Stormy Days and Helpful Hands

The sail from Port Huron was quiet and fast as the wind pushed us gently towards our destination. The sun peeked out weakly from behind a thickening layer of cloud. During the late afternoon we could see storm clouds ahead of us with heavy rain pelting the land and waters ahead of us. The way the clouds were moving made us think that we could dodge the rain, but with only 3 miles to go to our intended anchorage the weather broke loose, turning towards us, and began pounding us into oblivion. Wind, waves and rain lashed the boat for at least an hour. The rain was coming so hard it stung and made it hard to see, so we turned our backs to the weather but the wind was pushing us away from our destination. After the first wave of wind and rain passed, we decided to bite the bullet and head straight into the weather, enduring three more waves of binding wind and rain until finally it calmed down and we were able to enter the harbor safely and drop anchor. We closed up and came down to survey the damage below. All the window seals had leaked and we were soaked and cold so changing into dry clothes and some hot tea and food in the belly was in order.

We went to bed early, exhausted from the cold wind and rain. The next morning we awoke to low clouds and no wind, so we fired up the motor, raised the anchor and departed. There was a lot of mud and weeds on the anchor, so it was quite difficult to lift. Once secured we headed out of the harbor and up the coast to our next stop, Harbor Beach. Without wind we ended up motoring all day, arriving early in the afternoon. We dropped anchor just inside the break wall in about 15 feet of water. After work, we took a boat ride in the dinghy to shore. It was a quaint little town with a few shops, a small grocery store and a diner. We stocked up on some items before ordering a pizza which we ate at the picnic tables on the beach. It’s nice to be able to get off the boat. The sun peeked out later in the day as the clouds receded to the South and we were blessed with a glorious sunset. I awoke around 3:00 a.m. and was witness to a cloudless sky peppered with stars. I spent a few minutes looking at the amazing sight before heading back to bed.

Friday morning was sunny but again, no wind. After a cup of coffee and a light breakfast we raised anchor and started motoring towards Port Austin. The lake was calm, but being a Friday there were many people out getting an early start to the weekend which made working down below rather interesting. The boat bounced quite a bit over the waves made by passing vessels.

We were headed to Turnip Rock, but could not really get close enough with our deep keel to see it clearly. So we headed around the Port Austin reef light and into the harbor. That was an adventure! There were weeds and grass up to the surface of the water and we almost had to plow our way through, at full throttle going about a half mile an hour. We were able to make it through, but had a ton of weeds wrapped around both the rudder, the keel and the propeller. A little bit of back and forward with the gear shifter to shake it off and we were able to safely dock.

Melanie made a wonderful dinner of Jambalaya and after eating, we found a good ice cream store where we enjoyed a scoop before heading back to the boat. We spent a few hours watching TV while we did laundry and then fell into bed. Saturday was clear but very humid and there was almost a misty fog covering the water. We walked into town and went to the weekly Farmers market before taking showers and preparing for departure. Mike had another block in his water intake, so we had to return to dock and blow it out. Once that was accomplished we left without issue. The lake was flat and calm, almost no wind. We were headed to Harrisville. It was a lot cooler and more comfortable out on the water but we had to motor the entire trip.

At some point the wind did come up enough for us to set some sail to help our speed, but without the motor, we were only doing 2 knots. We arrived in Harrisville around 7:00 p.m. and it took three tries to get safely anchored. The weeds in the harbor were terrible! First time I dropped the anchor and Melanie started to back up the boat it just dragged along the bottom picking up weeds and branches which I almost did not have the strength to lift and clean. I got it up to the water line and then had to use a boat hook to get the weeds and the mud off. It must have weighed 100 pounds! Second attempt, same results, so we called the harbor Master and he told us where to drop where the weeds were not as bad. Third time we hit paydirt and were safely anchored. Melanie made salmon burgers and a delicious salad for dinner and we chatted until dark before falling into bed exhausted.

In the morning we took Windsor into shore to potty and spoke to a couple of locals that were taking their powerboat out of the water. We had a nice chat, and then returned to the boat to raise the anchor and head into the gas dock to fill up with diesel. Apparently this is the only Marina for about 100 miles in either direction that has a working diesel pump! Then we were on our way, once again calm Waters which required the motor. So we set the course and were on our way to our next stop. 7 miles out of port, the bracket holding the alternator to the engine broke in two places. I hastily shut down the engine and there we were, dead in the water. After a quick discussion we decided to head back to Harrisville, so we hoisted our sails and sailed back to the entrance of the harbor where our friends who were following behind on their own boat towed us in.

We dropped anchor and I began working on the problem; disassembling the alternator and removing it from the broken bracket. During this time, the wind switched 180 and started blowing quite hard, about 20 mph. I looked up and saw that the docks were rather close. I looked at the anchor alarm and sure enough, distance from our anchor point was steadily increasing. Then the alarm went off – we had to think quickly – there was no way for me to reset the anchor in this wind; we HAD to get a dock.

I radioed the dockmaster and explained our problem and then set up for a rather unconventional docking. We let the anchor drag far enough so I had enough anchor line on the boat to allow me to let out line and control our docking. Gently we guided the boat into a slip with help from many people on shore. Thankfully no damage and we provided great entertainment for the dock patrons. Once tied up we went ashore to pay for the night and Melanie started talking to a gentleman on shore who was bringing dinner to his daughter who worked at the marina. He turned out to be Mayor Jeff Gehring and at once he jumped on the phone and started calling around to find someone who could fabricate the part for us.

A few hours later we had a newly fabricated alternator bracket in hand. Jeff would not take payment from us. The kindness and helpfulness of the people at the marina as well as Mayor Jeff was overwhelming! We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local ice-cream shop for a treat to top off the day. God REALLY took care of us. Next day was a day of miserable, rainy weather, so we paid for another night and I worked, while Melanie cleaned dirt and debris from our leaky windows and then used silicone grease to help seal them, which did the trick! No more leaks!

A large sailboat called Island Dancer had pulled in the previous evening and it was someone we knew from Sandusky! I had traveled with them 6 years ago through the Canadian maritimes to deliver a boat to Boston. I sailed as far as Prince Edward Island and then returned home, but it gave me experience as to what to expect when we took our own journey starting in 2017. We spent the evening chatting about our adventures and catching up on each other’s lives. It was an unexpected surprise and really great to see them. Before we realized it it was almost midnight, we had chatted The night away. We went back to our boat and fell asleep to the sounds of train whistles as three or four trains passed through town in quick succession.

Motoring….

The day before is always chaos. Melanie ran around all afternoon buying our food and supplies and preparing for our trip. Thursday evening we went to a fundraiser dinner and then came home and made our final pre-departure checks. Friday morning she ran the last few errands and then we dropped the dock lines and left. First stop was the gas dock and a fill up and pump out. While refueling we spilled diesel; it’s always a problem because of the shape of the fuel filler hose. This time though was the worst yet – almost 2 cups spilled into the cockpit, so after MANY paper towels and much mopping up we headed out to the lake to begin our adventure.

We were headed North West to Detroit and the wind was blowing from the North West, so it looked to be a long afternoon of motoring. The wind was light so we motored the entire way. It gradually backed slightly to the West so we were able to unroll our head sails to help us move along a little faster. We scooted along nicely at 5 knots under sail and motor. The islands slowly fell behind and the towers of the power plants in Detroit and Toledo took shape on the horizon. Windmills to the North in Canada spoiled the beautiful skyline. As the afternoon wore on, the wind came up and eventually it was too rough for me to work so I came up to help Melanie steer the boat.

Pointing out the islands

The wind came up to over 20 knots which was quite a rough ride, our forecast of one foot waves was actually three to four footers with spray blowing over the boat. We were a little concerned that our Anchorage would not be suitable. We slogged on into the heavy wind and eventually the tower marking the entrance to the river came into view. We turned in at the tower and started motoring up the Livingston Channel towards our anchorage and as we did, the wind died and we ended up anchored in about 10 ft of water near Sugar Island with the river current gently holding us in place. It was a beautiful sunny evening, calm and quiet.

We woke up the next morning to a sunny day with not a cloud in the sky, and after breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we hauled up our anchor, along with about a half ton of sea grass and mud! We fired up the motor and headed over to the Livingston channel for the long haul up to Lake Saint Clair. Shortly after entering the channel, a huge tanker passed close by, it was rather intimidating. I guess we will have to get used to that. We stayed close to the West edge where there was less current, which allowed us to go slightly faster, 4.5 knots instead of 2.

Beautiful, expensive homes lined both sides of the river. We made slow progress with the current trying to push us backwards. At one point our depth went quickly from 30 down to 7 ft and we caught huge chunks of weed and grass on our rudder and propeller. We turned quickly into the channel and once there, I had to reverse, then forward, and reverse a few times to “shake” off the debris. We made slow progress northward and by noon we could see the buildings of downtown Detroit and were within sight of the bridge that crosses the river over to Windsor.

Motoring under the bridge to Windsor

We reached the mouth of the Detroit River and entered lake St Clair around 2:30 p.m. . Just in time, a large tanker was bearing down on us as we exited and turned a quick left to go north up the west coast of the lake toward our anchorage. We anchored near Grosse Pointe Farms in an area where there were many boats anchored and enjoying the day. Melanie made a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with salad while we watched as the boats gradually departed until just three were left. We ate dinner with our friends, chatted a while and then I rowed them back to their boat and returned to ours, hoisted the dinghy back up and secured it for travel. A quick hour of TV and then we collapsed in bed for the night.

The evening was rather rough and wavy but in the morning we awoke to a dead calm lake. We raised anchor around 8:00 a.m. and started motoring across the lake toward the entrance of the St Clair River. About halfway across our friend’s boat had engine trouble so we switched off the engine and simply sailed slowly on the gently developing breeze. It was a sunny day with wispy high clouds passing gently by. We started motoring again once we entered one of the St Clair River tributaries, passing by homes and marinas. Then Mike’s engine alarm went off. They dropped anchor in the river just out of the channel and we motored around them while he tried to fix the issue to no avail.

Motoring up the Saint Clair River on Sunday Morning

So we decided that we would head up the river to get reservations at a marina, and they would call a towboat and meet us there. We had been radioing the marina without answer most of the morning. Suddenly a voice over the radio said that they heard us call and they heard the marina answer, but of course, I could not hear the marina. Their radio was apparently not powerful enough. He relayed our requests for a dock to them and then provided us with a phone number so we could call and make arrangements for us and the crippled boat.

We arrived at the marina and got ourselves settled in just in time to help Mike and his wife arrive. Melanie made a delicious dinner for us and our new friend Tim, who had helped us to get our reservations set up. Then a quick walk to the grocery store for supplies and a well needed stop at the local ice cream store. We collapsed into bed and slept hard, seems like we do that every day while traveling. Due to a bad weather forecast, we decided to make our stay 2 days long to recoup, fix Mikes engine issue and avoid the bad weather. It turned out that a quick blast of water down the radiator hose cleared a huge chunk of weeds that was clogging the water intake, hence the overheating issue. Its always wonderful to have a cheap fix like that!

It was good that we spent two days at Algonac. The wind howled and storms blew through the areas that we would have been motoring through so we dodged a bullet. Next morning we were on the road by 8:30 and made making the slow slog up the river. The current in the St Clair River was much stronger beyond Algonac as it was a single wide river instead of three tributaries. At times our speed dropped to less than 2 miles per hour. It was cloudy the wind was blowing right in our faces so we were unable to use the sails to help us at all. Beautiful homes lined both sides of the river for miles. The odd tanker came flying by us downriver and as the day wore on the skies cleared and the sun finally peeped out. We started off the morning with Melanie heavily dressed wearing two jackets as the wind was very cold. I however was cozy and warm below as the engine heats the living area of the boat. Around 4:30 we pulled into Port Huron yacht club, tied up without mishap and then Melanie cooked dinner for us. We finished off the day by taking a walk around the immediate downtown area and wouldn’t you know it – we found a great ice cream shop to “sample”; the Michigan Pothole flavor is rapidly becoming my favorite fix for my extreme chocolate lover palate. A quick shower and then off to bed.

The wind woke me up in the morning. Howling through the rigging and making a low moaning sound indicating at least 20 mph winds. We watched a club member preparing for a sail and I was sure that the boat was a familiar design; one I had seen in South Africa as a child. I asked the skipper as they passed us by. “Its a 30 Square Meter” he said. I was right! Sleek fast boats, they caught my eye as they would sail gracefully by.

After a quick discussion we turned Mike’s boat around at the dock by hand and helped him to cast off. His boat is not very maneuverable as it has a full length keel. We left without mishap and headed out into the river and over to the Canadian side where the current is not as strong. Actually, with the wind helping us we made quick work of the remaining mile and a half and finally entered lake Huron. With the wind from behind we were able to turn our motor off for the first time and sail. Glorious quiet for me at the computer! We can actually sail faster than we can motor. Our next stop was Port Sanilac. We delayed departure until about 10 as there were huge storms rolling through that area and I wanted them to clear out before we took off. But that is another story…

The captain at the wheel

Covid 19 And Beyond

WOW, it has been a loooong time since the last post! I recently read through all our previous posts while trying to get through the quarantine and it made me anxious for a new adventure.

Since returning from our trip Melanie and I have been pretty busy moving. Moving off the boat back to Columbus, moving into and rehabbing a house, moving in with friends, moving into an apartment – it seems like life right now is nothing but a series of moves!

