Category Archives: East Coast Sailing Voyage

Thawing out: Return to dockside – post Hurricane Sandy

At daybreak, we were preparing to motor 1.5 hours — to return back to dockside.  Back to “juice”.  Which translates to heat.  It can’t happen soon enough.   It has been 41 degrees in our cabin since Monday night – Hurricane Sandy’s landfall.

While at anchor – the port side engine ignition switch disintegrated.  Just like that.   For awhile we couldn’t turn on the port engine.   But Captain Paddy figured out a way to hold the broken pieces in place from the inside, while I gently turned the key — to get the engine to turn on.    By 7:30AM we hoisted anchor, along with our other sailboat “friends” who weathered the storm in Wilton Creek.

We navigated out the Piankatank River, and around Fishing Bay – into Deltaville.   Blowing 30 knots…which feels like “nothing”.  Hard to imagine I’m saying that!   Only a handful of boats were in the marina.   It was empty, and for a moment I wasn’t sure if we were authorized to return.   We had no intention of asking permission.  Frozen to the core, we made a beeline for the dock….and quickly plugged in the shore cord.   Let the thawing begin.   Followed by a very long, hot shower.

For us, Hurricane Sandy is over.   We were very fortunate.  For millions more, they have no power, no heat…no shower.   It gets old and cold fast.  Many have lost everything.  It is heartbreaking – and they will have a long road to recovery.   If you can, please consider a donation to http://www.redcross.org and I’m looking into ways to do more.   Please share via comment if you come across ways to help.  These are our brothers and sisters.

Before Hurricane Sandy arrives…

Thursday 10/25/2012 

We had PLANNED to do some sailing – and when we departed for Deltaville VA – this little blip in the news called “Sandy” was just some storm in the Caribbean.  Nothing for us to worry about here in the South Chesapeake Bay.

But no.  Suddenly Sandy is predicted to take on the mid-Atlantic along with her sister storm Nor’Easter and voila a “Perfect Storm” is in the cards.  And if that’s not enough, there is a full moon and Halloween coming up – and suddenly FrankenStorm is being born.

Thus, it’s no surprise “Sandy” is the talk of Deltaville. Everywhere you go – everyone is talking ‘Sandy’.  Currently they are expecting gale force winds here – which we can handle, but the storm surge is the potential problem. There are 2 “hurricane holes” that we can go to: one an hour away, and another 10 min from here. If it looks like it will get pretty bad – then we’ll probably opt to leave the dock and tuck into a smaller waterway with lots of land protection.

If the surge is over 4 feet, then water will be on top of the dock – cuz they are fixed docks here. More than 8 feet and the boat will float off the pilings…so this is our current concern. We are also thinking about fleeing to Baltimore and tuck into some marina, but this is a last choice because of the distance and time it will take to travel. We’d basically have to do a pedal to the metal 24 hour trip – and night-time is not the best on the Chesapeake (many obstacles ).

Soooo – we’re in “wait mode” (for more data) to see which mode we’ll need to take. aiii. Today is beautiful here – light winds – not enuf for sailing – a lovely “calm b4 the storm” 😉

Friday 10/26/2012

The marina is a buzz with activity.   Boat owners everywhere taking down their sails and tucking away anything that could blow with the wind.  Cruisers are taking refuge by setting out a spider web of anchors.

Current model shows a direct hit of Hurricane Sandy to Baltimore! AIII!!! Ok – here is the update. We’ve made plans to have the sails removed today…and will fuel up this afternoon. We’ve stocked up on food n kitty food for u know who. We will have to go up into Wilton Creek, and we checked it out via car — looks to be very well protected. Paddy checked the mariner reports on Wilton Creek and it has good holding grounds, surrounded by high terrain and lots of trees. We will depart for Wilton Creek tomorrow am…along with probably a zillion other yacht-ie types 😉

Sun – Mon – Tue are supposto be bad here, so we’ll be hopefully secured in Wilton Creek. I bought chocolate in case I go stir crazy. We won’t have electrical = heat….so that will be a downside. I do have lots of clothes… Was not planning to have to wait out a hurricane on our boat in a little creek…aiiii..what is…is.  I’m stressing with the thought of little to nil electricity (only when we run the diesel engines)…no heat…and no endorphins.   I may have to dig into that bag of chocolates early.  Will plan for a very LONG jog tomorrow AM before departure to Wilton Creek. 😉

later in the day on Friday:

For a very brief moment,  we were soooooooooooo excited cuz the marina was going to relocate us to another dock. Then…somebody by the name of “Keith” intervened….and said we had to leave. I think he owns the place.

