Category Archives: 2008

Blow adieu to 2008

When the local weather forecast began predicting 60 mph winds for the last day of 2008, I was somewhat skeptical. The weather weasels were mostly wrong about their forecasts. Whenever the forecasts were for severe winds, we might get 15 knot wind gusts at best. Alternately, when the forecasts call for calm skies — it is THESE forecasts, that produces the weather drama – tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, high-octane winds, you name it. I’m thinking my next career will be predicting weather by suggesting the opposite of the mainstream meterologist…

It was only a few days prior, that we decided to abandon ship for the holidays – and spend some time camped out with our daughter in Silver Spring. It didn’t take long to appreciate the surplus of land luxuries…such as TV, running water, hot water, microwave ovens, HOT food and flush toilets to name a few. After nearly 2 years living aboard Cat Maudy — some might say an extended camping trip — this was quite a treat. We were living large on land, it was 18 degrees outside – and we hoped Cat Maudy wouldn’t mind if we took a brief leave of absence.

So, when the winds TRULY blew in the 50+mph range – we needed to check on the lines and be sure that Cat Maudy wasn’t too upset that we left her alone to weather the storm. I volunteered to make the trip to Baltimore. Of course, I had to grab a quick swim-workout FIRST at the nearby gym a few blocks from the marina. The swimming pool is enclosed in a “bubble” structure, a series of metal frames, topped off with a skin of dacron. Lap after lap, I couldn’t help but to focus on the metal frame – as it shook so violently that I thought the frame would eventually be lifted from the ground. The wind gods were not holding back, and I was seriously questioning my “need” to exercise via this bubble encased swimming pool. An hour and a half later, the swim structure managed to hold and I was buzzing with endorphins. It’s time to tackle a “line check” of Cat Maudy.
I parked my volkswagon beetle nearest to the A dock at Anchorage Marina, and sat in the car for a few moments watching the surface of the water rip over the docks. The wind gusts shook my little beetle, and I was doubting if it was a good idea for me to attempt to run along the dock – and risk being blown into the frigid Patapsco River waters. At 112 lbs, 40mph gusts generally knock me around pretty good. Anything more that that, I am no longer in control. But the winds were gusty, so my strategy was to make all forward motion during the lulls. I opened the door of the car, and immediately any paper lying inside the car that wasn’t “locked down” went flying out the door. Within seconds, the papers (I’m guessing business papers that I needed!) ,were over a 1/4 mile away – and still traveling with the wind. I sure hope these papers weren’t too important. Oh well….nothing I could do now.
I briskly walked toward the gated entrance to the A-dock, and stood on the LAND side for a moment. The metal platform and gate was shaking. The winds had kicked up, and I wanted to “time” the opening of the gate for when the winds dropped to under 40mph. It seemed like the winds weren’t subsiding much, so I decided to open the security gate and step toward the dock. The moment I opened the gate, the wind gods let loose. I had all I could do to avoid being swept into the Patapsco, and wrapped both my arms around the handrails, hoping that the bolts holding the ramp to the dock would hold. This is crazy. Cat Maudy is so close, maybe 75 yards, but the stretch along the dock would have nothing for me to hold onto. I waited for a few minutes – and FINALLY a brief lull. I ran, past the first three oversized powerboats, ducking behind each for a bit of reprieve against the wind. At the last large boat, I paused…waited….listened to the roar of the winds…..re-calculated…and decided that I was in a wind “lull”. I would have to run the entire stretch of dock to get to Cat Maudy and hope that the wind doesn’t kick up over 40mph until I can board our boat.
Couldn’t help but to notice wind damage to other boats on our pier – during my olympic sprint to our side-on slip. Fenders were busted and deflated, and boats were banging up against the docks without the protection of a soft landing. Any item not lashed down on the dock, had been blown into the water, sails were unfurling, and the marina crews were busy tying down boats for owners who rarely check in on their yacht investments. Yes, I observed ALL of this during my sprint! There was a lot of action at the marina.
Luckily, the lull lasted long enough for me to board Cat Maudy. The lines seemed to be holding, everything inside seemed good, no extra water in the bilges or engine locker….yep, everything seems good…except it’s a bit cold inside. Oh yeah, that’s because the heat isn’t on. The heat SHOULD be on. And that would be because we have no power. The power SHOULD be on. Aiii. After a quick call to Pat, we decide I need to see the crew at the marina – and try to get the power restored. This means I need to run back on the dock to shore….grab a marina guy….run back out on the dock to Cat Maudy….wait for power to be restored….and run back on the dock to return to shore. Joy. How many times will the wind gods be kind to me before they blow me overboard?