We moved up to the boat in early May 2020, living on her and prepping for the summer. Things were a lot slower due to Covid, but by the end of June, we were ready for our first sail of the year. It was a beautiful sunny day with 5 to 10 knot light NE winds, calm waves and oh so clear lake waters! Under full sail, we headed over to the North bay of Kelleys Island to visit with Shannon, Melanie’s daughter, Sean and their kids. We dropped anchor after an uneventful sail, hopped in the dinghy and went to shore where we spent time with the family on the campground beach.

Some time during the afternoon, we took Yuli and Shay on a dinghy ride, they were both dying to go since its been a while since they were last on the boat. We motored over to the boat and sat and ate some of Yuli’s chocolate birthday cake before hopping back into the tender and returning to the beach. Shay got to steer the dinghy and got the hang of it quite quickly – he loved it and went on and on about it when we returned to the beach. After they packed up to head back to the campsite for dinner, we returned to the boat and set sail, taking a slow, lazy ride home. About half way between the island and the shore, the wind petered out completely and the last 3 miles were given to the iron genny to motor us safely home.

Early the next week, Shannon and Sean went home, so we picked up Yuli and Shay from the ferry boat and took them with us for a few days while mom and dad went home to work. We set sail over to Put-In-Bay. Melanie cooked up some Jambalaya on the way and we enjoyed a gentle sail and yummy food.

We watched a beautiful sun set on the way and picked up a mooring ball in the harbor around 9:45pm. It was a beautiful evening. The kids watched Netflix while we sat up in the cockpit and enjoyed the view. The next day I worked while the kids ran all over the island with Melanie. Dinner that evening was Salmon cooked on the grill. We left the next day for home port on a promising wind, sailed around Ballast Island, and turned towards home. The wind dropped a bit after rounding the island, but we had a nice sail back until we fired up the motor about 3 miles from home after the wind finally quit for good.

Powell Family Reunion – Kelleys, July 2020

The following day we pIcked up Adam, Sarah and the kids and motored over to Portside marina on Kelleys Island where we dropped off Adam and Sarah. Julian & Luke motored with us around to the North side of Kelleys where we dropped anchor. Luke jumped off and swam. Then we took the dinghy in to shore and spent day at the beach. Aaron and Jenny had rented a house on the South side of the island, so at dinner time we all headed over there to cook and eat dinner. Then Melanie and I babysat all the kids while the adult went out. We got back to boat around 11 and slept. The wind came up about 2AM from the North East and it got pretty choppy but the anchor held. It was an unpleasant night of bouncing about in the waves. In the morning we motored over to the south side of island and anchored off of Seaway marina near the public beach. We spent day there and then had dinner at the house before watching the fireworks at Cedar Point, Lakeside and other spots on the mainland. It was a great evening, and upon returning to the boat we slept like babies – it was very calm.

We headed into shore the next morning to help clean up the rental house and hung around until they checked out. Then we motored over to campground on the North side of Kelleys and went to the beach with everyone. We took a trip into town for lunch, then came back and relaxed at the campsite before going back to boat. They went kayaking and stopped over for a bit before heading to shore. We hauled anchor and sailed home with help from a GREAT WIND. We watched the sun set over the island and enjoyed a beautiful 10 knot breeze while sailing home.

Monday and Tuesday were spent working. Tuesday evening we watched thunderstorms form over Detroit and witnessed an hours-long lightning show but the promise of rain never materialized. We went to bed hot and sweaty even after showering.

The Storm…

Wednesday, Randy and Leslie came with the girls and after a few drinks and a light lunch they headed out to the beach to swim while I finished work.

Thursday we made our way over to the island and were the only boat on the mooring balls! We swam and relaxed, before heading into shore to unwind. It was a VERY hot day, but the canopy of trees in the park helped to cool things to a manageable level. We took the kids to the playground, then off to a treat of Tofts ice cream, and then it was to the museum where we watched the movie on the battle of Lake Erie and then helped them get their ranger badges. After a long day on shore we went back to the boat, made dinner and then after a long evening went off to a well deserved sleep.

Next morning we woke to a nice Southerly breeze. We took everyone ashore, showered, walked  the dogs and then took off for Kelleys. It was a great sail and we were there in less than an hour! After dropping anchor we headed into shore, took a quick tour of the Glacial Grooves and then went to the beach to cool off. I was concerned about a line of storms moving through the midwest, so after looking at radar on someone else’s phone (mine had no signal, common on Kelleys if you have service with ATT) we decided to head back to beat the storms. That of course never works. We started off with a great wind and once around the North shore of Kelleys, aimed straight for our home port and were making great way at over 5 knots.

The skies darkened and when the first hint of rain appeared over Marblehead, the wind died and then backed 45 degrees, so we were aiming at Mouse Island instead of home port. I started the engine and we doused the sails just in time to be hit by our first rain squall along with 25-30 knot winds. The rain came in a white wall from East Harbor and soon we were drenched, although after 5 minutes or so the rain passed and we scurried on to the harbor entrance.  We entered our harbor as the dark clouds loomed closer, a report on the VHF from one boater indicated that 2 jetskis were stuck out on the lake – one towing the other – and the boater was unable to assist due to the need for him to get his boat to safety. Emergency requests for help began popping up on the radio,  and just before making the turn at the end of the channel the full force of the storm hit us. Heavy pelting rain and strong wind gusts pounded the boat as we turned East down the tree lined channel. Ahead of us lay the stone wall and the marshes of East Harbor. As we approached the turn South, the water came into view and it was apparent that the trees were sheltering us quite well from the full fury of the wind.

White caps scurried across the surface of the small bay as the rain began to get harder. We rounded the corner and then the full force of nature hit us. Shrieking winds over 50 mph grabbed the boat and tried to push it over to the left side of the channel and onto the rocky shore.  The rain felt like small stones being thrown in our face. All guests and dogs were below. White caps were being blown off the tops of the waves, and along with the rain, became deadly weapons in the hands of mother nature. I had to close my eyes and turn my head to one side, looking out of only my left eye because the rain hitting my face made it painful to look into the wind and to open my right eye. I kept a diligent look at our speed and heading as we motored slowly to our next channel marks. It was becoming apparent that the wind was winning the battle of position and I was unable to keep the boat on the safe side of the channel – the wind was simply too strong.

Then the engine alarm came on – it was overheating! I had to reduce throttle which meant we were being pushed to the rocky side of the channel even faster. Melanie and I both prayed – Lord, please get us to our dock safely – I kept repeating this and realized we were not going to make it back to the dock. Certain destruction awaited us on the rocky left side of the channel. In my mind a small voice said “turn around”. I swung the wheel hard to the left and the wind pushed the nose of the boat sharply around. 18000 pounds of boat felt liberated suddenly from the push against the weather. We made the turn and were able to get back to the safe side of the channel with the wind and rain now pummeling our backs. Melanie put up the umbrella and the turquoise foul weather jackets mysteriously appeared from the hatchway. We put the jackets on, now both shivering from the cold rain and wind that continued to pummel us. White streaks of rain driven wind lashed us as we headed back toward the shelter of the tree lined part of the channel. Visibility was less than 100 yards. 2 fishing boats came motoring hurriedly by  and looked at us a little surprised, probably wondering why we were headed OUT into the storm. We rounded the corner into the shelter of the tree lined channel, and while the rain still pelted us unrelentingly, the wind blowing the boat around dropped dramatically, and I was able to motor the boat safely up to the part of the channel that took us out to the open lake. Thankfully – due to the engine running at lower RPM, the alarm went off which was a HUGE relief. 

More boats came rushing by in search of safety, we turned NE into the final part pf the channel and another round of wind hit the boat and lashed it with blinding clouds of rain, this time pushing us out into the lake. With the wind at our backs I was now able to see and maneuver the  boat safely to the windward side of the channel and I was able to hold that position without the struggle we experienced when heading in. We got the umbrella behind us to block the wind and the rain and were eventually dumped unceremoniously out into the lake where I turned and aimed for Mouse Island so I could stay close to the windward shore and avoid the larger waves that would develop as one moved away from the shore.

Wind and rain pelted us for what seemed an eternity, then suddenly the island became visible, the shore and channel entrance became visible, and the white wall of water passed us by and the storm was over. Within 5 minutes the wind was dead calm. We motored back into the harbor and tied up to the dock without issue, there was not a breath of wind. Ugly dark clouds now behind us raced up the lake searching for more victims to devour.

Long Hot Summer…

We had been having issues with the gear shifter, and after some troubleshooting determined that the actual problem was the shifter, not the cable or the transmission. After researching, we found an Edson dealer and $500 later, with a little sweat we had a new shifter installed and we were ready to try her out.

Our next adventure took us for a quick trip over to Put-In-Bay. It was a strong SW wind, and we mad good time getting there. Storms strolled through our Marina while we dropped anchor day at the monument. We were treated to a glorious lightning show from the safety of our anchorage.

We headed back the next morning to pick up Matthew and Victoria who came up to visit. it rained all day Saturday. Sunday the weather forecast was not much better but we decided to try and sail anyway. We left the harbor and went for a sail towards Marblehead and then headed back. The wind was very strong, we saw gusts of 40 knots with steady winds around 25 to 30 knots. The sail to Marblehead was nice, but turning for home had us headed into the wind and the chop and it was quite a struggle for us to motor into the wind back to port. We made a Flawless docking despite the wind so all was well.

Buffalo – Aug 2020

Our next journey got started with a bang. While backing out of our slip, we got a dock line tangled and almost hit our neighbor despite the docks being almost twice the width of last year. Thank goodness for that! We sailed over toward Sandusky Bay to rendezvous with Mary and Mike off Cedar Point and set sail towards Buffalo, our intended destination for our summer trip. We adjusted our sails so that we could keep pace with each other. We took off, broad reaching towards Cleveland with the tailwind around 15 knots, and just like always, the wind took a sharp uptick around sunset. While attempting to reef the main, the reefing line for the clew snapped and so we had to struggle to maneuver the boat into the wind to get the main taken down. Once stowed we set the 2 jibs and headed up towards Ashtabula, our first stop.

Winds were still quite strong and the Weather Channel kept talking about water spouts. They were east of us, moving away from us, so we never saw them. The skies looked threatening but overhead it was crystal clear. Even with just a third of the Yankee set we were still doing almost 6 knots! The waves were supposed to be two to four feet, but we saw quite a few 6 Footers and a few broke into the cockpit and soaked us. The wind was now hitting us on the beam at it made for a very uncomfortable ride with a lot of rolling along wit the noise of the waves smacking the side of the hull.

As it got dark we lost visual sight of the waves and Melanie went and down to go to bed. It was almost impossible to sleep in the cabin. It would be calm for a short while and then a set of waves would come through and thoroughly rock the boat. Some broke against the hull and drenched me in the cockpit.. it was not the most pleasant of evening watches. The boat bounced around in the short chop of the lake. As it got darker, we came abreast of Cleveland and under those scudding gray clouds, we could see the lights of the downtown area. Quite a pretty sight at night. Jupiter rose in the eastern sky followed by Saturn, and they shone above Cleveland quite brightly. They almost looked like aircraft taking off from Cleveland Hopkins Airport. 

The wind bopped around all night – it would die down a little and the chop would quieten down a bit and then it would pipe back up and the waves would get ugly. Our wind generator moaned under the strain of the wind gusts. The green and red navigation lights led the way into the night towards a cloudy, rainy sky in the east. The weather was moving in the same direction as we were so we luckily avoided getting drenched. As the night wore on, the wind abated and soon we were sailing under full sail, making our way slowly toward Ashtabula.

Jupiter and Saturn kept us company for a while until hiding behind a cloud bank above the Eastern suburbs of Cleveland. Promises of light picked above the row of storm clouds to the east and soon the Moon came into full view. A beautiful full moon shone it’s Golden light across the water. The waves slowly subsided and the wind moderated, making it almost a pleasant sail, the clouds glowed with the light of the city and our two boats sailed on with the moon’s golden path of light following our boats and Illuminating the way. Smoke clouds glided across the face of the moon, lit up like silver in the sky. Lights flashed on the shore helping to guide us on our journey. The waves still tried to throw us around, but they were definitely calming down and making the passage a little easier. The wind gradually dropped as we moved up past the lights of East Cleveland. The moon played hide and seek, kicking in and out of clouds as we sailed on through the night. The skies cleared but there were still some clouds cutting across The dark night sky, obscuring it in every once in awhile.

Melanie came up for her watch and I tried to sleep. I laid there all night listening to Mary and Melanie chat with each other over the radio, and while the wind did drop, the waves continued their relentless assault on the boat, knocking it around and making life rather unpleasant. The sun finally showed itself, and I took the helm so Melanie could nap for a few hours before I started work. We made it in to Ashtabula around noon and dropped anchor in the harbor near the breakwall. It was dead calm. Bald eagles were flying around and made for a great nature show. I worked until happy hour and then we picked up Mary and MIke and bought them over to our boat for a relaxing dinner, drinks and some route planning.  After taking them back we watched a Netflix episode and then went to bed. It was an early night and we slept well.

We were awoken the next morning by a powerboat wake as they rudely blasted through the harbor on their way to the lake. After a light breakfast and some coffee, we hauled anchor and put up all sail, headed to our next destination, Erie. The wind was light from the SE and we sailed parallel to the coast for a few hours making good headway until around 10am, when the wind began its predicted switch to the NE. This meant that it was directly on the nose and around 1pm, we decided to start the motor, drop sails and head directly to the destination so we arrived by sunset instead of tomorrow morning. The wind gradually increased and slowed our forward progress down, from 5 knots down to 2.5, so even though our motor was set to drive us 5, we made slow, arduous progress. Around 10:30pm we were finally making the last approaches to the mouth of the harbor when our companion boat ran out of fuel! We waited with them, sailing back and forth for 2 hours while chatting on the radio until the towboat arrived and whisked  them quickly off to the safety of the harbor at 7-8 knots while we chugged slowly behind at 4.5 – arriving an hour later in a picturesque anchorage filled with boats. We found a spot, dropped anchor and went straight to bed, exhausted from the long day! By the time we woke up, well rested from our journey, they had all taken off and we were alone, with a light NE wind cooling the boat.

