Saturday, November 17, 2012

You don’t get to choose who you sit with – for 7 hours at a time

[Maryanne]With all the distractions lately, I realized today I'd not told Kyle my most recent travel story. Once I shared it with him, he insisted I share and is still chuckling at my pain.. Hmmm... Enjoy.

Ah, flying alone, and on standby; when the time comes for the gate agent to confirm there is space and actually allocate your seat, you don’t mind there are no choices: Aisle or window?, front or back of the plane? – No, you are simply ecstatic to have a seat. You are finally (reasonably confident that you are) going to get where you want to be heading.

On my recent flight for a weekend break in Manchester England, Friday evening at Newark Airport was spent in this apprehensive mode (not helped by the fact that hurricane Sandy was also headed towards our home and I had no idea what I might be returning back to even if I did make the flight). Finally my name was called, I was handed a ticket with a seat assignment, and was chased down the jet-way to board NOW. I’d been given a middle seat, not surprising since the flight was full. On reaching my row I found a slender middle-aged woman sat in the aisle and the window seat empty. So far, so good.

I took my middle seat and made pleasantries with my new neighbor. She was so jolly and chatty that she hardly needed to explain that she’d had plenty of pills and alcohol before the flight ‘to help her sleep’. She busied herself ‘helping’ me; recommending movies I should watch, etc. I liked her, but was glad to know she was unlikely to maintain that particular level of energy and ‘helpfulness’ for long.

Eventually the occupier of the window seat to my left arrived. She declined to speak, glared until we realized she was in our row and we moved to accommodate her entrance. She promptly sat in her seat, turned her back to us and seemed to sleep. Fine by me!

With the plane up in the air and at a steady altitude the beverage cart was pushed through the aisle to offer drinks. My left hand neighbour was suddenly alert and interested. She picks up her handbag and pulls out her plastic bag of liquids. For some reason this bag includes a toothbrush and the bag seal has opened. She is distraught. This toothbrush had a cover on it – where is it gone? My neighbor to my right attempts to help, suggesting it has fallen out and will be in the bottom of the bag? No, she insists, it was very secure; they’ve probably used it to get DNA samples. Luckily we are rescued with the flight attendant offering her a beverage: Yes, she’d want a coffee (neglecting any please or thank you). When the male flight attendant asked if she wanted it black, all of us were amazed at her response.

‘No, I don’t like blacks, they are awful people and I hate them… I have a cousin that’s dating a black guy, but she’s Catholic, so that explains that, but there is no way I want anything black.’ Politely the flight attendant asked again (pretending perhaps he hadn’t heard her) – black or white madam? Defiantly, she repeated her mini-speech word for word and received her coffee with milk. So shocked was my chatty, friendly neighbour to my right that she stopped talking to anyone, put on her headset and kept her eyes planted on the movie screen. My aloof neighbour to my left now decided she wanted to chat to me. I had no choice in this matter it seemed, she would just keep talking whatever my response. When I raised the courage to say I felt her comments were racist and inappropriate, she proceeded to give me anecdotal stories of how blacks on the street just harass her now she’s divorced. “Don’t you find it too?” she asks, by now knowing I also lived in New Jersey,.. er, no!!. She seemed convinced ‘they’ somehow knew she was single and continued to explain how they grope and pester he everywhere she goes now (supermarket, anywhere). I really found this hard to believe, but I’m also travelling on a non-rev ticket. I can hardly say what I really want to say to this woman, so I’m trying to be tactful without consenting.

Eventually her story of harassment get so fanciful I’m convinced she is just making it up to entertain herself and see what reactions she gets…. I laugh and ask if ‘Candid Camera’ is about to pop up. She seems confused. Oh boy, we are hardly 30 minutes into the flight.

Next I had to hear about her divorce. Allegedly her and her husband had a business together and the divorce and the business separation had been very entangled. He’d fought her all the way despite the fact she gave him everything. He kept her mother’s best china, everything. I was sympathetic and decided to nod and ooh, and ahh in the appropriate places as one must do with a divorcee telling their tale of woe. The story again became fanciful, apparently her business had been broken into several times – her office being right opposite the NY Stock exchange and ‘nobody noticed anything’. This, to her, had two logical leaps – firstly they were all in on it (yes, NY Stock market security were buddies with her husband), and then in a completely opposite tangent – they are useless at security “it’s no wonder ‘they’ flew planes into the twin towers with security like that”. Help! How does one even respond to such loony statements? Throughout our conversation I keep changing my tactics to indicate I’m done chatting. I try pretending to sleep. I try headsets and a movie, none work – she continues to pester until I respond. I don’t know how to respond and remain sane. This must be a big joke?

I can’t recall how the next level of craziness began, maybe a movie scene, who knows. But midgets were the next topic. Apparently they are ‘everywhere you look now-a-days’. ‘It’s as if the circus is in town’ she tells me. Really? I hadn’t noticed, I tell her. (pointless, but I tried). She keeps telling me how she doesn’t mind midgets, she even used to employ one, but of course she had to stand on a box. Please help, I’m thinking; so unaccustomed to the topic I’m not sure what the politically correct term even is? Little People? Dwarfs? Midgets? The point is probably moot.

She changes topic and talks about the local pharmaceutical companies and how you can’t trust them. I wasn’t even aware of any locally, but can’t say there aren’t any. Then, in an amazing leap, she links the pharmaceuticals and the apparent influx of midgets. You know they don’t get cancer, don’t you? She pleads… (No, I don’t know that and it certainly doesn’t seem likely I tell her). Oh, yes, that is probably why they are all here, the pharmaceuticals are using them to experiment on; like the Nazis. ‘I think that is so cruel don’t you?’ she pleads.. Seriously? How does one respond? She really now has convinced herself that the pharmaceuticals have captured and are holding against their will 100’s of little people, and yet also allow them out to be seen by her on a daily basis, and experiment on them without their permission, most likely at night while they sleep. Seriously!

Every time the flight attendants pass I plead with my eyes for them to notice me and rescue me. Nothing.

Eventually I begin convinced again that my neighbour is deliberately escalating the craziness for her own entertainment, but I can’t get her to leave the story. She seems insulted I don’t believe her.

Again I attempt to change the subject and ask her why she is going to the UK? Apparently, she is trying to reconnect with old friends that she lost contact with while she was married. She can’t trust Facebook as she suspects her husband is pretending to be her friends to lure her into conversations and sharing information, so she is just going to arrive at their doorstep and knock on the doors of her friends. I’m sure they’ll be so pleased to see her.

Conversations continue to rapidly move into crazy and insulting. There seems no topic or group beyond her scorn. Eventually I decide that despite my status on the plane as a non-revenue passenger, I’m going to have to be rude to stop this woman. I explain that she is very negative, and her prejudices are ugly and unnecessary. Perhaps this explains why she currently struggles to find/keep friends, and if she doesn't mind, I'd like to sleep now. This seems to succeed although I feel terrible for saying it (believe me she drove me to such rudeness). It only worked for 2 minutes though, as she eventually responded by telling me that I too had no friends (apparently I can’t trust the friends I have to be telling the truth, nor to be there if I really need them), and my husband was probably plain and boring and disliked me. I should be planning for the inevitable divorce (she even offered legal advice), and a whole host of retaliatory statements. My plan did not work. She keeps talking and now I’m the subject of her rage. I decide to just not respond to anything. She keeps talking and I have no choice but to listen.