 We finished putting 30 gal of diesel (5 gal at a time) into Cat Maudy.  Since some uber large yacht took over the fuel dock – we weren’t able to saddle up and get fuel.  So, we had to use a 5 gal jug – and make 6 trips to the fuel dock to get juice…then dump it into Cat Maudy.  This took about 2 hours.  We now have 40 gallons to ride out the Sandy wave.

The marina is practically empty now. Kind of eerie. All day long boats were getting hauled out…or just leaving the dock for that creek the locals are calling a hurricane hole. The wind forecasts are getting stronger. Steady 40…gusts to 45. Let’s hope they don’t go higher.

We left the car on higher grounds…and left the keys with our marina buddy Ed. I asked Ed to hold onto our car keys, just in case.  Just in case Ed needs to come and rescue us.

Starting to feel the stress now of the “unknown”. I may need to get another batch of chocolate before we depart in the AM.

Cat Maudy to Reedville for the winter

Cat Maudy sails (or tries) south for her winter ‘home’. Home this year will be Reedville VA. It’s a dot on the map just south of the mouth of the Potomac. She’ll be getting some work done – on the hard. Departed from Baltimore on a beautiful fall day – temps in the upper 50’s. The weather window would be 3 straight days of basically ZERO wind…with light breeze from the south. South breezes mean warmer temps, so we are OK to sacrifice the sail (this time only!) for warmer temps! Three hops…day 1 to Annapolis, day 2 to Solomons MD, and day 3 to Reedville VA.

Photo and video gallery

Cat Maudy sails da’sewer waters of the Bay

A week after Hurricane Lee drowned nearly every community along the Susquehanna River – we decided it was time to explore the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. We discovered…a sewer…debris large enough to puncture recreational boats, submerged huge blue barrels of questionable contents…and the water took on a shade of chocolate brown.

Despite the downsides…Cat Maudy left the Baltimore dock…for sail time…and ended the day in Annapolis.

View Photo and Video Album
Play slideshow

Winter on land…

3 months of winter on land in suburbia Maryland wasn’t all that bad.  It could have been worse….like a winter in Canada (brrrrr).   We spent our time on land….

-working working working….computer clients keeping us busy!
-created a Cat Maudy simulator to test out navionics and software

-not exercising enough  (OK…anything less than an 8 hour day of endorphins is cutting it short)
-learning how to cook in a “land kitchen” – where the food cooks at warp speed
-fixing a 55 year old patio that was becoming one with the earth
-wondering if Cat Maudy missed it’s captains…

And finally – it is spring!   The return to Cat Maudy is now within weeks….let the sailing season begin!

Baltimore…At Last

Bundled in cold weather gear, we left our mooring in Annapolis in hopes of a slow sail into B’more. But alas, NO wind at all. Not even a smidge. It’s all good. We motored the last 30 miles of Our Big Adventure – back into familiar territory. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the Magothy River, Bodkins Point, hundreds of crabpots….and of course up the debris-filled Patapsco River. Some container ship is missing half of it’s lumber from the Amazon forest. It can be found floating in the Patapsco.

Our Big Adventure, which began last fall (October for Paddy, and November for me) has been an amazing gift. We’ve learned to appreciate time. I no longer wear a watch – and generally have no idea what day or time it is. I do wear a compass watch. It tells me wind direction. Go ahead, ask me the time – and I’ll give you North…South….East or West – or some variant inbetween.