After a hot breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we took the dinghy into shore and helped Mike & Mary get their boat into a dock. They wanted the luxury of shore power to get all their toys charged up, and it allowed us to gain access to the showers on shore, a nice luxury. Once back to the boat I knuckled down to work for a while.

After a hot breakfast and a good cup of coffee, we took the dinghy into shore and helped Mike & Mary get their boat into a dock. They wanted the luxury of shore power to get all their toys charged up, and it allowed us to gain access to the showers on shore a nice luxury. Once back to the boat I knuckled down to work for a while.

Old fashioned tour boat takes a trip through the anchorage

Mike & Mary’s cat jumped ship when they arrived at the dock the previous evening, and we spent a good deal of time looking for her; putting up notices and searching, all in vain. Then, later that evening while taking our showers she came back thankfully. After dinner on the boat and a little socializing we went to bed. We were up and on our way early the next morning with not a breath of wind. It was a beautiful day and the wind, although it did finally make an appearance late in the day was not quite enough for us to sail. It was a long day of motor sailing with just a little bit of wind for us to put out the jib and get about a half knot of extra speed.

We arrived in Dunkirk at a picturesque Anchorage similar to Ashtabula and dropped anchor. There were some boat clubs and restaurants in the small harbor, so we lowered the dinghy and went ashore to find a place to eat. We ended up sitting outside for dinner and socialized with the locals while enjoying a few drinks before returning back to the boats exhausted. During the night the wind shifted from the north to the South and in the morning, it looked as though we would have a nice lazy sail over to Buffalo with winds around 8 knots. Then we tried to haul the anchor up. What fun! The rode and the anchor were absolutely covered in pounds and pounds of weeds. To make matters worse once I got the anchor up to water level, I found an old 8ft log caught in the shank. It took a little while to get the anchor cleaned and stowed and then I motored over to Mike and Mary and helped them do the same.

Then we were off and out into the lake. It was a glorious day, about a 10 knot breeze from the south which put us on a beam to broad reach. Conditions deteriorated quickly. A beautiful sunny day hid the fact that the wind spped was slowly creeping up until we were flirting with 30 knots and 8 foot breaking waves!

Rolling on to Buffalo

It was quite a white knuckled ride, the auto pilot could not handle the following seas, so for all but one hour of the trip, we had to hand steer until we squirted into the protected bay behind the breakwall that protects Buffalo from Lake Erie’s anger. The coast guard came out to take a look at us and make sure we were OK, thankfully with the wind from behind it was a ride punctuated with surfing down waves at greater than hull speed with very little heeling, so it was not too unpleasant. 

Tied up safely to the free wall at Wilkeson Point

We tied up carefully in the Bay next to Wlikeson Pointe park and then went ashore where we enjoyed a happy hour at the little concession stand there. After walking Windsor, we came back to the boat and fell into bed exhausted. No one got up until after 8; Mike & Mary got up around 10:30, and after breakfast on the boat we took a walk around looking at the park and then strolled over to First Buffalo where we met up with Kathy. She had been an immense help to us on our journey home 2 years ago and was once again very helpful in getting us set up with a dock for Mike & Mary. We untied their boat from the wall and then headed over to the State marina where we tied up before enjoying happy hour and heading out for dinner at the restaurant in the marina building. We met a few interesting people and dogs along the way, but before long it was close to sunset and we had to pack it in and take our dinghy back to the boat before darkness set in.

After unwinding with some Netflix, we slept and awoke to a howling breeze – just like Sunday, with huge waves crashing over the breakwall – I am REALLY glad we were not out in that! The trees offered us some shelter from the blow and the water close to the boat, while a little wavy, did not have breakers, although heading into shore at various times during the day, we did get soaked.  Melanie did laundry and did some grocery shopping while I attended a work meeting. Then we went ashore for a happy hour at the park – cider along with some BBQ pork sliders – yummy! We topped off the day with some Netflix and thankfully during the night the wind abated. After our morning ritual, we headed off to take the boat into the same Marina where Mary and Mike were staying.  After tying up we took a road trip into Buffalo and along the river to Niagara falls.

US Side of Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The rapids above the falls
American Falls

It was a perfect day, not too hot and humid, but pleasantly warm. We walked around admiring the beautiful views of the falls before heading up to North Tonawanda – the Erie canal entrance – for some dinner and then heading back to the boat.

We left Buffalo early the next morning on no breeze – motoring until after noon waiting for something to appear. Wind came up and soon we were able to unfurl sails and sail between 5 and 6 knots with a following sea – making it a pretty rolly ride. We scooted into Dunkirk and dropped anchor behind the breakwall, but with a NE wind there was not much shelter – we had 2 footers bouncing us around until about 2am before things calmed down. We dinghied into town the next morning and did a small bit of grocery shopping before we headed back to the boat where Melanie made dinner and we watched a gorgeous Ohio Lake Erie sunset.

We hauled up a TON of weeds once again the next morning when we departed and left Dunkirk behind, our next stop, Erie. The day shaped up the same way, light weather in the morning with a lot of motoring, until around noon when the wind picked up from the NE and soon we were cruising along at 5-6 knots under jib alone, surfing down waves that were getting larger as we approached Erie. We arrived early due to the help of the wind, and upon entering the bay encountered the largest waves of the day – 7 to 8ft! It made navigating the narrow channel into the bay quite interesting. We motored to our anchor spot and dropped our hook after filling up with diesel. Another evening of good food, drinks and companionship ensued while the wind howled – thankfully the bay was so sheltered that it did not create waves – just a good strong breeze to cool us all down.

We left early the next morning, took the long motor out to our turning point and headed West to Ashtabula. Dead.Calm. Another day of motoring lay ahead. A quick zephyr here and there promised some help, but the motor ended up doing all the work until about 2pm. We rolled back and forth on the leftover waves from the previous day and prayed for wind to appear. When it did, we were suddenly up to 6 knots! I turned the engine off and were still able to make 4-5 knots with just the jib and a nice South breeze. The wind strengthened until it was 20-25 knots and we were scooting along at over 6 knots for long periods of time. With the short distance between us an the shore, the waves were small and we were able to move quickly, arriving almost 2 hours earlier than we predicted. We anchored in the harbor and after unwinding for an hour or so, we motored up the river in the dinghy and tied off to a free dock. We wandered around the area close to the river, it was all historic buildings – well kept and bustling with activity. We ate at Briquettes Smokehouse and enjoyed some of the best ribs we have ever eaten before heading back to the boat for the night. After the traffic laid down we enjoyed a calm, restful sleep.

Bad storm coming on the way to Mentor

Wakes woke us up early the next morning, so we were up and moving quite early. We hauled anchor and headed out towards Mentor. The wind was light but helpful – it only gave us about 3 knots of speed so we motor sailed, because there was a chance of storms and we wanted to try and get in before they made their appearance.  We made good progress towards Mentor but the radar showed a wicked line of storms marching down the lake towards us. We prepared for the worst – closed all ports, prepared to furl up sails and waited for the white line of swirling rain and whitecaps to march towards us and fling water in our faces. It never happened. The worst of the weather split and went North and South of us, and the arrival of the storm was heralded by a switch of wind direction to the North and gradually increasing rain – no deluging downpour! God was watching over us!

The rain did get quite hard, but the wind was never more than 15 knots, so we left the staysail up to help us make time. The skies gradually brightened, and when the rain passed, the wind suddenly switched to SE, around 15 knots. We unfurled our jib and between the two sails and the engine we were doing 7 knots towards our destination. We ended up arriving safely around 2:30 – far earlier than we had estimated. After docking and cleaning up, we enjoyed a tasty (and REALLY expensive) meal at the yacht club restaurant before retiring to bed for the night. Melanie spent the next day lounging around and relaxing at the pool while I worked, then she cooked up a fabulous meal for the 4 of us to enjoy at evening dinner.

We were up early the next day, our intended goal was home. We stocked up on ice and were off by 7:30, motor sailing towards the islands. There was a gentle breeze to help us on our way, and the scenery passed by quickly. Soon we were moving at over 6 knots, passing Cleveland and Lorain. There were waves coming from 2 directions,  our beam and 45 degrees from the bow, so we rolled around uncomfortably until the wind was strong enough to keep the boat heeled enough. This made working below quite uncomfortable, I had to take breaks every half hour or so for fresh air so I did not get queasy. The winds petered out late in the afternoon, and with ZERO help from mother nature we were left motoring at 4.5 knots. That is when the invasion began. Biting flies attacked our boat and the two of us spent 90% of our time hunting and killing flies. The carnage was enormous; dead bodies piled up under the cockpit floorboards; those we killed and who fell and couldn’t be reached to dump over board. Thank goodness for Otto – our auto pilot – he kept us going straight while we slaughtered the invaders. Our marina is about 10 miles beyond Sandusky, so we parted ways with Mary & Mike and headed on our course to home while they pointed towards theirs. We gradually separated until we were almost 5 miles apart – they reached home an hour or so before us, but we were treated to a beautiful Lake Erie Sunset before we turned into our channel and returned safely to the dock. After tying up we realized that many of the flies had invaded the cabin, so we had another swatting spree to get rid of those intruder before collapsing into bed for a good night’s sleep. Our Buffalo adventure was done and in the books, but the memories we made will last for a while!

2021 Sailing

Our plans were to do some traveling; plans for sailing Lakes Huron and Michigan, but at the last minute we decided not to go as we were having engine heating issues and it looked like Michigan was going to go into quarantine mode again. So we spent the summer sailing around the islands and hanging out with friends, quiet and uneventful.

The highlight of the summer was our new spinnaker. My parents bought us a new spinnaker to replace the one we blew out in the Florida Keys. I had taken it in for repair and it was simply too old; they said it wasn’t worth the expense, and the sail, as old as it was, would probably not hold the new stitches.. We got to choose our design and the colors. Along with the coral/turquoise theme, our sail was a heavier fabric (up to 20 knots) and a star cut of coral, turquoise and yellow. We finally got to fly it in mid July. A typical Nor’Easter blew up and we decided to take the boat out and give it a try. We sailed up around the North side of Kelleys Island and then tacked toward the South East until we were about 10 miles from home port. We bore off downwind and then hoisted and set the colorful sail.

Our GORGEOUS new spinnaker doing its job

In response the boat leapt forward and our speed increased by a good 2 knots. We sailed for a good hour and a half until we dropped the sail between home port and Mouse Island so we could turn around and head in. It was a great sail, under almost perfect conditions, a good first sail with the new kite. Thank you mom and dad for the wonderful gift!

We also had family and friends come up and visit us, and I was kept busy at work.

Heading For Home…

We spent Saturday afternoon on shore where Windsor found a playmate, a Golden Doodle who looked like Ellie, and they played hard for about an hour. We took a short walk before showering, watching a few shows and going to bed. It was chilly and numerous quick showers pelted us, so cuddling up and watching some TV was about all we could do. Sunday we did laundry after watching a few sermons, then we walked the park and talked to a few people on shore before walking to the end of the canal where it dumped in to the Niagara River. Then we headed back to the boat where we had dinner and watched some TV.

Monday morning after I had finished work, we walked over to the Carousel Museum and spent a wonderful few hours reliving our childhood and admiring the art of carousel making before coming home and having lunch. Then we cast off and motored out of the Erie Canal into the Niagara River. The current was fairly strong, but we made steady progress up to the Black Rock lock. The lock is at the entrance to the Black Rock canal that runs parallel to the river, but keeps you out of the current which increases quickly from 1 to 2 knots down by the islands to 5 knots or more at the entrance to the Niagara River. We motored up through the canal, underOn the wall at Tonawanda a few bridges and then into the downtown area near Veterans Park where we looked around and then headed to our chosen anchorage which was in the old salt canal a short distance away. We tied up to a concrete wall which was in a sad state of disrepair, but in decent enough condition that we could safely tie up and spend a few days. Thank goodness for LARGE fenders!

The area was very sheltered; there was a brick wall to the West that protected it from Lake Erie, and to the South, the North and the East were the walls of the inlet. The North wall had been converted to a park; there were some wind decorations and other things that we decided to explore later but it looked like it was going to storm so we stayed put and watched Netflix before turning in.

We had called the marina and scheduled our mast to go up on Thursday, but Tuesday we called as the weather was nice and they said they would squeeze us in. We motored over at 10 and spent the next few hours getting the mast up. Once it was stable, we motored back to the wall and spent the afternoon tightening the rigging and getting the sails put on. We had an issue with the mainsail and one of the dutchman lines broke, so I had to fix that. Once we got the mainsail squared away we called it a day, went into shore, took Windsor to the beach and walked around the park. It was a very nicely done area, lots of wildflowers and butterflies, a few slides for small kids and a nice walking path. It was a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday we headed in to shore after I finished with work, and we walked down to the bike ferry, a pontoon boat that goes back and forth from Naval Park to Ferry Park, to allow people to get over to see the wildlife refuge and Wilkeson Point Park where we were tied up. It was only $1 per person each way, so we went over and because we had Windsor, we just explored the outside of the museum where all the memorials are located. They had monuments to everything, Marines, Army, Polish soldiers, Hispanic soldiers, even Gold Star families! It made for a nice walk and once done, we headed down the shoreline to Swannies for some drinks and chicken wings which were very good. We walked back another way searching for ice cream which we found eventually, hidden behind Hatch, a small restaurant complex at the mouth of the Buffalo river.

