Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Out West

Twelve hours after leaving New Bern we arrived in Salt Lake City for a week.  The amount of space offered in an average-sized house is amazing.  We have lived on the boat for almost 2 months so there were small adjustments to our routine that we hadn't realized.  For example - coffee, in an automatic coffee maker - such a simple pleasure.  Waking up and realizing the bow of the bed wasn't floating was actually a little strange.  And of course, we missed the pitter patter of Kala's big paws.  She is back in New Bern playing all day, every day with her new friends at Jill's Pet Gallery (feel free to check her out on their web cams).

It didn't take us long to get back in the hang of things.  After getting up early (still on EDT), and getting some work done we were ready to hit the slopes.  We made it to Snowbird when the lifts opened and enjoyed the contrast that having the boat and the house in SLC offer.  Snowbird received almost another foot of snow Monday night, so we are headed back today after they finish the avalanche control work on the road.

Monday, April 18, 2011

N.C. Tornadoes

Here's a good recap of last Saturday night at the marina. At 6 p.m. we were hanging out having a potluck, by 10 p.m. the storm was in full force.   It was fast moving and everything was completely calm by midnight.  The marina was lucky to escape without any damage, other than some canvas that blew off a couple boats.

This is a video we took around 8:30 p.m. before the storm hit.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Making Her Ours

When we bought the boat, we inherited parts and pieces from each of the three previous owners.  Taking those giblets and putting them back together again is what makes her ours.

Step 1.  Sails.  Find a sail guy to sew a small tear in the sacrificial on the 105% jib and evaluate the other 6 sails we have.  After talking to him, we netted a total of 5 sails and threw the other 2 away.

Step 2.  Canvas.  The dodger and bimini (the canvas that covers over the cockpit) had broken zippers and significant rot in some spots.  Find some way to repair/replace what we have.  Not having a bimini and dodger in nasty weather makes it a different boat.

Step 3.  Wind Generator.  One of the pieces that came with the boat but wasn't installed was a 9-foot, 50 lb, wind generator.  We didn't know if it even worked but yesterday we decided was the day to figure that out.  Baxter and I maneuvered it around to the stern from the dock and I held one end while he held the blades and we fanagled it in place.  As soon as it was upright, the blades started turning and the wires were live.  We now have the ability to not only use the wind as transportation but also to create energy.

Step 4.  Deck Repair.  There was a hole in the deck right outside the companion way where someone dropped a winch handle or hammer and never repaired the hole.  With at least 2 years of corrosion, a penny-sized ding had rotted under the gel coat to about 4" in diameter.  Using West epoxy system we were able to fill the hole and color match to the current non-slip deck paint.

There will be many more ways to show our appreciation as the days and years go by, but in 2 days we found plenty of ways to take what we have been given and make her ours.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Up A Creek

We watched the weather Sunday from Cape Lookout and knew that an ugly cold front was moving across the East and would bring nasty winds and thunderstorms to North Carolina in the following days.  We calculated that we could leave the Cape early Monday morning and make a fast track back to New Bern to beat the worst part of the storm.  We would be home by 4 p.m.

As we pulled back the companion way hatch that morning, all we could see was fog in every direction.  There was a ketch that had anchored in the middle of the Cape, but other than that, nothing in sight.  We couldn't even see the lighthouse beaming back at us or the shore that seemed so close just 12 hours before.  We lit up the radar and GPS and headed back out to sea.  As the 5-7 foot waves rolled us around, we continued to sound our horn and keep a vigilant watch for any ships that could be near us.  At a maximum, we had about 200 yards of visibility - if anything came up, we would need to react quickly.  We made it back to the sea buoy that outlined the Beaufort inlet and made our way from nun to can until we could see land.  There was an eerie feeling as we could hear loud fog horns behind our stern, hear the coast guard cutters on the radio and we encountered the tug boats ready to bring war ships in to Camp LeJeune.  It kind of reminded me of watching Jaws and knowing there was a shark there, you could hear it and you wanted to get out before it ever appeared.

We meandered along and kept noticing the dark skies looming ahead.  It turns out by 1 p.m. the winds were gusting 40 mph on our nose.  Our boat speed slowed to less than 0.5 knot and the waves were tossing us around.  Our motto is and always will be "Safety First".  We always want to have an escape plan.  In this case, our best effort wouldn't get us anywhere.  We turned the boat completely around and what had taken 2 hours to get to upwind took us 20 minutes to get back to.  We escaped to Cedar Creek and tucked ourselves back as far as we could go.  Thankfully our boat has a 4'2 draft with the centerboard up and we could anchor in 6 feet of water.  There were a few other boats in the anchorage that weren't as protected because they were 6'+.  We turned on the NOAA weather broadcast on the VHF as we didn't have any cell service or network connection and the weather was not expected to improve for at least 36 hours.  But our anchor was tight, we had food, water, and propane and we were self sufficient.

