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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The AYB yard crew pulled us around 9:00 on the morning of the 16th. Once out of the water, we found that the prop was bent, but not so bad it couldn’t be straightened. We also discovered that the gel-coat on the rudder had been chipped in a couple of places, so that would require being up on the hard again, until the repairs could be completed. Our luck being what it was, the weather turned cold for the next two days; too cold to do the fiberglass work. We ended up being out of the water until the 20th, but with the repairs completed and the boat better than new, we were back in the water and ready to head south again (but this time, not in the damn Dismal Swamp Canal.)

We departed the Atlantic Yacht Basin at 6:45 am on October 21st and began our journey south, towards somewhere warm. It had gotten cold a few days in Chesapeake, VA and neither of us liked the feeling of being cold one little bit.

As we made our way down the ICW, we discovered that the new, newly straightened and tuned prop really improved the performance of our boat. With no wind, no current, and the engine speed set at 2800 rpm (the best power to efficiency curve for our engine) we were making 7.2 knots true speed, which is really flying for a sailboat. In short, this made us at par with most of the trawlers that are out here on the water and faster than 90% of the sailboats. By 2:30 pm, we had arrived at the Coinjock Marina, Coinjock, NC, which is home to the best prime rib in all of America. With a great dinner under our belts, we retired for a good nights sleep.

The next morning, we were off of the Coinjock dock by 7:00 am and on our way towards Manteo, NC. Manteo, on Roanoke Island, is the site of the first English Colony in the Americas, one of the nicest ports of call on the east coast and one of our favorite places. After a leisurely trip down the Albemarle Sound, we made the Manteo Town Dock around 2:00 pm and were snug in our slip in short order.

We planned to stay in Manteo for two nights, but once again, the weather gods intervened and changed our plans. After two beautiful days, a storm blew up on the Outer Banks and proceeded to stall over the area, which forced us to stay in Manteo for three more nights. This wasn’t necessarily bad staying the extra three days, but we had to be in Charleston, SC by the first of November and those three days used up all of our spare travel time.

On the morning of the 27th we got up a half hour before dawn and made ready to leave Manteo. At first light, we pulled out from Shallow Bag Bay and were treated to a spectacular sunrise as we sailed south towards Ocracoke, Island, which was our next planned stop. It was one of those rare days in sailing, where the wind and the current and your direction of travel all worked in harmony for the common good of the journey.

As we flew over the water at speeds of 8.5 to 10 knots, it soon became apparent that we’d reach Ocracoke Island well before 2:00 pm and would still have another day of travel to Morehead City. If, however, we continued on towards Morehead City, we’d make Adams Creek by 7:00 pm and maybe be able to go all the way to Morehead City in the dark. Worst-case scenario was, we’d anchor out and go on into Morehead City in the morning. With this course of action now the plan, we continued to take advantage of the wind and weather and flew on across the Pamlico Sound towards Adams Creek.

We actually make Adams Creek at 6:30 pm and, as the sun began to set in the west, entered onto the northern end of the channel. The anchorages along the way were crowded with sailboats and trawlers; all having taken advantage of the good weather to move down the Alligator River portion of the waterway and arrive here before us. In the light of dusk, however, we could see that the illuminated markers along the creek were all operational, so moving at night would 1) not be a problem and 2) allow us to move unhindered by other boats.

As it turned out, traversing Adams Creek at night was so easy that we made Morehead City and the Portside Marina, without incident, at 11:15 pm. It was so quiet at the marina that we were able to pull in unassisted, get the boat tied up, hook up power, walk the dog and fall into bed before midnight. Just to be on the safe side, I went back up before going to bed and put all four of our fenders between the boat and the dock. I don’t know why I did it, I just did; and it was a real good thing, because, once again, the weather changed.

We were awakened around 3:00 am by the beating of waves against the hull of the boat. To make matters even more interesting, the boat was jumping up and down at least three feet every two or three seconds. It would seem that one of those darling little North Carolina Thunderstorms had appeared out f nowhere and decided to blow like hell out of the east; the direction from which this marina had no protection.

I ran outside and began to check the lines and fenders. The extra fenders were doing their job, preventing our direct contact with the floating dock, and the lines, which Kim had doubled, were holding us securely in position. The sail boat in front of us, a catamaran, wasn’t in such good shape.

The cat’s owners had landed earlier in the afternoon (I found this out later) having survived a storm at sea that had shredded their Genoa. Exhausted, they’d gone to bed, having tied up at the dock with the bare minimum of fenders and lines. The wave action had popped their two fenders from between the hull and dock and their boat was taking a beating. I helped them push out their boat, reinsert their fenders and add a couple more. Then we rigged two more dock lines, which really stabilized their boat, and had everything secure by about 3:45 am.

As we all shook hands over a job well done, the two guys on the cat asked where we were heading and when. I told them we were leaving at first light, weather permitting, and they said they’d be up to help us off. They said it was the least they could do for us, since I had helped them secure their boat without it getting any damage.

True to their word, the guys from the catamaran were both up and sitting on deck at 7:00 am, as I came topside and prepared to leave Morehead City. After paying the marina for our stay, the two guys from the catamaran helped push us off the dock and we were underway towards our next stop, Surf City, NC.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dismal Day in the Dismal Swamp

Finally, we are back in the water after a week on the hard. Thank heavens the weather has been great, nice and cool at night and sunny during the day. We were surprised when at 4:00pm yesterday they decided to put us in the water. 4:00 is normally quitting time and there was only one space left on the face dock at the far south end…just for us!! It is a great place for Schooner, but the crew team yelling at 5:30 am is a bit unnerving. While work was being done, we met some of the greatest boaters. We shared drinks, snacks, meals and stories with many. I hope to meet again along the waterways.

