Solomons Island–again.

P9170006We stopped here at Solomons Island last year, and again this time. One of the larger boating centers in the central part of the bay.  It is an appealing place to stop because it is one of the few places we can easily get to that has a supermarket AND a West Marine within walking distance of the dinghy dock.

Solomons Island is right across the river from the Patuxent Naval Air Station, and around the bend from the Naval Mine Warfare Center, so there are frequently “interesting” things floating or flying by. Not the least of which are the numerous bald eagles and ospreys that call this stretch of the Chesapeake home.

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Osprey are very common birds here on the Chesapeake Bay

Yesterday’s “entertainment” was excursions to West Marine and the Grocery store.  Today was a bit more interesting, we took the dinghy over to the Calvert Marine Museum. An excellent small museum.  A lot about the natural history of the area, including a good selection of aquaria, an outstanding fossil collection, an excellent selection of historic boats, and even a light house. All with expository material that was aimed more at educated adults than attention deficient 10 year olds.  Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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The docks and lighthouse at the Calvert Marine Museum

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The small boat shed.

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The weight driven mechanism for striking the fog bell in the lighthouse

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The lighthouse lens

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Gathering oysters in a traditional working boat. Hard, lonely work.

Tomorrow we will be heading further north, about 40 miles to the general neighborhood of Annapolis.  We are forecast to get some rain and modest winds as Jose meanders past offshore, but nothing to worry about.

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The List

I had written that we had projects that were planned for our time in Annapolis.  We postpone some non-urgent projects until we are in a major yachting center where a wide range of possible parts and support are available.  Nothing is worse than starting a repair project and finding that you need something to complete it and not only do you not have it on the boat, but it will be a week before the part can be delivery to where ever you happen to be.

So, for your education and entertainment, here, in no particular order is the list of repair projects that we have accumulated.  There are a LOT more routine maintenance things that need doing, but these are the list of “faults” that will hopefully be all, or mostly all, corrected before we head south again.

  • 24v alternator on drive engine not charging batteries.
  • Autopilot linear drive making unusual noise.
  • Broken shackle on mizzen outhaul car.
  • Jib turning block bungee worn.
  • Move lifesling forward to avoid interference with staysail sheet.
  • Replace broken shackle on mizzen topping lift.
  • Work out best way to sheet mizzen staysail to mizzen boom.
  • Batteries need replacement.
  • Repair mainmast deck light.
  • Conductivity sensor on watermaker failed.
  • Lost prop from bow thruster.
  • Replace masthead wind sensor.
  • Retrieve skied ballooned halyard.
  • Freezer “buzzes”, a new noise that needs checking into.
  • Broken cleat on mainmast.
  • Ripped seam on Yankee jib.
  • Ripped seam on mainsail.
  • Broken zipper on dodger side panel.

Isn’t sailing fun????

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Inland Sailing

We arrived within the hour of predicted at the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay… which is pretty impressive for three days of uncertainties with weather and currents.  The wind forecasts were quite accurate as far as direction and time go. For some reason I find that the models very consistently underestimate the wind strength.  Not in a huge way, usually 5 to 7 knots or so, but it is just odd that it is a consistent error.

We found a quiet sheltered creek last night to anchor, and over the next couple of days we will be moving north the 100 miles or so toward Annapolis.

The One that Got Away

As we approached the coast and the rise up to the continental shelf, we had comfortable easy sailing, so we set out our fishing lines.  Shortly after that we found ourselves in the middle of the recreational tuna fishing fleet out of Ocean City that had made the weekend run out to “The Canyons.”

We saw a large pod of dolphins moving in a purposeful direction, and that usually means yellowfin tuna are nearby. We caught nothing, and saw none caught.  Some time after we crossed the continental shelf, I laid down for a short nap… when one of the reels screamed as a fish speed off with our lure.  It took us a few minutes to get the boat stopped, all the while the fish was running fast.  Just about the time the fish ran out of gas on his first (long!) run, the line went slack.

Whenever that happens, I wonder, what did I do wrong?  Did a knot slip?  Did a sharp tooth cut the line?  Did I apply too much pressure and break something?  When the end of the line came into sight, here it what we saw:

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No, the hook did NOT start out that shape!  Those of you with a fishing interest who have been following our stories, might recognize that this is by far and away out most productive lure–and the cheapest.  The venerable cedar plug.  This fish, most likely a medium sized wahoo, picked this drab simple lure from an assortment of much flashier offerings.  If only I had rigged it with a heavier hook!

Hurricane Thoughts

So far, the people we have heard from who were in Irma’s path survived in good health, even if some suffered serious loss of other kinds.  Good luck to Alexis, Libby and Alexandre.  If we know you and you have been in the path of the storm, drop us a line (when it’s easy for you) and let us know how you are doing.

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Sometime You Just Have to Believe

Time 0900 local
Lat N 38° 12.9
Lon W 73° 26.7′
135 miles Northeast of the entrance to Chesapeake Bay

The weather forecasts and sailing models all agreed: Hold your course, stay offshore, it will change. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. On schedule even.

Since we left Buzzards Bay the wind had been pretty steady out of the southwest. We have stayed close hauled for two days. This has taken us on a course more or less due south. While this is generally the direction we want to go, we were on a course the would have us over 200 miles off shore by the time we got to the latitude of Newport News, VA.

Last night exactly as predicted, the wind clocked to the west, and then the northwest, leaving us on a fast easy beam reach for the final approach to the bay.

