Sunday, October 31, 2010

Anatomy of a "Friendly" Boat Delivery Schedule.

St. Augustine FL
2010 10 31

Leaving Halifax on September 26  our  goal was to  get Meredith to Vero Beach without delay.

Here is a summary of how it went:

The Trip:            Halifax, NS to St. Augustine, FL
Distance Travelled:  1,250 nm 
Time taken:          33 days
Fuel Consumed:       113 gallons including fuel burned topping 
                     up batteries when at anchor
Bad Weather Layover: 5 days: 2 days in Port Washington, 
                     3 days in New Bedford
Waiting for Weather: 3 days in Beaufort
Time Lost Relaxing:  8 days: 1 day in Annapolis for boat show, 
                             4 days in Hampton VA, 
                             1 day in Elizabeth City, 
                             1 day in Charleston, 
                             1 day in Beaufort
Days on the ICW:    4 days: 3 days to circumvent Cape Hatteras & 
                            1 day from Charleston to Beaufort

There are several reasons for our decision to "run" south.  Simply put  we grow bored with the route and we were looking for better weather than we had enjoyed in our previous 3 trips.

Weather in our experience is cold and unpleasant on the waterway from Cape May to Florida anytime after October.

The waterway is demanding.  You must actively helm the boat every minute you are moving.  This becomes gruelling.  If you run offshore you are freed from the helm, a major benefit.

The waterway is silting in again.  We hear from friends that everthing from Camp Lejeune to Beaufort is dangerous.  We have reports of experienced sailors running aground in mid channel at high tide. 

Canadians must also face Homeland Security Department issues and be prepared to be boarded.  We now know a dozen Canadian boats that have been boarded, one twice.  The CBP requirement that we call in our position and report all persons on board and their passport numbers everytime we drop hook is wearing.  It is like wearing a "Star of David" armband so good citizens know we are foreign and dangerous and not to be trusted.  Any American would be outraged if treated this way in a foreign country.

The Budget Committee and I sailed Yarmouth to New Bedford, stopping for a day of rest and to wait out a forecast storm.  This storm hit and we waited 3 days for it to clear. 

Next we made for Port 'Washington on Long Island where we stayed on a mooring ball for 2 more days waiting out continuing storms.

Then we made it nonstop to Chesapeake City MD.  We had hoped to run New Jersey and continue unstopped all the way to Norfolk.  The forecast at Cape May was adverse and Utsch's Marina, while very nice, is $1.75 a foot per day.  We elected to sail up the Delaware and down the Chesapeake.  This cost nothing out of pocket.  There were boats we wanted to meet in Annapolis and a couple of things we needed at the boat show.

Annapolis was a one day event.  We pulled in Thursday evening and left Saturday at dawn.

At Norfolk we always run inside on the ICW.  The alternative is Cape Hatteras and this Cape, one of the "Three Great Capes" of the world is daunting.  To do this we run to the Dismal Swamp, spending a night at Elizabeth City continuing south past Oriental, SC and emerging at Beaufort NC.

Reaching Beaufort NC the weather window was not long term so we travelled to Charleston SC only.  Last year we made our way direct from Cape Canaveral to Beaufort NC but chose not to reverse the process this year as the forecast was full of south wind and big waves against us.

From Charleston SC we travelled inside to Beaufort, SC and waited for the south winds to clear as a cold front moved in.  Weather in place we left Beaufort SC at Port Royal Inlet and travelled south to St. Augustine FL. 

We consider ourselves arrived.  One day in St. Augustine and we leave tomorrow.  Winds are back in the North and we will be in Vero Beach in 30 hours or so.

That is it.  What we expect will be our last transit of the Seaboard.  A month from beginning to end.  Had we been on a delivery we would have been expected to make the trip in 14 days or less.  That is a lot of bad weather to travel in.  It would also be exhausting.  We are exhausted as it is.

Once we get to Vero  we rest, do boat work, meet friends and party.  Home for Christmas we leave first of the year for St. Marten/Sind Maarten. 

Zenophobia on the Waterway

St. Augustine FL
2010 10 31

Reading the title you will be forgiven for thinking this would be just another dissing of stupid powerboaters.  Not so.  Powerboaters ARE stupid.  And arrogant.  And undeserving useless twits with no function on god's planet save to waste precious fossil fuel and annoy decent folk on sailboats.  Like the guy who kept trying to tell me his boat and mine got the same mileage: he ran at 15 knots he explained and burned 15 gallons an hour while I ran at 6.5 knots and burned 1 gallon an hour.  "See" this guy told me on numerous occasions, "We get the same number of miles per gallon".

Right buddy.  Keep on breeding. 

But no, this is not such a document.

Neither does it contain a spelling error, as some discerning readers may suspect.  I speak not of Xenophobia: the irrational, deep-rooted fear of or antipathy towards foreigners or strangers.

No I speak of that plague ridden Greek Philosopher, Zeno of Elea.  Not to be confused with Zeno of Citium and no, not the brother of Zena the Warrior Princess.  This Zeno liked paradoxes and is most famous for his arguments against motion.  (I italicized this phrase so any powerboaters reading the blog can cut and paste it into Wikipaedia, the powerboaters undisputed Bible of all that is true and worthy of knowing).

Zeno worked out his arguments while trying to move his sailboat down the ICW.  Here are two of Zeno's hypotheses as reported by Aristotle:

The Dichotomy: There is no motion, because that which is moved must arrive at the middle before it arrives at the end, and so on ad infinitum.

So before your boat gets to the inlet it must go half of the distance to the inlet.  Before it can get to the halfway point your boat must go half of the distance to the halfway point or 1/4 of the distance.  Before your boat can go 1/4 of the distance it must go 1/8 of the distance.   This is an infinite series and so you cannot actually go anywhere.

The Achilles: The slower will never be overtaken by the quicker, for that which is pursuing must first reach the point from which that which is fleeing started, so that the slower must always be some distance ahead.

So you can never pass the ugly derelict hull in front of you and must follow it endlessly as it mucks up the aesthetics of paradise.

Any sailor travelling the ICW will tell you that Zeno is absolutely correct.

An historical footnote mentions that our only knowledge of Zeno's writings is from reports from  Aristotle.  All of Zeno's works were destroyed.

It is my belief that someone beat Zeno to death and burned everything he owned.

Justifiably in my view.

So I am Wrong, But...

St. Augustine, Fl
2010 10 31

Meredith arrived St. Augustine, North America's prettiest downtown and absolutely nicest outdoor mall.  Bar none.

People who dislike St. Augustine are few and far between.  They should just be shot.

Some object to the disgusting anchorage which serves this Spanish outpost: poor holding and full of permanently anchored local boats secured with two and three anchors.  No Longer!!!  The town cleared out all the miscreants and are installing a mooring field.  $20 a night.

The anchorage is clean, clear, easy and inexpensive.  We like the change.

A recent post took issue with my comments on the nuclear submarines Canada purchased from Britain.  You remember - the ones that did not work.  Wade, a former colonel in Canada's armed force, hastened to point out my error:

I cannot help but send you a query wrt your latest rant, which included a comment about Canada's subs:

"The last technology we bought from the UK consisted of two nuclear submarines, neither of which has, to my knowledge, actually sailed a single hour in pursuit of Canadian military objectives.  Neither has ever worked nor works now."

Where did you get the impression that these are nuclear?  What do you mean by nuclear, nuclear powered or nuclear missile carrying (or at least capable)?  I believe that these 3 subs are referred to as Victoria class.  This link provides a good summary

I think that news reporters often mistakenly refer to them as nuclear because they were phased out when the Brits decided to focus on nuclear powered subs.  By the way, navies call them boats, while the rest of the ships are called ships.

So I was incorrect.  HOWEVER....

No one, even Wade, has suggested the damn things worked.  And if the subs we bought were diesels then the Brits are really really incompetent.  They even screw up diesel technology.  British quality speaks for itself. 

 Being diesel it does matter for Canada.  If they did work we can't afford fuel.  So six of one...

And by the way you call that a  "rant".  You haven't seen a rant out of this guy if you think that was a rant.  That was reasoned discourse.

At least that is the only objection to that intemperate bit of electronic communication.  So far. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brittania Rules The Waves No Longer Even in These Days of Limited Competition

Enroute from Beaufort BC to Charleston  SC
Posted at Charleston
2010 10 21

We read the British Navy, sharing the poverty of the rest of the rest of the government of that beleaguered island has been reduced to 19 ships, two of those aircraft carriers that will not be permitted to carry aircraft. 

Reading the paper it was impossible not to recall that this summer the Canadian Navy was forced to moor its ships where they floated.  We could not afford to buy fuel you see.

As a Canadian of the right age I was raised to recognize my place in the world was that of undermensch to my British colonial masters. Or at least I was supposed to. 

As one of Britain's presumed serfs I cannot help but enjoy the spectacle of his "lord" falling off a horse.  You see I still chafe.

