11 Dec 2015

11/12/2015 : Port Canaveral

We motor - sailed overnight from St Augustine to Port Canaveral Wednesday into Thursday in company with a Swedish yacht we last saw in Portugal over a year ago and arrived at Cape Marina around lunchtime.  Typically after a night with next to no wind the wind picked up an hour before we arrived ... very frustrating but it always seems to be the same!

This where we are leaving Tumi over Christmas and New Year and so we spent the remainder of the day readying her ... making sure all the dock lines were secure and of the correct length for a 4 foot tide, washing off all the salt, doing the laundry and all the other myriad chores.  Plus we invited Karl and Elisabet from the Swedish yacht and a Canadian couple who are also staying in the marina for dinner .... All a bit of a rush but a fun night.

Today it is warm and sunny with a nice breeze blowing .... A perfect sailing day and we're not.  As I say, typical!  We're having a lazy day in the main, packing ready for being collected tomorrow morning and enjoying the glorious weather .... looks like we've finally made it back to the warmth! We've been invited out for dinner tonight and then that will be it for the 2015 sailing season, all 7 months of it .... no - one can accuse us of not using our boat!

We're glad we took the decision to sail in America for a change and have met some lovely people, visited some charming places and thoroughly enjoyed the history of this part of the US.  Even though the sailing itself has been disappointing, partly because of our mast height and keel depth limiting where we have been able to go, and the unco-operative weather, it's been a good trip.

We'll be back online in mid - January when we'll be heading south to the Florida Keys and then on to Cuba.  In the meantime, merry Christmas!

7 Dec 2015

6/12/15 : St Augustine, Florida

Being able to get ashore over the weekend as the winds have raged has been a real blessing and we’ve made the most of having the car to explore a bit of the area, plus check out Tumi’s Christmas berth in Cape Canaveral.

We left St Augustine on a very wet and windy Saturday morning to drive down to Canaveral and couldn’t believe the difference in the weather when we arrived: 15 degrees warmer, blue skies and wall to wall sunshine.  We’d finally found the so-called “Sunshine State”.  Having reassured ourselves of Tumi’s winter quarters we returned to the damp north.  Sunday morning dawned much the same but we headed south once again visiting Fort Matanzas and the sugar mill ruins of Bulow Plantation.  Whilst the sun never really made it out, at least is wasn’t raining.

It’s now 10pm on Sunday night and the wind is still howling outside so I think we’ll be here for at least another two days to let sea conditions return to normal so we can get safely out of the St Augustine inlet and head south to Cape Canaveral.

5/12/15 : Riding out the gales

We’ve had a somewhat bumpy start to our stay in St Augustine, quite literally from Thursday night onwards when an approaching front (a “nor-easter”) arrived bringing grey skies, a drop in temperature and very rolly seas, even inland on the IntraCoastal Waterway.
There aren’t really any decent anchorages in St Augustine for boats of our draft so we had reserved in advance a mooring buoy with the city marina.  The marina has two mooring fields: one north of the Bridge of Lions (very exposed) and one south of the bridge (far more protected).  We’d requested a buoy in the south field for obvious reasons and, up to 48 hours before we arrived, had had this confirmed and hence were somewhat disgruntled on arrival to be sent to the north field. 
Thursday night saw winds climbing up to 30knots and waves forming which had Tumi rock and rolling against her mooring lines and led to a somewhat sleepless night.  We’d booked a car for the weekend and so were keen to get ashore on Friday morning to collect it but viewed the dinghy ride with a degree of hesitation in the conditions.  We decided to “risk” it and so donned full wet weather gear and life jackets for the 300m ride to shore and made it relatively unscathed.
Later that day we returned to the marina only to find stronger winds, bigger waves and the prospect of getting wet through on the journey back to Tumi.  But it had to be done and so once again we suited and booted up and set off.  By this time the swells were 3 to 4 feet high which in a dinghy only 10 feet long is not for the feint hearted.  We took it slowly but got absolutely drenched!  The most challenging time came getting out of the dinghy and back onto Tumi, which was bucking around as though on the back of a rodeo bull, but we made it and after a hot shower and glass of wine felt much better.  Winds overnight on Friday were blowing in excess of 40 knots and were forecast to continue for another 48 hours before starting to abate so we radioed in and arranged to retreat to the protection of the marina on Saturday morning.

By a stroke of luck, a mooring buoy became available in the south field on Saturday and so we opted to take that and found life on the other side of the bridge so much calmer, so from here on, things can (hopefully) only get better!

4 Dec 2015

3/12/15: St Augustine, Florida

We’d both been looking forward to our visit to St Augustine having heard a lot of good things about it.  The only negative seemed to be the viability of the St Augustine inlet for our passage, notorious for shoaling and breaking waves, so we (I, Debra) were viewing it with a degree of trepidation, but we obtained a copy of the most recent dredging survey and spoke to the TowBoatUS people and decided to give it a go, making sure we would arrive in calm conditions on a rising tide and in daylight.  This meant us leaving Fernandina Beach a day or two before we probably wanted to but looking at the weather forecast we didn’t really have a lot of choice.  So we got up at 1.30am on Wednesday to leave Fernandina on an ebb tide and arrive at St Augustine 10 hours later.  Typically what wind there was came from on the nose so we had to motor the whole way but we rather that than high winds and seas.