Feeling lucky, and sprinting all out – I make it to land in one full swoop. I run into Lee at the marina and ask if the power is off on the A-dock. He says no – but he’ll walk back with me to check it out. We head back to the dock. Lee has some weight on him. I’m not sure if he noticed that during our walk along the dock…I hovered behind him….ready to grab on in case the winds pushed too hard. I kept up a vibrant conversation with him to keep him distracted from my “hovering”.

Turned out that the wires to our dock post were fried. They needed to be replaced. A second marina guy (Nate) appeared shortly on the job – fixing the electrical problem. I sat inside the salon of Cat Maudy – shivvering, and bundled in a wool blanket…contemplating one last sprint to shore along the dock once the power got restored, listening to the halyard bang relentlessly on the mast, feel the boat vibrate when a particularly strong gust took hold….while the two marina guys were outside, braving the winds, on the edge of the dock, bare hands exposed to a wind chill factor in the teens, rewiring the electrical post. OK, I’m feeling a little guilty here.

Securite Securite Securite…

…all stations….this is Cat Maudy with a mariner alert on Channel 16 for the Chesapeake Bay….there’s a new captain in town….OVER

Since we wouldn’t be traveling south on Cat Maudy this winter, it was time to fill up my “free” time with Plan B activities. Captain Pat thought it might be a good idea if there were TWO captains on Cat Maudy. hmmm…maybe I could learn how to tie a knot correctly? maybe I could learn how to plot a route (without using the GPS!)? maybe I could learn how to answer my own navigation questions? maybe I could be a USCG Captain? maybe I could get a pay raise?

Ok. maybe not the pay raise, but the COOL factor was pretty high about getting my USCG Captain’s license, so it’s time for total immersion. For the first 20 days of December, I was living and breathing Sea School study materials, including navigation aids, rules of the “waters”, emergency situations, knots, weather patterns, practice tests and plotting courses, set & drifts around Block Island Sound. It was not easy, ranks right up there with learning how to swim in 3 weeks for a triathlon. But, the material was interesting, I was learning tons, and completely captivated with new knowledge.

So, for two FAT weekends (each weekend Fri-thru-Sun – 30 hours) I attended classroom instruction by our FAB teacher Steve – a retired ex Commander with the US Coast Guard. Sea School’s Instructor Steve interjected all sorts of interesting sea experiences, stories about his days with the Coast Guard, and he even managed to control the crazy macho fisherman in our small class of 6 students.

12.20.08 It was finally TEST day. The day of reckoning. After 3 hours, I walked out…having PASSED my OUPV (Operator of Un-inspected Passenger Vessel 6-Pack) exam. whew! Within a few weeks, once all forms have been completed…I’ll be submitting paperwork to the USCG for my official Captain’s License. And, maybe get that pay raise too?

Soooo, ROGER THAT Baby….OVER?

Life under the Big Blue Tarp

Bracing for high winds, cold temperatures and rain, topped off with a cracked salon window, meant we needed to protect the salon from the weather. We purchased the largest blue tarp sold by Home Depot, “Big Blu”, and spent the afternoon trying to tie it down. Big challenge. Our first big test was just hours away. A cold front was moving in bringing 50 knot gusts.
Notice our attractive view of the world…thru a blu home depot lens (sigh).

Cat Maudy preps for a cold winter in Maryland

The weather has begun to change. We’re seeing more and more days of 40 knot winds out of the north. Temperatures are getting down into the 30’s at night, and 50s and 60s during the day. Daylight hours are less. The jellyfish are disappearing, and those few that remain seem to float without purpose. Hot, homemade soups become standard fare in the galley. Kitties, Earl and Soxy, insist on sharing a warm body. Our 20 watt salon heater is running 24/7…and I find myself spending more time in the salon wrapped in blankets, and less time down in the unheated hulls.

Reality sets in. Cat Maudy will be NORTH instead of SOUTH for the winter – due to the cracked port side panoramic window. While we are hoping for a mild winter in the Port of Baltimore, winterizing projects begin just “in case”. The cockpit is filled with gallon jugs of pink antifreeze….waiting to be poured into every orafice to prevent Cat Maudy from icing.
Irregardless of the cooler days and chilly nights, we wake up every morning, rocked by the gentle waves of the Patapsco River. Being “on” the water, a sense of calmness prevails over the daily work schedules and routine tasks. We are ‘one’ with the weather, tapping into solar and wind power, adding new lines or adjusting fenders when gale force winds try to push Cat Maudy around. The images thru the hatches constantly change. We can watch barges and commercial ships, the Amistad Freedom Schooner, coast guard and tug boats, and connect with other sailors who dock or anchor near our cat. As the weather gets colder, and Cat Maudy remains at dockside for the winter – it’s all good

Snap….Crackle…Pop….the salon windows are busted!