As a student Britain's general superiority and overall mastery of us, mere colonists in Canada, was driven into our skulls like railway spikes.  Our teachers were puppet lords, quizlings, dogs, given positions of small authority in return for unwavering devotion to their British masters. And they did.

It did not take on my generation however.

Serving the standard elementary school sentence, 9 years to life, Canadian students  had forced upon them the indignity of memorizing gingoistic British writing, poetry and song. Not the beauty and grace of Shakespeare or the cold clear reasoning of Shelley.  No we got the stirring Kiplingesque tunes such as "RULE BRITTANIA" and other such tripe.  For those of you who managed to fall sick that week in grade 5 I will provide the first two lines, burned inerasably into my tender memory cells:

"Rule Brittania, Brittania Rules the Waves. 
Britons shall never, never, never, ne'er be slaves".

Only years later did  I discover the wonderful term "irony".  I mean, I was Canadian, not a Briton.  In the time of my youth British colonial despots viewed Canada almost solely as a source of cannon fodder for the wars of the Queen, ours to blindly follow stupid orders issued by incompetent Brit generals. 

Proper subjects of the crown, Canada's only other function on planet earth was to sell raw material to England at low prices and in return buy their shoddy manufactured goods at absurdly high ones. The last technology we bought from the UK consisted of two nuclear submarines, neither of which has, to my knowledge, actually sailed a single hour in pursuit of Canadian military objectives.  Neither has ever worked nor works now. 

Canadians were slaves.  Even this nine year old Canadian boy could figure that out. Forcing us to learn that "Britons shall never, never, ne'er be slaves" was just over the top.  How nice for them.

So it was somewhat gratifying to find the British Navy reduced to the same circumstances as our own. 

But military dominance is not determined by material superiority alone.  If it were the USA would have won.... well just about any of the silly wars after Korea in which they have unsuccessfully engaged.  As with most games, sea battles are not won, they are lost.  He who makes the fewest mistakes, wins.

Despite its travails the British Navy will not lose dominance over the seas just because they wallow in ignominious poverty.

Canada & Lost Causes

With 33 hulls afloat Canada should dominate the Brits on the seas.  I am pretty sure we included a couple of rowboats in the hull count.  Anyway, half of them are in drydock, half of them are 30 to 40 years old and two of them have been banned from most international ports for environmental reasons.  Also we cannot buy fuel for any of them.  (mainly because our Fascist King Stephen was blowing $1 billion bucks trying to show the G20 he was a tough guy.  Our last place finish in the vote for a security council seat shows how well the voice of the unstable religious right plays on the international scene).

I do not include any British submarines in the total because they do not and have not ever worked.  Kind of like British aircraft carriers with no aircraft.  Wouldn't they be called Container Ships.

The French & Language

Plagued by language the French cannot actually fight.

French is the language of diplomacy and seduction.  It is designed to be imprecise.  It must allow for multiple interpretations.  Accuracy and accountability are not welcome traits in the halls of government or the boudoirs of the nation.

There is a cost to all of this dupicity of language however.  It takes a long time to say something in French.  A lot longer that it takes to say the same thing in English.  If the listener is to actually interpret the words spoken the time is further extended.

We have proof.  This summer, while sailing out the St. Lawrence, we  undertook a study on language and weather reports.  In Canada marine weather is broadcast in English and then the same broadcast is repeated in French (or vice versa).  The broadcasts are on the same channel and alternate all day long. 

In the St. Lawrence each time we tuned in the weather channel we counted the number of times the broadcaster was speaking English  and how often he was speaking French.  We found that between 7 and 8 times out of 10 the broadcast was in French when we tuned in.

Since the same information is being broadcast in each language (we presume) we conclude that it takes almost 2 1/2 times longer to say something in French than in English.  (7 / 3)

So in any battle situation the French command is terminally hampered.  By the time they have given orders and their underlings received and interpreted those orders, well.... the battle is over, the other ships have sunk the French navy or made their escape.  The hurricane has arrived and wiped out their fleet.  The French talk themselves into defeat.

So, to win a war speak English.  To win a woman speak French.

When I was young winning wars was very important.  Today I wish I spoke better French.

The Dutch & Cleanliness

Despite being great traders the Dutch have never been known for the strength of their navy.  This is not because the Dutch are not courageous, although they did just run away from Afghanistan like little girls.

No, it is  because of some quirk in Dutch DNA that holds them bondage to cleanliness.

The Budget Committee is nearly Dutch (her name starts with "Van" and everything).  Her job in the morning is to haul up the anchor rode (or chain).  This is not as onerous as it sounds.  In reality she presses her toe on a button and the electric windlass does the hauling.

Our anchor rode is stored in a compartment in the bow of the boat which adjoins, via a nice teak door, our main cabin.  The anchor locker and anything sticking to the anchor rode has direct access to our cabin. 

If the rode is covered in the stinking mud of a Carolina creek without fail our sleeping quarters are redolent of riverbottom.  This is disturbing for, as we all know, the sense of smell requires that molecules of the substance being smelled be deposited in our noses or mouth.  Try not to think of that next time you are in a public washroom.

The Budget Committee does not stand for this. On our boat the rode is washed before it is put away.  That is not accurate.  Our anchor rode is scrubbed before it is put away.  Each link must past individual inspection every morning before it is permitted to enter our anchor locker.  The BC is  Homeland Security protecting us from muddy chain.  Such cleanliness, while next to Godliness certainly takes a lot of time.

It has taken us as long as 27 minutes to get our anchor up.  Somedays I time it.  Waiting back in the cockpit while the BC scrubs the rode there is little else to do.  So often we are the first boat up and the last to leave the anchorage.

So those nice shiny Dutch boats are kept fastidiously nice and shiny and clean.  There is just no time for any of that fighting stuff.

The Americans & NOAA

While laying over in Hampton (Norfolk VA) at the local marina we ran into a US boat that had sailed Nova Scotia the same time we did.  The crew of this boat were quite vocal in their criticism of Canadian weather forecasting.  They were horrified that they could not rely on anything Environment Canada said.  They were correct in their criticism.

This boat, out of Chicago, left NS for Maine the same time we left Yarmouth for New Bedford.  They traversed the full length of Long Island the same day we did.  However they went outside.  The night we were pooped, so were they.  Repeatedly.

The pooping was more alarming for our American friends as they carried their dinghy on davits off the stern of their boat.  This dinghy was repeatedly sunk in the ocean and filled with sea. 

While discussing the wickedly incorrect weather forecast that caused us to both depart on a long voyage and promised  favourable and light conditions I was compelled to ask "And where did that forecast come from".

"Oh, from NOAA" was the honest reply.  "Those guys are idiots".  Then it sunk in. Well, it sank in just after his wife elbowed him in the ribs in the way that all wives seem to know how and when to do.

So you see the American fleet setting sail in unbelievable conditions.  They seem brave but are they?  Or are they relying on NOAA weather forecasts?

So Britain, you are only down and out.  You are not alone.  But I did permit an uncharitable smile to cross my lips on learning of your fate.

Stay Free.  We will.

Waiting for ToGo

Beaufort SC
2010 10 28

Sorry about the title.

When we rose this morning the radio told us relative humidity was 97%.  By 10:00  a.m. our thermometer was confirming ambient temperatures of 87 degrees Farhenheit.  Thunderstorms are due all afternoon and evening.

Meredith sits idle in Beaufort SC waiting for weather.  We need to travel south.  Offshore and coastal winds remain out of the south with waves following.  A cold front is due late today, hence the thunderstorms.   Cold Fronts bring wind shifts.  

The St. Lawrence was incredible and we recommend it to anyone, anyone at all.  It is one trip you won't forget.  Guaranteed.  Nova Scotia, expecially Cape Breton is a sailors wonderland.   As much fun as we have had since Nova Scotia it has been a bit of a Lemans race.  Our purpose is singular: get the boat south.

While we like Beaufort SC we do not like it 3 days worth. Waiting for weather and a clear shot at a 30 sail is vastly superior to having to spend days and days mucking about the shallow winding ICW.  That was fun the first time.  No longer.

The bridge at Beaufort, Ladies Island Bridge, is working a reduced opening schedule just now.  It does not open from 7 to 9 or from 4 to 6 and only on the hour between 9 and 4. 

Factory Creek, our beloved secure anchorage is located on one side of the bridge; freedom on the other.

Anticipating making a break for it in the morning we moved Meredith south of the bridge and dropped hook just out of the Downtown Marina in Beaufort.  Nice staff work here but they are dear dear dear - second highest fuel price we have paid this year.  And that is for the dyed red reduced tax offroad fuel.

Mooring at Downtown Marina requires a very close watch on tide as the tidal difference is about 9.5 feet and the current can be ferocious.  Always approach into the tide.  Remember that 1 knot of tide is equal to about 30 knots of wind.  So even when the wind is strong and opposing the tide, favour the tide.

Or come to grief.