We enjoyed some good chocolate ice cream before walking to the front to Hatch where there was a small bar. We got a glass of wine and watched the sailboats head out and race on Wednesday evening. There were at least 50! It was a wonderful sight and there was a good wind to boot. We headed home on the ferry and met a couple on a Tartan 37, headed down South to Florida. We had a nice discussion with them and while walking, got to see a doe and her fawn in the nature preserve. They put on a little show for us posing for the camera, they were both so beautiful; God is truly a Great Creator.

Once back on board, Melanie made an Irish coffee for us and we watched the sun set before heading in to bed. Thursday we went to the Naval Museum and walked around the indoor and outdoor exhibits before coming back to the boat to take Windsor for a walk. There was an interesting array of exhibits, including a WWII destroyer and submarine, and a Vietnam era destroyer. We were beat after climbing up and down all the ladders in the ships, moving between floors to see the exhibits.

After work on Friday we walked to the grocery store for supplies, and then took an Uber back to the boat to pack everything away before heading to shore for one last drink at the park and to take Windsor for a walk. Saturday morning after breakfast we headed into the marina, filled up with water, bought some ice and then sailed out into the lake.

The wind was a good 15 to 20 knots, and after hoisting the sails, we sailed out of the harbor on starboard tack, perpendicular to our intended course so we made no progress until we tacked an hour or so later and started Westward. The sailing was good; there was a 2 foot chop with the occasional three to four foot wave, but we made steady progress with glorious sunshine and good winds. A great way to end a sailing adventure. We heard a report from a boat in Fairport on the radio that they had found a capsized aluminum runabout with at least one body floating in the water. The weather wasn’t that bad, but it was a sober reminder that nature takes no prisoners.

The wind dropped during the course of the day to 10 to 15, and by 5:30 pm we had sailed 30 miles with a mere 17 miles of progress toward our destination. It was going to be a looooong ride. After sunset, I took first watch and the wind dropped down to 10 to 12 knots. We were sailing along around 4 knots making good progress Westward. It was not too cold and the sky was clear so there was a beautiful display of stars. The stars were so thick it felt like the sail was slicing through them like a knife; the Milky Way was on display and looked like a line of a cloud across the sky it was so thick and clearly defined.

As we went further down the lake we passed a huge windmill farm on the Canadian side. All the windmills had red lights on top and they all flashed together, so there was about a 10 mile stretch of red lights turning on and off at exactly the same time, quite an unusual sight to see when you’re out in the middle of the lake. Around 1 am, an orange moon crept slowly up behind us out of the lake, quite ghostly looking, and it stayed orange until it was a good deal above the horizon. Melanie came up for her watch and I went back down for the night. By sunrise the next morning we were along the coast of Long Point close to the shoreline, so we tacked and headed back South towards the US shoreline. Our landfall was Erie Pennsylvania, and we sailed in close to shore before tacking away. The wind held up nicely through the morning and the afternoon and we were able to maintain an easy 5 knots. The wind switched later in the day more to the Southwest, which made our tacks across the lake a little less effective in gathering distance.

Around 2:30 p.m., the wind switched and abruptly dropped, leaving us with 2 to 3 ft waves and no wind to move us through them. Our boat speed went from 5 knots down to less than 2 in a matter of minutes and we were hobby horsing and bobbing around like a cork. We tried to get the boat going again, but the waves were too much and we were not able to get our speed back. We struggled with it for a while before finally giving in and turning on the engine and motoring. With the iron genny running, we were able to charge our batteries and make some good headway in a direction straight towards our objective. We were aiming for Kelleys Island, it was an anchorage we were familiar with and we knew that we could shower, do laundry and prepare for our return home there without too much effort. We motored until about 7pm along the shore and then the wind came up a bit giving us about a knot or so more of speed and some cooling relief from the heat, but not enough to turn the loud motor off and just sail alone.

We had an almost drama when Melanie went below to make some coffee and because the boat was heeling a bit, the flames from the burner started to partially come out of the burner’s volume control knob on the stove. I put the fire out with water, but then we could not turn the knob to close the burner control so we could open the top and put the cover back on. It took me a good half hour of sleuthing before I figured out how to do it, but that left us with only one working burner and another item on the to-do list for me to fix.

We decided that Melanie would take the first watch and I would do the late night watch. We decided to motor until I came on watch, and then we would turn off the motor and just sail so that Melanie could get some sleep. It was an exquisitely sunny day, the skies were clear but towards sunset it started to cloud up a little. The wind came up a little as well and boosted us towards our goal. Melanie went below and rustled up some dinner for us while we enjoyed our evening glass of wine and the beautiful air.

After sunset she took the first watch and I went below to sleep. With the motor running we were able to make between 5 and 6 knots. Around 1:30 Melanie turned off the motor and I came up for my watch. The winds were 15 to 20 and we were making good progress past Cleveland and out across the bight towards Kelleys Island. However the infamous Lake Erie chop reared its ugly head along with the wind. We started to hobby horse in the larger waves which slowed us considerably, so I turned off the auto pilot and tried to hand steer through it, but without any points of reference – no tell tails or horizon to see – it was difficult to sail a straight course. Our wind indicator was malfunctioning and its internal battery kept running down, so to use it I would have to turn it on to confirm a wind direction and then turn it off and manually steer to the appropriate compass heading.

It was frustrating and slow going during the course of the early morning as we headed west. Right around sunrise the wind suddenly increased quite dramatically from 15 knots up to 20 to 25 knots! I rolled up the staysail and laughed to myself; I had just finished listening to the weather forecast and it called for 5 to 10 knot winds in our area. As usual they were wrong. We were fighting a three to four ft chop which made life below very uncomfortable but we made good time as we continued slogging westward until we reached the eastern side of Point Pelee.

Then we tacked and headed South. Soon we were out of sight of land again, just water surrounding us, with the wind slowly switching to the southwest, turning our track from Huron towards Lorain. Our intention was to sail until we were able to make a tack for Pelee Island, but after bobbing around at under two knots for about 15 minutes I got impatient and we decided to turn on the iron genny.

What a difference it made! We were able to roll up the Yankee and carry the staysail and the mainsail and motor straight towards our destination at a healthy 4.5 knots. That changed our expected arrival time from 10pm to 5pm. As we motored on, the shore line of Pelee Island slowly came into view, followed by Middle Island and then the Kelleys Island shoreline and the all too familiar Perry’s monument on South Bass. We were approaching home. It was hazy and humid, so everything looked somewhat foggy, but unmistakenly familiar.

About 10 miles from Kelleys, the wind switched to the south east and we were able to turn off the motor and sail for a while, but of course as it always does, the wind pooped and so the last 5 miles we motor sailed into the anchorage at Kelleys. 2 miles before our anchorage the wind suddenly came up to 25! There were squalls and thunderstorms forecasted for the evening, so getting in was of premier importance.We scooted in to the anchorage, dropped the hook, lowered the dinghy and headed into shore so Windsor could get some land time. It had been almost 3 days since he had seen real grass.

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Back home, anchored in front of the monument at Put-In-Bay

We anchored at 5:15 and we were safely at rest; 7480 Nautical miles. We left Buffalo with the odometer at 7235 and it was straight line trip of 190 miles; we had done a lot of tacking! After dropping the anchor we went in to shore to take Windsor for a walk and to go to the store next to the campground for some chocolate ice cream. They were out of it! We ended up walking into town on the other side of the island where we ate dinner and then found an ice cream store that had our favorite flavor; caveman chocolate. After a good does of ice cream we walked back, collected our shower things at the boat and went in to shore to take a shower. There were storms coming, and we hastily returned back to the boat after showering, making it just in time; the rain started pelting us just as we were closing up the hatch for the night. We had a huge thunderstorm and it rained for hours, but we didn’t care, we were in bed asleep.

Next morning we awoke to clouds and we could tell there was a little breeze because we could feel it behind the trees. We decided to pull our anchor and sail over to Put-in-Bay so that I could work. We hoisted the main, pulled up the anchor and sailed off towards the Bay. Once around the corner of Kelleys the wind increased to about 15 out of the Southwest. It was a nice flat sail; it was good to be back in home waters. We made short work of the eight miles to Put-in-Bay, and soon we were anchored in front of the monument in our old spot. After a few hours work, we headed to shore to do laundry. The clouds gave way to humid sunshine, and our cool spot on the boat became hot and uncomfortable when on the mainland. It took us a while to find the laundry, tucked away out of sight of all the tourism. We got all the laundry finished and while it was running we visited Wharfside and had a cup of coffee. We talked to Bob and Elena, two of the people we knew that worked there, then went to Hooligans for dinner and walked back to the boat.

I had forgotten a load in the laundry; I thought there were two loads and there were actually 3, so after coming back to the boat I had to head back to shore and dry that load before returning. We spent the next few days unwinding at Middle Bass and Put-In-Bay before heading home on Saturday. On the way we scattered Jezzie’s ashes into the lake and then motored in to the welcoming arms of family and friends at our home dock on Catawba Island. We came to our final stop at 7499 miles.

Our adventure was over, but the memories of this trip will last forever. Thank you to all those friends and family who prayed for our safety every day, especially in harrowing situations. Prayer DOES make a difference. We saw it with our own eyes; storms parting to allow us safe passage, God providing a way for our motor to be repaired when we thought we would have to sell the boat, protection from an hour of continuous lightning, His blessing were numerous. Thank you Lord for allowing us to safely take this awesome adventure and to make it home in one piece. Our Lord is truly a great God!

 
 
 

Upstate New York and the Erie Canal

The Hudson was choppy, rough and very busy. A few miles north of the city the traffic died down substantially and before long we were pretty much the only boat on the river. It was a nice, quiet, smooth journey with a good following current. At first the wind was at our back but by the time we got to the George Washington bridge the wind was dead on the nose. All we could do was motor with the staysail up but we made a good 6 or so knots up the river. The scenery was quite beautiful.

We passed under the Tappan Zee bridge which was under construction. The old steel girder bridge had been replaced with two suspension bridges, one for each lane of traffic. One bridge was finished, one was almost done and the old one was being dismantled. Just north of there in Ossining we anchored for the night. We woke next morning to a glorious cool clear morning, surrounded by hills to the East and cliffs to the West. After breakfast we took a walk into town for some groceries, stopped for a quick cup of coffee and then headed back to the boat to put our groceries away, then hauled anchor and hit the road. The wind was out of the North so once again we motor sailed with the staysail.

When we reached West Point, we decided to try to go ashore to take in a tour, but were told rather curtly on the radio that it is inaccessible by water. Disappointed, we ended up motoring up until the town of New Hamburg where we anchored in the river for the night. Next morning we caught the favorable current and motored up until we reached Kingston. We arrived around noon, dropped the anchor and waited for favorable current. The wind came up quite a bit, so we decided to sail even though there was a 2 knot current against us. It was slow going, we left Kingston during Peak counter-current, so even though we had a 15 knot following wind and our speed should have been close to 6 knots, we were moving between two and three. It was a pleasant sail, but the 8 mile trip to Saugerties took 4 hours! We eventually arrived and anchored in a very narrow river for the night. We went to shore, walked into town and found a nice restaurant where we had dinner and a few drinks before walking back to the boat.

Next morning we made a few phone calls and decided that Catskill was the spot where we would drop the mast. We waited until favorable current around 8 am, then hauled our anchor and headed out towards the Catskills. It was hot, still and very pretty. We made good time because we had a favorable 1.5 knot current. We anchored just north of the Rip Van Winkle bridge and started to take down sails. We figured that would save us a day of docking fees. It was hot. Very hot. Luckily there was a good wind and plenty of shade helped to keep us cool.

After we had the sails down we motored in to the marina, arriving around 4:30 pm. We walked into town and ate at a quaint restaurant that doubled as an ice cream shop. Right as we finished dinner they closed, so we had to wander elsewhere looking for some dessert. Luckily we found a place that was still open and enjoyed some good ice cream before heading back to the boat. It was very very hot and sticky. There was a promise of rain but nothing materialized.

We had tied up next to two boats coming from Quebec and headed south. They were having their masts raised and conveniently enough their equipment matched our purposes to a tee, so after their sticks went up, we took their trusses and with an hour or so of modification we were ready. They lifted our mast out of the hole through the cabin top and lowered it slowly on to the trusses and then we secured it down with straps. It looked a little unsteady, but the guys that were running the lift said that we did a good job and that everything looked fine. It was rather strange to have your mast above your head, it changed the way the boat behaves. It now rocked more quickly, much like a powerboat. It’s going to take a while to get used to the new feeling. After we had the mast fully secured we filled up with diesel, bought ice and then went back to the Rip Van Winkle bridge where we anchored for the night. It was much cooler out there with the wind blowing off the water.

We awoke the next morning and around 10 when the current was slack we hauled anchor and were able to take a favorable current all the way to our first lock which was in Troy. The river slowly narrowed to less than a quarter mile; we passed through Albany and then Troy where there was a quick lock to go over a spillway and then a short distance later we pulled into the entrance of the Erie Canal. There were free docks for tie up along with showers and water, so we took full advantage. We met a very nice couple on the way who also tied up and went out to dinner with him. They were from Muskegon in Michigan. After dinner we strolled back to the boat and collapsed exhausted. It was still hot and sticky. Next morning we headed out and ate breakfast at a diner that was very very inexpensive, $2 for eggs and toast! With a huge breakfast and coffee to boot our bill was less than $15, quite a nice surprise in New York where things have been unusually expensive.