…Cat Maudy’s panoramic port side salon window develops a seismic crack. We love to meet people, work with them, solve their business and technology problems and walk away at the end of the day knowing that my clients are satisfied. Designing software business solutions is what we do for a living, and there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of keeping clients year after year, and making their business lives a little bit easier. Unfortunately, not all companies tackle customer service with the same zest. Meet Chesapeake Rigging.

Cat Maudy was busy prepping to travel south for the winter. We had a crew lined up, and the plan was to travel offshore to Charleston SC – as the first stop. We hired Chesapeake Rigging out of Annapolis to make a few last minute adjustments. Two workers arrived on 10/23 and tweaked the rigging, tightened here and there….and within a few hours after they left…our huge panoramic window splits in 2. It was after hours, and we contacted Chesapeake Rigging immediately. Mike Meers, with CR responded “the guys must have over tuned the rigging”. The next day, the owner of the company (Tom) appears to have had second thoughts. Here is a sampling of his comments:

“we may have caused the problem, but it’s just a coincidence, and therefore not our fault”.

“your yacht must be structurally unsound”
“in 30 years of rigging we’ve never broken a window”
“we have never worked on a boat with a curved window so your boat must be structurally unsound”
“our guys are the best in the business, and couldn’t possibly have made a mistake”
“the previous owner of your boat must have replaced the windows just to sell it and hide the structural defects”
“the windows must have been installed improperly”
“I can’t come to Baltimore to inspect our men’s work because it is too far to travel”

———————————————————-

Huh??? Wowie-zow. Soxy, our cat sees thru all of this nonsense. Here are some Cat Maudy factoids:

1) Cat Maudy, built by Bader Catamarane in Germany, crossed the Atlantic, was a charter vessel in the Caribbean and Florida, and under our watch has sailed 2500 miles without the window cracking.

2) the prior owner of Cat Maudy is a world-renowned Swiss designer/engineer, and had the windows replaced (in 2006 by the professionals at Georgetown Yacht Basin) due to 5 years in the harsh Caribbean environment.
3) the original owner of Cat Maudy came from many generations of ship builders

4) the current owner (Capt Pat) of Cat Maudy built a Wharram Catamaran in the 1970’s, successfully sailed it on Lake Michigan….and knows a thing or 2 about yacht design

5) John Shuttleworth, the designer Cat Maudy is a world renowned catamaran designer

6) curved windows can be found on many catamaran designs – try Fountaine for example!

7) the total drive time from Annapolis to Baltimore is 37 minutes

8) without Grissom on CSI, the grim reality, is that we (or a marine survey) cannot prove the absolute cause and affect, so sadly, we are left with “it sure is an amazing ‘coincidence'”!

The next stop is a visit to Precision Plastics (located in Beltsville, MD) , the manufacturer of our panoramic windows. The team at Precision Plastics are real PRO’s….they design acrylics for submarines, aquariums, navy boats – big deal stuff that needs to sustain a lot of water pressure. The principal of the company, Greg spent over an hour with Capt Pat, showing him their manufacturing floor, discussing the properties of thermo-molded annealed acrylics versus Lexan, why thermo-molded annealed acrylics are far better for a marine environment over Lexan, and what would be required to resolve Cat Maudy’s fissure. There is no “temporary” solution. Once a crack occurs, the entire window will need to be replaced and re-installed, before Cat Maudy could safely travel offshore. The trip south this winter is officially cancelled, and we will spend the next few months becoming “experts” on creating a mold for Cat Maudy’s huge panoramic windows, and learning from the experts how to install.

Caught in a Schooner sailing race

Departed the Baltimore Harbor at 9AM along with a fleet of Schooner Sailors – who were en route to the start of the annual Schooner Race, just south of the Bay Bridge on the Chesapeake Bay. We were accompanied by our friends salty sailor Dan, and professional photographer Randy Santos. The winds were light and out of the south, so it would be a 3 hour motor-sail to the Bay Bridge. Three hours at 6 knots of speed, gave us plenty of time to trade stories about eating healthy, getting fit, losing weight, eating 5-6 times a day and with all this talk of FOOD….it was time to FEAST! While Randy captured hundreds of photos, the remaining time was spent eating multiple helpings of fruit-veggie salad, BBQ chicken, fresh apples, pasta, tabbouleh – and a special “sail-mix” consisting of cashew nuts & dried cherries.

