ICW Kind of Days

In Great Bridge, we woke still full from the deliciously spiced and plentiful Mexican food meal we’d had the night before. El Toro Loco. If you end up in Great Bridge, VA, eat there. At 32 degrees, it was too cold for us to rush off when we didn’t have a full day’s travel ahead. Instead, we waited out the chill and got started around 9:30am, after the sun had muscled its way into our reality. A quick fill-up at the diesel-getting-place and we were off! One of the odd things about the ICW is how many bascule bridges are normally open. Makes me think that the age of rail is nearly gone, though I know very little about that technology’s possible futures. Motoring in straight lines is odd and, actually, impossible. We set up the tiller pilot (why is that thing even still working?) and gave it 1-degree jabs port and starboard for almost 5 hours, watch on watch an hour at a time. When it came time to stop, it wasn’t because we’d hit the perfect anchorage. We passed two marginal spots and came to rest in one of those oddball, unofficial, sure-it’s-deep-enough-why-not kind of spots on the North Landing River, only a quarter of a mile from the VA/NC border. Was it good? Yes. It was good. Today was even odder. The disconcerting disagreement between the evidence of our eyes – plenty of water for miles around! – and the facts communicated by our charts – shallow! danger! shoals! – kept us on our toes. We were passed by recreational power boats both punctiliously courteous and outrageously rude, and we managed to come right up to the one and only crossing vessel for dozens of miles, the Knotts Island ferry. Another bit of motoring and then we[…]

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Oh yeah, we’re South!

The southern Chesapeake is a very strange place. So strange. It’s not just the growing haze of smog or the growing number of huge shipping vessels that makes it strange. It’s also the military omnipresence that creates a vibe like a tight wire. It hums and growls and spits at you and, much as we like…really, really like…the folks at Rebel Marina, we never want to stay long. On the way over there from Mobjack Bay, I (Dena) was struck by how much I love our new mainsail. It never occurred to me that I might own a new sail, but our boat is of a type owned by cheapskates like us who would never replace a sail before it’s past time. That means that the Bacon Sails surveyors laugh and trash any sails that might fit our boat. This one, though. Wow. Check this out. That top batten was a revelation to me. It starts the whole damn sail the right way and gives shape to it, even in very light winds, even when beating close to the wind. The whole thing is exciting, but that was the part that surprised me. After getting Schlotzsky’s, propane, and an anchor ball to replace the one lost in the knockdown, we decided to sail right away. But first, to check the engine. We’d been losing a bit of oil as we had our side trip at Whale Watching Dana Point and so wanted to find its point of egress. Instead, we discovered that the same. damn. exhaust pipe that’s been a problem for years had worked its way loose again (WTF!!!). Off it came (we’re old pros at this by now) and in we rowed. David Briggs at Rebel not only loaned us use of his big vise and a monkey[…]

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Feasting is Good

And being thankful is good, and living through hard times…also good. After the excitement of crossing the Rappahannock, it wasn’t as disappointing as usual to find ourselves motorsailing again after a couple good hours of sailing out of Deltaville. We beat feet for Mobjack Bay (a soup course along the way), but decided not to worry about going all the way into one of the many creeks. We rounded the Old Point Comfort Light and put her down right behind the point. Safely anchored in a wide open spot, we made a winter feast of f’uck mushroom gravy (f’uck being the Chinese mock duck that comes in a can), mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry loaf. That night was cold (good excuse to cuddle!), and the next morning bore a sparkling rime.

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Wet Sails

We left Solomons for points south, but we weren’t really sure how far south we would get. A half-dozen possible anchorages presented themselves for our consideration, but it really depended on our progress. Three hours of good sailing turned into a sloshy but surprisingly mellow motorsailing passage across the mouth of the Potomac. That got us well past Smith Point, but not far enough to pass by the Great Wicomico River’s Ingram Bay and Cockrell Creek, so in we went and anchored. The next day started beautifully, perfectly, with a lovely stable breeze. A full main took us out to the bay, where we turned downwind and began to sail fast and furious for points south. A reef went in pretty soon and then two more reefs in a row as we barreled down the coastline, land to weather, sticking pretty close in order to keep the chop down. (The distance over which a wave can build height is called fetch, and we were trying to keep the fetch short, which keeps the chop down.) When the current turned against us, and the breeze turned a bit too fresh, we got serious about riding the chop at the best possible angle. With the water flowing in and the wind trying to push it the other direction, the bay begins making peaks that aren’t very soothing to sail in. When the land petered out, though, and the miles of fetch known as the Rappahannock River made itself known to us, those peaks were close, high, and mean. James handed the tiller over to me (Dena) with a shift kiss right before the roaring river mouth and I had the strenuous job of maintaining our desired direction while also riding the waves at an acceptable angle. I worked hard at it and[…]

