Countdown to Sailing South

Last year we only had two and a half weeks after Tom retired to settle our affairs, load the boat, and head south. It was fast paced with long days to get everything on and off the boat as needed. It was also exciting to be following our dream of going south and cruising full time once again. This year we planned for specific maintenance and upgrades to be done during our July haul out. Sure, some boat projects have kept us busy this summer. However, we’ve taken the time to enjoy ourselves and even sail a little.

This year September was all about spontaneity. In the last blog I mentioned that we have been looking for a life raft. An emergency device we might need, but hope and pray that never happens. Tom suddenly found the perfect lifeboat for us. It is NOT an inflatable raft people sit in and hope to be rescued. A concern we have about these expensive and heavy rafts are that only qualified inspectors can and must service them every 2-3 years. Our lifeboat is a Portland Pudgy rigid dinghy. Checkout the link to see more details. This well designed short boat can be used as a row boat, motor boat, sailboat and most importantly to us it’s a lifeboat. We hope that by using it every day we will also be more familiar with how to use it in an emergency.

Tom found a slightly used 2016 Pudgy in Eliot, Maine for a decent price. Soon we were driving to Maine to inspect and purchase it. Yeah, it fit easily in the back of the van! Phew, that’s a relief. We were not looking forward to trying to hoist 125 pounds on to the roof.

We continued driving north to visit Anita’s sisters in Newcastle and Nobleboro, Maine. After all, we were less than an hour away. I can’t believe I have no pictures of our visit. How disappointing! Fun dinner hosted by Eva, with Linda and Janet and all our spouses too. Tom had a few days to catch up on computer work while Anita pitched in to help Linda get ready to move to a cottage in Nobleboro.

Next stop was Portland Pudgy itself in Portland, Maine. We met with the owner and filled out an order for the remaining equipment needed to fully outfit our Pudgy as a sailboat and lifeboat. We actually decided to leave our Pudgy there to have the sailing hardware installed by them.

In the mean time, we drove to the middle of New Hampshire for a last visit with Tom’s Dad. A generous helping of chili and corn bread was welcome after a walk around Wellington State Park. Thank you Ilse for the fresh Blueberry pie, blueberry crisp and jelly too!

We then returned to Portland, Maine to pick up our dinghy and accessories and drive back to Connecticut in the same day.

On our over night voyage from Block Island to Delaware Bay we carried the lifeboat upside down on the port bow.It fits well on our Davits and has a clever harness under the dinghy for added support and security.And it passed the test of carrying our first grocery run with our Burley Trolley. A versatile folding hand cart or bicycle trailer.A week later than last year, we saw a weather window for our first passage south. Similar to last year we were on shore when we saw the end of a rainbow over our home. A good sign it’s time to leave!Our sail to Block Island on September 28th was fast and fun; 26 miles in three and a half hours. We met with Steve and Helen on Miles and we both planned to leave for Cape May early the next morning. So happy to be heading south again!

Sailing, Shopping, and Socializing – Ahh Summer!

Lone Star anchored at Flat Hammock, near Fishers Island, New York in late August.

It appears our social calendar was as full as our project schedule this summer. Anita often took time for a brisk morning walk around nearby UCONN campus, sometimes with friends, always admiring the view! Tom preferred to obtain his exercise in the college pool and commute to and from on his bicycle.Avery Point Lighthouse on UCONN property.View of SYC from UCONN.

We first met British friends Steve and Helen Lawrence 32 years ago in Barbados after we each had crossed the Atlantic in our respective sail boats. Since then they have completed a circumnavigation. We were so happy to see them cruise into our harbor in their latest boat named Miles. Here they are after a tour of the Nautilus submarine museum in Groton, CT. We were so lucky to have use of a car this summer. Trips to Defender marine supply store, hardware stores, laundry and grocery stores whenever we needed to go were invaluable. We were prepared to use Uber all summer. Tom’s generous sister and her husband offered us the use of their van. Thank you, dear sister!! The car was also a big help when we decided to move into a better priced storage unit and downsize our belongings a bit more. We were also able to visit our son a few times and help them out with a garage insulation project. We were grateful son, Alex and fiancé, Jenna came to more than a few Friday night picnics at Shennecossett Yacht Club.