OK, back to the Schooner Race. It was a rather confusing start. Schooners appeared to be moving in all different directions…. Every time we heard the RACE HORNS go off – it didn’t appear that the sailors were moving toward any goal. What are they waiting for? A few minutes later, another RACE HORN blast…and still no synchronized movement other than mass confusion from these multi-masted yachts. Maybe we could get closers to the yacht-ies, so that Randy could snag some good pictures? We maneuvered to a very nice spot of open water – with no other boats within yards of us – and close proximity to the schooners. Did I say this was a VERY nice spot? Maybe a little TOO nice? The Coast Guard was now heading our way. You guessed it – we had to move. We were positioned directly on the starting line.

As we made our way toward the Schooner yacht “The Pride of Baltimore” for a photo op – one of those RACE HORNS went off again – and now, all of the sailors decided to head south on the Bay. The race had started. And there we were, in the middle of it all. See Randy’s schooner pics!

Can anyone guess why the fish are dying?

On a bright sunny day, the Patapsco river (a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay) glistens and begs you for a swim. But don’t be tempted, as the polluted waters in and around the Baltimore Harbor are filled with poisons and other dangers. Oh my!

Every 6 months, we hire divers to dip below Cat Maudy’s surface – and inspect the hull for excessive algae growth or barnacles. Aside from the fact that there is very little growth on the hulls, marine antifouling bottom paint for boats in the Baltimore Harbor can last 5-6 years (it should only last 2 years) before this special paint needs to be re-applied. “Don’t even think of getting into this water” one diver recently told Captain Pat “we have to get shots for hepatitis and a host of other ills. Do you see that jellyfish with the red markings”, the diver continued pointing at an unusual jellyfish just beneath the surface…”these are not native to the eastern seaboard. That deadly jellyfish is native to the Pacific Ocean – and was probably released from the ballast of a commercial ship in the Baltimore Harbor.”

Despite what your local politician or news media may tell you, a “fishkill” is not a natural phenom. There is a reason why the fish die “all at once”. Lack of oxygen in the water. So here you have it, one fine day in the Baltimore Harbor, when the smell becomes wretched, and suddenly fish appear on the surface (including eels – which are supposed be the most resilient!). Algae fed by excessive nitrogen (from fertilizer to get that dark green lawn, and fertilizer run-off from farms) – ends up in the water, and sucks out all of the oxygen…leaving the fish to die by the thousands.

And surely, all of those Utz potato chip bags, plastic soda bottles, and garbage galore didn’t just accidentally end up in the water. Garbage and waste, thrown into the streets, or overflowing from garbage containers, gets washed away into storm sewers on each and every rainstorm. These storm sewers dump directly into the waterways. help!

Walking along the Anchorage Marina waterfront (home of Cat Maudy)….I spotted a news photographer standing near the waters edge. Being the curious sort, “Hey – are you guys reporting on the Baltimore Harbor water pollution?” Please?? Doesn’t anybody notice this??

But NO. Something FAR more juicy. They were data mining on Clark Rockefeller’s “Yacht” (more like an oversized hobie cat) that was docked at our marina. Clarkie-boy had kidnapped his daughter, and the FBI chased him down to Baltimore MD. There I was….amidst the blathering breaking news.

Cat Maudy gets a makeover…and fixed steering!

Dockside in Baltimore MD. It would be nice to enjoy some downtime after 30 days of cruising. But no.

Since arrival into the port of Baltimore:
Day 1: Skate 25 miles
Day 2: Can’t move. Realize I was too outta shape to skate 25 miles on Day 1
Day 3: Still recovering from Day 1…tho my new PINK custom speed skates arrived Fed Ex from China
Day 4: Now I skate in pink boots – energy has returned!
Day 5: Start training for sprint-triathlon…add running and biking to the exercise mix. Notice that I can no longer afford to gas up the car. Holy crud! Good thing I’ve got a bike! Soon I’ll need solar powered legs.
Day 6: Captain & I decide that Cat Maudy needs to get hauled out in early June – at Georgetown MD- for rudder/steering repairs plus 3 weeks of exterior restoration projects (sanding, grinding, painting). I was really looking forward to this.
Day 7: address the mold problem that began in Charleston SC on the entire interior of Cat Maudy. She will require complete restoration to all painted surfaces to be completed by end of May. More fun!