We headed to the grocery store and the liquor store and picked up our necessities for the rest of the trip and then headed back. We were glad that we went early in the morning because it got very hot, steamy and uncomfortable. On the way back we passed a cherry tree packed with fruit, so we came back and picked cherries to our hearts content. We picked almost 2 quarts and after being in the hot sun for a while, we took our plunder and returned to the boat.

We ended up spending the afternoon watching Netflix with a fan running just to stay cool. After a light dinner we went to bed and woke early the next morning, grabbed a bag of ice and started the motor just as the first lock door was opening. We went through five locks in quick succession, going up about 200 feet and then motored for a while on the Mohawk River which is now part of the Erie Canal system. It was very picturesque, houses and small marinas dotted the sides of the canal, but for the most part it was green and heavily wooded and just absolutely beautiful.

Halfway between locks 6 and 7 our engine alarm came on. We shut down, dropped anchor and started to look for things that could be causing problems. First check was the strainer and although we had been going through relatively clear water, the strainer was quite clogged and looked like it was obstructing the flow of water. There was one big leaf caught in it and that would have been enough to severely restrict the flow. Our solution was to run the box fan blowing air on to the engine, and that cooled it down enough so that we were able to start motoring again after we had cleaned the strainer and put everything back together.

We made it up to lock 9, which is the eighth lock in the Erie Canal system and there we stopped for the night. There was a state park as well as an ice cream store, so the dog was happy and so were we. We took a walk to the store, then headed back to the boat and met a lock master named Clay. He was doing some maintenance work after hours and we chatted with him for quite a while before heading back to the boat.

Next morning we were up bright and early and after picking up some ice, we headed through the first lock, lock 9. It was a gorgeous morning, it had rained a little during the night so it was a bit cool and cloudy and there was not a breath of wind. After we motored out of the lock, we headed across a glassy, mirror like dam back into the canal system. It was lined with trees, bushes, rocks and all sorts of wildlife. We saw Kingbirds, Kingfishers flying around collecting dinner, Grackles, Killdeer, Osprey, Herons and Eagles; it was wonderful to see nature up close like this, so relaxing. After an hour or so, the wind came up a little bit from the West and offered us a cooling breeze.

We pulled in at lock 11 because it said there were some historic artifacts to be seen. We walked around aimlessly in the sweltering heat for about an hour before we realized that the artifacts had all been washed away in the flood from a few years back. We got back to the boat, cast off and headed westward. We went through beautiful mountain passes covered in trees of green, it was spectacular. Around 5, we pulled into Canajoharie and tied up at a free dock there. Melanie made a snack for us, and after eating, we headed to shore to explore.

It was very hot, so we really decided to just walk around the park where the dog was and talk to some of the locals. Then we turned in for the night. It was uncomfortably warm, train whistles blew all night long and the roar of I-90 right next to us made it difficult to sleep. Add to that the heat and humidity with no air conditioning and we were very uncomfortable. I slept well, Melanie did not. We awoke bright and early the next morning and went through lock 14 with a tug and continued up the Mohawk River. The river had narrowed quite substantially until it was only perhaps 50 yards wide, trees lined the bank with the odd cornfield poking through in between. We wound our way along the foothills of some mountain range to our North, through the pass towards Buffalo.

Just before we reached Lock 16, we pulled into a small RV campground right on the canal at Saint Johnsville to pick up ice and water. We continued on until we arrived at Lock 17. Just before we hailed the lock the heavens opened and it poured with rain. We were actually thankful, because it was so hot and windless and we were both very overheated. The rain cooled us down quite a bit, washed the boat a little and when it let up we went into the lock. It was an unusual one, the East gate was actually an up and down gate, not the opening doors which most of the other locks had. They lifted the gate, we drove under, then they closed it behind us. It was the largest lock we have been in on the canal so far and the lift was over 40 feet. When the doors opened we left and headed for lock 18 which we passed through without incident and shortly after leaving the lock, we decided to pull over in Herkimer for the night. While trying to tie up to the wall we ran aground – twice! Our poor overworked engine managed to get us off, but we were a little rattled. We ended up tying up in about 8 feet of water right at the very end of the dock, about as far East as you can go without actually leaving, then Melanie made us each a stiff drink.

It poured all night long, and didn’t let up until the next morning about 9. After breakfast we decided we would head out to do laundry, so we packed up our stuff, left the boat and decided to visit the gift shop right near where we were tied up. Its a good thing that we did, because 2 minutes after we got inside it started pouring again! It rained and rained and after talking with the staff for a while we decided it was better to just hit the road and do laundry elsewhere. It finally stopped raining around 11 and we were on the road by noon, once again headed west into a somewhat hazy sky due to the humidity and rain. The canal closed around us until it was perhaps only a hundred feet wide as we motored up the tree-lined “road” towards lock 19.

Our next stop was a short two miles up the canal, Ilion. We tied up at a free dock, and took a short walk into town to the Remington Arms Factory Museum. It was a fascinating history on the development and manufacture of Remington rifles and pistols. After the tour we spoke to one of the people that had worked there for quite a while, then walked back to the boat, stopping for an ice cream at Stewart’s and then at Aldi for a few quick necessities. It was 3 p.m. by the time we arrived back at the boat, so we hastily cast off and set out for the next lock which was about 7 miles away.

We passed through the lock without incident, and motored up to lock 20 where we tied up on the wall for the night. Next morning around 7:30 we passed through; the wall was very pitted and with the currents in the lock as they let in the water, it was difficult keeping the boat off the wall. Right after we left the lock we ran aground. They were doing dredging work and the barge that was dredging was anchored across the channel, and as I moved to go around it, we ran aground. They had to straighten themselves out and luckily we were able to motor off and then motor through the area where the barge used to be. There was a lot of debris and a lot of shallow spots that they apparently appear to be working on; many downed trees and rotten, dead stumps litter the canal. It does need some maintenance.

We stopped in Rome, walked to Fort Stanwix, then headed over to Ace Hardware to buy more cooking alcohol. The fort was a recreation, built to the original plans and was quite spectacular. It was rebuilt in 1976 and is by far the best representation of an old Revolutionary War Fort that we have seen. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting it before heading back and casting off, heading Westward once again.

The area between lock 20 and lock 21 is a watershed. We were going up in lock 20, and lock 21 was headed down towards Lake Oneida. Fort Stanwix was built to protect the portage between the two from marauding Indians and and thieves. Goods were shipped up the Mohawk River and then carried 6 miles across to Wood Creek where they were loaded on and taken down to Oneida and Westward. The Erie Canal took care of that Portage.

We passed through lock 21 and then a short mile later, lock 22, which dropped us a total of 50 feet. We then motored to Sylvan, a small vacation town located at the entrance to Lake Oneida and there we tied up for the night. We took a walk around the area near the city dock and then bought some takeout food at a small restaurant. We met another boater headed west to Lake Superior; he and his crew came aboard our boat and we chatted a while. Next morning we filled up, pumped out and motored across Lake Oneida to the other side where we spent the night at a small Marina called Ess-Kay. It was very quaint, quiet, clean and well-kept. The owners were very personable and we enjoyed letting Windsor run free and play with their dog. They had a courtesy car which they lent us so we could run a few errands and do laundry. It was a wonderful stay. Next morning we headed out to lock 23 which was a few miles away, off again headed westward.

We motored down the canal through lock 23 and lock 24 before coming to Cross Lake where we anchored in the southwest corner for the night. This lake is about the size of Alum Creek, although not quite as narrow in the middle. Very scenic with homes all around and not particularly busy. It was a calm, restful night. After breakfast the next morning we hauled anchor and headed west. The distance between lock 24 and 25 is 31 miles and we had done about 8 to get to Cross Lake, so we had a fairly long motor ahead of us before the next lift. It was very picturesque, a carpet of green on each side but there was also a lot of water weed. Hyacinth is starting to choke out the channel. We did see some “mowers” that harvested the stuff, people were driving them around attempting to vacuum it up to keep the waterway clear.

We passed through locks 25 and 26 before pulling over in Clyde. The city dock had water, shore power and a pump out, so it was a good spot to stop and stretch our legs. The town was pretty much closed up, almost too deserted for a Saturday, so we headed back to the boat after walking around and looking at some of the older architecture, took in some Netflix and went to bed. It rained during the night and we slept in, we never left until about 10 a.m. the next morning.

Melanie cooked breakfast while we were on the way, continuing down the green leafy road called The Erie Canal which at this point was only 75 to 100 feet wide. Between locks 28B and lock 29, we passed a barge being pushed by a tug! The river was only 60 to 70 feet wide at that point! It was a little harrowing trying to edge past each other safely and not run aground, but we managed somehow and then continued on our way. Just before lock 29, we stopped under an overpass which was a close walk to a grocery store. Melanie went to pick up a few things while I waited with the boat. Then we were on our way, passing through locks 29 and 30 and tying up to the wall just after lock 30 to explore the park. There was not as much there as we were led to believe; part of the old Canal which is now being used as a spillway, and huge wooden boxes that were used like anchors. There was also a little butterfly park we took a walk in; very cute. I walked into the gas station in town to pick up some ice and there was not much there either. Town was pretty deserted; everything was closed but being a Sunday that was not surprising.

Next morning we left around 10 a.m., motored through locks 32 and 33 and then down the narrow gorge carved into the rock outside of Rochester. In some places the cliffs on either side were 40 foot high. The glare from the clouds caused us to miss spotting a huge tree trunk which we hit at full speed. We were horrified. We threw the boat into neutral, slowed it down and checked for damage. We still had steerage and we did not appear to have any leaks so I think the keel probably spun the log and pushed it out of the way and it did not damage the propeller shaft. We posted a watch on the bow of the boat so that I would have enough time to avoid any in the future. The glare on the water made it very difficult for me to see what was ahead down low.

We arrived at Spencerport just before 5pm, ahead of the Glass blowing barge that was touring the canal ports. We registered, then headed into town, a short block away and enjoyed dinner outside at an Irish pub which served some superb food.

The second day in Spencerport we did laundry, and in late afternoon met a couple from New Hampshire that was doing the canal in an 18-foot Hunter! We chatted long into the night with them and had a wonderful evening. Towards bedtime it started raining and it poured all night long, not stopping until 11 in the morning. We took our time, slept in and were generally lazy. When the rain stopped, we headed in for a cup of coffee and then said our goodbyes and cast off. The lift bridge was unusual. Most have towers and the bridge is hoisted up the tower. This one was underground and pushed the bridge up. Very unusual.

We motored until about 6 p.m. and pulled into the canal Port of Medina. We tied up there to a free wall with electric and water, and after an afternoon drink, we walked into town to explore. The town is renowned for its sandstone, and there were many buildings constructed with that material that have been restored and are quite beautiful. We stopped at an Irish Pub, ate dinner and chatted to a few of the patrons before heading back to the boat to watch a little TV and hit the sack. Next morning I did a little bit of work while Melanie relaxed and then we walked into town to the railroad museum. It was the most spectacular collection of railroad related memorabilia that I have ever seen. Quite an amazing display. Then we headed back to the boat, cast off and headed westward to our next Port, Lockport. It was only a 3 hour motor, and after passing through the double locks, 34 and 35, we pulled over at a free wall and tied up for the night. I took a quick trip to a gas station for ice before we settled in to enjoy the evening.

Next morning we took a walk down to the lock district and had a good cup of coffee before heading down to the locks where we poked around. The famous “flight of five” original locks are still there and were converted into a spillway right next to the current working locks. They have all kinds of stuff from pictures of the construction to memorabilia and original equipment from the historic lock period. It was a fascinating tour; we got to watch an interesting phenomenon; a boat going down and one coming up at the same time. Our morning culminated with a hearty late breakfast at a local diner. Then we went ziplining across the Erie canal and celebrated afterwards with some ice cream from a famous local shop. After a full day, we headed back to the boat and relaxed for the evening. Melanie made a yummy chicken stew which we gobbled down before settling in for the night.

We started slowly the next morning, after breakfast we went down to the lock district, had a cup of coffee and went to the farmers market that was open on Saturdays. We bought a few veggies, some cheese and then a bag of ice and headed back to the boat. We did our preliminary checks, started the motor, cast of and headed Westward. After Lockport the canal goes through a man-made gorge. The water is about 15 ft lower than the surrounding land, so it’s like a tunnel on each side of rocks and trees, very scenic. Then the gorge gradually flattened out until we motoring down the Tonawanda river through the suburbs on the outskirts of Buffalo. We arrived around 3pm and tied up at Gateway park near where the river merges with the Niagara River. Our canal adventure was over and now it was time to become a sailboat again and head to our home port.

 

 

 

 

Aiming For New York

Bright and early the next morning we were up and on the road again, motoring because there was absolutely no wind. The sea was smooth without even a cat’s paw, so on it was with the iron genny and we motored our way towards Newport. It was beautiful and sunny, some high clouds but it looked to be a nice, warm day. The wind gradually increased, and around 2 hours into the journey we were able to turn off the motor and ended up with a glorious sail to Newport. Winds were 15 to 20 knots and we made quick work of the 45 miles needed to get there, arriving before 4pm and anchoring just south of Goat Island in front of the city.

