Monthly Archives: October 2016

Back in the Pack Down the ICW

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After three nights on our own, we slipped back in with our group at the Dowry Creek Marina on the Pungo River.

Apparently our fellow ralliers had a few issued on the trip down the Alligator/Pungo Canal. One boat became grounded (stuck on a shallow spot) and in the process of backing off the shallow spot, the dinghy line became entangled in the engine propeller.  Several other rally boats stopped to help untangle the line, but in the process, one of the helper boats ran over his anchor bridle which became entangled in his propeller!

The initial boat was able to free itself and someone jumped in the water and untangled the dinghy line.  The second boat was not as fortunate and had to be towed into Dowry Creek Marina.

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Frank dives to rescue the bridle on Our Log.

Instead of hiring a diver to loosen the anchor bridle from s/v Our Log’s propeller, Frank volunteered to don his gear and try to free the bridle.

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Bill peers into the water trying to see if Frank is making progress.

Fortunately after about 25 minutes, Frank managed to free the bridle and s/v Our Log didn’t have any propeller or engine damage!

Seeing as we are in The States, Sunday afternoon we all got together to grill and watch football on TV.  A BIG priority for LIB.    Not.   But the company was good and we had fun. Just don’t ask who was playing football because neither of us could tell you.

We left Dowry Creek and headed toward River Dunes Marina which is about a 40 mile trip.  Along the way we passed some uninhabited places and some very sparsely populated areas.  The homes were pretty significant for weekend places, yet they are so isolated it is hard to imagine them being full time residences.

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This was the most populated of the riverside “communities.”

About half way into our trip to River Dunes, we passed a shrimping area where our leader, Wally, stopped to buy shrimp for those who had placed orders the night before.  At $4.95 per pound, the shrimp was a popular buy!

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Shrimp boat docked at Mayo Seafood Dock.

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Only minutes after stopping, Wally had more than 30 pounds of shrimp on board!

For those who don’t sail, I thought you might find it interesting to see the electronic charts we are using as we navigate the ICW.  On the chart below, you will see a small, solid black boat and two larger outlined boats (dashed triangles).  LIB is represented by the solid boat.  The other two are boats near us who have Automatic Identification System (AIS).  AIS is an optional piece of equipment that broadcasts a boats’ location and information about the boat (type, size, speed it is traveling, etc).  We are amazed how few boats have AIS because we think it is very helpful and is a safety feature, especially at night!

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Dashed lines show the heading of other boats.

While your intuition would tell you to steer toward the “blue water” on this map, we actually are following the white area which represents the dug out trench of the ICW.  It looks like we are motoring on land when you glance at the chart, but remember, the ICW connects bodies of water that were originally separate.

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This is the view that corresponds with the chart view above.

As we entered the channel for the River Dunes Marina, we hailed the marina on our VHF to make sure they knew we were a catamaran and to get our slip assignment.  When they heard we were a catamaran, a bit of chaos broke out because they didn’t realize they had a cat coming in with the group.  That means they didn’t anticipate the width of our boat when planning our slip assignment.

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Entry into River Dunes Marina

Following the dock master’s orders, Frank prepared lines and bumpers and I manned the helm (drove).  We were told the slip was 26 feet wide, which was sufficient for our 24 food wide boat…. well, after nudging our way into the slip, we knew the measurements were not accurate and Frank and I just had to measure to see just how tight our slip really was…

LIB is 24 feet 3 inches wide. When we put a measuring tape to the slip?  24 feet 8 inches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Yes, we had 2.5 inches of space to spare on each side!!!

Regardless of our tight slip, this upscale community had plenty of amenities and we took advantage of many of them. Frank and I played tennis on the beautifully maintained clay courts.  It felt really awkward to play tennis after 18 months without hitting a ball.  I’m super glad I am not competing right now. It would be embarrassing!

Among other things, we had a croquet tournament where several of us “dressed” the part and assumed properly, stereotypically, snobby names.  It was guys against the girls and I can happily report that after 3 games, we tied.  (Ok, so the women may have taken a few small liberties, but…).

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River Dunes has about 4 fire pits available for evening gatherings.

Wally scheduled a gathering to discuss what to expect further south in the ICW and we agreed to come only if we could have it by the fire pits while sipping beverages at sunset.  Not a bad way to gather intel!