In summary:
8 month voyage
6 weeks to return from Biscayne Bay to the Baltimore Harbor
Caught 1 fish
Return trip: 700 offshore miles, 300 inside passage miles, 200 Chesapeake Bay miles
Overall trip: 2500 miles on water, 100 miles in a car
Top sail speed: 14 knots on Chesapeake Bay
Top average day hop speed: 9.2 knots from Ft. Lauderdale to Lake Worth
4 John Shuttleworth boats in the same mooring field
Biscayne Bay sailing rocks!
Favorite ports: Charleston SC, St. Augustine FL, Ft. Lauderdale FL, Coconut Grove FL, Norfolk VA
Cat Maudy steering/rudders are finally “fixed” after 4 years of going in circles!
We left the grid – and lived on 3 solar panels and a wind generator

Transforming our lives, into slow motion, and eliminating the need for instant gratification (pizza delivery, a midnite dash to the grocery store for chocolate to name a few), has given us a rare opportunity to take stock of the importance of each other, each moment, family, friends and those whose paths we cross for a day. It has been an incredible voyage….and I really just need to get my endorphins now.

Stay tuned… the next chapter is just beginning!

At Last

The big blow no show

Rest days. Yeah right. You think you need a day of rest from a big sailing adventure, cuz you’re a tad weary, and wake up the next day to discover that the winds are favorable. It would be a sin to waste favorable winds…on rest. Time to prep the boat — for sailing.

We departed from Solomons at a leisurely 8AM, with freshening winds blowing from the west. I admit, I’m in some sort of hurry to restore my endorphin-depleted lifestyle. When Paddy looked at the forecast and suggested that we might want to reef the main due to projected winds of 25 knots….I said no. Hard to imagine. This never happens. Usually, Captain Wuuus (moi) wants to sail only with the SS Handkerchief. Not today. We will get every bloody speck of wind that Cat Maudy can capture.

We motored at most a mile out of the Patuxent River – when the west winds took over. I hoisted the FULL mast sail, and we unfurled the FULL jib. No hankie sails today. With these winds — it was setting up to be a fast sail to either Annapolis, or possibly Baltimore if we could snag 10+ knot average. Thunderstorms are projected for the afternoon – so we needed to be “in some port” by 3PM. It is so completely foreign that I think about “how fast we need to sail” — I can only attribute it to my severe lack of endorphins. Visions sprout in my head about riding my speed bike cross country…or running my next road race….or just getting the jiggle out of my wiggle would be a good start after 1000+ northbound miles on a sailboat. I digress.

The winds were stronger than I expected, and Cat Maudy loved every bit of it. She raced around Drum Point at the mouth of the Patuxent, and like a stealth machine cruised past all of the other sailboats. Probably because they were all reefed down. Probably because they weren’t so desperate for endorphins.

No sooner had I started to calculate our arrival time into Annapolis at a 9+ knot rate – the winds QUIT. Just like that. One minute – they are blowing 25 knots…and the next minute, it’s all over. Completely over. It ended. No more winds AT ALL.

We complete our 40 mile mostly motor hop to Annapolis, and pony up to one of the mooring balls in the Annapolis Harbor. 30 minutes later, Cat Maudy self cleans – as we are greeted with 2 hours of rain and thunderstorms. Tomorrow winds will be light. It could be a rest day. Then again, maybe not.

Touchdown into Maryland

After 700 miles of offshore sailing during our “return to the north”, it’s hard to imagine that our most robust sail of the journey (to date) occurs on home territory. The Chesapeake Bay.

We departed downtown Norfolk at 6:15AM, and spent the next two hours motoring to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. We had a few obstacles along the way. US Warships. The really big ones. The aircraft carriers. We patiently waited for these huge ships to back out of their ports, and gain speed heading out the channel. You need to stay 500+ yards away, or else they point guns at you. Sipping coffee, we are in no hurry to become target practice.

As we entered into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay – the seas are flat, and the winds moderate. With the jib and main sail up – Cat Maudy is ready to capture every scrap of wind – should it beef up. And it did.

It is generally a mistake to cut across the Horseshoe shoal (north of Willoughby Bay) to save time going north on the Bay. Usually this shallow shoal is laden with crabpots – but mysteriously, there were NONE. I scanned the water line repeatedly with my binoculars searching for one of the little land-mines that would ultimately connect with our prop and rudder….but NONE existed. This is most unusual, and I figured stealth crab pots were lurking for us “up ahead”. Remained on high alert for crabpots while cruising the southern bay shallow waters – just in case.

It is not particularly warm here. Temperatures are in the lower 50’s….and with the winds and steady rains – it feels like 30. Bundled up with long undies, 3-4 layers of clothing plus foul weather gear, 2 hats, goggles and mittens – you would think we were cruising in Alaska. Where did the warm weather go?