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Sailing to the table

Leaving Solomons was awesome! We sailed out of the little town inner-harbor at 4 knots under main alone on a close reach that only broadened as we blasted down the ebbing Patuxent River. The sun was bright and warming; the Bay kindly and following right up until we reached Point-No-Point then turned a little lumpy as we crossed the mouth of the Potomac River. Initially we were pointing the boat at the Little Wicomico River just on the southern lip of the Potomac but the sailing was so spectacular that we pushed on to Reedville, VA. We entered the Great Wicomico River and wove our way up to Cockrell Creek as the last of the sunlight struggled through the spectrum, nestling a sliver of a Moon just after dark. …Meaning, it was pitch-dark when the anchor hit the water! Our 35 lbs CQR struggled through the grassy mud for almost 50 feet before she caught but catch she did and we settled the hook at 7:1 in 9 feet of water. We knew we were in for a full day of stiff Sou-Westerlies at anchor, so why not break the tools out again and get to work after coffee? After a month of working on this fold-out table (recycled from Bacon’s before I left), we finally figured out how we could make it as sturdy as it was salty looking. We had this big piece of “table” stock left over from the original, which was a multi-part folding table with a cubby. The cubby became our cabinet and only one of the two table elements was needed as, well, a table. The remaining piece had the exact same angle cut into it as the fold down leaf in our installation so we decided to let the leg follow along, like[…]

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The cruising life

One of my (James’) favorite things in the world is lying at anchor, safely waiting out a gritty weather system. The past few days have been a great opportunity to do just that. I often describe the way we cruise kind of like this: cruising is not only the sailing we do, it’s also the work we get done while underway. While the boat is moving, we mostly stick to sailing, navigating and maintaining the rig but, when at peace, when at anchor, we are also cruising. The past few days have seen gales interspersed with souwesterlies, meaning warmer temps, meaning a good time to do some nonskid. I have to admit, Dena had to drag me into this one. I felt like it was too cold to apply a thick coat of nonskid on the foredeck and have it dry. Dena was convinced it would go well so I just followed her lead. We cleaned and scrubbed with fresh water and a little bit of soap, rinsed and dried the entire foredeck area. After that we taped her off. Glopped the chemical on and rolled it out. Well, as it turned out, Dena was right! The foredeck looks and feels as sticky and rugged as I’ve always felt it should, and it’s a special pleasure to have done the work while underway. Cruising is, to us, about the complete experience of moving through the universe. It’s about being at home wherever we are, whether that means pounding through chop to get into safe harbor or being relatively still, for a while at least. While we’re cruising, the moon goes through her phases. The earth’s turning makes the starscape an ever-changing buffet of favorites, the muscular light overwhelming dock lights and backyard floods to flicker at us. We are always moving[…]

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Underway in a big way

Being underway doesn’t get real until you see this! …Absolutely no land in sight. Okay, okay you’re never really out of sight of land in the Chesapeake Bay except for reasons of bad visibility, but several times over the last few days of travel I’ve looked out over the bow and seen nothing but water. It’s filled me (James) with that feeling of wonder and amazement that I can only get from traveling by sail. Last time we filled you in on our projects and just to bring you up to date… The heater seemed to be working, but then it started snapping itself off for (what seemed to us to be) no reason. A slew of very scientific tests later, we decided that there was no condition under which the heater would continue running. More air (in case it was the oxygen deprivation sensor turning it off)? Nope. Just run it on high; just low? Nope. It went on and on, right down to taking the thing apart, cleaning Bacon Sails dust from every part of the burner, pilot, etc, and lightly scrubbing the contacts for the thermocouple. Still no love. But we left anyway. The north wind sped us gently along to the Choptank River, where we turned to a close reach and roared to the mouth of the Tred Avon. Our anchorage was a simple bend in the river where the venerable trees blocked the wind. We’d left without cutting our reef ties, so this picture is already old news. So, about the heater…the last few days of travel have been chilly, with only haphazard heating methods such as drink coffee, bake biscuits, drink coffee, fry some eggs on cast iron, drink coffee, keep the cast iron pan on the fire a little extra long while heating[…]

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