North Bound?

 

After our unforgettable stay at Cape Lookout, we decided to hang around for a bit. In an attempt to navigate Beaufort’s exorbitant slip costs, we looked for a little nook to dock The Frog in for an extended period.

We considered continuing to go south, but after speaking to various sailors, it sounded like the ocean access is less convenient and the conditions get pretty hairy until you get to Florida. Not to mention the slip costs don’t really go down any, it seemed like they get more expensive the further south we checked. The tide in Beaufort is 3 feet, and it continues to increase until it maxes out somewhere in Georgia at over double what it is here. And as the tidal fluctuations increase, so does the force that the water carries with it. That could make it impossible to oppose the tide with our motor, which can barely go against a 3 foot fluctuation.

Places like the Cape Fear River can be treacherous if traversing against the tide. It was sounding like the further south we planned to go, the more freedom we would be relinquishing to the steady and fierce moods of the tides.

That was one reason we decided to stick around. A few others included the close vicinity to the ocean, and the sailing playground that is lookout bight.

In the meantime, we hung around Taylor Creek and did our best to survive the heat, the sun, and the bugs.

I want to clarify something before I go on a grieving rampage full of complaints and discomforts: Learning to sail has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, it has forced me to accept things that are beyond my control, and taught me to find courage within myself when turning away from a terrifying situation just wasn’t an option. It has been a personal journey that helped me to discover a strength that lies deep within the foundations of all humanity. I dig it… most of the time.

That said: Oh my god the bugs were murder, sleep was impossible, and the heat was literally suffocating.

I actually tried to tie an umbrella to my hat in an attempt to escape the sun. At night, at anchor on Taylor creek, we had no electricity and therefore could not run a fan. The wind was absent, as is common during this time of year. The bugs were a force of nature that I have vastly underestimated until now. We had to close all the hatches to keep them out, essentially enclosing ourselves in an airtight sweatbox, with the bugs eating us alive. It was torcher.

I am open to any suggestions on how to stay cool AND keep the bugs out while at anchor.

All the while we heard rumors from the live aboards on both sides of us that the previous tenant of the mooring we were on wanted his spot back! I guess we ‘stole’ his mooring. Unfortunately for him, the moorings aren’t technically legal, and therefore belong to no one/belong to everyone. We kept our little spot for the next few days, and marveled at the tenacious stuff that these live aboards must be made of. They are actually fighting over who gets to suffer this terrible fate throughout the brutal summer months.

During our battle against the elements, we looked for an affordable place to keep the boat.

To no avail!

I’m embarrassed to say that in all my preparations for this trip, I did not anticipate the obvious costs that would accompany the perfect place to leave The Frog.

In addition to the costly slips, the location would leave us vulnerable to hurricanes, which is something else that the local marinas capitalize on. Some of them wanted upwards of 1000$ to pull a boat in the event of a hurricane.

So we waited and debated.. and fished, checked out the beaches, and went to a cute little farmers market where adam got this amazing orange hat

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and biked around, and waited out a hurricane, and met the locals; this guy below is called ‘Red Beard,’ and he makes cute little things on his boat, like miniature crab pots, and whale cork boards etc…

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Until we decided to make a move.

We opted to go north. We planned to head towards New Bern, only 40 miles away from Beaufort, and much much more affordable. New Bern sits on a northern piece of the Neuse River.

We got up at 530am so that we could make the only bridge opening until after rush hour traffic. We had dropped an anchor as an additional backup to the mooring since hurricane Harvey kicked up some winds on Taylor Creek. The anchor line was tangled as hell in the mooring, but we managed to get loose just in time to make the bridge opening. I called the tender as we were approaching only to be informed that the opening was in fact at 6am, not 630. We had to either wait until 830 or go around.

So we went around.

The tide was against us and oh my god two hours later (we could have just waited and made the same time) we made it to the other side of the bridge.

I timed our passing up Core Creek to go with the tide, but as the hours passed and the tide shifted, we weren’t really going any faster. We went from a painful 1.5 knots motoring against the tide, to a whopping 2 knots going along with it.

9 hours later, we made it back to oriental, half way to New Bern. I was convinced something happened to our engine to make us go so slow. But after speaking with a local about it, we were informed that Core Creek has an unpredictable current and our speed didn’t surprise him at all.

Our second stop in Oriental was quite different than the first. We were showered with local sailing knowledge, and met quite a few interesting sailing individuals that I hope to see more of in the future.

The unsavory encounters we had on our first trip were easily forgiven by all the kindness we were met with this go around. We were also really excited by its close proximity to Ocracoke Island, a day’s sail away, Cape lookout, also a days sail away, and New Bern, just a few hours sail north.

We spent the next day just pleasure cruising on the Neuse. This river is the widest in the country, and a major sailing destination. It has a comfortable depth across almost the entire River, so you can sail all over it without worrying about running aground.

Later that afternoon someone gave us a tip on a cheap slip rental in Oriental; and after a little research we found the perfect thing for us. It was right off the Neuse, and the most affordable marina we had found yet. The owner is a treasure trove of sailing knowledge, and was the most trustworthy seeming individual we had met thus far. No need to continue north to New Bern!

We just had to determine if we would fit under the Oriental bridge.

