And we are off!

We dropped our lines in Annapolis this morning, and headed up the Chesapeake Bay toward the Chesapeake & Delaware canal. It feels so good to be underway again, stretching the sails and pushing water aside, spending the evening at anchor instead of at the dock.

The tide timing and weather suggested an overnight stop would be a good idea, so right now we are anchored in a scenic, protected back bay in the Sassafras River. A short line of thunderstorms blew through shortly after we dropped anchor and cooled things off nicely.

The canal route across the Delmarva peninsula and down Delaware Bay saves us a lot of miles heading north compared to running back down the Chesapeake.

Our next objective is Halifax, Nova Scotia. We have learned if we have a specific place to visit, stopping along the way can be a problem. We find interesting things to do and places to see, and we end up not getting to the destination we originally targeted. So this time, as soon as we exit Delaware Bay, we are turning left, and running straight north to Canada. It will be about a 600 mile passage, and the weather forecasts look excellent. We should be clearing into Canadian Customs in about 5 days.

Summer on Chesapeake Bay is brutally hot and humid. We are escaping just as the first real heat wave throws a flaming hot and soggy humid blanket on the Bay. It will be nice trading daily high temperatures in the high nineties for the mid seventies.

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Everywhere You Want to Be!

Who is? OCSC Alumni, that’s who!

OCSC Sailing is the sailing school in Berkeley, California where I taught for years. It’s a large, successful sailing school, and one with a unique culture nurtured by founder Anthony Sandberg and his (now retired) partner Rich Jepson over many decades. A culture of high standard for both staff AND students. A certification from OCSC really means something. It’s a great place to learn, and a great place to work. It has been a pleasure to run into former and current OCSC people in the least expected places!

In an ironic twist, although OCSC students are some of the best prepared sailors on the water, they also know how much they do not–yet–know. In dealing with the ocean, or any other parts of untamed nature, humility always serves you much better than hubris.

I never counted the total number of students I encountered in the 7 years I spent teaching, but surely 1000 would be a conservative guess. This year I have had the pleasure of meeting former students of mine, Tom and Nikki Murphy who are now sailing on their own boat here on the Chesapeake, a beautiful Sabre 36, Take a Bow. We had the pleasure of sailing with them on their boat while we had Harmonie in pieces! Visiting the bay were former students of mine, Danielle and Kivanc, who sailed with Tom and Nikki, and stopped by for dinner aboard Harmonie.

Tom, Nikki, Kivanc, and Danielle with Take a Bow in the background.

Last year Alicia Witham, former instructor, turned Club manager at OCSC, joined us on Harmonie to help us sail from the Bahamas back north to Norfolk

Alicia on bow lookout duty for coral heads while crossing a shallow bank in the Bahamas.

Another former student, Kevan Moize joined use for an extended time from Florida out to the Bahamas, and the again from the Turks and Caicos Islands to Puerto Rico.

Kevan on watch somewhere between T&C and Puerto Rico.

In Newport, RI which battles with Annapolis for the title of Yachting Capital of the East Coast, we met Nate Hathaway, formally of OCSC’s front office, who was working on a beautiful racing boat.

Nate Hathaway and I in the cockpit of the boat he was preparing for a season of racing in the Caribbean.

A few years ago, on the docks here in Annapolis we ran into Dave Cranston, a former OCSC instructor who was cruising the east coast on a beautiful Halberg Rassey 40 named Flight.

Dave Cranston on the right, me on the left. Dave’s boat, Flight is on the left, and Harmonie is at the right edge of the photo.

And I have to mention coming into the dock in Hawaii’ with a women standing there helping to catch lines who looks over at the boat and says, “Bill?” It was Anne Bayly. In the “it’s a small world” category of stories, she was in the same BBC class as Kevan Moize, and is the only one of my students (that I know of) to have sailed around the world.

If you are a member of the extended OCSC family contact us when we are in your neighborhood (or you are in ours), and in the meantime follow along on our blog!

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RIP Little Boat

Our trusty little dinghy, here seen in happier days, is going to the great ocean in the sky.

