A Flurry of Fixes.

Our project list is shrinking as we dive into things.

Our shore power extension cord had a bad plug, that over-heated and needed replacing. Not a complex or difficult project, but an important one.

With that done, we attacked a couple of Rule #1 violations. To refresh your memory, the Three Rules of Boating are:

  1. Keep the water out of the boat.
  2. Keep the people in the boat.
  3. Don’t hit anything.

All Amel boats are built with the expectation that they will always comply with Rule One. We strive to keep it that way, both for the good of the boat, and our own comfort. So any leak is an issue that needs to be addressed because we do not tolerate leaks of any size or location..

First up was the aft cabin hatch. The plastic lens was coming unglued from its frame, and had started to leak. Since this was right over the foot of our bed, this was a priority. The lens was removed, cleaned up, and reglued in place with silicon.

Reglued, and leak free.

Next on the Rule One list was the overhead hatch in the saloon. This was replaced when we had major repairs made in this area two years ago. We have been happy with the style and function of the hatch, except in severe conditions the gasket leaked. Not good. See Rule One above.

We contacted Vetus, the manufacturer. As you might expect their first response to a warrantee inquiry was to claim that the installation was faulty. Rather than try to argue out that right off the bat, we figured we’d replace the gasket for a few dollars. We got the part number for the replacement gasket, and ordered it in.

Hmmm… the new gasket looks NOTHING like the original! The factory gasket was solid rubber with a shape molded to match the frame. It was held in place with a arrow shaped extension that fit into a matching groove in the frame. The new gasket is a round, hollow, stick down gasket. It looks like a generic replacement gasket.

After considering our options, I decided that we would try the new gasket. We’d surely be no worse off than we started, even if it leaked a bit. It took quite a bit of fussing to get it fit into the hatch frame, but it did go in. A test after the install with high pressure spray from the hose showed: NO LEAKS! Success! Hopefully it stays that way for a while.

Finally, we had two screws (from the 200+) that we installed as part of our window project that dripped a bit. We got those fixed up as well.

Now we charge on to other things, major and minor…

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A Small Change in Plans…

Our carefully considered plan was to slowly meander up the Chesapeake Bay, with Annapolis as our target for early September. It seemed such a good plan.

But we forgot something we both knew. The Chesapeake in August is H-H-H. Hazy, Hot and Humid. Oh, and there is no wind to sail with–except in the thunderstorms. You can’t even jump into the water to cool off, the local stinging jellyfish (“sea nettles”) are here in huge clouds.

So instead of taking three weeks to hop up from one anchorage to another, we jumped up in three days and are now plugged in at the dock–AC running–as the afternoon’s thunderstorms roll over us.

We have some family visits and travels coming up, and of course the current collection of boat projects, scattered in with doctor visits, and the fall boat show. A bunch of mostly enjoyable busy-ness.

We have two major boat projects on the docket. The vibration isolating mounts for our main engine are getting old and worn out, so those need replacing. We will also be building a a new freezer box to replace the one that was poorly insulated when it was first installed, and hasn’t gotten any better with passing years.

Of course there is always a long list of routine things that need doing, so we’ll be taking care of those too.

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Fishing Fun

We think you might find this little slice of our fishing adventure a brief, enjoyable diversion.

Big tilefish, and jumping sunfish! Who knew?

We had tilefish for dinner last night. It was divine!

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Success… on all levels

Our three day trip out to the Norfolk Canyon and back was a success in every way you care to measure.

First, and most importantly, it was FUN. The 80 mile sail out, and then 80 miles back, was delightful. The weather was perfect for what we were doing when we were doing it. The fishing was great, we pulled up a bunch of tilefish, some quite large ones:

34 pounds of yummy deliciousness from the bottom of the ocean.

Tilefish are about the tastiest fish in the ocean with a flavor that reflects their diet of crab, lobster and squid, but with a very delicate texture. If you ever find them for sale, they command a very hefty price, approaching $50/lb for the fillets.

In the Norfolk Canyon area these fish live on the bottom over 700 feet deep. That’s a really long, long way down, as you find out when it is time to reel in your line to check bait, or reposition the boat. It was for this kind of fishing that we recent splurged on a new fishing toy–I mean “essential fishing tool”. An electric fishing reel. We have been doing enough of this kind of fishing, called “deep dropping” that it seemed like it will be a worthy investment. So far–so good!

One of the things about the ocean is it never fails to surprise. After cleaning this big boy, Karen was below in the galley packaging the fillets for the freezer. I saw some interesting marks close up under the boat on the sonar, and dropped jig to see what I might hook. I hooked into a very large fish that ran off a LOT of line at high speed. At first I was sure I had hooked a yellowfin tuna, but then the fight settled down in to a bit of a street fight–for an HOUR. It turned out to be a large shark. We weren’t able to ID him as good to eat, and legal to catch, so we didn’t bring him into the boat. This, however, wasn’t the big surprise.