We knew generally that our mast was somewhere under 50 feet. But the bridge was an inconvenient 43 ½ feet. We couldn’t find our mast height anywhere online or in our boat manual.

So we pulled a line up our halyard, and measured exactly 41 feet. But the halyard only goes up to the pulley, which is short of the wind vane, and the antenna.

We made an educated guess on that one. You can imagine how we crossed our fingers while we passed under. But pass we did! A fellow boater came along side and held his hands a few inches apart showing us about how much clearance we had.

The worst case scenario would be that our antenna gets bumped, but its flexible, so the stakes weren’t really that high. It was still nerve wracking though. The previous night we heard a story about someone going under that bridge who didn’t have enough clearance and his mast tore off and broke his leg on its way down.

We breathed a sigh of relief and made our way to the first channel marker. It was a green, and we should have kept it to our left, but the local fisherman littered the only space to pass it with about a dozen crab pots. So I looked at the chart and decided keep it on our right, where it appeared to be deep enough and free of crab pots.

I’m sure you can guess what came next.

We were about 200 yards away from our final destination, after a month of sailing, and we ran aground. Not a shock really, I was actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

Unlike our last experience running aground, we did not have to wait 12 hours for the tide to push us off. We waited about 15 minutes and somehow just sort of floated off the mud. I stayed on the correct side of the channel markers after that.

After we docked the boat, we packed up and hit the road the following morning! Back to the mountains! Not a moment to soon. I’m ready for some cool air.

We hope to make it out to Cape Lookout at least one more time this fall, but if not, we will have to wait till after January, when we will have a little nugget in tow! We will be a family of 3!

Cape Lookout

We left Oriental the following day, heavy with remorse as we watched my sister and her kids wave us out of the marina. I cannot WAIT to get them all back on the frog. Even Sophia, with all her life jacket hating fury!

We were less disparaged to leave Oriental, or, Cakilakistan, as our friend Brad lovingly refers to it as. The Neuse River is a lovely place to sail in, but I’d had enough encounters with gun packing paranoid drunk boaters to last a minute or two.

We sailed for a quick 22 miles to Beaufort, North Carolina. We made a great first impression as we hailed the Beaufort Town Docks for dockage instructions from the wrong marina. After we made it to the right marina, we hailed the dock-master again for specific instructions.

I was told to pass our dock and approach our slip into the current. Upon turning around I was forthwith given the smack down by the notorious Taylor Creek current. I had about 5 seconds to get the Frog under control as I navigated her diagonally into our slip. I was desperately trying to avoid the stern of the biggest monstrosity of a mono hull sailing yacht I have ever seen, parked across from our slip. It was over 104 long to be exact. And while the owner is never present to enjoy her majestic sailing magic, he has a permanent deluge of matching uniformed crew members working full time to keep her waxed and shiny. I waved at them pathetically as I simultaneously tried not to smash into them.

I don’t know how I did it but I pulled the frog in with absolute perfection. The dock master was impressed. Of course he couldn’t see my hands shaking at the wheel as I tried to slow my heart rate. I don’t think I could afford an insurance policy big enough to cover a run in with that thing.

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The entire length of it doesn’t even fit into the wide angle lens of my camera.

And if that encounter with the Taylor Creek current wasn’t enough to teach us a lesson, we got another shortly after.

After settling in and seeing the beautiful sight which is Beaufort, we decided to go on a dinghy ride up the creek.

Taylor creek is a long and narrow water way running adjacent to the town center, and on the other side it is home to numerous wild horses that roam the swampy shores.

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It’s quite enticing, and full of sail boats moored at no cost in these unchecked waters. We went up the creek in our little 2.5 horse powered dinghy for about 15-20 minutes, took a dip, got our toes pinched by crustaceans, and promptly headed back… against the current.

Two hours later!

we made it back to our boat, hot and tired and feeling pretty stupid for not having predicted that.

So far we were quite taken by Beaufort. The town has a deep and rich nautical history, and some incredible sailing opportunities. It didn’t hurt that the minute I stepped off the boat I walked into a store directly across the dock to cool off in the AC only to see my jewelry showcased behind the counter! Handscapes Gallery had placed a wholesale order with me earlier that year at a show in Baltimore, and there it was! This place was making a pretty good first impression on us.

Unfortunately, Beaufort knows exactly how cool it is, and their wet slips are priced accordingly. We decided to give this Pirate style anchoring on Taylor Creek thing a shot. There were a few things to grapple with first. The moorings are unregulated, and technically are a free for all even though they are painstakingly placed by individuals for their own use. But rather than take an open mooring (which were far and few between) and risk an angry boater, we decided to go for the more complicated route of a Bahamian anchorage.

Those can also be an issue in this creek, as swinging too close to these tightly placed moorings can risk a run in with an angry boater trying to protect his mooring space in the sardine can that is Taylor Creek.

But we agreed to put our trust in a dual anchor system rather than a mystery mooring which could prove to be nothing but a buoy tied to a crab pot.

The Bahamian anchorage is named thus due to the numerous shoals in the Bahamas that require boaters to limit their swing room to avoid running aground, and in our case, into each other. With two anchors set off the bow, the swing room is minimal. And to keep the lines from twisting as the boat turns from side to side, one rode is tied to the other at a depth lower than the keel.

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Our first ‘advanced’ anchorage was a success! We held fast all night, against the current and even a storm or two.