For the last several years our inexpensive little folding dinghy has served us well as our car, delivery wagon, fishing platform, and general transportation tool. She was a bargain when we got her, but now her time is past.

She had been patched a couple of times due to traumatic injuries, and had a couple of problems that caused us to drop her off at the local inflatable service center. They did a great job of working us into their schedule at the last minute. (Karen waving a $100 bill around probably didn’t hurt!) After inspecting our girl, the service manager took us aside and explained the situation. It was time to pull the plug. Repairs would cost fully what we paid for her when new, and there were multiple problems that prevented a reliably permanent fix. 

One boatload of food and supplies.

Finding a good replacement became a critical task. When you are out cruising the oceans of the world, a dinghy is a critical piece of gear. It is your connection to the land world. It takes you to the best places to explore, and brings all your provisions and supplies out to the mother ship.

We quickly marshaled our resources and research skills and, armed with a list of our criteria for what we needed, we finalized a choice and, with a bit of good luck, found a local supplier with exactly what we wanted in stock and ready to deliver.

As with all boats of all sizes the perfect dinghy does not exist. They are a collection of compromises. Our old girl did one thing really, really well. She folded up and stored in a compact package on deck, or in the aft locker. That was a great benefit, unfortunately it required a significant compromise. She couldn’t be built of the heavy-duty rubberized canvas that is the best for dinghies who have to live in the tropical sunlight. Instead the folding required a lighter fabric coated with PVC. Although PVC coated fabrics have improved greatly in recent years, They are still much more subject to degradation from the UV components of sunlight.

We could replace her with another folding model, but the cost of the newer folding dinghies was significantly higher, and left us still with the uncertain lifespan of the PVC fabric.

We knew we wanted an inflatable boat with a hard bottom, what is normally called a “RIB” (Rigid Inflatable Boat). They perform better, and can be dragged up on a rocky beach without issue. We knew we wanted it small enough to store under our mizzen boom on the aft deck–but not too small. It had to be big enough to safely handle our 15HP outboard. It would be nice to have an aluminum hull instead of fiberglass for reduced weight and better abrasion resistance.

Amel Super Maramus tend to find each other…

To our good fortune, our friends Alan and Laura aboard Ora Pai, a sister ship to Harmonie, arrived to the slip right in front of us yesterday. They had a dinghy in the size range that we were investigating stored on their aft deck. That gave us a chance to measure and check clearances. This was a great help in being sure that we were on the right track.

Today we put a deposit down on an 9.5 foot, AB brand, aluminum-hulled, inflatable dinghy that is in stock at Annapolis Inflatables. They had the best price that we could find anywhere in the USA, and were very helpful through the whole process. A special thank you to Fred in the service center who was more than generous with his time.

Our biggest compromise on this is that it doesn’t fold, so has to live out on deck. In return, we get a longer lived and better performing dinghy for our explorations.

We should be taking delivery of our new dinghy on Friday, or Monday at the latest. We are expecting to wrap up the last of the details from the computer snafu at the same time. Hopefully, the weather gods will smile on us and we’ll be back underway the middle of next week for points north.

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Arrrgh! Not moving yet!

Well… water is great… in its place.  Unfortunately water has some places where it does not need to be.  Inside my laptop computer is one of those places. Last night, the tiniest little bit of water got where it wasn’t supposed to be, and it turned my old reliable Apple laptop into a fluky, funky creature who’s future lifespan is now totally unpredictable.

The upshot of that problem, is that we are still here in Annapolis. Instead of being out sailing, and right now entering the ocean, we are still right–where we were.  All dressed up, but nowhere to go. We spent the day, not sailing, but rather shopping, and buying a new laptop.  

Getting the new machine is the simple part, getting the trade-in credit for the old machine is the time consuming bit.  It will take us the better part of a week to process through all of the logistical issues surrounding this, but it is worth enough in trade-in $’s to make the delay and hassle worth it..  

The boat yard here automatically rolls us over to a monthly rate as soon as it makes sense, so as far as they are concerned we are already paid up out for another two weeks.  So we will stay here and explore and enjoy while the wheels of commerce grind away.

