Monday, December 31, 2012

Beach Quest 2012

   The Berube's came to visit for the past week, and we partook in "Beach Quest 2012," seeking out some of the best beaches on Dutch St. Maarten, French St. Martin, and on a neighbor island of Anguilla (UK).
   We collectively decided that a "perfect" beach needs the following:
 - Natural shade (Chris)
 - Perfect power sand (Kathy)
 - Background music (Don)
 - Warm water (Kellee)
  So in our quest to find these criteria, we visited about 9 beaches in three countries over the past week, and along the way were assaulted by scantily clad men, wayward fowl, and too much patisserie.  However we saw some pretty cool beaches.
   The highlight was a three day diversion to Anguilla, where we sailed to Road Bay and spent some time on the quiet and beautiful island.
   St. Maarten is great - but all to easy to eat baguette and pain au chocolat every day.  So, with that in mind, we'll be shoving off for St. Barts (French) in a couple days to continue our trek southward.

  Check out a couple videos from the past week on the "videos" link above.  Happy New Year!
 St. Maarten

  Maho Beach

  Hollywood Casino

  Meads Beach, Anguilla

Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Photos

We were going through our files and decided to post some of the best photos from the past six months of sailing Navigator down the east coast of the US and the eastern Caribbean.  Hope you enjoy!  Better resolution photos are available on Flickr on the "Pictures" link above.  Happy Holidays from St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies!   


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Adios to the BVI and Arrival in Sint Maarten

We safely arrived in the Dutch side of St Martin (Sint Maarten) around lunchtime today and after a nap, checked into customs and made the evening bridge opening into the protected Simpson Bay Lagoon, where we were able to bump up our dock reservation.  We arrived a couple of days ahead of schedule in order to take advantage of a weather window, which made for a beautiful over night sail from Virgin Gorda. 

Since leaving Soper's Hole (delayed a couple of days due to Christmas we checked out Roadtown, nothing of note to report from there), we headed over to Peter Island, home of deadman's bay and the video from the last post.  We also explored Peter Island, a privately owned resort island of which the likes of Robert DeNiro supposedly spends his Christmas holidays.  We hiked over the island to White Bay and did some snorkeling, which was okay, but the highlight was finding a bunch of perfectly preserved, already bleached, sand dollars.  The next day we grabbed a dive mooring on Dead Chest Island and did a nice dive amongst some canyons filled with coral.  Saw a large sting ray too.  We also hiked up to the top of Virgin Gorda, a 9.5 mile pretty steep hike, but with a good view at the top.  

We haven't talked much about our snorkeling escapades, but on any given day we've seen lots of fish, a night snorkel yielded lobster and octopus, we've seen a few spotted eagle rays, small eels and a couple of turtles and nudibranchs.  We see a lot of turtles sailing around, and this morning we saw a pod of sperm whales as we approached the island.  We did one last snorkel in the BVIs up in Eustatia Sound and saw a bunch of live conch shells and a neat starfish.  Our first impression of St Martin is that this is where the wealthy come to  "yacht", we've seen more megayachts just today than we have in the whole of our journey so far.  Chris' parents are coming to visit for the holiday, so we're going to use our early arrival to get some needed boat maintenance done before their arrival so that we can enjoy the beaches, snorkeling, shopping and fine cuisine when they arrive.  Chris has been boning up on his french so at least we can order hamburgers and lemonade  on the french side of the island.  This island is the smallest landmass to occupy 2 distinct countries.  You can drive or walk seamlessly between the two, but if sailing, we will need to clear in and out of each country, even though the offices are only about 5 miles apart!

The next several islands  in our travels (Saba, St Barts, Statia, St. Kitts) are all visible from here, the next time we'll have to make an overnight passage will be after Grenada!  We are getting spoiled with having the next adventure always so close by!  Merry Christmas everyone!

 Peter Island hike.
The Sand Dollar haul.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New Short Video

   While visiting Peter Island, in the British Virgin Islands, we found ourselves dropping the anchor in Dead Man's Bay.  Across the water was Dead Chest Island.  It turns out this region is alleged to have inspired the lyrics "15 men on a dead man's chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!"  Who knows if this is true or not, but regardless, we found ourselves in need of some oreo cookies....