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The view was lovely, but the bugs were murder. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that. I wish I could say it was worth it but I’m still weighing the costs.

In the meantime our next adventure was set for Cape Lookout. It was a mere 15 miles away, in the ocean! Our first salty sail.

We waited for the absolute perfect conditions, and passed the days as best we could in the shade and out of the relentless sun, but we started to get grumpy. I think we were a little nervous about going ‘outside’ as they say. But sitting still doesn’t really become us so we finally just up and went.

I had no idea what the inlet would be like, or the ocean for that matter, but we timed it to make our exit at the tail end of a receding current.

It started off a little bumpy

And quickly turned to mad chaos. I tried to do as much research as I could to prepare ourselves for this short little jaunt to Cape Lookout, and no where did anyone say to get ready for stacked waves high and tight to bury your nose in all directions as you exit the inlet. 

This particular inlet has water rushing in and out from 3 sides, with a furious strength.

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The worst part, was that we weren’t really sure if this was an inlet thing, or an ocean thing, having done neither.

After powering through the worst of it, we got our answer: It was just an inlet thing.

The ocean was easy breezy all the way to the lighthouse after that.

Cape Lookout is accessible only by boat, and the Lookout Bight is the sweetest little anchorage spot anyone could hope for. It’s protected on all sides from the elements. IMG_4264.JPG

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The lighthouse is open for your viewing pleasure, and dolphins and sea turtles swim about constantly, and a beautiful ocean view is just a short walk on the other side of the dunes.

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We had only planned to stay a night, but after discovering that the Bight was also home to an amazing display of phosphorescence, we quickly changed our minds.

The next day we lounged around, walked the pristine beach and went shell hunting… all in the effort to ignore the once in a lifetime event that was about to take place that we did not bring glasses for.

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We were surrounded by 10 or so sail boats at anchor, all gearing up for the big solar eclipse. We kept telling each other it was no big deal, and it would probably be cloudy anyway. But as the moment approached, I started to have some regrets…

So we got in our dinghy and went from boat to boat in a desperate last minute attempt to get some glasses. Amazingly we found someone with 2 extra pair! Very nice sailors, and two of them were from Asheville! Small world.

Thank goodness for the spare glasses. The only other option would have been the first boat we stopped at, packed with 7 or so women over 50, extremely drunk and naked, just DYING to share their glasses with Adam if we couldn’t find any.

We made it back in time to see the eclipse from the bow of our boat. The clouds receded just long enough to view it uninhibited. Definitely worth it, and doubly so at Cape Lookout.

The sunset that followed was perfect.

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The following morning we left our lovely anchorage in Cape Lookout and motored along a glass ocean back to Taylor Creek.

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We might just end up staying here in Beaufort after all. It’s got everything we could ask for our boating adventures. We will see how the next few days progress.

The Nasty Neuse

 

Our last night at Bell Haven was christened under a fire lit sky.

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We had some welcome visitors share their sailing stories on our boat. We first saw them docking their catamaran yacht at what I would have described as ramming speed. They had some amazing faith in their transmission, which stopped their boat just in time to avoid a dock crash. The two that stepped off were vetted sailors who were hired to transport a recently purchased yacht down the coast before the boat was to embark on a 55,000$ container ship trip to South Korea.

What a job.

But all the drama that came along with it really put our quaint little inland pleasure cruise into perspective for us.  Upon their departure Adam and I looked at each other somewhat embarrassed at having worried about anything at all, considering that our entire journey was protected in inland waters.

But I don’t care what anyone says, I’m still glad I got an EPIRB! Its all about peace of mind people.

The next morning we set off, and had a perfect sail down the rest of the Pungo River. IMG_3717

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We continued the same tack down through the remainder of the Pungo River, and then across the Pamlico River and into Goose Creek. We then continued our way south along a narrow ditch, passing alongside massive shrimp docks and Coast Guard Rescue stations, and eventually opening up up into the Bay River. The Bay River feeds out to the Pamlico Sound, which we skittered alongside until we entered the Neuse River.

The water was like glass as we went down the Bay River. It looked like we were boating along the endless surface of a mirror.

 

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At some point I decided soup would be a good idea for lunch (it being 90 some degrees and all), after which we immediately jumped into the water to cool our sweat soaked selves. Maybe soup wasn’t the best concept for food. The dip cooled our fiery cores, and the quickly following squall cooled us off a second time.

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The rain was beautiful though, and we welcomed it without respite.

I can see however, why they call it the ‘Nasty Neuse’. The Neuse River is the widest river in the country; confused seas are not uncommon and they happen with ferocious speed.

Our approach into the Oriental Channel was met with so many shrimp boats, we lost count. The area is a hot spot for the tasty crustaceans, and for all the other tasty morsels that feed on them. Fishing was definitely on our agenda in Oriental.

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As we pulled into our slip, a boat parked alongside the dock behind us yelled “free dock!” as they pointed to their spot. Too late, we had just tied up to our not so free dock literally a few feet away. Oh well, we will enjoy the electricity and marina amenities until the morning. We will have many nights to take advantage of any cruising hospitality Oriental has to offer, since my sister is coming to visit with her kids for the next few days!

We were so excited to share our boating adventures with them, we could hardly stand it.