All is not bad, of course.  The difference between a 2015 and a 2019 laptop is pretty dramatic, especially for the computationally intense task of video editing which wasn’t really on my radar when I selected the last computer!  So, we’ll just keep plugging away.  We’ll be on our way again before we know it!

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Ready! Set!… Ready!

No, really we are ready to go. Almost. We certainly could have rushed and run out tomorrow morning, but as cruising sailors there is one thing we are not very good at: Rushing. So we postponed the last grocery trip until tomorrow, and took a deep breath. Other than the provisioning, we have to make a stop for diesel fuel, and we’ll be off!

Karen spent all day today, and most of the day yesterday, cleaning and prepping the outside of the boat. In the heat and humidity here, that was a real herculean effort. Not only hot and humid, but interspaced with short intervals of thunderstorms and hail.

While she was working topside in the weather, I was slaving away in the air-conditioned cabin working out the details of our navigation plan for the first couple of days of our voyage. I did feel guilty (a little), but it had to be done.

We will be dropping lines here mid-morning on Monday to catch the tide and ride it up the Chesapeake, and through the C&D Canal to the Delaware where we turn right, and head out to sea. The canal will save us almost 200 miles compared to sailing down the Chesapeake to the ocean. The long range weather forecast looks excellent for our trip north. We plan to land near Halifax as our first stop, about 450 miles from the mouth of the Delaware. That should take us between 3.5 and 5 days. Maybe longer–if we linger and catch some fish!

The route is straightforward, and gives us several options if we feel we need to wait out some unexpected weather. If we need to, we can pause at Cape May, NJ or Nantucket in Massachusetts–which is about the halfway point.

We are looking forward to the cooler weather, the sailing, and fishing the offshore canyons, the shoals around Nantucket, and one of the most famous fishing grounds in the world, Georges Bank.

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And More Ready!

The headsail furling system has been fully reassembled, and is working smoothly and quietly. All is happy! Hopefully we have all the things back right after the idiot in Florida made such a hash of it. Kudos to Steve Maddon and his guys at M Yachts for some excellent work on getting new parts made, first class customer service, and keeping things on schedule.

If you have a Super Maramu, you might be interested in this page on how to disassemble the furler gearbox, along with some other thoughts and ideas on that system. 

Today we put the jib back up, and then from here on out it’s just details. Karen was out and about shopping yesterday, and saved us some potential hassle at our next major destination–Nova Scotia.

When you arrive in the territorial waters of a new country, you raise a solid yellow flag on the starboard side of the mast to indicate that you have not cleared customs and are officially in “Quarantine.” (In the flag signals the solid yellow is the letter “Q”). Once you clear customs, you fly a “courtesy flag”, that is the flag of the country you are visiting in the same place to indicate that you have completed the check-in formalities.

What Karen remembered is that we did NOT have a Canadian flag to fly after we cleared Canadian customs! From the reports we hear, the Canadian officials are endlessly polite, because…Canada! but are also rather insistent that the rules be followed.

We never heard of anybody having a problem because they were not following proper flag etiquette, but for the price of one small flag, why test it? A visit to the local chandlery and we are now prepared–or at least more prepared than we were!

For now, getting the details ready to go is the job. Those always take longer than we expect, but with hot and muggy summer weather settling in over Chesapeake Bay, we are looking longingly at the weather reports from Halifax where the daily high temperatures for the comming week struggle to break 60…

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Lots to Report!

Harmonie from a new perspective, under her sun shades, at the dock at Jabin’s Yacht Yard, Annapolis, MD.

To start, Harmonie now has an air force. To give us a new perspective on the world, and to expand our ability to tell a fun story, we have added a small camera drone to our gear set. Hopefully we can have some fun with it! So far, it amazes us with it’s sophistication and capabilities.

We have our headstay reattached and tensioned. We are waiting on one last lipseal (due to be delivered tomorrow) to install the motor and complete that rigging. Once we do that, we have tools and parts to stow, and we’ll be ready to go.

We have posted a new video through our FishingSailor website, telling the story of catching our first really big grouper. Enjoy it here:

We are itching to get sailing again, and heading north with the sun.

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