Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from the Knotty Cat

This is the first year we haven't dressed up for Halloween so I'll post last years picture. I made our costumes and I'm glad Hans is such a good sport.

He became Helga the German Barmaid and was quite a hit.

I've decided to start calling ourselves Dumb and Dumber. We jumped into the Intracoastal yesterday and never really gave a lot of thought to the bridges and I didn't even realize we had a lock to negotiate.

Like I said; Dumb and Dumber.

Luckily the lock only dropped 8 inches which was a relief because we went through a lock in Pittsburgh (while on a friend's motor boat) and it had about an 8-10 foot drop. I was just worried that our dock lines wouldn't be long enough to reach up and back down.

Since the bridges stop operating at 7 PM we realized we'd better figure out where we were going to stop for the night as you don't just drop anchor in the middle on the waterway. We lucked out and found one spot available just before the Great Bridge and with the help of the captains of the boats we'd be squeezing in between, Hans did his usual good job of parallel parking.

I know people raft up in these areas if they have to but I'm not a 'rafting up' kind of person.

One couple is from England and they've sailed all over the world and have also been up and down the Intracoastal several times. I'm very glad we talked to them because they warned us not to cross Albemarle Sound if the forecast isn't favorable. I looked in our Cruising Guide and it says that the Albemarle can really beat you up and not to enter it if the winds are over 20 knots. I could feel my chest constrict and was almost in tears and I told Hans I couldn't take another trip like we had the other night and to not even think about sailing in it if the conditions aren't right.

Just in case you think we're wimps, we've heard all kinds of talk about how awful the Chesapeake was the other night and the Englishman said he too was surprised at the 3-5 foot seas.

I left my camera charger at the apartment (Dumb!) and now have to rely on Hans' Blackberry. It actually takes pretty nice pictures.

This isn't the best shot but anyway you can see us as we all follow each other.

I feel just like a pioneer on a wagon train but instead of heading west and slapping at Indians with my sunbonnet, we're heading south where you fight off today's savages by throwing packs of cigarettes at them.

I don't expect to be running into any pirates though even though some people, whom we've talked to about our trip, think that every body of water is teeming with them.

After tying up at the Great Bridge we walked to a local bar for a beer. We like to support the local economy.

Wilbur may not be with us but he did leave us a reminder from the last trip so we wouldn't forget him.

We decided to play Scrabble last night (with no shore power we have to conserve our batteries so we turn on one light and pile on the blankets), and when I dug out the tiles I found these.

At first we thought they had a weak spot and just split but each one has been nibbled and there are tiny little Wilbur teeth marks on them. We don't have mice or the box would have shown signs of them.

But honestly! Notice that he chewed the D and G! There are tons of E's, A's, T's, etc... so how did he happen to pick such uncommon letters? Because he's smart that's why, and I'm sure he was zeroing in on the O when he was interrupted.

Hans was mesmerized by the Aircraft Carriers in Norfolk and he took this picture.

He'll be happy to see that I've posted it for him.

We left the Great Bridge at 8 AM this morning and will finish in Coinjock this afternoon. Coinjock is the last stop before the Albemarle and so far it appears the weather for tomorrow should be favorable for us to cross.
We'll see.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

We're Still Alive...

...after an overnight sail straight from hell.

We left Tilghman Island at 10 AM Wednesday morning and the forecast was so favorable we decided to take advantage of it and an overnight sail only made sense.

The day was bright and sunny and our new solar panels managed to keep the batteries from discharging. Our instruments use about 8 amps and therefor a day of sailing can drain them.

I'm very thankful though that Hans rolled them up and stored them at sundown or they would have blown away during the night.

Hans took a picture of this freighter at sunset when things were looking pretty good.

We had a fantastic 12 knot west wind and smooth seas until midnight. Five minutes later the predicted north wind hit with winds gusting over 30 knots, but we hadn't counted on swelling seas. The rest of the night we slalomed, sluiced, and slammed our way down the Chesapeake, and tried to stay out of the way of freighters that always seem to come out of nowhere. The seas boiled and rolled like a devil's cauldron and by one AM we had a ditch bag ready. It's also the first time I've ever seen Hans wear a tether.