Having now been in St Augustine for two days we’re pretty disappointed in the town itself.  Whilst there is a lot of history here (Spanish in the main) and some attractive buildings it is incredibly touristy in the downtown area so not really our scene, but the weather has blown up again and so it won’t be sensible to leave until early next week.  We did visit the local distillery this morning where they produce gin, vodka, rum and bourbon and that was interesting and we’ve hired a rental car for the weekend to explore the area a little further afield which should be good.  We’ll report in before we leave .....

1 Dec 2015

1/12/125 : Fernandina Beach

It's December and we're wearing shorts and T-shirts, yippee.  The approach to Fernandina isn't exactly inspiring: Two big paper mills dominate the Skyline making you feel as though you're sailing into an industrial estate but the small town itself is utterly charming, historic by American standards and very friendly.  It sits on another barrier island called Amelia Island and, as with Cumberland Island, has a long, pristine beach but there the similarity ends as this is developed.  The author Stephen King and a couple of others have beach homes here, all very upmarket.

Sadly Paul's flying trip didn't come to pass but the couple did show us the sights by road instead.  We've also bumped into a British boat we last saw in Annapolis and joined them for dinner last night.

Today we've cycled the 10 miles round trip to Fort Clinch, built by the Yankees in the mid eighteen hundreds.  It never actually saw active service and is consequently very well preserved.  Interesting to see.

We're leaving here at 1am tomorrow morning to get down to St Augustine in a good weather window so will try to get a few hours sleep now in readiness!

28 Nov 2015

28/11/2015 : Cumberland Island, GA

We're just back from our second day ashore this barrier island, a national seashore. It's a fascinating place comprised of salt marshes, maritime forests, a few buildings and one of the longest and emptiest beaches we have ever seen.  There are no cars, just hiking trails, and we've covered a fair few of them.

The Carnegie family very much commandeered the island in the late 1800s to mid-1900s when the younger brother and his wife raised their nine children here.  Every time one of them married, their parents built them a mansion here to keep them close by.  Sadly the parents' home burned down and only the ruins remain but it's obvious the sheer scale of the place.

This morning we went 6 miles north in the dinghy, a somewhat bumpy ride, to visit the house they built for their eldest son and his wife in 1898 for the sum of $10,000.  The property, Plum Orchard, was handed over to the national park in the 1970s and it was interesting to see.  With it's own diving pool, stables, squash court and tennis court, the sheer size of the place clearly demonstrates just how wealthy the Carnegies were.  Apparently they sold out their steel works to J P Morgan at the turn of the twentieth century for $300 million ... just imagine how much that would equate to today.

We're moving on tomorrow morning to Fernadina Beach all being well where Paul will take to the skies.

27 Nov 2015

26/11/15 : Thanksgiving in St Marys

With the drama of Tuesday night behind us we have enjoyed the charms of this small waterfront town.  The camaraderie amongst the cruisers and generosity of the locals have both been top notch, we rides to the store available and various social events.  Last night was an oyster roast (we were assured they were delicious but not something I like and Paul is allergic to them) but the company was fun.  And today the townspeople hosted a Thanksgiving lunch for us all.

There was more sailing drama in the anchorage, fortunately not involving Tumi.  Another boat, swinging around wildly managed to cut through his anchor rope with his own propellor and went drifting off downstream!  A "flotilla" of dinghies gave chase and rescued the yacht only for one of the dinghies to run out of fuel on the return and have to be rescued!  This anchorage seems to be jinxed!

We're heading across the sound tomorrow to Cumberland Island, a national park, and hope to do a bit of hiking in the next couple of days.

26 Nov 2015

24/11/15 : Nightmare night in St Marys, Georgia

We had one of our best sails of recent weeks in many ways moving from Brunswick to St Marys being all in the daylight and timed to enter/exit channels with the tide rather than against it, add in pleasant winds and seas that were more sensible than recently, all in all a good sail.  Until we were approaching St Marys that is.

The nautical charts stop half a mile before reaching the town anchorage but we knew that the channel had depths of 5 metres so it should have been no problem.  What we didn't know is that the charts for the half mile before they ended were wrong, showing deep water where in fact it was shallow and vice versa.  We ran aground as did the catamaran in front of us!  Fortunately we weren't going very fast and after several minutes of manoeuvring managed to break free and follow a ferry boat through the unmarked channel.  Phew.  We anchored in good depths and looked forward to a few days at anchor.

We know that the rivers around here have quite strong currents and so anchored well away from other boats.  Just before 1 1pm that night, we were woken by the sound of voices and air horns going off.  In high winds blowing counter the current it seemed like the whole anchorage was awake.  Our anchor held but we watched with a degree a horror as another boat dancing in the current headed our way and hit us full length.  Fortunately had been able to put fenders in place and so no damage was caused but despite hammering on his hull, no - one appeared and after a short while the boat drifted away.

We thought it was dragging it's anchor but it turns out it wasn't, just swinging wildly on its chain, and within five minutes it swung back and hit us again!  We realised we needed to move but being in uncharted waters it wasn't an easy proposition.   That said we inched our way to another area and set the anchor.  We seemed to be secure and after 30 mins or so went to bed, just gone midnight.

The winds continued to howl and less than two hours later we felt a gentle bump and shot out of bed.  To our horror we now were wrapped around the bridle of a catamaran.  We initially thought he had dragged in the current but it turned out we had slowly moved and caught him.  The bridle was wrapped around our rudder so we were well and truly tangled.

To cut a long story short we were able to get free and moved away to anchor somewhere else, only to run aground again.  Absolute nightmare!  Fortunately we were able to reverse off the shoal and at this point, with boats still swinging this way and that, decided to head for a marina dock ... Safe harbour .... and docked there at 3am.  What a night.

