Category Archives: Off the Grid

Destination Georgetown – will wait for another day

My next ‘long run’ would be in a new neighborhood.   A new city.   On the Eastern Shore of Maryland and I was looking forward to running in new territory.   But first, we had to ‘get there’.

OK.  It wasn’t the best weather day for a 35 mile sail from Baltimore to Georgetown Maryland.  We were on a schedule.   Typically, schedules are a no-no for sailing.

The forecast was calling for rain, possibly a thunderstorm, and light winds 10 knots from the southeast.  The winds would be perfect, and we won’t mind getting a little wet.

We departed the Port of Baltimore at 9AM with a light drizzle and winds from the east at 15 knots.  At our dock, the winds registered 15 knots.  From the east.  By the time we navigated 1 mile – just beyond Fort McHenry – winds were a steady 20 knots.  From the east.  Did I mention – the ‘east’?  The east – is the direction we are traveling.  The wind is directly on the nose.  Surely this won’t last, and soon we’ll have those 10 knot winds from the southeast.

Making snails pace progress with now 20 knot winds on the nose, I checked in with the most dependable weather forecaster I know.  My brother.  My family is obsessed with weather – and who better to contact than my brother who reads every forecaster’s short notes, studies the radar and then adds his 2 cents?  He told me we had better hurry.  The weather would not be good in the afternoon.

By the time we had reached the mouth of the Patapsco River and entered the Chesapeake Bay – the winds had upped to nearly 25 knots.  Still on the nose.  I was confident that this weather would surely change for the better – but squall after squall of bucket dumping rain did not seem to change the wind speed or direction.

Our foul weather gear gave out in the first 2 hours.   Drenched, and with strong winds — we are getting cold, but figure — this weather has got to move on to brighter skies.

Somewhere out in the middle of the bay, the winds were creeping higher.  On the nose.  Our forward way slowed to less than 2 knots with the engines running at full speed.  There was no way we would make our destination – Georgetown MD.  And there were no weather holes we could tuck into.  Captain Paddy suggested we turn back.  Hard to imagine.   It is usually my role to recommend turning back.   I immediately agreed.  5 hours into our trip, we did an about face, and headed back to Baltimore.

This is when the weather got really “fun”.   With the wind now pushing us toward Baltimore, in less than 30 minutes of our ‘about face’ – apparently a typhoon arrived.   This is probably why my brother suggested that we ‘hurry’.   I didn’t have a need to look at the electronics to see what the actual wind speed was — but Captain Paddy made sure that I was informed.  “Oh my god – it’s over 35 knots” – Paddy yelled to me.   I’m already hanging on to boat parts, and then Paddy yells out “Geeezzzz….we’re over 40 now”.

Busy self managing (i.e. trying to stay composed and not completely freak out), I hoped that there would not be any more wind speed updates.   But there were.  Winds reached 50 knots.  By now, the Bay was in full ‘boil’ with huge waves pushing us, and Cat Maudy is doing her best at surfing along.   Thankfully it is a tailwind.  My eyes were fixated on the northern shoreline of the Patapsco River.   Once we had passed into the mouth of the river, I was sure that the winds would decrease with land protection.

20140812_163329It seemed like a very long time, but we finally made it into the Patapsco — where the wind speeds dropped to the mid-30’s.   The rains were dumping more water, and we were both cold and weary from the strain of trying to navigate the boat, and “see” with raindrops pounding into our eyeballs.

By 4:30pm, we had arrived back to our dock space – at the Port of Baltimore.  The same space we had left 7.5 hours earlier.   Georgetown will have to wait for another day.    And my long run, will still happen (tomorrow).   Back in my home neighborhood.   At least for now.

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 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.

Valley of Eerie – Bracing for Hurricane Sandy

Sunday night into Monday morning was a sleepless night…twirling at anchor.  

Very rough mentally.  When it gets dark, and you can’t see anything, and the winds howl so loud you can’t have a conversation, and the rains sounds like Niagara falls, and you wonder if the anchor is still holding – it eats away at your brain.  