It was a long flight. Eventually we exit the plane; both seeming relieved that we can finally put distance between us, we go our separate ways. I’ve not slept, I’m exhausted, but now excited to meet with my friend Annie. My flight lands in the early morning and customs and immigration are a breeze. I’m ready 30 minutes before I’ve suggested Annie meet with me, so I hang out at the airport and think to buy her morning paper. As I enter the newsagent, I see her, that woman I’ve sat next to all night. She is finishing up her transaction, sees me, and despite my nod, pretends not to and exits quickly. Whew. When I go to pay for the newspaper there is just me and the cashier in the store. I express my relief at not having to chat – ‘I’ve just spent over 7 hours sat next to that woman’ I tell her. The cashier responds that she’d just received a homophobic lecture from the woman herself. Really – is there any group she feels the need to tell the whole world are so awful to her? Wow.

Oh – and it turns out there is indeed a recent report of an Ecuadorian community of Laron dwarfs who seem to have extremely low incidences of cancer! Go figure.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

After Hurricane Sandy..


Tuesday, Oct. 30th

Knowing that the morning high tide was supposed to be seven feet lower as the surge continued to decrease and that the wind was slowly dying down, I slept well for the first time in days. I didn’t stir until almost noon. Even then, I took my time with coffee and cooking. It was almost dark by the time I finally stepped off of the boat.

Marina Damage - after Hurricane Sandy

Following is an excerpt from an email I wrote to Maryanne:


I walked over to Hoboken tonight. It's pretty weird. None of that part of town or this part of Weehawken has power. A few buildings have generators running. The one across from the deli has every single light on above the first floor. It seems kind of obscene to me. Most of the others only seem to have power in the lobby, so people are clustered around in ad hoc communities looking like refugees. Every outlet has a cell phone charger. Some apartments have candles going or lanterns. Without TV, a lot of people seem to be walking around for entertainment.

I walked to the Hoboken Yacht Club. They did not fare too well. All of their docks are ruined. One is still draped over the tops of its pilings. All of the boats are surprisingly intact. Both of the derelict piers on this side of Taco Truck Pier and the waterway pier completely collapsed and went from being 8 feet above sea level to 1/2 submerged. At the mooring field in Weehawken Bay, only one boat was lost. It ended up on the path after taking out a lamppost. It's still attached to its mooring. I am so surprised the others made it, although there is some shredding of sails and covers.

The damage here at the marina is much worse than I thought. We were really lucky. Most of A dock came off of the pilings. It's still in place, but most of its rollers have been ripped off. The boat on the end sank. B, C, and D docks seem to be okay. F dock took a lot of damage on the end toward the entrance. The last three floats broke through the end plates on their end pilings and broke free. The boat on the end drifted into the next float. It pulled free and hit the next boat, etc. the boats on the end are big and steel. They seem fine. The fixed dock just outside it is basically gone.

E dock was basically okay. Every single one of the wooden pilings between docks (which we don't have) is bent 20 degrees to the south. The eastern half of the hammerhead by the fuel barge, where they tied up the River Princess, sank. I think it must have jammed on the top of the pilings and filled with water.

Missing you,

(And love)


Sent from my iPhone”

Post Sandy scenes from a walk south to Hoboken water front

It was strange. Most of the city south of midtown was black. There was destruction everywhere, yet Begonia and almost all of the other boats in the marina were fine. Our boats were all independent little islands. We had heat, food, power and water. We were very lucky to have made it through.

Wednesday, Oct 31st

I spent the whole day taking the bike completely apart, drying it, cleaning it, greasing it and then putting it back together again.

Maryanne had somehow managed to get the next to last seat on the first flight coming to Newark after the airport was reopened. All public transport, except the ferries was still suspended until further notice due to flooding and damage. She took a cab home. The guy was surprised she wanted him to leave her by a dark pier far from any houses or apartments. It was really good to have her home and be back together again.

Thursday, Nov 1st

The buses were running again between midtown and us. Maryanne went back to work. I took the bike out to see how everybody was fairing. It was amazing. Although it had only been three days and the power was still out in most places, workmen had already begun fixing paving stones and propping trees back up. Streets and paths had already been cleared of most of their rubble. People were airing out or throwing away ruined stuff from their lower floors.

Further to the north at the grocery store where we usually shop, the power had just come back on and they were doing a brisk business in everything that wasn’t refrigerated. They were lucky enough to be just above the high-water mark.

At the marina, part of C dock that was resting on top of its piling was fixed. The River Princess’ broken pilings were removed and the office was being cleared out.

That night after Maryanne came home and we had dinner, we went for a walk so she could see the damage for the first time. We took a few of our power strips to the buildings with generators running so they could increase their socket count for chargers. Most people we met seemed to be holding up okay. There’s so much destruction that people seem much better about waiting for their turn to get power or heat than you’d expect. They know it’s bad everywhere and it could be a lot worse for them. It could be for all of us, really.

Hurricane Sandy

[Kyle]I know a lot of people have been concerned about how we fared. Here’s the story starting a few days before:

Friday, Oct 26th

Maryanne left Begonia for work with bags packed for a long weekend trip to Manchester, UK. Her plan was to get a flight after work and then return early on Tuesday. She was off to visit her friend Annie, who works for the schools, and was off for half term. It was also Annie’s Birthday, so that was even more reason to go. Maryanne also had a few things to do over there that were just a lot easier to do in person.

After she left, I was went through my usual Internet rounds over morning coffee. Being a pilot, sailor and general weather nerd, I spend a lot of time with forecasts and observations. I was aware of Hurricane Sandy, but up until then it was considered more likely to either hit the Carolinas as a weak tropical storm or curve northeastward out to sea.

The forecast had now changed dramatically. Sandy was strengthening over the Bahamas, wreaking havoc there, and was now forecast to merge with a Nor’easter and hit New York City directly as a weak Hurricane or strong Tropical Storm. The predictions were sounding pretty bad. All throughout the morning, I went back and forth wondering weather I should call Maryanne and ask her to cancel her trip. In 2003, she had cancelled a long planned trip to the UK so we could ride out Hurricane Isabel and I was still feeling a little guilty about it. {Maryanne: And I was doing the same thing from the office, wondering if it was wise to even go to the UK}

At that point, I wasn’t certain whether the safest course of action would be to evacuate Begonia from the marina as far as we could get up the Hudson, preferably as far as Albany, or hunker down in the marina. In Albany, the predicted storm surge would be less and the storm would also be weakened, meaning less wind. If we did this, we would have to motor upwind all day every day until the storm arrived and I would need her help. My concern with this option was that the river during the storm would be too deep and fast moving to trust being able to safely anchor; all the 'best' places would be long taken, and the storm was huge and headed in that direction anyway! I was also worried about the potential of being struck by floating debris. I wasn’t sure either if there would be any suitably protected docks that were useable at such a high water state.

As the first surge forecasts came in, the prediction for NY was five to ten feet, with Weehawken likely to be in the range of four to six feet. I determined our current state of tide and then went out to measure the piling to which our floating dock was attached. At the highest tide predicted for the storm before adding in a storm surge, we had six feet before the rollers on the dock would reach the bottom of the blue end cap on the piling. Begonia was well secured to the dock so as long as the docks didn’t come off of the top of the pilings, we should be safe. The marina had much better protection inside from wind, waves and floating debris than the open river. All that would be needed was to take down our jib and cockpit awning and remove loose items from outside. I eventually decided that the slightly safer course of the two actions was to stay put in the marina. The marina staff were certainly not concerned and were taking in boats from more exposed moorings for the storm. The most likely risk to the boat might be debris blocking the drains, and the boat sinking from the weight of rain water - at least I could be aboard to address that risk.

