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Showing posts from 2015

Annapolis to Norfolk on the Chesapeake

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When we last left our heroes, they were up a creek in Annapolis, MD having escaped the buzzing of the  Sailing Capitol of the U.S.A. After a peaceful night in Weems Creek, beyond the Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard Bridge, it was up and at 'em. Breakfast and coffee and hoist the anchor. This was, after all, a delivery, not a cruise. The sun languished in a purpley-pink sunrise as we got back into the bay.
We were in the middle part of the Chesapeake, between Annapolis and Norfolk. The winds were against us so we were motoring. Even more ships in this part of the bay, but with so much open water it seemed like less traffic. More annoying than the ships were the fisherman. It was the weekend and we figured that they were fishing for pleasure rather than scraping the bay for a living, though there were likely some working fishermen out there too.
I don't know if they were fishing Rock Fish or Stripers(striped bass) but all the boats were trailing these annoying planer boards …

The C&D and beyond.

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I am, in fact, home already. It was a beautiful, indelible, life changing experience, but the trip is over. Here, I pick up where I had left off - on the Delaware River, just south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.


The sun was going down as we arrived just off Port Penn, Delaware and the locals were swarming at the end of opening day for Rock Fish. We had come off the river and gone behind the underwater dike and dropped anchor near Reedy Island. Fishermen and fisherwomen, young and old, in all manner of boats, shouted back and forth checking on each other's haul. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and
many greeted us warmly as well. By the time we had made some supper, the fishing boats had gone home leaving us alone in the quiet backwater with a beautiful sunset splashing over the quaint town.  The haunting silence of a gigantic nuclear plant on the New Jersey side of the river belied the actual peace and quiet.

As was our habit, we woke with the freshening dawn and h…

The Jersey Coast

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We were stuck for 10 days at Atlantic Highlands, NJ as Sub Tropical Storm Ana decided what she was doing. We didn't have much weather there, but where we were headed lacked any good spot to hide if the storm took aim at us. The last two days at anchor, the wind made it too rough to row ashore in the dinghy.

Once we got underway and out into the Atlantic, Eleanor sailed for the first time in a decade. Boat and crew settled into a rhythm and I took the first watch. The captain went below to rest up for his coming watch. We made our way toward Cape May on a nice beam reach as the wind blew from the coast of New Jersey. Fresh wind was in the forecast so we had raised the mainsail with two reefs and rolled out just a bit of the jib. It was a gloriously contradictory sight, to starboard the beach condos of the Jersey Shore; to port the global expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

Alex, the captain, took over about 8:00 pm and got a sleigh ride! In the strengthening breeze, Eleanor picked up he…

Max's Hill

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We were up at 4:30, had our coffee and were underway before 6:00. We needed to make time and would be motoring most of the day. Leaving Atlantic Highlands in nearly calm conditions, we followed our previous GPS track back out past Sandy Hook and into the ship channel. The towers of the Verrazano Bridge and the Freedom Tower just poked above the fog behind us. The Atlantic! I have never sailed in the Atlantic.

We followed the channel for a time and then cut south along the coast of New Jersey. In perfect contradiction, to starboard the beach and all its condos were a couple miles off, plain as day; to port the endless Atlantic Horizon and the early morning sun. It was glorious.

The Captain had been ambivalent for a couple days about our leaving and the storm brewing off the Carolinas. We had to wait for a part to arrive that was needed in the engine room. The original plan was an overnight offshore passage to Cape May, but we were keeping a weather eye. After the part arrived and was …

Atlantic Ocean Tomorrow

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This is our third day at anchor at Atlantic Highlands. We came down from Stony Point on Sunday. Monday I never left the boat. It was wonderful. Tuesday we went into town for some diesel and provisions. A super nice lady, a fan of Alex's movies, lent us her truck. That evening she made a wonderful Nicoise Salad, topped with fresh grilled salmon, which she and her husband brought out to us. We had a nice evening aboard and talked about boats, dogs, food and working in Manhattan. Alex and I took the day off today; reading, writing and napping. In the wee hours tomorrow morning, we will cast off for Atlantic City, a shorter daylight sail than we had planned. There is a storm brewing off the Carolinas and we are not in a rush to get closer. It will, however, be progress in a southerly direction. Every bit helps.

Ready, Set, Go!

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Strangely, I was a little uptight on Wednesday. Its not even my boat but we were finally installing the new roller furler we had put together from pieces on the dock. To Furl is to gather or roll a sail. A roller furler is a system that allows this to be done like a window shade turned sideways on the bow of a boat. The headsail does not need to be hoisted each time, but is rolled out and then rolled in as needed.

The furler consists of a foil the length the headstay holding the sail, connected to a drum at the bottom, both turn together to roll the sail in or out. The foil, an aluminum extrusion, came in seven foot long pieces which we put together like high tech Lincoln Logs to fit the 52 foot headstay. The pieces connected together with intricately machined aluminum slugs and plastic bits. All held together with marine adhesive and little tiny machine screws which we assembled over the gaps between boards on a floating dock swaying to the motion of the Hudson.


To commission the fu…

Hard Work and Stolen Moments

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Life on the river is basic and beautiful. There are many boat projects that must be done. Other projects will make the trip more comfortable and get done if there's time. Some are cumbersome and tedious; others require long stares and quiet thinking to accomplish. In the morning, we have coffee and breakfast, and review our list. Each day is a good mix of technical brain work and physical work with our hands and backs. Most days are long with a late dinner and a slow evening fade into the sleep of the dead. Along with the work, we laugh and discuss the Vagabond Anarchist Sea Life. The next morning we wake and start again. Each day the voyage is closer and the boat is safer.

I steal some moments of my own too. When the first sun bursts over the hills across the river, it streams into the cabin waking me softly. I quietly stow the companionway boards and climb into the cool, soft glow of the dawning. The marina is quiet and the river is flat as a mirror. Pilings and docks hover ove…

My Life as a Swab

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Best Resignation Letter Ever:  "Umm ... I have to quit because I'm helping a guy sail his boat to Panama."

I drove from Michigan to Newark International Airport to pick up Alex a couple Sundays ago and we got to work on his boat here at Stony Point on the Hudson River. Once s/v Eleanor is ready, the plan is to sail down the East Coast on the Atlantic Inter-Coastal Waterway with some jumps offshore. After a little time in Florida and the Bahamas, we will head through the Windward Passage and on to Panama.

The first few nights here in Stony Point were a bit cold but we really started the right week; just as the weather changed. Spring is springing, the days are getting warmer and we are making good progress on boat projects.

Eleanor is a Westsail 42; a beautiful cutter ketch. We have installed a woodstove, a hydraulic autopilot and removed the furler. We've googled and stressed about rod ends, thread sizes, manuals and various installation instructions. There's…

An Unplanned Delay to my Non-Plan Plan.

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Back in 1986, I entered the corporate world and hit the road selling automotive packaging in Detroit. Each morning I read a few motivational quotes and reminders that were scrawled in the back of my calendar. Not unlike the chants I often do now, these quotes helped to set my intentions for the day. One of the quotes was "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity" apparently spoken by Seneca, a first century Stoic philosopher. Yesterday, the preparation I've been doing for several years met the opportunity of a lifetime.

My trip on my boat, Bella, will be delayed for a year. I have the chance to help Alex Dorsey, a well known sailor, writer and documentarian, sail his boat from the Hudson River upstream of New York City to Panama. This incredible opportunity came together rapidly and I will be leaving for New York in a couple weeks. We will head south, hopefully yet in April, out around New Jersey and into the Inter Coastal Waterway, then down to Florida where we will …