Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red tape and loop holes...

...and why all the limits?

Now just read that over again only this time using the music to My Favorite Things, because that's the only way I could find these particular lyrics charming.

And I don't know if anyone out there realizes it but there really is no such animal as 'freedom' anymore. And I have to laugh now at the books I've read about people fleeing from the bad guys while using forged documents, fake passports etc... All I know is I'm finding it nearly impossible to travel while using the real deal!

Honest to God, all Hans and I want to do is sail our little boat over to the Bahamas this winter but you'd think we were trying to infiltrate deep into the bowels of a high security nation in an attempt to steal their special recipe for crystal clear water. But even if we did have evil doing on our minds, how far would we get with their secrets while sailing away on a boat that on its best day (and only with a hell of a lot of wind!) moves along at 10 knots?

After a less than auspicious start to our trip this fall via the Intracoastal Waterway, we were stunned to find that in addition to way too many draw bridges, and way too few anchorages, we actually had to navigate a lock.

You see; Hans is the educated one, the one with multiple degrees in things I can't even pronounce, the one who became a sailing instructor at 14, the one who while in college sailed up the Atlantic coast (on the outside!) in the boat of a friend's father, the one who way back in the day sailed to the Bahamas using dead reckoning, and finally, the one who lived on his boat while working in New York City. And because of this I just assumed he knew about the bridges, the locks, and that it would take a month and not two weeks to get to Florida!

So bearing this in mind I decided to take matters into my own hands and research this whole Bahamas thing. And yes Hans has been to the Bahamas but this was back when life was a bit simpler and I've discovered that Hans Jr. holds the same disdain for rules that Hans Sr. did. "Why should I stop?" stated Hans Sr. one day as they blew past a Coast Guard checkpoint. "I'm not a smuggler!" The Coast Guard wasn't impressed but I bet Hans' neighbors were, when as they were docking the boat at their Miami Beach home, a Coast Guard helicopter landed in their yard.

So far:

We have to have paperwork filled out by a vet that certifies Wilbur has all the proper inoculations, but we had to send a $10.00 money order to the Bahamas first. They, in turn, sent us the form that the vet needs to fill out. This form needs to be presented to the Bahamian authorities within 48 hours of arrival.

Upon arriving in the Bahamas we have to have a yellow quarantine flag waving (we'll use a starboard shroud). After clearing customs we must now fly the Bahamian courtesy flag. We should also proudly display the flag of our country. We chose the US (since Hans has lived here since high school) and fear if we add Canada we'll just confuse everyone.

I did a bit of googling about this and was puzzled that everyone else seemed to know about this 'quarantine flag' warning thing which left me feeling slightly wanting and wondering if in addition to a little black dress, the chic twenty first century lady also just happens to have a quarantine flag tucked into her purse.

I finally found a full set of flags (Yellow, Bahamas, and USA) on EBay for something like $24.00. And while we do have a very worn USA flag on our boat, it unfortunately sacrificed its flag pole for our leaking starboard cutlass bearing during one of the last legs of our journey this fall.

Boats up to 35 feet in length (us!) will need to pay (in cash) $150.00 for the right to sail around the Bahamas and this includes a fishing license (not too bad, really). Boats over 35 feet will pay $300.00.

Now for more fun stuff. Hans is a green card carrying Canadian citizen (and has been for over 30 years), who bought a boat while living in the USA.

United States citizens should have their boats registered with the US Coast Guard. Canadian Citizens are not permitted to do so.

Then what is a Canadian Citizen to do?

As a last resort, I made a foray into the Cruiser's Forum. And while I know the people in these forums really want to help I finally fled after a bunch of them ganged up on a poor soul who had questions similar to mine. This particular soul was threatened with having his boat taken from him, and RIGHTFULLY SO (in capital letters!), said the forum for not being a team player and trying to get one over on the government, and just why the hell wasn't he a US citizen anyway? I found it kind of interesting that those who had the most vehement opinions were neither from the US or Canada and therefor didn't know what they were talking about anyway.

Finally, after calling the Bahamian embassy who had no idea what we were talking about, but was kind enough to provide us with a telephone number that either went unanswered or rang busy, we called our boat broker who gave us the number of a woman who lives in the Bahamas and is reputed to be an expert on Bahamian customs.

We have been assured that as long as our boat is registered in the United States (it is) and we have a notarized bill of sale (we do) we are good to go!!!! Remember, we only want to go to the Bahamas and no where else at this time. And I'm going to let you all be witnesses to this; we have an official email from the Bahamian chick that confirms this.
We also have the decal necessary to come back into the United States. For $27.50 you get this numbered decal and supposedly you can call Customs, read them the number and be cleared. I only hope they don't have Hans' family name flagged as a trouble maker (like stores who post the names of people who write bad checks).

Here are some of my latest acquisitions.

Our C-Maps for Florida and the Bahamas are in the upper part of this picture, as is a snoozing Wilbur the Wonder Dog!!