We plan to head up the bay to Annapolis. As a major yachting hub, we can find supplies and services gathered together there that we either need, or might need as we tackle various maintenance projects. We called ahead to a sailmaker for an appointment to have their loft go over our sails, restitching seams, and fixing a few minor problems. A chance to have them looked over in detail. So… under the caption of “that figures” just as we are setting sail we get a small tear in the mainsail. We sailed down with just the jib and mizzen, which actually works quite well.

As I was writing the above paragraph, a shackle broke on the mizzen outhaul car leaving us without the use of the mizzen sail too! Fortunately, on this point of sail we can use the mizzen staysail and keep our speed up. I think I have the part to make this repair onboard.

Yesterday we encountered a large containership sailing out of New York. As we maneuvered to stay out of his way, I found my planned course change wasn’t working as I expected. Then I realized he had stopped. Very strange to see a 1200 foot long commercial ship hove to. Then Karen asked the critical question: Where is he headed? As soon as we noted the answer (Charleston) we knew what was up. He made his scheduled departure from NY, but didn’t want to be in Charleston as Hurricane Irma threatened.

Today we see the first signs of the distant storm on the water as a very long period swell from the south passes under us. A subtle, but powerful reminder of what’s happening a thousand miles to the south.

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The Migration Continues

Time 0900 local
Lat N 39° 29.6′
Lon W 71° 43.3′

Yesterday morning we weighed anchor as the wind shifted toward the west, and we have been heading south since then. So far an uneventful trip. No exciting wildlife sightings, weather has been tracking very much as predicted, only one or two places we had to play “dodge-em” with members of the commercial fishing fleet. About the biggest event was a distant sighting of the QEII’s lights in the wee hours as she sailed toward New York.

Our destination is the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay where we plan to spend the next month or so exploring and working on the boat.

As we were getting ready to leave the first news and first person reports were coming in of the trail of human and economic disaster that Irma left behind in the Caribbean. Some of the places we visited last winter are, quite literally, no longer there. We know of at least one boat like ours destroyed at its dock in Saint Martin.

As Irma damages places with better news coverage, it will be hard not to forget those people who had less to start with and now have nothing.

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Taking a chance to relax.

At least for a bit we get a chance to relax as Irma has taken a southerly route that will put the bulls eye on points further south.

We made our first trip through the Cap Cod Canal yesterday.  Our trip down from Boston was fast and fun as we rode westerly winds that were the last vestiges of Hurricane Harvey on a fast reach down the South Shore towards the neck of Cape Cod.  The weather kept us on schedule to catch the tide that roars through the canal.

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Approaching Sagamore Bridge over the Cape Cad Canal.

Passing through the canal is not dramatic, just a quick motor run down a wide ditch. Canal rules say “No Sailing” so no matter the wind you have to come through under power.  It was a quiet day, without any big ship traffic to deal with.  Coming out the east end things got a lot more interesting. The 2 to 3 knot current that had been pushing us along so nicely suddenly was running straight into a 4 foot chop generated by a 20 to 25 knot southwesterly wind that was blowing up the length of Buzzards Bay.

Thanks to the current, the waves were stacked up very close to each other, at times less than one boat length apart.  Up, and down.  Up and down. We really had no choice because the channel is narrow and straight into the wind for a couple miles.  Finally, we got to the deeper wider water and set sail.  Even sailing close hauled was way more comfortable than motoring into that!

We had been coming up behind a couple other sailboats just as we cracked off and set sail.  They continued to motor straight up the channel, bashing into the waves hard and often. As we came back up on the channel after our first tack, we found we had made far more progress to windward tacking off then they had motoring straight on.

We continued across Buzzards Bay and anchored in Mattapoisett Harbor to take a break and wait for a wind shift to a more desirable direction.

With the usual proviso that our plans are made to change, it looks like we will ride out a cold front tomorrow here are anchor, and we can then catch a good weather window out of here the following day and make a snappy run all the way down to the entrance to the Chesapeake.  So–for now–that’s our plan!

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Always a Surprise.

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Thursday night we were just sitting down to our dinner onboard, when we heard–very close by–the unmistakeable sound of fireworks.  While we had been relaxing below, someone had moved a pair of pyrotechnic barges into position right off the Boston waterfront.  We still aren’t sure exactly what the occasion was, but we were treated to front row seats at a pretty impressive display.

Our Friend Irma

Planning ahead for large storms is always a challenge.  The further ahead you look, the more time you have to plan, but the less accurate the information you have.  Our plan in the past has been, and will continue to be, to assume the worst, and be pleasantly surprised when things are better than expected.

As always after one disaster, the news media is anxious to keep the pressure on, so they are already hyping Irma as the next Harvey. I have to avoid reading the popular press and pretty much stick the the official information to get input for my planning.  At this point I am looking further ahead than the official forecasts are comfortable predicting, so I look at the computer models the forecasters use to try to see what the reasonable range of possibilities are, being fully aware that the chances for an accurate forecast a week ahead are very small.

Right now the GFS model has a land fall for Irma right up the center of the Chesapeake, while the ECMWF model has the storm tracking offshore. Since our current position is right in between those two tracks, my conservative assumption that it is coming this way, and have begun planning accordingly.

So our plan will be to head out of Boston as soon as the weather allows (Monday–we expect) and head south through the Cape Cod Canal toward Narraganset Bay, where there are many quiet backwaters to hide from nasty weather.  We had planned to stop at Provincetown out at the end of Cape Cod on our way out, but right now it looks like we’ll stop there next time we are in the area.We will keep watching, and as always, will modify plans as needed.

 

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