Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Boat Yard Observations

Behind this beautiful view and peaceful sunset lies a typical DIY boatyard. For my non-boater audience, boats are put "on the hard" for various reasons, but mainly to do underwater repairs, store the boat safely for hurricane season, or just to put on a new coat of antifouling paint.

We've hauled out lots of times in various places and it's always an interesting experience. Since our latest haulout we've acquainted ourselves with the yard and the other boaters, and we've discovered that this yard has all the usual characters and quirks.

There's always a small percentage of forgotten dreams slowly rotting away. Sad.

There's also a few full-time-liveaboard-never-going-anywhere boaters. Seriously, I've lived on boats for extended periods of time, and living aboard at a dock is unpleasant enough; why would anyone want to climb a ladder several times a day, share the communal restrooms, and never feel the boat move beneath their feet?

Speaking of restrooms, these are typical. A little grubby, the drains are slow and there's always a puddle in the shower room. People leave their belongings scattered around and there's often a waiting line. (Yesterday a black bra with pink bows was hanging in the unisex shower room. It was still there this morning.)

And the shower heads are weird. They are these large square things with a random spray pattern, but the worst part is, one shower has it mounted on the ceiling! Its like trying to take a shower in the rain. Don't laugh, but as a cruiser, I've done that, and it doesn't work too well. I wonder who thought this would be cool? 

However, there are some bright spots here. The weather is perfect: sunny, warm, and no rain. There is a little laundry room, a kitchen area with endless coffee, a book exchange, and a large dumpster for the junk I've culled out. And lots of folks have cars and offer rides into town.

The best part though, is the other cruisers we've met. There are two boats from Germany, several from up and down the East Coast, and a few from the West Coast too. These boats are owned by people who are actively cruising or dreaming of cruising. The boats come out, get worked on diligently, and go right back in. The owners have a checklist and a plan, and they want to get cruising as quickly as possible.

New sails are being bent on, solar panels are being installed, fresh bottom paint is being applied, and soon those boats will sail south for the winter to pursue their dreams.
As boatyards go, this one isn't too bad. Just be careful who you start a conversation with. I made the mistake of asking a man at the laundry room this morning, "So, which boat is yours?"

A half hour later I knew way too much about him, including his money woes, employment history, political views, and his conspiracy theories. Since I never got a word in, he knows nothing about me. And that's okay with me; sometimes it's better that way.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cumberland Snapshots

Young Wild Horse
Horse Watching Malcolm Hunt For Shark Teeth
Rough Green Snake
Another Wild Horse
Fossilized Shark Teeth We Found
(Quarter for size reference)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Location Map November 17, 2017

On our new location map I've used an orange line to show our route from October 1st to November 17th; Rockland, Maine to St. Marys, Georgia. Except for our May detour up the Potomac River to visit Washington DC, this route virtually parallels our route up the East coast in the spring. Twelve thousand miles in three years. What a ride!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cumberland Island Again

We visited Cumberland Island National Seashore in April when we were heading north, and now we are back again as we head south. It's a great place to stop; really close to the ICW, good anchorage, and a wonderful dose of nature for someone who's been on a boat for too long.

Cumberland Island is known for its wild ponies and it's fossilized shark teeth. I was lucky enough to find a shark tooth this morning, and ponies are everywhere, so that's an easy find.
We also saw a wild turkey sauntering along the beach. I don't think he knows Thanksgiving is right around the corner or he'd be hiding.
We also saw an Ohio-class, boomer submarine coming up the channel towards the Kings Bay Submarine Base. Sorry this is such a bad photo, but it was far away and heavily guarded by big navy boats. 
If you ever happen to be cruising by Cumberland Island, be sure to stop and go ashore. There's always something interesting to see and do here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Depth Sounder Helps

Navigating a boat is a constantly changing task requiring different approaches and techniques depending on the area you're navigating and the sea and weather conditions. Mostly we use the "set the autopilot on a heading and check it every 15 minutes" method and ignore the depth sounder until we get near the harbor, but that method hasn't worked well for us in the ICW.