We talked about finding a cove to duck into but the few we could find on the charts looked tricky and would take forever to get to so we just kept moving.

At the beginning of the trip when Hans had suggested we lash our dinghy to the stern (pictured in my last post) I thought it was unnecessary. But if we'd towed it like I wanted to I know it would have ended up at the helm with Hans along with the huge wave that broke over his head and flooded the cockpit at around 3 AM. The wave also blew out our stern light and dislodged the dinghy and it spent the rest of the night fighting it's restraints. Hans finally ended up yanking a piece of its line up over a winch where it held for the rest of the night.

I think this is when our GPS antenna bit the dust and we could no longer keep a fix so we used the navigation CD in my computer until it crashed and I couldn't get it going again. Out came the hand held GPS and it worked fine.

I started puking around 2 AM and by 4 AM I left Hans and lurched my way to the salon where I fell asleep and drooled all over the neck of my jacket. Trying to navigate our bodies around the boat was like being inside a pinball machine, we bounced off everything. At one point when Hans stood up he very nearly got thrown out of the cockpit and had to brace his feet widely apart and hang on tight in order to stay in the captains seat.

We had prayed that daylight would bring calmer seas but when I woke up at eight it was just as bad and now I had dry heaves. Seeing the waves in daylight was even scarier, and as we crossed the final shipping channel in Norfolk, Hans said, "Jesus Christ, we can't catch a break, look at that." Straight ahead of us was a massive submarine and two Coast Guard Cutters and we had to change course once again. Watching a submarine submerge while up close and personal is pretty interesting.

Finally, twenty four hours and 114 miles after leaving Tilghman we motored into Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia, and docked at Little Creek Marina. It was still gusting and even with help we still ground our anchor into a piling at our very awkward slip. The Knotty Cat took her final revenge by snagging a dock line, that had fallen into the water, and snarled it up in her starboard propeller.
Hans wasn't able to get a nap until after we walked about 2 miles to a West Marine to get a new antenna for the GPS. They didn't have the one we want but a West Marine in South Carolina does. They'll get it to us somewhere along our trip.

We left Little Creek this morning after a tug of war with the Knotty Cat over that tangled dock line. We thought we won but as we left the marina we noticed white smoke coming out of the exhaust. We are currently motoring south into the Norfolk Harbor Reach using the port engine. We hope after a little bit of rest it will clean up its act.

We are now headed toward the Intercoastal and plan on taking the Virginia Cut. We had really hoped to go via The Dismal Swamp but we need to use the quickest route possible this time, as Hans has work and poor Wilbur is in Doggy Day Care while we're away. I have to say though that as much as I miss our little boy I'm very glad he's not on this trip.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First stop, Tilghman Island

We motored a whopping 15 miles yesterday (all of it into 20 knot winds) and pulled into Tilghman Island just ahead of a big blow. A bit of weather had been predicted but this kicked up pretty quickly, giving us the impression that Mother Nature had been stewing about something all day and all of a sudden decided to have an hysterical fit. For about an hour she screamed and threw lightening at us to let us know who's boss then someone gave her a Valium and she went to sleep. As a matter of fact, she was so calm that we were able to hoist the jib at our dock.

Crazy weather though. Hans' first night on the boat was cold enough to need a heater but yesterday was hot and humid, and we were swatting at mosquito's.

Tilghman Island is very pretty but beware of the channel current. We only had 2 knots to contend with but apparently 6 knots can be the norm. The Chop Tank is the cause of this and that's why Tilghman's Draw Bridge operates on command. With 6 knots of current you wouldn't be able to idle in the channel and wait for a scheduled opening. We were told that this makes their drawbridge one of the busiest in the world.

In an effort to hopefully get an extra knot of speed we tied the dinghy up on the back of the stern. This will also help keep the bottom of it clean. After towing it for two months this summer it had about in inch of green junk on the bottom.

Hans and I took advantage of Knapp's Narrows Marina's continental breakfast, and shower facilities.

