Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Still Heading North - Day 9

[Kyle]As I left Portsmouth in the pre-dawn light, I was intending for once to have an easier day than the usual all-day push. I generally like to plan long journeys so that I’m covering more distance per time than the remaining average. That way, if something comes up like mechanical difficulties or bad weather, I have an increasingly higher chance of absorbing the delay and still completing the journey. If everything works out as planned, I get a chance to slow down, relax and enjoy myself along the way.

The day’s weather forecast was good, but the following two days were not. I had originally thought I would just tough it out for the two bad weather days since they weren’t too long. The more I thought about it as I was making my way by the Navy yards on the way out of Norfolk, the more I thought there was no point in it. The weather was good. I wasn’t particularly attached to my next anchorage in Poquoson, Particularly if it starts blowing hard. So I skipped Poquoson and went directly to the anchorage for the next day while I had the weather in my favor.

Along the way in the open bay, since I didn’t have to navigate within 50 feet, I dug out all of the manuals and tried to brush up on the boat’s systems. I feel pretty comfortable with it now apart from the ship’s ham radio, which I’m only 3% less confused about than I was before. It seems the other ham in the family and I are going to have to spend the next winter refreshing ourselves on what we’re supposed to be doing with this thing.

I timed the currents right, which got me there after only ten hours, leaving me plenty of daylight left in which to enjoy my new surroundings in addition to the extra day I gained by skipping ahead. My selected anchorage in Stoakes River was a little stressful to get into because the approach was pretty shallow and poorly marked, but I made it in and found myself to be the lone boat in a big bay that was pretty uniformly five feet deep.

With the whole bay in which to swing around and knowing a blow was coming, I put out all of the chain. The bay has good protection from the waves, but not from the wind. This will allow the wind generator to keep the batteries nice and full while I’m here and keep the bugs away. Time to kick back and relax!

North on the ICW - Day 8

[Kyle]I left a soon as it was light enough to do so for the first locking through the Dismal Swamp Canal. The morning was foggy as I wound my way up the increasingly narrow river.

Once inside the lock, I realized I had lines and fenders set up on the wrong side of the boat and had to switch everything around in a hurry. I was the only one there and with no wind to push the boat around, I was able to do it while floating in the middle of the lock.

It is said about the Dismal Swamp Canal that the name is rather unfortunate. It is actually a very green, tree-lined alley across the North Carolina Virginia state line. The Dismal part of the name is supposed to be one of the great failures of marketing, like Greenland or Iceland. It turns out they’re wrong. The swamp is dismal, but not because it’s not pretty.

This time, I never actually got to see the canal. Instead, I was in a mortal battle with swarms of horrible, vicious, biting yellow flies. I spent the whole time I should have been enjoying the scenery monitoring my exposed skin for flies. I coated myself in a thick layer of bug repellent, which stopped about half of them. The other half were ruthless in their persistence. Every time I let my attention lapse, I’d be punished with several painful bites. I could only look up long enough to check that I wasn’t drifting toward one bank or another of the very narrow canal.

By the time I made it to the other end, hundreds of swatted carcasses littered the cockpit floor. I arrived with another boat for the 1:30 locking down. We called the operator and were told there would be a delay while he locked a boat up. We tied up and spent the time swatting flies and cleaning the dead from our boats.

ICW, and the Dismal Swamp Canal

The up-going boat came through, and in no time we were free to join the Elizabeth River into Norfolk. As soon as we did, the flies stopped. I’ve always had this theory that there are few bugs in cities because of the air pollution. It was a welcome break from the flies, even if it’s not the best for my health.

I pulled into Ocean Marine for fuel. This is where Maryanne and I lived for almost five years as were saved and prepared for a life of cruising. It was strange. It looked so familiar, even though the staff and almost all of the boats were different from when we were there. Nobody recognized me at all.

I topped off the fuel tank and a jerry can. I was amazed that I made it this far under power on one tank. Footprint was faster under power, but would have needed at least twice as much fuel for the same journey.

I went to pay for the fuel and on the walk back to the fuel dock I had the strangest sensation. I had been through that routine many, many times before after a weekend of sailing and anchoring out. It was all so familiar that my mind just went back to that place. I walked back to the fuel dock on autopilot, habitually making note of the wind so I could figure out how to get into our dock adjacent. When I got to the fuel dock and I came to, I had about a half of a second of total confusion. The fuel dock was filled with this giant catamaran with a great big mast. What happened to our boat? When did this thing show up? After a couple of weeks aboard, I’m starting to get used to the inside, but I’ve only seen Begonia from a distance a few times. I’m still always shocked by how big she seems.