Below you see a little corner where we ran aground the other day. The dotted magenta line indicates the ICW centerline, but its not always accurate. The blue indicates sufficient water and the green indicates a shoal. The black lines are our tracks through this area.
Below is how the bottom really looks, so the chart isn't exactly accurate, is it? That jog is where we ran aground.
Since the charts aren't exactly accurate, and the depths are so shallow, the ICW demands a more intense level of navigation: constantly at the helm, frequently checking the chart for the magenta line and the deepest water, and using the depth sounder to determine if it's getting shallower or deeper as you turn.

Unfortunately for us, we were struck by lightning in August 2015, the cockpit read-out for our depth sounder was fried. The one at the nav station still works, but it's 10' away and poorly lit. Consequently we've run aground twice this week.
We've made some changes to our navigation method. First, we set the chartplotter to display "heads up" so turning towards deeper water is more intuitive. Then we zoomed way in so the details are bigger. And lastly, we taped a flashlight to the stairs and aimed it at the depth sounder. 
And guess what; using a depth sounder really helps! Recently we went through Hell Gate and the Mud River with no problems.
So now it's all beautiful sunsets and rum cocktails here aboard Thistle.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ocean Passage

We just made a passage from Beaufort, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina. It took 33 hours. The weather was calm. Persystence made an excellent buddy boat. This was the most exciting thing that happened. End of story.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cruising Into History

The Dismal Swamp Canal has a long and interesting history, and for cruising boats heading south it offers a peaceful and scenic bit of waterway. Unfortunately it has been closed for a year since Hurricane Matthew because of downed trees and shoaling. We were lucky enough to time our arrival on the very day it reopened (October 31, 2017), so we were the second cruising boat to enter the canal in over a year.Deep Creek is the scenic waterway where you turn west off the ICW to get to the Dismal Swamp Canal.

In about three miles you're at the Deep Creek Lock where the ICW's friendliest and nicest lockmaster, Robert, gives you a warm welcome, clear instructions, and a brief history of the canal.
Then you enter the narrow, shallow, peaceful canal. In some places persistent shoals are marked with stakes and the passage is maybe 50' wide, but generally the going is easy.
About 18 miles from the lock you arrive at the Visitor Center where you can stop overnight. Again, we were warmly greeted by Donna from the Visitor Center. She even took our pictures and posted them on their Facebook page. We spent a very peaceful night there; no wind, no current, no tides....
but plenty of duckweed to clean put of our strainer.

The next morning we made three and a half miles to the 65' tall highway bridge where we got a branch stuck on our rudder. It took a while to push it off with the boat hook, but eventually we got underway again. You can see it circled in the photo.
And then all too soon we were at the South Mills Lock, and on our way to Elizabeth City where we spent the night.
Believe me, there is nothing "dismal" about the Dismal Swamp Canal Route. It was delightful and we're so glad we were able to go that way.

Location Map October 31, 2017

At the Dismal Swamp Canal Visitor Center.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Annapolis and the Naval Academy

October 24, 2017
Annapolis likes to call itself the Sailing Capital of America and while there are certainly lots of sailboats in and around Annapolis, Newport, Rhode Island, or San Francisco, California might disagree.

We toured the Naval Academy while we were there and its grounds and museum are steeped in history. Above you see Memorial Hall where all the cadets live. The yard in front is where they parade every day at noon.
The inside of Memorial Hall is as beautiful as the outside. Except the cadets' rooms; they're pretty spartan.

This building is called the Drydock and the cadets come here to relax and entertain visitors. The giant ship model above the doors was used to teach the cadets all the ropes on a sailing ship.
We also visited the museum which is a storehouse of Navy history.

If you don't think global warming is a real thing, check this out. This street next to the waterfront was flooded with a foot of water one morning at high tide.


Friday, October 27, 2017
During our time in Norfolk we rented a car and drove to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. It's in amazingly good condition for being over 200 years old. And it's furnished with many items that Jefferson actually owned.
The typical tour takes you through the ground floor, and you can do a self guided tour through the dependencies and grounds.
The gardens are actively farmed and some of the food ends up being served at the visitor center cafe. I liked that.
It was a lovely warm fall day and we ended our tour by walking by the cemetery where Jefferson is buried beneath a granite obelisk.

Jefferson's chamber.
The chrome yellow dining room.
Tea room.

Norfolk and Portsmouth

There are lots of photo ops in and around Norfolk and Portsmouth. So much history and action.

And churches, lots of churches.