It didn’t take long for winds from the east to give us a chance to sail. Without motor. Our sail speeds ranged from 7.5-9 knots, and Captain Paddy’s mood is changing for the better. The sea state is getting very lumpy. The waves in the Chesapeake hit you about 1 per second. There is no “wait” between waves – and it didn’t take long for Soxy to get cranky. She likes a stable ride, it it is getting hard to keep any footing.

Cat Maudy is one of probably 2 dozen sailboats that have decided to depart Norfolk in the AM. We catch up and pass most of them (ok…just sayin’ ;-), but by the time we reach the Potomac, the winds have gone into kick-ass mode – and the majority of the other sailboats bail out for the day. Waves are up to 4 feet, and fortunately the winds have shifted more to the southeast. This helps the stability factor – and we are no longer being bounced around as much. Two other sailboats and Cat Maudy – make up the remaining regatta, headed toward Solomons, MD. We are now making steady 9 – 11 knots of speed. Add some 25 knot gusts – and Cat Maudy screeches along at 14 knots.

Without having Popeye The Sailor Man on board, trimming the sails, and prepping to gibe the boat for a final tack into Solomons – takes every ounce of strength I can muster. And that’s not much…or nearly enough. Somehow we managed to gibe without breaking anything. Our final tack brings us to more beamy seas, and the winds are howling. Cat Maudy shoots like a bat outta hell. I sure hope there are no crab pots in the vicinity, because there is no time for navigating around these. We race for shore, and tuck up into the mouth of the Patuxent River, escaping the feisty Bay seas.

The winds were so stong – that we blew out a batten on the main sail. We didn’t notice this, until it was time to bring the main sail down. The loose batten, that no longer rests in its track – is now flopping everywhere….and no matter what I do, it keeps connecting with the lazy jack lines. All of this techno-sail-mumbo-jumbo just means that I can only bring down the main halfway – until it gets tangled up because the the broken part. And, it’s windy as all get-go. Paddy is busy holding the boat in place, and gives me one of those “you gotta figure it out yourself” looks. Each time that the broken part gets tangled in the lines…I have to RE-hoist the main sail about 6 feet…to untangle. Then try to lower it again without making contact with the zillion lines that it wants to connect with. This is fun. (NOT). I’ve now re-hoisted the main 3 times…and re lowered – with no success. My happy mood is long gone. Time for plan B. Let’s just say that Cat Maudy and I exchanged some very SALTY words. I can’t repeat them here, but it seemed to work. The main sail finally lowered in position a top the boom.

12 hours….100 miles from Norfolk to Solomons
Top sailing speed = 14 knots
Temperature = brrrrrrr

Takin in time at Norfolk’s waterside

The Waterside Marina is located in the heart of “tourist trap” downtown Norfolk. We love being tourists – and this is becoming one of our favorite layover stops. There is no shortage of restaurants, easy access to grocery and the weekends are filled with free concerts, wine tasting festivals and art vendors.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the winds are blowing 30 knots from the north east, and we can’t make any headway traveling north. We’re not going anywhere. At the moment.

So we enjoy some cruising downtime. This includes:

– jogging and more jogging. catching up on a severe lack of endorphins
– eating fabulous salads at Jillians Restaurant – a whopping 20 footsteps from our dockage
– sharing winter boating stories with fellow cruisers at the marina
– working….yep…we still need to make a living!
– turning on the propane heater. The warm air from southern Florida is just a memory
– provisioning…for what may be a 3-day sail up the Chesapeake Bay

Clearance under Fixed 65′ Bridges on the ICW: Our experiences during 1st week of May 2010

for tall masted sailboats

Every time we approach one of these 65′ fixed bridges, with our 63.5′ air draft, it appears we won’t clear…until inches before potential contact with the bridge. If only someone would take notes – so that we could have some feel as to whether the measuring stick is accurate, or the water levels are running high vs low….and general observations. Hey? Maybe that “someone” should be me? Below are my notes for all 13 fixed bridges between the mouth of the Cape Fear River (NC)….and Norfolk, VA.

