Saturday, May 26, 2012

She wore a brand new jersey

It has been hard to get that song out of our heads in this part of the world. Delaware... New Jersey...

Sunday 21 May. Shortly after 0700 I was unplugging us from the shore power and attending to the lines; it will be good to get back to floating docks Maryland, because the tidal range is so small, docks are fixed; mainly pilings. That means that the fenders need to be horizontal against a piling; and a clove hitch is used to tie to the pilings. Soon we were heading down the Severn and round the early fishing fleet by the William P Lane Memorial Bridge. There must be some fish in the Chesapeake because there are a lot of people fishing..........I haven't seen any catching however yet, apart from the ospreys. As is was a Sunday there was considerable small boat traffic but not many of the big boys; just a couple of commercial vessels heading up to Baltimore. Our course took us up the Tolchester Channel and into the Elk River; it was a blowy day, sometimes over 20 knots. We found out later that in the south Chesapeake it was blowing 35 knots and there were 7 to 12 ft waves; essentially it was impassable down there. For us eventually the channel narrowed and turned into the C&D Canal; it is 150 feet wide, 40 feet deep, and no bridges for us to worry about. Soon we are travelling through leafy Maryland and then Delaware. There was one AIS target coming towards us and it turned out to be what in Panama we call a "bath tub" - a huge 800ft car carrier. After an 8 hour trip I turned into our marina for the night; Summit North. Off the canal in a backwater the guide tells me to watch the depths - I had timed our arrival for a rising tide. Good job too, as I nosed in extremely slowly we had only 6 inches underneath for a hundred feet, thankfully there was more water at our slip, right at the back. There weren't many Nordhavns here that's for sure. I would explain at this point that, since we want to get ashore quickly and easily to explore is not our intention to anchor out much on this first East Coast foray.

Monday 22 May. Today was going to be all about the tides. We needed to run down the Delaware River which can see 3 knots of tide, so we waited at Summit until high tide was approaching (1020), then left to plan our exit from the C&D into the Delaware at high slack (1236). After the run down the Bay, we entered the Cape May canal with an incoming tide (around 1800) because depth can be an issue. Well, the plan was good to start with. At Cape May I had called ahead; the marina with the deep water is South Jersey. Calling the marina they had a tie inside the fuel dock with someone on the dock to take the lines. From my visual analysis it looked tight, once inside the docks I needed a quick turn to starboard and then a reverse into the starboard tie, something that I have done a hundred times. Looked ok but by the time I had run to the stern helm station we were moving away fast; reverse was very difficult and the bow would not come round; regrouping I tried again; the angle was better but we just could not get near that dock and were getting very close to the pilings opposite; at that point I was getting worried that my thrusters would time out which they did (3 minutes of cumulative use and they reset in 15 minutes time). It was then extremely difficult turning into the current and the wind; we were out of the dock but then lying in the tight fairway on the other side of the fuel dock. With no thrusters it was too tight to turn into the wind and current; I worked crabwise down the channel and got the stern to the fuel dock for a dock line; she came round and soon was safely alongside the dock. Tricky! Inspecting the inside fuel dock tie afterwards I saw that there was probably a 5 knot current directly across the end of that dock, no wonder it was extremely difficult to reverse firstly into and across the current and then try to thrust the bow into it. Life is all about lessons isn't it? Sometimes we think that we know just everything. But then, looking back a couple of years, did we really know anything at all?

Cape May is a really good place and it would be good to spend some time here. Susie went off into town to explore but I seemed to have injured my knee so I lingered on board for the day, doing some forward plans. Which inlet do we head for? I was changing the plan every time I looked at it; there are issues with the Atlantic inlets around here and also we have a problem this week, yes, fog. In the morning it was pretty dense and you could tell how reluctant the cruisers were to leave. We hauled out mid-morning and headed for the closest stop, Atlantic City. A short run to the marina at the Golden Nugget; fortunately we were with fellow travellers on Twowowie - Fleming 65 -  and so we went off for supper with them. After supper we wandered the Casino; I have to say that I don't really understand the folk who frequent these places. I have a lot to learn. In the morning the fog persisted and it was a quiet run up the coast; I was "revising" the plan............Manasquan inlet? .... Shark River? ... actually it was a good plan just to head to the anchorage at Sandy Hook; fellow cruisers Richard and Judy on "Knucklehead" saved us a spot there and it was great to set Rocky in the mud and just chill out. Just 14 miles from the Big Apple and here we are in the middle of nowhere.

In the morning I was washing persistent mud off Rocky and when he emerged from the water there was rope and a very old anchor wrapped round him. Well, we waited a bit for some tide to carry us up into New York Harbour. It was an interesting trip since here we were entering one of the busiest harbours in the world and we had visibility of just an eighth of a mile! We had just a three hour trip and in the first two hours we didn't see another vessel apart from on the radar!