Just posted a new video in the "video" link above.  It is low quality due to bandwidth restrictions in our present location - we'll replaced it with the HD version in a couple weeks or so. Hope you enjoy:
Click here to go directly to the video.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Virgin Islands round 2

Greetings from Soper's Hole, West End of Tortola, BVI.  The last 10 days have been very busy... (sarcasm).  After relaxing at the pool and enjoying the tv, spa and restaurants of the Marriott, we got back on the boat and motored over to Crown Bay Marina to give the Navigator a little TLC.  We topped off on food, water and fuel and planned out the next week or so.  We sailed over to St. James Island the next day, just to take advantage of a free mooring and nice anchorage for the night.  Then we motored up back to Francis Bay, part of the national park on St. John...and spent the next 5 days there, swimming, chillaxing, reading, doing some boat projects, cleaning, relaxing some more and just hanging out.  The "Christmas winds" are in full effect, so it blows 25kts most of the day and calms a bit at night, so the bay was a nice place to be.  It often rains, seemingly out of nowhere, and only for about 5 minutes, which is nice to keep things cool, but frustrating to have to close the hatches in the middle of the night.  We stayed on the boat for the most part, but did spend one day ashore to hike 9.5 miles from the north end, up and over the peak of the island to the south end on the "Reef Bay" trail.  It was a perfect day for it, breezy, but no rain, and there were some neat sugar factory ruins along the route.  We were a little sore the next day, so we relaxed some more, swam to stretch out and ate an entire tray of brownies for dinner...we figured we earned it.  Today had us itching for fresh food and an internet connection, so we motored the less than two miles over to the BVI, checked in at Customs and got some fresh groceries.  We'll stay here tonight, probably head over to Norman Island tomorrow, then the winds are supposed to lighten up over the weekend, so we want to head over to Peter Island and dive "Dead Chest Cay"...supposedly where the phrase "15 men on a dead man's chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" originated. From there we'll work back up to Virgin Gorda, get a dock in Spanish Town to clean the boat and fill tanks, then wait for our weather window to head over to St. Martin, which is 80 miles away and should take us a full day/night. Chris' parents are meeting us there for Christmas and we can't wait to explore the Dutch/French island with them!  We'll check back in from Spanish Town before we head over there, hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Virgin Islands Week 2

We just completed a circumnavigation of the British Virgin Islands, stopping at all the cool places and snorkeling our brains out.  It was a good time with perfect weather.

One of the highlights of this past week was diving on the wreck of the RMS RHONE, which sunk in a hurricane in 1867 off the British Island of Salt Island. The ship was a mail transport vessel which was carrying passengers, many of whom unfortunately drowned in the disaster.  The wreck lies in two major pieces in about 50-80 feet of clear water, with several swim throughs and artifacts present.  It was a great 2-tank dive with a local company.

After leaving the southern BVI's, we stopped at Tortola to partake in a full moon festival, which was quite interesting, including spending some quality time at the "Bomba Shack" on the beach on the northern coast of Tortola.

Right now, we are back in St. Thomas to drop our friends off at the airport.  A side benefit is that we can cash in our Marriott Rewards Points for some free/discounted time in a hotel (I guess the long winter months in Maine were good for something!) It is an unbelievable luxury to have a shower, pool, internet, and real bed.

In the next couple days, we'll be heading back east again, through St. John in the USVI for some hiking  and then quickly through the BVIs again before heading over to St. Maarten for our Holiday Rendezvous.

There are some new pictures posted on Flickr in the link above.  Also there is a long (35 minute) "documentary" about our trip from North Carolina to St. Thomas in November. It is basically just a video blog to give you an idea about what it's like to sail a small boat south.  Kind of long but hopefully enjoyable.

Signing off for now - the pool awaits.

 Shawn checking out a dive site.
 Diving on the RHONE
Navigator at St. Thomas

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Short Video

We have posted a short video of our arrival in St. Thomas - we have a longer video but the bandwidth won't let us get it through, sorry! Here is the link to it, or you can click on the "video" link above.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Virgin Islands

We've had a great week visiting the US and British Virgin Islands with our friends Shawn and Meg, but alas, the internet has been hard to find.  After turning the boat around and cleaning it up after our big trip, we set sail the next day and visited St. Thomas and St. John for some pretty cool snorkeling.  We also hiked to the ruins of an abandoned sugar plantation from the 19th century.

Over the weekend, we crossed to the British Virgin Islands and visited the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke, and the remote coral atoll of Anegada.  On Anegada, we rented mopeds for the day and were able to access some isolated snorkeling spots which was great.

Today, we anchored 100 yards off a great surf break on the west end of Anegada, which we had to ourselves for the whole morning.  Right now, we are anchored in Virgin Gorda, at the Bitter End Club, to celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey and fixings - a nice surprise since we thought we would be eating canned chicken tonight!

All is well on the Navigator front and we are enjoying the islands.  As internet allows we will post pictures and video.  Thanks for all the kind words after our big trip!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Morehead City, NC - St. Thomas, USVI

We arrived in St. Thomas on Thursday, 15 November after a passage of 1428 miles in 13 days, 6 hrs. We averaged 4.5 kts, or 107.7 miles per day.  Our best day was 135 miles and our worst day was 93 miles.

We left before dawn on Friday, 2 November and set sail in lumpy seas to make tracks for the Gulf Stream.  We used the remnants from Sandy to propel us forward at a good clip, but the seas were such that the autopilot wouldn't hold so we handsteered the first night in short watches. We watched the ocean temperature climb 10 degrees as we crossed overnight.