Skipper Bob's publications (which I dearly wished we'd had at the beginning of our trip) are in the middle. These are chock full of information about the Intracoastal that would have made my life a lot easier had I known about them. But that's okay, I plan on giving them a good workout in years to come.
And by all means please notice that damned yellow quarantine flag at the bottom along with the US and Bahamian ones!!!!

During our last trip I was thrilled that the bins I bought at a Dollar Tree worked so well so I bought 8 more (on the right).

The blue and white bins in the back will fit nicely on our berth shelves, and the small white trash can will fit in the bottom of our refrigerator in the back beside the freezer.

Food will be removed from space sucking cardboard boxes and placed in those zip lock storage bags.

"What food?" Wilbur will just have to wait until we're back on the boat.

Now let's finish the song.

When the dog bites (and he absolutely does not!).

When the bee stings (substitute jelly fish here).

When I'm feeling sad (and wondering how the hell I let Hans talk me into this).

I simply remember my favorite things (or get out the bourbon).

And then I don't feel so bad (just wonderfully numb).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Living as a Couple on a Boat Part III

This installment is about fixing the many things that go wrong on a boat...as a couple. And if you think that boat you just bought won't need repairs in the near future, we have some swampland in Florida for sale (actually we really do!!!)

(Note the band-aid in this picture. I'm thinking of buying stock in the company)

But, the big question is, even if the boat survives, can the same thing be said for the couple?

Once again, I'm very thankful that Hans MacGyver is a very calm and rational man who actually enjoys a challenge. And after each and every disaster we've encountered with this boat; instead of throwing every tool he owns at me and cursing all Gods known to man, he has actually been heard to say, "I think I learned a lot from that."

And for any ladies out there who find this to be a very desirable trait in a man; Hands off! I saw him first!

However, I do remember the time the muffler fell off my car, and after I reattached it with a wire hanger and Duct tape (while flat on my back on my cold garage floor at 7 o'clock in the morning so I could get to work on time), Hans, who was still in his robe, inspected my work and commented that perhaps he would have done it differently.

Obviously, I didn't kill him.

When we found our port locker full of water and ended up replacing this hose ourselves, we were told not to use an elbow. Most likely because this particular hose 'bends' as a result of the wire that's spiralled around its whole.

Here are the leaky hoses we ripped out of the locker and replaced in October.

We threw them into the cockpit and even though they were already dead and rendered useless I thought they looked slightly evil, and was very happy to toss them into a dumpster.

We found out the starboard side locker hoses had already been replaced, and just this week we dug out our original survey and discovered that the work was completed shortly after we bought the boat.

Honestly, we don't even remember having it done!

Notice here that they used an elbow.

Together, Hans and I have discovered a lot of interesting things on the Knotty Cat and I'm not kidding when I say it took us two years to figure out the how the two water tanks worked as the original owners had them re-routed, and left no information behind.

But this fall found us performing our biggest repair yet as a couple and it involved our GPS antenna.

'Fritz' the GPS, decided to act up on a fairly nasty voyage in the Chesapeake and insisted upon showing us on shore a good bit of the time. Fritz became rather emboldened with his brazen ways and threatened to start up a union amongst our other electronics. I, however, who once belonged to a union, knew that if we didn't nip Fritz in the bud right now, he'd become a boil on our backside forever!

I want it on record to all union members that we gave Fritz many opportunities to mend his ways but he chose to ignore us.

So it gave me great pleasure the day West Marine personally delivered a new GPS antenna to us while we were on the hard at the Charleston City Marina.

"Well, this should be easy." Hans and I said to each other after examining the directions, and then after about eight hours of rewiring that big stinker we realized why boat yards charge so much for their work

We still have no idea why the many, many wires, deemed necessary to keep a boat running, need to be secured every three inches or so with tightly cinched tie wraps and then run deep into the bowels of the boat. After trying to fish our new antenna wire (taped to the old wire) through this myriad of craziness, we finally said the hell with it and bypassed most of them.

This was only after we realized that we forgot to thread the wire through the nut on the outside of the boat first, and then had to pull it out and start all over again.

Another problem was the fact that a running fan in the engine room (where all the fun wiring stuff was taking place) made it necessary for me (in the cockpit) to shout very loudly to Hans (in the engine room) in order to be heard.

After yanking (and swearing), pulling (and swearing), ripping (and swearing), we lost the new antenna wire in a very tight conduit (and yes there was a lot of swearing).

We figured out a way to bypass most of the tie wraps, along with the nasty conduit, and finally got the new wire through. Our joy was short lived however when we realized it still wouldn't work and an hour later found that a blown fuse was the culprit.

We walked into the boat yard's part's store at closing time, just as all the employees were getting ready to quit for the day. While they found a fuse for us I proudly explained that we'd spent the day replacing the antenna to our GPS. "Yeah, we know." remarked one of the mechanics who'd been working on our boat, and everyone laughed. "Really? How'd you know that?" I asked.

And he happily answered, "Oh, we all heard you."