Well, we are now safely tied up at Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club. And I  can see across the Hudson River to the Empire State Building. Time to go exploring I think.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Life and Annapolis, Maryland

We are often asked, in many different ways, to describe what occupies our time in the cruising life; I will give you some outline. Here in the Chesapeake for instance, our first job is to leaf through the essential resource - Dozier's Waterway Guide to the Chesapeake, nearly 500 pages of very relevant information to plan our trip. There are comparative marina listings, town plans, distance tables, bridge openings, tide tables - just everything you need. Firstly we fill it full of post-its and identify places that look interesting to visit. The routes can then get planned into Maxsea and we can figure out how to divide our time - a couple of weeks ahead for instance - into a rough port-by-port itinerary. I can book slips as required a few days ahead and we can adjust things as we go along. From the route, the travel days have a known number of miles, and we know how fast we travel so it is then a question of working back from a good arrival time to the required departure hour; we just need then to get to the next port and go ashore to explore. The boat chores need to get done - provisioning, cooking, washing, cleaning, engine room checks and maintenance. Then there is the socialising that takes place everywhere. Lastly we have time for oneself; the Admiral is going to be working on at least one or two quilts, and I am probably working on a guitar piece - at the moment, I am back with one of my old favorites, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed", which I used to play (badly) back in the early 70's and now I have the music CDs I can try to improve on things forty years later. Also we will spend time on our correspondence and that great essential, Admin, in between the games of Scrabble, always toughly contested. All in all we have a busy time, not many spare moments!

In St Michaels we met fellow Nordhavn owners Jim and Marge on N43 Summer Skis, so we naturally went out for the Maryland speciality, crab cakes.
And here I spent a couple of days cleaning LM up from the tannin-coloured water in the ICW.

It is a short run of 26 miles from St Michaels - 4 hours - to Annapolis. Home to the US Naval Academy, the compact city retains old world charm and is hardly changed from its original design in the late 1600's. It is rich in history, even serving briefly as the capital of the United States at one time.

We were lucky that friends from the FUBAR, Mark and Jeann, live a short way away and came over for the day to show us round the town. There are not many cruisers who have the privilege of a private tour from a graduate of the USNA - Mark graduated in the early 70's, about the same time that I was enjoying Mathematical Economics (!) at the University of Birmingham, England. Mark is extremely knowledgeable and together with input from the musuem I feel my American Naval History might even be getting to an acceptable level. At least we now know all about John Paul Jones and also the experiments of Michelson in the 1870's to measure the speed of light. Michelson had a 2,000 ft line along the banks of the Severn in Annapolis and used a much improved technique pioneered by Foucault to get a very accurate reading of 186,355 miles per second for his Nobel Prize.
After a great day touring around with Jeann and Mark we relaxed with suitable refeshments at the Annapolis Yacht Club.

So, some advance plans. We embark tomorrow, pushing further North as part of the spring migration, following the emerging summer weather (today it is 88 degrees F here in Annapolis). Leaving soon after dawn, we go to the head of the Chesapeake. Even in the mid-1600's it was discovered that only a few miles of marshy land separated Chesapeake Bay from Delaware Bay and now there is a connecting canal. Down the Delaware Bay we will soon be paying close attention to weather before further ventures into Atlantic waters and our destination in a week's time, New York. After a week in New York we head up Long Island Sound and soon after will head to England for a month for family visits and so on.

At this stage of our journey I had always intended to contact a friend and colleague in New York. We worked closely for a number of years in the early 90's on the transatlantic bankrupcy, Robert Maxwell, Maxwell Communications plc and MacMillan Corporation. Tragically I discovered all too late that he passed away, peacefully, on 16 February 2012, at the age of 58. Charles ("Chet") Gerdts III was such fun to work with and as sharp as they come. I don't really have words to describe how sad I am that he has gone. Tim Allen and I will share our memories of you Chet, Rest in Peace.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

