Monday, April 28, 2008

Crowds?

[Maryanne]Kyle's Crowds have yet to arrive, but they are coming. We have seen very few boats out on the water as yet, but the evidence of them is everywhere - the mooring balls are so thick in many areas, it is hard to imagine how one would navigate around them all with boats attached. So many of these boats are sailboats, I have never seen such a density of sail boats to motor boats except at a sail boat show! Although we are very much enjoying having the place to ourselves in these last few weeks, it is also sad to think we won't see Rhode Island in the summer, when all these boats are out on the water on a sunny weekend.

We have "moved" from Portsmouth, Virginia. In Portsmouth, at the Southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, and along the Elizabeth River (Hampton Roads Area) we have been exposed to an area full of traffic from the HUGE naval bases, cargo Terminals, coal docks, and even cruise ships - i.e. a REALLY busy area for tugs, cargo shipping many other BIG vessels. Rhode Island is different, although we have seen some big shipping here in Rhode Island, it is a tiny fraction of what we are used to in Hampton Roads, what is most different here is the recreational boating, and the number of sail boats in particular. Our 2008 Reed's describes the area as "jammed with moorings" and "among the busiest recreational boating waters of the East Coast". Hampton Roads of course has sailboats, but not nearly as prolific as here in RI. A sailboat in RI feels really at home, and so do Kyle and I.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Crowds!


[Kyle]Well, that tears it! We almost had to share an anchorage with another boat this weekend. This place is getting too crowded. Time to think about moving on.

I came back from work after a week of beautiful weather and was astonished at the change since last week. It appears that most of the marinas here are equipped with hydraulic jacks that can tilt one side up and slide the boats into the water like a dump truck unloading dirt. When Maryanne and I arrived from Norfolk two weeks ago, Footprint was the third boat tied up in the entire marina of maybe 300 slips. The place howled with the emptiness of a ghost town. Now the place is already maybe half full. The parking lot, where the boats are stored in the winter, is just crawling with people doing all sorts of industrious boat things. Every boat in the yard has a car parked next to it. Dickerson's Marina has boat launching down to a science, launching 5 or 6 boats an hour all day long, all with only one lift. Other places I have been to would have struggled to get in that many per day, maybe realistically half what with lunch and breaks and all. Their industriousness is really impressive. Even the lighthouses are getting ready for the season.

Maryanne has this long standing joke where she will appear to be helpful by shouldering more than her share of the load out of apparent courtesy, then we'll come into view of the public, her carrying four heavy grocery bugs in each hand and me standing there looking stupid holding my dixie cup and then I'll realize I've been had again. She never tires of that one and I always fall for it. This weekend, before going sailing, we needed to move Footprint to another dock so that we could pump out our holding tank.(picture below) This time I was in on it. Maryanne expertly got us from one dock to the other, which was made more difficult by the fact that we were tying up on the port side, which you can't really see from the helm. She did all of the line handling and the maneuvering, all very smoothly and calmly, to the appreciative ohhs and ahhs of the locals while dixie cup guy just sat there enjoying the view. They did see me do the dirty work with the holding tank, though.

Our first day we headed to Wickford for dinner with our good friend J.D. from Virginia. He was on a business trip in Connecticut and was good enough to drive all the way out to see us. He is such a sweet and lovable guy and dinner was filled with stories and laughter and I think we all hated having to part ways so soon. When we tried to leave Wickford, I was untying the boat when a local came up and threatened me. I tried to get the boat untied quickly but my fingers were just not fast enough to evade the snapping bill of a Swan that was being pretty territorial about the cleat to which the line was attached. I doubt the Queen would have approved. (In the U.K., all swans are owned by the Queen.) Maryanne brought out some crackers and the hissing beast became as gentle as a kitten and very delicately took one from Maryanne's hand as I untied us and got us free. What a racket!

The weather was a little cold but we had a beautiful day tacking up the bay to the Saskonnet River, where we turned downwind and rode the following current to the anchorage past islands and houses with big green lawns and trees that are just starting to bloom.

Our next day was cloudy and drizzly and windless, We had intended to motor until the wind picked up but eventually, we could see the dock and realized that wasn't going to happen. We saw one determined ketch with all sails up that made it about 100 feet in the half hour we were rooting for him. We tried using our fish finder to find dinner but so far, no luck.

Kyle's Life on a Boat

Kyle Running in Warwick Kyle handling the Holding Tank issues! Fishing attempt - still no luck
[Maryanne]Kyle likes to find time to run while we have any time on land, and while we are docked in Apponaug we are lucky enough to have some nice waterside parks with trails that make this very attractive (I join him on the bicycle).