Never let it be said I don't exercise my vocabulary any chance I can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bags for Sale

A little winery in Maryland had been selling some of the bags I make and when I realized that we no longer had a need to stop there (now that the Knotty Cat resides elsewhere), I picked up the remainders.

I have a total of 5 bags left and if anyone wants one, they are $25.00 each. Shipping within the lower 48 states is free. Everywhere else, add $5.00.

Just send me an email (my email address is located in my profile) if you're interested.

I have one of this particular bag.

It has three pockets on the outside front and three on the outside back.

These are slip pockets, therefor there are no snaps or Velcro to secure them. They're good for stowing your sunglasses, crossword puzzles, maps, etc...

The handles are knotted rope that have been run through grommets.

Each bag closes with a magnetic snap and has an inside zippered pocket with a cork zipper pull.

The bottom.

I have 4 bags featuring wine cork fabric for the body, and wine cask fabric for the outside pockets.

These bags have two pockets in front and two in back.

Three have gold handles.

One has a cream and white handle.

This one has gold handles.

The outside pockets.

Again, a magnetic snap closure with an inside zippered pocket.

This is the only bag that has cream and white handles.

This much I know; if these don't get sold, everyone in my family is getting one for Christmas and will be sporting about with wine themed bags whether they like it or not.

I'm just not sure which one Hans would like!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Living as a Couple on a Boat, Part II

One of the things I like about the Chesapeake are the many anchorages that can be found just about anywhere.

But, I've discovered that the ever popular St. Michael's, Maryland, might just possibly be the Bermuda Triangle of anchoring.

We found this out for ourselves a few years ago. After hanging lazily on the hook for a whole weekend, our Knotty Cat waited until 3 AM and then quietly lifted her anchor and innocently drifted into a sexy french catamaran that Hans and I had gushed over earlier in the day. Using her swim platform, the Knotty Cat neatly punched two holes into her rival, just above the water line. The owner was extremely nice about it and thankfully our insurance company made everything all better.

Then a couple of years ago we decided that it would be uber fun to watch the Fourth of July fireworks from the bay of St. Michael's. I have no idea why, since this is tantamount to being in Times Square on New Year's Eve when idiots who otherwise never get out, do, and create mayhem for everyone in their vicinity.

We weren't disappointed.

The above picture shows just a few of the boats that anchored that weekend. Anyway it was a dark and stormy night (I've always wanted to write that!), and a powerful storm complete with wild bolts of lightning and slashing rain ripped through the bay long before the fireworks were due to start. Suddenly, like a bunch of earthquake evacuees, everyone (except us) frantically tried to weigh anchor and beat feet out of the harbor (I'm not sure why, as all this meant was they'd be underway in some pretty crappy weather). We immediately noticed that a boat had drifted uncomfortably close to us and was having some difficulties. The captain was running fore and aft in a wild attempt to unfoul his anchor, and I couldn't help but notice that his female counterpart sat on the sidelines and did absolutely nothing, leaving me to ponder the intelligence of women who wear hot pink velour sweatsuits in public.

An anchored yet unoccupied boat on our port side suffered two separate assaults from renegade escapee vessels gone wild, and the offenders didn't even bother to leave polite notes of apology under the windshield wiper of the victim! I've often wondered how long it took the couple of that particular boat, who rowed back after the storm, to discover the damage that had been inflicted upon them.

A motor boat full of drunks just scraped past us and I swear I saw the nasty tonsils of the chick who leaned over and screamed, "You need to have more lights on!" And I screamed back, "We have our anchor light on you idiot! Maybe you need to read Boating for Dummies again!"

And as suddenly as the storm started, it ended and we enjoyed an incredible firework display.

For some sick reason we went back the following year only this time with my youngest college age daughter and a couple of her friends. The only irritation we suffered that night was the party boat that anchored right beside us. Complete with bad '80's music, pulsating disco lights, and hysterical drunks, they were kind enough to leave us in peace at midnight.

Other than that, Hans and I have spent many peaceful nights at anchor and we have our system pretty much down pat. With some simple signals from Hans, I maneuver the boat to port, starboard, or straight ahead, and before you know it we're on our way.
Or at least I thought so.
How well I remember the weekend when some of Hans' hockey friends sailed with us, and with Hans at the bow and me at the wheel, I was smugly explaining our system to them when Hans made a signal I'd never seen before and unfortunately, I'm one of those people who speak before thinking and everyone was treated to, "What the F#*@ was that!?"

One of the funniest (and saddest) anchorings I've ever witnessed was during our last weekend on the boat this summer, and yet once again St. Michael's played a starring role. It was late in the evening when we heard what was obviously a domestic squabble aboard a boat quite close by, and I was immediately jerked back in time to my bartending days where I was often forced to witness abusive behavior between couples thus leaving me very grateful to be poor and single, yet not stuck with an idiot!

I also sincerely hoped I wouldn't hear a splash in the night and wind up being a witness in court.