I knew Maryanne really wanted to go to the UK. I eventually decided (barely – call it 50.1%) that I would have enough time to batten down myself and there was no point in us both pacing back and forth worrying about the storm afterwards. I told her I thought it would be okay for her to go, if she was okay with the idea that she may get stuck there for a while when flights back are cancelled. She flew off and I stayed back to get ready.

Saturday, Oct. 27th

I spent the day following the forecasts and battening down in deceptively nice weather. The surge forecast for NY harbor was now four to eight feet, with a specific forecast at the Battery to be 3.8 feet above normal at Monday morning’s high tide.

Sunday, October 28th

By morning, tides were already a foot and a half above normal. I double checked my piling measurements and came up with the same result as before; we'd still be fine. The latest forecasts were predicting the storm to be even stronger than previous ones had, although it was also speeding up, which might reduce the surge or keep it from falling on the highest tide of all on Tuesday morning. Surge forecasts were getting more detailed. We had a 50% chance of more than three feet, 10%-20% more than six feet and less than 5% of more than seven feet. If the surge got to seven feet, the rollers would be past the bottom of the end cap right at the top of the piling.

I waited impatiently for each new forecast, which was issued every six hours. My stomach was constantly in a knot with dread about what could happen. Each one was worse than the one before, which was a trend I didn’t like. By the afternoon forecast, our chances were now 50% of a surge five to seven feet and 30% more than seven feet, Our chances didn’t decrease to 5% until eleven feet. High tide at the Battery was now predicted to be 4.6 feet above normal. They were now predicting Sandy to be a 100 or 200-year storm. It was already way too late to move the boat.

The water was already noticeably very high. At high tide, it was no longer practical to get off of the docks. The gangplanks, which normally acted as ramps down to the docks, were sloping up, requiring a pretty big jump at the end if going towards the boats or a giant waist-high step to leave.

At low tide, the water was already 2.41 feet above normal. I took advantage of the window of not-so-high water to get out and take a walk to try to burn off some of my nervous energy. Along the way, I noticed something I hadn’t before. The rollers on the docks are mounted on cube shaped boxes with rollers on the top and bottom squares. If the top set of rollers came off, the dock system would be weakened, but there was another foot before the bottom rollers would come off. Also, there was plenty of underwater structure in the dock’s flotation chambers. If all of the rollers came off, it would make a huge mess when the water came back down, but the docks wouldn’t float away, just until they jammed on the pilings. The water would have to be two feet or so deeper still before the docks would completely clear the pilings and we would all be driven aground en masse. I REALLY hated that it was coming down to grasping at these straws for Begonia’s survival.

The subject of whether or not it was safe to leave the boats unattended started to be talked about in the marina. My mother also called me, politely pleading with me to abandon ship. That poor woman, she has seen me go through so many potentially dangerous things. In the end, I decided that even if the docks broke free, Begonia would not likely sink, thus I would not likely drown if I could keep from being blown off of my feet into the water by gusts. The chance of fire or electrocution seemed about the same either way. Well, maybe electrocution was higher, but fire HAD to be less. The thing that pushed me toward staying was knowing that I absolutely wouldn’t be able to stand pacing back and forth in some hotel room not knowing what was happening. I am well aware that there’s not much that can be done at the very height of such a storm: Lines are bar-tight and can’t be adjusted, the boat doesn’t have nearly enough engine power to counter the forces of the storm and leave the dock if necessary, it’s dangerous to even go outside in wind that strong. After watching Footprint destroyed from Enzo’s balcony in Italy, I couldn’t leave Begonia alone. I would rather drift ashore with her than see it happen from a distance.

Monday, Oct. 29th

I slept about five minutes out of every hour overnight. The wind and motion of the boat were increasing. I was too nervous about what was coming. It started to rain. The surge had levelled off briefly at around three feet. The morning high tide was the higher of the two for the day. The fixed dock on the breakwall protecting the marina was being washed over by three-foot waves in the Hudson.

Morning high tide

United Airlines had already cancelled all flights for two more days and New Jersey Transit announced suspension of all public transport until further notice. Across the river, I could see what looked like the whole New York Police Department heading out to begin the evacuation. There were at least two hundred cars with lights and sirens going.

Evening high tide was now predicted to be 12 feet. That’s a 7.22-foot add-on from surge. As a precaution, I moved our folding bicycle from the parking garage to higher ground by the marina office. I went for another walk at a low tide that was higher than the usual high tide. When I got back to the marina, The Captain of a tour boat called the River Princess was evacuating his dock using marina staff as deckhands. Five of the six pilings they were laying against had broken and they were in danger of smashing the break-wall. They managed to get her to the fuel dock even though it was now blowing like crazy.

Moving of River Princess and one of the broken dolphins (pilings)

The River Princess formed the corner of the protective box of the marina. The water was already washing over the breakwall and the waves in the Hudson were now three to four feet. If the swell started coming through the gap as the water rose, Begonia would be THE first boat hit with the waves. I was fairly comfortable that I had enough fenders to protect me against the dock, but I was really worried about the additional up and down motion at the dock rollers. There wasn’t much I could do at that point but hope it would turn out okay.

The last of the people who were leaving their boats left. It was hard to tell who remained because I was all hunkered down in the cabin avoiding the weather, but it seemed there were about six or seven boat owners stayed with their boats.

The tide started coming up just as the storm started getting really bad. Begonia’s wind indicator was now reading continuously in the high 30s with gusts to near 50 knots. At 5pm, the surge was already up to 6.7 feet. Water was coming through the gap left by the River Princess. By 7pm, it was at 7.44 feet with two hours left until high tide. There was a big boom and the marina lost power.

My fears about swell coming in through the gap left by the River Princess never materialized. The big eighty-foot fender they left behind jammed in the hole, acting like a boom, which prevented the swell from entering. The water was surprisingly calm inside. Most of Begonia’s motion was from wind gusts.

Pier building floods

By 8pm, the surge was at 8.52’. We were all braving the outside every couple of minutes to check the water depth. At 8:13, I texted Maryanne reporting that the top roller was even with the top of the piling. It came off at 8:30. I had a quick walk around to see how other parts of the marina were fairing. E dock (our dock) was still pretty secure. Half of D dock had floated clear of its pilings. It appeared to be holding in place so it would just recapture them on the way down. The parking garage on the pier housing the marina offices was flooded. The nearest dry land was far on the opposite side of Harbor Blvd, maybe ¼ mile from the docks. We were marooned. There were starting to be lots of big, blue explosions followed by darkness – transformers blowing out. Just before 9:00, there was a huge flash/explosion in downtown Manhattan and most of the financial district went dark, including the Freedom Tower.

At 9:36, the surge was up to 9.23’ feet. We had three inches before the bottom roller came free. The water level at the Battery reached 13.88 feet and then slowly started to come down. Since we’re upriver, our high tide is just a bit later. The water in the marina rose another inch just as it got too gusty to stay outside. I kept peering fruitlessly through the rain-covered window at the piling and waiting for a bang or a strange motion or anything else that would indicate the docks had let go.

The piling the keeps the finger pier of the dock in place, the one that Begonia is tied to

The graph showing normal tide (blue), actual surge (green), and actual water levels (red) for Hurricane Sandy; Our piling only just was long enough (the water rose another 6" after this photo!

