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October 2010


Greetings from Norfolk. Got our wish for great winds and entered the Chesapeake six hours ahead of schedule and in the dark. Just fueled and watered and iced up where they advertise the old fashioned way and provide great service -- Portsmouth Boating Center.

Heading to the anchorage to rest up. We are too tall for the ditch so have to plan next leg outside Hatteras.

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Leaving New York

We left the anchorage at 1 PM and are sailing out of the harbor. Will have to see Miss Liberty the next time. Off for a 48 plus hour sail to Norfolk. According to we have favorable winds and lessening seas. Yippee!

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The Three Most Important Things I learned During My First Week as a Cruiser

Greetings -- not from the Chesapeake, but from Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  We haven't made it south yet, but are having fun and learning a lot. Yesterday marked one week truly "at sea". Nearly 7 days when EW and I didn't touch land, or talk face-to-face with other people. We've not had the urge to murder each other and in fact, are having fun together and handling the challenges very well.  And we've had a couple of challenges.

So, what did I learn this week? A lot.

Lesson 1: It's better for me to take the first night watch. When we left Portland, EW took the first watch and I was supposed to sleep at three in the afternoon. No dice. I take the 3 to 6 watch because EW can fall asleep whenever he has the opportunity. (Reading, watching TV, at the ballet ... in fact we have a deal, I don't ask him to attend a dance performance and he won't fall asleep at it.)  Anyway, We've had three overnights at sea (two in a row) and take 3 hour watches. I've handled it fine. The first night down to Cape Cod was an easy start and that made me more confident when we set out for the three-day overnight. (You'll note that we didn't complete the three-day overnight. More about that later.)

We'd stayed in Cuttyhunk because the winds were 30-35 knots on bow and we left Cuttyhunk with the winds at 20-25 knots on the bow and seas that were still rough and confused.I took the first watch from 3 to 6 as we continued to slog under power into the waves and wind, with "Pine Top" our diesel engine doing all the hard work. "Casey" our autopilot handled the wheel and I checked for boats, confirmed our course, listened for boat noises and to the radio, and generally made sure things were all right and we were on track. I wasn't scared. Really. But I wasn't relaxed. The seas were advertised as being 3 to 5 feet in height. The "fine print" on the weather radio stated that some waves would be twice that. I saw those. And the seas were "confused". One wave would raise the bow out of the water and a rude, out of sequence wave would slap La Luna in the chest. We'd slow a bit and I'd listen to make sure everything was fine. Or we'd take a wave over the bow and water would roll up to the cabin top and blast onto the dodger. I'd close my eyes in reflex, but stayed dry. Pine Top, Casey, La Luna and I pounded up and down through the evening. EW slept. We all did our jobs and did them well. 

Lesson 2. Just because you can go, doesn't mean you should go. I went off watch at 9 and kind of slept through the pounding and the noise. The wind and seas had abated and my midnight to 3 AM watch was uneventful. In the morning, we were comfortably motoring as the wind started to fill and were looking forward to a nice day of sailing. Pine Top sputtered and quit at 10. We thought that a fuel filter was clogged again, but EW quickly removed the floorboards over the fuel fill tank and got out the measuring stick. Our main tanks were empty. This has now become known (as EW calls it) a "fuel management issue". The fuel management issue meant that we had 5 gallons of fuel in our emergency tank and none in the main tanks. We were 68 miles offshore of New York with nearly 300 to go to Norfolk. The wind was up and we could sail, but in what direction? We decided to be prudent and headed to shore for diesel. In retrospect, of course we shouldn't have left Cuttyhunk under those conditions. We also should have fueled up in Onset. We discussed fuel when we left Cuttyhunk but didn't think we could get any there and did not want to slog in Buzzard's Bay in the wrong direction, gosh darn it! If we were going to be uncomfortable, we were going to be heading South doing it! 

Lesson 3. You can sail just about anywhere if you're patient and don't care how long it takes. We set the sails and headed to New York. EW took the helm and I navigated a course. We don't have a cruising guide for the region, so I had to look at the charts and read the Coastal Pilot to try to figure out where the closest, most accessible marina might be. I decided on the shores of New Jersey just around Sandy Hook. We hoped to make it in by 4:00 AM, so needed an area with a marina and a place to anchor before they opened. My job was to navigate us to an area close enough to allow us to reach a fuel dock with the precious 5 gallons we had left. EW's job was to make the boat move under sail. The chart of the entrance to New York harbor is intimidating. There's an area with in a large circle that is labeled "Precautionary Area". There are lanes or channels for commercial traffic and lots of lighted bouys. I studied the paper chart and the navigation software and EW sailed. He worked every shift and lift and kept the boat moving in the right direction. Sometimes we only moved at 2-3 knots. At dark the wind picked up for a bit and we had a marvelous sail for 5 or 6 hours. Late at night, the wind died and we drifted a bit.  It took us from 10 AM Sunday to 7 AM Monday to travel 68 miles to reach the spot where we could start the engine. We each got about 2 hours sleep before midnight when we neared the "Precautionary Area" and then we were both awake and alert as we sailed with 3 - 8 knots of wind, very slowly, into New York Harbor. I kept waiting for one of the ships  -- tankers, tugs, and the Queen Mary II -- to hail us, but no one did. We had to cross the largest "traffic lane" and waited until no ships were in sight as we "scurried" at 2 - 2.5 knots from one side to the other. (EW says we were mentally scurrying. At the time I reverted to childhood and The Little Engine that Could "I think I can, I think I can..") It was a foolish situation to be in and one we will avoid in the future. But it was a great day of sailing. Sailing is what we came out here to do. And we can sail. 