That morning two other boats joined us on the dock.  Of the boat that had hit us twice there was no sign.  We checked Tumi over and fortunately there is no damage.

Later in the afternoon another boat approaching St Marys ran aground and was left listing at about 10 degrees for a few hours until the tide rose and a local tow boat was able to free them.  They are now berthed behind us having heard in advance about the tricky anchorage.  All in all a memorable 24 hours!

22 Nov 2015

22/11/2015 : Brunswick, Georgia

Having visited Savannah by car from Hilton Head, we decided to bypass it on our journey south and instead headed for Brunswick in Georgia, about 100 miles south of Hilton Head.  As with our last four ports of call we arrived after dark and negotiated the long entrance channel, and we're talking up to 10 miles long, using the lit channel marker buoys.  Sometimes picking the one you need to follow out of all the others can be tricky, but we made it in with no problems and anchored at 10pm last night in the middle of nowhere.  We set the alarm to wake us early this morning to move up to a small marina, timing it to arrive before forecast winds picked up.  We needn't have bothered: Yet again the forecast was wrong and the winds actually have dropped as the day has progressed.

After a couple of hours relaxing we walked into downtown Brunswick.  Settled back in the late 1700s as are a lot of towns/cities in this part of America, Brunswick definitely has a feel of being down on its heels: Lots of vacant shops for lease, no-one around (although it is Sunday so everywhere is closed up) etc.  It's a shame for the place as it obviously was a thriving community in the late 19th / early 20th century but the damage from hurricanes, flooding and the economic crisis back in the 1920s have all taken their toll.  Whilst effort are being made to revitalise the town, it's not somewhere we want to spend much time so we plan on moving on tomorrow.

We're not far from the Florida border now and plan on visiting two more places in Georgia before we leave it: Cumberland Island, a natural coastal border island, and St Marys, another old town and somewhere a lot of cruising sailors congregate for Thanksgiving so we thought we'd join them!

20 Nov 2015

20/11/2015 : Hilton Head Island

We cycled around some of the island yesterday on the marina's bikes, heading off to Dolphin Point at the top of the island where we were told by a local that some fishermen caught and tagged a 12' Tiger Shark the other day. The Hilton Head Plantation where the marina is located is an exclusive gated community with myriad golf courses, expensive houses and loads of posh cars (right up Debra's street, you might say). The two of us trundling around on the bikes must amuse the locals who seem to drive literally everywhere - we have yet to see anyone carrying golf clubs or even towing a set, they all ride buggies which rather defeats the purpose of exercise!

Anyway, as we were wending our merry way back to the marina we passed a lake where there was a fisherman sitting by the bank. As we rode towards him I noticed a slight movement in the water. I called to Debra and asked her what she thought it was. We stopped and watched and sure enough it was our first alligator sighting.  We stayed chatting to the fisherman and discovered this 'gator, all 6 feet or so of him, is a regular and hangs around waiting to steal the fish off the line when they are being reeled in.

The weather for the week ahead is very windy and so we're having to pick our days for sailing carefully, but with only 250 miles to go before we reach Cape Canaveral, we've got plenty of time to make it in time for flying home.  We're heading 110 miles south tomorrow to Brunswick in Georgia in a 24-hour weather window before high winds return and have booked into a small marina there so we have easy access ashore.

19 Nov 2015

18/11/15 Savannah, Georgia

We have been looking forward to visiting Savannah as it has been recommended to us by a few people, so we hired a car and drove down from the marina at Hilton Head Island where we have tied up for a few days to let the bad weather pass us by. We took a trolley bus ride around the historic part of the city and oriented ourselves on the layout of the roads and the 22 parks that divide them.

We had booked lunch at the Old Pink House restaurant for 1pm and the trolley bus tour took us up to 12:30, just time to walk from the Market to the restaurant. On perusing the menu, we found fried green tomatoes were on offer, which made us think of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. Never having tried them before, we both opted for crab cakes and FGT's with fries. Really good food, and the as the meal was presented, the FGT's sandwiched the crab cakes, so it was a healthy option too.

As it turned out, the meal was the highlight of the day.

All the trees in the parks were covered in Spanish Moss which looked pretty, but our expectation of seeing lots of very ornate wrought iron balconies was higher than reality. There were some that we noticed on our trolley tour, but we were unable to find many of them as we walked the streets.

We did pass the police station where they were displaying some old police cars that apparently you can take a ride in, especially if you commit a felony!

And as usual with state capital cities, the capital building is very ornate. This one has a 24 carat gold leaf dome.

We are glad we visited Savannah, but we won't hurry to go back there. As it was, we needed to collect a propane tank that we had ordered from Home Depot which was being delivered to store nearby so we drove out to the Thunderbolt retail park and collected it late afternoon. We had the tank filled at another store a few miles from Home Depot and now we can relax a bit with the knowledge that we are not likely to run out of gas for cooking for a good while. Who said that sailing is exciting?

16 Nov 2015

15/11/2015 : Historic downtown Charleston

We'd both been looking forward to seeing the old houses and tree-lined streets of the old part of the city and it didn't disappoint - tranquil, peaceful and the rest of the city seemed a million miles away, not just a few hundred yards,  Most of the houses are built end-on to the road, facing the ocean to make the most of the sea breezes, with property-length verrandahs on every floor to give  somewhere to go day and night to get some air especially in the summer months when the heat is apparently stifling.  The larger mansions are the exception to this orientation, being set back from and face onto the road, but still with balconies and verrandahs.  They were all built in the 18th century of wood, in the main, by successful merchants, plantation owners and the like.