Come morning, I informed Hans that one of the nearby boats was a lot closer than it'd been the night before, and it only took one bellow from the captain to realize this was the domestic squabble boat.

Then the fun began.

The captain went up to the bow and the little woman (surely his wife because no man would ever treat a date in such a nasty manner) sat at the helm. He then screamed out signals complete with intense fist punches and the poor woman reciprocated by flooring the engine. The boat responded by flying in reverse thus yanking the anchor line tight and I felt myself holding my breath because I just knew what was coming. I wasn't disappointed and the captain started bellowing again. This time the boat shot forward causing the anchor line to stretch in an alarming fashion along the starboard side. This went on again and again, and all the while the captain continued to scream and punch the air.

Finally (and most likely out of sympathy), the anchor gave way and the (un)happy couple sailed off into the wild blue yonder.

I'm just glad I didn't have to testify in court because I'm afraid I would have been tempted to show that idiot some real punching!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Living as a Couple on a Boat. Part I

I realize a lot of people believe that living aboard a boat is the epitome of the romantic dream. Bloody Mary's at sunrise, cocktails as sunset, feeling like you could reach out and touch the fat whip cream clouds that glide on by during the day, or snag one of the zillions of stars that hang over your boat each night. Days are spent lazily adjusting sails as you silently cut through the water.
And I'm sure anyone reading this and who's spent any amount of time on a sail boat is splitting a gut right now.

But let's talk about about docking the boat, lifting the anchor on the boat, and (gasp) attempting to make repairs on the boat, as a couple!

This particular post will address docking the boat which is very much at the bottom of my 'let's have fun' list. Winds, currents, and narrow slips have created many heart thumping moments for me.

Actually, my issues with fenders (while docking) are something new. In the first two years we owned this boat we almost always tied up at the same docks so of course I knew exactly where to place the fenders. The thing is though, that no dock is ever the same. Some are floating and therefor the fenders have to hang way over the side nearly at water level, while some docks are fixed and depending on the tide, the fenders might need to be just over our deck. This means that each fender needs to be retied to the rails which isn't a big deal but when you only catch sight of your dock moments before tying up it can be quite a race.

A few days into our trek on the Intracoastal we were quickly approaching a dock when Hans told me to toss the fenders over the side. I realized that it was a floating dock and that our fender lines needed to be lowered but I hadn't had a chance to touch even one when he yelled, "What are you doing up there?"

Me (quite incredulous): "Getting the fenders!"

Hans: "What the hell's taking so long, just drop them!"

Me (wondering if he could possibly be serious): "They need to be retied, they're too short!"

Hans: "Just throw them over and get that bow line ready!"

Me (not sticking my tongue out and retying a couple of fenders anyway): "I'm going, I'm going!"

Afterward, Hans was very puzzled and once again asked me what the hell I'd been doing up there.

Me (quite angry by then): "I was doing my hair, that's what!"

Hans (genuinely puzzled): "Really?"

The only reason I didn't throw him overboard is because he knows how to parallel park the Knotty Cat and I don't.

A similar event occurred in Swansboro, North Carolina when, during a rain storm complete with gusting winds and strong currents, we shot into Dudley's Marina like an Indy Five Hundred race car. One second Hans was telling me to drop the fenders and the next second he was yelling, "What are you doing? Don't worry about the fenders! Throw them the bow line!" But we had swooped in so fast that one of the guys on the dock actually reached out and snagged the line leaving me to run as fast as I could to the stern where I'm embarrassed to admit that that line promptly got hung up on an old GPS antenna (BTW, that antenna is going to get ripped out as soon as we get back on board after Christmas). With Hans putting our girl into reverse the helpers were finally able to secure us.

If I ever win the lottery I'm going to buy a ton of fenders and tie them at every possible level they'll ever be needed.

That should give me plenty of time to do my hair while docking.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Idiots on the Water (and for once, I don't mean us!)

I've been thinking about it and have come to the realization that traversing the Intracoastal via boat is a lot like driving your RV off the Interstate and taking a back road instead.

Gone are the wide open spaces in which to sail and all of a sudden you're motoring along in single file among a variety of other boats you might otherwise never see, along a very narrow strip of water, leaving no room for error.

Given the close proximity of your fellow travelers, you really need to make an effort at being polite, and after applying your deodorant for the day you should also respect each other's space.

This brings me to AquaMan.

I have a feeling that years from now many a sailor will reminisce about the legendary autumn of 2010 when AquaMan wreaked all kinds of havoc while roaring down the Intracoastal and leaving many a damaged vessel in his wake (and I mean that literally!).

My first hint that something odd was afoot came one morning from a few random radio transmissions. And I have to tell you right now that travelling along the Intracoastal really isn't very relaxing. When we were out in the Chesapeake and Potomac this summer we hardly ever had to listen to our VHF and instead, enjoyed a variety of radio stations. But in the Intracoastal you constantly have to listen for the captains of boats who want to overtake you, and also get updates on what's ahead of you.