When Kyle comes home to the boat, we try and have the chores done and the boat ready to go (our "Play Time"), so he is enjoying my retirement also. This weekend, I saved Kyle a job (Pumping out the holding tank - Yuk) - but mostly he gets to enjoy being Captain, and here's a picture of him attempting some fishing on a no-wind day! I purchased the fishing gear, and have bought and been given fishing books - but after months of on and off fishing attempts we have yet to catch a thing - the fish are safe for now.

Maryanne's Life On A Boat

Cooking aboardWaiting for the word to deploy anchor - tough life
[Maryanne]This week, I spent time while Kyle was at work, getting some projects completed on the boat - namely sealing the edges of the floor panels, hopefully protecting them from any future rotting problems. Life is settling down to me, and I am happy to wake when I'm ready, and take an afternoon nap if I feel like it. I find time to read, and just sit, but also progress with chores - all at my own pace. Basically enjoying retirement

Of course all this work, allows for us to go sailing "Play time" once Kyle comes home.. Here are pictures of me cooking (Free range - Coq-au-vin) and waiting to deploy the anchor while Kyle finds just the right spot for us to spend an evening.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quahog Clam Country

Quahog Clam - From Wikipedia
[Maryanne]OK, I confess my ignorance – The only time I had ever heard mention of the name Quahog was as the home town of the Family Guy show – I even assumed it was a family guy invention... But it’s real, not a town, but a clam so now I know more than I did before I moved to Rhode Island!

The name Quahog seem to be used for both the "hard clam" species itself, and also for the older, larger clams of the species; they are the first choice for chowders and sauces (indeed the larger ones are also called the chowder clams). Smaller clams of the same species may be called little-necks.

We are currently hanging out in Narragansett Bay, and it was the Native American Naragansett tribe that provided the word Quahog to the English language – so I’m really thinking of it as a local clam, even though it is common in the whole NE USA.

According to Wikipedia (where the photo comes from) Rhode Island supplies a quarter of the USA commercial catch of Quahog clams.

Of course there are plenty of other clams harvested here, and every morning we see the work boats heading out, and the local clam shack seems to have an active business in the afternoon. The soft shell clams (steamers) are also collected and available locally. I may get brave and try cooking them myself before I leave the area.

One final (kind of related) fact - the Ocean Quahog, a slightly different species, is the longest living animal we know of (see oldest found North of Iceland at 405 years )

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rhode Island


[Kyle] At the end of what was a relatively stress-free work week, I arrived home to spend a few days cruising Narragansett Bay.

After all of the motoring to get me on the flight to work with minutes to spare, our first order of business became buying some diesel for Footprint. Dickerson's Marina in Apponaug, where we were so graciously welcomed (thanks, guys!), does not sell diesel so we went to a couple of different places that we were told did. Here's the thing, though. Rhode Island is still closed, at least as far as boating is concerned. Ninety-five percent of all the boats we have seen are still out of the water and most seem to be in the beginning stages of commissioning for the season. There is a smattering of boats in the water but the generally accepted view is that those people are the real die-hards and they're all a little crazy. There are empty moorings everywhere and all of the waterways are surprisingly quiet. We seemed to get a little more respect from the local salts when they found out we've sailed all the way from Norfolk already. Maryanne keeps giving me a look every time it becomes obvious that we're in the pre-season. I just keep saying, "What!? We beat the crowds. We've got the whole place to ourselves!"

After motoring around and finding a couple of dead ends, Maryanne called around and found a place that would sell us fuel the next day only. With that decided and having had enough of motoring, we unfurled the sails, even though we were in a pretty narrow harbor with docks and mooring balls everywhere. That moment the engine stops and we're just gliding along under sail all sense of impatience or anxiety just stops with it, replaced by a wonderful contentment and serenity. Of course, it's probably not the same for Maryanne as she's the one running around doing everything while I pick our way through the mooring field.

We sailed south out of Greenwich Bay on a beautiful cloudless day, picking up speed as we cleared the lee of the harbor. We spotted a large racing monohull ahead, converging on us from the west and the race was on. Our speeds were close enough that I kept changing my mind as to who was going faster. A gust of wind would come by and we'd pick up speed and pull closer. Then it would get to the other boat and we would fall behind. Eventually, they pulled in ahead of us on the same line to pass under the Jamestown suspension bridge that connects Conanicut Island to the mainland. I used my considerable powers of reasoning to deduce that if they were getting closer, we were going faster. Maryanne brought out something to munch on and we enjoyed nibbling away while watching the other boat's crew running around trimming and adjusting everything, trying to maintain their position in front of us. Just before I would have had the satisfaction of effortlessly gliding past this much bigger boat (bigger boats are technically faster, increasing with the square root of their size), They turned around and headed through the bridge back up the bay. Maryanne and I continued and anchored in Dutch harbor for the night knowing we would have beat them if we'd had another couple of miles to do it. Chickens!