A very attractive neighbourhood with obviously affluent residents, then and now.  We stopped by one end-on house that was for sale for renovation and chatted to a family who were viewing, interested to know the approximate value of it - $1.8 million before the full refurbishment needed.  We thought the prices were about on a par with places such as Bath.

The same people were telling us about the flooding the city experienced several weeks ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin.  Whilst it didn't hit the coast, Charleston did have exceptionally high tides and some of the streets were under 5 feet of water.  People resorted to kayaking along the streets to get around.  Whilst there was no real evidence of the flooding, a number of houses were for sale and we did wonder if this was a direct consequence.

On our travels we walked past the fire station and couldn't resist taking a photo of the gleaming engine.

We're heading south to Beaufort next, still in South Carolina about 60 miles south .... hope we get a good sail down.

14/11/2015 In trouble with the authorities

We went shopping early morning on the trolley bus to re-provision, and on our return found two officers from the Customs and Border Protection waiting by the boat.
"Is this your boat sir?"
"Have you reported your arrival here in Charleston?"
"No, I didn't know I had to. I have a cruising permit."
"You need to check in to every port you arrive at, why haven't you done that?"
"Sorry, I didn't know I had to."
That was the start of a lengthy dialogue. Apparently we should report our arrival at every port and anchorage we arrive at, and the penalty for not doing so is $5,000 for the first offence and $10,000 for the second, coupled with confiscation of the boat. Welcome to the US.

When we cleared into the US and obtained our cruising permit, there was no mention of regular reporting and we were not given any phone numbers to call. Therefore we couldn't know that it was a legal requirement.

It was a bit tense while our papers were checked and passport details taken. However, after a while we think that they decided we weren't trying to buck the system and that there had been a genuine breakdown in communication somewhere along the way and we were let off with an official caution, which means that if we transgress again, we will be fined.

Needless to say, armed with the list of contact numbers, we will be reporting in ad nauseum from now on. Phew! A lucky escape, not to be repeated.

13 Nov 2015

13/11/2015 Charleston

We listened to the daily weather forecasts on the SSB radio given by a weather guru before we left Beaufort NC. The indications were that as soon as the winds shifted to the west, we should leave and head south in 15 knots of wind, so we got ourselves ready and departed as advised. How to these weather forecasters get it so wrong? We rounded Cape Fear in 40 knots of wind and very short pounding seas on the nose (which didn't make for restful off-watch sleeping) and once around the cape the winds dropped altogether and we had to motor in the last 100 miles or so. We arrived into Charleston at 2:30 yesterday morning and dropped anchor for the remainder of the night.

At 10 am we radioed through to the marina to let us in to our berth and crossed the fast flowing river to hover outside waiting for the dockmaster to let us in. Finally we got our slot and in we went with the river flowing at 2.3 knots through the marina, a bit tricky but a smart ferry glide in between D and E docks and a hard left turn into the flow nestled us nicely in our berth. Want to see how we did it?

We spent the afternoon looking around 3 US navy vessels that are moored right next to the marina, The USS Yorktown (aircraft carrier) USS Laffey (destroyer) and USS Clamagore (submarine). Very informative, very claustrophobic in the case of the submarine, and very humbling in the case of the destroyer which was attacked by a squadron of kamikaze pilots in the second world war and still survived.

There is a fine collection of aircraft to look around and even sit in to see how it all works.

And we could even sit in the captain's seat to control the carrier

8 Nov 2015

8/11/2015 : Beaufort, North Carolina

We're loving it here: The weather has been in the low eighties; the people are friendly and welcoming and Beaufort itself is great.  It was voted the coolest small town in America some time ago and we can see why.

We've hired a car for a long weekend (Enterprise do an amazing weekend deal at $9.99 per day, and they collect and drop you off too  ... amazing) and are getting the chance to explore this part of North Carolina.  Crazy as it seems, this one state is almost as big as England, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Appalachian Mountains in the west where it borders Tennessee.  Our geography of the States has never been as good!

We drove down to Wilmington a couple of days ago, one of the historic sea ports of North Carolina on the Cape Fear river, a great name to inspire confidence in safe passage if ever there was one!  It was settled in 1739 by European Americans and has an attractive riverfront, being named the best one in the USA by USA Today in 2014.  Through in a historic downtown with many heritage buildings, a good lunch in the sunshine overlooking the river then it made for a nice day out.

We visited Fort Macon yesterday afternoon (after an exciting morning of laundry and hair cuts!) and found it really interesting.  It was constructed in the early 1800s by Unionists (the navy blue hat I'm wearing) but in 1812 was commandeered by the Confederates (the grey hat Paul's got on) in the US Civil War,  Eventually the Union Army claimed it back after a long battle.  It's been a state park since the early 1930s (give or take a short period in WWII when it was put back into service) and has been restored really well and shows what life would have been like for soldiers back in Civil War times.

A cold front came through last night with high winds and lots of rain, plus a twenty degree drop in temperature!  This morning has dawned grey and cloudy but dry so after a brunch of bacon sarnies we're off to New Bern, another old European settlement (this time from 1710) which is also where Pepsi Cola was invented and is the site of a civil war battlefield. 

We'll be heading south to Charleston, South Carolina in the middle of the week .... assuming the weather plays ball!