We are sitting in the Common Ground Coffee House enjoying iced tea and apple strudel.  And air conditioning. 

We may not leave for hours and hours and hours.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Works, What Doesn't and What we Bought at the Boat Show

Beaufort SC
2101 10 27

This year's purchases at Annapolis were few but important.  A new GPS driven EPIRB from ACR for $395 from Defender Industries and a rigid boomvang from Garhauer for $400.  Our old EPIRB was battery expired and a new battery from its Canadian maker was more than a new EPIRB in the USA.

The rigid boomvang is something we have wanted for a while and the Budget Committee allowed it was a proper expense to be included under the new rigging we installed in the spring.

New Products We Have Used To Both Good Effect and Bad

What Works

The Kindle 2.  Our new Kindle 2 from Amazon arrived last January.  I spend an hour or two every day with this marvellous replacement for a library. The Globe and Mail is delivered daily  by 6 a.m.  Buy this in the USA however as it costs only half as much as Canada,.

3M 5200 FastSet: This product is a must have for every boat.  It is used by many sailmakers for sail repairs and we used it to repair a 16 inch hole in our dinghy.  Nothing else would work.  3M is still working 8 months later.

LED Lights: I know I have written on this in the past but there is a new twist for Canadians.  A new retailer in Canada is selling first rate boat LEDs for less than the US price.  About a third less.  Tim MacKinlay runs where he sells the same LEDs as were sold by Cruising Solutions at Annapolis.  Tim sells for a lot lessk, about a third less.  These are nice warm LEDs not the stark white light you might fear.  Tim also sells LEDs by the foot with handy adhesive backing.  I have fixed three broken lights by removing the old bulbs and soldering in 4 inches of LEDs in thier place.  Current draw is very very low.

Don't bother telling Tim you heard about his site from me.  He is too cheap to give me a discount anyway.

Gray's Hardware Store, Beaufort SC: This store is a one stop shop for most boaters.  It has propane, high quality hardware, good quality Columbia clothing, marine supplies, and a full small appliance section all staffed, actually staffed by people who know their stuff and always drop whatever they are doing to walk you to the things you need.

What Doesn't

Gul Offshore Gear: The Budget Committee  some German offshore gear at the Toronto Boat Show a few ago.  It has not lasted.  The jacket delaminated after the first 2 months.  The pants have been worn 3 times and have also delaminated.  The BC bought Helly Hansen replacements at the Helly Hansen store in Annapolis.  Over my objections I might add.  Canada is at war with Norway over ownership of Hans Island.  Norway keeps giving its citizens cheap tours to Hans Island which the Norwegians selfishly claim as theirs in the face of our perfectly reasonable claim that it is all ours..  This attack on Canadian soil is met each time by the Canadian Coast Guard.  We learned that the last time the groupls met they had a big barbeque with lots of drink and food.  Our kind of war.

Cheap Fuel Containers from Walmart (Blitz brand): These containers are cheap but they do not stand up in sunlight.  Their life on deck of a sailboat is a few months at most.  Also their pouring mechanisms are slow and stupid.  We have found the Trident brand of container from Canada to be best but buy them in Canada to avoid silly American flow controllers that jack the price and slow the flow.

 Solar Panel Controllers that are Not as Potted as They Allege:  Our expensive pulse mode Monringstar solar panel controller received a very modest sprinkle of sea water when Meredith was pooped off Long Island.  Within 2 days it had failed completely.  On dissassembly we discovered the controler which we understood to have a sealed circuit board also had some surface mounted components which, in two days, had corroded through.  We do not know if this problem extends beyond Morningstar but be very careful.

That is it for now.

Charleston SC to Beaufort SC - A Surprisingly Wild Ride

Beaufort SC
2010 10 27

Life's journey is not to arrive safely  at the grave in a well preserved body but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out shouting "Holy Cow.  What a ride!"

 Charleston SC is a destination for many boaters.  We are not among them finding this burg pretty much charmless.  Our preference, as we have expressed before, is Beaufort SC.  Only a day out of Charleston, Beaufort offers secure anchorages, a lovely Belle Epoche section of housing, much better grocery, liquor and hardware shopping.

Charleston does however offer up one of the most inviting college areas we have encountered anywhere.  Not the University of South Carolina, whose massive monoliths of large scale education line the main road from the marina to the downtown but the much smaller and inaptly named College of Charleston area.

The College of Charleston is in fact a university - each area of study has its own devoted building and resources.  It is old.  It is tree lined and canopied.  The streets are lined with students all of them first years and so happy and, yet untouched by first exams, carefree.  (All the upperclassmen are in their dorms studying).  The school and its surrounding student housing is a marvellous area to just wander about, carefree and untroubled.

Our only disappointment this year was to discover our favourite restaurant in Charleston, Vickeries, was closed.

The Budget Committee treated her depression at loss of lunch with a lengthy tour of the Williams Sonoma store and the nearby La Creuset.  When it was over she was not depressed any longer.  Good for her.

After a lovely afternoon walking we dinghied 20 minutes back to Meredith and prepared to move out at first light.  

Traveling from Charleston to Beaufort is done inside.  It is the only bit of ICW we tolerate any longer.  Our anchorage at Wappoos River is a couple of hours away from Charleston Harbour Inlet and the distance is all backtracking if you headed for Beaufort.  So off we went - inside.

This stretch of the ICW is the worst for sailors.  It is full of powerboats and thus interference.   Here is how this day panned out for us:


Shortly after leaving we were approached by a line of large white plastic pieces of power driven consumerism.  Being power vessels they were closing the gap between us handily but they were well back.

Seemingly moments later the radio crackled:  "You know Meredith, it is a lot more convenient if you slow down when we pass you".  This anonymous call came over Channel 16 and apparently was a complaint from one of the power boats, most likely we figured the lead one.

Since the call was on 16 and was clearly intended to embarrass I picked up the mike.  "To the cowardly guy on the radio this is Meredith.  Let me tell you something buster.  I normally travel at 6.5 knots and I am backed off to 5.5.  What do I have to do, back off to 2 knots so you won't be "inconvenienced".  If you had called me during your approach I would have told you to keep your speed up and give me a close pass.  You did not call and what falls on you is only what you deserve."

Nothing more was said.  (and I admit my grammar was likely a bit lacking but the report is almost totally accurate).


The radio crackled fairly frequently over the day with the usual resort of the stupid drivers of fuel guzzling monstrosities: "White Sailboat Moving Southbound, this is FSDFSDS approaching on your stern".  Apparently I am not the only sailor who finds this bit of stupidity infuriating.

All at once the radio chatter tightened up.  A sailboat was calling a guy out for passing with massive wake.  The sailor was calling the coastguard to report the boat.  Seems quite a bit of damage had been done and a couple of other sailboats reported in to support the claim.

Realizing he was facing some problems the driver of the powerboat started to bleat.  "Sailboat @#$@# I called you 6 or 8 times before I passed you.  You refused to answer my call."

"Listen Charly" came the sailors voice "You were calling the 'White Sailboat moving Southbound'.  My boat has a name.  This name is painted on my stern in 18 inch letters.  Since you did not name me I assumed you were calling one of the sailboats behind me."

"Have a nice day @@#$@#" came from the powerboat.  I hope the powerboat had anything but.


Coming up on marker 118 we noticed the daymarker was hanging down.  As we were just abeam of the post the daymarker fell into the water.  We retrieved it and called the Coast Guard offering to deposit the marker at a marina when we got to Beaufort.  It took 5 phone calls from the Coast Guard before it was determined that we should just throw the daymarker overboard.  The Coast Guard phone operator was aghast at this waste of public money.

All said and done we got into Beaufort, anchor down in that deep securing Factory Creek mud by 6:15 p.m.  Sundowners in hand we watched as the dark clouds that had tracked us all the way down the ICW opened up.  For the next 8 hours we enjoyed the pyrotechnics of the biggest storm in Beaufort area so far this year.  

We go offshore after Beaufort making for St. Augustine.  Not until the south winds and 5 foot waves on our nose die down.  Looks like we are here until Friday.

We like it here.

Why Using the "So!!!!" Response is Not Always Sound Practice

Beaufort SC
2010 10 27

As cool as it was to further frustrate that poor old man in the Charleston anchorage I must admit to too bits:

1. it was not charitable on our part and a little bit of me feels bad about taking the position we did,

2. it could backfire badly.

With respect to backfire I want to share with you verbatim an email received recently from a man who has become a very good friend.  Captain Dave is quite a guy as you can tell.

It is a good story and from what I know about Capt Dave is quite true.  Dave stopped fibbing a long time ago.  Here is his story in his words.