From our anchorage in Dutch harbor we could see both the Jamestown Bridge and the Claiborne Pell Bridge that connects Conanicut Island with Newport on the other side of the island to the East. We also had views of about 3 lighthouses. Rhode Island is lousy with lighthouses. Every one of the many prominent points seems to have one. You can hardly throw a clam shell without hitting one. (Sorry, buddy!). We had a long view of a beautiful sunset by Dutch Island as the near full moon rose on the other side as we toasted the wonderful day.

The next day, the main order of the day was to refuel the boat. We headed for nearby Wickford Cove where the marina Maryanne spoke to the day before was located. Their fuel dock was occupied so we tied up at the free public docks at the end of the fairway and had a look around. It was a beautiful day and lots of people were out enjoying this beautiful village. We got a couple of books from a second hand book store and something to nibble on at a bakery while we strolled around. There was a market called Ryan's that had it's own dock near the public dock that cruisers could use to stop and provision. We went in to pick up a few items. One of the staff apologized for not having much selection and explained that in a couple of hours, the store, which has been there for 122 years, was closing for good. He said that a couple of giant chain stores had opened nearby and there was no way they could compete. It's a shame to a store that has so much character and is such a good resource fall by the wayside. Here's local newspaper article about the close.

Afterwards, we finally were able to load up on diesel ($4.50/gallon) and headed out into the bay for or next night's anchorage in the Kickamuit River on the other side of Bristol. Apart from one cargo ship, we had the whole place to ourselves as we enjoyed perfect sailing conditions as we weaved or way between islands to the anchorage. This place is so pretty and well suited to sailing that they should really think about having races here! The Kickamuit River reminds me of some of the prettier places on the Chesapeake. Its quiet and remote with just a few houses here and there to break things up. I reflexively thought that I should remember this place for weekends, etc. then realized that it may be years before we see it again, what with all of the traveling and all.

The following day we sailed to Potter Cove on Prudence Island, which is only accessible by boat. The entire cove is filled with moorings spaced maybe 100 feet apart. Naturally, since we beat all of the crowds, we were the only boat in the cove. We got a chance to weave in through the moorings to find a spot to anchor in the shallows, all while under sail. Even though it is a very busy maneuver, there is something immensely satisfying about finding a spot, rounding up, dropping the anchor and backing down on it all under sail. We don't need no stinkin' motor!

The next morning, we only had a short sail back to our base in Apponaug so we decided to sail up the Providence River to the City for a look. We got under way under sail, which involved a lot of short tacking and quick maneuvering, and went up the river. We kept busy using all points of sail as we looked at the beautiful lighthouses and homes along the water. The last couple of miles to the downtown area of Providence the river transitions into an industrial port with loading docks, commercial wharves, etc. We figured that since we were already there, we would go as far as we could without losing the mast. Now we've seen it.

This place is so surprisingly empty. We have seen a couple of other local boats but basically we have had the whole state to ourselves. We haven't seen any other boats that were obviously cruising boats (wind generators, tons of gear lashed on deck).[ I flew into Charleston, South Carolina a couple of days later, 600 miles to the South. That's where they all are. We beat the crowds!] It has been really nice having Maryanne retired. When I get home from work, everything is done and the boat's ready to go. We have the whole time together instead of just the two weekend days. Even though I only have a few days off at a time, I feel like I'm on vacation every time I come home. Everybody has been really nice to us and the area is just beautiful, particularly for sailing. One really big surprise is that my adorable wife, who is really bad at accents, is able to do a pretty good Rhode Island one. I think it's because both English and Rhode Island accents aren't so big on pronouncing their rs. (she says she does, but it just comes out ahs.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sigthseeing in Providence

RI Capitol Dome RI Capitol Library Wondering around the Brown Uni area - cool architecture.

[Maryanne]Since we are docked not far from Providence, and ALSO Kyle ended up with an overnight in downtown Providence during this recent trip - We decided I would join him. We could do some sightseeing, and I could make the most of the downtown hotel room to enjoy a luxurious soak in the bathtub. We had a whole afternoon to explore Providence together.

Luckily for me a single bus took me all the way to the hotel, and Kyle and I arrived about the same time. I had been researching what I might want to see/do, and we managed to fit it all in (Providence is a very small city, I guess in proportion with the size of the state).

We started with the Capitol (The building where the RI state government meets). It is beautiful building built in marble and set on a hill, so you can see it from most parts of Providence (even from our hotel room). Modeled on St Peter's basilica (the Vatican). According to one web site only three other buildings in the world have larger self-supporting marble domes: Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Holy See, The Minnesota state capitol in Saint Paul, and the Taj Mahal in India. The library was my favorite room - the higher up the wall the older the books; beautiful spiral staircases to get to the higher shelves

From there we ventured into Providence's Little Italy - an area called Federal Hill - apparently once a mafia stronghold, but now just about the safest place you can be. They have an interesting (ugly) archway entrance to the area - topped with a pine cone (although it looks like a pineapple). Full of great Italian groceries, bakeries, ice cream, cheese stores and family run Italian restaurants, we picked one and enjoyed!

