checked the AIS data to see if they were one in the same.  Yup.  131 foot pleasure cruiser passing us at 25 knots.  And so it begins, the land of politicians and their money.

Since we were up late last night with internet access and we didn’t get our normal ten hours Matt was quick to go below and get in a nap while I motorsailed with just the main up.  There was a time where I had to point directly into the wind for ten to fifteen minutes before getting around a large shoal and changing course once again and I was sure that Matt was going to hear the flapping sails and come up to see why I wasn’t doing anything about it.  There have been so many times on overnight trips where I think he’s asleep and all of a sudden I’ll hear a yell from down below, “Pull in the main!!”  when the wind is shifting and I want to wait for it to settle before trimming any sheets.  Luckily this time it just sounded like light rain hitting the deck and I was left in silence.  As soon as it was my turn to nap my comfortable flat bed was turned on it’s side as he decided he had enough motorsailing and wanted to unfurl the genoa.  Each tack sent me rolling from side to side and finally the wind either died enough or shifted so that the motor went back on and I could get some peaceful sleep.

While back on deck reading after my nap I kept looking back and realizing that we have been the only northbound boat on the river.  This was a little surprising since we knew of at least four other boats that were leaving Annapolis the same day as us to also make their way to D.C. and no one had passed us yet.  But not only them, we assumed that this would be the next logical place to go after the boat show while waiting for hurricane season to end and be able to pass Norfolk after November 1st.  We know we’re probably one of the slower boats out there and even when we’re motoring we keep it around 2000 RPMs to save on fuel, so that left us wondering, does everyone else know something that we don’t?  Is there a good reason to stay away from D.C. right now?  Is there a shortcut from Annapolis that we’re not in on?  By the time we were looking for an anchorage that night the only other boat we saw going our direction was the 160 footer from earlier.

When we were leaving the anchorage this morning I was looking at the charts a little closer and saw there was a large print in the center that said Middle Danger Zone.  Danger Zone?  What does that mean?  Not having had any issues the day before I assumed it had something to do with the shoals in the center of the river.  Once we were out of the way from dodging crab pots and back into the marked channel I put Matt in charge of the wheel while I went below to make banana bread.  As soon it was in the oven he was promptly in bed again.  Sitting in silence in the cockpit I was reading a book when I kept hearing a call on VHF for a southbound sailing vessel to respond.  Once they did I thought I heard someone identify themselves as Army or Navy and asked the sailing vessel to switch to channel 22.  Intrigued about the conversation I followed to 22 only to come into the conversation a few moments late and heard “…coming in hot, we’re going to need you out of the way” and then instructed the person to get to a certain buoy and wait.  Apparently the Danger Zone is dangerous for a reason.

Luckily the sun was out and before I went down below to enjoy my personal (nap) time we thought it might be wise to take showers while the engine was running and water was somewhat hot.  Now well knowing we were in some kind of military zone and very aware that helicopters were zooming over our heads every few minutes and probably had pretty good sights on what we were doing,  I was sick of the swimsuit showers I had to take in Weems Creek and fully stripped down.  I wanted to get clean.  At least if those guys in the helicopter were watching they were going to get a good show.  From both of us.  A few hours later I was taken away from reading in my sung bunk as the sun was getting low enough that we needed to start looking for an anchorage and found a spot that we thought would shelter us best from the ten knot predicted winds in the forecast.  We dropped anchor in calm conditions and watched a beautiful sunset before going below to relax.  Just after we finished dinner the wind started picking up and the waves were as well.  Poking our heads outside we found the wind was coming directly the opposite direction that it had been predicted and was now putting us on a lee shore.  Turning on the instruments we watched the wind climb over 30 knots and let out a little more chain.  It’s a good thing we both got in our naps earlier because I have a feeling we’ll be sleeping really light tonight, waiting for our anchor to drag unless these winds calm down as predicted.

The Early Bird Catches The Current

Monday October 8, 2012

Have I mentioned before how we have an alarm setting that sounds like harps and is supposed to be a soft and refreshing way to wake up?  You know when it’s not refreshing?  Is at four o’clock in the morning.  Yesterday afternoon while I was busy baking away for Thanksgiving dinner, Matt was checking charts and tides and currents.  Around five o’clock in the afternoon he looked at me and said, “Well, if we want to catch the current on the way out we’d either have to leave right now or at four in the morning”.  We knew we couldn’t leave right then with our impending dinner plans.  “You want to leave at four in the morning?” he inquired, probably sure I’d shoot him down right away and tell him that I’d rather move at a snails pace than drag my ass out of bed that early.  “Oooookay”,  I replied, knowing that as soon as we were into the bay he’d probably be back in bed and I’d be in the dark and cold by myself.  Excusing ourselves from dinner earlier than normal last night we got a lot of cracks from Andy and John, who were used to us not getting up until ten.  “I don’t believe it”, they declared, “I want you to honk your horn at us when you go by to prove you’re oot and aboot that early”.  So when the harps started plucking at four a.m. I was ready to throw the phone across the room and go back to bed, but we had to show those Canadians we meant business.  Dressing in full foul weather gear since it was in the low 50’s we upped our anchor along with the two weeks worth of mud on it and left behind all the anchor lights shining like starts in Weems Creek.