At 9:52, there was a lull in the wind and I went out for a piling check. At 9:55, I reported to Maryanne that the water appeared to have gone down three inches, although I couldn’t be 100% sure because of the motion left over from the wind blast.

I had a quick look around. The garage was flooded to about five feet. The marina office, which is higher, was in two feet of water. The bike was up to its hubs. Then a gust came and it fell down, submerging it. Damn! From the docks, it was strange to be looking down into the office. I was even looking down at the big Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club sign at the entrance to the docks.

At 10:10, I texted Maryanne to say that the water was definitely on the way back down again. We had come down six more inches and the top roller was just even with the top our piling. After it had come down another foot, I knew it was time for a big glass of wine and then to go to bed. It had been a really long day. There had been talk before amongst those who stayed about having a big impromptu party should we survive, but in the end, I think we were all just too spent. By the time we all understood the water was really going back down, we all just gave smiles and friendly waves to each other and disappeared into our boats to collapse.

[Maryanne]From the UK, and with the time difference, I didn't get to bed until about 2:30 am, when I was finally sure both Kyle and Begonia were safe. During the build up I was on the internet checking on things and texting back and forth with Kyle. Not a night I wish to repeat, it all seems so precarious until the very last minute. It was very hard to really believe we were finally safe. Thank goodness we were! It already seemed clear that so many others were not so lucky.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Visit from Mom

[Kyle]Once we were settled in, we had a whirlwind weekend with my Mom. It was only two days, but we did so much.

Statue of Liberty & 'Spirit of the Dance' found in Radio City Music Hall

The night Carla arrived we took a sail down to see the Statue of Liberty and dined aboard. The following day started with a stroll through Bryant Park followed by a carriage ride through Central Park. Once we were done, we strolled around a bit until stopping for lunch at Conservatory Pond, where we nibbled away while watching the nearby RC sailboat races. After the park, we found ourselves blocked in by a parade with a German theme. We walked several blocks, then gave up and took a Pedi cab back across to the other side where we could get a proper cab into midtown.

Horse & Carriage through Central Park, and when our exit was blocked by a giant wienermobile and German-American parade, we dashed back across the park in a Pedi-Cab

Then we got to the point of the whole weekend: Mom had bought us all tickets to The Book of Mormon for Maryanne’s Birthday. I had been looking forward to it even though I usually groan my way through musicals. I wasn’t disappointed. It was wonderful! I absolutely loved every minute of it. I can’t recall the last time I had such a great time at a movie or a show. I’m still singing along and this time, it’s a good thing.

Shopping and learning at Eataly!

Maryanne followed that by booking us all for a cooking lesson at Eataly. Eataly is not so much a store as an indoor complex of Italian stores and restaurants taking up a whole block. Our lesson was in a small corner demonstration kitchen, where we were allowed to eat the four-course meal as well as all of the bread and wine we could handle. It was really interesting to talk to the chefs and see and learn the hows and whys of the preparation. Like wine or whisky tasting, it helps the enjoyment to know which flavors to be looking for.

Day two started with a trip to Rockefeller Center for the fabulous Radio City Music Hall tour. Afterward, we had lunch at Grand Central Station and meandered through Bryant Park on our way to the bus station, where we would board the bus to Elizabeth, firmly bringing us all back down to Earth. We made the best of it, though, by eating yet another wonderful meal at Valenca, which is in my opinion Elizabeth’s only legitimate attraction. That place is amazing.

NYC - what is not to love?

Mom got on a flight the next day back to her busy life. Maryanne and I have been spending the time since slowly moving from our apartment in Elizabeth to the boat and getting happily accustomed to our new surroundings.

Arriving in New York

[Kyle]With a forecast for an increasing onshore wind, I decided my next planned stop at Barnegat Inlet was too risky to attempt. That meant my best option was a long all-day and night sail up the coast.

Not bad!

High tide for the trip out of the inlet wasn’t until early afternoon, so I made a point of staying in bed until I was bored of it and then making an oversized dinner for breakfast. I went outside to take in the sunshine knowing it would be too hot for mosquitos or no-see-ums and was immediately beset upon by a very aggressive variety of deerfly. Rather than hanging out and waiting for my guard to be down for a chance at a bite like other biting flies, these little terrors immediately attacked as soon as I came through the door. They were like angry bees and their bite was very painful. I retreated back inside, armed myself with my trusty fly-swatter and came back out swinging. The only thing good about these flies were that they were slow enough to be easy to swat. I would attack every one I could see for about ten minutes. This gave me five minutes of relative peace and quiet until the next swarm found me. I repeated this cycle until the tide was high enough to leave.

I followed my inbound GPS track and the trip out of the inlet was uneventful. The depth and buoy placements had absolutely no correlation to the chart. I couldn’t help but think I could have navigated just as effectively and a lot more cheaply with a road atlas to tell me which gap was which inlet, and then finding my way in with buoys or by following a local. Prudence wouldn’t let me do it, though.

Once I was clear of the breakers in the open sea, I was thrilled to turn downwind and have a fast, comfortable sail along the coast. Since the wind was coming from seaward, it also had no bugs. I watched the sunset and the moonrise. I made a pot of coffee and was perfectly contented watching the lights on shore slowly scroll by and the mast tracing irregular patterns in the field of stars above.

A ship passed a little farther offshore, prompting me to take an inventory of coastal shipping on our AIS. I was surprised to find that one of the targets several miles back was tagged as the Irish Sea. They were still way over the horizon. The Irish Sea is the oceangoing tug where our former roommate Angie serves as Assistant Engineer. The AIS predicted that they would be overtaking me in about three hours. On my next position update text to Maryanne, I added a little note about Angie’s boat.

The wind increased through the night, boosting my speed and keeping the time of our closest point of approach steady at three more hours. Just after midnight, my phone rang. It was Angie. She had received a message from Maryanne when she started her watch and was calling from the bridge, where she reported she could see me on radar. She told me they had been underway non-stop since Houston and this was the first good weather they’ve had since.

I spent the wee hours of the morning engaged in a futile John Henry style race between my wind-powered boat and a tug driven by two huge locomotive engines. The constant trimming helped keep me awake and I was holding my own respectably until I got close enough to shore to be in the wind shadow of Sandy Hook, when my speed started falling. The Irish Sea was now getting noticeably bigger and closer.

I held them off by taking the shallower South Channel as a shortcut towards the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. When I rejoined the main channel, they were only a couple of tug-and-barge lengths behind me. I called Angie to tell her about our upcoming meeting. She works in the engine room and would not have been able to keep track of me from there. While still on the phone with me, I could see her come out on the lower deck and start snapping pictures of Begonia (None of them came out. It was too dark and there was too much motion). We eventually got close enough that we could have easily tossed a tennis ball back and forth.

The Irish Sea is a huge boat, particularly while pushing a barge. The upper bridge, from where the tug is steered while in harbor, is probably thirty feet above Begonia’s masthead. As they passed, The Irish Sea blocked my wind and I slowed down. I expected the passing to go quickly, but it seemed to be taking forever. Angie suggested I get on the radio with the guy at the helm and find out what was going on.

Night time meetup with The Irish Sea

It turned out his plan had been to get a good look at me, then to drop back and pass behind me to anchor on our right. My slowing down was messing up his plan. I had no way to speed up, but I told him I had enough room and wind to turn toward him and pass close behind since Angie reported that the engines were at idle. He seemed happy with that plan. I made my turn. Once I was on the upwind side, I picked up speed and was able to pass them at the same distance on their left before they peeled off for the anchorage. When they did, I high-tailed it out of the channel to make way for the steady stream of shipping coming up astern.