From our Underway log, our run North has been as follows. Firstly we left Beaufort NC and headed inside on the ICW. The whole day is a tricky exercise in steering the boat since the channel is narrow and sparsely marked; see the picture below for the size of tug that can be encountered from time to time. Wild areas of countryside. And many of the channel markers have osprey nests, so the Admiral was snapping away on the camera. The first day included also some open stretches on the Neuse River, with some rough estuary seas. After 63 miles we found a place to tie up at Belhaven, the Forest Manor, once upon a time a stately mansion, now boarded up and waiting the revival. Next morning we were again on our way at 0630 following travelling companions on Dauntless, another trawler. Another long run which included open stretches of the Albemarle Sound, and the odd bridge with our favorite radio operator - every response was "10-4". The day's run - 77 miles -  ended at Coinjock Marina, clearly a legendary stop en-route. Diesel is just under USD 3.50 a gallon, and Ed and Danny on Dauntless asked us to join them for cocktails and then the 16 oz prime rib dinner; a great evening. The next day we had to factor in an unexpected bridge repair - there was emergency closure from 0600 to 2000 at the Gilmerton Rail Bridge. This resulted in a late departure from Coinjock and some travel strategy; there are a number of bridges with set opening times and also the Great Bridge the end, we had on of those slow-quick-quick-slow days and finally we arrived Portsmouth around 2230; pouring with rain. The next day we walked the Olde Towne, a mixture of 18th and 19th centuries, very scenic. Having checked the weather (vastly improved), next morning we were on our way out into the Chesapeake and a 51 mile run to Deltaville; once there we borrowed the marina bikes and checked out the town.......a short trip! Today it has been silky smooth on the water and a pleasant run to Solomons, Maryland, a big yachting centre. It is a lively place, and we have been out to the hostelry with more new friends in this small world, remembering mutual cases and acquaintances in the global world of forensic accounting...........

Tug and barge on the ICW - stay clear!

Many, many breeding Osprey pairs to see

Sunset on the Chesapeake

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back on Course

During our brief break we managed to achieve our objectives back home in Panama. Briefly, our new neighbour upstairs has been remodelling his apartment and careless workers had caused some flooding over the past few months..............the end result being that we needed to re-tile part of our kitchen and a bathroom - at our neighbour's expense. What a pain, but once again our friend Jacinto (with faithful Pedro at his side ) has completed the repairs. I will try to impress upon the excitable Spaniard upstairs that water is subject to gravitational force, duh.

While we were watching the effect of gravity on our wall tiles Last Mango was being attended to by James Knight, his business being NordhavnOnly/Yacht Tech. There were something like 25 Nordhavns at Old Port Cove, and James is the reason they are there. In no time at all Last Mango was hauled and carefully inspected by James and his team; a pro-active maintenance work list was produced to deal thoroughly with some important but often overlooked items. Apart from all below-the-waterline maintenance, we now have improved sea-chest fittings; new stabilizer seals; new pumps and hoses; and last but not least, a new anchor, "Rocky".

Rocky replaces the standard CQR which Nordhavns are usually supplied with. Whereas the CQR is 170 lbs, this Rocna weighs 254 lbs and quite a number of the 55's have them; they set extremely well and hold better, so we welcome Rocky to the team. We tested him outside OPC and he was indeed most reluctant to be shifted from the mud. While at OPC we have once again made more Nordy friends: Bradley and Kathy on "Sheer Madness" ( all boats probably should have that name) and Bill and Rosie on Nexus.
Looking ahead to the year's schedule and the cruising plans we started factoring in all the ingredients........... the most important factor in East Coast cruise strategy is that just offshore one has one's own personal boat travelator - the Gulf Stream. Once in it, you get a 3 knot boost to anywhere, so the sensible thing to do is to hurry North offshore but to meander South inshore on the ICW. So after waiting a couple of days for weather to pass, we embarked OPC, Florida and plotted a course for Beaufort, North Carolina, a distance of 530 miles. It was a good journey completed in 55 hours, weather was choppy at the beginning but for most of the way we had calm conditions - good timing because here in Beaufort we have had a couple of storms through.

Beaufort was founded in the early 1700's and is careful to preserve
its heritage. It reminded me of somewhere like Tenterden, Kent; wide streets of white clapboard houses. The town is small and mainly around the waterfront; quiet, 25 mph speed limit - no-one is in a hurry - no dog mess, rubbish, parking meters; no Macdonalds, KFC, Subway. Plenty of history here, since the town is just inside Beaufort Inlet - the first place of safety you get to from Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Atlantic. The wreck of Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, lies just offshore. The Union forces ran the blockade of the South from here. We got the bikes out and did the trail around the town; plenty of quiet streets and historic property. And the Beaufort Grocery Company is a great place for brunch.........

Looking at the schedule ahead, the current plan is to head inland from here on the ICW and get to the Chesapeake Bay area. The alternative to the ICW is to head back outside and round Cape Hatteras, but with the current weather that is not an option. We have looked at the cruising guide for the Chesapeake and we

estimate that we could easily cruise there for the next two or three weeks. After that, our plan is to get to Newport, RI and leave Last Mango for a few weeks while we head off to England for family visits. Beyond that we will cruise more of the Atlantic coast.
Tomorrow the weather looks ok so we will leave early and head inland, keeping a careful eye on the depth sounder and checking off those channel markers.