I knew I didn’t like navigating in narrow areas for a reason and today I could prove myself right.  Only 1/3rd of the buoys in Severn River were lit and while our chartplotter would show us an approximation of where the others were the little boat that represents you on the chart is never 100%  ( I think we can fix that with some tinkering) and there were a few times I was afraid I was going to run over buoys because we couldn’t physically see them until we were right on top of them.  As soon as we were out of the creek we passed within 50 feet of a green marker nailed on to wooden posts and could have caused some real damage to the boat had we gotten much closer.  After that I put Matt on lookout until the foredeck until we were into the Chesapeake and any markers were lit.  After working our way around a few large cargo ships anchored for the night we set our sails and were headed South.  Next destination is Washington D.C.

Surprised that Matt gave me the option for the first nap I quickly ran below and jumped in the bunk before he reconsidered.  I got another good three hours of sleep in before getting up a second time at 8:30 and going back on deck where the sun was hiding behind dark clouds.  Matt replaced my spot in the bunk and I stayed on watch navigating around tugs and keeping an eye out for dolphins.  Something that everyone has seen up to this point but us.  We’ve even starting taking tips from people who are traveling faster than us or live in the area of where to look out for them and still have not seen a single one yet.  That and bald eagles.  Two hours into Matt’s nap and I hadn’t seen any kind of wildlife yet, I pulled out our Waterway Guide to judge how far we had gone and how far until our planned destination that night.  Since by our estimates it was around 70 miles from the entrance of the Chesapeake from Severn River to the entrance of the Potomac River we thought we might be pushing it at 40-50 miles that day and were planning to stay at Solomons at the entrance to the Patuxent River.  Two things we didn’t consider with this plan but were working in our favor:  That by leaving with the current we were able to stay between 5-6 knots, and that by leaving at four-thirty we’d be traveling for 12-13 hours instead of 8.  When Matt came above deck again around one o’clock we were just passing Solomons and the Potomac was well within our reach for that day.

One thing with entering the Potomac though is we’ve heard currents are terrible in that area and you have to time them just right or you’re only making 1 knot of headway.  We had not been planning on this at all  and searching for current stations on our chartplotter went to see how bad it would be in that area.  Bringing up the station positioned just in the entrance I looked at the chart to see that we’d only be fighting about a half knot.  That wasn’t bad.  And since by the time we got there it would be time to tuck in for the night we wouldn’t even be going very far in there.  The time spent to get there from that point was just long enough that we were already going stir crazy.  Even though the winds were dying down, which was also knocking down our speed, it was cold and uncomfortable in the cockpit.  The waves were just large enough to keep me from being able to read or write without getting that car sick feeling and we just sat in the cockpit and willed ourselves to go faster.  We really have gotten spoiled compared to the Great Lakes I’ve noticed.  Back then if we could get enough wind in our sails to go over four knots we considered it a good day and thought ourselves to be making good time.  Now anytime our speed shows under 5.5 we groan and complain, wondering where all of our speed has gone.

By the time we were rounding Point Lookout we could see what appeared to be definite rain in the distance and waited for it to come our way.  The wind kept shifting back and forth and we’d go through periods between just a few minutes of full and perfectly trimmed sails to dead into the wind.  Part of it was due to rounding the Point, and once we could put ourselves on a straight course again we were on a strong beam reach and shooting into the river like a rocket.  That’s also exactly the time we could see the white haze across the river growing closer and closer until soon it was on us in a downpour.  Matt stayed in the companionway to keep watch and sent me below where our bus heater was running on full speed since we had thrown on the engine to motorsail once the winds began to die down.  We had a good five or ten minutes on our course until the wind shifted once again to our nose and stayed there.  Being in irons less than five miles from our new destination for the night of Smith Creek we took the sails down and motored the rest of the way in.  Making a quick stop at the marina to fill our tank and jerrycans with diesel we found out the marina had wifi that was not password protected and after a little prodding I convinced Matt to drop hook right in front.

I think he’s plotting to throw me over.

Maybe if I just stand really still he won’t see me.