About half an hour later, after passing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, a cruise ship very brusquely ordered me to turn to starboard to give him more room. I was already well out of the channel in twelve feet of water, which I’m sure wasn’t even close to what they needed, but I made a point of turning as far as I dared without jibing just so that my predicted course on their radar would leave no doubt that I would be any where near the deep water channel. I was ¾ of a mile to starboard of the ship in front of him.

When he passed me, he called me back and went on a long rant about how I had come so close to that tug that it looked on radar that I was their barge. This is a busy harbor and I need to stay away from shipping, etc. I thanked him for his advice periodically, but it only seemed to encourage him to rant more. He finally shut up when I explained that the tug and I knew each other and we were taking pictures of each other, I wasn’t just some clueless sailor oblivious to shipping. When he passed, I saw that the cruise ship was the exact same ship Maryanne and I had seen in Santorini almost exactly a year earlier aboard Footprint. By then, any urge I had to “catch up” had been squashed.

They pulled into the cruise ship piers just past Chelsea, I continued to 79th St Basin. By then, the sun was up. I called the dockmaster to find out which mooring he wanted me to use. He told me they no longer allowed catamarans to use their moorings. This was a shock. We had stayed there on Footprint and Prydwen and had always had the company of a few catamarans. He seemed apologetic and offered to let me anchor on either side of the mooring field if I could find a spot I liked. I tried for a while, but I eventually couldn’t. The shelf was too steep to give me any confidence in the strong current.

Defeated and exhausted, I called Maryanne for help. 79th St. is New York’s only reasonably priced option during the April to October season. Moorings there were $180/week. Liberty Landing Marina had previously told us the rate was $5.25/foot/day with no weekly or monthly discount. Other marinas were similar. Maryanne made a few phone calls and was eventually able to get us a slip in the marina where we planned to winter. The rest of the month would cost as much as the whole winter. That was actually a bit of a deal considering the other alternatives, so she told them to expect me. Sweetly, she also told them to help me tie up and to let me go right to sleep when I got there. She would handle the bill later when she joined me.

I showed up just as it started blowing hard and pouring rain. I got tied up without incident and was soon enjoying a fitful sleep in the lurchiest, swelliest marina I have ever docked.

I awoke late afternoon when Maryanne arrived from the apartment and emerged to have a look around. The first person we met was the guy in the boat next door, Nick. Nick is short for Nickolai. We became immediate friends when we bid him “Kalispera” and he noticed the Athena nameplate on Begonia, his hometown.

Nick turned out to be the best guy we could have ended up alongside. The jerking back and forth in the marina was severe enough to worry us about the possibility of having our cleats torn out of the deck. Nick’s boat and many others nearby were equipped with several robust looking springs between docklines and dock. We asked about them and it turns out he manufactures them. He had another lot coming in from the factory tomorrow and he would see that we got some. We augmented them with new, stretchier docklines and a few more sturdy fenders. We now ease to a stop rather than jerking in all but the worst cases. The swell turns out to be caused entirely by wakes on the Hudson. At night when the ferries stop, the marina is calm and comfortable. During the day when they’re running, not so much.

Night time Manhattan skyline view from Begonia

Apart from the omnipresent daytime swell, Maryanne and I love our new neighborhood. We are right across the river from the Empire State Building, which is lit up with different colors almost every night. We have a million-dollar view right from our cockpit. Our neighborhood is beautiful and vibrant and if we want more excitement, Times Square is only one bus stop away. As Maryanne and I take exploratory evening walks, she is constantly interrupting the conversation to beam at me and proclaim again and again, “I really like it!”

Friday, September 07, 2012

Baltimore to NY: Day 3

[Kyle]I woke up while it was still dark, dreading the prospect of going back out of the inlet {Maryanne: I insist you have to go out the outlet, and it isn't called an inlet when you are going out}. The weather was supposed to be flat calm all day. I thought about it a while and decided to leave on the highest tide that would allow me to get under an intervening bridge. That way, there should be less chance of surf and what surf there was should have more water under it. I should be able to go out with a meter and a half more water than when I came in.

I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with all of the worrying, so I just decided to get up. I checked the NOAA site over coffee and found out that they had issued a rip current and heavy surf warning for the east coast due to long period swells pushed ahead by Hurricane Leslie 500 miles to the east. They were expecting it to last all week. Yikes! I only had a few days before my 15-knot tailwinds were forecast to shift to 30-knot headwinds for the foreseeable future. It's definitely time to keep pushing north.

At first light, I braved the bugs and the smell and went out on deck to see what I could of the distant inlet through the binoculars. What I could see was pounding surf that looked worse than the day before. I tried to remind myself that it was dead low tide and that it should improve as the water rises and that I couldn’t see the whole inlet from my anchorage.

As the tide rose, I busied myself with making a big meal and getting the boat ready. While I did that, I kept trying to distract myself by playing podcasts on our radio, but I couldn’t stop worrying about how I was going to have to go out there eventually. I decided that I would take a look. If I couldn’t find a way out, I could always come back for as long as I needed – to the marina, not the stinky anchorage.

Just after I pulled up anchor, I saw a Coast Guard patrol boat leave the inlet. With our AIS (Automatic Identification System), I was able to see his route into the ocean. When I got there, conditions weren’t nearly as bad as I’d feared. I could see a clear path out using the Coast Guard route. There was also another option along the buoyed channel. Not sure of the CGs draught, I chose the latter route with nothing worse than steep swell. Toward the end, I could see my mistake from the previous evening. Another buoy had been placed off the direct line between the safe water buoy and the one I headed towards. I hadn’t seen it because it was frequently hidden by surf from that angle. My shortcut was still in an area of alarming surf. The zigzag took me completely around it on the way out.

For the rest of what was a short day compared to the previous two, not a breath of wind blew. I motored on one engine up the coast on a sea only broken by Leslie’s swells. I stayed just outside the surf where the motion was somewhat soothing until I arrived at Little Egg Inlet.

The Coast Guard and Tow Boat US performing practice rescues in the Atlantic - and Atlantic City in the distance

Once I got near enough, I could clearly see the breakers on radar, then by sight. A big sport fishing boat blasted by me on his way into the inlet. I followed his target with the radar as it appeared on the chart to travel right across several sandbars and avoided deep water. I followed his track until I could spot the buoys then crossed the same 'sandbars' in smooth water. The depth never went below 11m and the deep water on the chart was a mess of jumbled breakers. The Coast Pilot says the buoys along the NJ coast aren’t charted because of shifting inlets that change too often. This particular inlet had no resemblance to the chart at all.

Once safely inside, I followed the buoyed channel around the corner to my selected anchoring spot. As I was getting ready to turn out of the deep channel into the anchorage, the depth sounder reading started plummeting. I was on the correct side of the adjacent buoy in water the chart also said should be deep, but it was still getting shallower. I turned, but that made it worse. I turned the other way and it still got worse. I put the engines in neutral and had almost stopped when I touched bottom.

