In the ocean again…

  • Time 1835 local
  • Lat: 36º 45.4′ N
  • Long 75º 50.5′ W
  • Miles from Fishing Bay, Deltaville, VA: 52.6
  • Miles to Port Everglades Inlet: 675.3

We had a fast trip down and out of the Chesapeake today, and now as the sun sets it is clear, we are sailing fast on a fairly calm ocean on a beam reach.  All is good. Well, almost all!  The weather is reminding us why exactly it is we are sailing south… it is COLD. Even as far south as Florida is having a cold night tonight, but fortunately it is supposed to be warmer by the time we get there.

Highlight of today’s departure from the Bay was a large pod of dolphin that greeted us upon our return to the ocean. They obviously missed us as much as we missed them.

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More good stuff…

We got a lot of positive feedback from our last postings of things that worked well for us on the boat, and had requests for more.  In general, my guideline here is to only talk about things we like, use, and find especially helpful on the boat. Also, hopefully things that are a bit unusual, that you will not find on everybody else’s list. So here goes with a couple more:

“No Yelling”

Sena SPH10-10 Outdoor Sports Bluetooth Stereo Headset / Intercom  Harmonie is a big boat.  When we are anchoring the normal arrangement is for Karen to be at the bow running the windlass, and for me to be at the helm.  After two years of cruising, we have enough practice at this that setting and retrieving the anchor is pretty routine. Still, the ability  to communicate more sophisticated concepts than we can by simple hand signals is a good thing.  Wind, distance, and engine noise pretty much eliminate the ability to carry on a quiet, civilized discussion, so we need something else.

These intercom headsets are the perfect solution. Primarily sold to couples riding on two separate motorcycles, they work great on a boat. Complete hands-free, light in weight, and easy to use.  They double as quality bluetooth stereo music headsets for listening to tunes without disturbing your boat mate, or as high-end headsets for your mobile phone. If you have a really big boat, with a lot of crew to coordinate, you can communicate with four other headsets at the same time

As great and helpful as they are when we are anchoring, where they are REALLY important is when I am working up the mast and need to communicate with the crew on the deck handling my lines. The only downside with these is that they have so many options and capabilities the manual takes more sorting through than you might expect.  But it’s worth it.

Diesel “Magic”

Howes 103060 ‘Diesel Treat’ Diesel Conditioner For a variety of complicated reasons, the Volvo diesels that were installed in Amel Super Maramu’s tend to smoke a little bit.  Not enough to notice unless you look really carefully, but that little bit of smoke leaves an ugly smear of soot down the side of the boat behind the exhaust exit.

This product was recommended to us by the previous owners of this boat, and we know it works.  How?  Because if we forget to add it when we fill the tank the side of our boat turns gray to remind us!

I have no idea if the rest of the claims the manufacturer of this make are true, mostly true, or bogus, but I do know for our engine, it most certainly does result in a cleaner exhaust, and we keep using because of that.  It costs about five cents a gallon, and for us, is worth it.

Waiting out the weather

We are sitting here at anchor in Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia. It is just a short hop from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  The weather for Sunday is supposed to be quite gnarly, so our plan is to sit tight and relax in this well protected harbor until Monday morning.

We feel really fortunate that we have the luxury of chosing when we can leave.  Boats that were running to a schedule and headed out into the ocean because they HAD to are going to have a very uncomfortable time of it for the next day or so.

Somebody just recently reminded me of an old saying:  When you travel by motorboat you throw away your clock. When you travel by sailboat you throw away your calender. A close corollary to that is: The most dangerous thing to have on a sailboat is a schedule.


If you buy something from an Amazon link on our blog, we get a small amount of money back from Amazon.  Very small.  Just so you know!


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Weather changes…

One thing about weather forecasts, they change.

 SUN  S to SE winds 20 to 30 kt, increasing to 35 to 45 kt.  Seas 6 to 10 ft, building to 10 to 17 ft.

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 20.36.10

That’s from the National Weather Service for the part of the ocean we had planned to be in on Sunday… YUCK!  We are NOT going there!  It wouldn’t threaten the safety of the boat, but it certainly would not be anything I’d call remotely related to “fun.”

We are tucked into a quiet anchorage in the lower Chesapeake Bay that we are familiar with from our past explorations.  We will wait here for a few days until this mess blows away.  The anchorage is actually rather full of boats who are likely in the same situation: waiting for a comfortable weather window to head south.

A few extra days will give us a chance to do a few more boat projects.  I can have fun changing belts on the engine!



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Migration Underway

Time 1835 local
Lat: 38º 09.6′ N
Long 76º 16.8′ W
Miles from Annapolis: 49.2
Miles to Port Everglades Inlet: 749.1

We are just passing one of the more interestingly named places in the Chesapeake Bay, “Point No Point”.  We are sailing on a broad reach, at between 5 and 6 knots, not fast for us, but reasonable in the lightish winds.