Yep, I’m really enjoying some downtime.

We decided the best place to begin interior restoration would be the starboard forward berth. What originally appeared to be a 2 day project…. morphed into an 8 day project. All clothing and bedding (which had been stored in airtight bags after a mold infestation in Charleston SC) had to be moved to the salon. After we removed the bed frame and mattress, we discovered about 30 gallons of stagnant water sitting in the hull. The water had gotten into the hull during the ICW portion of our prior cruise — where we overfilled the water tanks in order to get low enuf to pass under 65′ bridges. Some of this water spilled out when powerboat wakes tossed us around in shallow waters. Sooo, we had to pump out the water from the hull, let it dry…and disinfect for odor relief.

After a shopping excursion to Home Depot for all sorts of fun things (ventilators, white paint suits, painting supplies, sanding stuff and more) – we were ready to tackle removing the latex paint. That’s right, latex paint. I had it in my mind last year when I originally painted all of the staterooms — that maybe I should TEST using latex paint on just the starboard forward berth. After all, glossy latex is used in home settings that get wet a lot (bathrooms) — so it seemed logical that it would work well on a boat. Nay nay. One year later, the mold was everywhere, the latex did not adhere well to the prior layers of marine primers…and overall it was a big mess. Best to stick with pricey marine paint. Fortunately, I did not use latex paint in any of the other berths.

While we had sealed off (so we though!) the starboard forward berth from the rest of the hull — we soon realized that sanding would propel all dust particles throughout every surface of the boat. It took 2 days to clean off all of the particulate matter throughout the boat. Unfortunately, the sanding wasn’t too effective, as we discovered that the original layers of paint (pink) was not adhering well to the fiberglass. Off to West Marine to get some fiberglass-friendly stripper chemical. Next, we applied a layer of ooze (stripper) to the entire berth area….and waited for all of the paint to come peeling off. Ok, it didn’t exactly work that way. First you have to scrape off all of the ooze, and only SOME of the paint works its way off too. So, we spent a lot of energy scraping and giving our upper bodies a good workout. Who needs a gym? Then, we decided to apply a second layer of ooze (stripper) to try to get off the remaining paint. That seemed to work better – but it still burned many calories to get little chips of paint to come off the hull. To remove the remaining gummie stuff from the hull – acetone did the trick. One more treatment of sanding…followed by a layer of cleaning chemical – and we are now ready to paint the first layer of primer.

Needless to say, all of the chemicals AND paint smelled really bad – so we had to keep as many hatches open as possible in order to breathe. One night I even slept in the cockpit – the fumes were that bad. Soxy, our cat – discovered that all of these open hatches were a perfect opportunity to escape off of the boat onto the dock (luckily, she returned later that eve!). This project seemed to be going really well.

By the time we applied 2 finish coats of paint to the starboard forward berth – I thought my arms were gonna fall off. They somehow managed to stay on – and we returned all mold-free tie-dyed clothing to closets and compartments – and put the bedding back onto the bed. It looked fantastic – like a hippie boat bedroom out of the 60’s. With this berth complete, we rode the momentum and moved on to the starboard stern berth.

…this sanding technique did NOT work too well, tho we did manage to get white paint dust all over ourselves and the entire boat.

Fortunately, the starboard stern berth did not have a layer of latex paint, and we had learned a few tricks from the 8 day adventure of fixing up the forward berth – that would make the job go faster. One trick – was to attach the vacuum directly to the sander — so that all of the particulates would go into the vacuum and not permeate throughout the boat. The next trick, was to mix 50-50 primer with finish paint – so that we would only need to apply a 50-50 layer, and then a finish coat (as opposed to 1 coat of primer…then 2 coats of finish).

And finally, we avoided leaving certain hatches open that allowed Soxy to jump directly to the dock. Full speed ahead now! The entire starboard hull was now complete — ie. Mold removed, completely sanded, primed and finished with the appropriate marine grade paint. Exercise diversion. Time for a few days off of boat projects…for some skate and triathlon training.