After the Gulf Stream, we wanted to make miles south to avoid a developing low (which eventually brought snow to NJ).  Luckily we made excellent time on a brisk SW wind and were able to get ahead of the trailing cold front.  The HAM radio worked very well to provide weather reports and hopefully some of you were able to use the shiptrak website to watch our daily position updates.

We cruised on a southeasterly heading for 7 days, making miles and settling into a routine.  The nights were chilly but the days were pleasant if still a little lumpy.  We eventually made it to 65W, the longitude of our destination with 600 miles still to cover straight south.  This worked well as we soon encountered the easterly trade winds.

About 2 days from St. Thomas the winds abandoned us and left us frustrated for a day, which resulted in an arrival a day later than originally thought.  We finally arrived around lunch time on the 15th (Thursday) and immediately jumped in the water after anchoring, very happy to have safely arrived.  We picked up our friend Shawn at the airport and started making plans for our next couple weeks of adventuring with Shawn and Meg.  We moored in a marina Friday night to clean the boat, our clothes and ourselves and restock provisions and will be on our way back to the water later today.  When able, we have a great video of the trip down that we'll upload to vimeo, but it might take a few days until we can find enough bandwidth, so stay tuned!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Made it in to St. Thomas safely. Good trip, will post more when bandwidth allows. Thanks!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Heading Out...

We are departing today or early tomorrow from Morehead City.  It looks like a favorable (but cold) forecast, so we are going to make tracks. We plan to head south for a day or so, then east towards Bermuda, then south again towards the US Virgin Islands.  The circuitous route is to follow favorable winds and avoid large seas. We expect the trip to take about 12-15 days, but we are provisioned for 30 days just in case!  So you won't hear from us for a while, but we'll update the blog as soon as we can upon arrival.

During our trip we are going to try something new - we are going to call in positions on the long-range radio to a plotting website.  It may or may not work, so if you check it out and we appear to be heading off the edge of the earth or not moving, that doesn't mean we are in trouble, just that our radio is not propagating well.

This will be the link to our position reports:

Type in Kellee's radio call sign of: KB1YUE and it should show our latest position.  Again we are not sure if it will work but its worth a try!

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and emails as we get ready to start the next phase of our voyage.  The gear is stowed and the brownies are readily accessible, so we are off now!

Morehead City Week 3 and Final

We weathered Sandy just fine - some wind and rain and movies. All is well here.

During our last week in Morehead City, we finished up our maintenance projects and took a tour of the Pacific Seacraft factory in nearby Washington, NC.  This is where our type of boat is built. Navigator herself was built in California in 1986, but the company moved in the past few years, so we had a great time with Thumper as he showed us around the factory.  It is amazing how strong our hull is, especially when you can see one "in progress." This type of boat was built for what we are doing, so we feel lucky to have such a strong platform to voyage on.

We also loaded up on groceries, water, and emergency fuel to get us to our next destination. Luckily we had rented a car - that many groceries on a bike would be a problem.

The two of us at the factory.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and Morehead City Maintenance, week 2

  Luckily Hurricane Sandy is passing well to our east today and tonight, so we are only subject to the outer bands of precipitation and wind, allowing us to take a break from working on the boat and instead enjoy some Red-Box "triple features" while we hunker down in the cabin waiting for the storm to pass.
  We are seeing about 30 knots of wind today and expect to see gusts to 50, but that should be no problem where we are at...tied to a dock with doubled lines and plenty of fenders (and a Red-Box across the street).  So far the only casualty is a stray flip-flop which blew off the dock in the wind and is now missing in action. We will endure.
   Earlier this week we finished up our varnishing projects and the boat looks great. We also did one of our two big provisioning runs, getting some food staples and things that we may not have access to for the next month or so.
  Our friend Heather is going to grad school in Virginia, so she came down this weekend and we took a trip to the local barrier island (Shackelford Banks). There are no bridges, so we took a ride over from the local ferry (a 25 foot open boat) which was loaded with surfers hoping to catch the "epic curls" from the offshore cyclone.  We were able to take a long walk on the deserted beach with tons of shells, see some wild horses, and watch the crazy surfers doing their thing in the swells.  In fact, the humans were not the only ones surfing - we saw some dolphins riding the waves as well as some Pelicans riding the clean air just in front of the wave....pretty cool.

   After Sandy passes, the wind field looks pretty strong for a couple days, so we are looking at a departure closer to Thursday or Friday of the coming week.  In the mean time, back to our movie!

Waiting for the rain to pass.                                       Storm lines set.