From there we walked down the river (Providence River), around Brown University (Where Brian from Family Guy studied), down Benefit street (described in one web site as a mile of cobblestone sidewalk with candy colored 18th and 19th century houses on a steep hill overlooking downtown Providence), and returned along the river via the Union Station and back to our hotel.

Providence downtown really is a beautiful place to wonder. The River set as a central feature, with lots of walkways, squares, fountains, historic plaques, etc. In the center of the river is a long line of torches in baskets which flame for holidays and festivals; they weren't lit when we were there but Kyle says they look great when lit.

It was a nice interlude for Kyle from work, and a great reminder that we have started our cruising life; Maryanne can finally spare time in the week to enjoy such pleasures.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passage from Chesapeake to Rhode Island - Day 5

[Kyle] By morning the wind was howling from dead astern. The big waves would raise Footprint up and she'd surf down their faces as they passed, slowing back down as she rose up their backs. I could feel the lull in the wind in the troughs and the gusts on the peaks. Steering by hand required a great deal of attention as the occasional side wave tried to swerve us around and skid us sideways down the waves. The autopilot did a surprisingly good job of keeping the boat nice and straight. I had been worried that its slow response to heading changes would cause it to not react in time. It used a lot of electrical power in these conditions, though, so I tried to alternate as necessary.

Maryanne came on watch saying that she couldn't sleep well because it kept feeling like the boat was rolling dangerously far. We never rolled more than 3 or 4 degrees but the sideloads caused by the steering corrections probably gave the impression that the roll angle was much higher than it was. This was probably the same condition we had on the first day when our roles were reversed.

As we neared Long Island in the afternoon the wind started decreasing and it was becoming increasingly apparent that I would not be able to make it to work. Our speed was still to low under sail and we would need to sail for about 30 more miles before we could reliably motor the rest of the way on our remaining fuel. We decided to divert to Montauk on the Eastern tip of Long Island. We would be able to get there at 2 or 3 a.m. and I could get the Long Island Railway to work the next day. We got on the Iridium phone and told our emergency contacts our new plan.

After Maryanne went off watch, a cold front went through and we got hit by a couple of squalls. I was able to get the jib rolled up before they hit and turned to run downwind under reefed mainsail only when they arrived. The downwind heading put us right back on course for Rhode Island and pushed us along fast. I did a couple of quick calculations and determined that we could almost make it to Providence, RI if we ran the engine, which we were now close enough to do. I checked the currents and found that we could expect a boost up Narragansett Bay around Midnight. I altered course back to Rhode Island for Maryanne's watch.

By the time I came back on, we had passed Block Island and were almost across Long Island Sound. Maryanne had used a wireless signal near Block Island to check my flight to work. She suggested that, since we needed fuel anyway, we could tie up to the fuel dock at the marina near our planned anchorage. I could go to work and she would handle the anchoring, etc. from there. This would save us the time of having to set the anchor, swap the dinghy from lifeboat to dinghy mode and row ashore. I felt bad about leaving her with all of that work but eventually came around to realizing that was the only option that would work. She went off to get some rest.

With the wind completely dead, I motored Footprint up Narragansett Bay in cold rain, like when we left Portsmouth only now it was 15 degrees colder. Fortunately it is a well marked harbor, but it is still very disconcerting to enter a place you have never been at night. I would occasionally spot an unlighted fishing float and would cringe at the idea of hitting one and fouling our prop. That's the last thing we needed right now.

I woke Maryanne a couple of hours later as we passed Newport. We switched off and as she steered, I shaved and took a sponge bath, packed, then changed into my uniform and put my foul weather gear on over it. We switched again and Maryanne went below to find a cab company online and call for pickup, which took half a dozen tries. We found the marina in question and set foot on the dock at 0447. by the time we got the boat tied down it was 0455. The cab driver called and asked where we were. I pulled off the foulies, grabbed my suitcase and Maryanne walked me to the cab. Fifteen minutes later I was standing at the gate in uniform waiting for a flight I had spent a significant portion of the last 5 days thinking I would never make. I hadn't even had a chance to get used to the feel of solid ground under my feet. the floor felt like it was wobbling. It amazes me that after a 5 day 4 hour and 24 minute passage sailing 484.6 nautical miles, I finally got to the Providence airport with only about five minutes to spare.