This morning, we started out early, 6:45am moving off the dock in RAIN!! The Great Bridge opens at 7am and next is the Great Bridge locks next. We wanted to get through these 2 before the restrictions for rush hour. Both were uneventful…I have the locks down pretty well now that we use the non assistant side and I can tie off at mid ship and don’t get yelled at by MR. Grumpy Pants!! What Gordon forgot was the Steel Bridge also had restrictions and we had to wait close to an hour…aarrrgggg!! A steady rain and cool temps made it pretty miserable.

Finally after clearing the Steel Bridge, the turn off for the Dismal Swamp Cut is only a short distance. This was the first time we had attempted to traverse this cut. I was excited as we were going to pass down through an historic series of bridges and locks to Elizabeth City and a new passage south. Also it was prime fall color!!!

We entered the Deep Creek lock first in line, with 8 other boats at 11:30 am. The rain had almost stopped and this made it easier to handle the boat in the lock and more comfortable too!! The lockmaster/bridge tender, Robert Peek, was friendly and very helpful, this being our first trip through. We were about an hour loading and clearing the lock and when you get everyone out of the lock, Robert has to jump in his truck and drive 3/4th a mile so he can open the bridge for everyone. Fortunately for him, they only do this 4 times a day!! We were now on our way into the historic cut first made possible by George Washington to open up better trade routes south.

Well…that didn’t last very long!!!! We were just really settling into the trip when there was this big THUNK followed by 3 more; CRUNCH, BANG, SCREECH!!! We made it all the way to the 12 mile marker.

Yep, we had hit a summered tree! And that brand new prop ws now crunched along with the rudder. We pulled to the side and let the other 7 boats pass and turned back for the bridge. I can say I have been in the Dismal Swamp Cut, but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience!! We were able to tie off to a bulkhead and wait another hour for the bridge to open before re-entering the locks for our return trip back to AYB. This was an extremely slow trip back as we could only travel at a slow 4knots and with the bridge openings we were only able to get back just before dusk…a long, wet, cold miserable dayyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Plans are to short pull us in the morning and assess the damage...more later in the saga of "Current Jumper".

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything to the blog, partly due to not having internet at a few locations, partly due to working on trying to defeat government run healthcare and partly due to plain ole’ laziness. But, with all of these issues temporarily resolved, it’s time to catch everyone up on our escapades.

We left Washington, DC early in the morning, on my birthday. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and the sail down the Potomac was absolutely gorgeous. The day was so perfect that we made a whopping 62 miles and reached the town of Newberg, MD right about sunset. We anchored out just south of US Highway 301 and the “Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge,” which connects Maryland and Virginia, and went to bed with a gentle breeze rocking us to sleep. Early the next morning, however, the weather turned to crap!

We were awakened around 5:00 AM by the boat bouncing, waves slapping its sides and the wind howling through the rigging. The weather had changed and a cold front had moved in on top of us (NOAA lied and said it wouldn’t come in for another 24 hours.) We hauled anchor as soon as it was light and beat a hasty retreat on down the Potomac, towards the Chesapeake. Unfortunately, we could only make about 3.5 knots into the wind, so we made little headway at all. After being beaten for the next ten hours, we finally turned into the town of Ridge, Maryland and the Point Lookout Marina. It was very protected, secure and we spent the next two days there.

We had a small weather window on the 28th, so once more we headed out into the Chesapeake and turned south towards Norfolk. After about four hours, the wind blew up again and beat us on our nose. Once again, we were moving no faster than 3.5 knots and getting hammered by waves crashing over the bow every few seconds. So, once again, we turned into the nearest port (Deltaville, VA) and laid up for an additional two days. The only consolation was that Deltaville is geared to boaters, so we were able to resupply at the local market and do some service work on the boat while we waited for the weather to break.

On the 30th of September, the weather finally cleared and we went non-stop to Norfolk, VA, where we stayed at the Waterside Marina. We only intended to stay for one night, but learned that the 16th Annual Norfolk Harbor Party and Seafood Feast was being held on October 1st. We just had to stay and check it out.

The festival began around 4:00 pm at the city park, adjacent to the marina. For $40.00 per person, one could enjoy all you could eat of crab cakes, fish, clams, raw oysters, steamed oysters, scallops and the famous Harbor Party Clam Chowder. Additionally, there were strategically located, self serve Budweiser “Tap Trucks” and wine tents where you could drink your fill. Frankly, our bill in a restaurant would have been well over a hundred dollars each for what we ate and drank at the festival. An added bonus was, we were able to meet and speak with Bob McDonnell, who was later elected to the governorship of Virginia. From our impression of Mr. McDonnell, Virginia made a wise choice in electing him governor.

On Friday, the 2nd, we mounted out and headed for the town of Chesapeake, VA and the Atlantic Yacht Basin. There, we had the boat hauled for its annual maintenance routine and some additional enhancements that are hard to do properly when the boat’s in the water. While the boat was “on the hard,” we got a car and went shopping for supplies and Christmas goodies for our granddaughters. We met some new fellow cruisers, who were at AYB for the same reason as us, and share some food, drinks and stories of each other’s adventures on the water.

While the boat was out of the water, we’d been researching the Dismal Swamp Canal, which is the old waterway created by George Washington (that’s right, the first president of the United States) and is still in use today. We were told that our boat had a shallow enough draft (5’) to safely transit the canal and that we’d come out at Elizabeth City, NC and escape a lot of the desolate waterway between Norfolk and Morehead City, NC. So, on the morning of October 14th, with all of our repairs complete, we took off foor the Dismal Swamp Canal. And that's when our luck changed.