Surviving this cruising life for a long time is creating tolerance for what you call the "characters" that you encounter on your journeys. Many of these characters can end up your very best long term friends. Its not the snowbirds and wanna-bee sailors that make lasting friends. Most of these wanna-bees are.... out of sight...out of mind types. They don't last long at cruising and they are not sailors to begin with but mere boat dwellers. I am still friends with sailors I met 35 years ago in Caribbean/Bahamas and the ICW ... We sit around bitching about the good old days when you could stay overnight at a Mom & Pop marina on the ICW for $1 per boat (not foot)...the owners would remember you from year to year and you would often get a genuine hug on arrival.
Any good sailor is a character of sorts...we are all weird or we would not be living this life if we were normal.Everybody wants something and I know that you will find me a free dock in downtown London,Ontario when I sail in and even if you are anchored to your backyard. Best way to make a friend is start a fight and spend the rest of your life proving you are not violent.
Speaking of violence. Some boats are heavily armed and some sailors feel they are safer not being armed. For sure weapons can be a deterrent and for sure not having a weapon can be a daunting experience in some instances. Just pointing a gun at a native in a bum boat in Bahamas can get you 6 months in Fox Hill prison in Nassau. A friend of mine was arrested in 1991 and weighed 210 lbs. when he went in and 87 lbs. when they released him. If he had of wrapped a white bath towel around the gun and his hand when he came out on deck terrified at 2:am then he would have been charged with pointing a bath towel at the bum boaters despite the fact the natives would know what was in the towel and react accordingly. There is a shotgun/pistol out there now (no permit required in most states) Its a Colt 45 titanium revolver that uses 410 shotgun shells ....A great crotch blaster that wont backfire in your face like a flare can turn a man into a girl with one shot and most men would prefer being shot in the heart. This can stop an adversary without killing him, and most police agencies recognize that you have no intent other than to protect yourself. You can combine this weapon with a white bath towel.
In the more remote years of the Bahamas in Allen's Pensacola Cay in northern Abaco's (1977)...Eleanor and I got involved in a shootout at the ok corral with a boat load of cocaine users.  We had returned from a snorkeling trip in our dinghy on the blue water side of the island only to find a big Columbia anchored in our cockpit and smacking into our bow sprit on every turn of a fickle breeze....we were unarmed as we motored up along side....I was young and furious and called out to them (a dumb move)...we were the only two boats for 20 miles...two characters came out on deck with dripping coke noses and pointed guns at us and threatening to kill us. Eleanor peed herself and started to cry...all I had was a fish fillet knife and sitting like a duck in a dinghy.... It was my big mouth that got us out of this...they accused me of anchoring on their spot even tho the bay would take 10 big boats easy with lots of swing room... I told them they were right and to forgive me for being so selfish as to take their anchor spot. I told them we would haul anchor and move quickly....they laughed at my coward behavior and I edged my dinghy to the far side of my heart was thumping heavy as we crawled aboard..I sent Eleanor below to get the Ithaca 12 gage pump and lock & load...she obeyed quickly....I then told her to make strong coffee.... I watched from the cockpit as they were launching a dinghy and looking our way...We were well armed back in those days as cruising was very remote and the drug trade flourished in Bahamas and law & order did not exist except in Nassau and Freeport....VHF radios rarely transmitted more than 5 miles...We were on our own. It was not uncommon for cruisers to be murdered and robbed back in those days.
My confidence was restored with the Ithaca in my arms and my Colt 44 on my belt.
As their dinghy approached I pointed the 12 gage at their bow and blew off a round which quickly sunk their dinghy and disarmed them in the of them swimming with blood trickling from his leg, the other unscathed they crawled back on their boat...a third one appeared in his cockpit and fired a round wildly at me...I fired back and they all scrambled below...I must have overpowered them as they did not come out and called me on the radio saying they were "just kidding"....just having fun. I returned their call with 3 blasts from the Ithaca raking their decks and causing fragments of fibreglass to fly in the air...I told them on the radio that they were dead men if they showed themselves on deck and I shot away their anchor rode and their boat drifted away... It was a long dark night. Eleanor & I huddled together in the cockpit drinking coffee as thick as tar....don't ever under estimate a woman's resolve as she wanted to kill them...she knew she would have been raped by these bastards and had murder in her eyes.......However the angels were on our side that night as the wind came up strong and their boat grounded on a coral beach and began to take severe damage as it rolled over to port and lashed by wind. They called me on the radio and begged me to tow them off....I told them to eat shit, and at dawn Eleanor & I hauled our ground tackle and sailed away.....a few weeks later in Hopetown a man told me he saw a big Columbia in the Green Turtle boatyard with extensive hull and deck damage. In those days we just shut our mouth and moved on somewhere else. We went back to West Palm and re-provisioned and then to Tortola...  Having weapons on board or not having them is a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation.... There is no right answer.
Flare guns are not the answer and if you ever fired one at a horizontal target you will see why. You are more likely to kill yourself or get badly burned. Every boat should have impossible to locate gun hide-aways...In America I leave my guns on my supply truck except for a few remote places I cruise. Most of my Canadian cruising friends (the serious sailors) have a Utah conceal and carry licence which is reciprocal in 34 states. They leave their guns in storage in the USA when they cruise in Canada. I keep separate weapons in Canada for cruising Canadian waters.....I have learned to keep Canada and USA very separate and not drag anything controversial across borders. It is also folly to think there are no criminals in Canada. Canada can be quite remote in many places. I have no idea what your thoughts are on all of this and would enjoy your comments some time. Some of my friends are pacifists/appeasers and naive but I don't think that works very well. Those islands in the Caribbean clam up tight about any criminal incidents because it scares tourists away...the Bahamas is the worst for not reporting incidents from murder to shark attacks... I know a Toronto girl (Julie) who was raped and robbed in West End, Grand Bahama in the 80's and they just patched her up..gave her back her vacation money and shipped her home to Toronto and despite protests from Canadian officials she never heard another thing to this day. She ended up with an incurable venereal disease.
So there you have it.  Worth reading eh?


Written in Beaufort SC
2010 10 26

Our sail from Beaufort NC to Charleston SC was pretty uneventful.  Except that we wanted to sail to Georgetown SC to meet with friends. 

Departing Beaufort was a bit bumpy but wind was with us even if waves were not.  It made for exhilerating conditions.  Then the wind died.  If only it had been part of a murder suicide with the waves simultaneously passing from this mortal plane.  Not so lucky were we.

There is nothing quite like bobbing idly in the salt, going nowhere while being thrown from side to side with each passing wave there being insufficient wind to fill a sail and provide some much needed stability of motion.  Tediously we made our way with infinite care further offshore searching for what we hoped would be the point of compression of the very light onshore breeze.  Sailors will recognize this: the land heats up faster than water, the air over the land becomes less dense and is forced aside by cooler denser air from the water.  The result is a breeze. 

However such a breeze can be light and fluky.  As the air rises (or is pushed upwards) by the cooler water air it moves offshore at altitude.  Ultimately it cools and descends back to the water's surface.  All that air moving from water to land has to be replaced somehow.  This is the precise point we find wind.  The wind descending from altitude is being compressed.  It has energy.  Just a half mile outside this point the wind is blowing and decompressing.  Decompression involves the loss of energy and so the wind has less oomph to give your sail.

Search as we might we never found the right spot.   Finally it was diesel on.  We wound up the headsail, which wasn't doing anything anyway, and reduced the main to a double reef, just to give some steadying of the boat while we generated wind with our Beta 43. 

That was it for the rest of the trip.  Except that with the boat just south of Cape Fear we encountered a pod of boats out of the Cape Fear River which were enduring the same fossil fuel experience as we.  A couple of hours after dark one of the boats developed a problem with its drive train.  We were closest of the boats out there so we pulled  back a bit and rode safety, maintaining a listening watch and some diaglogue for the stricken vessel. 

We knew a good mechanic in Georgetown and the friends we had hoped to visit sailed out of that scenic if bucolic harbour.  But it was pitch black and to get to Georgetown it was necessary to make 10 or 15 nautical miles up Winyah Bay.  Not the best option if you have a better choice.

So it was on to Charleston where we pulled into to Charleston City Marina about 6 a.m.  Things were still pitch black.  We were punchy and  exhibiting the nascient signs of lack of sleep.  Logic functions were beginning to suffer and objects took on odd and threatening shapes in the dark.

Depositing our companion boat on the Megadock we decided to drop hook in the anchorage just off the City Marina and catch a few minutes of sleep.  The bridge under which we needed to pass to reach our usual Charleston anchorage at Wappoo Creek did not open until sometime after 8 anyway.

We pulled up about 2 boatlengths from a Catalina named Sojouner and dropped our anchor just off its stern quarter.  I suggested the Budget Committee drop about 150 feet of chain which was total overkill for a 2 hour stop but we err on the side of caution.

She never had a chance.  The anchor had barely hit the wet when the boat beside us erupted in a stream of effluence.  The skipper of Sojourner was insulting my wife as she stood on the bow. 

"You are too f*(*ing close. "  he began.  "Haven't you ever anchored in this river before".