Hans is always working. Here he is reading emails while taking our garbage to the dumpster.

Blogging is a bit difficult for me because I have to use his phone for the internet. The connection isn't very fast and then when I'm downloading pictures etc... his phone will ring and either a happy german or an unhappy frenchman will need to talk to him, and oops there goes everything I was working on!

So if I don't respond to your comments (or leave comments on your blogs), I apologize as it's all I can do to publish one post. But I'm still reading everyone's blogs when I can.

The gulls had a feast on our deck last night but they're very rude and in addition to not cleaning up their messes, they leave all kinds of colorful poop behind.

We had a feast too thanks to Betty Crocker and her tasty Tuna Helper.

My mother gagged when I told her we'd be eating this stuff so I'm glad Hans isn't a picky eater.

Here is our girl shortly before we left this morning. We are currently heading south towards the Patuxant and are sailing nicely at 5 to 6 knots in 15-20 knot winds.

Maybe we would sail faster if we had the main up all the way but since we discovered a huge rip in it this morning that won't be happening. The tear is at the bottom so luckily we can keep that part rolled in the boom.

If/when we get to Florida we'll get it repaired then.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Electric is Now Fixed So How About a New Disaster!

After an uneventful flight I arrived at the Knotty Cat and was very pleased to find that our electrical issues had been resolved. A wire inside our brand new inverter had come loose (and it took three hours for the electrician to rip it apart and put it back together). I'm sorry to say that I'm not a very gracious winner because I immediately said, "I told you so!" I just knew it had to be the inverter, but I'm glad to report that it's humming along very nicely now.

A disemboweled Knotty Cat nav station.

Our girl loves some attention.

This is just a small part of what I arrived to. But it's my fault because I told Hans not to put anything away.
I know where everything goes and I don't want to spend the next two weeks finding my canned goods in a drawer, the towels in a locker, and the toilet paper in the pantry.

I arrived Monday night, put everything away, and on Tuesday we were up and ready to go. We dropped the dinghy in the water, rolled up the solar panels, Hans was getting ready to bring in the electric cord and start untying spring lines etc... when I got the brilliant idea to sweep the salon carpet. So I opened up the port side closet (located on the far side of the berth) where the sweeper is stored, and screamed at the sight of three feet of water happily sloshing around in the locker.
I felt just like Chicken Little who screamed, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" because I ran up the steps and out to the cockpit like a crazy women screaming "The boat's full of water! The boat's full of water!"
Hans very calmly climbed over the berth and said, "Where the hell is this coming from?"

The back of the locker has yet another door to a small storage space and it too was full of water.

Looking down in the locker.That's 3 feet of water down there.

After thinking we'd need to go buy a pump, Handy Hans decided to try syphoning it out first.

Some day I'll get the concept of holding both ends of a full hose level (I'm sure the berth and cabin carpet will dry out).

The bilge happily sucked up the dirty locker water and sent it on its way!

Once we determined that the water was fresh and not brackish (thank God!) we had to figure out which of our many hoses this water was coming from. Each of our water tanks is under our berths. And of course this was the port berth where I'd loaded all of our provisions, including cases of pepsi and gingerale, boxes of canned food, our luggage (we're flying home) and anything I just wanted out of the way.
In order to get the water tank all of this stuff (including the mattress) had to be hauled up to the salon.

When I had to go over the the starboard berth and check out the plumbing in its locker, I had to crawl on my stomach to get past the mattress. For once I'm glad to only be five feet tall.

We finally figured out the leak was not from the water tanks but was coming from this hose.
What is it?
It's a locker on the front of the boat and that is its drain. Why someone felt the need to pass a drain through an inside locker is beyond us.
Here is the nice new hose after Hans got it installed.

And here it is where it drains to the outside. The top hose is a drain from the sun pad area. It looked pretty nasty so we replaced it too.
It took about an hour to get the lower hose off its fitting. Its placed in such a way that we couldn't get leverage and cutting it was difficult because its wire enforced.
In addition to that, the hoses snaked through two inner wall openings and there was barely room to yank them out and force the new ones through!