After tying up we were met with another visitor! A different tree frog has come aboard to be the Frog’s mascot for the night.

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This one chirps.

When my sister arrived, we wasted no time in getting those kids sea worthy. We got tiny life jackets, and fishing gear, and set off for a pleasure cruise on the Neuse River.

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Edward and Sophia haven’t spent much time on the boats, but they took to it like little sailing champions.

We anchored off shore and took a much needed swim.

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Let the fishing commence!

I believe this area is where northern and southern currents collide, bringing with them a variety of salt water and fresh water species. Everyone caught something… perfection.

Sophia’s face was priceless as she pulled in her first fish.

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So many fish!
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As we sailed back we all contributed our share of gratitude for such a perfect day. These are the moments that make all the trouble we go to for this boat so absolutely worth while. This ‘hole in the water’ is finally paying back!

 

The Beast

Among our preparations for the highly anticipated Albemarle Sound crossing were some safety protocols initiated by Adam. I was impressed by his pre cautious endeavors as he isn’t generally very safety conscious when it comes to disastrous foresight; that is usually my department.
Some might say he went a little over board, (in the effort of not going overboard) but not I!

We each were equipped with one sailing harness, and a tether with a safety release on it. He also installed a jack-line running along the length of the boat to secure us during any main-sail adjustments. Our life jackets each had one whistle, one rigging knife, and one strobe light. And if that wasn’t enough, he even outfitted a little back pack with water, flares and and our epirb.  I think he was a little nervous.

And I don’t blame him given the horror stories that the Coinjock marina employees were lavishing us with.

We had fifteen miles to go before reaching the mouth of the sound. And one thing I read many times over in our cruising guidebooks, was to cross the sound early in the morning. The channel was narrow leading up the sound, too narrow for sailing, and our motor averages about 4 knots. Not very fast.

We started our motor before the sun could even see us off.

The hours passed us slowly, and the sun revealed the calm and peaceful habitat of North River through a blanket of clouds.

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It was a long way to the sound, but our anxieties eased off a bit when we set the sails and began the crossing.

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The entire thing can be summed up in 2 words:

Easy-Peasy.

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There was barely any wind, and no waves to speak of. What little wind there was was following us, as predicted, making for a very smooth ride.

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It almost felt like we were cheating.

Especially as we saw the white caps building behind us steadily on the south end of the sound. So much fuss over nothing!

For now I will take a boring sail over a terrifying one. Yes please, and thank you.

We began to relax completely as we approached the Alligator River Bridge, on to the next leg of our journey.

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30 miles down, 20 more to go till we reached our anchorage destination for the night at Tuckahoe Point at winding tail of the Alligator River.

That’s a long day when you consider that we were averaging 4-5 knots.

The river was big, bigger than we expected, and the clouds were ominous on all sides of us.

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We were also exhausted. So there was only one solution to all of these problems: fire up the beast.

Earlier in the summer, in preparation for this south-bounding journey, we installed a secondary outboard motor to eliminate the possibility of more motor disasters in the future. What we ended up with is an old 2 stroke 15hp refurbished motor that starts every time, but takes about an hour to warm up, and sounds like a hellion.

The new 4 stroke motors are great, but they weigh like 200lbs and cost over 4,000$. Ear plugs are a just a few bucks, or free if you use tissue.

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We really only have it in case of emergencies, or when getting to bed quicker is worth the cost of damaged eardrums.

We made it to our anchorage around 500pm, after 12 hours of boating. It was the most beautiful anchorage we have seen yet.

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Being in such a secluded and wild place, we were surprised when these guys came buzzing around:

And we were even more surprised when they came back,… again and again and again. They must have circled around 20 times.

The next morning we had a visitor on the boat!

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He’s our mascot, I think he might still be hanging out on The Frog.

The day in front of us was long, but beautiful. The Alligator River Canal is a narrow ditch full of swampy habitat. We didn’t see any bears, although the area is supposed to have the highest concentration of black bears in the country.

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After a few hours of steady motoring, the rains started. And they didn’t stop until we reached our destination: Bell Haven, NC, 30 miles away from our anchorage.

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Bell Haven is a quaint little mariners town, and cruisers are welcome guests. The City Chairman even left her phone # in our welcome packet in case we needed a ride to the grocery store. Wow.

But our marina, at the River Forest Manor, has complimentary golf carts for our unlimited use, so that won’t be necessary.

If it weren’t for the golf carts, I think we would have decided to head out the next morning, rain or no rain. But they lured us into staying an extra day, taunting us with free go-carting transportation.

We quickly realized upon waking up this morning that we have numerous repairs to attend to. Not to mention there is rain in the forecast for the next 8 days.

Until our next rainy boat ride!

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Banana Suits

Our arrival in Norfolk was immediately followed by lots and lots of rain. It didn’t help our moods any that we had to see our friend Braden off the following morning.

Wish you were here, Braden!

After a much needed west-marine stop, we suited up for some rainy repairs.

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Needless to say Adam and I look ridiculous in our matching banana suits.. (they came with the boat, I swear.)

We tended to the last of the repairs, replaced the main sheet, sanding down the jib cars, and worst/best of all: fixed the marine head. The culprit was a small rubber duck bill one-way valve inside the Jabsco pump-handle that had a tiny tiny gap, allowing back flow from the pipes, AND sea water to come into the toilet. When they designed this boat they must have been in space or somewhere that gravity doesn’t exist, because they put the sea cock right above where the toilet sits.