Skated 40 miles one evening on my new pink Bont speed skates. The workout was great – but this was a bit too much time in my new pink boots since they haven’t yet been broken in. My inside right ankle was heavily bruised. After a few more days of painful skating (due to inside ankle bone), it was time to do what I do best. Obsess. It was time to get serious…and drag the Captain to the local Safeway parking lot — to video my skate technique, and help analyze this ankle issue. Sure enuf – that pesky right ankle collapses inward. Bought some arch supports for my skate boots, arch inserts for my running shoes….and it appears that the collapsing ankle problem is now history.

Returning to boat projects now…with my arteries full of exercise endorphins. We would now prepare to tackle mold and painting on the port hull. We chose the port stern berth as the next job. The mold was fairly advanced on the port side – so the entire berth area needed to be “bleached” in a toxic Simple Green solution. I wore the respirator for this – and with 30 knots of wind – the hull aired out pretty quickly.

By the time we were ready to begin painting, we had the prep-n-paint routine down to a science. I had even packaged up Tupperware bins with all of the necessary paint items – making it easy to pull out whatever was needed. Before stepping into the staterooms, we suited up with latex gloves, white suits, respirators, plastic bags for our feet, and each had our own set of rollers, paint brushes, stir sticks and pan liners. Pat would paint the “bed” area, and I would work the closets & entryways.

Both ‘heads’ on the port hull were out of service while fiberglass repair and painting renovations were underway

…and a finished look for the staterooms on the Port side. Can I be done with painting now please?

After a year and a half of steering Cat Maudy in circles, she was finally getting a tune-up by the finest boat mechanics at Georgetown Yacht Basin. Bent rudder shafts were getting straightened, bearings re-lubed….we would soon have to learn how to steer the boat without massive over-correction!

Avoiding fishing boats and crabpots: Solomons to Baltimore MD

Solomons to Baltimore MD
Chesapeake Bay

Barring any mishaps, or significant changes to weather (like GALE force northerly winds) – we should be able to make it back to Cat Maudy’s home port of Baltimore today. We motored north up the Chesapeake bay to mostly calm seas – and a light northerly breeze. It must have been an excellent day for fishing – because anyone who owned a fishing pole and had access to a boat – was either anchored or trolling. I thought about making use of our new fishing pole – but somehow we had managed to misplace the only lure that we owned (a Wahoo Wacker) – so there would be no fishing on Cat Maudy today. Probably not any Wahoo ocean fish in this section of the bay anyway! We motored just outside of the shipping channel, in deeper waters — to avoid any altercations with crab pots in more shallow waters. There would be no diving for crabpots on this final leg of our cruise.

This section of the Chesapeake Bay is familiar territory to us – and we took note of the recognizable sights: Little Choptank River…Choptank River…Poplar Island…Rhode River…Eastern Bay… South River…Severn River…Annapolis…and the Bay Bridge. We were not making the best time, but it didn’t really matter. We knew we would be back to Baltimore eventually. As we approached the Bay Bridge — our speed dramatically slowed. A strong ebb tide kept us at about 4.5 knots for the next few miles. Near the mouth of the Magothy River – a delightful breeze showed up from the East-Northeast. We hoisted the main and unfurled the jib to see if we could gain any speed for motor sailing. Not bad. Within a few more minutes the breeze had freshened up sufficiently — allowing us to turn OFF the motors and cruise at about 6.5 knots! Woo hoo — we’re sailing now!
Sailing. Not motor-sailing….just sailing. Finally, it was quiet, without the incessant noise from the diesel engines. Sailing. It was a fitting end to our cruise originating from Charleston SC nearly 4 weeks ago. We sailed up the Patapsco River — into the Port of Baltimore – enjoying a beautiful sunset along the way.

Charleston SC to Baltimore MD Trip Stats:

  • 650 miles (250 miles offshore, 200 miles on ICW, 200 miles on Chesapeake Bay)
  • 9 travel days
  • 25 calendar days
  • 0 days 90% or more of time pure sailing (i.e. no motor)
  • 2 days 50% of time pure sailing
  • 4 days 30% or less of time pure sailing
  • 150 gallons diesel consumed (ouch $$)
  • 0 days the steering worked properly
  • 5 days operating the boat with one rudder
  • 2 days operating the boat with the wrong rudder (i.e. the one that didn’t work!)
  • 1 day of kitty motion sickness (Soxy & Earl felt a bit queasy on the first day offshore)
  • Repairs made: topping lift, stack pack loop, reef line
  • Repairs TO DO list: steering, dinghy motor, autohelm

What I learned on this trip:

1. Offshore GRIB charts are probably the most reliable weather predictions for offshore sailing. Either download GRIB files (Atlantic 5day) or use http://passageweather.com . Offshore forecasts from the National Weather Service are also handy http://www.nws.noaa.gov/. Weather forecasts for port cities might be interesting to review, but rarely reliable. Check radar forecasts to monitor the path of stormy conditions.