But so far so good here at anchor.  I don’t want to jinx anything by being too optimistic.   This translates to taking photos and video.  I know some people take photos and video during a crisis — but it seems like bad ju ju to me.   Like taunting the mother nature gods to give you a good video clip – and messing with your ability to survive at the same time.  

We’ve felt the impact of Hurricane Sandy since Saturday afternoon, as Sandy makes its way up the coast.  The intensity grows every hour.  I have to say that this hurricane hole in Wilton Creek has done fabulous so far.   We watch huge trees above the river banks sway in every which way – and yet a different weather system seems to be occurring at water level.  It is a very odd sensation, that what you “see” is not what you “feel”.  And, all of the time, you wonder when that will change.   We can get internet (via our phones) at anchor – so we monitor the news coverage.  Which by now is 100% Hurricane Sandy.  

Today is the day.  The day that Hurricane Sandy will make it’s turn toward land.  Once she turns to the west (toward land), we would brace for the worse.   Our 5-11 National Weather tracking is bringing us news less to our liking.   It is now expected, that Sandy will make landfall closer to the Delaware Bay….i.e. closer to us.  Every mile matters.  The forecasts also show, that for some bizarre reason (perhaps the collision with the NorEaster) – that the brunt of the winds will extend down to the south bay.   What?   Our forecasts have changed – with the worst winds extending all the way to our location.   I’m not liking this news, and have decided to shut down on reading more about Hurricane Sandy.

What will be…will be at this point.  It’s time to look at the bright side.  Our hurricane hole has been good so far.  Buffers a lot of the winds that less sheltered areas are getting.   

The bands of winds from a hurricane can be deceptive.   You might experience the extensive sustained winds and  gusts for say an hour….and suddenly there is a calm.   During one of those “calms”, we watched some particularly bizarre actions on a nearby anchored sailboat.  The owners who were not riding out the storm at anchor – had returned to their vessel to re-positioned it for the coming southwest winds.   Once re positioned  the woman hopped into some floating dingy type device, and was being propelled by her husband who was swimming beside her pushing her to shore.  Brrrr..  

From 5PM to 7PM, we experienced that calm.  Maybe this was over?   We were getting settled into our new position at anchor.  Winds were blowing from the southwest , and we had the engines on – just in case the anchor didn’t hold as the winds changed from the north to the southwest.  It is nighttime again, and hard to see if we are dragging anchor.  

Our “anchor software” set off an alarm…that we were draggin. aiii.   Any notion of being tired was now replaced with a shot of adrenaline.  We stared at any position on land (lights from nearby houses) to see if the boat was moving.   It wasn’t.  We reset the anchor software…and hoped the alarm wouldn’t go off again.  It didn’t.
The past 2 nights – when we were getting Sandy from her north and northwest, the winds were howling.  However, as Sandy turned to make landfall, the sounds and intensity amped up.   Forget the howling winds…more like the sounds of a freight train traveling though the valley of eerie.   By 8PM, our hurricane hole which was doing it’s best at wind protection  but could not keep out all of Sandy.  The bands of winds were so intense at times, it felt like the boat was levitating.  The chain from the anchor was making grinding sounds and all of this happening in the dark.   And then there were the deafening sounds of the rain.  All I could think is when in the world will this be over???
My brother Chuck called us around 10:30 to say that they are OK (just outside of Baltimore), and the worst seems to be over for them.   They had lost power, but the winds had subsided.  WHAT????  I was shocked that the eye of Hurricane Sandy – which was much closer in proximity to Baltimore – would bring less weather to that area?  I thought that the hurricane EYEball could not just go off and leave the rest of the hurricane behind?  If it was calm already in Baltimore…why in the world were we stuck in Sandy hell here in Wilton Creek Virginia?  It did not seem quite fair and after 3 days twirling around this itty bitty anchor I’m in need for ‘fairness’.   But no…Hurricane Sandy’s eyeball apparently went rogue…and we will continue to feel the worst of her at least through the night.   There is no choice but to settle into the fact that there was nothing we could do.  