Shackleford Banks, NC.                         Loading some provisions for the big trip.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Morehead City, NC maintenance week

   We've spent the last week in Morehead City working on the boat and watching the weather. We still anticipate a departure around the end of the month, so we are using the intervening time to make a few improvements to Navigator. The boat is a huge mess of tools and sanding residue (NMCM for our coastie friends), but here are some of the highlights:
   1. Fixing the companionway hatch - the main hatch leading down to the cabin had received some water damage over the 25 year life of the boat, so it was time to disassemble it and make a few repairs. This involved removing old hardware and wood framing to pull the hatch onto the pier.  After that, some plywood, epoxy, and acetone did the trick. The only bummer is that it was 6 miles to the hardware store by bike to get the plywood, and it was windy!
   2. Varnishing the woodwork - there is lots of teak on Navigator, which requires semi-annual maintenance. We use a Sikken's Cetol product that looks a lot like varnish, but has better ultraviolet protection (to avoid breakdown).  The basic process is to remove the old coating with either a heat gun or sander, clean the wood with an alcohol based solvent, coat it with 3-4 coats of Sikken's Natural Teak, followed by 2-3 coats of a glossy, translucent Sikken's product to protect the wood.  That should last about a year, at which time we just need to scuff the wood and put one more topcoat on it.  However, the wood is in such variable condition that we are "taking it all to parade rest" now, while we have the time.  This week we finished about 1/2 of the wood, working full days, so you can see there is still some work to do. However it is enjoyable work so it's all good.
   3. New canvas - our sewing machine arrived, which is a compact model made by Sailrite.  This enables us to make sail repairs or create canvas products as we need them.  This week, we made hatch covers for the two forward hatches.  Next week is a new sail cover and some deck bags.  The machine is amazing and can punch through 8-10 layers of canvas, and by making 3 or 4 products ourselves will pay for the cost of the machine (canvas companies charge ridiculous prices!).
   4. HAM radio operator license - Kellee took and passed her two HAM radio operator courses which enable us to legally talk on certain frequencies on our high-frequency radio.  The many formulas and definitions are currently be purged from Kellee's brain (via a nap) as I write this.
   5. Navigation light upgrade - we installed new red/green sidelights with LED (light emitting diodes) to cut down on power consumption.
    Aside from those main projects, there are the usual things to do around the boat, but the weather has been fantastic and the marina we are sitting in is so deserted that it is a veritable wildlife sanctuary, with Great Blue Herons and egrets slaying the little fish that hide in the shadows of the pier.  We saw one egret nearly choke to death on a wriggling fish stuck in it's throat the other day.
   Morehead City is pretty decent place to be - it has all the conveniences nearby (including a Red-Box for a nightly movie) and is great for working on the boat. All the same, we are still checking the weather 2-3 times a day to watch patterns and get in the groove for our upcoming departure.

                   6 miles to the hardware store by bike...          Sewing machine in action

                             Varnishing the wood.                      Replacing the sidelights.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ocracoke, NC to Morehead City, NC

   We departed Ocracoke, on the outer banks of North Carolina, with a stiff northeasterly breeze and made excellent time under a double-reefed sail towards the west, enabling us to enter the Neuse River and moor in Oriental, NC at a free town dock, right behind TOMKAT for a couple days. It was nice to run in to a familiar face again on the trek southwards!
   After checking out Oriental (the sailing capital of North Carolina), we sailed in company towards Morehead City, which is our last stop in the continental US.  TOMKAT continued on to the south, towards Myrtle Beach, where they will spend a month, and then eventually on to Florida and the Bahamas.  NAVIGATOR will spend about 3 weeks here in Morehead City (just across a bridge from Beaufort, NC) while we do some maintenance and watch the weather for our imminent departure to the islands.
   Hurricane season officially ends 30 November, but after 1 November, storms are so rare that most boats heading to the Caribbean use the latter as the departure date.  We intend to depart right around the first, weather permitting. So in the mean time, we check the weather three times per day to get an idea of the trends in the offshore forecast.
   Some of the weather information we check is the surface analysis charts, which indicate areas of high and low pressure, and accompanying winds and seas.  We also use the 500 millibar chart, which is basically a chart indicating the location of the jet stream - the jet stream is the "highway in the sky" which mid-latitude cyclones tend to follow.  For our friends in New England, this is why you tend to have nor'easters making their way up from the Carolinas every week or so.  Finally, we keep a close eye on the National Hurricane Center website for tropical forecasts and analysis.
   Once we leave the coast, we won't have access to the internet, so we have also been practicing with our single-side-band radio, which is a high-frequency radio capable of transmitting and receiving data from thousands of miles away.  This enables us to receive voice forecasts for the tropics and the mid-latitudes at any time during our voyage.  Additionally, when used in combination with a computer with appropriate software, the SSB radio enables us to receive weather charts via fax, over the air-waves.  So all the charts we look at on the internet are available for fax "download" over the air, it just takes a lot longer than clicking on a "favorite" website.  But it helps keep us informed at sea.
   Aside from tracking the weather, we have plenty of maintenance to do to keep the boat happy and looking good.  Today we rode our folding bikes about 12 miles to get some supplies from the local "shopping mecca," including boat parts, toiletries, notebooks (I'm very particular about my notebooks), and some tools which we have misplaced or dropped into the sea over the past couple months.
   Some may ask: "Why Morehead City/Beaufort?" We chose this location as our "jumping off point" for a couple key reasons.  Given a 1 November departure (for the reasons stated above) from the Continent, the usual spots to depart from are Newport, RI, Norfolk, VA, Beaufort, NC, and Florida.  We ruled out Newport because the distance from port to the Gulf Stream is about 350 miles, or 3 days sailing for us.  This is too far to enable an accurate weather forecast, and the absolute worst thing we could do is find ourselves in the northerly setting Gulf Stream when hit by a Nor'easterly blowing wind - bad news! Plus it's too cold for our liking this time of year. Norfolk is a decent departure spot, but it is north of Cape Hatteras, the graveyard of the Atlantic, and about 200 miles from the Gulf Stream, so a bit more challenging at this time of year.  Florida is too far south, and would require us to beat into 1200 miles of easterly trade winds to make our destination - that is not happening in a 34 foot sailboat.
   So that leaves Beaufort, which is ideal for us because it is only about 100 miles from the Gulf Stream, enabling us to get safely across that "river in the ocean" with a good northwesterly forecast.  Additionally, it is south of Cape Hatteras, which is the breeding ground for all the nor'easterly gales that make their way up the east coast.  So we will wait for a good forecast around the 1st of November, boogie across the Gulf Stream under full sail, and then work our way south of Latitude 30N, which is the southern limit for November gales.  After that, we'll make as much ground to the east in the zone of variable winds, before heading south to pick up the trade winds at about latitude 24N for the final leg.
   We anticipate it will take about 14 days to get to the islands, but we have a few contingency plans in place (as I'm sure anyone who knows us would guess).  These include stopping in Bermuda, which is right along our track line, to wait for good weather, or bailing out to the Bahamas if the weather gets too bad.  Our goal is to anchor at the island of Culebra, just east of Puerto Rico, but weather will dictate our ultimate landfall, which could be anywhere from Puerto Rico to St. John, to Tortola and the British Virgin Islands.  Any of which sound just fine to us.