Anyway, I started hearing some odd chatter on the radio. "Hey! Cruiser who just passed marker twenty, this is a no wake zone!" Then a diesel dock shouted out the same concern. One woman came across loud and clear with, "Hey Dirt Bag! What's wrong with you? Slow down! I hope you never need help from anyone because you'll never get it." This marauder of the water was finally identified and I hoped that AquaMan (whom I envisioned wearing a blue Anti Super Hero costume) was heading away from us and not toward us.

But then I heard a captain warn, "Attention everyone in the vicinity of fixed bridge Such and Such, AquaMan just went past me and refuses to comply with the no wake rule." We had just passed a fixed bridge and I got that Uh-Oh feeling and when I looked behind Hans I saw a huge Cruiser bearing down on us. I watched the captain of the monohull who'd made the broadcast try to steer into the huge wake that AquaMan had created and his mast whipped back and forth like a metronome.

"Holy crap! He's not slowing down!" I shouted and watched in horror as AquaMan roared straight for our stern. I grabbed our air horn and while standing on a seat in the cockpit I gave it five short blasts. AquaMan didn't slow down so I blasted it five more times. By now he was just off our starboard side and I added huge, slow down gestures with my arms and since I was wearing my foul weather gear I probably looked like a giant Tweety Bird flapping hysterically around the cockpit. I was so pissed off by then that when he finally roared past us at about 20 knots of speed, I turned the air horn on him full blast.

My ears were ringing but AquaMan and his Boy Wonder never even glanced at us giving us the impression that they were either completely deaf or just totally rude. They didn't even have the decency to wear blue Anti Super Hero costumes either!

I jumped down off the cockpit seat, hurried down below, and spread eagled myself all over the galley in an attempt to keep everything (including my computer) from flying all over the place when the resulting wake hit us.

The Coast Guard had been informed of AquaMan's behavior and radioed everyone that they needed to know the type of boat and registration number if possible and that a picture would be of great help. I'm just mad that my camera battery was dead because I could have gotten a really good video! Shortly thereafter AquaMan's registration number was broadcast for anyone who might need to file an insurance claim.

We didn't suffer any damage and I was finally able to locate my coffee cup in the garbage can where it had been tossed during the wake.

Here I am at the helm with my trusty binoculars as I keep a sharp look out for markers and future trouble makers.

I almost look like I know what I'm doing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boats, Planes, and Automobiles...

... instead of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; Hans and I took a slightly, yet equally adventurous, detour.

Let me show you what MapQuest looks like on my computer.

That little red figure is our Knotty Cat!

Isn't she cute (Please say yes!! She's quite vain and every little bit helps)!

Here's a close up of her just as we were crossing the Maryland/Virginia border.

This disc and GPS is what I used to navigate our way through the Intracoastal the night we couldn't see a thing, and it was a life saver!

When we entered the Charleston Harbor, Tuesday afternoon, we only had about eight miles to go in order to get to the boat yard, but the current was so strong it took us three hours to get there. We tried to take advantage of the small amount of wind we had and put up the jib.

I swear we cheered when we hit 3 knots of speed!

This is the 186 foot bridge we passed under on our way up the Wando River.

Once the Knotty Cat was hauled out and we realized she had some missing and loose bolts on the plates that held her prop shafts in place, we had hoped things could be tightened up and we'd be on our way.

Well, it wasn't to be.

Wires that should have helped stop corrosion had been cut by the previous owner (which explains some of the problems we've been having), our propellers (lying in pieces on that cardboard) are no longer manufactured so the mechanic will have to be creative for the couple of parts we need, our engine mounts should have been replaced 500 hours ago, and the forever leaking stuffing boxes are going to be replaced with Dripless Shaft Seals.

This shaft was ripped out the next day. It was corroded and needs to be cleaned up.

Since the estimated time for all this to be done will take a week or so we decided to come home. We'll head back down after Christmas and resume our trip at that time.

Friday we ended up renting a car and then drove to Florida where we spent the night with some friends. Off to the airport the next morning for our flight to BWI, and then an airport shuttle to Kent Narrows where our car was parked. Five hours later we walked into the apartment and I realized I'd left a bunch of paperwork on the boat. Nothing valuable, but I wanted to file a health insurance claim and now I don't have any of my forms! We also had very little food in the cupboards and ended up eating cheese and crackers for dinner.

The good news is, we get to pick up Wilbur this afternoon and I only hope he remembers us!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An unexpected stop and a decision to make.

Beware, this is a long post.

So if we're supposed to be sailing, why is our Knotty Cat out of the water?

Because two nights ago we discovered a leak in our starboard engine room.

A big leak.

And of course we found it only after dropping our anchor in a very remote part of the Intracoastal about 15 miles past Georgetown.

We had made such good progress, and for once the currents worked with us and we actually motored along at 8-9 knots for quite a while.

The anchorage was beautiful and the sky had gone pink as the sun was just setting. I was going to use the grill and make dinner and we were looking forward to a relaxing evening when we realized the starboard bilge pump was dumping out water about every 30 seconds.