5 Nov 2015

5/11/2015 Beaufort. North Carolina

On a scale from one to twelve (a sailor's joke) Beaufort is pretty nice. We came in last night having rounded the dreaded Cape Hatteras in 40 knot winds (Beaufort Force 8/9 Gale/Severe Gale) with several reefs in the sails and still bowling along at just under 9 knots, and then having to run the engine because the wind died altogether. Who said sailing was easy? Actually, it was much easier than we expected rounding the Cape.

Once around the Cape, we were just on the edge of the Gulf stream and what a difference in the temperature! The warm body of water raised the air temperature by a good 10 degrees and we were able to (needed to) shed layers of clothing because we were too hot. I can see why the UK is so temperate with the Gulf Stream running by our shores. Anyway, I decided to try my hand at fishing using my new rod and reel, and guess what?

Not bad for a beginner? It was a Bonito, sadly not very good eating, so I put it back. Next one will be a Yellowfin Tuna and then it will be Tuna steaks and Sashimi!

We piloted our way through the navigation lights that Beaufort has to offer (quite confusing at night with so much light clutter all around) and dropped anchor in 5 metres of water close to the Coastguard station where it was really sheltered. I was in the shower and looked outside to see a coastguard launch coming towards us with its lights flashing. They clearly weren't happy with where we had stopped and a party of 3 coastguards came alongside. We were within their exclusion zone and they wanted us to move. We feigned ignorance but they were very polite in insisting that we moved further upriver, which we duly did. This morning we moved around in the daylight to our present anchorage, right next to Downtown Beaufort and less than 50 metres from the dinghy dock. Very nice too!

There are some islands on the seaward side of our anchorage that are inhabited by wild horses. Apparently they originate from the Spanish ships that foundered on the coast in the 1600's and have adapted to living in marshy grounds and eating salt oats.

We are hiring a car tomorrow to explore inland, taking advantage of the Enterprise $9.99/day weekend rental offer so we can go shopping and sightseeing. The weather is due to deteriorate next week so we will probably head out from here on Monday or Tuesday. We will see. The weather forecasts change so quickly it isn't worth worrying about it until nearer the time.

1 Nov 2015

1/11/2015 : Life's a Gas! and Getting ready for off.

We've been in Norfolk for a week now awaiting the date we're insured to head south .... today!  Now we've just got to choose a safe weather window to round Cape Hatteras and it's looking like Wednesday / Thursday this week will be it all being well so we're starting our preparations for heading south including cleaning and polishing Tumi ... it is Sunday after all, and everyone washes their cars on Sundays.  It'll be an all day job by the time we've finished with the stainless steel and GRP.

We've had a good week in Norfolk.  The OCC port officer and his wife have invited us and the other OCC sailors docked here to dinner and lunch this week and we've dined twice as a group too, so very social.  We've also had two trips to the movies and used the local bus service to visit Virginia Beach (not to be recommended, an out of season Blackpool-type experience) and Hampton (a pleasant enough place but nothing much there).  So we're ready to see somewhere new now and looking forward to arriving in Beaufort, North Carolina by the end of the week.

Now to the Gas. We finally managed to get our gas system sorted out so that we can use the US gas bottle safely. I connected the US regulator to the gas bottle last week when our European one finally exhausted itself and spliced two gas pipes together to make the connection to our European gas system. So far so good, we thought, we can cook again. The problem was, that we could operate the oven as a flamethrower, flaring gas everywhere on one ring, or a trickle if we wanted to sue more than one to cook potatoes AND vegetables at the same time. The regulator that we had just wasn't regulating so we turned off the gas and went back to the drawing board. We had a look at what the other boats were doing, and found out that there is an adaptor to convert US to European gas systems and so we ordered on online to be express delivered to us here in Norfolk. As we couldn't cook, it was a good excuse to go out as mentioned above but even not being able to boil a kettle for a hot drink was something of a pain. We realised that we need to have an electric kettle on board for such eventualities. We didn't want to buy a US one as they only work on 110v and we run on 230v, but as things turned out, the couple on the boat next to us happened to have a kettle they didn't want any more, and suddenly we are the proud owners of another means to boil water. Strange how these things just seem to work out isn't it?

25 Oct 2015

25/10/2015 Norfolk Virginia

We sailed down here yesterday having spent three peaceful nights in Deltaville in Jackson Creek. There is a VERY narrow channel that allows access to Jackson Creek, and although the channel has markers to indicate where the deeper water is, they lie. Passing close to a port side marker on the way in, we ran aground. What??? We managed to back off the shoal and more or less ploughed our way into the creek where the water was deeper. Anchoring in 3 metres of water (we draw 2.4 metres) we settled for the next few days, enjoying the use of the marina's bikes and laundry to do the shopping and washing (such is the life of the cruising sailor, very mundane!)

Anyway, yesterday was our time to leave Deltaville. We pumped out the holding tank (always a nice task, especially as I got a bit of blowback on this occasion), topped up the fuel tank and filled 3 fuel containers as a reserve, and headed out. Bearing in mind we had touched bottom on the way in, we steered even closer to the green marker and ran aground before we even got there. Backing off the shoal, we let a catamaran go ahead of us and we tried again. Oops! aground again by the green marker, even though the depth gauge read 2.8 metres. Backed off again and repeated the ploughing action to get past the mud bank. As we progressed through the channel, it felt as though we were on the cusp of touching bottom all the way through, getting slight 'tugs' on the keel as it passed through the silty bottom. Eventually we were out and into deeper waters and could breathe a sigh of relief. Even though we have towing insurance, we don't want to end up stuck on a shoal for hours on end.