2. Leave behind any time schedule you might have. If you think the trip might take 2 weeks — double the time to be realistic.

3. Get comfortable with the concept “Waiting on Weather”. You may have to wait longer that you would like, and often times – the ideal weather just never appears. Make the best judgments you can and be prepared for anything goes.

4. Stockpile staple & favorite foods where possible (rice, soups, pasta) – as you may find yourself at anchor more than you think, and not every harbor town has a grocery store nearby. Use green bags to preserve produce. (http://greenbagsdirect.com) Have easy to prepare foods on hand – as often you are too tired at the end of the day to do any gourmet cooking.

5. Know the systems on your boat — hydraulic, electronics, engines — so that if an emergency arises you can troubleshoot quickly. I have a lot to learn in this department — but that will change!

6. Have wetsuits (that fit) for both the Captain & First Mate handy on the boat — in case you need to dive under the boat in cold waters the fix a problem

7. Safety: I can’t tell you how much more comfortable I felt offshore — knowing that I was tethered to the boat at all times.

8. Have a bailout plan in case the sea state changes sufficiently – preventing you from maintaining your original course. The sea state (waves & swells) can change SURPRISING quickly with increasing winds or storms.

9. If something can break at the most inappropriate time — it will. It’s up to you to deal with it, fix it or come up with an alternate plan to keep going. Cool heads prevail. No one else can help you until you are at a port with lots of marine specialists and money.

10. Use a combination of GPS & backup GPS systems, plus reliable computer navigation software. We use “The Captain” software — and it was incredibly on target for guiding us into unknown ports, as well as through shallow waters in the ICW.

11. Be humble. Talk with other cruisers along the way – and learn from their experiences (and share yours too!). You never know when a cruising tip might just save your butt!

Downtime in Deltaville VA, and northbound to Solomons MD

Deltaville VA…and north to Solomons Island MD 4/22-4/23/08
Boat Repairs in Deltaville VA

We couldn’t have picked a better spot to have some down-time, while waiting for southerly winds. I can’t say this with any certainty, but Deltaville appeared to be the kind of place, where everyone knew everyone else in town. You could leave your car unlocked with the keys inside, and no need to lock your house door at night either. If you needed a cup of sugar to bake a homemade pie, you could always ask your neighbor for a little sugar to spare – and share some of that pie as well. This is the kind of town I imagined Deltaville VA to be.

We decided to make good use of our time in Deltaville – by first visiting the local attractions (West Marine) and make necessary boat repairs. As small as a town that Deltaville is (just a little dot on the map), it was overflowing with marina specialty stores to service the boat industry.

The boat projects that required the most immediate attention include:
1. Replace topping lift line (140 feet of new rope — ouch $$$)
2. Sew up Sail pack
3. Replace 3 reef line blocks on main sheet
4. Re-install all electronics at the top of the mast (anemometer, VHF, windlass & tri-color light) that had to be removed prior to the inter-coastal portion of our trip

With the local West Marine just under 2 miles from our dockage, we determined the best way to get there – was to use two bicycles, courtesy of the Fishing Bay Marina. Fitting perfectly with my view of Deltaville, these were delightfully vintage bicycles — single gear, white-walled tires, pedal backwards to brake, plus a huge basket attached to the handlebars — and proved to be the ideal mode of transportation. I’m not sure if it is “normal behavior” in Deltaville, but EVERYONE we passed (on car or on foot) waved to us. Very friendly town (plus we looked pretty snazzy cruising along on these bikes)!

After a costly trip to the West Marine store, and a trip to the local grocery store (i.e. 7-11!) — we rode back to the Fishing Bay Marina to get started on our projects. By Wednesday, the storm weather had subsided, and the winds had settled down enough to allow Pat to be hoisted to the top of the mast – to reinstall the electronics. We completed the remaining projects on our “Deltaville To Do” list….and decided to take in more Deltaville sights — this time, without spending dollars on boat projects.