One look in the engine room and we knew we had to weigh anchor and get the hell out of there. Water was streaming steadily from where the propeller shaft enters/exits the boat and our batteries would never be able to handle the load of the bilge pump running all night and we don't have a generator.

I wanted to head back to Georgetown but Hans wanted to forge ahead. We called Leland's Marina in McClellanville (15 miles south of us) and he said we could tie up there for the night.

Thus began one of the most nerve wracking three hours I have ever endured.

The sun set shortly after we got underway and even though we had clear skies and a crescent moon we had to rely almost totally on the MapQuest disc on my computer (remember Fritz our GPS has been surly lately and would prefer to show us on land half the time).

Why this couldn't have happened on one of those stretches of water with all the houses and a lot of light is beyond me and we found ourselves navigating through the most desolate swampland you can imagine. The water was completely still which caused the tree line to reflect in a mirror like fashion from the shore and made us feel like we were going to run aground at any second.

Markers were few and far between and the unlit ones were a bear to spot. I would run up front and frantically wave a flashlight and feel immense relief when I would finally find it.

We knew from my computer that we were approaching a green marker but I couldn't see it at all. I was leaning over the bow with my light when I finally spotted a stick in the water just in front of us. It was my marker but the green reflective square was missing.

Everything became one dimensional and distance was impossible to judge. We would see flashing red lights ahead of us that would scare the bejeebers out of us because we were supposed to see flashing green. Then we would realize that the red lights were from towers miles away from us.

Three hours later we arrived at the creek to the marina and then came part two of our adventure. Jutting out from both sides were many unlit docks, my flashlight couldn't pick them out at the same time, and there was a bend in the creek. I was literally screaming PORT! and STARBOARD! back to Hans and he still couldn't hear me over our engines.

After barely missing a couple of docks we finally arrived at the marina only to find someone had tied a boat up to our spot and there was no space available anywhere.

That's when I almost started crying.

We got lucky though when we spotted a couple of guys sitting in a shrimping boat and they went up to a building that looked like a speak easy from the twenties, rousted the owner of the squatter and made him move his boat.

They also helped tie us up and then even came on board to have a look at our problem. Two hours later Mike and Eric left. They ended up stuffing tea towels, one of my cute pot holders, and a piece of our flag pole into the shaft area and slowed the leak to the point where our bilge only went of every few minutes.

I guess Fritz finally got his wish because The Knotty Cat is now on the hard at the Charleston City Boat Yard way up in the Wando River and we're wondering how the hell bolts on the plate that hold the propeller to the boat are loose and/or missing. Also a couple of bolts that hold the cutters in place were sheared off.

I'm not really smiling, I'm just insane.

You can see where a bolt is missing at the bottom of that plate and the loose bolt at the top.

The bolt on the bottom of the port side plate is loose.

Also, after two weeks in the water our zincs were ready to fall off. The problem was not corrosion (we had a galvanic isolator installed this summer) but the fact that they were improperly installed.

A lot of work needs to be done (parts ordered or retooled) and if it's going to take too long, we'll be calling this trip quits and going home. That means the Knotty Cat would winter in Charleston. I think she's always wanted to be a southern belle.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Move Over!

After leaving Harbor Village Marina near Topsail, we were able to give our engines a break and sail quite a ways through the Cape Fear River as we headed to Southport, NC. Once in Southport we ended up anchoring for the night with two other boats right in front of the Provision House Restaurant . A strong NW wind blew all night long and our anchor dug itself deep into the muck, and was very difficult to lift the next morning.

We then rejoined the wagon train heading south, with Myrtle Beach being our next goal. We were in a rather narrow stretch of water when we realized a barge with a large load was coming up behind us and sure enough the captain hailed us. What was disconcerting was that he asked us to identify ourselves and then wanted to know just where we were as he couldn't see us (I bet he has cataracts and drives a Buick on his days off!). We provided him with our location and then slid over to starboard as much as we could and watched him run over a big green can as he plowed on by.

We listened as he radioed other boats ahead and gave them directions on what he wanted them to do. Upon being told to please move over and let the barge go through a bridge opening first (at 65 feet it's a fixed bridge and doesn't raise but the channel was very narrow right there), one captain radioed back that he was certain he didn't need to move as he was traveling along quickly at 5 knots. The tug boat operator said too bad; he was going 7 knots and to please move over. The other captain once more said he was just fine and then the barge operator told him to KINDLY MOVE ASIDE OR I'LL RUN YOU OVER. He moved.

We ended up seeing the barge again as we approached the Swan Creek Bridge (a swinging pontoon that opens hourly unless you're a barge and then it opens up period!). We're not sure what happened but we could see all kinds of mayhem going on. The barge was almost sideways and big plumes of diesel exhaust belched from its innards as it tried to reverse, and the boats hovering around it looked like a bunch of rubber-neckers at a wreck. Someone even had the nerve to radio the bridge and ask if they could pass behind the barge. I don't think anyone even bothered to answer him.