Tom’s next Project was installing a new lithium iron phosphate battery bank. He was so happy when he moved the old AGM’s off the boat!So sad that I don’t have any pictures of the beautiful blue inner cells, but here is the finished project. We still have a separate engine starting battery for now. So far we are very happy with the new lithium battery bank. It delivers a steady voltage consistently. We’ve even used the microwave and a heat gun with no voltage drop as our old batteries did.At the end of August Tom’s Dad and friend, Ilse came for a short couple night visit. We sailed to Flat Hammock and anchored for lunch and a walk on shore. What a beautiful day. So glad they made the trip!Our next event was to attend a 100 year celebration at the Montville, CT power generation station that Tom worked at from 1979 to 1987. Great time visiting, reminiscing, and touring the current facility. The food was fabulous as well. We decided to do the majority of our provisioning for the Bahamas right here. This was facilitated by the van we borrowed. This time we stocked up on some dried fruits: apples, peaches, and strawberries. Repacked in vacuum sealed bags for longer storage.Tom is always researching new marine products. We’ve been looking for some specific emergency equipment. Things we want to have on hand, but hope to never need. The first was an emergency rudder or perhaps a tiller arm. What he found is a very compact sea anchor: a Fiorentino Shark Drogue. It is deployed on a bridle off the stern and can be used to steer the boat by bringing it close in on one side or the other. The boat will turn to port if you drag it close to the port side of the boat. It doubles as a reliable sea anchor when the seas are rough by adding a weight to the thimble at the tail end; and once again dragging it behind the boat on a bridle.The item stores compactly in itself and is smaller in size than a basketball 🏀. Very well engineered product made of high quality materials. We purchased one and will practice using it as it is so easy to deploy. The YouTube videos for this product were fun to watch and informative.

Next up will be our second piece of needed emergency equipment: a life raft.

Please click the links (blue underscored words) in our blogs to learn more about the places we’ve been and the friends, organizations and products we support and love!

Summer Socializing and Upgrading Lone Star

Cruising organizations have been a valued part of our lives for nearly 40 years. Shennecossett Yacht Club (SYC), the Corinthians and Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) to name a few. Whether to lend or receive a helping hand, to swap stories or learn new things. The enduring friendships from these organizations are the best. In June we had the pleasure of attending a cruisers gathering at Essex Yacht Club hosted by three separate cruising organizations: SSCA, Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) and Salty Dawg Rally. Wow! What a great group of positive people, wealth of knowledge, great speakers on a variety of topics, and just a lot of fun!A hands on demonstration inflating a life raft inspired us to research options for our cruising situation.Touring various cruising boats was fun, educational, and a much appreciated benefit to this gathering!

Immediately following this inspiring weekend we hauled Lone Star out of the water for an overhaul at Essex Boat Works. We can’t say enough about the helpful and knowledgeable staff at this well run yard. We need this 100 ton lift due to the beam/width of our trimaran.We began by removing the rudder, shaft, and engine. You may recall we had an alternator problem last winter; we burned up or shredded more than a few v-belts. Although the engine ran well, we thought it was due for an overhaul and paint job. Great opportunity to clean the engine room and continue to sound proof it too.We added new engine mounts, all new hoses, new Balmar alternator with serpentine belt, a new starter and rebuilt the injectors.The folks at Essex Boat Works are so helpful, we highly recommend this knowledgeable staff!We removed the four noisy cockpit drains that were just at the waterline and replaced them with closable valves, one on each side about 8 inches lower. Note the old AGM battery bank in the above picture, replacing them with lithium was another summer project. Tom and I scrubbed the yellow stain and numerous black marks off the topsides. We also had the yard do some touch up painting on the topsides and they added a black boot stripe and keel guard; a vinyl strip on the port transom, to prevent wear when lifting the dinghy on davits. After reinstalling rudder, new shaft, and old propellor we were ready to launch. The rudder is now painted white for better visibility.After launching late on Friday, we had to spend one more weekend in Essex as the rebuilt starter was messed up. Essex Boat Works generously replaced it with a brand new one the following Tuesday. This haul-out was expensive, but considering all that we accomplished, it was well worth it. After 30 days, we were on our way down river and back to our mooring at SYC.Old Saybrook Lighthouse at the mouth of the Connecticut River.