Winds increase – Sandy works her way up the East Coast

The winds are blowing steady from the North – as Hurricane Sandy works her way up the East Coast.  Even though she is still out to sea, we are feeling her wide reach.   The navigation buoys 15 miles east of us record the wind speeds – and show the winds are registering 40+ knots.

For perspective, we are anchored 40 miles due west of the Atlantic Ocean – and 45 miles northwest of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.   We are 80 miles due southwest of Ocean City MD, and 105 miles as the crow flies from Baltimore.  We consider our waters in the south bay to be “one with the ocean”.  We regularly see dolphins, sea turtles and there are reports of sharks – tho I haven’t actually seen a shark here.  The water is saltwater, and I can assure you that when we have spent a day sailing in the south bay – we have to hose off the salt from everything.

Hurricane Sandy is a wide-load….some 500 miles in diameter.   As of this writing (Sunday) she is currently 250 miles offshore, and about 200 miles south of us.  Her direction is north, parallel to the coastline, and getting closer to our position.

Today we are seeing the winds increase, and the rains are steady.  We are glued to the 5-11 National Weather updates.   Every 5AM / 5PM and 11AM / 11PM the National Weather service puts out a revised track for Hurricane Sandy.  Since we are so close to the ocean, any sooner than anticipated Sandy turn to the west is news that we don’t want to see.   The weather updates are becoming more consistent – and showing landfall well north of the Delaware Bay.

By late afternoon, the rains intensify and we are feeling bands of howling winds.  We talk regularly of “plan B”.   Plan B is final desperation   Plan B is where we have to abandon ship.  We are not at that point AT ALL, but feel that maybe, just maybe we should discuss having this plan.   At this point, we don’t know exactly what to expect.  The forecasts change at every update.  Sometimes the forecast is better, other times it is worse.  I prepare the ditch bag – those items that we MUST bring in moments notice all encased in ziploc baggies — SHOULD we have to abandon the boat.  Paddy readies the dingy lines — so that if we have to jump into the dingy – we won’t have to fuss with tangled line.   We contemplate weather we should put the dingy into the water now, or just let her swing on the dingy davits.  I wonder how we will put the dingy engine – which now rests on the back of Cat Maudy – onto the dingy when the winds take your breath away.  I stare at the shoreline, and decide that if our anchor drags – then we really don’t have very far to swim – to go ashore.   The water is 67 degrees.  Not frigid…but not temperatures I would want to spend any time into.   Then there is Soxy.  We could float her and her kitty carrier onto a boat cushion if needed.  Not sure what would happen once on shore.   I think that is Plan C.

We have also started living on “End of the World Food”.   This consists of food we would NEVER eat otherwise.   Grilled cheese sammies, egg n cheese sandwiches, soup loaded with sodium, chocolate…and not a hint of vegetables or fruit.  If the end of the world is coming – why not enjoy those foods that nutrition experts condemn?

As you can see, the looming “unknowns” of Hurricane Sandy begin to mess with your mind.  For one brief moment, I felt a truly paralyzing panic and fear.   I couldn’t move.   I didn’t want to be at anchor when the predicted mega-storm Hurricane Sandy of the century meets with a mid-Atlantic NorEaster – and does the unthinkable.   Instead of moving east, out to sea, Hurricane Sandy would be moving west.  Closing in on us.  Things were going to get worse.   I had to take back my mind.   And I did.  At least for awhile.  I turned up the radio to muffle the howling winds, and told myself over and over that the sounds were worse than what we would experience.

Departure for Wilton Creek…the Hurricane Hole

Still dockside at Deltaville, and by 3AM the winds are starting to howl.   Not steady howling, but enough to wake up Soxy…who in turn makes sure we are listening to the winds.

Getting up at 4AM has it’s advantages.  We can:
– recheck the latest hurricane tracking for the umteenth time,
– charge up all of our electronics
– make a list of all the items we must do before we leave the shoreline (gas for dinghy, more food for Soxy, and maybe more chocolate just in case)
– get work done for clients
– listen to the winds howl and wonder what it will sound like at 3X
And it’s only 5AM.   aii
By 7AM – we had a few details to tend to.  Fill up dingy gas tank…jog…get more food (apples and chocolate)…one last shower.  Could be days.  I know what you’re thinking…but this is a boat.  6 gal of hot water max.  One could hardly call this a shower.