While I was fighting the shark, Karen was videoing the action. In the distance, a large fish jumps out of the water, completely clear, and lands with a huge splash. My initial ID is confirmed by a close look at the video. It was an ocean sunfish, a Mola mola. Not a fish I imagined being able to generate the speed to leap clear of the water, but there he was–airborn!

A flying ocean sunfish!

We are back in Norfolk, at anchor. Relaxing, working on some of our video productions. We have a few weeks before we expect to head up the bay to Annapolis.

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And we are back out again…

We came into Norfolk to put some fuel in our tank and to get some fresh provisions. Both of those goals have been accomplished, and now we are headed back out again. Our target is to spend a few day out at the offshore “canyons.” The weather looks like it might be promising for a fishing excursion.

In this part of the coast the edge of the Continental Shelf is about 75 or 80 miles offshore. This is where the ocean drops suddenly from one or two hundred feet deep to several thousand feet. From about here north this steep cliff is cut by a number of steep canyons that are huge wildlife magnets. Several of them would put the “Grand” Canyon in Arizona to shame in scale. We are out there to put some fish in our freezer. Tuna. Mahi-Mahi. Wahoo. Grouper. Tilefish. Barrelfish. Rosefish. Maybe (if we are really lucky!) a swordfish.

If you follow our sailing blog (where you are reading this!) you might be interested in the fishing side of our world. We have a Youtube channel that is growing quickly. We have a few videos posted and several more in production. Have a look, let me know if YOU think it’s interesting. If there is a specific topic that might be of interest we’d love to hear about it. Feedback is always helpful. We have a few titles in production focused a bit more on the interests of sailors who might like to eat fish rather than the more hard core fishermen.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkR6v1qMA3h0VL0POkvh7yA

Once we complete this offshore trip, we’ll be moving toward Annapolis where we will likely be spending most of September and October.

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Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

While we were sailing offshore the other morning, the weather was beautiful, but not especially unusual, at least at first glance. The atmosphere was very unstable, but on a very small scale. Not something you frequently see a hundred miles offshore. Karen was on watch at sunrise (which meant Bill was asleep) and she got some great pictures.

“The Dump”

The first photo was of a rain shower Karen called “The Dump.” A very small, but obviously very intense rain shower. Just amazing that such intensity can be so local. I think this comes under the category of what a meteorologist would call a “microburst.”

Her next photo was quite a bit more dramatic–and unusual.

Twister!

A long and skinny tornado. Well, technically I guess it should be a “waterspout,” but I doubt the difference matters if you are close to it!

While she was watching this in real time, she didn’t realize that it actually reached all the way down to the water, but if you look closely at the photo you can see the sea spray being thrown up where the funnel touches down. Again, this was really, really local. We saw no strong winds, and no rain on the deck of Harmonie. All the same, we were happy to not be too close to this.

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Slow and Steady

Yesterday’s quote from Karen, aka “The Harmonie Sage,” “When everything is so perfect, why would you want to rush to the end?” It might have be that some people would have found the sailing for most of this trip to be frustratingly slow, but with very few exceptions there was always enough wind to keep the sails full and the boat moving in the general direction we wanted to go, and with at least enough speed to steer.

The calm seas, and quiet left us with a collection of wildlife encounters that have been truly exceptional. By way of example: sailing along at a sedate 3 or 4 knots, we had a small pod of three oceangoing bottlenose dolphin come and spend an hour or more playing with the boat. The big, dark colored, scared, old male, the female and the near-adult young one. Each individual had its own preferred game with the boat. The old male would park himself right under the bow, and lead the way, matching speed perfectly. The female preferred to dart from side to side. The youngster was, in the way of all adolescents, more curious and full of energy. Darting back and forth even faster that its mother, it frequently rolled on its side to get a better look at the boat. At the same time this was going on at the bow, we had a much more unusual visitor at the stern. Coasting along, holding station just a few feet behind the boat, was a very large shark. Although we have seen sharks gather around the boat in the hope of an easy meal while we were stopped to catch fish, this is the first time we have seen one actively following along for extended distances. There was no sense of playful enthusiasm like that displayed by the dolphins, this was all about business…

The wind has now picked up, running 10 to 15 knots. Absolutely perfect, comfortable sailing weather. We are approaching Cape Hatteras in absolutely beautiful conditions. When we make this trip, turning left at Hatteras makes the transition from blue water passage-making to coastal sailing as we approach the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Although it feels like it makes the end of the trip, we still have 150 miles to go before we can drop anchor.