Tom immediately started the next project charging the individual lithium cells for our new battery bank. Then wired them all together to top balance them. At the end of July, we rented a car for a Kintz family lake vacation in New Hampshire.Ahh relaxation, sailing small boats, swimming, and spending time with family, a slice of heaven on earth.

Upon returning to Lone Star we saw a good weather window to head to Block Island. We wanted to try a new arrangement for the WindPilot self-steering, need to be sailing to do that! Oh yeah, there are a lot of boats here in the summer!Nice new dinghy dock in Great Salt Pond makes it very easy to reach town and get some exercise.Who doesn’t enjoy a gorgeous sunset? It never ceases to awe and humble us. We live in a beautiful world 🌎.

Please click the links (blue underscored words) in our blogs to learn more about the places we’ve been and the friends, organizations and products we support and love!

Successfully Escaped Winter

Our passage from sunny Atlantic City to our home base at Shennecossett Yacht Club in Groton, Connecticut took 36 hours. At three different times we were able to sail at 5 knots. However, that amounted to only 5 hours of the passage. So we motored on a calm sea the majority of the time. Thankfully, our electric auto pilot did all the steering of this open ocean passage. About 4 hours south of Montauk, Long Island we were surrounded by thick fog. Thankfully we are equipped with radar, and AIS positions of most commercial and some pleasure boats appear right on the chart plotter. We also recently added an automatic fog horn, so it was automatically blasting our position to boats as an auditory signal. We were disappointed that the fog never lifted all day. We had to slowly feel our way into our own little harbor and trust our instruments!A big thank you to Bill Hooper for taking this photo of us from E deck! It made us smile to hear the cheers of fellow club members that were on a boat at the nearby dock. Thank you for the welcome home at 7:00PM on Saturday, June 1st.

About a half hour later we caught a brief glimpse of shore, yes we are in the right place! We were still outside covering sails, setting up our porta-bote dinghy, and stowing our offshore gear.Spring was cool and very wet here in New England. However, after a cold front blasted through the next day, the long range forecast looks pretty good. When we first arrived we were enjoying sleeping in slightly cooler weather: high 50’s and low 60’s rather than 70’s. Daytime highs have been in the 60’s or 70’s so quite comfortable. Summer weather finally arrived at the end of June.

The first project Tom worked on was a used Burley Travoy Trailer. Soon he was attaching it to his bicycle and pedaling to the hardware store with the empty propane tank strapped to the trailer. Tom said he had to keep looking back to be sure it was still there. He used to commute to work on this bike, so he feels right at home. Tom’s current project is replacing our inverter.

Anita is back into the groove of a morning exercise walk around the nearby UCONN campus. Tom signed up to use the UCONN pool this summer.

We are learning about grocery delivery via Instacart and Loving the convenience of placing Amazon orders too. We are currently hauled out at Essex Boat Works, more on that in the next blog. We are making lists and ordering parts for various projects.

It’s good to be back in familiar cruising grounds, meeting up with friends and family.

Statistics for our round trip to the Bahamas:

Total miles: 3822 nautical miles

Total Engine hours: 368 (note: 47 hours were for charging purposes only, solar day was too short to charge batteries through clouds; add more solar)

Total hours sailing: 355

Nights at sea: 18

Nights at anchor: 226

Nights at a dock: 8

Total days away: 253

We plan to sail south again in the fall; we loved escaping winter! Summer weather is so much more pleasant when living on a boat.

Passage from Beaufort, NC to Atlantic City, NJ

We enjoyed our stay in Beaufort, NC. A bit of boat maintenance, cooking, and restocking interspersed with walks in this neat seaside village. Anita also did laundry behind the General Store, and got a haircut by Beverly; who gave her a great cut last fall. We had a delicious dinner at Aqua to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary; we were at sea on the 17th.Yes, you see three mini desserts: creme brûlée, chocolate cherry torte, and banana custard. All were fantastic!