The following morning we awoke to rain again. And thunderstorms. And lightning and wind. We procrastinated until it was obvious that we had to make a decision: do we stay or do we go? We opted to put our big boy pants on (and our banana suits) and motor our way down the ICW in the rain/storms.

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Leaving Norfolk wasn’t as exciting as coming in, but we were met with dolphins all the same. I was delighted and surprised to see them so far inland, on the Elizabeth River!

In preparation for our first day on the ICW, I made lists and a maps of the numerous bridges and locks we would have to navigate. The first 15 miles alone were littered with over 10 bridges. Most of them were open, or had plenty of vertical clearance, but the rest required a radio call to the bridge/lock tender.

It was time to face our fear of the VHF radio.

I felt like a total dingus on the radio, but we seemed to get our point across and bridges and locks opened for our passing. All the tenders were very kind and obliging to our fledgling radio calls.

We made it a short distance south before calling it a night just past the Great Bridge in Chesapeake Virginia. There was a free dock on both sides of the bridge that allow 24 hour mooring. It was also alongside a park with a long sinuous trail that opens up to a beautiful expanse of swampy marshland. Exactly the kind of thing we were hoping to see on this trip.

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I went to sleep early and woke before the sun in preparation for a long long day of motoring.

The canal began to take on a more rural and swampy atmosphere, with great herons, green herons, ospreys and bald eagles all around us.

The morning view was breathtaking in its stillness.

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Which was of course shattered by the jackhammer that is our motor.

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I was insistent upon waking up at 530am so that we could make the 35 miles I had planned. Why the rush? Well, the weather is forecasting rain and storms everyday for the next 8 days, with the exception of tomorrow. And the Albemarle Sound is a tenacious beast that I am not anxious to meet unless the conditions are absolutely perfect. If we cover enough ground today, we can make the crossing tomorrow. If we don’t, we are stuck at Coinjock Marina (Coinjock, NC has a population of about 300 people) until we muster up the courage to cross the Sound in sticky weather.

The first bridge we came to was the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge, a familiar name that we see daily on the trains that pass through Asheville.

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The second bridge however, was not. And I didn’t realize until we hailed the tender on the radio that they probably have regular business hours. And it was 630 in the morning when we arrived.

Luckily there was a marina directly in front of the bridge that was open and let us tie up to their dock. He informed us that the bridge doesn’t open till 830…. so much for getting up before dawn. Adam was not too happy about that.

We were informed shortly after tying up that a barge was coming in behind us with a reservation at 7am. So we were free to follow after him. Great luck!

I won’t go into the detail of all the radio nonesense that occured between us, the bridge tender, the marina, the barge captain, and another power boat that was trying to squeeze through at the same time, but I will say that it wasn’t pretty. At the barge captain’s request, we passed beneath the bridge in front, only to realize that he was going about 1/2 a knot faster than us (even the barge captain was in disbelief that we were motoring slower than him) and we had to let this elephant go around us somehow, in a channel so narrow he barely fit in it at all.

Again, it wasn’t pretty but it all worked it self out eventually.

The rest of the day’s trip was beautiful, and uneventful as we wound our way down the swampy Virginia canals and eventually into North Carolina.

Things got a little more interesting as we passed into the North Landing River, just north of the Currituck Sound. A very shallow body water with a tiny channel carved into the middle. The shallow and broad bodies of water in this area create some unique and choppy conditions. I am assuming that this will only be a minuscule fraction of what the conditions on the Albemarle Sound will be like.

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They didn’t seem so bad at first but they were really rocking our boat by the end of our crossing.

We arrived at Coinjock Marina in the afternoon, just in time to catch another boat that had just made the Albermarle crossing from the south.

I almost wish I hadn’t met them! They looked so shook up.

They were driving a goliath of a power boat, going at least 8 knots, and still their nose was all but buried in the water during their crossing of the sound.

Not really what I wanted to hear given my already boiling anxiety level over this endeavor.

The wind today was about 10 knots, the same as tomorrows prediction. But the flip side of all this, is that they were coming from the south, and the wind was smashing them from the north east, giving them an uncomfortable ride.

The wind will be following us tomorrow, from the north east, probably rocking our boat some, but hopefully pushing us along with some semblance of ease.

All I know is that I don’t want to look as run over as this couple did when they stepped off their boat.

 

Southbound

Exactly one year to the day, and we are on our way again!

We are going south! We don’t know where, but we have given ourselves one month to get there. We will see how much we can put up with in the meantime. If all goes well, we may make it as far as Beaufort, SC, or maybe just to Oriental, NC. Either way, the journey will be full of adventure and beauty.

On August 5th, I woke everyone up at 530am, to guarantee an early start. Most people travel from around the country and even around the world to partake in the pleasure of Chesapeake Bay sailing, but for me, I just wanted to get the Bay behind me. Last year’s harrowing adventures left me a little shaky in my boots.

We unplugged our shore power, and said goodbye to Nester, our very nice and informative seasoned sailor/neighbor. We motored slowly, but not quietly, out of the Great Wicomico River.

All of us were waking up slowly to the quickly progressing wind and waves.