By 10:30AM, we departed land and dockside – and ventured out into Fishing Bay Harbor.  Winds were already blowing 20-25 from the NorthEast so we enjoyed (not) a bumpy ride to get to the Piankatank River.  From here, we following a winding river that gradually took us out of the winds.   Winds dropped to 12-15 knots – and it seems like we are going in the right direction.

Paddy wanted to anchor out in some open area with protection from the north, but I had my sights on the locals version of a hurricane hole – Wilton Creek.   After 1.5 hours of motoring, we made it to the Wilton.  Depths of 8 feet.  Paddy considers it claustrophobic.  It seems perfect to me.  Winds that registered 25 knots just an hour ago – show 8 knots here.  One third.  Do the math — when Hurricane Sandy blows in at 60…maybe we’ll see 20?   That’s my logic and I’m stickin’ to it 😉

After a few attempts at anchoring – which turned out too shallow – we found a few cruiser ‘friends’ and dropped anchor for our hurricane hole-down spot.   According to one cruiser (who came to visit via dinghy) the local knowledge puts the storm surge in this creek at 3 feet, and explains that winds might ‘swirl’ due to the narrow creek.   I can handle swirl.

We take in the land terrain.  High banks, lots of trees at the top of the banks.   Basically we are sitting in the “valley” – ie the creek.  This is good.   We can hear the winds howl via the trees…but our instruments still read 8ish knots of wind.

Activated the wind generator to get power.  And we proceed to obsess about each National Weather Service update regarding the Track of Hurricane Sandy.  It will be close.

Cruisers for a day, or 2, or 3!

After a few days of Deltaville day sailing, we were finally getting our sailing chops back.  Well, maybe not completely back – but enough to venture further than 10 miles.   It was time to take a cruise.  Even if it was only a mini-cruise….we had this need to be cruisers again.

Time is limited.  Life and work is happening all around us…but wouldn’t it be great to rekindle cruising life – if  just for a day or 2?  We found a mini-weather window, and got back into studying the weather, the gribs and  how quickly the winds were clocking in the southern Chesapeake Bay.

With winds from the north gusting to nearly 30 knots on Sunday am, we waited til noon – and ventured out.  The seas were frisky, and the winds were down to 20 knots – so we decided to cruise south to Norfolk.   With following seas and fresh winds we were on course to make it to Hampton Roads by 5:30pm.  And then the winds dropped to 10 knots, and our sailing speeds suffered.  We made it to Hampton Roads by 7PM, as the sun was setting, and motored another 2 hours against an ebb tide to make it to our destination in downtown Norfolk at the Waterside Marina.   All was good, but we were rusty with this “cruising thing”, and forgot to factor ebb tides into our timetables.   Details for next time!

Fortunately, the winds were from the north on our 2nd day of this “cruising”….so we “had” to stay put.   With my bod in desperate need of WD-40, from hoisting, pulling and trimming sails…a day of rest at the Waterside Marina is a beautiful thing.   We wandered around downtown Norfolk….being tourists, and getting some much needed coffee at the nearest ‘bucks.   Caffeined-up, we checked out the size of the WWII battleship Wisconsin…and thought about ways to turn old battleships into something more useful.   Such as dorm rooms for students….or fixed rent housing….I mean come’on…these ships are enormous, and seem to be built really well.   Why not make them a bit more useful?

Back at Cat Maudy, we studied the weather and decided to take the weather window to return back to Deltaville – the next day.  South winds 10-15 knots would be ideal.   Having learned our lesson during our cruise to Norfolk, we even checked the tide tables.

We departed Norfolk at the crack of dawn (6:30AM)…for a 1.5 hour motor through the downtown shipping channel.   During this time, we nearly ran into a barge.   It’s not that we didn’t see it coming…we did…but for some reason we were mesmerized by the barge crane thing…and didn’t notice it was heading straight for us until the tug boat captain hailed us on channel 16.   Whoopsi!