Of course, I didn’t have a dock to go to a few boat lengths over. We didn’t live there any more. Instead, I pulled out into the river and went a couple of stops down to the transient quay at the town harbor. Another piece of fancy two-engine manoeuvring slid me into a spot behind another boat. I shut down the engines and was tying up when Kate and Mark showed up!

They were excited to get the tour and I was dying to give it to them, but I still had to finish off the securing procedure, so I made them wait until I was done. I showed them around. They oohed and ahhed appropriately, and then we took a familiar walk through Old Towne Portsmouth to one of Maryanne and my old frequent haunts. It was also the same but different. No matter, the big event was getting to spend time with Kate and Mark catching up. We see them pretty often, but anything more than a couple of weeks seems like ages to me. It’s been a couple of months since they came to see New York with us.

North on the ICW - Day 7

[Kyle]Day seven was going to be another boring day. It started with a long lonely trip down the Alligator River. There wasn’t much to do except monitor the course for drift caused by the currents and avoid crab pot floats. On one section with no floats, I went around soaping up the deck and rinsing it down with buckets of tea colored water scooped up along the way. It left the deck salty and slightly sepia colored, but the footprints and blobs of mud flung around by the anchor windlass were gone. I gave the cockpit and my feet a rinse with fresh tank water so I wouldn’t be tracing salt inside.

At the mouth of the river, I passed through the infamous bridge. I was a little disconcerted when the operator started shutting it before I was through. The part of the bridge I was near was actually moving away from me, but you think those guys would have learned their lesson and waited ten more seconds. I guess he was feeling the pressure from the traffic. There were sixty cars waiting one direction, fifteen the other. The bridge was closed for five minutes to let me through. It always amazes me that they’ll stop that much traffic for that long just so one guy can get through in his personal sailboat.

After that, my ride across Albemarle Sound and up the Pasquotank River was much like my ride down the Alligator.

I had originally planned to stop in Elizabeth City just for something to do, then I realized I would have to be underway at 4:30 to make the first canal opening at the Dismal Swamp Canal the next day, so I pushed on for a few more miles.

As the river narrowed at Elizabeth City, I called the lift bridge operator there to request an opening. I told him I was northbound and 3/4 mile out.

“Which way you goin’?”


“Which waysat?”

“Uh, North.” Sheesh!

“Come on in, when I can see ya, I’ll drive the bridge open for ya.”

When I got in sight, which was after a bend very close to the bridge, I slowed to a stop and waited. There was no sign the bridge was about to move; No lights, no traffic barricades coming down.

After a couple of minutes, he called me, “Sailboat by th’ ‘lizabeth City bridge, yuh got y’r ears on?”

“Yeah, Go ahead.”

“Y’all want a drive?”



“Yes, please”

“Well, in the future, we’d appreciate a call before yuh just show up.”

“Okay. I just called you ten minutes ago.”

“Alright, then. Just give us a call next time.”

Where did they dig up that guy?

Once I got above the bridge, the river became pretty as it meandered through increasingly close cypress swamp.

I was about a mile from the anchorage when the sky opened up. It rinsed all of the salt off the deck and then some. A thousand gallons of water must have fallen on the deck in the space of about ten minutes. It was like I motored under a waterfall. The banks on either side of the river disappeared. I couldn’t see. Even though I was under the bimini, there was so much rain bouncing up off of the deck into my eyes that everything was a blur. There was no way to face without getting soaked. It was like I was in a car wash.

The lightning started. It takes seven seconds for sound to travel a mile. More than fifty times, I saw the flash and heard the crack of thunder before I made it to three. I saw it hit the water in front of me twice and I couldn’t even see the riverbank ¼ mile away.

When I got to the anchorage, I was pretty chuffed. Mother Nature had got the timing wrong. I knew that storm was meant for me when I was out on deck deploying the anchor, but it was over by the time I got there. I enjoyed beautiful weather in a peaceful anchorage.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

North on the ICW - Day 6

[Kyle]Well, my fix worked. The fuel leak is now gone. The starboard engine is now running like a champ, which it did dutifully the whole long day.