Frank and I rode our bikes from River Dunes to Oriental – “the sailing capital of NC,” – where we met up with Mindy and Ron, our Jabin’s Yacht Yard buddies. Like a dork, I forgot to take pictures but we enjoyed tooling around Oriental with Mindy and Ron; then the four of us stopped for lunch at The Silo. Lunch was great and the company was most excellent.

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Pic from the archives.

BTW, as is usual for my bike rides with Frank, the “six mile” ride to Oriental was more like 9.5 each way.  Hey, but I biked off lunch, probably, and the ride was absolutely beautiful and pretty much flat (like my rear tire!), so I am not really complaining.  I just have to remind Frank of his estimation powers for bike mileage.

Here are two of my favorite pictures from this week:

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s/v Valentine (Jack and Diane) show off their sailing skills

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Sunrise as we left Dowry Creek Marina

Our next scheduled stop is Beaufort, NC.  Beaufort was our first landing when we returned to the U.S. after being away for eight months and we loved this coastal city.


Away We Go ~ ICW Week One

Nearly 2 1/2 years ago, I mentioned to Frank that I really wanted to join the Snowbird Rally which traveled from the Chesapeake to Miami down the ICW.  Ironically, one June evening this summer, while in the Bahamas, we introduced ourselves to a fellow boater who is the administrator for several FB pages; Wally Moran.  Turns out, at one time Wally was the coordinator for the Snowbird Rally and he was planning his own rally down the ICW this year.  We talked with Wally for a bit and he sent us information about Sail to the Sun 2016 ~ his ICW rally.

That chance meeting put us on the path we are now taking ~ a trip down the ICW in the company of 20 other boats, led by Wally. 

Our two month trip from Hampton, VA to Miami, FL will cover more than 1,000 miles of inland travel through backwood, deserted rivers and fast paced, modern coastal cities.  We will navigate narrow cuts dug years ago to connect rivers and we will traverse large open sounds that will make us miss our sails.

MISS OUR SAILS?!  Yep.  My incredibly smart husband made arrangements to have our mast removed and shipped to Miami!  A sailboat with a high mast like ours, usually has to exit the ICW and go out into the Atlantic Ocean to avoid fixed bridges that are too low for the mast to clear.  Without the mast, LIB’s maximum height has gone from 68 feet to 14 feet.

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No mast means no stress on the ICW

As a result we clear ALL of the bridges! Plus there are several bridges that open but the closed clearance is high enough for us to pass without waiting for the bridge opening.

Trust me when I tell you this GREATLY reduces the stress of traveling the ICW.  Already a few boats in our rally have had to remove their antennae and wind vanes.  Two other boats had to weight their boats to heel as they passed under a fixed bridge so they could get the mast through. 

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Thank you to Brad and Terrie for the picture.

Brad and Ken are hanging off of the boom to tilt s/v Reflections.  Additional people were recruited to weigh the boat before she was heeled enough to fit under the fixed bridge!  

I salute their ingenuity but I do not envy them the stress of watching their masts clear bridges by mere inches!  Plus that trick obviously only works with a monohull so LIB doesn’t qualify.

Hurricane Matthew’s pounding of the east coast created some high water, a lot of debris and unknown shoaling changes to the Dismal Swamp which was scheduled to be our entrance to the ICW. 

Caution dictated skipping the Dismal Swamp and heading to the Virginia Cut as our entrance to the ICW. I am disappointed that we skipped the Swamp because of it’s age and history, but the Virginia Cut is an easier and wider passage.

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Heading toward our first railroad bridge.

Day one we crossed the Newport News Channel which is a huge military area and a large commercial shipping area plus the hub of several channels for recreational boaters. In land terms, the Newport News Channel is like a highway interchange, but there are few lane markers and overtaking vessels hail you on the VHF when they are about to pass.  Dallas folks, think of this as the I635 of boating ~ without brakes. 

Just after leaving that channel, we approached our first lock!  Most of us in the rally had never been through a lock so we were all inexperienced. But the lock tenders were patient and efficient, so everything went well.

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Boats are tied to both sides of the lock.

EXCEPT, the second we were tied up to the wall, Captain jumped off the boat and made use of the lush green grass across the concrete barrier.  I wish I could have snapped a picture, but I was busy tending lines.  I don’t think the lock workers were very pleased with Captain, but she certainly felt much better!  Once she was back on board we could laugh about our very independent dog.

Rather than bore you with a detailed account of each day, I expect the documentation of our ICW trip will be mostly photographs.  The scope of the scenes will be difficult to capture, but I hope to give you a glimpse of the areas we see. 