Budget Committee is tough but always chooses politeness when faced with confounding situations.  This was one such.  "Yes, we have anchored here before.  We don't like it here very much".  As you could imagine our estimation of the Charleston anchorage was not ascendant.  "We are not too close to you.  Why don't you wait for us to finish falling back on our rode."

Our belligerent neighbour did not choose this path.  Not for him to be swayed by the bleetings of a mere woman.  Nope.  He took it to the man.  I was the man. 

And sitting in the cockpit I had been forewarned. 

As he stormed from bow to stern I made out that the guy was white haired.  (Probably white faced too based on his apoplectic rage.) Just another grumpy old man.  He took up his cause with what he presumed was the master of the vessel.  The man.  Now, any guy who sails with his wife understands full well who runs the ship.  This guy obviously sailed alone.

I presume spittal flew from his angry maw as he took up the argument with me.  "You are going to hit me when the wind goes against the tide.  Why did you have to drop your anchor so close to me.  YOU ARE TOO CLOSE."

I asked him how much rode he had out and he replied he had out 150 feet.  It was perfectly clear we constituted no threat to the safety or security of his vessel.  We anchored 2 boatlengths off his stern quarter and had dropped 150 feet of chain.   For a 2 hour wait.  This guy was garbanzo beans.

He was back on the attach but none too articulately.  "YOU ARE TOO DAMN CLOSE".  I guess using words like damn makes his attack more effective.

This was a moment whose arrival was much anticipated by me.  Years had passed since I was told by another sailor the magic answer to this statement from a neighbouring boat and I yearned to use it. 

"So"  I replied.

The BC and I went below with our sputtering friend still yellling something.  We had some tea and laughed, nervously I admit, about our grumpy old neighbour.  We catnapped while we waited for the 7:30 dawn.

About 9:00 a.m. we rose, cranked on the diesel and made our way to Wappoos bridge and safe anchorage beyond.

Our friend was still on deck pacing as we motored away. 

Next post I will report on why using the "So" defence can be ill advised.

As to anchoring

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Yet another word on Homeland Security and "The Rules for Boaters"

Charleston SC
2010 10 22

Tedium describes this process but we get the hook down in Charleston in our favourite anchorage (about a mile from Charleston City Marina - no boats and no cranky boat owners).  As we hope to walk about Charleston tomorrow first thing on the agenda was to call CBP - Customs and Border Protection.

Well, it was Saturday morning, 8 a.m.  We called the magic 800 number and were connected to Charleston office of CBP.  The voice mail told us to leave our name and phone number.  Someone would call us during "normal business hours". 

This farce really has to stop.  Either the US is concerned about border security and believes all middle aged Canadians to be threats to the peace of the homeland or they should should just stop this silly charade.

If you are American you should find this mockery of a process nothing short of a national embarassment.  And a damn dear one.

Canadians know we are headed down the same road.  Time to put on the bureaucratic brakes.  Somedays I figure our only hope is the fact we are all approaching national bankruptcy.

Maybe when all the cheques bounce some sanity will  reassert itself. 

Rushed Report

Charleston VA
2010 10 22

Gotta hurry this so forgive grammar, spelling and typos.

We ran offshore to Charleston out of Beaufort getting in this morning at 8 a.m.  Our destination was Winyah Bay, inlet leading to Georgetown SC but we were travelling with another vessel that suffered a series of intensifying breakdowns and we kept company with that boat for additional distance to Charleston and an easier entry in the dark. 

Winyah Bay is a nice inlet but it is dark and when you are breaking down and afraid you will not make safe harbour you do not need the additional stress of coming into a strange inlet in the dark.

I mention this in particular because we had plans to meet friends who live in Georgetown and it seems our plans have changed.  A flexible schedule is critical in cruising because you never know what will happen next.  At least this time it was not happening to us - we were merely nursemaids.

In the end the other vessel got into Charleston safely and we left them tied up on the Megadock with a list of phone numbers for mechanics.  Good luck to them.

Halifax to Charleston in less than a month.  Not too shabby in our view.

Tomorrow, if I can find some internet, I may have something to post.  The Budget Committee and I have accumulated a total of 15 hours sleep in the past 36 and we both feel the energy draining out of us. 

Morphius beckons.  We submit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hell of a System They Got There

Chesapeake City to Elizabeth City
Elizabeth  City, NC
2010 10 17

From Chesapeake City to Annapolis  was pretty mundane.  Exiting the C&D Canal in moderate winds out of the north we bent on all the cloth we carried and sailed our brains out all the way to Annapolis.  No trimmming of sail, no grinding of witches, just a nice relaxing reach all the way to and into Annapolis. It was the Thursday before the Boat Show, actually the first day of the boat show, open to the press but Spa Creek just in front of the show site was not very populated.

The hook was down before the sun and the crew followed shortly after. 

Next day we did a run through Annapolis, the Budget Committee proceeding uptown to find herself some new offshore duds: her old Gul brand gear, some German brand, having proved itself inadequate to any task beyond a mild drizzle. 

The BC found some very handsome and serviceable Helly Hansen clothing at her favourite Annapolis boutique and purchased them over my strenous objection.  I mean Canada is at war with bloody Norway.  Trading with the enemy is treasonous unless you are a large American or German corporation.  Price had nothing to do with it.  It never does in these things.

While the BC broke rank with her homeland I made our agreed upon purchases from Boat Show vendors: a new EPIRB from Defender and a rigid boomvang from Garhauer.  The two of us collided at the agreed upon place at the show and shared lunch.  The BC needed a new carrying box for groceries and laundry which we got from West Marine for a pittance and Curmudgeon found some grommets to repair the mainsail cover at Sailrite.  Six hours from dinghy down we had returned to Meredith and had the dinghy deflated and back on  deck.

Next morning we sailed out of Annapolis and made our way to Solomons Island.  At Solomons there are two choices for anchorage.   Many people try to find a spot along the main waterway close to existing marinas and boatyards.  Room is at a premium, the anchorage and marinas are loud with partying and a great time is had by those who prefer this life.

Meredith is more sedate.  We were shown a great spot last year by friends Tony and Linda on Oneday.  Rather than entering Solomons proper if you take a starboard turn down the Mill River you find acres of lovely little coves and protected water to drop your hook in quiet splendour.  This alternative to party town Solomons is generally overlooked and your anchorage along the river is largely solitary. 

Having arrived at Solomons late on Saturday we called Border Protection to call in our position.  It was Columbus Day weekend in the USA and thus a holiday weekend.  We were told by the human operator that "the office is closed.  You will have to call back Tuesday after 9 a.m. to make your report."

We found ourselves incredulous.  We expressed our concern over waiting 3 days to report our position when such a big damn deal had been made about the reports all along our route to date.  The operator was implacable, repeating her mantra "you must call back on Tuesday after 9 a.m."

When pressed for her name so we could enter in our ship's log our attempt to report in accordance with her government's rules the prissy little bitch on the telephone refused to give it.  I mayhave sounded a bit agitated on the phone.

Any idea how many Tamil Tigers I could have landed in the 3 days before anyone bothered to take my report - the one that the government issued paper says must bTe made "IMMMEDIATELY".

Hell of a system they got there.  I feel safer already.

Blind or Stupid, It's All the Same

New York NY to Elizabeth City NC
Elizabeth City, NC
2010 10 17

After the great sail down the East River we anticipated gentle conditions for our transit of the New Jersey Coast from New York to Cape May.  Naturally the forecast was a bit off and an unanticipated low make a cameo appearance in southern New Jersy, just enough to move our winds from the  forecast 10 knots south west to a revised 30 G 35 knots out of the west. 

We were getting used to this.  Environment Canada forecasting in Nova Scotia was dreadful.  NOAA forecasting from  New England south had paralleled Canada's quality gap.

NOAA revised its forecast 8 hours after actual conditions manifested themselves.  For eight hours we listened to forecasts telling us winds would be 10 knots while we looked at the anemometer showing us existing wind at 28 to 32 knots.  I guess NOAA forecasters do not look at actual conditions when giving their forecasts. 

That night only two boats travelled South into Cape May.  We were one of them.  It occurred to us that we should take a night at Utch Marina in Cape May.  We needed to recharge after an enervating 24 hours along the New Jersey Coast. 

Utch Marina is very good.  Staff are accommodating, fuel is clean and reasonable, the chandlery well stocked and decently priced, the owner a very decent man.  It is also only 100 yards from one of the best fish store/fish restaurants we have visited, serving fish from the colder waters of the Atlantic, much preferred by Meredith over the softer flesh produced in the life pelagic by the warm waters and easy living of the Caribbean.

Before taking any action we checked the radio weather a last time.  This promised hard sailing for boats proceeding directly along the coast from Cape May to Norfolk, our preferred option, but decent conditions for anyone willing to leave at once to transit Delaware Bay. 

Having had three weeks of hard slogging we were done with that for a bit.  to proceed would require that we pass through Cape May without stopping and keep on plugging up the Delaware.  There being no time for delay we did not.