This was an eventful week and more lessons were learned. We are currently anchored outside of the Atlantic Harbor Marina where we fueled up on Monday. We've conferred with folks about the record breaking low that is over Chicago and consulted with Passage Weather (great website) and plan to leave on Thursday morning for Norfolk. If the weather looks good. As we leave EW said that we can take the time to cross the harbor during the day so I can see the Statue of Liberty. "After all," he said. "I'm retired." We can also wait for the right conditions, and from now on we will. 

Heading to Norfolk -- Cause It's 64 There and Other Flotsam and Jetsum

We're heading out this afternoon. Saying goodbye to Cuddyhunk and bypassing the Chesapeake. After months of telling everyone -- including my family there -- that our first major destination was the Chesapeake, we'll not be sailing to Baltimore or Annapolis. No Delaware Canal for us this year. This is a lesson in letting go and being flexible. I'm not always that flexible. If I make a plan, I want to follow it through. If I designate a day or time. I want to arrive at (or before) that time. 

EW and I have a phrase, "Huff Time". Huff is my maiden name and being on time is a requirement for my father's children. Being on time means arriving at least 15 minutes early. When I was a teen, my mom, dad and I once arrived at a church for a wedding before the ushers. My mother wasn't happy. I have a physical reaction to being late. I can't help it. (Well, until now I haven't tried much to change it, actually.) When we were leaving Portland on the 18th, we'd decided to leave at 4:00 and at 3:30 I started getting anxious. At that moment I paused and took a few deep breaths and did my best to relax. We left at 4:30, happy and calm. It was a good trip. 

But we're two weeks behind schedule and my next "Huff Time" moment is Thanksgiving in Jacksonville. We just can't take the time to go all the way up to Baltimore right now -- not and get anything done on the boat. And EW wants to do boat work in a warmer climate. I don't blame him. So, we have a reasonable weather window and we're leaving for Norfolk this afternoon --  as soon as I post this. On the way, I'll call my Baltimore family and apologize. Maybe they can drive to Norfolk. 

Now for the Flotsam and Jetsam

Here are some interesting moments from the past almost week.

1.  EW has mentioned to me that he thinks others are watching us because they can't yet do this and are "living vicariously" through us. That point was made clear when EW received an email after one of my posts. A sailing neighbor had checked the weather in Buzzards Bay for us the day we were leaving Onset. He checked the weather before we did.

2. I mentioned a few boat challenges in my last post. It's a boat. Things happen. On our first day in Cuttyhunk, EW fixed two of the three bilge pumps. During that repair, he lost his favorite flashlight -- a Jobi. He held on to the legs but lost the head of it, the light. It had popped off and "flown" and could be down in the bilge (bad) or hung up in the engine where it could fall on a belt or two (potentially disastrous). We kept looking. Suddenly I saw the light! Literally. Just like the old Timex commercial, it was still working and the light was shining up through the bilge water. Now, how to retrieve it? It's a long way down into the bilge under the engine. I put my entire upper body down there (well, all that would fit) and couldn't pick up the light. So I told EW to hand me the "Lake Egg" spoon. That, of course, is a slotted spoon one uses to remove poached eggs from the boiling water. We call them "Lake Eggs" because as a child, Favorite would spend a week or two with EW's parents at a fishing cottage on a lake and they would make poached eggs. I rescued the light and I washed the spoon really, really well. EW made a great breakfast this morning, including Lake Eggs. They did not taste like diesel. 

3. There have been a number of other boats taking refuge from the winds in Cuttyhunk. One dragged their anchor yesterday. The captain and crew had gone ashore and EW spotted their boat drifting to the soft shore on the East side of the harbor. We tried to raise the Harbor Master but it's the wrong season for that. We blew our air horn, hoping that the boat crew would hear it and look to the harbor. I'm not sure whether or not that worked, but very shortly after they were in the dinghy making their way to the boat. They were stuck until high tide, but got safely off to a mooring last evening and left this morning.

4. I'm a pretty social (talkative) person. I think this is the longest time I've gone with only EW to talk to-face-face. So far it's going just fine, but I can see why I want to get my Ham radio license. I think I will be the Communications Officer for this vessel. 

5. In terms of provisioning -- so far so good. EW isn't complaining. We have a bunch of freezer meals we'll use for the next 75 hours or so. I've baked bread and cookies and banana bread. Since I am not a total detail person --or that kind of detail person at all -- I didn't do menus for the month. I'm keeping a record of our meals to see how it worked. I'll share that when the month is over. Just so you know, we did bring some hard candies and a bag of tiny Tootsie Rolls on board. We also bought some 2lb containers of nuts, including cashews. I had the Tootsie Rolls mostly gone before we left and finished them up by Onset.  EW devoured the cashews in the same manner. There are times that call for comfort food.