The storms came and went and we moved on.  Kala reached a milestone and was able to accomplish her goal of going potty on the boat.  A person might think that such an experience is difficult, but really we had a great time!  We found a lot of projects to work on, learned quite a bit, and would make the same decisions again.

We pulled into our slip at Northwest Creek on Wed morning to sunshine and warm temps.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cape Lookout National Seashore

While anchoring in Beaufort was a great new experience, we were excited to adventure to Cape Lookout.  We had the charts, the plotter, and advice from local knowledge.  Now, if the weather would cooperate we would be all set. Cape Lookout National Seashore is the furthest south of the outer banks.  It is a bight that is well protected from most winds and a good anchorage.  

We headed out through the Beaufort drawbridge early Sunday morning and on past the Beaufort inlet, watching the tide tables and calculating slack tide so not to fight current, swell, and winds all at the same time.  We meandered through and made a turn to port moving up the coast along Shackleford Banks. The wind offered us a nice broad reach and the water became clearer and clearer as we neared the "hook" of the bight.  

Cape Lookout has become part of the National Park system and therefore is prohibited from future development, which I am all about!  Some people may have seen pictures from Cape Lookout and not even realized it - the lighthouse here is unique for its black & white diamond painting, said to represent Diamond Shoals.  As Baxter and I sailed in and dropped the hook, we were reminded that we were among many who have done the same throughout centuries of history including the Spanish, Colonial British, the French, privateers, pirates and even Civil War ships.  There are not many places in this entire world that statement could apply.

The day continued as Baxter was meerily cleaning the deck and said "Hey Molly, can you grab that sponge?"  I thought, sure, I'll hand him a sponge, no problem, thinking there was one closer to me than him and I could finish what I was doing and hand it to him in a couple minutes.  What he meant was "That sponge is about to blow off the deck and into the ocean if you don't grab it".  And that's exactly what it did.  So Molly to the rescue.  I jumped in the dinghy, Baxter handed me the oars and I was off to save the sponge.  Yeah, problem was the 13 knot wind carried me right to shore and the dinghy had no motor.  I was stuck on the beach, repeatedly attempting to launch myself and row back to the boat.  Despite all of my futile efforts, I was stuck onshore and defeated by the dinghy.  As Baxter said, I was "Robinson Crusoed".  A small fishing boat pulled up to the beach with a family taking pictures onshore.  I asked if they wouldn't mind towing me the 200 yards back to the boat.  Ugh!  Admitting defeat is not easy.  After laughing it off and talking about the hilarity of the situation, we all loaded up together and went right back to shore.  We walked over to the Atlantic side of the bight and found some great shells.  Kala had her first experience with waves breaking over her head.  She loved every second of it and ran right back in the water for more.  We loved Cape Lookout but saw a very ugly cold front moving in from the West and knew we would have to pull anchor first thing in the morning and head back to Northwest Creek.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beaufort Storms

We woke bright and early Friday morning and headed back to the Beaufort waterfront to check out the North Carolina Maritime Museum.  It is a wealth of information about pirate lore, boat building history, the fishing industry and the wrecks in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.  In fact, Blackbeard’s flagship “Queen Anne’s Revenge” sank right in the Beaufort inlet about 400 years ago and is still sitting on the bottom in about 13 feet of water less than ½ mile from the inlet.  Across the street from the museum, they have a boat house where you can watch people building wood boats by hand.  Just watching them inspired me to want to build our own dinghy one day. 

We walked up and down the waterfront and worked up quite an appetite.  We ended up at The Dock House for the very best crabcake sandwiches for lunch.  We can’t quite get those in SLC so it took us about 10 min to scarf them down.  Returning to the boat, we were surprised by the forecast for high winds that night.  We had dinner and battened down the hatches.  High winds turned out to be storms with thunder, lightning and about 40 mph gusts.  It’s one thing to experience a thunderstorm in a house with a concrete foundation and worrying about unplugging your computer, it’s another to wonder if your anchor will hold, if you’ll hit another boat, run aground, or if lightning will strike your 55 foot mast while you are on the water.  We didn’t sleep much that night, but we made it through safe and sound.  We intended to head out the next day for Cape Lookout.

Well, weather didn’t improve until about 2 pm the next day, so we returned to the waterfront and found a great store, Harbor Specialties, and Susan helped us tremendously in finding just that right momento from the trip.  She embroidered a bag with Stella Blue’s name and has the ability to sew anything we need, with just a phone call and the boat’s name.  As an aside, it turns out Susan was the original owner of a boat named “Banjo” which happened to be for sale in January by the second owner.  It had piqued our interest in early January and was the whole reason we began looking for boats in New Bern.  We never imagined that we would consequently run into Banjo’s owner in a shop in Beaufort while we were sailing on our Tartan 37.  She was thrilled that we knew her boat and we were thrilled to hear her story. 