At the mouth of the bay, the winds were in the low 10-15 range, and we made our first tack toward Cape Charles.  A few dolphins appeared as our guide, and it is always exciting to see these creatures befriend you.  Another tack, and we were near the mouth of Mobjack Bay.   With winds directly behind us, we sailed wing-n-wing for the next several hours.   And by the time we reached the Fishing Bay entrance to Deltaville — the winds had freshened up to 15 knots southeast, for a perfect sail finale!

Despite the short cruise (3 days)…it was a tasty cruise….and reminded us how much we enjoyed – and missed our cruising lifestyle.   But for now, we’ll take each and every mini-cruise we can get!

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Soxy rescued after falling into the Bay

By 9PM, all is dark, a cold front with tornado warnings has come and gone, and it’s getting time to fade out into dream state.   When outta the blue, Paddy leaps from the salon in a panic.  “Where’s Soxy??  Where’s Soxy??”

I went from faded dream state to all out panic in a matter of seconds.  Running to the starboard hull, I called for Soxy…but no response.   By now Paddy is outside in the cockpit, and the tone of his voice is frantic.  We can both hear Soxy’s screams…and knew right way…she was in the water.

Soxy knows a limited version of the doggie paddle.  Limited is the operative word.  If she is in the water, we have seconds to save her.  Paddy grabbed a flashlight and ran to the dock trying to locate her in the water, while I ran to the trampoline on Cat Maudy to untie the kayak.   The thought of swimming in dark, Chesapeake Bay water – with unknown sea life (sharks) lurking….is not my cup of tea.   But we’re talkin’ Soxy here – so this might be an exception.

From what seemed like forever, I untied the kayak, while Paddy yelled out to “hurry up, we’re losing her…”. The thought of losing Soxy sent a shot of adrenaline thru my weary bod – and like magic, I became Popeye the Sailor and lifted the kayak with one hand and ran with it to the cockpit – to hand it off to Paddy who was standing by on the dock.

“She’s under the dock” Paddy yells…and he quickly tossed the kayak into the water.  “Get in”…he instructs me – as he holds the kayak for me.

It was not easy to navigate under the dock with the kayak, as the waters were high.   I laid as far back as I could…and proceeded to look for Soxy.   Surely she could not still be swimming, as at least 5 minutes have passed since Paddy first heard her screams.

Surprisingly, she responded to me as I called out her name.   And there she was.   A sopping wet cat, completely terrified, and only inches above the waterline – holding onto the underside of the dock with a death grip.   I navigated the kayak to her, but she would not let go of the underside of the dock without a struggle.   Finally, I got in position to grab her with both hands….and pulled her as hard as I could until she finally let go.   And now, Soxy was under my death grip.

Paddy pulled the both of us out of the kayak.   The adrenaline rush was over.  The drama had played itself out, and both of us were too exhausted to move.   Soxy lives to see another day, and I’m guessing she used one or two of her 9 lives that evening.

Needless to say, Soxy is on permanent “lock down” while aboard Cat Maudy.  Oh, and we now have a big-ass fishing net ready in case Soxy wants to experiment with losing another 1 of those kitty lives…

Cat Maudy bounces back!!

After 10 months living on the ‘high-n-dry’ – Cat Maudy takes to the southern Chesapeake Bay with 2 days of sailing winds – leftover remnants from Hurricane Issac.

Cat Maudy and her Captains worked out the kinks on day ‘one’ with 10-15 knot winds…. Hmmm…tacking, furling, unfurling, maneuvering the daggerboard…so many details have gotten rusty.

And if sailing wasn’t enough of a moment to be savored, we had the good fortune of being surrounded by sea creatures. A school of dolphins gave us a front row private viewing of Sea World.

By day ‘two’ – the winds had picked up to just under 30 knots.  It took all my strength to hoist the main….and we’re feeling seriously AARP trimming these bloody sails in heavy winds.  It was all worth it in the end.  With a reefed main and reefed jib – Cat Maudy rose to the occasion, reached speeds in double digits, and we went along for the ride.

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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.

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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.

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