Our departure was not well timed so far as tide was concerned and we would be subject to an adverse tide through much of the day.  In deciding what to do we were guided by the advice of our old and good friend Benoit  who in answering a complaint from his wife Andre informed her that "I would rather be going somewhere at 4 knots than nowhere at 7". 

We elected the 4 knot option and passed through Cape May without stopping.  An hour later there were a dozen sails showing on the horizon off our stern.

Getting to Chesapeake City about 10:30 p.m.  some 40 hours after leaving Port Washington we tried to find a spot to drop our hook in the small anchorage at Chesapeake City.  The Budget Committee found one but her Curmudgeonly captain could not see how to position the boat.  He demurred.  After discussion it was decreed by Curmudgeon that the boat would continue along the C & D canal to the next river, about 5 nm further along where there would be more room.  Back into the Canal went Meredith.

Two miles out of Chesapeake city there is a simple bend in the canal well marked by lighted buoys.  If only our sleep deprived minds could interpret their cryptic signals.   Curm could not figure out why the red light was on the right side when it should have been on  the left.  The Budget Committee could not figure it out either.  The two zombies on Meredith agreed they had become so confused as to be dangerous.

We reversed course.  To ensure an orderly progress we navigated from red light to red light keeping as far to the right hand side of the canal as depths would allow.

Five minutes ionto the return trip Curmudgeon saw a whisper of a red light directly ahead.  Not remembering any red light in that location he peered further into the dark.  Sadly he was not hallucinating.

Half a boat length ahead, proceeding out the canal just as fast as Meredith was proceeding in was a damn bloody sailboat.

Hard to port went the helm.  The rudder bit fast and hard.  We missed the oncoming boat by a foot.  No more than a foot. 

The other guy never saw us.  There was no one in his cockpit.

I know I have railed in the past at the snooty comments that a constant watch must be maintained at all times and I continue to reply that on the open water a 15 minute scan is adequate.  However travelling a narrow high traffic canal at high speed with no watch is akin to driving blindfolded down the 401. 

Not recommended.

The Other Side of New York - Sailing the East River

 Throg's Neck on a Dull Autumnn Day

Enroute from Solomons MD to Deltaville, MD
2010 10 07

The crew of Meredith is unabashed in its enthusiasm for New York especially as enjoyed from the cockpit of our favouritie sailboat.   It is usual for us to travel the island of Manhattan along its western shore, the Hudson River.  Our transit of the shoreline and the cityscape that entails always includes a stop for a week or two at the 79th St. boat basin for a few days on a $20 a day mooring ball and a chance to land and explore the City on foot.

This year we approached New York from a different perspective: the East River.  It was even more intriguing than the Hudson.

Manhattan is separated from the mainland bits of New York City by three rivers.  The Hudson river extends along the entire West  shore of the island.  On the North and East Manhatten, which is vaguely triangular in shape, finds itself bordered by the Harlem river which runs from the Northern extremity of the island at the Hudson River to Hell's Gate.  At Hell's Gate the Harlem meets the East River which carries the job of separating land from island on a Southwest journey which brings it back to the Hudson river at Battery on the Southern extremity of Manhattan (and Coney Island which will be well remembered  by afficionados of old movies).

The East River is a treat.  Along its banks you encounter the Triboro bridge, Throg's Neck, Hell Gate, La Guardia airport, Riker's Island, the United Nations building, the Eliason waterfalls, the Brooklyn bridge and Coney Island.  Once deposited back into the Hudson you are right on the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
 The Skyline from Throg's Neck, 
Rikers, the UN & the Brooklyn Bridge


After all that cornucopia of New York tourist traps you pass below the Verrazano bridge and are deposited into the grey green waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

What a blast.

What Are The Issues?

This is New York, right?  No such thing as a free lunch in this town.

  • We do not recomend it unless your boat is well found and properly maintained.  
  • You must keep a close eye out for traffic as New York is a very busy harbour.  At busy times the water taxis and ferries descend like a cloud of hungry mosquitos and you were the only blood bearing mammal on the waterway.  Helicopters flit everywhere.  There is a lot of distraction in addition to all the landmarks.  There is no fix for this save vigilance.  It is not that New York is a nightmare of highspeed traffic just that the helmsman may not get such a great view of everything.
  • Tides are critical.  

Not only is the tidal current for the East River very powerful, running as high as 5 knots but at Hell Gate, where you enter or leave the East River, the East river runs square into the Harlem river.  The result is currents that can exceed 7 knots.  Let me repeat what Reed's said about Hell Gate before that august publication fell before the economic onslaught of the chartplotter. 

The currents carry around a sharp bend in the river, causing fierce boils and swirls, making maneuvering  difficult especially in a low powered vessel.

A couple of years ago the Budget Committee and I transited the confluence of the East and Harlem rivers in a high powered vessel and it was quite a carnaval ride.  With 425 horses driving a little Limestone runabout the trip was concerning at times.

To avoid the tidal issues there is a simple strategy that worked aces for us.  We arranged to be at Throg's Neck just before slack water before ebb tide at Hell Gate.  As the tidal influence asserted itself over the river we were carried effortlessly along all the best sights and shoreline.  In fact the ebb tide provided a boost all the way out the harbour, under the Verrazano and into the Atlantic.  What a ride.  So remember this: slack water before ebb.  Get into Hell Gate at this time and have a great ride.

Be very careful in your assessment of tidal direction.  Ebb tide in Long Island Sound sets eastward.  Ebb tide in the East River sets westward.  Sailing down Long Island Sound it can be very easy to make a mistake that will cost you half a day or more.  A sailboat will not have a good time trying to make headway on the East River in a flood tide.

Do this trip.  It is fantastic. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Big Burger King Wireless WiFi Lie

written in Hampton, VA
2010 10 15

This is just a rant so any rational reader can just skip it.

This has happened to us twice in two weeks and thus it becomes a conspiracy not merely an unfortunate coincidence.  Besides, we all know there are NO coincidences.

We had landed in Port Washington, New York.  Having dinghied ashore we looked for some internet so we can send and receive some email.  Our choice was Starbucks or Burger King.  Now Starbucks has much better coffee than Burger King but we find too often their pastries are oversweet and a bit on the stale side.  That particluar day, raining and cold, called for the brighter lighting and fried food of a burger king. 

Our main objective was still internet.  Before ordering I asked the cashier if there was wireless at that Burger King.  It was not my experience that BK offered wireless but the Budget Committee recollected differently.  So we asked.  We were assured by the cashier that the restaurant did indeed have wireless.

Receiving our order we seated ourselves and I unbundled our handy little Acer netbook.  There was indeed a network but it was password protected. 

Returning to the counter for the password I was handed off to a manager who informed me that the wireless network was only for management to use.  Customers could not log in.  "But", I pointed out "I inquired into the availability of wifi before we ordered and was told there was wifi".

"Well" replied the manager "We do have wireless."

"yes" I rejoined "but it is of little benefit if I cannot log in". 

"Sorry" was the final word, spoken as the manager turned to tend to other tasks while pointedly refusing to pay any further attention to me.

This was just bizarre behaviour.  I mean the BK had wireless but refuse to let customers use it.  Yet they do put forth to customers that it is available.

On to Hampton Virginia.  We walked our laundry over to the laundromat at the Hampton University.  As it turns out the laundry is just beside a Burger King.  It had a big sign on its window - FREE WIFI. 

Yup.  I bit.  While Connie loaded the wash into machines I walked the half mile back to the boat and picked up the netbook. 

We ordered drinks and again, sat down to catch up on mail. 

The network was clearly present and identified.  It gave 5 bars of signal strength. 
I could not log in.

After 15 minutes of vetting my system to ensure it was not the cause of the problem, I found myself again at the cash register asking about the wifi.

"I cannot log in to the wireless network" was my plaintive remark.

Now here is the critical reply from the cashier.  "No" she said "No one can".

"But you advertise free wifi" I demurred.

"Yes" I was informed by the cashier "and we have wifi".

"But I cannot log in" , it was a bit like playing a recording.

"No one can"

With that the cashier turned and just plain ignored me.

Now maybe some of you can get wifi at BK or maybe most of you would never be caught dead in a BK.  But for sure if you go to a BK you better go only for the great food cause you won't get no wifi.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Interesting if Odd Little Place

written in Hampton VA
2010 10 14

New Bedford was a town we wanted to visit.  Just south Cape Cod, home of a vast fishing fleet and better yet the place that opened that supposed masterwork of American literature, Moby Dick, New  Bedford was a mainstay of the New England nautical experience.

We enjoyed New Bedford.  But there were these things...

It is an expensive town for boaters.  Marinas cost $3.25 per foot plus hydro, and that was the city run Pope Island marina, not the more expensive but much more professional Fairhaven Boat Works.  Declining a slip at Pope Island we discovered that we had to arrange a mooring ball through the Harbour Control Commission or HCC, a state board that has total hegemony over the waters of the harbour.