Otherwise, nothing of any real interest happened all day. The bulk of the day was spent on the Alligator-Pungo Canal, which is very long, very straight and very boring, with only a nine-degree bend in the middle for entertainment.

I did manage to get the early start I was hoping for the day before, so I was securely anchored just as the day got unbearably hot. It was the perfect excuse for a dip in the pool to cool off.

[Maryanne]Kyle was so far away from anything there was not even a phone signal. Luckily he was able to keep in touch with me using the last of our satellite phone minutes we'd purchased for the off shore passage and weather reports. Technology is amazing eh? He's also terribly frustrated not to be sailing - these are great open waters and he is having to use the motor until we can be sure the Bow Crossbeam is fixed. He's gritting his teeth and bearing it, and kicking himself about it too.

North on the ICW - Day 5

[Kyle]Rather than a schedule that would take every minute of daylight for the solstice day, I finally had a shorter one planned. I was even more pleased when I found myself ready ahead of schedule for a pre-dawn departure in the dark.

The last couple of days, the anchor has been really dug in in the morning and difficult to unstick from the seabed. This morning, it was even harder still. I pulled until the electric windlass was showing signs of strain, then I would pause in order to let the buoyancy of the boat slowly pull the anchor free. I would pull, then wait, pull then wait. After some time of bringing up the chain only a couple of inches at a time, the poor windlass seemed to be really straining. I looked through the trampoline with my headlamp and saw an enormous blob smashed up against our bow roller.

At first, I thought it was our really muddy anchor with a couple of wraps of our chain around it. I started pushing and pulling it with a boathook and quickly realized it was something much bigger that I couldn’t even budge. {Maryanne: The last time this kind of thing happened was in Ireland, and the problem was an abandoned outboard that we’d dragged up }. From feeling around, the problem seemed to be a long abandoned two or three hundred pound anchor completely hidden under growth. Our chain was firmly caught between the flukes and the shaft. I wrestled with it for a while, but quickly realized I had no hope of lifting it far enough to remove our chain.

It couldn’t see how to get free of it. I didn’t want to cut loose our anchor. I sat down in front of it, shining my headlamp on it, studying it and trying to figure out what to do. After some time, I realized I could pass a dock line under it to support its weight, then I could let our chain out, which would give me enough slack to unwrap it.

As I did this, the boat and our huge new anchor drifted back until it came taught, being held by our real anchor. I was foiled. I then braced myself, counted to three, and let out all of the rest of our chain in a big hurry. This gave me a few seconds to work until it pulled tight. I plunged my arms through the big holes at the edge of the trampoline and started working furiously. Even without the weight of the unwanted anchor, all of that chain was heavy. Flailing it around like a madman while the trampoline net mashes waffle patterns into my face wasn’t easy. I got the last loop off the other anchor just before the chain pulled tight. I let one end of the dock line go, dropping the blob and freeing me to do a much more sedate normal anchor retrieval. The sun was now coming up. I had lost all of my extra time.

After that, the day went pretty smoothly. In the genuinely open waters of the Neuse and Bay Rivers, I once again visited my fuel leak problem in a series of carefully selected 20 second bursts every minute or so. I figured out the leak did not seem to be from the fuel pump after all. It was dripping from a different fitting at the filter and running down the line to collect at the pump, making it appear to be from there. I tightened the connections at the filter end and the leak decreased by at least two thirds.

Following current and fair winds got me to the next anchorage with plenty of time to spare. I wanted to relax, but I decided to use the time to my advantage and be extra-industrious.

I tidied up, and then donned my snorkel gear for a swim under the boat. Nothing had been scratched during the anchor retrieval and the new props still had all of their bolts attached. The anchor was buried far into goo in which I didn’t want to go fishing around.

Once the engines were cool enough to make burns unlikely, I topped off all of the fluids and then went through the entire fuel system on the starboard side. I did find a couple of less than tight fittings in places I wouldn’t want to try to get to on a running engine. Hopefully, the pesky fuel leak is now fixed or at least reduced to below the level of evaporation. Tomorrow will tell.

North on the ICW - Day 4

[Kyle]Although it was a shorter distance, day 4 turned out to take just as much time. I was back to using just the troublesome starboard engine for propulsion to save fuel. Even though it was troublesome, the starboard is still the preferred as it is the newer of the two, and it heats the water for the taps. I had the fuel leak problem under control by using four squares of toilet paper to mop up the drips around the fuel pump every half hour, although I occasionally got second degree burns when I would accidentally touch my arm to the engine block while trying to get to hard to reach places.