And this time around, in the effort of adult-ing responsibly, and not partaking in reckless activities: we brought along crew!

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Braden Russel, aka Capt. Ron, agreed to come along as crew on our Chesapeake Bay south bounding. Another Lake Julian fellow sailor, Braden contributed the perfect amount of positive vibes, and sailing intuition. Not to mention he was able to lend another 2 hands when 4 weren’t enough.

Things went bad quickly as they tend to do in this neck of the woods. At the mouth of the river, we set our sails, and noticed a hang up on our jib.  What appeared to be a dangling piece of string (which I mistook for a perfunctory tell-tale) was caught up on our starboard shroud. We could not furl in the jib because it was tied in an ever progressing knot about 20 feet high. Every second was putting enormous pressure on our jib sail as the wind was trying to tear it free; mild panic and havoc began to ensue. 

Thinking quick, Adam took our telescoping boat hook and taped Braden’s sharp as hell rigging knife to the end, and with the dexterity of a ninja, cut the string loose.

Whew!

Catastrophe averted, we set sail on a perfect run with the wind on our backs. There was still time to start this journey off on a nice, relaxing note.

 

Haha, just kidding.

Mere seconds after our jib hang up, our marine toilet started to fill up with water. Water from the outside? Where ever this vile substance was coming from, it wasn’t pretty. I believe that marine toilets were sent here to destroy us all.

This one was trying to sink our boat!

Adam closed the sea cock and messed with the Jabso handle and returned with an “I think it’s fixed, ” statement, which did NOT settle my nerves. But there wasn’t much to be done about it now.

The wind was quickly progressing, so we put in two reefs, to set us as ease. No one wants to reef in heavy weather.

Soon the boys decided that we weren’t moving along quick enough, so they went ahead and shook out the reefs, against my better judgement.

The northerly wind continued to push us along, steadily increasing the waves and our speed. Braden suggested we put those reefs back in before things got messy.

I took the wheel and turned us into the wind to begin the reefing process, only to get slammed by 18-20 mile an hour winds and the occasional 6 foot swell. The wind and the waves feel so different when they are in your face! I also think we turned directly into some heavier weather.

With the motor at full throttle I could barely keep our nose into the wind. Adam was none too happy about that.

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And while furling in the jib, that same piece of string got caught on the other shroud! We couldn’t furl it in all the way, so the corner of the jib kept catching just enough wind to push us out. The jib sheets all the while were flying about like flailing lizard tails tying themselves into an impenetrable knot.

What a mess. Adam taped the knife back onto our telescoping boat pole and braved the waves to cut that string again. I don’t know how he managed to do it without cutting anything else, but miraculously he did cut it loose. He and Braden then proceeded to spend about 15 minutes untying the death knot, all while I struggled to keep our nose into the wind.

They furled in the jib and reefed the main, and we headed back on course.

Once the wind was behind us we had instant reprieve from the rolling waves and bashing wind. Now I know why they call it “gentleman sailing.”

We were all a little shaken up from that event, to say the least. But we felt so grateful to have Braden’s help, and not at all overly cautious in asking him to come along.

The ‘string’ that kept getting caught on our shrouds was actually the luff bolt, and it was ripped out of our jib sail by a length of about 3 feet. It was definitely going to get caught up again until we could cut it down.  We opted to leave the jib furled in until we dropped anchor later that night.

It was a slow and steady main and motor sail down the chesapeake.

The dolphins greeted us on and off throughout the day.

11 hours later we reached our destination: Mobjack bay, about 45 miles south from where we started.

We picked a beautiful little anchorage that protected us from the predicted northerly winds.

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The boys took a long deserved swim in the salty bay.

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Before calling it a night we needed to attend to some things.

Adam and Braden lowered the jib sail and cut the luff bolt rope that had broken free and kept getting caught on our shrouds. It has solved our immediate problem, but eventually we need to have a sail maker replace and repair it. For now, our jib looks a little haggard, and we hope that it wont fray beyond the initial stitching along the luff.

We also noticed that our main sheet had a very distinct fray along a specific area. It looked all but sliced right through. Apparently it was getting caught along the jib cars which have knife like edges, while we were trying to reef. We were pretty confident it would handle one more heavy day of sailing, but not 100% sure. We had no sturdy lines that were long enough to replace it with, so we flipped it so that the busted end was closer to the cockpit. And as soon as possible I am going to have to either sand those edges down with a file, or put some tape along the sides.

But for now sleep was a welcome guest on this boat.

The next day was far less harrowing, but just as long!

We started early again, as I wanted to put the last 40 miles behind us. Bright and bushy tailed at 530am! Norfolk isn’t going to come to us!

The wind was coming from the north again and with our jib back in action, we were wing on wing as we exited Mobjack Bay.

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As the day progressed, the winds shifted from the east, giving us a beautiful lean.

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The wind was a steady 4-7 knots, easy sailing, and allowed us a relaxing day that the previous didn’t.

We approached Hampton Roads in the afternoon with the wind on our backs, and the dolphins at the mouth of the harbor to greet us.

It felt a bit like driving through a big city for the first time. The frog hasn’t seen that much action since buzzard point marina in DC. And even this was busier. Definitely a boater’s destination. Motor boats and sailboats alike.