 Motoring out of Oriental along the ICW (Courtesy of Tomkat).
 Getting ready to dive on the hull to check the sacrificial zinc anodes.
Moored to a pier in Morehead City, NC, our home for the next 3ish weeks.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chesapeake, VA to Ocracoke, NC

We knocked another state off the list and have arrived in the final stages of our U.S. part of the trip! Leaving Chesapeake was bittersweet, we are glad to be on the move again and heading south, but we had such a great time visiting with our friends the Coles and the Rumseys that it was hard to say goodbye.  We acquired a few 8 legged friends while at the pier so Chris sprayed a couple times as we prepped for departure and after a couple of days, we were thankfully spider free.  Our first day out from Chesapeake brought us to Great Bridge Lock, the only lock that we will see on this trip.  The drop was only about a foot, but it was a neat experience, and the line handler was giving out early Halloween candy, bonus chocolate is never turned away!

That night was a gunkhole anchorage amidst reeds in a backwater creek in a remote stretch of the VA ICW, neat to listen to sounds of nature as we ate dinner, then scrambled below to avoid the mosquitos.  A full day of motoring next brought us to an anchorage within view of the Wright Brothers monument at Kitty Hawk.  It was appropriate that we would see a Coast Guard cargo plane (C-130) fly overhead as we headed into the anchorage.

The next day was another long planned transit, each day we were covering about 40-50 miles, this time we motored past Roanoke Island, site of the lost European settlement of the "new world", now full of summer homes that were about half boarded up for the winter already.  The channel was challenging, very narrow, with only 2 feet of water if you stopped paying close attention and veered off.  We reached the end and sailed until sunset and found a handy anchorage for the night.

Yesterday we had a great day of sailing, 12kts of breeze and calm seas had us cruising along at almost 5 knots for the bulk of the day and we reached our ultimate destination of Ocracoke just as the sun was setting.  We expected some holiday weekend harbor crowd, but we did not expect to find a giant dredge straddling half the harbor!  This made for a tight anchorage and with a wind shift expected overnight, we did not sleep very well, getting up every couple of hours to check our lay.  We were fine, but with increasing winds and a frontal passage expected for the next couple of days, we opted for a pier for the next two nights.

We first availed ourselves of the showers and took a bike ride through the small village and spent a couple of hours at the beach, it felt so nice to get back in the Atlantic Ocean, still 78 degrees warm! The sand was like sugar and there were maybe 12 people on the beach.  Chris made use of the pool at the marina this afternoon and with a marina internet connection, we're getting caught up on the outside world.  We plan to leave here Tuesday and head for Oriental, back on the ICW and our last stop before Beaufort/Morehead City, our stepping off point for our big trip to the Caribbean.  It's crazy to think that 3 months ago we were finishing up work, two months ago we were in Block Island and in two months from now we'll be in the Virgin Islands! Time is flying by, but we are having a GREAT time!  We're getting better at cooking, taking pictures and of course sailing.
 A taste of life on the ICW.
Ocracoke Island, NC.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chesapeake, Virginia