Unfortunately we hung back too far and with the current working against us we were unable to reach the bridge in time to get through. But luck was with us because since it was an hourly bridge it had to open in ten minutes anyway.

This got me to thinking about the three mile stretch of waterway just ahead called The Rock Pile. Our cruising guide says to monitor the radio and make sure no barge traffic is coming towards you as there is not enough room to maneuver. I hope no one was heading north when that barge went through because it really is narrow with big flat rocks jutting into the water from the shore and I was very relieved to get through it with very little boat traffic.

Last night we ended up docking at Bare Foot Landing in Myrtle Beach, SC, and for the first time in a week we went out to eat because Hans wanted to watch the Raiders. The Raiders won, the wrap I ate was really good but made me sick, and we were up at 6 this morning and on our way again.

Today we are headed for Georgetown, SC, and our guide says there are some good anchorages there. If all the good spots are taken maybe we'll pretend to be a barge and tell everyone to move over.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hurry Up and Wait

We left Dudley's Marina in Swansboro this morning and even though it's a beautiful sunny day, we're not going to get very far. That's because we're back to dealing with bridges and a lack of anywhere to anchor or dock once nightfall approaches. We'd love to get into Wrightsville Beach today and maybe we would have if we'd have gotten out of our slip before 7 AM. But it was dark and it's too easy to keep on sleeping...
By the way, if you ever want to be thoroughly entertained; find your nearest drawbridge, make some popcorn, pull up a chair, and be prepared to enjoy yourself.

Why the big rush to get to a drawbridge that you know won't open for another 15 minutes to half hour, or even an hour (we once missed an hourly bridge by 5 minutes)? Is it a need to be the first in line? Is there a prize waiting for the 'winner'?

All I know is that after being passed by lots of boats (the Knotty Cat likes to take her time or maybe all those cases of beer she's hauling really do weigh her down) we all eventually end up in one big snarled mess in front of a bridge.

Today was a classic.

Two small sailboats who were obviously traveling together and refused to be separated were sucked right up to a swing bridge. Some bigger motor boats also crowded in and even though we hung back the next thing we knew, the bigger boats were revving up in reverse and the little sail boats were bobbing around like ninnies and one nearly ran into the bridge support. The bridge operator kept trying to hail the out of control sailboat and tell it to please start through as soon as the bridge swung open (in the opposite direction thank God) but they never answered.

Then the radio chatter started, "Doesn't he have a radio?" "I know he has a radio." "Why is he sitting there? Does he want us to go first?"

I got out my trusty binoculars and saw that the captain and his 'woman' were standing in the cockpit and apparently weren't taking calls. Just when it seemed like the big boats were going to charge through, the two little sailboats got into the act and like two little old jaywalking women, crippled their way through the opening.

Hans calls this Dancing with the Stars.

As of 3:00 we are now waiting at another bridge that opens on the hour and the sad thing is, we could have been here at 2:00. But clear back at Swansboro we had 2-3 knot currents working against us and were only doing 4 knots across the bottom while motoring at 6 knots through the water. When we realized we wouldn't make the bridge we dropped to one engine and slowed down. Of course the current changed completely and started pushing us like crazy and when we were two miles away from it, the bridge opened. We ended up waiting 45 minutes.

In the end it doesn't really matter because we're going to dock at Harbor Village Marina as there are no more docks until Wrightsville, and I don't see any good anchorage areas. Wrightsville is over 20 miles away with yet one more hourly bridge (they all stop opening at 7 PM) and with the current acting like a woman who can't make up her mind I don't want to get stuck in the middle.

In addition to all that, our GPS is still giving us fits and takes a nap (we call it a union break) every day. Fritz (as we've named him) usually wakes up just as we're anchoring or docking and acts like nothing is wrong what so ever.

Won't Fritz be surprised to find that his replacement antenna is awaiting us in Charleston, SC?

No one sleeps while on watch!

A very quiet docking at Harbor Village.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"It all started with a can of cling peaches...."

I was opening a can of peaches this morning when Hans repeated that Edith Bunker quote to me. Does anyone remember that episode from All in the Family? Possibly the funniest one ever. And that's a little how this whole sailing life feels right now, only with us, 'It all started with a pitcher of beer and some wings....'. That's when we got the brilliant idea to buy a boat and sail away!
But we are making steady progress and that's a good thing.
Last night we ended up anchoring in a tiny bay off of Adams Creek called Back Creek (every body of water in the US has a Back Creek). It was only 4 feet deep and this morning after the horrendous pea soup fog lifted we were able to pull the anchor out of the muck and move on. It's a good thing we have such a shallow draft as by then it was under 4 feet deep because of the tide.
Once we were back in Adams Creek a 2 knot current and a 20 knot south wind slowed us down a lot.
We watched out for the huge piling (it looked like a telephone pole) that we heard about on the radio that was floating along in the channel but were able to easily miss it. When we reached Beaufort the tides coming in and out of various waterways decided to have a huge battle. Turning from Beaufort and heading further south we fought 3 knot currents and a continuing strong south wind.