If there is something you think we should watch for on our trip or some place you loved when you traveled here, please share in the comments so we can try to see it!

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Leaving the Carrituck Sound.

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Waiting on a very low bridge to open.

On the third day, our group was heading across the Albemarle Sound and up to Elizabeth City, but because the anticipated weather showed we would be motoring across the Albemarle in high winds, we chose to skip Elizabeth City and spend a few nights on our own schedule.  I think after so many months in the dock, we wanted to anchor out and hang on our hook for a few nights.

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The only structures were fishing camps built on stilts in the water.

After reading about the 150,000 acre Alligator River Wildlife Refuge across the Albemarle Sound, we aimed our bow in that direction.  Apparently the red wolf in the wild became extinct, so in 1987 a pair of red wolves from a zoo was reintroduced to this Refuge because the environment is perfect for them.  Well over 60 pups have been born in the wild since 1987 and some nights a series of howls can be heard from the pack.  We didn’t have the pleasure of hearing the wolves, but we still enjoyed the natural beauty of the Little Alligator River.

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Fog the morning we awakened on the Little Alligator River.

The next morning we were surrounded by fog and the visibility was minimal.  This was the perfect excuse to spend a leisurely morning on LIB and watch the day develop.

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Loaded up Day Tripper for a trip to shore.

The fog burned away to reveal a spectacular day, so a trip to shore and a bike ride along the levy was in order.  Cappy was super happy to run, sniff and explore while Frank and I tootled along at a casual pace.

The next night we anchored in the Alligator River.  We found another quiet bend in a finger off the main river and dropped the anchor.  Once again we awakened in a cloud!

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This time we lifted anchor and motored on as soon as we had reasonable visibility.  The patterns the clouds created on the gray water were beautiful.

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As we motored toward the Alligator/Pungo River canal, the clouds and landscape made me think of Jurassic Park.  I kept waiting for a T-Rex to lift its’ head among the trees.

Once past the Alligator/Pungo Canal, we will reconnect with Rally and hear all about the stops we missed.

Lightning ~ Damage and Delay

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Photo taken in 1984 by Johnny Autery of Dixons Mills, Alabama.

Now that we live aboard, one of my fears is a lightning strike to LIB.  While sailing the Caribbean our first six months, we did not see ANY lightning. Apparently in the southern regions, the consistent atmospheric temperatures eliminate the thunder and lightning created when cold and warm air masses clash.

Of course we had rain, but no light and sound shows accompanied the rain. We didn’t even register that it was missing until we started sailing north and heard thunder for the first time in months. Frank and I looked at each other and then the sky wondering if a jet was passing overhead. Nope, it was a good old fashioned storm with those frightening elements of lightning and thunder added in.

Unfortunately, while at a dock in Deltaville, Virginia, LIB suffered a lighting “event.”  I will not call it a strike because I am not certain it was a direct hit but rather a nearby strike that took its’ toll on our boat and several others in the marina. Ours was by no means the most damaged boat, but we have suffered a lot of loss; especially the opportunity cost of loosing our window to explore the Chesapeake Bay. The “event” occurred on July 16th and we didn’t complete repairs to LIB until October 4th. (This explains why I have not shared more about our “Sailing History Tour.”)

On a scale of mild, medium and severe, our personal, rather loose definition of lightning strikes would be as follows: mild: electronic equipment destroyed;  moderate: electronics destroyed and engines effected; severe: electronics destroyed, engines effected, fire and possible sinking of the boat.

We consider ours a moderate and expensive strike.

These last months, we have spent working with our insurance company and scheduling repairs.  Working through the claims issues took almost nine weeks which was very frustrating! Frank and I were extremely antsy to get Let It Be back in the excellent condition we maintain.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but some things affected by the lightning include: both chart plotters, the entire NMEA 2000 system, inverter charger, engine gauges, VHF radios, IridiumGo!, AC units, AC thermostats, the 110v electricity, our antennae, some lights, fans, our propane solenoid, etc.

Seeing all of these electronics incopassitated made us truly appreciate our manual heads (toilets) and our simple Cruise RO Water Maker which were not affected!

Frank and I do our very best to make certain that LIB is well maintained and all systems are in excellent shape, so seeing so many of our systems out of service has been disheartening for us.  Returning LIB to the high standards we expect was an expensive and extensive process and we are excited to finally have her back to full service again.