We made the arrangements and were quoted $35 a night.

Next day we tried to arrange showers and landing at the Pope Island marina but were rebuffed.  We needed to buy a card and we could only get one from HCC.  We did so and were met at Pope Island marina by the HCC guy and arrangements wre made.  Marina staff were lovely to deal with.

That day we learned that the HCC guy who had quoted us $35 a night for the ball was on vacation but his replacement would collect the fees.  "That was $30 a night, right?" he asked.  Hmmmm

Then the HCC guy tells us that all payments are in cash and when we paid there was no receipt offered or available.  Hmmmm.

Trying to leave New Bedford was difficult as we wanted to pay our fees but no HCC guy was on duty until 9:30 a.m.  Not much use to sailors I would say.

The town was nice but that was about it.  No Moby Dick stuff about town but there is  a whaling museum and a fishing museum, good places on bad days when you have to waste time somewhere.  There is a cool walkway crossing a busy 4 lane divided highway which divides the town from the waterfront but the town is tearing it down because "drug users use it at night and the police will not patrol it".  It leads from the fishing museum to the whaling museum. Hmmmmmm.

There are no groceries in walking distance and there is no public transit.  The liquor store in Fairhaven was a hoot and apparently was the first stop for guys who missed last night's "meeting".  While buying a case of beer we were preceded at the cashregister by dozen guys each buying those little 1 1/2 shot bottles.  It was fun and everyone was friendly if seedy.  Very appropriate for a fishing town.

One cool thing about NB is the "hurricane wall", a 25 foot high rock barrier across the entire mouth of the harbour, split only by a massive steel gate.  When a hurricane threatens NB can close the gate and keep out the threatened storm surge.

When you estimate the cost of construction of the hurricane wall and compare it to the value of boats (even at the $1 million dollars per that the fisherpeople tell us) and fish packing plants on the waterfront you sort of get the feeling there is some pork barrel here. 

A nice place. 

Glad to get here.  Happy to leave.

Continuing Education: The Budget Committee Gets Pooped

Written on October 14, 2010
Hampton, VA

So I have to begin by telling you that we've broken out the booze and are having a ball. The past two weeks, although silent on the publishing end, have been unbelievable.  Are we pumped or what.

We have learned more about heavy weather sailing in the last 3 weeks than we have in the last 10 years.  More importantly we have been tested, and to date, not found wanting.

A day in New Bedford was very pleasant.  The three days following, sitting aboard in Bedford in horrid weather were less so.  When the weather finally cleared on October 1 it was time to move.  Plan was to sail the length of Long Island Sound and put in at Port Washington, New York at the very south end of that island.

Port Washington, we were told by friends Peter and Heather of Yarmouth, offered two free nights on a mooring ball.    The trip was about 135 nm - a good overnight trip.

We had no idea.  Which isn't to say we were clueless but you might have thought so.

Entering Buzzards Bay out of New Bedford we were pleased to find conditions were as forecast.  We settled in for a lovely day's sailing.

That's how it works right?

As the sun traced its flaccid early autumn arc through the sky winds, nicely off our stern through the morning, moved westward as though tended by a solar shepherd.  That put the late day winds off our bow and on went the diesel late afternoon as poor Meredith struggled with wind 30 degrees off the bow. As we were to learn it was not her upwind sailing ability that mattered.

As dark set the dogs of wind were let out.  They started to build at dark and then, politely, they moved to our stern.  They did not, however, stop building until they reached an apparent wind of 28 knots (28 to 32) with gusts to 35.
We made very good time.  With 3 reefs in the main and no headsail out we were travelling at 8.5 to 9 knots continuous.  I always figured our maximum hull speed was about 7.5 knots (our length at the waterline is 29.5 feet.  Max hull speed in knots is a bit more than the square root of that length times 1.34 producing 7.3 for our Meredith).  We were hastened along by waves from the stern giving us a good push forward with each cycle.

Usually waves are just water moving up and down - not forward and back.  When there is not enough water depth to support the wave it can "break" or fall forward making those rolling breaking waves so beloved of the surfing set.  When the waves are breaking or just about breaking you want to be very careful.  More careful than were we.

Our waves were a bit higher than the freeboard of our boat but we rose with each wave and the wave passed beneath us harmlessly.  So it continued through the night until we got to the "Middle Ground" an area of shallowing in Long Island Sound populated by large rocks high enough in elevation to be called islands.

Still doing 9 knots sightless in the all encompassing gloom and raging wind and rain we made our way through the middle ground. it was just after 3 a.m. and time for a shift change.  In the galley the Budget Committee, scheduled for the next watch, made wakeup cuppa before settling in in the cockpit.

Then it happened.  We were pooped.  Sitting in the cockpit in my full foul weather gear I watched as a monstrous wave closed on our stern at high speed.  The wave was a good ten to twelve feet higher than any of its neighbours - and it was breaking. There was no time to do anything.

When it reached Meredith our stern remained where it was; we did not rise into the breaking crest of the errant wave.   The wave reached and then passed Meredith.  Except that it broke over the cockpit - a current of water just envelopes you.  You are dry one minute and swimming the next.

I moved to adjust the helm hoping to find a point of sail that would avoid a repeat.  I found myself in the cockpit surrounded by warm comforting fluids and waited for things to drain.

But the poor Budget Committee.  She was preparing her tea in anticipation of taking a shift at the helm.  She had not yet donned her foul weather gear - that nice warm waterproof gear.  Standing in the galley in her woolies she was met by aflood of seawater forcing its way through the companionway.  Hundreds of gallons of water hit her with no warning no pity.

She took it square on.

So did the galley.  After things settled down poor BC found her teacup full to overflowing with tea coloured salt water.  The fridge was full of warm salt water.  Every cupboard and drawer, every pot and pan was full of salt water: green, slimy, mucky seawater.  The quarterberth had been immersed.  All our bedding was soaked. We are still removing salt stains from the woodwork in the main salon.  

But the BC, standing at the bottom of the companionway stairs making her tea took the full hit -  a hip check from Neptune.

She's still standing.  And I want tickets for the rematch.

 Followup Notes:

In Hampton VA we met Bill and Jeanie aboard .   This quiet and eminently likeable couple found themselves sailing on the same night we were pooped.  They, however, were sailing outside Long Island on the ocean.  Waves for them were much higher.  They found their dinghy, hung on davits, immersed in the ocean when they would ride through the waves.  They too were pooped and it filled the dinghy.  These two had an interesting night.  Both of us relied on a rock solid forecast that contained none of the elements we encountered.

We (I, since I was on duty) should have anticipated the potential for an errant wave, especially as we were sailing into shallower water with big rocks.  The rocks act a bit as a backboard in tennis - the waves can bounce off and as they reverse direction can double the height of the wave.

We should have had our companionway boards in place the entire night.  We will not make that mistake again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Clearing Customs and Immigration: USA Improves, Canada Loses Bigtime

2010 10 01
New Bedford, MASS

Clearing into the USA by boat has improved immeasurably since only a year ago.  Canada on the other hand has been lead back to medieval times by our Fascist Monarch and his gun totin' god fearin' pack of backwoods lunatics in the Reformed conservative party. 

Who to Call

CBP in the United States is cleaning up their act, in New England at least.  To enter the US from a foreign port you call a single number for the entire North East.

The number is (207) 532-2131.  You want to choose extension 255 when asked. 

That connects you with a CBP guy in Houlton Maine.  He makes all the arrangements for you with the local CBP inspectors.

When to Call

It is good to call about an hour before you make landfall in the US.

Now so far as the CBP is concerned in New England, "landfall" means tying up to a dock or facility from which you can disembark or rafting to another vessel.  If all you are doing is anchoring while enroute to a destination where you intend to clear you have not made landfall.

This is different from Canada where the dropping of an anchor constitutes landfall.

Daily Position Reports

CBP have lowered the boom on position reporting for pleasure boats.  You must report your arrival at each port or place in the USA to the designated CBP officer at the nearest port of entry.  This is the wording on your Cruising Licence and it is unequivocal.  The Officer who inspected Meredith drew our attention to the text and highlighted it in yellow on our Cruising Licence.

Here is what it says verbatim: 

Upon arrival at each port or place in the United States, the master shall report the fact of arrival to the designated Customs and Border Protection Officer at the nearest port of entry.  Such report shall be made immediately upon arrival.

This wording was not on our last Cruising Licence issued in 2009 but was on the Cruising Licence we were issued in 2008.

Not much wiggle room is there.   The only clarification that the officer made with us was that anchoring did not constitute arrival.  If we anchored while enroute we had not arrived and so long as we did not disembark or raft to another vessel we did not have to report.

The New England CBP guys know what they are doing.  They know boats and boating.  We are not at all certain that as we move south we will not encounter a good deal of ignorance about the rules or their application.  Not all branches of CBP are equally experienced or as well trained as the guy who cleared us in.  We have learned to expect all manner of trouble with the KGB of the water. 