    We depart Chesapeake this morning after a great 10 days with our friends Leah and Rob Cole, who graciously took us in and provided food, entertainment and air conditioning during our stay.  We were able to get some much needed parts for boat maintenance and then provision the boat for the next month at the local grocer.  As seen in a below post, we also took a road trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a very cool spot.  Chris also provided celestial navigation training to a local CG Cutter in preparation for their next patrol.  It was awesome to relax for the week and take care of some admin and repairs that have been piling up, with the bonus of hanging out with some old friends in the local tidewater area.
   We also tried out our pressure cooker for the first time with success, and got an awesome care package from Westport, complete with Halloween candy and our mail.  Chris attempted to grow a beard for the first time in his life, and made it 20 days before it drove him so crazy that it was shaved off (but not before being documented on film - see below).
   We depart today for North Carolina: we'll transit the inter-coastal waterway for two days before arriving in Albemarle Sound, where we will visit the outer banks of NC, before transiting another 3 days to Beaufort, NC, which is our final destination in the continental US.  There, we will re-provision and get ready for our 14ish day passage to the Virgin Islands, beginning in early November (after hurricane season).

 Chris attempts the beard which proved to be too irritating.

Rob and Leah at Assateague Seashore, in MD.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Eastern Shore of Maryland Road Trip

    While staying with our friends, Leah and Rob Cole, we took a road trip to Assateague and Chincoteague Islands on the Eastern Short of the Delmarva peninsula.  It was great to sea the open ocean again after so long in the Bay!  On Chincoteague, we saw the famous wild ponies as well as some deer and lots of birdlife.  It was a great trip; here are a couple photos (web sized) from the excursion.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Solomons Island, MD to Chesapeake, VA

   We have arrived on the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW), home of our friends the Coles and are looking forward to catching up and hanging out for awhile.  The trip down the Chesapeake was a whirlwind, we motored from Solomons to the Great Wicomico River, and stayed two nights in a nice secluded bay waiting for wind.  The entrance to the river was sketchy, with several uncharted fish traps to the north of the channel, we made sure we steered well clear, but it reinforced our decision to not travel the Chesapeake at night. We had a visitor, a boy and his dad paddled up in their canoe, complete with pirate flag, and demanded something sweet.  We obliged and learned that they were lucky enough to live on the point we were anchored just off.  Just down the river we had passed a stinky fish plant, and learned from our neighbor that it is the last Menhaden fish processing plant on the east coast, which manufactors fish wonder the smell!

   We battled a headwind the next day and had a fast sail, but only covered about 20 miles down to Deltaville.  Nice quaint neighborhood creek to wait out a passing front overnight and Kellee experimented to make bread in the pressure cooker with great success, definitely a recipe worth repeating, and super easy.  The next morning dawned chilly and we were anxious to move south.

   We had an awesome downwind sail under double reefed main all the way to Hampton Roads and made it in about an hour before sunset, covering 42 miles.  Our anchorage was a nice spot to watch the big ship traffic to go by and we slept well despite being right next to the entrance to the highway tunnel.  Monday morning we double checked our planning for the ICW, to make sure we would get through the bridges before the evening rush hour closures and headed into the ICW.  It was a busy Monday morning in Norfolk, we saw 4 different naval ships get underway and crossed several tug/barges traveling north

   6 bridges later, we arrived in the Cole's back yard. It's a perfect spot with the dock only a block away, we've planned several maintenance projects for this visit and are looking forward to catching up with our friends.  Please visit our videos page for a couple of new additions.
Downtown Annapolis, MD.
 Navigator has arrived on the ICW.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baltimore to Solomons Island, MD

    After completing our three main tasks (plus some boat maintenance) in Baltimore, we departed the city with a north wind and made our way over the course of two short days to Annapolis, MD, the sailing capital of the Chesapeake.  We anchored in quiet Weem's Creek, just north of the city, and spent a couple days visiting the town and TOMKAT while waiting out the weather. We were also able to re-provision via bicycle from the local Safeway market.  It was interesting to note that our Safeway Club cards still worked from Alaska, 8 years ago.
    Once a cold front blew through on Wednesday, we departed and made quick tracks to the south, with a following wind, eventually anchoring near Solomon's Island, MD, for a brief overnight.  After topping off on ice, we'll be on our way southward to Norfolk, VA this weekend.
    You can definitely notice the chill in the air, the shorter days, and can watch the migratory birds moving overhead, reinforcing the thought that we should be moving south....

 Moored to a pier in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
 Fighting to see through a rain squall.
Checking the mast: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Passed Exams!