I can't imagine what we would have done if I hadn't gone to get that sweeper! And since I rarely use that locker I'm not sure how long it would have been before we discovered our indoor swimming pool.
We checked the starboard berth and were surprised to find its hoses are relatively new. You have to wonder why they didn't replace the port ones at the same time!
We lost the entire day and my ice maker got a good workout!

Today we are on our way! We're taking 20 knots on the nose and the rain has let up. I'm hoping we don't run into the thunderstorms that are predicted but tomorrows forecast is calling for west winds and we hope that holds!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Still No Electric, but Let the Sun Shine In!

So Hans still has no idea why the hell there's no electric on our boat, and last night he sent a desperate email to our electrician (who doesn't take weekend calls). Maybe because Hans has spent a lot of money over the years with him (his previous boat was a 42' Passport) the electrician called back. He told Hans that he'd gone over our electrical system with a fine tooth comb and can't for the life of him figure out what the problem might be, and will stop by tomorrow to check things out.

This exact situation occurred this past summer when we jumped on board, took off, and immediately ended up with dead batteries. This is because although this same electrician replaced 2 of our batteries, the original wiring was all wrong. But after many hours of paid labor to fix that problem along with installing a new stereo system, the stereo bit the dust the next day.

The problem? A blown fuse. Why? Who the hell knows!

This brings us to boat ownership and being handy.

Hans swore after he sold his Passport that he'd never buy another boat if he had to travel hours to get to it, take care of it, and depend on others to keep an eye on it. But after forgetting the pain (just like women who swear they'll never go through child birth again but go on to have two more kids!) he went and bought our Knotty Cat.

Hans is a very intelligent man (at home I call him McGyver) but we both felt it would be worth the money to have an expert get things up to par and then go from there. But if an expert can't figure out what's going on...

Today he finished up his diesel engine course and the nice thing was, the engine they used was identical to our two. He said the class helped bring everything together and tie up a lot of loose threads about what he already knew about our engines. Hans also got a kick out of the couple who appeared to be in their late 70's and look just like twins, and the guy who ate Hans' lunch.

The one bit of good news is; the solar panels woke up bright and early this morning and began charging our electrically deprived batteries, right off the bat!

I fly down to meet Hans tomorrow and our original intentions were to get our butts moving south. I sincerely hope this will be possible because I don't think I can handle leaving Wilbur even one day longer than necessary.

Here's our poor boy earlier this week after a bout of tummy trouble.

No more cheap doggy biscuits for him.

I just can't imagine how he'll fare while being boarded. I realize he'll have a half day of doggy day care (ie, running like a maniac with other dogs), but what about bed time?

This dog is a heat whore. If he's not sacked out on the futon with a blanket, he's in front of the forced air heating vent.

And in addition to that, he has sensitive skin and those aforementioned tummy troubles.

I have a feeling these next two weeks (or more) are not going to be very relaxing for me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Season, Same Problem

Yesterday after a 5 hour drive, Hans arrived at the boat yard in time to watch The Knotty Cat get dropped into the water. Today he attended day one of his diesel engine course, and will finish up tomorrow. He also replaced our crappy water pump (this act deserves fire works!), and spent a ton of money at West Marine. I swear Maryland's economy improves drastically the minute we set foot over the border!
This is becoming old hat but the Knotty Cat loves being paraded around boat yards.
The boat is currently at a dock and is on shore power, so last night Hans used the space heater (of course it was the coldest night on record in the past six months), and this morning he had a hot water shower, and then made coffee. Of course he enjoyed all of these wonderful things 'one at a time' so as not to tax the inverter.
He just called and informed me that tonight he has no shore power what-so-ever (he just spent the last two hours swapping out the power cord and trying to read the completely un-user friendly manual for the brand new inverter) , and since he doesn't want to drain the batteries, he is using one small light and is going to go to bed cold. Tomorrow he'll have to shower at a marina and find coffee elsewhere.
How this is even possible completely boggles my mind.
Because you see we just had the whole electrical input to our boat replaced, bought a new power cord, and had a new inverter installed.
All of this was done by an electrician so needless to say it wasn't cheap.
And it's not working!
Honest to God, this is an eerie reenactment of this summer. Because at that time we also had tons of electrical work done and the very weekend we moved aboard we ended up stranded at anchor for two days because our batteries died.
I will be flying down on Monday and I sincerely hope that this situation is resolved or the East Coast may suffer one of the worst earthquakes in history after I get done having one very nasty tantrum!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bahamas Boat Charts and a Sunbrella Purse