Along the way today there was nothing Kyle could do to help this sailor who had anchored without allowing for the tides... Only time would fix that problem. And luckily the firing range didn't mess with Kyle's schedule, but that would be a sign you don't want to miss

The current also seemed to be against me again. It’s hard to predict which inlet the current will flow in and out of during the changes in tide. I thought I’d have it with me today, but I for the most part, I was dead wrong.

The ICW continued behind barrier islands until at long last I dropped anchor just off Morehead City, North Carolina in a choppy spot just inside the inlet. Three and a half years earlier, Maryanne and I had left the ICW here for the offshore jump to Antigua. I was once again in familiar waters.

North on the ICW - Day 3

[Kyle]This day was planned as my longest. It was necessary to run the whole day on both engines just to make sure I made it to my anchorage by sunset. The fuel leak in the starboard engine was being managed and the older port engine ran without trouble.

The ICW on this section runs just behind the barrier islands fronting the Atlantic. The cypress swamp was gone, and the day was spent zooming past the backside of one beach after another.

I was pushing hard to make it to my anchorage by sunset. A couple of hours from the end, it seemed I was going to be just a few minutes late for a bridge that only opens once an hour. I called the operator, saying I was almost there, hoping they would stall a bit. A woman with an unmistakable Bulgarian accent told me the bridge was opening in 6 minutes and made no offer of delay. My ETA was 12 minutes. Six minutes later, I was within sight of her bridge, but she didn’t open. I got a little closer and she told me she would open for me now. Whew! That saved an hour. It also got me to the next bridge right at the time of their next opening.

I dropped anchor right as the sun went down. I was miles from anywhere nestled amongst little sandy islets that completely disappeared at high tide, making it look like I anchored in the middle of a giant lagoon.

Sunrise the next morning

North on the ICW - Day 2

[Kyle]Knowing I had little time to sleep and being wary of how well the anchor was holding, I slept little and fitfully. I was glad when my alarm finally signaled the end of my torment.

South Carolina ICW

The first part of the day was up a wide section of the bay. I developed the routine of popping down for a few seconds to check on the engine(s) every 30 minutes to mop up trickles and ensure everything was in order. I hate using engines to cover long distances. Sails seem simpler and more trustworthy to me. Engines are loud and smelly and there is so much that can go wrong with them. I worry that I will then not have them when I need them. Mostly, this is a pilot’s skittishness. Diesels are actually pretty simple and will run reliably forever if well maintained.

My routine kept the engine nice and clean. The fuel leak turned out to only be a few drops per half-hour, but I was still having difficulty tracing the source in my 20-second flash visits. I had initially suspected a connection at the fuel filter that the previous owner had told me was problematic, but it remained clean. At one particularly wide, empty part of the river, I decided I had the luxury of a couple of full minutes to try to solve the mystery. Huddled over the hot, running engine, I traced along the fuel system with a big wad of dry toilet paper until discovering the biggest source to be at the fuel pump. I decided to save tightening everything up until a later visit. I turned to head back up to the cockpit when there was a substantial bang.

I immediately knew the boat had hit something. The river was clear when I left and I hadn’t been gone for more than a minute, maybe a minute and a half. Perhaps there was a submerged tree. I scrambled up the stairs and was horrified to see the entire front window filled with green. I had slammed head-on into a navigation buoy. I turned for the cockpit and immediately slammed into the glass cockpit door, leaving a big idiot shaped grease spot. I had closed it to keep the bugs out. I’d worry about that later.

I jumped into the cockpit and took the engine out of gear. Begonia slowly drifted back away from the buoy. I went forward to survey the damage. I was lucky, if you could call it that. The crossbeam between the bows had a big dent that had actually torn through the forward wall of the spar, destroying it. The bows themselves were completely undamaged. Both bows have foam-filled flotation/crash compartments so it’s unlikely that caving one of them in would put me in any serious danger. Replacing the crossbeam will undoubtedly be a very expensive fix (and unplanned, of course. For comparison, imagine being told your car needs a new engine AND transmission), but bow damage would have been super expensive. The crossbeam turned out to be the best thing I could have hit.