In order to preserve our salon seats (mostly because of Wilbur) I made covers for them out of a couple of old king size sheets.

Here is a before picture.

And the after. If I ever do this again I will use better fabric but this will do for me now.

I bought these bins at a Dollar Tree and they fit into the refrigerator perfectly!

And what a difference cooler weather makes. We only bought one bag of ice and my handy dandy little ice maker is taking care of the rest!

We saw our first pelicans two days ago. This little guy shivered on top of this piling while his friends chased a crabber's boat.

After motoring 41 miles in ugly gray rainy weather we are staying at Dudley's Marina (there is no anchoring here as the water outside the channel is one foot), and I really hope I get to wash my hair!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dumb and Dumber Strike Again.

I feel like we've been out in the middle of nowhere forever.

We left Roanoke Island (at the Inner Banks) yesterday and headed south west in the Pamlico Sound in our attempt to get back to the Intracoastal. The Pamlico really is a huge body of water and we only saw maybe three boats all day long.

About half way through the day we were thrilled to spot our first dolphins. One actually jumped completely out of the water which is something we've never seen. After that we had two of them follow very closely on our port stern and they would emerge from the water perfectly synchronized, go under, come up again... all the while with big smiles of welcome on their faces. This went on for a while and then they disappeared.

Once again we were able to sail all day with north east winds at 15-20 while using the jib, and then finally at around 6 PM we anchored in a very marshy Juniper Bay.

We've been wondering why no one else has chosen this passage on their jouney south and I think it's because if the winds aren't perfect it would be a pretty crappy crossing.

We need to keep this in mind if we ever do this again.

This brings us to a Dumb and Dumber update.

This trip will not take two weeks like we'd originally thought.

No, it will take at least three! How on earth could we be so far off?
Mostly because when you're in the Intracoastal you're at the mercy of bridges that are only open until 7 PM, and some of them only open on the hour. On our first day in the waterway we arrived at a bridge seven minutes after it closed and of course it was an hourly one. I ended up making us lunch while we waited for the next opening. It's also pretty winding and you can only motor so fast. The winding then adds miles to the overall distance and then the next thing you know you've added another week to your trip!

I wasn't a happy camper at that WTF discovery mostly because this means Wilbur will be in Doggy Day Care for another week. I've been calling and checking on him and of course he's having fun playing with his friends all day long but it still bothers me. I also found out they had a Halloween Party for the dogs last week and Wilbur didn't have a costume. It reminded me of the poor kids who used to have to sit in the school office during their class party because their crazy religious parents thought Halloween was evil. I only hope he won't be scarred by this lack of planning on our part and end up in therapy. He's very sensitive.

Our anchor held very nicely during the night and with steady winds we didn't swing around at all. I was worried that it would get hung up on a stump or tree branch but even though it was covered in a lot of heavy gunk the anchor came up smoothly.

We hope to exit the Pamlico later this afternoon as we head into the Neuse River. We will then be at Merrimon which is at the mouth of the next run of the Intracoastal. I only hope if we end up at a marina with 'free' WiFi, that it actually works!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A lot of good sailing.

We arrived in Coinjock by 3 PM yesterday and were actually a bit early as we were able to sail quite a ways through North Landing River. We docked at the Midway Marina which actually had quite a bit of space available. The Coinjock Marina is the only other marina at this point and it was packed tight and boats were even rafted up together. I think the Coinjock is supposed to have a fabulous restaurant so that might be why. We sure didn't feel like dropping our dinghy in the water in order to cross the channel to find out. We ate leftover chile and spaghetti.

We left Coinjock this morning at 8:15 AM and sailed through the dreaded Albemarle today with absolutely no trouble. We had steady North East winds at around 15-20 knots with some 25 knots gusting, so we ran with the jib all the way out.

We thought we should have been sailing faster than we were and when Hans just now turned on the engines, our port propeller made some complaining noises and spit out a crab pot! That damn thing slowed us down by a whole knot.

I don't like crab pots but I do love crabs because they're so cute. We bought Wilbur a very expensive stuffed crab this summer after visiting Tangier Island. Wilbur loved his 'Crabby Cake' and would lovingly chew it for hours.

Recently things cooled down between the two of them and Wilbur yanked the stuffing right out of poor Crabby Cake.

We were in the Midway Marina's tiny little bar and enjoying a drink when I spotted this guy.

Today we decided to head east toward Roanoke instead of using the Alligator River. Since the winds are supposed to be favorable we're going to take Pamlico Sound at the Inner Banks in order to avoid a chunk of Intracoastal travel and save a little bit of time.

We just docked in Broad Creek as there are no anchorages what so ever here. Tomorrow we continue through Pamlico Sound and will decide whether to reconnect with the Intracoastal at that point or catch it later on.