Other tall masted sailboat may not have the same experiences we did — due to tidal fluctuations, the lunar cycle, and winds…so be sure to navigate carefully and wisely based on your own observations. Here is what we found:

Note: Our VHF antenna is 2′ above our mast height of 63′ 7″ This would make clearance (without contact with VHF antenna) to be 65′ 7″.

Carolina Beach Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 295.7
does bridge have measuring stick? Yes
measuring stick reads: 68′
tidal timing: 2 hours after high tide (low high tide)
our experience: NO contact with our VHF antenna
winds: 15 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: good
notes: we had plenty of clearance, even with weekend boaters creating wake

The following bridges are affected by ocean tides:

North Topsail Beach Route 210 Bridge (NC)
mile marker 252.4
does bridge have measuring stick? Yes
measuring stick reads: 67′
tidal timing: 2 hours after high tide (low high tide)
our experience: Ticked top of VHF antenna
winds: 15 knots southwest
accuracy of measuring stick: probably high…estimate closer to 65.5
notes: we had plenty of clearance

Emerald Isle Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 225.7
does bridge have measuring stick? Yes
measuring stick reads: 65.5′
tidal timing: 1 hour before low tide (low low tide)
our experience: Ticked top of VHF antenna
winds: 10 knots southwest
accuracy of measuring stick: good
notes: we had plenty of clearance

Atlantic Beach Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 206.7
does bridge have measuring stick? Yes
measuring stick reads: 66′
tidal timing: 1 hour after low tide (low low tide)
our experience: NO contact with our VHF antenna
winds: 15 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: good
notes: we had plenty of clearance

US Route 70 Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 203.9
does bridge have measuring stick? Yes
measuring stick reads: 66′
tidal timing: 1.5 hours after low tide (low low tide)
our experience: NO contact with our VHF antenna
winds: 15 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: good
notes: we had plenty of clearance

Core Creek Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 195.9
does bridge have measuring stick? Yes
measuring stick reads: 67′
tidal timing: 3 hours after low tide (low low tide)
our experience: NO contact with our VHF antenna
winds: 15 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: good
notes: we had plenty of clearance

The following bridges are affected by wind tides:

Hobucken Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 157.2
does bridge have measuring stick? No
measuring stick reads: I got a Stanley electronic measurement from the bow of 60′ 11′. Add this to our bow height of 3′ 10″ off the water – and this bridge measures 64′ 9″ .
tidal timing: —
our experience: Ticked our VHF antenna
winds: 10 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: —
notes: we had plenty of clearance

Wilkerson Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 125.8
does bridge have measuring stick? YES
measuring stick reads: 65′
tidal timing: —
our experience: Ticked our VHF antenna
winds: 10 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: good
notes: we had plenty of clearance

Fairfield Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 114
does bridge have measuring stick? NO
measuring stick reads: —
tidal timing: —
our experience: lightly ticked our VHF antenna
winds: 10 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: -no measure, but best guss is 65′ 5″
notes: we had plenty of clearance

Coinjock Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 50.1
does bridge have measuring stick? YES
measuring stick reads: 64.5 from southbound entrance, no mark on NB entrance
tidal timing: —
our experience: ticked & slightly dragged our VHF antenna
winds: 10 knots southeast
accuracy of measuring stick: -fair
notes: much tighter clearance than we expected

Route 726 Highway Bridge (NC)
mile marker 28.6
does bridge have measuring stick? YES
measuring stick reads: 64.5
tidal timing: —
our experience: ticked and dragged at 90 degrees our VHF antenna
winds: 20 knots northeast
accuracy of measuring stick: -probably reads higher than actual clearance
notes: we barely cleared this bridge

Great Bridge Highway Bridge (VA)
mile marker 12.6
does bridge have measuring stick? NO
measuring stick reads: —
tidal timing: —
our experience: lightly ticked our VHF antenna
winds: 20 knots northeast
accuracy of measuring stick: -no measure, but best guss is 65′ 5″
notes: we had plenty of clearance

The following bridges are affected by ocean tides:

Route 64 Highway Bridge (VA)
mile marker 7.1
does bridge have measuring stick? NO (bridge appears to be a bascule bridge, but it does not open!)
measuring stick reads: —
tidal timing: 2 hours before low tide
our experience: no contact with our VHF antenna
winds: 20 knots northeast
accuracy of measuring stick: -no measure, but best guss is 66′
notes: we had plenty of clearance