Once out into the Chesapeake again, we had a good sail for most of the journey south to Norfolk where we have berthed up in the same dock as we were earlier this year. Tumi beautifully shoe-horned herself in between the pilings and we are tied up nicely with the added bonus of shore power to deep cycle charge the batteries and to run all our electrical stuff as much as we want. There are two other Ocean Cruising club boats here as well, and we have all been invited for a barbecue this evening by the OCC Port Officers. Such a good community to be a part of. We are also planning to catch up on the latest movies while we are here!

On the way by the US naval dockyards, we saw three aircraft carriers sitting side by side waiting to be worked on. That's more than the British navy have in total. Makes you think doesn't it???

23 Oct 2015

23/10/2105 : Deltaville, VA

We arrived into Deltaville on Wednesday, negotiating our way through the very narrow and shallow entrance channel a couple of hours after low tide.  The charts said there should be 2.7m at MLW (mean low water) and we draw 2.3m so a whole 40cm to spare, but as when we hauled out the few days of westerly winds had pushed the water out of the Bay and low water is lower than predicted.  The upshot is we ran aground (the second time in Chesapeake) but fortunately we were going slowly and were able to reverse off the mud bank and made it into the anchorage.

It's a lovely spot ... pretty creek with some nice houses running down to the water and a small marina and boatyard.  The weather is warm and sunny and so we decided to stay a couple of days longer to explore ashore by bike.  We've also had a go at making our own crab cakes which were delicious.  The only downside is the number of birds who keep taking up residence at the top of the mast .... each morning the deck is covered in reminders of their presence, not something we want to wake up to but something we need to scrub off before it stains the GRP.  The joys of sailing!

21 Oct 2015

Engines etc

While we were back in the UK and Tumi was on the hard in Virginia, we asked that the engines were serviced in our absence. On returning to the boat, we were greeted with a "Hi, welcome back, here's your bill." Notwithstanding the fact that the bill was far higher than we anticipated, but it seems that the work was not done particularly well. We had to have a Yanmar engineer out to look at the engine in Annapolis as we had encountered a few problems with starting the engine after a period of it being idle and when said engineer looked at the engine, it was obvious that the 'service' was far from complete.

The other issue we had was on the outboard engine which was also 'serviced'. It too refused to start and as mentioned in an earlier blog, I had to strip out the carburettor and clean it to allow fuel to feed through into it.

We have resolved both problems but it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. The learning curve is for us to use the agents from the manufacturers to get the job done properly. More expensive on the face of it, but cheaper in the long run.

We also had an occasional leak in the aft starboard cabin that we could not get to the bottom of. It turns out that underneath the hanging locker there are some water pipes, one of which had a leaking joint. Another mystery solved. We took the floor up to dry out and have replaced everything after it dried. no more leaks.

At last the weather is warming up a bit as we start to head south. Some good sailing days in the past week, and a couple of days ago as we were leaving St Michaels on the eastern side of the Chesapeake, Tumi outstripped every other boat with the exception of a big cat. They always go fast on a beam reach. It was a nice feeling and we got several envying looks from the skippers of the other boats. I always said to Debra that the reason we got Tumi is that she will sail fast, and she doesn't disappoint!

21/10/15 : Brrr, it's getting chilly .... time to head south!

In the last week temperatures have plummeted, especially at night and when the wind is blowing from the north.  We've gone from shorts and T-shirts to sail to multiple layers, hats and gloves ... quite the change!  This last weekend in particular has been cold, down from the low seventies to the mid-fifties, but fortunately we're now back into the low seventies for a few days as the wind had swung round to the south.  Typically it's from the south when we want to sail south, just as it was from the north when we wanted to sail north!!

We visited St Michael's, Maryland, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay for the weekend, having had a great sail over from Annapolis.  It's a lovely small town, obviously home to the retired wealthy looking at the shops and restaurants there, very scenic and well maintained and we enjoyed looking around.  Visiting Virginia and Maryland are States we would otherwise never have been to, as will be the same with North and South Carolina and Georgia, so it's proving a great opportunity to explore. We've had beautiful sunny days for nearly two weeks now and the trees are turning a lovely colour.

We're heading down to Norfolk for the end of the week where we'll wait for a good weather window to sail back around Cape Hatteras to North Carolina.  We don't really want to go south of 35 degrees north until after 1st November as our insurance excess should there be a named storm goes through the roof.  It's only up to the rafters in November and then from the beginning of December, when the hurricane season officially ends, it's back to normal.  Fingers crossed no named storms in November!

Chesapeake has now got that end of season feel to it.  Many local boats are organising hauling out for the winter and cruising sailors are fast heading south, in fact most of them are ahead of us.  Even the Canada geese flying in formation overhead on their way so we better up anchor and follow!

14 Oct 2015

14/10/2105 : Halloween

We've always known that Halloween is far bigger in America than in the UK but I don't think we realised just how important it is.  Since we've been back, stores having been selling pumpkins and other ghoulish decorations and more and more houses are becoming trimmed and festooned as the weeks progress.
Today, strolling around Annapolis on a beautiful Autumnal day, we photographed two of the best "efforts" we saw .....