Just then, a guy on a SeaTow boat called me on the radio to tell me it was shallow there. Well, no kidding! He came over and directed me back into deep water, which was nowhere near the buoy, by the way. My grounding had been soft enough that I was able to just put the engines in idle reverse and back off. Once I was back in deep water, he helpfully told me how to get back to the inlet so I could get to the ocean. {Since we are not even Sea Tow members, this fantastic assistance and information was extra nice}

I explained that I just came from there and I was trying to anchor for the night. He suggested a protected spot nearby and told me how to avoid coming to more grief along the way. Inlet channel buoys are changed all of the time. They’re right. The other buoys are all wrong. Jeez, how does anybody find their way around here?

As I applied power for the trip to the anchorage, the right engine started shaking wildly. I brought it back to idle, then put it in reverse. Reverse seemed smooth. Back to forward. It started rough, and then got smooth. When I backed down on the anchor, it shook again wildly, I tried forward again and it was rough too. I was worried that I bent or even threw a blade or perhaps the shaft was bent. Once I was finished with securing everything, I once again donned mask and fins and once again found a fish trap float line wrapped around the prop. This time it was wrapped loosely so that it didn’t interfere with the operation, but swung around and threw the whole thing off balance.

My anchorage smelled better, but was still surrounded by miles of buggy swamp, forcing me inside for the evening. I’m beginning to understand why I don’t recall seeing any books entitled “The Cruiser’s Guide to New Jersey”. If only Maryanne were here. I wouldn’t need to stop for sleep and this whole thing would have been two offshore days of sitting alternating watches. But then I would have missed all of these great New Jersey destinations. {Maryanne: He's still grumpy isn't he? Clearly Kyle was never meant to sail alone, we'll have to sort that out soon}

And missed another beautiful sunset!

Baltimore to NY: Day 2

[Kyle]A closing weather window and the desire to take full advantage of Delaware Bay’s strong tides necessitated a departure in the dark the next morning. I realized once it was too late that I could have skipped the coffee before leaving. The adrenaline of motoring down a pitch black river full of unlit “no wake” buoys, fish trap floats and other debris was more than enough to wake me right up. I kept thinking about the huge stump I saw floating up the river with the tide the night before. I was constantly running to the bow to scan the water with the spotlight, then running back to the helm to change course. I tried to use the spotlight from the helm, but so much of the light fell on the boat in front of me that it completely washed out the background. As soon as I made a course change, I worried I couldn’t see and as soon as I spotted something with the light, I worried I wouldn’t make it back to the helm in time to dodge it. {It looks like we'll be adding a wireless remote autopilot to Kyle Christmas list!}

I arrived at the Bay proper just as the first hint of light made seeing a little easier. I forget who said it, but the Delaware Bay has been called the nautical equivalent of a root canal: nobody enjoys it, but it’s something you just have to get through. That sounds about right to me. I’ve been through it a few times and it’s always a chore. I was going to write my shortest blog entry ever called “Things to Like About Delaware Bay”, but I decided to have the longer rant about it here. The entire entry would read: “If you’re going from Baltimore to New York, it’s a lot shorter than going all the way out the Chesapeake Bay entrance”. That’s it. There is nothing else to like about Delaware Bay. Like that other awful body of water, the Irish Sea, Delaware Bay is shallow and brown and has such strong currents that even calm wind days are choppy. In addition, the Delaware Bay has nothing of any interest on either side, which is fine, because the route from the center runs a maze of shoals and hazards. A very busy shipping channel that is just littered either side with fish trap floats cuts the wide bay. {Visitors might sense Kyle is getting a little curmudgeoney.. Time to get him home soon I think}

The first few miles were due south directly into the wind until passing the Salem nuclear power plant. In order to avoid the procession of ships, I had to weave my way through the float zone. There were so many of them that I didn’t dare leave the helm for even a drink of water or a pee. I dipped into the shipping channel during a gap and put the sails up. Begonia is much faster under sail than under power. It was a pleasure to go zipping down the bay ticking off the miles. The current heaped the bay into an uncomfortable boiling froth, but at least it was going my way.

As the current peaked, I was “enjoying” a nail-biting slalom run through the floats. I turned upwind to dodge one only to have to turn further for another, using my inertia to carry me past and then swinging the wheel to leeward before the boat stalled. Another float appeared and I didn’t have enough rudder authority at the low speed to avoid it. The boat slowed and the steering became sluggish. The float had not popped out from the stern.

I tried hard turns both ways, hoping it was just caught on the rudder and that would free it, but I still couldn’t get hardly any speed. I had to pull the sails down, stop the boat and have a proper look. Leaning way over the side, I could see the offending string of floats sticking out between in the area of the sail drive between the keel and the rudder. I leaned and yanked and poked it with a boathook all to no avail. With a dock line tied to me to keep the boat from drifting away, I donned mask and fins and went in for a look. The float line had somehow managed to get wrapped around the drive leg, two prop blades and the rudder shaft, even though the prop was not turning and the boat was going basically one direction. It took me four dives, but I finally managed to unravel the whole thing. I emerged gasping for air, spitting seawater, covered in rubbed off blue bottom paint and screaming obscenities at all fishermen.

With the fish trap no longer dragging me down, I was drifting fast through yet more traps. I didn’t dare start the engines so, still dripping wet, I unfurled the jib in the hope of getting enough steerage-way to point upwind to raise the main. I was just slowly making the turn when, unable to steer fast enough, I snagged another line. Again, I had to furl the sail, stop the boat, dive in and untangle the line. I now officially hate fishermen.

I had lost the current, which was reversing fast, and I now needed to point as far upwind as I could to have any hope of eventually clearing Cape May and making it into the Atlantic without tacking.

It was a long, root canal of a way, but I finally made it into the Atlantic. Ahh, the Atlantic, so free of stuff to hit. I made a turn downwind and had such a fast sail that I decided to skip the stop at Cape May and push on to Great Egg Inlet, near Ocean City.

Distant lands of Cape May

It was a race to arrive by sunset. When I got there, a huge thunderstorm was over the inlet, making it even darker. I could see some breakers on radar, but it was getting confused with the rain return. I got to the safe water buoy at the entrance and turned in on the prescribed course towards the next buoy.

After a few minutes, the water started getting weird. The two-foot waves I had been in all day were turning into five-foot swell that seemed to be getting steeper and steeper. Ahead, I could see that I was approaching the back of a surf line. I checked my depth and the chart and they seemed to be in agreement. Still a little nervous, I picked the least swelly looking bit and continued on. The depth sounder reading went from 10m to 4m, the charted depth of the channel. Then it went down to 1.7m (our draught is 1.2m) before a breaking wave hit and it went to dashes in the turbulence. Begonia slewed thirty degrees and then righted herself, and then the sounder showed 6.5m. Whew!

I was jacked up all over again, just like in the morning. Five-foot breaking waves are not a danger to the boat by themselves. My concern was WHY they were breaking. The 1.7m reading could have been caused by underwater turbulence or there could have been an uncharted sandbar there.

It was clear on the other side and I had no other issues coming in, except for the stress caused by the waning light and the sound of the breakers on either side of the deep channel. I looked back for a smooth way out the next day and could not see one. I was NOT looking forward to going back out.

I wove my way a couple of miles into the inlet and set the anchor in a protected spot. Bug filled marsh again surrounded me. This one had the unfortunate addition of smelling like a cross between low tide and a warm dumpster. I was glad it was only for a short night.

Baltimore to NY: Day 1

[Kyle]We were up SUPER early in order to have Maryanne at the Inner Harbor by 4 a.m. for her train to NY. Once I dropped her off, I retraced our path in the dark past our anchorage at Key Bridge, past Stoney Creek and back into Chesapeake Bay.