I checked the bilges for water coming in from some unseen damage. They were dry. The backing plates inside the crossbeam attachment points also looked fine. I was in shock for a bit, but once I accepted that the damage was done and that the boat was in no immediate danger, I decided to continue on my way. I still had a long way to go that day. The crossbeam damage meant that there would be no sailing until it was repaired, as the rig was now too weak to take the loads of the sails. Begonia had become a motorboat.

Once I came to terms with this, I went about trying to enjoy the trip. The marshland morphed into pretty cypress swamp, which I had all to myself, until the last few miles. Then I passed through Myrtle Beach, which seems to be home to 90% of America’s jet-skis, 90% of which are apparently ridden by drunken idiots. It was here I learned the South Carolina wave. Instead of a normal, full-hand wave, they all seemed to use a one-finger point and shoot wave combined with a cool-dude head bob. I imagined that in their heads they must be thinking, “Yo, Bro!” when they do it. Ugh.

Unlike the day before, I seemed to have the current with me almost all day. I arrived a couple of hours before the sun went down at my anchorage within spitting distance of the South Carolina/North Carolina border. The fast speed and early finish buoyed my spirits considerably from the morning. The anchor mercifully bit the first time, so I settled in to relax for the last couple of hours of my day.

As sunset approached, a veritable parade of big sport-fishing boats came in from their day, all commanded by beer-bellied men in with flat top haircuts wearing wrap-around sunglasses. They all seemed to make a point in practically running me down as they approached. I checked to see that I was out of the channel. I was, but perhaps I was too close for their liking. I thought about making a stand by staying put, but realized I would only be hurting myself by making myself worry all night about being run down by some drunken idiot. I upped anchor and moved as far into shallow water as I dared, ensuring a good night’s sleep.

Elephant at play

[Maryanne]Kyle's day was so overwhelmed by his accident, and he felt such a clutz with no-one to blame but himself, not to mention the promise of a hefty but necessary repair bill to look forward to that he forgot to tell you a real highlight of the day - The picture isn't great, but I can tell you he passed an elephant in the river taking a bath - now that doesn't happen every day!

North on the ICW - Day 1

[Kyle]After Maryanne had left for the airport, I backed out of the slip, turned Begonia within her own length with one engine in forward and the other in reverse and left for the long solo trip to the Chesapeake. Once I had run both engines long enough to get them completely warmed up and working under a load for a bit, I brought the throttle back slowly on the port engine, then shut it down. Once it stopped, I put the port transmission in gear to feather the blades on our windmilling propeller, stopping them in a low drag position. {Maryanne: for those of you not in the know, you can probably tell by now that Kyle is very pleased with his new props}

I had installed feathering propellers in Ft. Lauderdale to replace the worn fixed ones that came with the boat. The boat now has stronger forward and reverse and has less drag when an engine is not being used. Win, win, win. Under a single engine, the boat is still very controllable and burns half the fuel at 80% the speed as under both engines, although sailing is generally even faster still.

The first day was pretty dull, in that there was little change to the scenery. This part of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) is miles upon miles of marshland forming a thin line of green along the perfectly flat horizon. I had a long way to go and seemed to be fighting a foul current almost the whole day. I was worried I wasn’t going to make it to my intended anchorage in the Winyah River by nightfall, but a couple of hours before dark, the current finally shifted and with some help from the sails, I just made it.

I put the anchor down, but it would not hold. I tried a couple of other spots. Nothing. I finally got it to dig in in a completely different part of the river after it was completely dark. I was frustrated because I had many long days planned and even though it was late, I still had to be underway at first light the next day.

As I was tidying up and preparing for the next day, I found that the starboard engine had some kind of small fuel leak that I had to clean up. I couldn’t figure out the source, so I decided to keep monitoring it (and keep cleaning up), in the hopes that the source would soon make itself known.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Charleston, South Carolina

[Maryanne]After our first sail and first offshore passage with Begonia we spent much of a day at anchor, shared a good meal and a great night's sleep. We raised anchor with just the press of a button, how amazing an electric windlass is! Kyle had originally told me I'd be gifted an electric windlass for my 50th birthday (which has yet to come) - just like his guru Capt'n Fatty gave his wife for her 50th. Oh, my husband is a charmer all right! Luckily for me, Begonia came equipped with an electric windlass and so far Kyle hasn't had the heart to rip it out.