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We couldn’t help but get a little googly eyed as the big boats passed us left and right.

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This one was 74,000 tons!

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We waved at the one seaman we saw standing on the ship, and he waved back heartily with both arms in the sky, cigarette dangling from his mouth. I had to wonder how long he has been at sea!

We approached our destination, Tide Water Marina, in Portsmouth, VA, at around 530pm. Another 40 mile day, long but incredibly satisfying.

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We are officially at Mile 0 of the ICW!!

Chesapeake Bay Spanking

We woke up at 530 and made some eggs and coffee by the light of our amazing solar powered LUCI lights. We have a working galley with two burners on it, but we ran out of propane. So we have this back up camp stove that we are using temporarily.

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The sunrise was calm and inviting as we motored out of Coles Point Marina into the Potomac.

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After setting the sails we cruised along on a broad reach.

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The wind was blowing from the south-southeast, pushing us along on a perfect tack towards the mouth of the Potomac into the Chesapeake Bay.

Our ultimate destination for this trip was Lewisetta Marina, on the Yecomico River just before the Potomac opens up into the Chesapeake. They had good haul out prices as well as an enticing proximity to the Bay. The Yecomico River, was less than 10 miles away from Cole’s Point, and we got an early start. It was a perfect day for sailing, and we really couldn’t end this trip without at least attempting to sail on the Bay. I called Lewisetta Marina, and they were all filled up. No space anywhere for us. Well, I guess that settles it, unless we want to go back to Cole’s Point, the Chesapeake it is! We had two options nearby: the Little Wicomico River off of the Bay only a few miles south from the Potomac, or the Great Wicomico River, about 12 miles south of the Potomac, both on the Virginia side. The Little Wicomico would be tricky, as I read in my Chesapeake Cruising Guide book that it was littered with pound nets all along the entrance. I didn’t know what pound nets were, but I decided I didn’t want to find out, so we picked the latter of our options. I made a few phone calls to some of the local marinas and found an affordable spot with plenty of room, and a haul out available the very next day at Jennings Boat Yard. That would make today’s destination 34 nautical miles from where we started at Coles Point. That would be our furthest trip yet.

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Are we even ready for the Chesapeake?

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I honestly didn’t even think twice about it. I mean, the Chesapeake, how bad can it be? And its not like we are trying to sail across it, just a little scoot along the side. The sailing was so good, it was hard to imagine it going any other way.

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We stayed on the same tack from Cole’s Point all the way to the Chesapeake Bay for 22NM. At about 10am, we entered the Bay. And everything got really big.

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We were feeling pretty proud and loving our lives at that point. The sailing was divine.

Our perfect tack all the way down the Potomac came from a southerly breeze which hit us directly in the face as we headed south on the Chesapeake. No problem, we will just have to tack around it. As the wind and waves increased, our jubilation started to take on another flavor.

The waves didn’t bother us at first, or the wind. But we soon realized that we weren’t making any progress. And shortly after realizing that, we got to feel the immense power of the tide pushing us, with the wind, onto the lee shore that was to our right. The shore we could avoid, but the POUND NETS! My God, why in the world are there a million little wooden poles sticking out of the water? Each time we came across a cluster of pound nets, it was a battle to tack in time before getting pushed right over top of them. At one point, we goofed on our tack, got stuck in irons, and came within a few yards of crashing right onto them before we could get up enough speed to tack again. Every one of our easterly tacks took us out in deeper Chesapeake waters where the waves really rocked us. It was intimidating to say the least.

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We tacked again and again, making almost no progress. We were going a max of 2 or 2.5 knots with wind and water pushing against us. The wind report for the day was less than accurate, forecasting 5-10 knots, while we got blasted with 15-20. At around 2pm, we started to get pretty nervous. So, at Adams beckon, we started up the motor. ….

NO MOTOR! Of course. Of course. So, on we sailed. When we finally reached the mouth of the Wicomico, about 27 tacks later, I saw a something that almost brought me to tears. POUND NETS EVERYWHERE!! Not on the chart, and barely visible to the naked eye until you are right on top of them. I called Jennings Boat Yard and asked how the hell we are supposed to get into the river, and he replied with “you have to go into deeper water to get around them.” Adam looked through the binoculars to see that we did in fact have to go at least another mile or two further south east in order to skirt these atrocities. So, we did the one thing we didn’t want to do, we sailed east into the deep water, and ever increasing waves, and away from our destination. It was after 4… at this rate… well, lets not even go there. We just have to stay in the present moment, one impossible obstacle at a time. We stayed on this devastating tack for about 30 minutes. The weather was quickly rocking our socks off. Amidst the chaos, a little blue cushion flew off our boat into the water. We looked back and watched in horror as it moved at lightning speed with the tide and out of sight in seconds. This is not a place to fall in the water. I thought about reefing the main, but neither of us wanted to go up there and battle the waves, not after seeing how quickly we would get washed away if we went over board. Besides, the power of our sails was the only thing that could get us out of this.