The wind, sun and tide all arrived at the same time and I had a great time making it back to Still Pond in half the time we had before. The weather forecast for the next week indicated it would be a good idea for me to make a really long day of it and keep pushing all the way through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

As the Bay slowly narrowed down to the canal, the unimpeded wind of the open bay diminished. My sail became a motorsail and then just motoring when the sails finally were just hanging there uselessly.

Heading East in the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal

After I left the canal, I crossed the Delaware to the Camden River. A few miles upstream, I made it to my anchorage at the town of Camden. Actually, Camden didn’t seem so much a town as a series of houses along one side of the river that became increasingly dilapidated the further upstream I went. This culminated in the ironically named Camden Yacht Club. The “yachts” were mostly aged powerboats, many of which seemed barely afloat or possibly resting on a shallow bottom.

As I approached, I was the recipient of several “Deliverance” style stares. They seemed to be not sure if I was expecting to tie up or get fuel. When I continued on and dropped anchor just upstream, more people came out to stare. I did my whole post-sailing checklist with an audience. They must not get too many cruisers stopping by in fancy sailboats. I have no idea why, but then I’ve been to Wick (recall?).

In Camden, the side of the river not lined with houses is marshland as far as the eye can see, making a home for every conceivable variety of biting insect. There were several different species of flies, mosquitos, flying ants and worst of all, no-see-ums, or as the West Indians call them: teefs. Even though the inside of the boat was a greenhouse warmed even further by the engines, I had no choice but to retreat into the only bug-free space for miles

A holiday weekend ends

[Kyle]After a nice, lazy weekend, it was time to take Maryanne back to Baltimore for her train for work.

On the Monday afternoon we had a fast sail back across the Bay from Still Pond along with everybody else returning from the weekend. I was particularly enjoying the sight of a couple of monohulls going the same direction in front of us that were rapidly getting bigger. My plan had been to pass them just as we were enjoying hors d’oeuvre’s spread out festively on the cockpit table. I would wave nonchalantly to the soaking crews hiked out on the rail as we zinged by. Unfortunately, they peeled off (at Middle River, no less) just before I got to them, so a portion of my fun was foiled.

To the south towards Annapolis, a huge, ugly looking gray sky indicated a storm was approaching. We could hear several boats on the radio that were talking to each other about it. Some had just come through; some were just getting into it. NOAA Weather Radio was broadcasting all sorts of “seek safe harbor” announcements. We kept track of it with radar which assured us we’d miss the deluge. When the storm passed nearby we rolled up the genoa to protect ourselves from any gusts. We were still chugging along under main alone and managed to get into the Patapsco between the worst of the showers. All we saw was a few seconds of biggish raindrops.

I had planned to anchor again in Stoney Creek the night before Maryanne’s early train for all of the reasons I picked there to wait for her arrival. This time, however, I intended to anchor outside the drawbridge in order to avoid delays dealing with what I have come to decide is the world’s most dim-witted bridge tender. Scratch that, I just remembered the Elizabeth City guy. The Stoney Creek guy is a VERY close second. {Kyle has yet to learn public tact - sorry all}

When we got to our intended spot, which was the only one on that side of the bridge, we found that a local fisherman had taken up all of the usable anchoring space with closely spaced pots. I wanted to stay and see if I could make something work, Maryanne was for giving up and sucking up the extortionate holiday cost of a slip in the Inner Harbor.

After some, ahem, discussion on the matter, I grumpily agreed and headed for Baltimore (Why does she always end up being right in the end? It’s VERY annoying.). Now, although she is not apparently known for it as well as I am, Maryanne can also be cheap about certain things. She particularly dislikes overly expensive restaurants and paying $100 per night for the use of each of two cleats. While our guides were pretty clear that there were no particularly nice or protected anchorages between Stoney Creek and Baltimore, the weather was settled and we just needed a safe spot too shallow for shipping that was out of the way. Maryanne pored over the chart and found a suitable looking spot at the mouth of Curtis Creek. Since I had cell phone reception, I looked on Google Earth to get more of a feel for what was on the chart. It turns out our chosen spot was right next to the Baltimore Waste Water Treatment Plant. Uh, Veto! I looked again and was able to find a spot at one end of the Key bridge next to the power plant. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but we were out of shipping’s way, we had the whole place to ourselves AND it was exposed enough to keep our wind generator spinning all night so we awoke with full batteries.

So we spent the evening anchored by the bridge enjoy relative quiet and privacy with a nice meal and a glass of wine.

[Maryanne] The Bridge is called the Francis Scott Key Bridge. For my fellow Brits I'll let you know who Francis is.. He's the attorney/lawyer who watched, from a truce ship in the Patapsco River, the British fail to take Fort McHenry way back in September 13 1814. By dawn the American flag was tattered but still flying and he was inspired to write a poem. That poem eventually became the 'Start Spangled Banner' and the American national anthem.

This very unusual buoy is placed during the summer season in the river, at the very spot he viewed the battle from.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

[Kyle]Kate and Mark were unfortunately unable to make it for the weekend. Maryanne and I decided to skip the stress of Baltimore altogether and took a longish sail up the bay in light winds.

As it was a holiday weekend, boats were out everywhere. Most were being operated by people who I assume only get out two or three times per year, and made for alternating frustration and entertainment. The radio on channel 16 was filled with the continuous noise of angry people screaming at others about their wakes, or wondering why a commercial fisherman was upset with them after motoring over fishing gear. We weren’t in the main harbor, so it affected us mostly by just making the radio chatter annoying or entertaining.

The most entertaining moment was when a man called the Coast Guard saying he was lost. When they responded, he gave them a GPS position, and told them he was just outside Pleasure Island. Someone asked if he had a chart. He responded that he did, and that he was lost. At another point, a spaced out couple on a powerboat came over to us and yelled “Middle River”. After a little confusion, we were able to determine that they were completely lost and were asking us which way to Middle River. We gave them our best directions, but Middle River was far enough away that we were sure they wouldn’t make it all the way without finding someone else to ask.

We found a couple of boats going our direction and tried to get into informal races with them, but they were tippy boats dragging big pieces of lead so as soon as we unfurled our sails, they would soon shrink behind us toward the horizon, ruining our fun.

Finally, nice weather and pleasant sailing

As afternoon arrived, the wind began departing. We managed to keep up our speed by hoisting our spinnaker for a while until even it wouldn’t stay filled anymore. We fired up the starboard engine for the rest of the way to our anchorage at Still Pond. It was more full than we had ever seen, but there was still plenty of room for us to pick out a relatively secluded spot for a quiet weekend aboard. The forecast was for a high probability of rain, so we decided not to have any plans, per se, but to just take it as the weather allowed. It’s nice to be back together aboard our own boat.

An Easy One

[Kyle]I motored the short seven miles to the next harbor in light headwinds. Maryanne was coming into Baltimore via train and we also were expecting our good friends Kate and Mark, with whom we sailed across the Aegean a year earlier, to drive up from Norfolk.

A couple of complications of a Baltimore pickup were that it was Labor Day weekend and there was a grand prix race taking place on the waterfront at the Inner Harbor. Competition for berthing space was high and the local maritime businesses were responding by jacking up prices accordingly.

My goal then became to get near enough to Baltimore to avoid the price gouging while still being close enough for everyone to be able to get to Begonia easily. I found a nice spot in Stoney Creek where I was able to spend the next couple of days pottering around the boat fixing minor things, swimming and reconnoitering landing spots for pickup.