Something’s Cooking Between The Sheets

Sunday October 7, 2012

Yesterday it was sunny and warm with a high near 80.  I wore a t-shirt dress to the boat show and was perfectly comfortable.  Things started to cool down a little over night and when we woke up this morning it was in the low 50’s.  And that’s the forecasted high for the full day.  It was hours before we rolled out of bed, sometime after 10:30.  When we finally did manage to drag ourselves into the cold cabin there were many breaks to dive under blankets between doing chores like washing dishes, and there were a lot since I made bread from scratch for the first time last night.  When Matt had crawled back in bed to spend some time with his e-reader I was shortly behind him and not long after that we were asleep again.

Forcing myself to get out of bed for the second time at 3:30 I knew I had to get a move on with my baking since dinner started at 6.  The two items I chose to make were corn bread and pumpkin pie.  I have never attempted either of these before.  Normally the issue with the pizza crust and cookies wouldn’t have me very confident but while cooking the bread last night we found out that I had the rack all the way at the bottom and too much heat had been applied while cooking.  We moved it up a few rows for the bread which ended up coming out really well for my first attempt and now I was 80% sure the corn bread and pie would come out a success as well.  First to be made was the pumpkin pie which I did cheat a little bit with and bought a pre-made crust if only for the fact that we didn’t have a pie tin.  All the ingredients mixed together really well and soon it was in the oven to cook.  When that came out and smelling absolutely delicious it was replaced by the cornbread in a muffin pan.  Just as the second batch was coming out the clock was striking six and we were hurrying to get next door.

Long underwear had been put on again as no matter how cold it seemed to get each time we’d go over there, Andy and John were content to sit in the cockpit.  I was surprised when they led us down to the cockpit right way.  Going through the tradition of having a large glass of wine set in front of me by John, Andy pulled the turkey out of the oven.  He had gone to the butcher a few days before and had them cut an 8 pounder in half which just fit into his oven.  It was wrapped in bacon, drenched in maple syrup, and looked and smelled so good.  While we munched on the maple soaked bacon Andy mashed up some potatoes and it was time to eat.  I’ve never had a bad meal while over here and this was no exception.  I actually thought my corn bread muffins (which ended up a little on the dry side) brought down the meal a little when compared to the turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy,  asparagus, and salad. When we were done eating there was a huge mess of dishes in the sink for Andy to clean but he tackled them like a pro while the rest of us lounged around the dinner table.  After our stomachs had the chance to settle the pumpkin pie was brought in from the cockpit where it had been set to cool.  Andy cut it into slices and paired it on a plate with a scoop of mango ice cream.  At first I was wary of the combination and planned on keeping the two completely separate on my plate but it turns out they actually go very well together.  Plus the pie came out so well that I think I’ll be baking another one just for the two of us sometime.

It’s been so nice being included by Between the Sheets for the roasts they’ve done so far and even nicer for them to include us in their Thanksgiving.  I think they’ve come to think of us as honorary Canadians.  Since we do come from a state with multiple access points to Canada and after spending too much time with them we start saying “Eh?” and something halfway between boat and boot.  The temperatures had dropped just right to fall temperatures and we had all of the same entrees and sides as we normally would back home that it was almost like we were celebrating American Thanksgiving.  Which the only thing we’ll probably do when we get to it is have a deli sliced turkey sandwich.  So thank you very much Andy and John for giving a little piece of home to us.

I know, I know.  More photos of food.

But it was soooo good!

John gives this Thanksgiving a thumbs up (and a tongue out)

Boats ‘N Shows

Friday October 5, 2012

I keep getting my geography mixed up from where I’m currently at and what used to be home.  Right now back in Michigan it’s dipping down to the 60’s and even 50’s which is normal for early October, but we’ve been having pretty warm weather here in Annapolis and today is forecast for low 80’s.  Have I just not realized how far South we’ve gone or am I just mistaking one week of great weather?  We walked over to the Naval Stadium where a shuttle was taking people down to the show and when we arrived there was already a line to get in.  I wondered why Matt felt the need for us to get there thirty minutes before opening, but he had a specific boat he wanted to get on and heard the lines get long incredibly early.  So as soon as the cannon went off (literally) we ran through the opening and back to the docks where the Gunboat s/v Sugar Daddy was sitting.  There must have been early admittance for some people because we were already in a line when we got there.  It only took a few minutes before we were allowed to board though and walked through admiring the large catamaran.  It was light and airy and something I would really enjoy living on except that something of this size needs a crew to help operate everything.  Kind of defeats taking off into the sunset alone.