Right now our plans are to pull into Norfolk, anchor, sleep, and make our next move based on weather and whim.

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Slow, and Satisfying Sailing

The winds continue quite light, and our progress north is due at least as much to riding on the Gulf Stream as any push from the wind, but it is satisfying and delightful. Except for one short time near a rain shower I don’t think we have yet seen over 10 knots this trip. But coasting along at three or four knots has its pleasures, and is a lot more enjoyable than listening to the drone of the engine. We have no place we have to be for a month, there is no bad weather chasing us, and we are tired of crowds in a marina. Given all that, spending time out of sight of land seems the best place to be!

Yesterday we did stop off South Carolina to do some deep-bottom fishing. Fishing on the bottom in 750 feet of water is a bit new to me, and just to get a feel for the drift and the amount of weight that would be needed I dropped a heavy jig to the bottom, and in 30 seconds was on a fish. Now that is a very long way up…. Very long. I never did find out what I hooked because half way up it was stolen off my line by a large shark.

We rigged up our newest fishing outfit, an electric fishing reel, designed for bringing things up from these depths, and in very short order had our limit of Golden Tilefish one of which we had to rush out of the water at boat side to avoid losing him to another shark.

We stopped in one spot today and tried to repeat out success, but it was not to be. We are off Cape Fear, North Carolina right now, and will likely be anchored in Norfolk in two or three days, depending on weather and fishing opportunities.

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A delightful day.

Sailing is just all-round better than being tied up to the dock at a marina!

We spent the last 5 weeks tied up in Brunswick, Georgia. We were there to put the boat in a safe place while we did a road trip to visit some friends, and to put some funds in the cruising kitty with some mechanical work on other boats. The marina was nice enough, but this being coastal Georgia, in July it is hot and buggy.

But now we have flown that coop! On Saturday we left the marina and anchored out in the harbor. Yesterday (Sunday) we headed out into the ocean. Our next planned destination is Norfolk, VA, and from there to Annapolis.

Our sail out of the Brunswick Harbor took us out into a nearly windless ocean, so we motored east. We we treated to a large sea turtle, dolphins by the dozen, and snagging a couple fish.

The nighttime showed us a bioluminescent phenomenon unlike any we had seen before. Normally when sailing at night, especially on a moonless night, the small creatures in the water disturbed by the boat’s passage light up with a green glow. Last night was different. All around the boat, in all directions, as far as we could see, it looked like little “light bombs” going off underwater. Sudden flashes of light, some quite bright, at various depths. Some just a very brief flash, others lasting a second or two.

As I write this I am treated to a large group of what I think are Rizzo dolphins swimming by. They show no interest in the boat, they have places to go. And again, just as I write this… another small group of large dolphins go by, of a type I can be sure of.

Right now we are out in the Gulf Stream roughly off Charleston, SC sailing north in very light winds. There are a few spots between here and there we hope to stop to drop a fishing line.

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More Interesting Bits from the Out Islands.

The people we met on West Plana who were there making their living harvesting cascarilla bark had a lot of interesting things to teach us. These are the kinds of people you only meet if you travel the way we do.

Their home base is on Acklins Island, but they spend most of their time on Samana Cay, and visit West Plana Cay periodically. These are very poor people, making use of whatever resources they can find to convert into money. Poor, and friendly.

This is the boat they use to cross the 30 miles of open ocean between islands:

Yes, that is an 18 foot open, flat bottomed, skiff. The boat was a bit beat up, but the outboard looked well cared for and relatively new. This boat carries everything they use or need for the 6 weeks they spend on West Plana Cay. One thing that West Plana lacks is potable water. Since we can make all the water we need, the next time they were over on “our” side of the island we gave them 15 gallons.

Bahamian mutton, on the hoof. The island goats are mostly quite small.

In addition to the cascarilla bark, they earn money by supplying the restaurants on Acklins and Long Islands with goat meat, which the Bahamians incongruously call “mutton.” The catch is the chefs want it fresh, which means they need to deliver the goats alive. According to the explanation we got, they deliver a goat to the island, and get paid $100, the butcher gets $400 for the processed meat, and it retails at the resorts for $12 a pound.

One thing I had to know, “How do you catch them???” They are not terribly shy animals, but they don’t let you walk up and pet them either.

“Oh, it is easy! The dog barks at them, they turn to face the dog, and you grab them from behind. Feed them a few palm berries from your hand, and they are tame.”

The prospect of sharing that small boat with one, or more, live, wild, goats while crossing to Acklin Island would not appeal to me… Do goats get seasick?

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