Unfortunately, the storm from the night before and the pressure changes created an issue with my head.  I felt like my head was being hammered continuously through most of the day.  When we got back to the boat, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  Baxter made the best chicken & sausage gumbo for dinner.  He’s the best ever!  We checked the weather and made plans to head out to the Cape the next day….despite the storms and the ugly radar that loomed ahead.  Baxter and I had a difficult time trying to understand how it was that the only storms in the ENTIRE country were over Missouri and our 100 square miles in Eastern North Carolina.  Sometimes you don't have the option to figure out why you just have to figure out what you can do with what you're served.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dolphins & Dinghies

The sun came out over New Bern and Baxter and I backed out of our slip, did the pirouette in the fairway that our right-hand prop calls for, and headed for the coast.  We sailed a beam reach down to Minnesott and as I was at the helm, chatting with Baxter about getting around the ferries, I heard a strange noise behind me.  We turned around to find at least 25 bottle-nosed dolphins on our stern.  They were slapping their tails and swimming in pods of 3 or 4.  We couldn’t believe dolphins would swim that far up the Neuse river but there they were.  As soon as we got close to the ferry crossing, they said farewell and went on their way, as did we.

From the Adam’s Creek entrance we “channeled” our way down the ICW with a constant watch on the depth gauge and the channel markers.  There was a point close to Beaufort where the beach was 10 ft off our stern with sand pipers running in the sand but Stella Blue was happy in 25 feet of water.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who contribute to the dredging.  
Notice the shoaling just to the left of the channel marker, about 25 yards from our boat.

Town Creek Marina and anchorage was a nice haven and we dropped the hook.  Next on the list was dingying into town. Kala still has not agreed to go on the boat and we could smell the fresh seafood from the cockpit.  Baxter inflated the dingy, dropped the swim ladder, and we strapped Kala into her life jacket.  As a new adventure, she wasn’t sure where this would take her but as soon as her paws were on terra firma, she was all wags.  We walked over to the Beaufort waterfront and found Queen Anne’s Revenge which had patio dining and they encouraged us to bring Kala in and gave her a fresh bowl of ice water, oh and Baxter and I had a beer.  Now that’s service!!  

By sunset, we were back on the boat and ready for the next day.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Boat Projects

As most cruisers know, if you're not sailing, you are looking for ways to improve your boat for the next time you are sailing.  Working on the boat makes us feel productive and we always learn something new, which is fun and a great boost to the confidence.  Now, it's not always an easy lesson learned and sometimes it takes quite a few tries to get it right, but being that we are both extremely determined, we end up benefiting from the experience.

This week, we gave it a go at splicing.  Did I know what splicing was before I lived on a boat?  Uh, well, I had heard the word but really never paid attention.  For those of a similar mind, splicing (in "Molly" words) is creating a loop in the end of a rope and then putting it back within itself.  You can also splice two ropes together, but for our purpose in replacing some of our worn running rigging, we are making a loop which will wrap around a critical piece of equipment.  The benefit of splicing is to have a strong point of attachment without using a mechanism that could fail.  When you are sailing and the wind load on the sheets (ropes attached to the sails) is high, you cannot depend on something that could break or snap.  And so we researched and followed the New England ropes instruction on splicing.  It was a great video and now I keep thinking there must be a way to make money doing this - I am actually having fun!  Instead of paying someone to do this, which would probably cost 10x as much as it did, we figured it out, replaced the line ourselves and now know the process so we can repeat as necessary.  I would go as far to call us splicing machines.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Anchoring in Goose Creek

We finally got the weather window we had been waiting for, albeit small and short, but big enough to go out and have some fun.  We woke up, did a few checks and cast off the lines.  You don't have to tell us twice what this boat is about.  We tacked our way up river to downtown New Bern.  Union Park is right on a point past the 65 foot bridge.  We pulled in to the transient docks, locked up, and headed out for lunch at Pollack's, but not before an ENTIRE family asked Baxter to take a family portrait of them...ON our boat.  We had everyone from 75-year-old grandma to what appeared to be about a 3-week-old baby, and every age in between.  Yep, all on our bow while Baxter, Kala and I stood on the dock and took a picture of them with Stella Blue.  It was the best walk in the park for them in a long time!

New Bern is rich in heritage and stories of old.  It was the original capitol of North Carolina in colonial times and the British governor's mansion (Tryon Palace) is still standing.  New Bern was named after the homeland of the Swiss immigrants who founded the town in the early 1700's.  It turns out "Bern" actually means bear in German and as you walk through the streets, it is not hard to figure that out.  It also is the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola and the shop of the pharmacist who created the recipe still stands in the middle of town.

After spending the afternoon in New Bern, we cast off the lines once again and headed downwind for a beautiful sail to Goose Creek.  We had the music going, enjoyed laying on the bow soaking up some rays and made good progress at about 4.5 knots.  We arrived at Goose Creek just in time to set the anchor, drink a beer and watch the sunset before dinner.  The forecast indicated we would have a steady 15 knots through the night increasing to about 25 as the sun rose in the morning.  We drafted our plan for the next day and enjoyed being rocked to sleep.