Hunkered Down in Cuttyhunk and How We Got Here

Cuttyhunk has first rate wifi -- and I am accessing it with our Wirie antenna. More about the Wirie in another post -- just want to say it's a great addition to La Luna. (And I paid full price for it and he doesn't know I have a blog and I don't yet accept advertising. Yada yada yada.)

Now then. Deep breath. 

This taking off for the rest of (or a large part of) your life is hard work. I'm not complaining, just sayin'. It was hard to get work done on the boat while we were still working to complete projects for our jobs, sell the car, and see all the folks who wanted to see us and whom we wanted to see. It was hard to walk down the dock as we didn't want to be rude to anyone who had advice, ice, or questions.

    EW said yes, to three blocks of ice. Three blocks! We have one cooler on deck that had a block     already. What was he thinking? I found room for two and as things worked out I was glad to have     them. (Guess he was thinking that our new life is unpredictable.)

After my little breakdown, EW decided that we would "sneak" to Jewell Island on Sunday, October 17th and let everyone think we were really leaving. We needed more time to get the stuff stowed and to take care of us. When we entered the harbor I said, "I see a mast." "Yep," said EW, "there's a boat in there." "I hope it's no one we know". I said. I didn't want to talk with one other person or go through one more good-bye. Fortunately, we had a lovely, quiet and productive afternoon and evening. The next morning we "sneaked" to Portland to pick up a part for the furnace and were graciously allowed to tie up at Portland Yacht Services while EW made the repair. 

At 4:30 we left for the Cape Cod Canal, a trip that was expected to take until noon the next morning and the first time we have had night watches in at least three years. It was pretty uneventful. The moon was nearing full so we had great visibility, the seas were quite calm, we sailed for a number of hours and motor-sailed most of the rest of the way. Except after 4:00 AM the engine kept stopping every few hours. I would sail, EW would change the fuel filters and we'd go back to normal watches. EW figures that we sat still so long getting ready to go that finally leaving stirred up sediment in the tanks. The tanks were cleaned last year, so he wasn't worried that the problem would persist and it hasn't.

I had my moment going through the Cape Cod Canal. I had the helm and a very proper powerboat captain hailed us prior to passing. As he powered up, I thought, "Bet he goes south every year." And then it hit me .. We are going south! I wanted to dance I wanted to shout it over the loud hailer to folks on shore. We are going south. On a boat. This is very cool. I am not cool, but this is.

So, we stayed on the hook in Onset, left the next morning with a plan to head past Block Island and turn right for a two day sail to Delaware Bay. The wind was on the nose. EW wanted to sail so the navigator plotted a course for that. We lost some time there. We lost more when we discovered that the bilge pumps weren't working. None. Of. Them. I learned how to heave to. EW fixed one of the three bilge pumps. We headed for an anchorage and found one at Cuttyhunk. We haven't been ashore and may not. 

The wind is 25 knots with 30-35 knot gusts and has been for two days. We've worked on the boat. Well, EW fixed two of the three bilge pumps and I helped. We also worked on better storage in the pilot berth area. Which means that now we know where things are back there.

We attempted to leave this morning with weather reports predicted reduced wind from the northwest. It would have been a wonderful reach and La Luna loves to reach -- so we hauled anchor, and left this lovely protected harbor to meet 35 knots on the nose and big honking waves. We could have continued, but EW decided that we weren't ready for a 40-50 hour passage with in that weather with just two on board and we returned. 

I'm proud of our decisions on this trip and the process we use. Could we have kept going the two times we've stopped? Yes. Do we have to subject ourselves and our boat to this? No. 

There are more (and better) stories about these last few days. I'll write them up as we go and post when I am able. We think we are leaving in the morning. When we go we will be 40 hours out if we stop for a rest in Atlantic City or 60 hours out if we make it all the way to Salem New Jersey -- just across from the Delaware Canal. 



I made bread! From scratch.

And I haven't worn mascasra in days and days.

Who am I? I'm a woman following her dream -- And I realize that sacrifices have to be made and plans changed. We leave Cuttyhunk today for Delaware Bay.

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Where we are

We are not on the bounding main tonight. The winds are directly from
the southwest so we were pounding into it under power. We sailed a bit
in Buzzard's Bay, then had a little issue then motored. We were 8
hours behind the plan and the weather tonight and Thursday wouldn't be
better so we are on the hook in Cuttyhunk. We'll work on the boat
tomorrow and set off again on Friday with great sailing weather.

We are learning to take our time. This is certainly a lesson I've not
learned well in the past. I found myself getting anxious this morning
as we were not ready at the ten o'clock time of departure. Leaving at
ten thirty instead presented no issue at all. Whether we get fo
Maryland on Saturday or Sunday won't matter either.

Hope to write a real post soon -- not these iPhone emails.