We are especially thankful to Anne and Miles Poor of MRP Refit who coordinated the repairs for us and put us in contact with excellent companies. We are very pleased with the services rendered and the changes made to LIB.

Because we had to replace both of our chart plotters and autopilot, we chose to depart from the Garmin systems originally installed on LIB and had B & G electronics installed. While our insurance company did not cover all of the costs involved, we believe the change is an upgrade to our systems information and auto pilot, so paying for the additional costs was valuable enough to invest our money.

Post lightning, it was important to pull our mast and inspect all of the rigging and electronics. We had to replace all the antennae, lights and wiring.  Fortunately the mast and rigging did not suffer any damage.

Since the mast had to be pulled for inspection, we have chosen to ship it to Florida where we will have it restepped.  We will spend the next few months as a motor catamaran.  While it is a strange feeling to be completely dependent on engines, we have the added benefit of being able to fit under all of the fixed bridges of the Intracoastal Waterway.  By shipping our mast, we will be able to see all of the ICW without going “outside” to avoid bridges too low for LIB’s mast height.

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LIB looks a bit strange without a mast, boom and forestay.

For those who love the details, LIB’s mast is 68 feet plus antennae. Bridge clearance for the ICW can be as low as 65 feet for fixed bridges. And considering all the havoc that Hurricane Matthew has caused, some bridges could be lower due to high water.

While wrestling with lightning issues, we took the opportunity to do make some other changes to LIB.  I already mentioned that we reworked the water drainage on LIB as sort of a side note in a previous post, but the drainage was a pretty major change that has vastly improved the functionality of our cockpit.

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We added a great little storage cabinet in the cockpit where Fountaine Pajot places an ice maker.  Since we didn’t add an ice maker, we converted that available space to a storage spot for little extras that we don’t want to walk inside to get.

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Think sunscreen, bug spray, dog leash and other small items.

Privacy please?! We finally added shades to our salon. We debated this issue for a long while because I wanted the sunshades to add privacy and reduce heat from the sun, but it wasn’t a critical addition. We finally found a company that could make the shades we were hoping for without charging us a king’s ransom!

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When up, the shades are hardly noticeable.

We ended up making paper patterns of our windows and shipping them to Mark Osborne of Breeze Blinds in the UK.  (Thank you Alison and Neil for the referral!!) A few weeks later the blinds arrived in the post and they fit our windows perfectly.

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Privacy and sun protection.

Installation of the blinds was a pretty big job that took us about 14 hours over two days. But these blinds are exactly what we were hoping for – very low profile when in the up position, but when down they offer excellent sun protection and privacy.

Maintenance please! I offer a special thank you to Frank for spending so much time taking care of the maintenance of our boat.  There are many systems on board that need to be cared for on a routine basis and Frank just takes care of it.  I know there is a saying that is something like, “Eighty percent of your boat will work 100 percent of the time.”  Well, I have to say, Frank is awesome about doing his best to make sure all of LIB is humming along beautifully.  I truly appreciate his efforts and LIB is more comfortable and reliable because of his hard work!

Considering what we were dealing with and the complications we faced while hanging out in Jabin’s Yacht Yard, things could have been much more difficult. We always try to find the positives in any challenge, so we will look back at our lightning event and be thankful for other things that occurred during that time.  Instead of defining this time as “when the lightning struck,” we will remember it as when the sale of our land home finally happened.  We will remain thankful that we were in Annapolis where we had access the parts and technicians we needed for repairs.  We are thankful that Frank could coordinate repairs in Annapolis while I drove to Dallas to empty our home.  We will remember that we had the opportunity to make some really awesome new friends and reunite with some others who came to town.  Finally we will cherish the time we spent with family members who are usually too far away to see in person.

Having recognized the good things within the challenge, I will admit, there are many places we wanted to see while in the Chesapeake that we missed completely because LIB was out of commission for so long.  Anchoring in the Potomac River at the foot of D.C. and seeing the monuments as we enjoyed dinner aboard is a prime example of what we missed… who knows, maybe we will decide to make this trip again and catch those missed dreams.

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Sunset in the Poquoson Flats.

As I write, our third sunset out of the dock is upon us. It feels wonderful to be exploring again, watching winds and weather, and meandering into quiet creeks to drop anchor for the night.

Thank you for reading and for your patience with our lack of posts as we sorted out LIB. I wish you fair winds, following seas and NO lightning!

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