On the first day of the long Memorial Day weekend; Saturday, May 25, we motored down the busy channel and out to sea. We had a good forecast for the next 3-5 days. Although we were directed to stay coastal in case something developed after 3 days. Winds were light until 4PM. Then we had fair winds and following seas to round Cape Hatteras! We enjoyed a steady 8-9 knots during the overnight hours. The first days 24 hour run was 151 nautical miles, the way life should be!

The next day, the wind became lighter so we motor-sailed. On our third night out, we were surprised by a sudden windy squall with lightning and a brief light shower at 3AM. Anita took the sails down in 30 knot winds and noticed the jib would have to be repaired in the morning. The trailing edge of a batten pocket was shredded from chaffing on the radar dome. We had lost a short batten. Anita applied two stick on patches to the area and hand stitched them to help keep them in place.

That same evening our weather router told us we should pull in on the New Jersey shore no later than noon tomorrow. We chose to head for Atlantic City. We had to motor-sail the last 17 hours in light winds. With light winds and near shore we were invaded by biting flies and other little insects.

The wind picked up as we entered the inlet and the skies were looking mighty dark. Tom had a hard time lowering the mainsail as one of the plastic slides had broken and was wedged in the sail track. Somehow, he managed to muscle it down. We found a snug and secure anchorage in a good size creek on the eastern shore, just around Rum Point. We arrived here at 10AM on Tuesday, May 28 and plan to stay a few days until the weather settles down. Look at the progression of the weather in this series of photos.

SunriseApproaching Atlantic City At our anchorageOur statistics for this passage: 370 nautical miles, 71 hours total passage time, engine on for 38 hours.

We took the time to catch up on sleep, fix the main sail slide, and inspect and retune the mast.

One night a nearby single-hander had come by for a visit at sundown. He was only aboard about 10 minutes when a big thunderstorm came up with lots of wind and rain. There was also a tornado watch. He raced back to his boat. We were anchored directly in front of him and suddenly we were dragging our anchor. The wind shift happened so fast it plucked our anchor out of the mud. We started the engine and held ourselves into the wind with the engine in gear while raising the anchor. We reset it in our original spot, and put out lots more anchor chain. Eric came back aboard the next day for a visit before heading up the ICW toward New England. Hope to see him again this summer.

Ocean passage from the Bahamas to Beaufort, NC

We had an extra week to prepare for our voyage from the northern Bahamas, known as the Abacos, back to the U.S. We had attempted to leave Thursday, May 9th, but realized that morning that the weather window was closing. Although we were already underway, we didn’t feel comfortable committing to a three day-500 mile passage to arrive in Beaufort, NC at the beginning of a gale. Four days for that length of passage is more predictable in our boat. So we anchored at Great Guana Cay and the next day moved on to Green Turtle Cay.

We continued to make the boat better for the ocean passage ahead. Tom took the time to scrub the bottom on two different occasions. He ran out of sunlight the first time. A smooth surface under water will improve our speed, especially in light winds! Anita spent her time cooking and baking, filling the freezer with vacuum sealed meals and treats to make meal preparation super easy at sea. We caught up on laundry and house cleaning, recharged batteries on a bunch of items like handheld radios, spot light, and battery jump packs. We also reviewed and organized ditch bags and medical supplies.

The Bluff Point Cay anchorage on Green Turtle Cay was a beautiful, secluded location with a few birds twittering and only a few houses occupied at this time of year. We were the only boat at anchor in the harbor for four days.

Our last night in the Bahamas some local swimmers out for their morning exercise invited us to dinner at one of the houses on shore. A group of 9 or 10 guys were sharing the house at the time. They even picked us up on board as we had folded up our dinghy in preparation for our passage. Delicious marinated chicken and rice, great fellowship and swapping of stories. They took some drone pictures of our boat in the harbor and measured the height of our mast, so cool!We gave them some dehydrated peanut butter as a thank you gift, something we still had in stock and they had never tried.