After this video, the waves got so bad that Adam wouldn’t let me take any more videos or pictures. So I guess you will just have to take my word for it when I tell you that they got pretty bad. The shore was only getting farther away, and the sun was approaching the horizon.During the height of our anxiety I hailed a little red power boat to our port side. I wanted to get some information on the pound nets, and ask how far into the mouth of the river they were set. He was very close, I waved, I hailed, I waved again and hailed him again. I pointed at my radio and could see him check his, and he just waved again. Well, that settles it, there is a good chance that our VHF radio isn’t working. We had some previous suspicions, but we tested it in Occoquan and it worked fine. In the words of Captian Ron, “If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there!” Without a radio, and unreliable cell service, there was no calling for help if one of us went over, or if something else catastrophic happened. So I called the tow-boat, again, while I still had cell service. Even if we did somehow make it to the Great Wicomico River before dark, how could we navigate the narrow channel and dock our boat without a motor? There seemed  no way around calling for a tow. I didn’t even want to think about how a tow-boat was going to manage pulling us across these waves. It would inevitably take a toll on our boat. But I have never sailed at night, and I didn’t want to start in these conditions, in the middle of the Bay.

No sight of the tow boat.. At this point we figured it would be best to tack back to shore, and just hope that we have gone far enough to clear the massive pound net obstruction. This tack started to give us real progress. Maybe the tide had shifted? I don’t know what it was but we flew. Even while getting bashed by 4 and 5 foot waves, we were going close to 7 knots, rails in the water. As we approached the mouth, we saw that we did not clear the pound nets at all. They were everywhere. But I was not about to go back out there. We searched for some clearing in the chaotic mass of sticks and were able to squeeze through a gap successfully. The Frog was flying! She really does well in heavy winds I guess. We surfed into the channel, with the wind and waves directly on our backs.

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Finally, the winds died down with the land acting as a breaker. We were on a perfect run, wing on wing, headed straight up the river towards the marina. The tow boat called and said he couldn’t find us. Well, we don’t really need him now do we? But he came anyways, just as we caught site of the marina, and towed us about 100 yards into our slip at Jennings Boat Yard.

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The captain of the tow boat couldn’t believe how fast we made it from the lat/long that we called him from. He said he heard there was a capsized boat on the Coast Guard channel and thought it was us. Apparently, the mouth of the Potomac can be the trickiest spot on the entire Bay. He also mentioned that the tide and wind were in the worst possible combination of directions. Local knowledge is golden, when you can get it in time.

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We made it safe and sound at about 730pm, after almost 14 hours of sailing.

I am quite looking forward to a little reprieve from all the heart pounding epic boat adventures. Here is what happened to the inside of the boat while we were sailing the Chesapeake.
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The marina hauled our boat out for winter the next day. The motor was running beautifully, of course.

 

How crazy to see The Frog out of the water. We will launch her back in April or May I’m assuming. But during that time we can finally tend to some much needed repairs while The Frog is in boat purgatory.

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And for our next south bounding adventure, we will be equipped with an EPIRB, an out board motor, and a working VHF radio.

Hove To and Towed Away

Cobb Island was a nice juncture, but we had ants in our pants so we continued south at 7am. The sky was menacing,

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but the weather report was promising. Wind! There was wind in the forecast! There were also maybe a few showers, but only a 15% chance, and no thunderstorms before 1pm. We decided to go for it.

After we got through the channel, and bypassed all the crab pots, we turned the motor off. FINALLY! For the first time in 4 days. It was so nice. And we sailed.

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The current was against us, but considering that I think we did pretty good when we maxed out at 5.8 knots. The river was wide open and we sailed on a close haul with our tacks about an hour on the long, and 15 minutes on the short.

It was great, so beautiful, peaceful and satisfying to sail for hours. And then we saw this

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and this

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and so we reefed the main again. We kept sailing this time, though. Even when the winds picked up and the rains started to fall.  We were only 7 miles away from our destination, Cole’s Point. So in an effort  to keep up speed away from the incoming front, we motor sailed. Until the motor failed! Thank you Barney and Lee for showing us how to heave to. That came in real handy today. Right before we left for this trip we replaced the impeller, and not long after we started the motor in the middle of this rain storm we saw smoke coming out of the stern, not water. NOT good. So we cut it off, and hove to. It worked pretty well!

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So now what? Its raining, and windy, and we have a 28 foot sail boat with no motor. A part of our reckless natures wanted to keep sailing all the way to Cole’s Point Marina, but the channel going into the marina is about 45 feet wide, and five feet deep. Not ideal for beginner sailors. Well, I guess we could call Tow Boat US, I mean, isn’t this why we got the towing insurance? Adam and I spent about 20 minutes tinkering with the motor, to no avail, all while the temperature gage on the motor rose steadily. Time to call the tow boat.

45 minutes later!

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They towed us to Cole’s Point Marina, although I was feeling pretty defeated about it all.

After docking at the marina, I went for a decompression run around Cole’s Point, (tensions were high) and came back to tinker on the motor with Adam. After realizing that the impeller and the water pump were fine, we decide to check every hose to make sure there wasn’t a clog.  Starting with the through hull to the impeller, to the motor coolant, to the thermostat, to the manifold, and then to the main exhaust.

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Water was flowing through all the lines, BUT the manifold was dry, and not spewing water. As we prepared to take apart our exhaust manifold, we spotted one last line that was hiding beneath the motor, and it was kinked! We shortened the line and re-attached sans kink… Success!!

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Water is flowing out the exhaust! I almost cried. We really thought our journey had come to a close here at Cole’s Point Marina. But not so, not yet.

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