We hopped back onto the courtesy bikes with the big white-walled tires, and took a spin out to Stove Point – the tip of the peninsula that borders Fishing Bay Harbor on one side, and the mouth of the Rappahannock River on the other. The residents on Stove Point – have obviously had problems with “trespassers” — as there were 3 huge signs warning us to “GO BACK NOW”…”PRIVATE PROPERTY”. How silly. We ignored all of these signs, and continued peddling our bicycle classics along this beautiful peninsula. I had scenery to absorb, and pictures on my mind – and a few little No Trespassing signs would not stop me. I’m guessing the residents on the Stove Point peninsula are not native Deltaville folks — as they haven’t quite gotten into swing of the otherwise friendly local flavor.

In any event, it proved to be well worth the cycling adventure out onto this private peninsula — as the views from the shoreline were magnificent (from a land owner perspective) — and if you had to live on land — then this would be the spot.

Along the thin peninsula called Stove Point – you could see views of the Rhappahannock River on one side, and views of Fishing Bay Harbor on the other. And in between, the azaleas were in full bloom! Rhappahannock River in background Fishing Bay Harbor

4/24/2008
On the Chesapeake Bay
Deltaville VA to Solomons Island MD

Weather predictions called for a brief period of VERY LIGHT northwest winds…changing to VERY LIGHT southerly winds. We decided it was time to try to motor sail to Solomons Island MD. For some reason, we continue to believe the weather forecasts (and yes we compare about 5-6 different sources too!). I guess we figure just ONCE it will be right.

We departed Fishing Bay Harbor with patchy fog chasing us out into the Rhapphannock River. Fortunately we were traveling a few knots faster than the fog — and we reached the Bay without losing any visibility. Once on the Chesapeake — we hoisted the main sail, and unfurled the jib. The winds were light from the northwest – and with our tack, we got about ½ knot boost from the sails to help with speed. So far, the weather predictions were right on target.

Steering was by far our biggest challenge. With use of only the port rudder for steering the boat — it was very difficult to hold a course. We experimented by hoisting the starboard rudder completely out of the water – and securing in an upright position to the stern cleat. Not sure that this really made any difference, but we convinced ourselves that steering was a tad improved. Amazing what the mind will believe if you tell it so!

In any event, we were constantly veering off course 10 degrees to starboard, then 10 degrees back to port to correct. Cat Maudy wanted desperately to come to starboard — and we had to hold her back. The light winds eventually became “no” winds – so we furled in the jib…and motored past the mouth of the Potomac River.

Somewhere in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay — across from Point Lookout the winds picked up. Yep, they picked up all right — to 20 knots from the north. Not the south…and not light winds…but instead 20 knots strong from the north hitting us head on. The waves were building, and once again, the weather weasels got it wrong. Oh well – time for a new plan.

We motored closer to the western shore to see if we could escape some of the larger wave action. Much to our surprise – the seas were far gentler along the western shoreline – even though the winds appeared to be gaining strength. I looked at the topography – and it appeared between the northern mouth of the Potomac, and the mouth of the next river north (the Patuxent) – the angle of the shoreline protected us from the brunt of the wave action. If we ventured back OUT toward the middle of the Chesapeake — we would lose some of this land protection from northerly winds – and the waves would be bigger. This is a no-brainer. We’re staying close to shore!

That is, until the Coast Guard boats came chasing after us. It appears, that the nice protection close to shore, put us into a military “TARGET RANGE” (no trespassing zone) – and within 20 minutes the TARGET area would be surrounded by fighter jets who would be shooting at targets in the water. Come on guys….give a first matie a break here? Do you really need to shoot at the water right now? Can’t you see there’s a lot more wave action out in the middle of the bay?

Water targets line the area — along with Coast Guard boats protecting them! So, we had to change course again — and head back out to the middle of the Chesapeake — to avoid being a TARGET …in the TARGET ZONE…of the US Navy. Having survived being a pleasure boat target for some TOP GUN fighter jets further south on the Alligator River (in North Carolina) – I didn’t want to mess with a possible encounter. However, I would be ready this time — for the air show. Despite entering back into bigger waves, I was looking forward to our front row seats for the shoot-out at the OK-Corral on the Chesapeake Bay. “Maybe I should make some popcorn?” I suggested to Pat. We motored on in our new course farther out in the Bay….and kept a watchful eye for the upcoming air show. 30 minutes passed….45 minutes….an hour…and by now – we had motored far enough beyond the target range that we no longer had front row seats. The US Navy vs water target battle never happened. I guess they just didn’t want us around.

By 6PM, the STRONG 20+ knot northerly winds…had subsided to nil. We were motoring up the Patuxent River — some familiar territory — for anchorage at Solomons Island. Cat Maudy would be spending her first night in Maryland since November 2007.