We had yet one more exciting delivery today at the apartment when the charts that we ordered for the Bahamas arrived. I have a feeling that the Near Bahamas, Far Bahamas, Exumas, and Ragged Islands will never be the same after Hans, Laura, and Wilbur get finished with them.

Wilbur would like to enjoy the charts but he has an upset tummy.

How do I know this?

Well, today when I took him to the dog park (after Hans asked me with a bit of desperation in his voice, "Are you going to take Wilbur to the dog park?") I swear that during the half hour drive, the air in the car turned blue and I nearly suffocated.

Apparently Wilbur donned his 'King of Toots' crown, and I won't even begin to describe the runny messes I've cleaned up today.

We were looking all over the internet for Bahamas Charts but for some reason we couldn't seem to find the right thing. Thanks to Linda at See Yawl Later we ended up getting them from Explorer Charts.

Not only are they charts, but they're cruising guides too, and they are packed with information!

I am a procrastinator. Period. I really can't get motivated unless I have a deadline. I wish I could change this trait, and believe me I've tried but I think it's time to come to grips with what I am and quit worrying about it.

Anyway I finally finished the purse I was making out of a piece of Sunbrella fabric (I paid $5.00 for a $30.00 piece).

This is an Amy Butler Bag and while I'm not thrilled with it, it will work. Actually if I hadn't made a bazillion other purses before this, it would have been a disaster.

Luckily I did not follow all her directions, bypassed some of the interfacing suggestions, and ended up with an okay purse.

I did a passable job of matching the print on the flap with the body of the purse.

The inside has two inserts. The one in the back is zippered. I'm not at all happy with how they are attached to the main body of the bag.

Very amateurish and kinda ugly.

I would do things differently if I were to make another one, but that's just not going to happen.

The magnetic snap on the flap and the main body.

A bit of a close up of the print.

You can see the Bahamas waaay over on the right side of the bag.

Since Hans leaves for Annapolis this weekend to get our boat ready for its move to Florida, I decided to finish sewing elastic to the corners of our fitted sheets that we've had forever (it's called procrastination! See the beginning of this post). Except I'm missing one of the fitted sheets! Honest to God, I had all of them when we came back this summer and since we live in a small one bedroom apartment, where could it be?

I have no idea but I know for a fact it came home with us and has since then disappeared.

I have to wonder if fitted sheets can cause gassy problems in pit bull tummys?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time is flying by fast, and we're still not ready

All of a sudden my life has become very busy.

Yesterday I headed north to my old home town. I started at the chiropractor (to see if he could remove the serrated knife that's been jabbing me in my lower back), bought a new sewing machine (may my 2o year old work horse rest in peace), found a fur stole (yes, you read that right!) for $20.00 at the Salvation Army, visited with my parents (who've now decided to let me know they aren't thrilled with our possible live aboard lifestyle), and watched my college daughter's soccer game (they remain undefeated!!!).

Today I took Wilbur to the dog park, worked on a purse (when I should be attaching elastic to the corners of the sheets we use on the boat), packed up some more boat stuff, and then found a package at our back door.

The Bumfuzzles sent this to me as a thank you for making a crib for Baby Ouest.

A genuine Chicago Pizza (they lived in Chicago prior to their move aboard a boat)! It was totally unexpected but let me tell you it was pretty darned good! Check out their October posts for pictures of Ouest in her crib, and there's a really great one of her helping her dad put it together. The crib itself still needs some tweaking but hopefully all will work out in the end.