Maryanne arrived late Friday after a full workday for her. Even though she must have been pretty tired, we were still able to find time to lie out on the trampoline, talking and enjoying the stars on our newly fixed-up boat.

A Long Sail

[Kyle]I was up early the next morning for my next leg up the Bay. My early plan was to stop at Tippity Wichity Island in the St. Mary’s river on the north side of the Potomac. The forecast, however, was for an unfavorable wind shift the next morning. I decided to make the most of the current favorable wind that I could while I still had it.

When I got to the point that I would have needed to leave the Bay for Tippity Wichity, I was making good way on a comfortable point of sail. I was feeling rested and alert, so I decided to continue on to the next logical stop at Solomon’s Island at the mouth of the Patuxent River.

I arrived at the Patuxent just before sunset. The wind had picked up, was still out of a good direction and I was still feeling alert. The long stretch of Chesapeake Bay between the Patuxent and the Annapolis area is a desert of decent anchorages, at least on the western side. To continue would be to commit myself to another eight hours of sailing. With the next day’s forecast headwinds, it would be at least twice that much time tacking back and forth against it. I decided to continue on while the wind was so favorable, made a pot of coffee, and settled in for the night.

It was marvelous sailing. I had the whole bay to myself, the wind was from behind and warm and the nearly full moon lighted my way.

At 2 a.m., I arrived at Annapolis. Even though I had been up for twenty-three hours straight, I was still feeling surprisingly good. I decided to continue for another three hours to another anchorage at Bodkin Creek, at the mouth of the Patapsco River, upon which lay my weekend destination of Baltimore.

By the time I pulled out of the main channel for the Bodkin Creek inlet, I was starting to fade noticeably. It was short lived, however. The minute I pulled out of the main shipping channel, two things happened: The Moon went down, removing it’s helpful light and I suddenly came upon a minefield of crab pot floats. If a prop picked one of the float lines up, I would be disabled. There’s nothing like threat of impending disaster to get the adrenaline flowing and wake a person up. With spotlight handy, I wove my way in on a crazy zigzag path into the harbor involving lots of crash stops and full rudder turns.

Once inside the harbor, the floats stopped and I was able to find a nice spot in the middle of the river with good holding. I had come so far that I now had the luxury of only needing to go another seventeen miles or so over the next three days. Wind direction was now much less critical. I could take the last few miles at a much more leisurely pace.

As I was falling asleep just at the first light of day, I heard the rain come, signaling the arrival of the wind shift.

Finally, a Weekend Aboard and Together

[Kyle / Maryanne] So, after our working trip to Ottawa, Maryanne and I finally got a weekend in which to enjoy the newly refitted Begonia. At least this was the plan.

I arrived on the Friday evening at Richmond airport, Kyle collected me and we headed off to a Mexican restaurant that had been a regular haunt in the days when I collected Kyle from Richmond after a work trip (when he could not fly into Norfolk) way back when we lived in Virginia. Since this was to be our last weekend in Virginia for the foreseeable future it was a nice way to say farewell (and saved any late night cooking and cleaning up).

With a forecast for showers in the morning, we felt no guilt about sleeping in to our hearts’ content as the occasional shower passed over the boat. Just about Noon, the first patches of blue sky started peeking through and we cast off the lines for an afternoon sail followed by an evening anchored in a nearby bay. The weather was miserable, but Kyle was convinced it would break. He’d planned for a good test sail for me to see my new boat in action, followed by a romantic night at anchor, he hadn’t planned for the weather and I was all for giving up and staying at the dock. With an ear to the weather channels and the VHF and an eye on the radar, Kyle determined by mid afternoon that we could head out; I certainly was not so convinced. It was still blustery, and by the time we’d left the dock heavy rain returned, by the time we left the tributary there were emergency warnings of tornadoes and waterspouts – Yikes, if only that had been announced 30 minutes earlier I’d have insisted we stay at the dock.

Before we had even left Broad Creek, where our marina is located, it started raining. I mean RAINING. Lightning was everywhere and rain was bouncing off the deck and striking me in the eyeballs so hard, I had trouble seeing. Returning to the dock for an indoor weekend, while desirable, was suddenly a completely unsafe option. We were in the mariner’s position that seems counter-intuitive to non-sailors where our most safe option was open water away from all of the dangers of harbor.

As we continued out into the Rappahannock, things got even worse. They continued to get gradually worse for the next few hours. The radio was alive with warnings of severe thunderstorms and waterspouts.

It was uncomfortable and I was completely soaked outside at the helm, but Begonia was just fine and Maryanne was dry inside. It was a good thing.

Yes, poor Kyle was drenched, and I was occasionally supportive and decided to stay inside – no point in us both being miserable; teamwork doesn’t mean we both have to get wet and cold, I’d have a towel at the ready, my small contribution!

As we approached our anchorage, I had some concern as to whether or not we would still be safer in deep water. The weather and latest forecast all suggested the worst was very much over, however, so we gave it a shot.

By the time we had finished setting anchor, the skies were clearing again. The remainder of the evening was actually very pleasant. I tried, but Maryanne wasn’t buying that I planned it that way. Hmm, setting the anchor in the rain, and the prospect of an early start and a miserable sail (more like motor) back to the marina before a long drive home in the morning - not exactly the idyllic sailing weekend I’d imagined.

By morning, the crud was back and we had a pretty long slog back to the marina, where I dropped off Maryanne. The time had come for me to begin making my way north in Begonia. Maryanne was taking our rental car back to NJ.

She drove through horrid road conditions caused by the storms while Begonia and I got a good soaking crossing the Rappahannock.

By the time I got into Maryland, the rain finally died down a bit and I got a real wind for a fast sail to my first anchorage at Mill Creek in the Great Wicomico. This is one of my favorite anchorages in Chesapeake Bay. We have stayed here many times before. It was in fact the first anchorage where Maryanne and I anchored Footprint after we picked her up from the factory.

My evening in my favorite “quiet” anchorage was spent watching lightning shows and listening to thunderclaps. I took advantage of all of the free water with a combined outdoor shower and deck wash.

Finally some more reasonable weather

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Mini-Break to Ottawa

[Maryanne]It seems Kyle has spent every moment of spare time at the boat for the last two months. My timetable is more rigid than his, and my attempts to join him some weekends have been foiled by flight cancellations and bad weather.

Just as it seems the boat is eventually ready, and we can actually sail it, we'd missed our chances to be together on the boat for a weekend; Kyle had to work.

We were able to make lemonade out of lemons though since Kyle had a Saturday and a Sunday overnight in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. Well, if I can't join him for work aboard Begonia, I can certainly join him for fun and adventure in Canada for a weekend get-a-way.

Random Ottawa scenes - what's not to like?

We could not have been more lucky, the weather was beautiful, as was this wonderful small city. We ambled, ate, relaxed and enjoyed the views. The city was filled with things to occupy and amuse: cycle trails, hiking trails, black squirrels, fantastic architecture, sculptures to trip over everywhere, a flight of canal locks, and so much more. Much was free (a tour of the Federal and Supreme courts, and a evening light show projected onto the Parliament building), or really inexpensive ($6 bicycle rental for the day, with pick-up and drop-off points every where you might need one).

The canal, parliament's library, and, of course, beer!

We thoroughly enjoyed our break (even though Kyle was technically at work) and recommend Ottawa to all.

Maryanne has a try as Federal judge.. watch out, she enjoyed it!