One of Melanie’s school friends lives here, so we met Joan and her husband Bill for lunch the following day and then walked back to their home where we met their son, daughter-in-law and grand daughter. We spent a lovely afternoon with them and then walked back to the boat and picked up the dog to take him for a walk. We stopped at an Irish pub for a good Irish coffee before heading back to the boat for the night.

After work the next day we headed in to shore with the intent of doing laundry and Melanie, in passing our full, cumbersome bag of laundry over the rail to me in the dinghy, threw out her back, so after finished the laundry we spent the afternoon Ubering to a chiropractor who got her walking again, and then to West Marine for oil change and toilet stuff. Our head is going to need a rebuild – ugh – the joys of boat life. After errands we headed back to the boat and watched a few shows while Melanie relaxed in an effort to get her back to calm down. She was feeling much better, so we went out for a drink and some pizza with our friends from Germany. Everyone is abuzz about the World Cup, so we arranged to go the following day to watch Germany play in their second match against Sweden.

Next morning we headed into shore to do some grocery shopping. We picked up a few things from the hardware store as well and then stopped at the health food market for a good cup of coffee before heading to the boat to unpack our groceries. Then we were back to shore where we headed up to the FedEx store to mail a small gift for our new grandbaby Jemma. Then a quick stroll down through the historic section to Buskers, an Irish bar where we watched the World Cup. Germany was playing Sweden and our friends were there spellbound. A last minute goal helped Germany to a much needed win. After that we strolled over to the Newport Shipyard, there were a lot of power boats but very few sailboats there; I guess we were lucky on our last visit. We made our way back slowly to our dock, and found some ice cream along the way. Once back we watched some shows before heading off to bed. It was cold and we really didn’t feel like doing a whole lot except snuggling up and watching Netflix.

We woke rather late and were slow to get going, but once we’d had a cup of coffee we went into shore and took a shower, had a light breakfast, said our goodbyes and then hauled anchor and departed. It was a cloudy, dreary day and right as we were leaving the sun peeked out just a bit. We raised our sails and decided to sail out of the harbor as there was really nice wind blowing for a change. We beat out of the harbor into an incoming tide and a dying wind until we got to the point where after 2 miles of progress in three hours of sailing we bagged it and turned the motor on so we could make better headway. Our old friend Mr. Fog settled down as well and soon we were surrounded in a shroud of white with very low visibility.

We poked our way cautiously through the fog until we were near the approaches of the entrance to Block Island Harbor. Right then the fog lifted and we were able to enter the harbor and anchor with good visibility. We snuggled in for the night and watched Netflix and during the night the weather turned and we had rain, thunder and lightning until morning. The next morning the wind was out of the North at 15 to 25 knots and it was gloriously sunny! After work we headed out and set sail towards the Connecticut River.

In looking at our destination, we thought we would have a nice beam reach but the reality of it was the wind was coming from dead ahead, just like always. Close hauled in 20 to 25 knots made for a slow, bumpy ride. Thankfully it was sunny but still a little chilly. The waves bouncing around between the the islands made for a very ugly chop; I could see at least four different directions that swells were coming from. When they all hit us at the same time, our speed would drop down from 5 to less than 2 knots! It was quite frustrating trying to make decent headway through the sloppy mess.

As we neared the entrance of the Long Island Sound, the chop seemed to lessen a little bit and the wave directions became more predictable. The wind slowly died and around 4:30 we decided to start the engine. Within 5 minutes of starting the engine the wind switched from the Northwest to the Southeast and came up enough that it gave us about a half a knot of speed. We decided to continue motoring at that point because we wanted to get in to our destination before sunset. We had five miles to Fishers Island and then another 13 miles beyond that to get to the Connecticut River.

Within 5 minutes of starting the engine we turned it off. The wind came up to 10 to 15 knots and we were able to move comfortably under sail between 4 1/2 and 5 knots, so no need to use the iron genny in those circumstances. We had a nice following swell and an incoming tide with a little current to help us so our rough ride when we left Block Island was now nice and smooth and we had glorious sunshine to help warm us.

We passed through the race which is the entrance to Long Island Sound and our speed increased to over 7 briefly but then as we got further into the sound the wind slowly died until we reluctantly started the motor. It was a a good day’s sail; a good six hours before we fired up the motor to ensure we would be in Old Saybrook before dark.

We pulled in just before sunset, and after a nightcap we headed below to watch Netflix. After work the next morning we dropped the dinghy and headed into shore. We spoke to a few locals for a while and then walked into town to do a little exploring. We found the Katharine Hepburn Museum and toured it, spoke to the curator for quite a while and then found a gluten free vegan deli where we had coffee and a yummy treat.

We walked around a little more, exploring the local area and then headed back towards the boat, passing through a cemetery on the way where we found the tombstone of Art Carney. Then we stopped at the local Yacht Club and chatted to a few people there before heading back to the boat for dinner. Next morning after breakfast we dropped our mooring and headed off. The water was glassy. There was almost no wind and it ended up being an all-day motor.

We went into New Haven and just before entering the main break wall the wind came up so we sailed with the motor on for a short period of time. We motored down into what looked to be the heart of the city and dropped anchor. There was supposed to be stuff to see; there wasn’t. After scoping out the land with binoculars we realized there was really nowhere to go ashore, so we hauled our anchor and headed off to Morris Cove which is closer to the entrance of the harbor.

It was late, so we did not go ashore. We ate a light snack for dinner and then watched a few shows before turning in. The mooring, although sheltered was rather uncomfortable. There was a gentle swell from the South that kept us rolling back and forth all night. On top of that, a front was on the way towards us, and it arrived around 9pm. It started with gentle rain which lulled us to sleep, but at 5:30 am I awoke to the sound of thunder. Windsor was scared of the lightning and so I got up and went and laid in the salon so he would have someone to “keep him safe”. It stormed for hours! The lightning and thunder only lasted about an hour and a half, but it rained hard for a good 5 hours. That is of course when the leaks started – all those little drips that are so hard to find became steady streams, like flowing rivers and we had plenty of them.

We diagnosed the worst of them and determined that our stays needed to be re-bedded. A few hot days to dry things out and that will be another item on the to-do list. We decided to motor over to Jefferson Harbor, across on Long Island, and spend a few nights there. The harbor is home to Setauket, the home town of many of the individuals that worked in Washington’s spy ring during the battle for independence. We left to the promise of a sunny day; the clouds burned off and things started to dry out but as before, no wind. So once again we ended up motoring the 20 odd miles it took to get there. We noticed when we were about 10 miles away that the skies to the North and West were darkening. When we checked radar, we found a nasty line of thunderstorms racing towards us. It looked like they could perhaps miss us, so we motored on and prayed they would head North of us. They held off for an amazingly long time, but 5 or 6 miles from the harbor our luck ran out.

The rain came skipping across the water, starting off as an intermittent drizzle, then increasing to a steady rain, all the while lightning and thunder strolled back and forth in the heavy overcast to our North. Then we saw a wall of mist coming towards us. It was the rain storm; it had moved south of us and was wrapping around and enclosing us. Winds were not too bad but we had dropped our sails already just in case. Windsor was downstairs and we were togged up in our foulies and ready for battle. It POURED, visibility was less than a 100 yards and we were subjected to continuous lightning and thunder for almost an hour while we relied on our compass and charts to keep us going in the right direction. Huge strikes of lightning slammed into the water all around us, the closest struck less than a half mile away. We huddled under the bimini top and used an umbrella to help keep the rain off us (worked surprisingly well) and Melanie read Psalm 91 while I wrestled the boat towards the harbor entrance. About a mile from the channel, the rain let up and visibility improved enough so I could see the harbor entrance and the lay of the land.

We motored in and by the time we had found our spot and dropped anchor, the rain was done, the sun had peeked out and we were treated to a full rainbow. We were cold and wet, but nevertheless sat up and enjoyed a stiff drink before heading down below for the night. After breakfast the next morning, we hauled anchor and motored down to the mooring ball field – we picked up a ball for a night so we could do laundry and get a real shower. After settling in, we took the dinghy and motored the 2 miles over to Setauket harbor and walked around looking for spy stuff. We found the tomb of Abraham Woodhull, the first minister of the church Nathaniel Tallmadge, and the homes of Caleb Brewster and Benjamin Tallmadge when they were growing up. We enjoyed walking around although it got very, very hot and soon we were starving.

We found the SE-Port deli which we found out later was quite well known and bought a lunch there which was WAY more than we could eat. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we ended up leaving half of it for later on. We motored back to the boar and then Melanie mixed up some nice refreshing drinks which we sucked down all to quickly before finishing the rest of the food and then watching the remainder of the series Turn. Next morning started out promising but the wind quickly died. After laundry and a visit to the local coffee shop, we took showers, headed back to the boat and then filled up with water and took off, our next stop Oyster Bay. This is another area of the country where a lot of the espionage activity took place.

We dropped anchor around 6 p.m., had a few drinks and some light snacks before going down below at sunset and watching the last episode of Turn again; we had fallen asleep the previous night while watching and missed the final wrap-up. After breakfast we headed into shore and found a spot to leave the dinghy and we walked into town. We found a nice coffee shop after talking to a local and there we enjoyed a good cup of coffee and a gluten free breakfast wrap while trying to watch some local news. I am so glad there is no TV on the boat, the news is wrong, misleading and divisive – we were forced to opt out while traveling and I am so glad we did!

We strolled around and found the Historical Society and the Raynham Museum, home of Robert Townsend. They didn’t open until 1 p.m. so we decided to find a place that sold ice cream to help us cool off. It was quite a walk and in the heat of the day we ended up hot and sweaty by the time we arrived there. We enjoyed some good cold chocolate ice cream before walking back to the historical society and taking a tour. Then we went over to the Raynham house and took a tour through Robert Townsend’s family home. There was so much history there, it was very nice to see how it all tied together with the series we had just finished watching. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and around 6 we headed back to the sailing club where we had left the dinghy and had a few drinks before heading back to the boat. We struck up a conversation with Tony, one of the members and had an enjoyable discussion before heading back to the boat at sunset and collapsing into bed.

We were up early the next morning, anchor up and out of Oyster Bay. On the way we passed Billy Joel’s house and the largest sailboat I have seen on this trip. It was huge! Once out into the sound to our surprise the wind was strong enough for us to be able to sail down towards New York without the incessant thumping of the motor. It had been almost a week since we could travel without running the engine. We made good progress, picking up a few balloons along the way, but it was very hazy and hot. By 10 a.m. it was 87 degrees and the visibility was less than 5 miles.

At the point just beyond Oyster Bay, Long Island Sound is only about 5 miles wide; we were about a mile from Long Island and four miles from Connecticut and we could not see the Connecticut coastline! All this pollution and haze, I’m glad we don’t live here! As we came closer to the city, the pollution and smog got thicker. A few miles off Port Washington, visibility was down to less than two and a half miles! There were boats we could see on our chart plotter that we could not see even with binoculars and they were less than 3 miles away.

We motored down the East River through Hell’s Gate and then out to the Statue of Liberty where we dropped anchor between her and the shore. Next day we headed into the marina and took a ferry over to see Ground Zero and walked a little bit of the surrounding area. We saw the church where Washington gave his inaugural address and just strolled around enjoying the neighborhood. We spent a good few hours down there before returning back to the boat. We were all hot, sticky and tired. We spent the 4th on the boat just relaxing and during the afternoon a protester climbed the outside of the statue. The island was evacuated and we had front row seats to the SWAT team climbing the statue and taking her into custody. What an afternoon!

Later that evening one of our boat neighbors that was anchored near us came over and we watched the fireworks together. Unfortunately they were a little further up the East River than we thought and they ended up going off behind all the buildings at the South end of Manhattan; we saw very little. We were so disappointed. After the fireworks were over we were sitting around talking and then fireworks started up again, this time on the Hudson River just north of where we were and we had a ringside seat for those. So although we didn’t see the main fireworks we got to see quite a spectacular display of twin fireworks; they shot identical shells up on the New Jersey and the New York side of the river and it was quite a show. After they finished our friend left and we retired to bed exhausted.

Thursday started early; on our trip ashore on Tuesday we had booked 9am tickets on the Jersey ferry over to the Statue and Ellis Island. We were up and running early so we could motor the 40 minutes or so to a local marina where we left the dinghy and walked to the ferry. Our trip was wonderful. There is so much history there. We spent about 4 hours walking through the museum on Ellis Island, watched a few documentaries, ate lunch and then headed over to the statue for a few hours before coming back to the boat. The wind really picked up during the day and blew the smog away, so we had our first clear day in the city. This also made for a nice 2 to 3 ft chop in the bay, so our dinghy ride back to the boat got us both soaked. We toasted the day and after a light dinner watched a few shows before heading to bed. We awoke the next morning to thunder and the sound of rain. It rained on and off for most of the day, so we stayed aboard and planned our last trip into the city to visit Roy, his wife and kids. Roy played football with Aaron, Melanie’s 3rd son, in high school and he lives right on the Hudson across from Manhattan.

In the afternoon the wind switched from the south to the West and came up to between 25 and 30 knots. It howled all night long and got so bad that I got up at about 2 a.m. and lashed the windmill so that it would not spin because it was going so fast I was afraid that it would try and take off on us again as it has twice before. It was still blowing 20 to 25 in the morningĀ  when we hauled anchor and motored in to do errands and laundry. It took almost an hour to go the 2 miles as the tide was headed out, and there was a 3 knot current fighting our progress.

The marina had a 2-hour courtesy dock, so we came in, took showers, did our laundry, and then filled with water and diesel before heading over to Surf City, a restaurant on the other side of the cove to meet Roy and Jenny and their kids for lunch. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch with them, and after our goodbyes we dropped our dock lines, motored out into the Hudson and turned North, headed for Albany and home.