Tomorrow, air conditioners need to be put away, a whole butt load of boat stuff needs to be gathered together and packed into the SUV, and I still need to figure out what I'm going to do with Wilbur this Saturday. Hans will be headed to Annapolis to take a diesel engine class, I have to attend Senior Day at my daughter's soccer game, and Doggy Day Care's hours won't work for us!
Wilbur wonders why the apartment now resembles a land fill!
Probably because everything that's arrived here this week has been packed in Styrofoam and garbage day isn't until next week.

So here is the pizza shortly before we devoured it.
We loved it, but I refused to let Hans give any to Wilbur.
No way am I cleaning up what would surely be messy results of such a mistake!

Can you see the very hopeful pitty in the background?

And last but not least, Wilbur models the fur stole. My original intentions were to make a coat for him out of it, but once I took a good look at it I knew I couldn't.
It's really beautiful and very well made. Besides that, it fits me perfectly.
Anyway, Wilbur already has his own fur coat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Even More Boat Updates!

When we finished our 2 month tour this summer we knew our Knotty Cat was going to need some work. For some reason our water pump chose this time to become a high maintenance mistress and gave us fits all summer long. I know there's a saying about the squeaky wheel getting the grease, but in my opinion that squeaky wheel can just as easily be replaced! And that's exactly what we're doing. We have one on order and Hans intends to replace it next week when we head down to Maryland to get our girl ready for her trip to Florida.

We also realized that our electrical system must have been taking lessons from the water pump because all of a sudden we sometimes could draw shore power from our electric cord and sometimes we couldn't!

We now have a new power cord, a new electrical hook up (located at the stern), and gee why not; a new inverter.

Hopefully, this inverter will play well with others and allow us to use our new ice maker, and charge our computers etc...

I really hope it knows I mean what I said about that squeaky wheel!

When I heard the doorbell ring at the apartment this afternoon I just knew it was my new ice maker. I had a fight with Wilbur and literally had to shove him back into the apartment in order to get to the door as I was pretty sure the FedEx guy probably wasn't in need of any pit bull smoochies!

Wilbur is anxiously reading the box! He so loves his bourbon soaked ice.

All plugged in and ready for its maiden run.

Oh, please hurry up!!! I need my ice!

We have ice!!! Within about 1o minutes no less!

I'm amazed at how much ice this baby has pumped out this evening. Unfortunately I can't keep any as the first batch has to be tossed out, most likely because of chemicals in the machine.

But once we're on the boat I guarantee not one cube will go to waste. Just ask Wilbur!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Solar Panel Update

So once again, here are the roll up solar panels we're having installed on our Knotty Cat. This is what they look like on a show room floor. As I remarked in a previous post, they appear to be a bit long.

Here they are stretched out on the front of the boat. And yes, they are long! It's kind of difficult to get the drift from this picture (it was sent to us via our electrician) but since it's our boat we know what's going on.

BTW, that's our dinghy in the fore front and it's only there while our boat is on the hard. It's never there while we are sailing.

Anyway the solar panels are lying right across the recessed back rest for the sun pad. Except we don't have a sun pad anymore as it jumped ship during our first week of sailing this summer!

This is a better idea of what the front of the boat looks like. We're thinking that if we use the panels up there we'll lay them down, one each on port and starboard. Remember, they roll up when you don't use them, and if it's only Hans and I aboard they won't be too in the way. Also Wilbur isn't allowed up there without us.

Here is an old picture of our original sun awning. We've since then had an aluminum frame added that supports a canvas bimini. However since it's not a hard top we can't have the panels installed there.

But I'm thinking that with some imagination (and really strong Velcro) we might be able to put them there while at anchor or during very calm days.

The connecting cords are supposedly pretty long.

I guess we'll find out when we head down to Maryland next week in order to move our girl to Florida.

Hans was away this weekend on a 'guy retreat'. The invitation stated, 'bike riding, fall foliage viewing, wine tasting, and camp fires', which I immediately took for code speak for 'Strippers!!!!'

I was told that none were there, but I mean really? A bunch of men on a weekend retreat with no strippers? Unheard of!

Wilbur told me he had no interest in such matters and stayed home with me. Here he is in our bed this morning after staying up too late watching old movies and eating popcorn.