  We came to Baltimore for 3 reasons:
        1. Cheesecake Factory Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake.
        2. Roy's Lava Cake Desert.
        3. To take our USCG License exams.
   These exams had nothing to do with our jobs in the CG, but are required for merchant mariner qualifications.  Chris had gotten a license in Hawaii 5 years ago and it was time for renewal, and Kellee has always wanted to get a license, so Baltimore proved a convenient stop on our way south for testing, as we were both too busy in June/July to get it done.  All the prep work and administration had been done months ago, so all that remained were to take the actual tests.
  So, on Monday morning, we loaded up our pencils and calculators and walked over to the Regional Exam Center, about 1 mile away. Three days and 13 tests (between us) later, we are done - we passed each test on the first try, thanks to some serious studying over the past month.  It felt remarkably like taking final exams in high school or college - jumping from one subject to another with timed multiple choice tests every morning and afternoon. Our test subjects were: Chart Plotting, Navigation General, Deck General, Deck Safety, Sailing Endorsement, Rules of the Road, Navigation Problems (Terrestrial), and Navigation Problems (Celestial).
   Do we intend to use the licenses? Probably not, but its always nice to have a backup plan, right? As a 100 ton Near Coastal Master with commercial tow endorsement, Kellee can drive dive charter boats, ferries, water taxies, fishing boats, small passenger boats, salvage boats, do yacht deliveries, be a "lotion girl" on a Mega Yacht, etc etc.  As a 500 ton Oceans Master, Chris can do similar things, or drive sailing school ships (like Eagle but smaller).  Most importantly, we think it is probably a good idea for those who regulate an industry to be well versed in it's technicalities. All in all it was worth the time and effort to do - but not something we're planning on using for the near future.
   So now that that is over and we are licensed mariners, we can get back to being "people of leisure."  Time to head to the Cheesecake Factory!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Georgetown to Baltimore

You know you've arrived in the "south" when you eagerly await thunderstorms just so the air temp will drop even a few degrees.  The past week has been full of studying, memorizing formulae and testing hundreds of review questions in preparation for our merchant license tests starting Monday, all while doing our best to stay cool.  We spent four days in Georgetown on a mooring next to TOMKAT and made good use of the marina pool and wifi to spend the days studying and meeting up with TOMKAT for dinners.

On Friday we covered 35 miles toward Baltimore under bumpy conditions, motoring into the wind the whole way as we try to burn down year old fuel and clean out the tank..  We tucked into Rock Creek for the night and were serenaded with some terrible Karaoke from the waterfront bar as we studied into the dark.  Today we passed under the Francis Scott Key Bridge (so named for the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, which he wrote during the war of 1812, just about under the bridge...the actual spot is marked by a buoy painted like a flag, but we didn't see it on the way in) and motored the final 10 miles to Baltimore, arriving in the midst of the inner harbor dragonboat races, it was neat to see 20 paddlers per boat rowing to the beat of a drum.  

It's supposed to be stormy this afternoon, we are eagerly awaiting the temperature drop and wind shift.  Tomorrow is the final day for studying before the tests begin and we'll explore Baltimore in search of dinner.  Both of us have spent time in Baltimore while ensconced in the Coast Guard Yard, and are looking forward to visiting our favorite haunts.  Chris is stoked for the 3 story Barnes and Noble while Kellee is jonesing for some Cheesecake Factory cheesecake.  Stay tuned for a couple of pictures from the past week and our transit in.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cape May, NJ to Georgetown, MD

   We departed Cape May on a rising tide and motored through the Cape May Canal to Delaware Bay and more open water.  After sailing north through the bay, we arrived in the vicinity of Salem Nuclear Power Plan and took a 6 hour nap to await a fair tide.
   When the tide became favorable again, we continued the migration and transited the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which is about twice the length of the Cape Cod Canal, and less scenic!  It was, however, interesting to see the southward exodus of all manner of cruising vessels (most of whom passed us).  It was less interesting to see the arrival of thousands of insects, all of whom required killing.  We were also overtaken by a huge car-carrier in the canal, and were promptly hit by a giant thunderstorm and zero visibility.  It was an interesting transit.
    However, after the canal transit, the skies cleared and we finished the day anchored at the head of the Sassafras River, in Georgetown, Maryland, right next to Tomkat.
   This place is very scenic, with a pool, internet, and showers, all for $0.80 per day (per foot), so about 25 bucks a night.  Not a bad deal.  We'll stay a couple days here and continue our studying for our Coast Guard merchant mariner license exams before we head over to Baltimore, MD on Saturday or so to take the tests.  After crossing the C and D canal, we definitely feel like we are making southward progress: the accents are changing, ya'll!

 Pondering the meaning of life.
Bailing the dinghy of rainwater.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cape May, NJ

   We had an awesome time in Cape May this week visiting with our friends Kathy and Owen Gibbons, and checking out the sights of Southern New Jersey & the Coast Guard's Recruit Training Center.
   At the CG Training Center, we were able to watch (from the shadows) as Echo Company got off the bus on their very first day and were greeted by some fierce Company Commanders. A few days later, we saw the same company (with haircuts) as they "formed" with their actual Company Commanders.  Both were very impressive, but the graduation of Alfa Company took the cake, as we were able to watch 50 or so recruits be advanced to E2/E3 in front of their parents, and head off to the fleet.   It was enlightening to see what 90% of the Coast Guard has as a common experience, and the folks at the training center do an excellent job.
   In Cape May, we enjoyed much eating and beaching, as well as some logistics runs that we needed for Navigator.  We also were able to get some much needed studying done, as we are taking our USCG Merchant Mariner exams next week in Baltimore, MD (for no reason other than it's something we've wanted to do for a while but never had the time).
   We are off today for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and then a couple weeks visiting Chesapeake Bay, before we begin the Inter-Coastal Waterway trip to North Carolina in October.  The days are getting shorter: time to move south!