Reporting Phone Number

CBP have an 800 number you can call. 

1 (800) 973-2867

An operator answers and when you tell him you want to make a pleasure boat position report he will ask where you are and connect you to the proper office.  This is easy.  So easy you almost do not notice that big brother has you squarely in his sights.

According to CPB New Bedford MA if you are only anchoring you do not need to report.  A position report is only required when you are affixed to land or raft up to another vessel.  If you are enroute and stay on your boat you do not need to call with your intermediate stops. 

Procedure on Reporting Arrival

Tell the operator you want to make a pleasure boat position report and where you are.  The operator will connect you to the local office of CBP.  When you make your report expect to provide your cruising licence number, Nexus Boaters Registration Numbers, Passport Numbers, and then provide full details of everyone on board.

When you have completed your report get the name and badge number or employee number of the person who took it and record it in your log.  If the person refuses to give the number explain why you need it - for the official log.  If he continues to be intransigent record your reportage anyway and the fact the officer refused to identify himself. 

We have never had an officer refuse to give name and employee number.

Canada's Descent Into the Eighth Ring of Hell - Led by His Royal Highness the Fascist King

King Stephen our fascist monarch, having received 5 million votes from the 35 million Canadian people, has seen fit to duplicate the worst excesses of the American CBP system at the Canadian Border.  If you doubt it I refer you to this news article from the Halifax Chronical Herald which was forwarded to me by our very good American friend Dave Johnson.  Dave is a real character and much loved aboard Meredith.

The link to the article is as follows:

Border guards, border bullies: a sailor’s ugly story

 Trashing the boat of unsuspecting and compliant as possible foreign sailors?  What the hell are we creating.

Thousands of complaints about the conduct of Canada's CBP agents and not a single one was valid.  Not one.  Who the hell thinks this stuff up.

With no provocation whatsoever these CBP thugs, representatives of our government, trashed an innocent man's boat and threatened worse.  I may call the US CBP a variant of the KGB but it seems we have installed an aqueous Gestapo. 

While we were in Halifax I looked up Dan Leger, the reporter who wrote the article, and had a long and disturbing talk with him about the current state of CBP in Nova Scotia.  

Our dictator for life has armed our border guards. 

Think about what kind of person wants to be a border guard.  Border guards are just toll booth operators, little better than security guards.  No one says as a little boy "When I grow up I want to be a border guard".   People take these jobs out of necessity.  A nice paycheque,  clean working conditions, good benefits.  Then we turn them into bureaucrats and then we give them guns.

When we arrived in Yarmouth  NS the CBP sent the harbour master out to our boat to demand we immediately present ourselves to clear in.  The possibility that we were Canadians in a Canadian port and had never left Canada never occured to this thick skulled bunch.

We told the harbourmaster, a very nice man, that we would ignore CBP and why.  We arranged for a dock with him and told him we would be moving to tie up in about an hour if CBP wanted to discuss it further.

Now our great fascist leader has given them guns and told them they are immune to the consequences. 

They believe him.  It is a bureaucrat's dreamland.  All the power and absolutely no responsibility. 

Get ready.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Crossing the Big Water: Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine

October 1, 2010
New Bedford, ME

Waking up in Yarmouth NS the morning after our late night foggy arrival was easy.  Often I find it easy to wake up when some moron is banging on your hull with a log and yelling for all he is worth.

That is how it seemed anyway.  In fact it was the very decent harbour master who had been sent out to our boat by Canadian Customs and Border Protection to demand that we present ourselves for clearing in.  Given that we were Canadian and in Canada and had not left Canada I was inclined to take the offence.  However the harbourmaster was such a nice guy I just could not do it.  I don't know or care what happened to the CBP apes who seem to swarm over the Yarmouth docks but I hope it involved animal fecies.

We arranged with the harbourmaster to move from the mooring ball we had picked up in the rain and the wind and fog the previous night and move to the dock.  Then Peter Loveridge who, with wife Heather, lives just out of Yarmouth called and our day was set.

We shared lunch at Rudder's Seafood restaurant downtown.  I highly recommend the fish and scallop combo.  With chips of course. Afterward Peter drove us to a good fuel station and the grocery and liquor store where we restocked and then it was off to this couple's home for drinks and talk.  Peter showed us the fishing pens where the fishermen keep their boats - 30 to 50 boats in the tiniest little protected harbour you ever saw.

Peter brought out the manuscript for his newly revised Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia - a reem of paper printed both sides with full colour drawings throughout and set it in my lap.

I sat dumb.  What do you say to a guy who has just put 3 years of his life into a work as he hands it to you.  Flipping through the pages and offering "nice work" platitudes seems a bit rude.  Peter had emailed us 3 chapters of his new work as we made our way south along the coast of Nova Scotia and we knew the contents were  not only researched to the millimeter but we had tested several of his recommendation.  The book was solid and Peter and Heather knew it.  In the end we talked about publishing in the small Canadian book market.

We are now on the list for an early copy - No. 1, 2 or 3 I hope of the book, due to issue by year's end.  I want a signed copy of course and an invitation to the launch party.

After checking on Peter's Internet we returned to Meredith about 10:30 p.m. sated: well fed, well watered and very tired. 

Three boats had been at the municipal dock when we tied up in the morning.  They were leaving overnight and asked us to join them.  We had declined their offer to join the group as we did not agree with their timing.  (of course we did not say that to them, pleading exhaustion and overconsumption of alcohol)

Next morning we walked the streets of a closed up downtown Yarmouth, had liesurely breakfast at the waterfront hotel and set off when our tide analysis, backed up by Peter of course, indicated we should. 

Departure was about 9:00 a.m. on Sunday.  The end of the good times.

Weather was forecast  at very light North East wind, running 10 to 15 knots max over part of the morning and then falling to near zero for 2 days.

Instead the wind started at 10 knots south east and built over the day to 15, 20 and ultimately 25 gusting 30.  As the south east wind met the ebbing tide of Fundy the result was holy rollers on a short leash - very tall short frequency confused sea slammers.  Meredith, with 3 reefs in the main and the staysail flying loose was  rocked from gunwale to gunwale.  Every third wave grabbed the stern and just moved the transom wherever it damn well felt like - never the same place twice. 

All was pandemonium, chaos.  In 30 minutes every item on the boat that had not been adequately stowed away was  on the cabin sole either thrown there by the waves or taken down by the Budget Committee and placed on the floor in a desperate bid to anticipate and avoid further damage.

Depending on whether the tide was ebb or flow for the next 30 hours we were in 4 to 5 metre waves or 3 to 4 meter waves with the occasional rogue wave thrown in just for fun. 

At one point the auto pilot lost its hold and the boat swung around as a stern wave grabbed us and moved us out of its way.  The Budget Committee swears she was standing on the walls of Meredith to remain upright.  I was pretty busy trying to shut off the autopilot and regain some measure of control.  We tried everything we knew to ease the motion  of the boat and enjoyed limited success.

Mainly we just rode it out.

We did not  have fun. 

Midday on the second day out the wind died.  On went the Beta.  In came the fog.  Thick, heavy, barely see the bow of the boat fog.  Out came the radar reflector and the fog horn.  At least it was calm.  And quiet.

About 11 p.m. on the second day out we knew we were close to Race Point, the tip of Cape Cod.  On the course we chose it was just at Race Point that we had to cross the Boston Harbour Shipping Lanes.  The damn fog was becoming more than a nuisance.

Taking another of Peter's tips we made a Securite call, announcing our position and intention to cross the shipping lanes and giving an estimate of how long it would take.  All that echoed back to us was fog muffled silence.

We girded ourselves and crossed, every sense tuned and pinging for targets as we did so.  It took about an hour and a quarter.  We survived.

About a half hour after we began crossing the lanes we heard another boater make a securite call, the only radio traffic for the entire trip.  Peter's advice helped keep safe more than one sailor that night.

Our plan called for an original destination of New Bedford MA but we had alternates set for Plymouth, Provincetown and Cape Cod Canal.  As Meredith made her way across the shipping lanes the fog lifted.  The Budget Committee and I discussed our plan and agreed to finish the trip as originally set.

Three a.m. saw us at the Cape Cod Canal which was perfect timing tide wise.  The tide carries along the black, sodium lit canal at 10.5 knots.  That was pretty cool.

Exiting the Canal we ran into the shallow water of Buzzard's Bay and then we found the real waves.  Seems the South East wind had just moved a bit and now rose up to greet us as we entered Buzzard's Bay.

I don't think I have ever done a wheelie in a sailboat before.  The waves were tall, close together and right on the nose.  We tried tacking, slowing down and speeding up.  We did not turn back.  It was bearable.  We watched the chart closely for the promised deeper water and in about 30 minutes found it and sanctuary.

The rest of the trip was a no brainer.

Which was about all the brain the Budget Committee and I could muster  between us.