We prefer ocean passages to inland waterways for several reasons. Fewer obstacles is a given. Amazing night sky especially now with a full moon (though the stars and Milky Way are beautiful when there is no moon). This time of year, nights are relatively short, even shorter as we head north. The rhythm of the four hour watch system is easy for us to adapt to. We have the same watches each and every day forming a pattern.

We left our lovely anchorage at 7AM on Thursday, May 16 and sailed nonstop to Beaufort, NC in just over four days; arriving at 1PM on Monday, May 20. We anchored across from Beaufort Docks; the same place we left from last November.

The passage was super easy! The full moon made it very easy to see at night.We had one bedraggled bird sleep on our lifeline all night. He flew away at dawn and was a long way from land!Fun to see a pod of dolphin play with us in the Gulf Stream.

We enjoyed great weather the whole trip. Very few clouds, light winds, no rain. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We actually would have preferred a bit more wind. The highest we had was around 12-14 knots right behind us. We ended up motoring almost one third of the time: 29 hours of 102. We steered with the electric auto pilot exclusively on this passage, rather than the wind vane. There was not enough apparent wind for the wind vane to work well.

In contrast, the entry into the Beaufort inlet was sporting with following seas and a contrary current of a knot and a half. There was also a large dredge blocking off the entire deep water entrance channel at one point. The real entertainment began when we started the engine as we needed to turn up wind and weren’t sure if we could still sail. The alternator belt broke almost immediately. No time to fix it now! We sailed the last 2 miles up winding narrow channels, against the tidal current, and with a variety of small pleasure craft. There was a large motor yacht passing us at the last turn as we were sailing too slow (4-5 knots) at the same time that a larger fishing vessel was coming the other way. It’s understood they didn’t know our engine was out of commission. Fortunately, we never had to turn fully into the wind so were able to steer flawlessly! A sailboat stops when it points closer than 45-50 degrees (360 degrees on a compass) either side of where the wind is coming from. The same large motor yacht chose to block the entire channel right in front of the anchorage by spinning his boat around in preparation for docking. We managed to steer past his bow and avoid other anchored boats. Then we turned upwind into the narrow anchorage across from Beaufort Docks. Tom dropped the jib and after the boat stopped; lowered the anchor. Meanwhile, Anita dropped the main. Once we were sure the anchor was not dragging and the nearby boat was far enough away, Tom dove into the engine room to replace the alternator belt while Anita covered sails and stowed sailing gear. Once the engine was available, we re-anchored a little further from the channel and nearby boat and ensured the anchor was set by backing down with the engine. Exciting finish to an easy and relaxing passage. John, from the neighboring boat stopped by to chat in the evening and congratulated us on a well executed anchoring under sail. On our first cruise 30 years ago we had plenty of practice sailing on and off anchor. Good to know we still have the skills to make our floating home safe and secure.

Incidentally, we believe the underlying engine problem is a small amount of rust on one of the pulleys that chafes the belt. Tom has sanded/smoothed this area and we have been able to continue using the engine as evidenced by the twenty nine engine hours on this passage alone. We have a brand new higher output alternator, pulleys and serpentine belt waiting for us in CT. It will be the first of many new projects on Lone Star.

Check-in with U.S. Customs was a breeze with the CBP ROAM application (Yes, there’s an app for that.)

The weather is unsettled for the remainder of the week so we plan to stay near town for awhile. Perhaps do some walking, browsing and chores. Not to mention restocking on ice cream, chocolate, chips and brownie mix. Things we never bought in the five and a half months in the Bahamas. We hope to find another weather window soon to continue our passage north offshore.

Cruising in the Abaco’s

Cover photo: sunrise in Marsh Harbor.

We tried to leave Spanish Wells, following Pegu Club out of the harbor one afternoon. We had the main sail up and the anchor bridle off. When Anita turned on the key and pushed the button to start the engine nothing happened. Tom tried too, still nothing. We thought about sailing off anchor, but decided to drop the sail and trouble shoot the problem instead. This happened around 2PM. Tom had spent the day rigging the steering lines for the WindPilot self-steering out in the hot sun. Then he had to dive in the airless engine room. We took apart the engine control panel in the enclosed cockpit as well. Buffing wires and rerouting a few made it work, but the real problem is a couple broken prongs inside a wiring harness. No spare on board so we connected the wires directly and will complete the repair once back in the states this summer.