Passage from Chesapeake to Rhode Island - Day 4

[Kyle] By 2 0r 3 in the morning on the fourth day, the wind finally started to fill in from the South and I shut the engine down. Then the wind died. Then it came back and shifted to the North. Then it died. Then it finally started coming in very lightly from the South and stayed there. I was able to get the boat moving very slowly in the right direction. I hoped the wind speed increase would follow soon because there was no way I'd make it to work in time at this speed. I alternated between thinking I could just make it to thinking there would be no way. The only thing we could practically do was keep trying. We still had hundreds of miles to go.

Maryanne came on watch and suggested we put the screacher (our biggest sail) up since there were two of us awake and we'd be able to help each other. The boat picked a little bit of speed and I went off watch to get some sleep.

I awoke mid off-watch to a boat that was almost perfectly motionless apart from an almost barely detectable rolling of about half a degree either way. There was, however, this...noise - a high pitched hissing sound. I went out to see Maryanne and was treated to the sight and sound of our two wakes just tearing apart the ocean behind us. The sea was still flat and the screacher was pulling us hard. I went back to sleep smiling. By the time I came on watch that afternoon, the waves had increased to a foot or two. Then the great wind just died again. Footprint slowed to a stop, drifted sideways and then started to roll back and forth. Back and forth. Slam - SLAM! Slam - SLAM! Slam, slam - SLAM!! We didn't have enough fuel to power away from it so I just put the sails down, sat down with a magazine and gritted my teeth through it. Fortunately it was only short lived and soon the sails were back up and we were chugging along towards Rhode Island again.

At about 1630, I was at the helm when right next to us, maybe 15 feet away, a Humpback whale slowly surfaced and spouted on our starboard side. It was about ten feet longer than Footprint! I ran inside and called Maryanne. She was in such a deep sleep that I had to keep yelling louder and louder. By the time I woke her up, I was yelling so loud she thought the boat must be sinking and she FLEW out of bed. We went outside and waited. Then we waited some more. Then we waited a little bit more. Maryanne was starting to give me that look - the look that says "Did you just wake me up because you saw a piece of driftwood that you thought was a whale?" Then the whale spouted again on the port side and lingered on the surface for a while, again, only about 15 feet off. We could see a group of about 5 areas that appeared to be bubbles from other whales further off but this one was the only one that surfaced. The whale shadowed us for about five minutes, surfacing and spouting several times before finally peeling off and diving away towards the other bubbles. Perhaps this one was sent to figure out what we were. Incidentally, whale breath at close range is just about the foulest odor I have ever encountered.

The wind and seas increased and we reefed and reefed again as the night progressed. The sea ended up being very much like the first two days except this time we were going with it and the strain on everything was much less. Instead of the ba-bang, ba-bang, ba-bang of going upwind, Footprint would just roll and pitch gently as the crests of the big waves slowly rolled under her.

Passage from Chesapeake to Rhode Island - Day 3


[Kyle] By the third morning the wind had decreased to the point that it became hard to even keep the boat moving, particularly in any specific direction. Ordinarily I would be more than patient enough to wait out a day of calm winds. I detest using the engine unless it's clear that I have no other choice, such as when doing multiple 180 degree turns in a crowded marina or when going dead upwind in a channel that is too narrow to tack. In this case, however, I was running out of time to get to work and we needed to get as far North as we could before the wind returned. The windless night and the cloudy days also meant that our solar panel and wind generator had not been able to keep up with the boat's electrical load and we were in need of some battery charging. I reluctantly started the engine and we started moving Northeast toward Rhode Island.

As the day wore on with no wind, the seas decreased until there was nothing but a long, barely discernable swell on a glassy surface. We were visited several times by pods of dolphins who seemed to race at us from the horizon as soon as they spotted us. Some were very vocal and squeaked and twittered the whole time. Others would just bunch up under the bridgedeck between the hulls as if they were trying to see how many could fit in the shady spot underneath the boat. The video below was the last pod of this day, characterized by the one dolphin at the end who seemed to enjoy flying through the air more than being in the water.

As night fell the fog came in again and was thick enough that a flashlight beam only penetrated about a boatlength. The bows could be seen from the helm but not clearly. The masthead tricolor light caused a weird multicolored glow to surround the boat. I noticed two vessels altering course around us on the radar. The picture above is of the bottom half of a ship that passed us with its bridge in the fog. Maryanne had one come close enough that she could hear their fog signal. We never saw any hint of them visually. I've said it before but in conditions like these, the radar and the automatic fog horn seem like the best things we ever equipped the boat with.

Passage from Chesapeake to Rhode Island - Day 2

[Kyle] The wind had been predicted to begin dying and shifting just after Midnight on the second day, based on the forecast we had downloaded just before departure. We ended up being unable to load subsequent forecasts because it turns out that Windows Vista is not supported by our satellite phone provider, Iridium. (We had previously used the phone successfully on an older computer that ran on Windows XP just fine) It seems that Iridium has been having the same problem everybody else in the world is in getting things to run correctly on Vista. Iridium assured us that they were working hard on the problem but wouldn't have a solution before we set off. The HF weather broadcasts we were able to pick up on the shortwave radio tended to cover a much too large area of deep ocean to our East and were therefore too general for our purposes. Often times the signal propagation was not good and we would miss the forecast for our area and be without until the next one came around half a day later. This left us very much in an eighteenth century mode of watching the gray sky and keeping an eye on the barometer.