Moving Begonia to the Dock for the weekend

We took it easy and arrived in the nearby City Docks of Charleston for noon. Checked in and spent the remaining day between chores and being tourists. We walked all over town and got a feel for the place, ready to tackle it more methodically on the following day.

With a full day on the Saturday, we armed ourselves with a self-guided walking tour for the day, and a guided tour for the evening.

Old gas lamps add to the charm

Charleston is such a charming town. It's changed its reputation (just like Times Square in NY) from seedy and unsavoury, to quaint and family friendly, and as you walk around it is really hard to imagine there was a time (quite recently) when that might not have been such a safe or pleasant thing to do.

Charm and Fun in Charleston

The weather was fantastic being unseasonably cool (meaning not unbearably hot). The sun shone and the kids played in the public fountains, where kindly the city does not post 'no bathing' signs, but encourages such fun.

Charleston is famed for its Antebellum style where homes and buildings have classic balconies (for the breeze), and design and orientation to catch the breezes and keep the shade as much as possible. Still today (presumably for the quaintness rather than necessity) many of the homes have gas lit welcome lights for the porch.

We found a large park, empty the first day, now covered with stalls of the farmers market. As we wondered around we were tempted by local tourist gifts (Kyle found a keyring and a bracelet he could not leave behind), and freshly prepared food (We partook of the Greek Pita and followed up with freshly made, sweet, hot beignets from a different vendor - oh what bliss!

Farmers Markets and ubiquitous basket stalls.

Another thing Charleston seems famed for is the woven baskets made of sweetgrass or seagrass, and simple but beautiful palmetto roses (crafted from a few leaves from a single Palmetto palm frond) are readily found too. The baskets come in all shapes, sizes and designs, and in the past were traditionally made by African slaves. Now though you can barely afford to look. The smallest basket I found (maybe 1/2" by 3" was $15 (but what could you use it for?), and a small fruit bowl would likely set you back $500)... Wow, that was a memento we would not return to the boat with, despite the obvious skill required to make them.

So we ambled around town, deviating as we were distracted to some new sight, and often being passed by the horse driven coaches showing the sights to tourists not prepared to walk in the heat. Alleys, short cuts between streets, all had character, and may seemed to make you feel you were taking a trail in the jungle and so fun to pass through. We picked one of the many old homes that is open to the public to tour, and stood on balconies where Generals of the Civil war watched battles at sea. So much history for my average brain to recall. Of course there were regular intervals to sample roof top bars or fancy tavern fare.

Eventually we ended our final day with a Grand Mexican meal, followed by a guided walking tour with Mark Jones (part owner of Black Cats Walking Tours, and a more than little away from being Politically Correct!). The point of the tour was to highlight the seedier history of Charleston, where apparently Puritans never settled but plenty a prostitute made a living.

Ah, sweet Charleston. I really enjoyed seeing it. I had to depart early the following day for a flight back to reality, leaving Kyle to keep moving the boat towards her her summer home. In the mean time, I suspect I've used the word charm a few too many times, but just like the vocabulary in this post, Charlston is over flowing with it.

Charleston scenes

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Finding Begonia

[Maryanne]After the loss of Footprint, the winter and spring of 2012 has been spent searching for our next boat. Kyle has expended most of this effort and energy, both in the research and in the actual visits, trials, surveys etc. It’s been frustrating, expensive, and highly disappointing. Of course one Spring is not such a great length of time, and in hindsight it really hasn’t taken so long to find our new partner in adventure, but the process was wearisome and we were never certain it would find a conclusion.

We spent $1000’s, and sacrificed many precious weekends we’d have otherwise spent together, chasing phantoms of boat listings. Most, once seen in person, had little resemblance to their listings, or just weren't right for us once we'd seen the layout. Some had cut-and-paste older listings, neglecting to reflect the many additional years of wear and tear and breakages. One notable other listed as actual installed equipment everything the owner had one day hoped to put aboard. Time and again I arrived after a long an expensive journey to find the actual boat bore little resemblance to its slick advertisement. Another failed at sea trial twice with engine problems. And so it went on and on, as funds and hopes dwindled as one perspective boat after another gradually made the transition from the hoped for end of our shore life to disappointment.

Eventually we found Begonia. For sale by a family with two children, having adventured across the Atlantic and back, and now returning to the USA for traditional schooling and a ‘normal’ life until the next adventure lures them away.