 Kellee enjoys the Jersey-Shore surf.
 Alfa Company graduates and heads to the fleet.
Chris hoovers the last of a chocolate raspberry trifle.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Long Island to Cape May, NJ

  We safely arrived Cape May on Saturday after five days of beautiful weather.  We left Three Mile Harbor on Tuesday and rode the tide out to Montauk, catching the lighthouse right at sunset.  From there is was open water all the way to the Cape May entrance.  We quickly settled into a watch routine, Kellee, being the night owl, took the evening until 2 am, then Chris, being the early bird, took the morning until 8 am, Kellee took back over while Chris caught a morning nap. Shared lunch then Kellee napped in the afternoon and the cycle worked for the whole trip.
    Light winds and calm seas for the first four days made for easy but slow sailing.  We got as far as 90 miles offshore and tested the range of our VHF and HF radios with great success, so we feel very comfortable we can talk to someone no matter where we are.  On the second night, Kellee was on watch, reading by headlamp, frequently checking for lights on the horizon and making sure the wind vane autopilot kept NAVIGATOR on the right course.  A "PFFT" noise from over her shoulder startled her right out of her seat and she looked out over the moonless night to try to see what had snuck up on her.  It turned out to be several curious dolphins, including a mother and baby.  They swarmed the boat, and were surprisingly easy to see as they swam through phosphorescence which lit up their bodies and left a trail of flickering light in their wake.  They hung around for almost 20 minutes, swimming all around the boat, coming up so close to the hull to breathe that Kellee got snotted on from their breath. 
   The next day, more dolphins came by and we tried to get some pictures of their acrobatics.  We also saw a couple of fin whales that kept a respectable distance, but with no motor running, you could hear them blow a thousand yards away.  We trolled for fish almost the whole trip but didn't get a bite, we'll keep trying!  Overall we saw about a dozen fishing boats and another 11 deep draft big ships.  On the last day, the wind and seas kicked up and we hailed a passing container ship to see if he could see us on radar in the choppy seas and he replied that we had showed up 5 miles out and he altered course around us.  It's comforting to know that we are visible even when the weather picks up. 
   The last day had us running straight down wind in building seas so we reefed down to shorten the sail and took turns driving every couple hours since the autopilot doesn't handle well down wind or with a following sea.  We arrived at the Cape May breakwater mid afternoon in the rain, and after crabbing our way across the choppy entrance that Chris likened to a west coast bar crossing, we dropped the hook just next to the Coast Guard station.
   We dinghyed over to TOMKAT, which had arrived a couple days ahead of us after touring Long Island Sound and NYC and sticking close to the Jersey coast.  We got take out dinner from the Lobster House and caught up on the last couple of weeks' adventures.  They were headed up the bay to Chesapeake City in the morning and we made plans to catch up in the Chesapeake in a couple weeks.  We were chilling out on TOMKAT after dinner when the first lightening flashes came across the darkening sky and we could hear thunder in the distance.  We thought we'd just hang out until the thunderstorm passed, but an hour later, a check of the weather radar showed no end in near sight.  We decided to make a run for it, a five minute dinghy jaunt across the harbor back to our boat.  We borrowed a bailer and a flashlight, since the boat already had a couple inches of accumulating rainwater in it and took off across the harbor.  The CG station was well lit and provided a nice target to aim for through the torrential rain.  We arrived back onboard, left our already soaked clothes in the cockpit and collapsed to sleep, only to find ourselves repeatedly awakened as the thunderstorm raged overhead with lots of bright, bolt lightening and accompanying surround sound thunderclaps.  NAVIGATOR sat comfortably in her protected anchorage and we finally went to sleep.
    The next morning, we awoke to sunshine and an almost completely filled dinghy.  We used the collection of fresh water to our advantage and got some seriously needed boat cleaning done.  Once we got her back to ship shape, we motored ashore to spend some highly anticipated quality time with our friends the Gibbons and Hugus families.  We took a preliminary tour of Cape May and enjoyed a yummy bbq to catch up.  We plan to stay about a week here then head up the Delaware Bay, through the C&D canal to the Chesapeake Bay.  See below and the links for some new pictures and video!

Pictures and Videos

We just arrived in Cape May, New Jersey after a 5 day voyage. There will be a bigger blog post coming shortly. Here are a couple pictures, and you can find more pictures and a new video about our dinghy if you click on "Pictures" or "Videos" on the banner above.