As we sailed further east, the wind continued to increase slightly although the wave height seemed to stabilize. We saw 2 Navy destroyers about half a mile off and the waves were big enough to completely obscure the ships when we were in the troughs. They circled us for a bit and then went on their way without trying to contact us on the radio. They seemed to have been assuring themselves that we weren't in distress. Everywhere we looked was roiling water. The view out the windows was either all water or all sky. The motion always seems worse below and as each of us went inside for our off-watches we were forced to finally surrender our lunches to Neptune after a long struggle.

Several times the wind appeared to begin its shift, only to return to its original direction and then strengthen further. We were at the point where we didn't need any further easting and the wind and waves were so bad that we changed strategy from making progress to just waiting out the shift. We aimed Footprint into the wind and allowed her to slow so that she was forereaching at about 1 1/2 knots to the East-southeast while pointed North-northeast. The motion became much more comfortable for the off-watch although the watches became pretty dull with nothing other to to than monitor the drift and look for traffic. We eventually got far enough south that our latitude ended up being about 50 miles South of the dock we left in Portsmouth. I was starting to become concerned that the extra distance was going to keep me from making it to work on time. The problem was that with the strong North wind, we wouldn't even be able to abort and return to Portsmouth until the wind shifted to the south anyway, at which point the wind would be favorable to continue to Rhode Island.

Finally, on the evening of the second day, the wind started decreasing from the 25 - 30 knot range of the past 2 days to a much more gentle 15 knots, although still from the North-northeast. Maryanne shook out one reef and then another and started moving us East-northeast. We passed off the edge of the continental shelf and went from 300 feet of water to 7000. The waves spread out significantly and for the first time since we left, we started to get our appetites back. Our course was still too far east to intersect North America but at least we weren't going south anymore.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rhode Island and Apponaug Bay/Village

Empty Marina - too early in the season Local Architecture Lots of querky things to be found outside the local homes
[Maryanne]We docked the boat at Apponaug Harbor Marina. It was clearly pre-season as most of the boats are still on the hard, and only perhaps 1 in 30 docks have a boat in them. This is a family owned business (the Dickerson's) and John and his Mom Avis have been really kind to me, providing me with maps and friendly faces. As have the guys that make up the boat yard crew.

This is my first real experience of Rhode Island - so for those who don't know the state here are few facts (from my guide books). Rhode Island (RI) is the smallest US state (38x48 miles), home to more than 20% of the nations national landmarks, it's capital is Providence (the 3rd largest New England city). Founded in 1636, the first colony to declare independence from England (1776), also the first to abolish slavery (1784).

My view of the state is obviously nautical, but the state is infact very much an ocean state - with lots of islands and over 400 miles of coastline.

Apponaug is village that is also a suburb of Warwick, a town that hosts the Providence Airport (PVD) - so perfect for Kyle. It is situated on Apponaug Cove, a tributary to Greenwich Bay and nearby Narragansett Bay. The area has a rich native American culture, and the name means "Place of the Oyster" - there are shells EVERYWHERE, replacing gravel in driveways etc..

The feel of the village is very New England, with Clapboard buildings almost entirely, very hilly so many houses have a different number of floors/levels on the front and rear aspect, and it seems most have a view of the bay with a boat of some sort to hand. Everyone seems to have some kind of lounge chair in the front yard along with a collection of eclectic ornaments and other items - obvously no real threat of theft (which makes me feel particularly safe). The picture included shows one of the houses I especially liked, on my route to the village from the marina.

I've been sharing my time between loafing, exploring and working on the boat leaks. Luckily the weather is being kind (sunny, if a little cold).

There is a bus service into Providence that only takes 20 minutes or so, and costs $1.50, the village itself has a laundromat, art museum, and a boat store (all the basics of other stores also). A perfect place to spend a few days in recovery from our ocean passage. Amazed at how friendly the locals seem to be (many have deliberately gone out of their way to visit the boat and say Hi!) I found myself chatting to a particularly intelligent lady on a recent bus journey who was here studying for Business Management all the way from the British Virgin Islands. Seems like an eclectic and friendly place; I like it.