13 Oct 2015

13/10/2015 Annapolis

We spent an enjoyable day at the Annapolis Boat Show, and I should point out immediately that I didn't buy a new one! My hands were tied behind my back by Debra to prevent me from closing any deals ... we did come close to getting a RIB to replace our dinghy, but we thought better of it and decided that ours is perfectly good. We did get a light for the dinghy for when we run it at night, it is the law over here, so we now comply with the regulations. We also got a pair of comfy cockpit seats for when we are on passage, something we have been looking for for a while.

We have been sampling the delights of the best crab cakes in the world (endorsed by Michelle Obama apparently) and we were so impressed with our first meal, we went back again for some more!

We had a terrific thunderstorm here on Saturday night, real pyrotechnics lighting up the skies. All the yachts at anchor around us were hunkered down hoping that we wouldn't get hit by lightning bolts. After an hour the skies cleared and have been clear ever since. One or two nice sunsets too.

From here we will scoot over to the other side of the Chesapeake to sample at least one soft shell crab (yes you eat the lot apparently) as they are the specialty of the region, then we will make our way south towards Norfolk ready for heading back out into the Atlantic and round Cape Hatteras. Most of the boats here are heading south now, so it would be rude of us not to accompany them. Shopping and laundry done today - what exciting lives we lead!

Last night saw the end of the sail boat show, and the show was dismantled in very quick order as the motor boat show starts on Thursday. We went to the Pussers bar last night for some rum cocktails and to watch the mass exodus of the boats from the show pontoons. Very slick maneuvering to extricate the yachts from very tight spots. We were impressed. The 'painkiller' cocktails were good too!

10 Oct 2015

11/10/15 : Annapolis

Historic Annapolis is a very attractive city with tree-lined streets, numerous historic buildings and a good mix of boutiques and restaurants all set around the waterfront .... what's not to like?!  We wandered the historic area, toured one of the large houses, home to William Paca who was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, and had lunch at the Boatyard Restaurant where the broiled crab cakes were out of this world.  Apparently after dining here, Michelle Obama said they were the best crab cakes she had ever eaten and we completely agree.

10/10/2015 : Annapolis, Maryland

We arrived in Annapolis at 4pm yesterday fully expecting the anchorage to be packed because the boat show is underway at the moment.  Whilst it is busy there was plenty of room so we dropped anchor close to another British boat we know and went straight over for drinks.

One of our favourite places in the Caribbean is Gustavia, the capital of St Barth's, which is chic and scenic but the anchorage is almost untenable as it rolls so much, partly the swell but also the wake from all of the waterborne traffic.  Annapolis seems to be a similar experience, although not quite as bad as it did die down last night, but we plan to spend most of our time ashore exploring this historic city and attending the boat show.

We spent a couple of nights at Solomon's Island on the way up here from Mill Creek: It's a big boating centre but the small anchorage is very peaceful.  For the first time this season we got the folding bikes out and explored the island and neighouring mainland, all very pleasant.

Everywhere we have gone in Chesapeake, both Virginia and Maryland, we have been welcomed very warmly and have got to know a lot of American sailors, many of whom we hope to meet up with again on our journey south.

So the forecast for the next few days, as for the last few, is full sunshine but it is Autumn type sunshine as the power of the sun has weakened.  But it's still T-shirt and shorts weather so not too bad.  All I have to do now is make sure Paul doesn't go mad at the boat show, after all at the last one in Southampton we bought a boat!

7 Oct 2015

6/10/2015 Mill Creek, Chesapeake Bay

What a difference a day makes! The winds have reduced a bit, the sea state is calming down and the sun has been shining today. We pumped out our holding tank and topped up the water tank this morning (for free!) before setting out down the Rappahannock and out into the Chesapeake Bay. Making good time down the river, we spilled out into the bay and then the winds turned against us. It was going to be a beat all the way, and for a while we had our engine running as we headed straight into the wind. After a while we decided to tack our way up the Bay under sail and maintained pretty good speeds, aiming to anchor in a bay just off the north of the Potomac. However, we realised that we weren't going to make it before dark and headed off into Mill Creek instead. Good move! The anchorage is really well protected (a very twisty windy entrance) and very sheltered. Aiming for Solomons Island tomorrow where we have been invited out for drinks with a couple we met last week.

5 Oct 2015

5/10/15 : Heading north for Annapolis

It's been a very wet and windy four days as Hurricane Joaquin has headed northeastwards and clashed with a high pressure moving southwestwards with Chesapeake Bay just about where the two weather systems met.  The good news is that we've survived all this and today the weather is a lot calmer with even a hint of sunshine. The forecast for the rest of the week is more sunshine so we've put the bimini back up and plan to head off north tomorrow.

As ever when we sail the wind is from the wrong direction!  And the next few days are no different so we'll take our time and not put ourselves under any pressure to be anywhere by a deadline.

Surprisingly the last few days have passed fairly quickly: We went to Richmond on Saturday and visited Christ Church this morning, one of the oldest churches in the area, dating from the early 18th century but not so old by UK standards.  Evenings have been spent with Dan and Jackie off the neighbouring boat and have been fun.  So all in all not a bad few days and the enforced rest has at least given Paul's ribs time to ease a bit. He will still have to take things steady for a while yet. Tomorrow will bring another first as we will be pumping out our holding tank on the dockside. Our normal evacuation procedure (opening the valve and letting gravity do its bit) is not permitted within 3 miles of the coastline and they are pretty hot on that round here. Better be good!