A Quick Tour Around New England

Michelle and Steve came the following day and by 11am they were on the boat. We filled the water tanks and then left for Provincetown. Forecasted winds were very strong out of the northwest, but it turned into the fizzle. Winds instead of being 20 to 30 knots were only 5 to 10 knots so we ended up motoring all the way over to Provincetown. Once anchored we headed into town and walked around the downtown area before finding a place to sit and eat a few appetizers. Then we headed back to the boat.

 

The next day was supposed to be sunny and warm; we woke to rain. It stopped shortly after we had eaten breakfast. Melanie made a wonderful omelette and that with a good cup of coffee gave us a good start to the day. We hauled anchor and ended up motoring the entire way to Martha’s Vineyard. Our first stop was the canal entrance which took about four hours, we saw some seals along the way but not much other life. It was very calm and very chilly, we were all wearing hats and gloves. Once into the canal our speed went up to almost 10 knots and we zoomed through the canal quickly. After coming out the other side we changed course and aimed for the cut near Woods Hole where we passed through the islands and then headed on to Martha’s Vineyard.

We tied up in Martha’s Vineyard to a mooring ball about an hour later, and headed into shore. The marina we chose was totally disorganized. Everyone had left for the day and the restaurant knew nothing about the mooring balls. We went and ate at the Black Dog Tavern, enjoying a stuffed Quahog and then headed back to the boat to watch some movies before turning in. We left our contact information with the restaurant manager as well as calling it in to the marina, but it felt almost as if we weren’t welcome. I have heard that from others as well, so no surprise there.

 

Next morning we were up and gone by 5:30am headed to Plymouth. We needed to catch the current through the canal and so we got an early start, heading out into a very rough area between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard. The current and the wind were against each other. We scooted through and by the time we got past Martha’s Vineyard there was no wind and we ended up motoring the entire way. Wouldn’t you believe it, right before we crossed under the railroad bridge in the Cape Cod Canal it closed! The canal Patrol yelled at us, forcing us to turn around and then yelled at us again because we weren’t getting away from the area. I pointed to my radio but apparently he wasn’t using it. What he never realized was that the current was 5 knots and our boat was only capable of doing a little over 5, so we pretty much marked time until the bridge opened again and we were able to turn and pass through.

 

We motored on to Plymouth, and there we spent the afternoon walking around the historic part of the city before enjoying a bottle of wine at the 1620 Winery and then heading back to the boat. After taking in a movie, we turned in and woke up the next morning bright and early to catch the outgoing tide to Boston. We ended up motoring the whole way into Boston as well which turned out to be quite busy because it was Father’s Day. There were boats of every kind all over the place and the flight banks at the airport were very busy.

 

We picked up a mooring ball and after tying up we dropped the dinghy and headed in to shore. We walked around the Italian part of the city, saw Paul Revere’s house and his statue and then started looking for a place to eat. We ended up settling on a place called the Sail Loft where we enjoyed a good seafood dinner before heading back to the boat. On the way we wandered down through Quincy Market and then once back to the boat we caught a quick show. We watched Absolutely Fabulous, a comedy show from England which is quite hilarious.

 

Next morning Michelle and Steve packed and after doing our morning chores we headed out, refueled and then dropped them off at the water taxi stop near the Hyatt so they could catch the shuttle to the airport. We headed out, motor sailing out of Boston Harbor and about 3 hours out, all of a sudden weather warnings started rolling in over the radio. Severe thunderstorms were all around us and headed our way! The wind piped up from 20 knots to over 30 with gusts over 40. The boat managed well, but we were very concerned that we would get caught in a bad storm. Friends and family started praying fervently and the Lord answered their prayers. The skies parted around us and storms moved to our North and to our South, missing us completely and we stayed dry even though the wind was quite strong and the waves made it quite rough.

About an hour before we arrived in Plymouth it started to rain, quite hard, but we were able to safely pick up a mooring ball around 11 p.m. and after a shot of whiskey we headed to bed. We got news that evening that Melanie’s oldest son and his wife were headed to the hospital for the birth of their baby girl. We were very excited. We slept hard that night, and next morning we awoke to find out that we had a new granddaughter, born at 5 a.m.! We were thrilled!

 

I worked in the morning until around noon and then we dropped the ball and motored out of Plymouth Harbor and set sail. We only used the jibs but we made good time down to the Cape Cod Canal and even though it was quite chilly, it was a glorious sunny day. Melanie made lunch while we were underway and we enjoyed being able to sail without the incessant throbbing of the diesel engine. It has worked hard and performed well, but we have never liked motoring and always preferred the quiet of sailing with the rushing sound of the water passing the hull.

Of course the wind died as it normally does and about 2 miles from the canal we reluctantly turned on the motor as our speed was only 1.5 knots. We made it to the entrance around 5 p.m. and took a favorable current, passing through the canal in about an hour. For the second time we heard a call to boaters in the canal that the railroad bridge was closing! It was difficult for us the first time because the current was at peak and was over 5 knots. This time the current was about four knots and we were further away, so I simply put the motor in neutral which slowed us down enough that we were able to drift on the current without worrying about fighting against it, and by the time the bridge came into view, the train had passed and it was on the way up. Once through, we picked up a mooring ball on the South side at the exit of the canal.

 

We enjoy the few Sundowner drinks and watched the traffic go by before heading down, watching a show and then going to bed. We went to bed early as we both felt run down from sailing the previous day through the storm.

 

 

Headed to New England

Next morning we were up at 5:45. We hoisted the dinghy and secured it for travel, then hauled anchor and headed out into the Atlantic, our next destination Block Island. The wind was light to start with so after a short while of sailing between 2 and 2.5 knots we decided to run the motor until the wind started to behave a little more favorably. Our excitement for the morning was practicing man overboard drills. In the space of 30 minutes we fished 7 mylar balloons out of the water about 15 miles off Atlantic City. To a turtle these balloons look like it’s favorite food, jellyfish. They eat it and it kills them. We “rescue” mylar balloons whenever we see them out on the water, regardless of where we are. By early afternoon we had collected 14 balloons, one plastic shopping bag and a Clorox bottle. The wind finally came up enough for us to turn the motor off and we were able to sail at a comfortable 5.5 to 6 knots under sail alone. It was nice not having the motor running.

We passed through the traffic lanes for the Port of New York City and by sunset we had already covered over 70 mi. It was a little chilly but the wind held up and we were able to make between 5 and 6 knots for most of the evening. There was a dry cold front forecasted to pass through which would switch the wind to the west from the south. With our wind direction we were almost on a dead run so when it was time for bed we changed course a little to make the ride downstairs for the off watch person a little more comfortable. We zigzagged across our course during the night, maintaining roughly a 5 knot average in speed but as before, the wind slowly died until around sunrise we were only traveling at 2 knots. We switched on the iron genny and motored across a flat sea towards Block Island. There was just enough of a swell along with the following wind to make sleeping down below a challenging task. Neither one of us got much sleep although I think I may have gotten the better watch as the wind was dying and so the rolling was not as drastic towards morning.

At sunrise we were off the coast of Long Island, near Southampton. We motored up the coast towards Block Island and with sunrise came our balloon chasing again. The previous day had netted us probably 20 mylar balloons and by 10 in the morning we had already added six more to that. It was demoralizing to see so much human waste out in the ocean where it could harm nature. There was never quite enough wind to keep us to going and we ended up motoring all day until we finally reached Block Island around 6:30 p.m. The sunshine weakly warmed us up a little bit but it was still quite chilly on the water.

Once anchored, we dropped the dinghy and headed in to shore. We took a walk and on the recommendation of someone we met, went back and had a great tasting banana mudslide at one of the bars. Then we went to the Oar, the local sailing hang out and bought a couple of appetizers and glass of wine and watched the sun set over the water. We were only a couple, maybe 20 yards from the water but we were 50ft up and the view was spectacular. There was one very large sailboat in the harbor, almost look like one of the J-boats that we saw in Newport. There must have been a regatta because there were tons of sailboats; on mooring balls, anchored, and tied up at the docks – all flying their race flags. After our snack we came back to the boat, watched some Netflix and then hit the hay. We slept well.

Next morning we were up, hauled anchor and out of the harbor by 7:30 and on our way to the next stop which was the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. As usual there was a light wind but it was blowing from the direction we were trying to go so we started off motoring. We ended up motoring all day. The wind was very light and the ocean was like glass. We motored up into Buzzards Bay and found free mooring balls across from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. We tied up and then Melanie hoisted me up to the spreaders to fix our flag halyard. After that we watched some movies and went to bed. Tomorrow was an early day because we needed to catch the current to go through the canal between 5 and 9 a.m. The current runs at 5 knots and with our top speed at 5, it would have taken hours to go through the canal if the current had been going the wrong way.

We woke up bright and early at 5 a.m. in order to catch the favorable current through the Cape Cod Canal, dropped our mooring and by 5:15 we were motoring out of the small cove where we had spent the night and into the canal. The current was swift; our engine was barely at idle and we were already doing five knots. At half to 2/3 throttle we were doing between 8 and 9 knots! The land moved by swiftly on both sides, there were numerous eddies in the water that would shift our boat from side to side but the surface was smooth, no waves and we made a very quick time through the canal. We shot out the other side of the canal and into Cape Cod Bay in just under an hour. The wind was favorable but light, so we hoisted the sails and headed for Plymouth. We made quick progress and arrived around noon. We tied up on a free mooring ball and spent the day cleaning and then went into shore and walked to the grocery to do our shopping, then caught an Uber back to the boat. Then we packed everything away.

We left Plymouth early the next morning and sailed North toward Boston. Winds were 20 to 25 knots and we made good time up until we had to turn into the harbor. We dropped the sails except for the stay sail and turned in to the secondary harbor channel and the winds quickly increased to 30 to 35 knots. We slogged upwind until we reached Boston Harbor and then started to look for a place to anchor. There really was no where to safely drop a hook so we found a mooring ball field and picked one up for 2 days. It was very quaint, there were sailboat races in the harbor, jets taking off from the airport, and we arrived right at sunset so the lights of the city came on and bought it to life and it looked really beautiful.

We dropped the dinghy into the water and then went to shore to take the dog for a walk and to have an appetizer. Next day we walked around the North End which is the Italian section, then came back so I could do some work and we could prepare for the arrival of our friends Michelle and Steve. We tried watching a movie but ended up falling asleep so we will have to both watch it again – so it goes when life is full….

The Chesapeake And Beyond

Saturday morning after breakfast we cast off, went for a pump out and then headed down the Hampton River, raised our sails and started sailing North up the Chesapeake. We were aiming for a spot just north of Mobjack Bay and initially the current was with us and we had a great wind. We sailed at speeds of 6 knots or more for a few hours and then the wind died. The tide also changed and soon we had a 2 knot current going against us with zero wind so we had to fire up the iron Genny. Then we went to war with our fly swatters. We had hordes of black flies invading, trying to bite us and Melanie and I swatted as best we could. It was a blood bath. We killed scores of flies. They still kept coming and biting and to top it off, it was a miserably hot afternoon.

About 7pm we dropped anchor in the Piankatank River mouth. After a quick dinner of delicious salad that Melanie had cut from the boaters garden at the Hampton Marina we turned in for the night. During the night it stormed and rained and we awoke to a nice clean boat with all the cushions soaked. We got an early start and were on the road by 7:30. The wind was 15 to 20 and with the course we were on it was a direct run. We could only sail wing on wing. Then of course as always the wind faded and we were forced to run the motor and motor sail with three to four foot waves shaking what little wind we had out of the sails. Rocking backwards and forwards rail to rail made going down below almost impossible.

Then the flies showed up and once again Melanie and I went on a killing spree. The waves were coming from 45 degrees off the starboard stern, and the wind was 45 degrees off the port stern. This gave us a very uncomfortable direction we were forced to sail in and contributed to the rolling. Every once in a while a 4-footer would come by; we were convinced they were bow waves from tankers but couldn’t be sure. It rocked the boat from rail to rail. Very, very uncomfortable sailing. It seemed like the wind was either on the nose or directly from behind, but never favorable. We will need to purchase a whisker pole to make life downwind a little easier on the stomach.

We made good time while motor sailing and arrived in Crisfield, Maryland around 5 p.m. Around 3 p.m. the Coast Guard started talking about severe weather on the Chesapeake in our area, so we were anxious to find a safe harbor to anchor for the night. Crisfield was sheltered on all sides and offered very good protection. For a small fee we were able to take showers and enjoy their facilities and we dined at their small restaurant. We were able to make it back to the boat with a tub of chocolate ice cream just before the rain hit. It’s the first ice cream we’d had in ages.

We enjoyed it while it thundered and lightning flashed around us. It absolutely poured with rain. We went to bed to the sound of rain on the roof and lightning penetrating the curtains of the boat. Next morning we headed in for some ice and coffee and then motored out of the harbor, raised the sails and made our way to the Kedges strait. There are a group of Islands running up through the middle of the Chesapeake and these straits are away to cross through from East to west. Our goal was Solomon’s Island, approximately 35 miles away. We motor sailed, making between 5 and 6 knots because once again the wind was too light and the current too strong.