The next morning we left before sunrise at 6:00 AM to sail from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera 65 nautical miles to the northern Bahamas island group known as the Abaco’s. We had light winds, but were able to sail most of the way, only turning on the engine in the late afternoon. We crossed paths with this container ship…and Pegu Club who left from Egg Island at sunrise. Their towed dinghy is hiding behind a wave.We both anchored in the Lee of Lynard Cay shortly after entering Great Abaco Sound via Little Harbor Cut. It was an easy off the wind 11.5 hour sail and the WindPilot self-steering wind vane quietly and competently accomplished all the offshore steering! Yeah, another successful project completed!

The next day we sailed 20 miles northward to Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco. This is one of the larger settlements on Great Abaco. We visited both a large hardware and grocery store, both the biggest we’ve seen all winter with the exception of Nassau. Then back aboard to enjoy the sunset.The next day, we stayed aboard and celebrated Kimberly’s Birthday by grilling steaks and hamburgers on the grill accompanied with parsley potatoes and carrots and brownies and chocolate malted milkshakes for dessert. So happy to have sailed so much with Kimberly and Jeff this winter. We wish them well on their return trip to CT. The next day they headed west, while we headed east for a nostalgic return to Hopetown on Elbow Cay. We cruised here nearly thirty years ago. We had a great walk to On Da Beach restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing and delicious lunch. Thanks for the tip Marcia!We had to wait out some nasty weather at anchor near Eagle Rock…Enjoyed more pretty sunsets …Explored the still operating kerosene historic lighthouse and the amazing view from the top…And a two mile walk on the beach, love the sound of crashing waves on a beach…We enjoyed our six days in Hopetown. Then we motored to Man of War Cay about six miles away. It was low tide when we left. Easy to see how shallow the water was; 4-6 feet deep for a mile or so. Interesting that the water color in this part of the Bahamas is a deeper green, some people call it emerald green, rather than the bright turquoise in the Exumas. This is looking straight down into six feet of water with a sandy bottom while sailing…After one rocking night with south winds; we decided to move back to Marsh Harbor for our final stock up before heading to sea, and north toward New England for the summer. There are other cruisers getting ready for their crossings as well. Always fun to compare plans and swap sea stories. On our walk to Maxwells, a large grocery store, we spotted a cruiser on a folding bicycle with a Burley Travoy trailer holding two ten pound propane tanks. Tom stopped him by asking a question so we were able to see what we purchased online last month. He said, it’s the best purchase he ever made! We’re looking forward to getting ours!

On Wednesday afternoon, May 8; we decided to get the boat ready for sea as we had a weather window to go offshore. We rigged safety lines on deck, disassembled the dinghy, secured a lot of loose items, bought fuel and water. We left at first light on Thursday, and listened to Chris Parker on SSB for a weather update as we sailed out of Marsh Harbor. We also checked a few apps we use to predict weather. Unfortunately, our weather window had diminished. We chose to abort this attempt rather than sail into a gale near Beaufort, NC nearly 500 miles away. We anchored on the south side of Great Guana and enjoyed another new beautiful Bahama anchorage. The next day we had a leisurely sail to Green Turtle Cay. Tom dove over the side to check the anchor as this is a grassy anchorage; labeled poor holding. He also scrubbed and inspected the bottom of the boat. The next day we went ashore to walk around this historical loyalist settlement. It is very neat and clean. It had the best new dinghy dock we’ve ever seen!How’s this for a front yard tree?After a couple days anchored here we moved into quiet Bluff Cay cove on Green Turtle Cay. We were the only boat in this small nearly enclosed harbor. The only sound here is the twitter of birds. The view includes sea turtles and beautiful houses hidden in the trees. One morning some locals were out for their morning swim and stopped to say hello.

We continue to enjoy sailing in the Bahamas as we prepare our boat and ourselves for the voyage back to Connecticut (CT) for the summer months. Yes, we plan to sail south again to avoid a cold winter and we love to sail year round. Looking forward to connecting with family and friends in CT.