2 Oct 2015

2/10/15 : Hurricane update

We were relieved to see this morning that Joaquin's anticipated track had moved even further offshore and so we're now hopeful it will miss Chesapeake Bay.  We're still get high winds and lots of rain (it's pouring down outside now, and has been doing for over 12 hours) but the forecast for next week when Joaquin has passed is back to sunshine and warmth .... just like the UK is now!

Off to explore rainy Virginia by road this afternoon with an American couple anchored up the creek with us - they've hired a car for the weekend and have asked us to join them.  They came for a drink last night and we all got on very well so it'll be a lot better than staying on board reading and watching movies! 

1 Oct 2015

1/10/2015 Carter Creek, off the Rappahannock River

Still watching the progress of Hurricane Joaquin. We decided to re-anchor this morning as the spot we had available last night wasn't exactly where we would like to be, mainly because there was a smaller boat occupying the spot we needed. Anyway we talked nicely to them about moving further upstream last night as they are not so constrained by their draft as we are and they kindly moved for us allowing us the prime spot. we now have 30+ metres of anchor chain out in 2.5 metres of water and we will probably put out the kedge anchor as well to really be sure that we are dug well into the riverbed.

A bit of forced relaxation will probably do us good as I think I have cracked a rib trying to remove a rope from a piling in the marina as we were leaving, The weather is a bit grim and overcast, but that is to be expected give what is lurking around the corner.

Watch this space ...

30 Sept 2015

30/9/15 : Hurricane Watch

We saw yesterday that a tropical storm (Joaquin) has formed east of the Bahamas and is slowly tracking north-west at 3mph, with the possibility of being upgraded to a hurricane and coming ashore in Chesapeake Bay over the coming weekend.  It is now officially a hurricane but at this stage it is moving too slowly and it is too early for the forecasters to model it’s path but everyone is on alert.  

Being new to the whole hurricane thing we decided to pick the brains of the local OCC port officers for Deltaville, Solomons Island and Anapolis for recommendations on where we should head to hole up safely well in advance of any deterioration in the weather.  We were touched how quickly they all replied with useful advice, offers of berths etc etc and so we have sailed up the Rappahannock River today to Irvington where several creeks tuck in behind high bluffs and so we’re now anchored in one such place and plan to stay here several days as we keep an eye on how things develop weather-wise.

It’s a pretty daunting prospect if a hurricane is to hit the area but we are well protected where we are and know what to do to prepare the boat.  All the local people we have contacted think we're in an excellent place which concurs with our own views but we have some alternatives to consider if the track of the hurricane dictates we should move. In many ways we feel safer here at anchor than being in a marina which would be far more exposed to the brunt of the weather.  We’re still hoping Joaquin will hive off into the Atlantic but if not we’ll put out plenty of chain, securely fasten down everything, remove all canvas and sit it out.  What a start!

29/9/15 : Back Afloat

We departed the marina yesterday morning to leave on a rising tide, knowing how shallow Mobjack Bay and the Servern River are.  Fortunately we had no problems and we hoisted sail in 20-30 knots for a 40 mile sail up to Deltaville.  It was fabulous to be out sailing again after several months on dry land and we both loved it.  At times when the winds were nearer the 30 knot mark we were averaging over 10knots .... fantastic!

One of the things we had done during the summer was to have a UV strip sewn to the leach (back) of the mainsail to protect it when it is furled away inside the mast.  Whilst we didn’t enjoy paying the bill for it, it has served to stiffen the leach of the sail which makes for a tighter sail – all for the good.

The weather since we’ve been back on board has been very variable with high winds, a lot of cloud and over last weekend a lot of rain, although it is very warm.  Fortunately whilst the cloud has largely remained the winds have moderated and rain all but disappeared, all making for great sailing.

27 Sept 2015

27/9/15 : Back on board

We turned up at the boatyard early Friday morning to see Tumi splashed back into the water at high tide to be greeted by the owner with a "welcome back, here's your bill" opener.  Not a great start but we soon forgot it as we maneuvered the boat into a berth.  It was pretty windy but warm and dry so we spent the day collecting the sails, re provisioning, unpacking and cleaning.  By evening we had restored some semblance of order and Tumi looked to have survived her summer season pretty well.

Where we are berthed in the marina is pretty exposed and for the last 48 hours it has been very windy, too windy to refit the sails with the consequent clunking of lines inside the mast night and day.  Add in the small waves slapping against the hull 12 hours a day, then getting a good night's sleep hasn't been an option!  It's meant to be dying down from tonight so we're hoping we will sleep a lot better tonight.

We've soon slotted back into the social scene : There's another British yacht in the marina, one we have seen various times before but never met the owners. Well it's safe to say we all put that right yesterday with morning coffee and evening drinks.  Today is lunch aboard an American yacht who were kind enough to feed us back in May as well.   And then sleep .......

Tomorrow we'll get the sails back on, inflate the dinghy and get ready to leave on Tuesday when we plan to head up to Deltaville.  We'll have to keep a careful eye on the weather as there is a big storm forecast for the end of the week and we need to make sure we find a well - protected anchorage in good time.

25 Sept 2015

24/9/15 : Shenandoah State Park

We've spent a lot of time today in the car driving to this national park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia but it was so worth it!  The scenery was stunning, weather perfect and the drive along the Skyline Drive superb.  We did a couple of short hikes, the first of which was littered with Black Bear poop which added an extra dimension to the walk.  Throw in rattlesnakes as well on the second one, then I was glad to get back to the car!  We returned to a great Italian restaurant again tonight when we got back only to find out there are mountain lions in the area too ... Thank goodness I didn't know about them too!  All in all a fantastic day.