The wind died during the day but we had a favorable current to help us and we were able to make fairly good time towards our destination. Just before turning into the Patuxent River, our engine started to act up again! The RPMs would go up and down, up and down and if I didn’t take it out of gear it would stall. We figured we had bad gas. We somehow managed to limp in to the anchorage and once we arrived there we went ashore and had some hors d’oeuvres, appetizers and a glass of wine before heading back to bed. Next morning we approached a few of the locals about polishing our fuel and it looked like it was going to be a pretty expensive endeavor. We changed both the primary and the secondary fuel filters and then one of the locals came over and took a look at our engine and suggested that we might have an air leak in the fuel line. We tried to fix the fuel line by cutting it a little shorter and then reattaching it and would you believe it that fixed the problem!

So, for a little bit of irritation we were underway again after fueling up which took forever. We treated ourselves to a Klondike bar before leaving and then headed out from Solomon’s towards the entrance of the Choptank River, 15 miles north. All morning long we saw F18s and military helicopters doing exercises, as the other side of the Patuxent River was a naval air station. It was fun to watch the planes taking off and landing, especially since it wasn’t nearly as loud or busy as Oceana.

We motored out of the Patuxent River into the Chesapeake, and it was calm. No waves, just cats paws. It almost looked like Alum Creek, our sailing lake back home. So so flat. It was so calm that the sails never helped at all. We motored until around 7pm and then decided to find a place to anchor. We found a spot in Trippe Bay which was somewhat exposed to the west and the north but sheltered from East through South Southwest. We motored in until we were in about 10 feet of water and dropped anchor.

We made a sundowner drink and watched the sunset. It was reminiscent of the beautiful sunsets that we see on Lake Erie. I guess more haze and clouds in the sky makes for prettier shows. We woke up early the next morning, hauled the anchor and set sail. We decided to sail as far as we could or until we needed to run the motor because of no wind. The wind held steady and our speed gradually increased from 2 to 4 knots. We Sailed up past Poplar Island and then turned into Easter Bay towards St Michaels. There were no waves, the water was completely flat and there was about an 8 to 10 knot breeze blowing. Perfect sailing conditions for us, and there were apparently a lot of other people that agreed because there were a lot of sailors out enjoying the wind.

We made it into St. Michael’s around 4 in the afternoon, dropped anchor and then took the dinghy in to shore. We went to the museum and spoke to some of the workers there and got some good information about various things to do in town. We found some decent ice cream! Then we took a walk around town and went to Ava’s Pizzeria for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful outdoor dinner, they were dog friendly and actually had a dog food menu. For the first time ever Windsor ate dinner with us. We headed back to the boat and in the morning after breakfast went and explored the Maritime Museum. It was a fabulous reflection of the history and culture of the Waterman of the Chesapeake.

We left around 1:30pm and motor sailed over to Annapolis. The wind was light to nothing and we ended up running the iron Genny all afternoon. As per normal we spent most of the journey swatting flies that were trying to bite us. Every day since we left Hampton we have been wrestling with flies. Hordes of them going after us, biting us, making life miserable, especially when there is no wind to cool you down and a burning hot sun reflecting off the surface of the water and making everything miserably hot and uncomfortable.

We finally arrived in Annapolis around 6:30 p.m., picked up a mooring ball in the harbor and went into shore to pay for it. We walked around a little in the the immediate downtown area and found an ice cream shop with good ice cream! Then we took a shower and headed back to the boat for the night. We just made it back when the rain started and it poured for a good few hours; everything got nice and clean.

Next day we explored the town, walking the streets and then met up with Melanie’s high school friend Louis and her husband George for a late lunch and appetizers. Then we headed back and had a happy hour with Heike and Herwig on their boat before returning with them to shore where they took us to a small jazz club that they had visited on their previous stop here. We wiled away a few hours listening to some very good, eclectic jazz over a bottle of wine. After that we were ready to return to the boat but were both very, very hungry so we ended up stopping at a deli diner for breakfast at midnight! It was actually quite good.

Next day after doing laundry we visited the Naval Academy and walked around the campus. It was quite a neat place; I was very impressed with their marina, LOTS of boats of all sizes. It started raining while we were walking around so we ended up heading back to the boat to escape the weather.

The next day did not start out so well. It started raining at around 4 a.m. and poured all day long. It finally let up around 5 and after listening to a few sermons and watching some movies we had decided that we needed to get off the boat. We donned our raincoats and headed for shore and splashed around in puddles of water, finally finding a small coffee shop where we enjoyed a good cup before finding a small bar to enjoy a glass of wine with a few appetizers before heading back.

The rain eventually let up around 10 p.m. . The temperature when we woke up that morning was in the low 70s and by the time we went to bed it was 58. We were freezing! Monday morning it was time to depart, so after we pumped out, refueled and re-iced, we said our goodbyes and headed out into the bay. All the Naval Academy sailboats, the 46-foot keel boats were out in the bay drilling and doing exercises, learning about sailing. It was very cool to watch them as they went about their drills.

We made really good time headed north but as we did the wind slowly died. We started off cloudy and cold but the sun did peek out and warm things up a little. The bay got narrower and we entered the Elk River and motored up to Chesapeake City. It is about 2 miles into the canal and there we anchored along with our friends aboard World Dancer II and about seven or eight other boats in a small, well protected cove. We went across and visited with them for a short while before heading to bed.

Bright and early the next morning after breakfast we raised our anchor and headed off into the canal. It was just before the current changed direction, we were hoping that a favorable current would give us a quick trip. We decided to sail straight to Atlantic City. It was a glorious sunny day and there was a promise of a favorable wind and a fast transit. We left and headed down the canal on a slowly increasing current until we were doing almost eight knots by the time we exited the canal. We headed down the Delaware Bay and continued to make good time as the current was with us and the tide was going out. The wind held between 15 and 25 knots during the whole day and we moved along very quickly; by 6pm we were rounding Cape May. We went through a narrow channel close to shore which increased the current and we squirted out into the Atlantic Ocean doing 9 to 10.5 knots!

Shortly after rounding Cape May and heading north we encountered our first major squall. We dropped all sails except for the stay sail and just in time! The wind and rain hit us like it was a brick wall – visibility was reduced to less than a hundred yards as the rain pounded us. It felt like someone was throwing stones at us. Lightning, wind howling and gusts up to 45 knots pummeled us for about a half hour and then as quickly as it arrived it was gone. The wind dropped down to 10 to 12 knots and we raised the sails and continued on our way. With the threat of another storm coming we decided it would be prudent to increase our speed by motoring as our speed under sail had dropped to under 4 knots with the passage of the storm.

With the motor running our speed was between 5 and 6, and we made good progress but not quite enough to outrun the next storm. We made it to the North part of the storm which was a lot weaker. We took the main down and before the storm hit we rolled up the Yankee. Winds were only 25 to 30 knots so it was quite manageable but after two bouts of pouring rain we were both quite cold. The rain cleared off about an hour before we pulled into port and we managed to safely negotiate the entrance into our anchorage. We dropped anchor and went to sleep, exhausted.

We didn’t get up until almost 10 a.m. the next morning. After breakfast we took Windsor to the beach and let him run and play in the sand off leash. He had a great time; we walked the beach and met and spoke to a few people and then headed back to the boat, then went in to shore with Heike and Herwig and walked around looking for a small grocery store. It turned out that we ended up in “the hood” with no real grocery in sight, so we slowly made our way back to a restaurant near the docks where we had dinner, a few drinks and some appetizers before heading back to the boat and enjoying a show and going to bed. We motored in to shore the next day and got a good cup of coffee from the Golden Nugget and then proceeded to do our laundry. It was very chilly but nice and sunny.

After finishing a laundry we headed back to the boat and said goodbye to our friends who were leaving on their boat for New York. Then we motored over to the fuel dock, filled up, topped off the water tanks and anchored just outside the Golden Nugget. We went in for showers and then went for a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the casino and after supper enjoyed some dancing to one of the bands playing in the casino before heading back to the boat for the night. Tomorrow we leave for Block Island.

 

Skidding Past Norfolk

We left on Monday and motored north up the ICW in 15 to 25 knots. We made an easy six to seven knots without much tide help. As we progressed up and the tide started coming in it helped our speed even more. We had decided to take the ICW because there were bad storms predicted for the area for the next 4 days and we did not want to be stuck 50 miles from shore in bad weather around Cape Hatteras. You have to get that far from shore to be in water more than 15 ft deep!

Once we got to the canal we slowed dramatically – there was a counter-current of between 2 and 3 knots. Even with a 20 knot wind we were only moving three to four knots instead of 7 to 8. When we came out of the Adams River Inlet onto the Neuse River we passed a power boat in distress. We quickly dropped our sails and turned around to help them; thankfully they had just run out of gas. We hailed the Coast Guard and they called a tow boat and once we confirmed their location and that they were not in danger, we pushed on. The winds came up into the 20 to 25 knot range. We were on a deep broad reach headed down the river between 7 and 8 knots, a good sailing day. Waves were only 2 to 3 feet and were giving us a nice push.

At sunset we decided to start the motor so we could head into our planned anchorage and lo and behold – the motor would not start! When we turned the key there was no electric to the engine. We hastily changed plans and picked another anchorage that was sheltered from the wind yet easy to sail in and out of. We executed a perfect anchorage under sail, then posted some questions about our problem on Facebook and turned in for the night. Next morning there were a number of suggestions to try and as luck would have it, the first thing we did was check the fuse on the engine – one of the suggestions – and that was the problem! Once replaced we hauled anchor and decided to try and sail instead of motoring up the canal but there was no wind. Reluctantly we turned on the motor, hoisted the sails for any help they could give us and motored up the ICW.

With the sails and the motor running we were able to make good time. The area around the canalsĀ  was heavily forested and while transiting we encountered a swarm of horse flies which attacked us relentlessly for about an hour. We finally exited the canal to cross the Pamlico River and there we were attacked by a huge swarm of small flying ants! It took us a little longer to get those under control because they were literally hundreds of them all over us, the boat and the dog. When we finally wrestled that under control the wind came up a little bit and helped to push the bugs away and we had a brief respite.

The wind held for most of the day and we were able to make some significant mileage. We dropped anchor in the Alligator River around 7 pm. We both took hot showers and had a nice dinner before turning in. Next morning we awoke and our boat was covered in dragonflies AND we had a small green frog and a grasshopper that had moved aboard during the night. We have no idea where they all came from; we don’t know whether they came with us or climbed on board during the night. We did establish that the frog could climb vertical surfaces so I am thinking he came out of the water to find a place to rest to while we were in bed. We started early, we were on the road by 6:45 a.m. headed north towards Norfolk. It was cloudy, the winds were light and they only gave us a small boost with the sails so it looked like we would be motoring all day long again.

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Visiting tree frog

Shortly after we left the anchorage it started to drizzle. It was comfortably warm but the drizzle was the first rain that we had experienced in a long time, possibly months. We managed to dodge the rain all day until we pull in pulled into Coinjock. We stopped there for ice and to pick up a little something to eat. It poured. We left in the rain and by the time we got to our chosen anchorage spot the rain had thankfully stopped. We anchored just north of Coinjock off the small town of Currituck, watched a show and went to bed.

The next morning started off not so well. During my morning check of the strainer and the cooling system, I forgot to turn on the raw water system for the engine before starting and it burned out the raw water impeller. So instead of starting at 6:30 in the morning, I had to replace the impeller and we weren’t on the road until 7:30 p.m. It was a nice 10 to 15 knots, but with 60 miles to go we decided to motor sail and were able to make a good 6 to 6.5 knots with the wind and the engine. We joined a parade of seven other sailboats, most of them motor sailing, and headed north towards Norfolk. After crossing Albermarle Sound, we motored up the North River and into the Chesapeake canal.

The canal wound its way in a long straight line through heavily forested areas, passed a Jet Fuel Depot for Oceana naval air station, under a few bridges and then we stopped in the rain waiting for a bridge to lift. After motoring through there we made it up into Norfolk and motored past the naval shipyards and the Navy Docks and it was there that our luck finally ran out. We had been dodging rain all day. When it was coming towards us we would motor out of its way, when another storm came we would change course and narrowly escape its wrath. In Norfolk however it caught up to us and we were subjected to blinding rain and 30 knot winds for about 45 minutes. We both got quite cold but we slogged our way through, and eventually arrived at our marina in Bay Point. We spent the next few days shopping; groceries, West Marine Etc and then visited Robin and David and went out to dinner with them in Virginia Beach. On Monday Melanie went and spent the day with Robin while I installed our new V-berth hatch. We had it shipped to the marina and it was waiting for us when we arrived here.

Tuesday morning we left in a light wind and motored over to Hampton where we anchored in the Hampton river. We met up with Heike and Herwig again and walked around the old historic part of town before stopping for a drink and then heading back to the boat. There were storms all around us, but for the most part they missed us and it never rained until after we had gone to bed.

Next morning we packed a picnic lunch, borrowed bikes from the marina and went over to Fort Monroe. It was nice and windy and sunny so we thought it would be a good time to leave the boat open without the risk of it getting rained on. The museum was fascinating, and the fort itself is quite interesting. The barracks have all been converted into apartments and homes and people actually live there. It was like riding around a university campus.

Next day we headed over to the Air and Space Museum, a short block from our anchorage. We spent about 4 hours exploring and truly could have spent far more time there but felt it necessary to leave so that we could water the dog. That evening we headed over to a bar in the hotel and listened to some wonderful jazz and partook in a wine tasting, then went and met Heike and Herwing for a drink.

On Friday my parents came to visit and we had a wonderful time with them. We spent some time on the boat eating snacks and chatting, then went to a late lunch, after which they left to try and avoid the horrible traffic that starts in the late afternoon in this area. We took a short nap, then met our German friends for some appetizers and drinks. Tomorrow we head North into the Chesapeake…