Passage from Chesapeake to Rhode Island - Day 1

[Kyle] All week I had been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast for the passage to Rhode Island. My work had originally given me 7 days off that subsequently was shortened to 5 1/2. I figured the passage would take between 2 1/2 days in perfect conditions and maybe 4 1/2 days in more nominal conditions. My preference was to arrive in Rhode Island at least a day early in order to have time to readjust to a normal sleeping schedule after coming off watches and also to have time to work out the logistics of my new commute, etc. This meant that we had very little wiggle room when it came to the departure time. Ordinarily, I would prefer to have 5 extra days or so over what is needed to make the passage. This will generally allow enough time for an adverse weather system to run it's course and be replaced by a more favorable one on what tend to be about 3 day cycles. Without the 5 extra days, though, we had to resort to hoping that we would just coincidentally be able to start the passage at the right part of the cycle. If not, the plan was to delay the passage another month until I could get another large block of days off. (My work schedule will generally allow me to bunch up my days off like this only about once a month.) As the forecasts got closer to our planned departure time (and thus more reliable), they seemed to indicate that we would have about 1 day of north winds at the start. This was the wrong direction for us initially but would allow us to get well offshore where we would eventually have a better wind angle for Rhode Island. These headwinds were to be followed by a brief period of light winds as the next system arrived to bring moderate Southwest winds for the next few days, which we could ride the rest of the way.

On my flight home I examined the latest downloaded weather files and discovered that the forecast had been changed to call for a longer period of north winds as well as stronger winds initially. I decided to delay our planned noon departure 12 hours in order to minimize our exposure to the north wind as well as our our eastbound progress. I did not want us to get far enough east to be in danger of entering the Gulf Stream and encountering treacherous wind against current conditions.

We left on Tuesday, April 8th at 0100 in cold, rainy, windy conditions, pulling out of the marina into an empty harbor. I had imagined that the day we finally left Portsmouth we would be glad at finally starting the adventure after a much too long wait. Instead, I felt like a cold, wet, tired cat who really just wanted to go inside and curl up somewhere warm but had no choice but to just stay out and endure it. Portsmouth and the rest of Norfolk harbor receded featurelessly into the soaking darkness. Maryanne went off watch to get some sleep.

As we neared the open water of Chesapeake Bay, the wind and swell began to increase and the boat started to bash her way through the short chop. I turned into the Bay and raised the sails with 2 reefs in each and shut down the engine (for non-sailors, putting in a reef is the process of reducing sail size for strong winds in specific increments. 2 reefs results in approximately 1/4 of full sail area.) Footprint flew toward the open ocean in waves that were becoming ever and ever larger as she went. Approaching the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, the interaction of wind and strong current and variable depth made for some very short, steep chop that made what was for me the scariest part of the whole journey. The waves were just the right size that one hull was in a deep trough while the other was on a steep crest, resulting in some alarming heel angles that caused my stomach to jump into my throat with fear. I was desperate for the bigger, longer waves of the open ocean, desperate to get out of the channel with its strong currents and desperate to get away from land with all of its things to smash into. We sailed passed the Bridge Tunnel and past the container ships anchored outside of it as they rode out the storm. I deliberately sailed very close to the last one. I knew its deck lights would be the last sign of civilization that we would see for a while as we sailed over the horizon into the dark Atlantic. I also wanted to enjoy a last respite from the wind and waves as we sailed through its lee.

In the open Atlantic, the wind and waves increased significantly but the ride improved noticeably in the longer waves. Maryanne came on watch at Dawn and, not surprisingly, reported that she hadn't been able to get much sleep. I had the same experience. I found, interestingly, that I slept in about a thousand increments that were a fraction of a second long. I repeatedly would fall asleep as the boat crested a wave and wake up as she bottomed out, realizing that I was on the boat and that I had just been dreaming. Occasionally, the boat would get hit hard by a particularly large or irregularly timed wave and I would wake up in a panic thinking we were rolling over. I'd turn wide-eyed to Maryanne and she'd look back completely nonplussed and relaxed as if she were driving through the countryside. Must just be more disorienting in the bed.

Through the rest of the day the winds and seas continued to increase. The waves grew to about 20 feet. Their sheer heaving mass caused me to regard them with the same awe as the enormous marble buildings of state capitals or the big monuments of Washington, D.C. The wind howled and made other terrible noises in the rigging. The boat remained relatively stable and livable, if not exactly comfortable. Maryanne and I had both lost our appetites with all of the stress and motion, but so far, we had managed to keep our meager meals of crackers and bread down, although just. As we got more tired and more used to both the conditions and the routine, we slept better and woke up more refreshed, gradually pushing our way east looking for a better wind.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dolphin Movie

[Maryanne]Here is a taste of why we enjoy sailing so much..

Sunday, April 13, 2008

2000nm and First Passage for 2008

[Maryanne]We will write more later, but many of you know that we left Norfolk on Monday to head North to Rhode Island (RI), so we wanted you all to know We arrived Today (Sunday, around 5am).