Kyle made contact with the owners while they were in Puerto Rico on their journey back from Africa to the USA. We agreed Kyle would intercept with them in the Bahamas for a few days to check out the boat. With all that had transpired so far with the great boat search, Kyle arrived with a healthy dose of pessimism, but from his first sighting of the boat it became more and more apparent that it was in good condition, well maintained, and well kitted out for our needs. The owners were conscientious, the listing honest, and their welcome warm. As a bonus we found much in common and Kyle especially enjoyed their company on his solo trip to view the boat. An amicable agreement was quickly reached; they would sell the boat for a fair price, in exchange for our taking it off their hands just as soon as they delivered it to the USA. This minimized their storage and listing expenses, and enabled them to plan the next chapter of their lives, and enabled us to start planning ours. (Subject to survey)

Begonia is a 2001 Fountaine-Pajot Athena 38 sailing Catamaran. We toyed with the idea of changing her name, but eventually agreed Begonia was just fine, and we’d stick with it. We also decided to continue our adventures on SV-Footprint.blogspot.com rather than start yet another blog.

Begonia in the Bahamas

[Kyle] I have to admit that ever since we began researching catamarans prior to purchasing Footprint, I have coveted an Athena 38. The high thirties is a good sweet spot between manageability under sail and comfort below. In that range, the Athena has a reputation for being one of the best designs of all time.

Every now and then after a rough passage or in moments of whimsy, Maryanne would ask, “If we won the lottery or some unknown rich great uncle left us loads of money and you could have any boat you wanted, what would it be?” My answer was always a swift, “Athena 38” It was a pure pipe dream. Athenas were always so far out of our price range that we wouldn’t even allow ourselves to consider it a real option. When we bought Footprint, they were selling for at least two Footprints. It might as well have been ten.

Well, between a bad economy and more time for normal depreciation to take effect, owning one became a real possibility for us. Even so, they are in high demand. Owners tend to hang on to them. The handful that are for sale in the world go quickly. We signed a contract in the Bahamas and we wired the deposit the day I got home.

On Monday 11 June 2012, after agreeing weeks before, Begonia was officially ours, the bank account was much reduced, and we were the proud owners of our new home. The survey turned up a few items that needed to be addressed. To those, we had our own list of planned upgrades and improvements. Our insurance company wouldn’t cover tropical storm damage if the boat was south of 31° after the first of July.

Ideally we’d have spent time day sailing and getting to know her, but already we found ourselves on a schedule, and wanting the boat North for the summer, agreed to sail off shore together to Charleston. This meant we arrived at the boat with bags of emergency and foul weather equipment, grocery lists, and to-do lists all with just a few hours to complete before we headed out. Our first time alone aboard the boat would be the 425 nautical mile passage from Fort Lauderdale to Charleston.

The first couple of days were busy. We were adjusting to the new boat at the same time we were adjusting from a normal diurnal sleep pattern to watch keeping. We had a great sail, though. 24 hours after leaving Fort Lauderdale, we were 275 miles away. I spent my whole night-watch watching the boat sail double-digit speeds. We were so pleased. A cold front was predicted to come in near the end of our passage and bring strong headwinds. We could use all of the speed we could get to beat it.

The wind died. We slowed down to normal speeds and then further to a crawl. The headwinds came and increased and we found ourselves having to beat to windward the last 70 miles into Charleston harbor. Those of you that have read the blog for any length of time know that I hate beating to windward. In Footprint, downwind and upwind sailing were two completely different experiences. Downwind was fast and smooth, upwind could be a bashing nightmare. In the Athena, upwind sailing seems to be…well, just sailing. Those last 70 miles had none of the drama to which we were accustomed. They were also smooth, fast sailing; This is due to the Athena’s tremendous bridge deck clearance, which give waves somewhere to go other than pounding the structure. Of course upwind sailing often means you can’t go in exactly the direction you’d like (boats just won’t sail into the wind directly), so we managed a little tacking practice too.

In the end, it took us 2½ days to cover the distance – a day and a half less than planned. We decided to use the extra time by finding a quiet anchorage in which we could quietly readjust to normal sleep patterns and take a moment’s rest from the long boat search to enjoy our new home.

Sunset at sea

We're very happy with our new home, more pictures will follow (eventually)!