We got underway this morning with a gentle breeze from the northwest, as forecast.  We sailed almost dead downwind all morning and most of the afternoon with our jib and ballooner sails poled out.  The wind never really blew hard, (4 to 10 knots) but we kept up a boat speed of between 2 and 5 knots.  There was a large flotilla of sailboats headed in the same direction out of Annapolis.  Of the dozen boats, only one other was sailing–everybody else was motoring.

One challenge this afternoon was dealing with the shipping traffic.  Our AIS reported a 770 foot cargo ship coming up behind us, but for some reason no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t pick him out.  There was a little haze and mirage effect, but still… this is a BIG boat!  After searching for a while, and moving further away from the main channel just to be sure, I finally convince myself that there is no such ship.  Rather, one of the sailboats is broadcasting completely incorrect information on his AIS.  Everything is wrong, the boat size, the name, the destination, type of boat, status, everything!  When he finally motors up alongside and I can read his actual name (“Cygnus”) I hail him on the radio and ask him is he is aware of the issue.  “Yeah…  I can’t figure out how to program the thing.  But it’s OK my position is right.”  Sigh.  I am hoping he sails down the bay close to the navy base where I am guessing one of the patrol boats will explain the problem to him in ways I can not.

As the sun sets, our weather is looking good, and the boat is doing well.  The routing program is predicting a 5 to 6 day trip.  As we come around Cape Hatteras, we’ll have our first big routing decision to make:  Do we follow the coast south, staying west of the Gulf Stream?  Or head east and then go south outside the main current flow?  Right now the weather models are split about which will be more efficient.  Hopefully they will give us more consistent guidance as we get closer.



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“What is that noise?”

As the weather blew through last night, sometime shortly after midnight Karen asks, “What’s that noise?” As I started to get back up out of bed (which I had just gotten into) I said, “That’s the anchor alarm.”

I have a program on my phone that keeps track of where the boat is relative to where we set the anchor.  If the boat moves more than it should, it makes “that noise.”  I was pretty sure that it was a false alarm.  I hadn’t set the position of the anchor terribly carefully, so I thought the strengthening wind had just stretched the anchor chain a bit further.  That turned out to be wishful thinking.  It has been over a year since we had a real anchor drag, and there was no question we were now drifting quickly toward a shallow mud bank.

It is pitch black, overcast, and windy. There are almost no lights on shore here for reference points.  We get the instruments booted up, and the engine started.  In a few minutes I have the engine is pushing us back upwind away from the shallows, and Karen was getting the anchor back up on so we could reset it further upwind.  Really the only position reference I have to drive to is the chartplotter screen.  Everything around is just black.

Once we get across to the windward side of the bay, I again lower the anchor and let out about 10:1 chain scope.  On the first try, 30 knots of wind quickly push the boat to the end of the chain, and we immediately come to a jerking stop, and head up into the wind.  After a minute of two of nervous watching, it is clear that, at least for now, the anchor has taken a good hold on the bottom.  We get the snubber rigged, and settle in to see what happens.

We keep an anchor watch for several hours, until the wind eases up a bit. The boat sits exactly in the same spot. Eventually, we get back to sleep.

Today was a beautiful, sunny, clear, crisp, early fall day.  The wind has continued from the south, and is still forecast to shift to the northwest late tonight.  First thing in the morning we will be on our way down the Chesapeake Bay.  About 24 hours later, we will be getting down close to the ocean, and we will make our final decision about heading south to Florida based on the weather guess-casts available at that time.

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Decisions, decisions…

We are waiting here in a delightfully protected little cove off of Harris Creek in Maryland for the passage of a weather front.  Just north of the town of Avalon, if anybody is keeping track.

In the past few hours the wind has picked up out of the south, and the weather radar is showing heavy rain approaching, all as expected. Once the front passes, the wind will clock to the northwest, and we will be off for points south. All of the weather models predict a reasonably fast run down the coast.  There is just one little issue…

From the National Hurricane Center

Yes, our buddies at the National Hurricane Center just could not leave well enough alone.  After over a week without any activity at all, they posted this annoying update today.  Interestingly, none of the models I see show any development of this system at all, but the guys who know better than I do say it is worth watching. The frustrating part is that it is likely to be a least few days before the status of this system clarifies for the forecasters.

So…  here is our plan.  We will head down the Chesapeake On Wednesday morning with the favorable winds.  If there is still enough risk associated with “Disturbance #1” as we approach the ocean, we will pull into Norfolk, or Hampton Roads, and sit tight until we know more.

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Off and sailing…

Time: 2020 local

Lat 38° 44′ 25″N 

Log 76° 19′ 12″W

Well….  today we actually did very little sailing because there was NO wind.  We saw a peak gust of just over 4 knots. So we motored.

We are taking our time because we need to be sure we stay within the limits of navigation our insurance company requires, basically north of Florida until November 1.

We are anchored in a small cove off Harris Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Beautiful, protected, secluded and very quiet. This is the first time in our explorations of the Chesapeake Bay we have ventured to the eastern shore because many of the harbors on that side of the bay south of Annapolis are uncomfortably shallow for us.  Looking at the weather forecast, it looks like we’ll be staying here for a few days waiting for the next frontal passage to bring northerly winds we can ride south.

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