After watching the forecast, we knew that the wind was not going to be perfect for the first couple of days - so we planned to head east, and once the wind was better head North (a dog leg, rather than a straight NE line). Due to the forecast we delayed our start by 12 hours, so we would not find ourselves too far East. In the past we have downloaded weather on route via the Sat phone and the PC - but the Sat phone won't talk to our new computers (Vista is not compatible) so we went to sea without the extra safety net, but were not worried. Of course the weather DID Not behave as planned, so we spent lots of time at sea hove to, or heading further East than we planned, waiting for the favourable wind shift. We also motored in the lulls a little - not something that Kyle enjoys AT ALL.

During the trip we had so many highs - Dolphins, birds, even a whale. And we were also proud to clock our 2000th nautical mile on Footprint (adjusted on the log).

But you know it is not all fun right? Both of us were seasick for the first day, but eating happily for the rest of the trip. The weather was a definite low. It was dreary and cold; but we stayed wrapped up and very much appreciated our cockpit enclosure (and the heaters). The rain, and the water over the bow, forced me to STOP ignoring the minor leaks we have (we had to sleep in a wet bed - Yuk). But we still are enjoying ourselves and are so happy to be out here.

The trip we had really expected to take no more than 2-3 days ended up taking a full 5 (plus a few hours). Kyle literally stepped off the boat to help me tie it to a dock, and then stepped into a taxi cab to get to the airport to work.

With Kyle off to work, I was left to clear up the boat from the passage, and generally ensure we (or the boat at least) had a place to stay, laundry done, etc. I have had friendly locals visit already, and my trip to the Laundromat was not too bad - arriving in a beautiful Audi sports car (thanks to my new friend Lisa)... Will catch up with sleep tonight, and plan to fix the leaks tomorrow. For now I have a dry bed and am very happy to be in Rhode Island.

Pictures and movies to follow in next posts.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Back at the Boat

[Maryanne]Not much to report, I just thought I'd let you all know that I made it back to the USA on Wednesday, and back to the boat around midday on Thursday. Kyle had done a HUGE amount of preparation on the boat, the enclosure was fitted, boat hulls painted, gel coat polished, oil changed, etc... A Big Thank you to Kyle

Now I'm back, I have been running around: collecting dive gear that had been sent off for servicing; catching up with friends; getting the satellite phone hooked up to the computer (failed, it does not work with Vista); grocery shopping, and stowing; catching up with the mail and everything that has been ignored while I've been away; etc, etc, etc. A few days of mad rushing around before we (hopefully) leave on Monday.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Price of Gas / Petrol

[Maryanne]Everyone in the UK, and back in the USA seems to ask the price of petrol; so here goes. Firstly some basic units. A US Gallon is not the standard gallon that everyone else uses, it is actually smaller. A US Gal is 3.785 Litres, a standard gallon is 4.546 Litres.

Petrol in the UK is sold by the Litre, in the USA by the US Gallon.

Price of a litre of petrol in the UK is currently around £1.079/Liter – approximately £4.085/US gallon or just over $8 a US Gallon.

Price of a US gallon of regular “gas” in VA, USA is around $3.20 – which is approximately £.423/Litre.

Most UK petrol costs are deliberate taxes, designed to discourage driving and encourage fuel efficent cars, walking and public transport, and also (I assume) to fund road projects.

The recent budget in the UK, means the tax on petrol prices is scheduled to increase again shortly. Get out your bike! Sailboats are Great!

Grand Houses


[Maryanne]Burghley House is a very grand house (more like a palace) that was built at the Time of Elizabeth the 1st (mid to late 1500’s). if Angie is reading this, by William Cecil, great friend and advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1st. I remember as a child, going to the grounds to watch my Dad play cricket. The location is famous internationally as the host of the Burghley Horse trials, quite a huge show jumping event. It is also the house that the recent version of Pride and Prejudice was filmed in. But mostly it is an amazingly well kept example of grand living. I can’t really begin to describe how beautiful the house is, the grounds, and all the furniture. Of course every room, picture and ornament is dripping with history. It must be 20 years since I last visited the house, and I went this time with my parents.

Additionally we visited the sculpture garden, and the new Garden of surprises, full of quaint and fun water and other features. I am so glad that we got to spend a great sunny day, in such a beautiful setting. Quite a dose of Britain just before I leave.

The Easter Bunny is still here!


[Maryanne] This weekend, I was very excited to spend this Sunday with my Brother and his family. We took my nephew Max to a local farm attraction (Sacrewell Farm). It is a really good educational setup, has a water mill house, and over 500 acres of working farm, and of course a restaurant and coffee shop. We helped feed milk to the orphan lambs, had a tractor ride, and went egg hunting with the Easter bunny. It was so nice to hang out with my Brother and his wife, and of course be witness to the joy of any child at all the wonders of the world.