When Matt was done drooling we toured a few other boats including a Shannon 57 and a prototype from an Italian designer who had an impressive lineage of auto designers in his family back in Europe.  Touring a few more boats we made the mistake of stopping at one of the vendors, Henri Lloyd, so Matt could pick up a few shirts on special.  Then I had to bring the large bag on board with us rather than leave it out by the lines to possibly be stolen as and soon as he stopped at one more vendor I told him that the bag would not be making it on any more boats.  So we spent the rest of our first of two days at the show visiting all the vendors and spending way too much money on things that were unfortunately necessary for the boat.  There was a highlight though when we met up with one of our blog followers, Phil, who lives in the area.  Over a refreshing beer we talked about the fun parts as well as the pain in the ass parts of our trip and listened as Phil told us stories of his sails on the Chesapeake and plans to make it South himself next year.  I love meeting people who’ve been following us along the way and it’s great to hear when they also have plans to leave.  The sailing community is such a great one.

The galley inside the Gunboat, Sugar Daddy.  Yes please!

The aft cabin in the Shannon 57.  To be able to let my feet dangle off a bed again….

Since I can’t afford a framed map like this in our boat I’ll have to settle for a photo of it.

On to the rest of our evening.  It was still fairly early when we got back and, surprise surprise, the guys still wanted to do more crabbing.  This is after Brian caught two more earlier today bringing the current total to fourteen. I stayed back at the boat to do a few important things like brew my first coffee in days and tidy up a little bit.  When they came back an hour later to pick me up they had two more crabs in the bucket.  Now time to head back to Rode Trip to cook them up.  Throwing a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and our game of Bananagrams into a bag we rode back over to the Westsail.  Having put the crab trap in the water over there as well they pulled that up to find another crab in it and also pulled up the chicken bone on a string to find one chomping on that as well.  Eighteen crabs for the four of us!!

Never having cooked any kind of shellfish before we left it up to Brian who seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Half of the crabs would go into a large pot with a can of beer and some Old Bay Seasoning and be steamed alive.  I thought I would freak out about watching something be cooked alive but instead I was right next to the galley watching with wide eyes and interest.  To get the crabs from the bucket into the pot he employed a trick of grabbing them with potholders and then dumping them in and quickly slamming the lid shut.  This worked great for the first three or four that were dropped in, but since we normally had to get multiples in there at one time since they were entangled in each other (they like to try and dismember each other while in the bucket) the second time he went to grab a batch there was one that fell out on to the counter.  After slamming the lid down on the ones that did make it in the loose one had already tried scuttling into their pantry area.  Every time the potholder would come at it the claws would raise and start snapping and since it had backed itself into the area we could not do a sneak attack from behind.  After some coaxing it came forward enough that it was scooped up and put in the pot.  The heat was turned on and not even ten minutes later we had a pot full of red steamed crabs.

Each throwing one on our plate we made our way up to the cockpit to eat since we knew it was not going to be a clean meal.  Going for the legs first we each managed to find a way to pull some meat out and dip it in the melted butter.  It was delicious!!  Just as good as anything we would have gotten in a restaurant.  Except fresher.  After finishing the legs, the bodies took a little more work since we had to separate the top and bottom part of the shell and then take out the gills and remove some other hard bone/cartilage parts before getting to more meat.  All of us were surprised at just how much meat we could actually get off each crab since we thought if they were just large enough to be legal that there was a reason you would throw anything smaller back.  But we all went back for seconds and soon the next pot was on for thirds and fourths.  If there was one negative though, it’s that my hands would get so messy while trying to pull apart my crab that it was hard to also sip on my wine.

In the end there were still six crabs left and we told Brian they were more than welcome to all the leftovers.  Moving below out of the cold we sat around the table and I suggested we play a few rounds of Bananagrams.  This is a gift we got last Christmas from Matt’s Mom, but none of us had played before.  I’ve heard it’s great for boats since the tiles you work with don’t move around much and won’t blow away.  I thought it would be something like Scrabble, and it is, except each person makes their own.  All of the tiles eventually have to be used which means that sometimes you’ll have a great crossword going and then have to rearrange it to accommodate the new letters you’ve just picked up.  I thought that I might actually have a chance to win since I spend at least an hour a day writing but as soon as we called “Peel” Brian was busy arranging letters into words that all flowed into each other.  Needed to take on five extra letters including a X and a J and a G?  No problem, he easily slid them in to his crossword.  When he destroyed the rest of us the first few rounds we thought we’d make it more difficult on him by making him draw two letters when everyone else was taking one but he still came up on top.  He credits it to lots of Scrabble paying in college.  When the rest of us were too defeated to play any longer Matt and I realized it was after midnight and we still had to get up early to go to the boat show again the next morning.  Since we did so much shopping today and not much touring, that’s what’s on the list for tomorrow.

From bucket…

……to pot…..

……to my dinner plate.

Runaway crab dinner from Jessica Johnson on Vimeo.

Brian’s Bananagrams.  How do you even compete with that?