Return to Roanoke Island, NC

Picture:  Arrival at OBX Marina in Wanchese on Roanoke Island, N.C.  The travel lift on the right is where we hauled the boat.

We finally grabbed a two-day weather window to sail south from Elizabeth City, NC!  We enjoyed some fine sailing across Albemarle Sound for most of the day.

In 1989, when sailing Sundsvalla north from the Caribbean, we anchored in a popular harbor near Manteo on Roanoke Island in mid-summer.  We thoroughly enjoyed the long-running outdoor theater featuring, “The Lost Colony”.  This is the story of British colonists that arrived on Roanoke in July 1585 and no trace of them was found in 1590.  Read more here.

What a difference Manteo is today!  The channel to the eastern side of the island is extremely shallow and narrow.  The only other boats we saw were small power boats. Manteo bay is filled in by storm tossed sands and dredge spoils.  The locals say that they have a lot of horizontal water but not a lot of vertical water. We were lucky to find a deep enough spot (5 feet) to anchor for one night.  It was so far from land we did not try to take the dinghy to shore.  The western channel has a long low bridge that we cannot get under with our 55′ mast.

On Monday, November 11th we motored to Wanchese at the south end of the island by meandering down a slightly deeper channel. We decided to pay for a side tie at a dock at OBX (Outer Banks) Marina as nasty weather was predicted.  Good choice!  This small bay is used by many commercial fisherman.  No one anchors here as they would block the docks. Although this marina does not offer WiFi, our cell phones have good service and work as a personal hotspot.  We are grateful for unlimited data!  We’ve actually only found WiFi on a few occasions on our travels so far.  In Wanchese, we’ve enjoyed some walks to nowhere and warm showers.  Thankfully, we have plenty of provisions for now so, no need to venture out in the cold, sometimes rainy and often windy weather.

On Wednesday, we woke to a 6:00 AM alarm to get a quick hot oatmeal breakfast and leave the dock to head for the lift well at nearby Bayliss Boatyard.  Our short haul revealed only propeller damage and the new prop was ready to install.  Phew that’s a relief!

The motor back to OBX was not long enough to test the new propeller in any meaningful way.  That will have to wait for out next outing. We paid the Marina to stay here for two more days due to strong winds and heavy rain.  We’ll keep working on projects and perhaps I’ll do a bit of baking to stock the freezer and warm our bellies and the cabin.  Should I bake brownies or gingerbread with raisins?

Hanging Out in Hampton, VA

We made an exception the morning we left Fishing Bay in Deltaville VA; we woke to an alarm clock at 6:00 AM.  Then readied ourselves with warm oatmeal, hot drinks and layers of warm clothes. Then Tom hauled the anchor just before sunrise.  We wanted to take advantage of the early morning winds for our last trip south in the Chesapeake.  As the day wore on the winds diminished.   We motor-sailed to maintain boat speed of over 5 knots.  The southern part of the bay narrows, there are strong currents, tugs and barges, BIG container ships, and many fishing vessels.  After alternating 2 hour watches all day, we were both on deck for the last two hours.   We motored all the way up the Hampton River and anchored across from Hampton Public Piers along with four other boats.

A side note here to explain the process of researching and choosing our next destination.  We are sailing to places we’ve never been before.  First, we check the weather using at least 4 different applications (Intellicast website, Predict Wind, Storm, and Windy) or the weather radio on the VHF when there is no cell service.  Knowing our weather window, we estimate how far south we can travel in the given daylight hours.  Next, we research locations within that distance using online and paper cruising guides.  Finally, Tom researches our likely destinations on Active Captain, a crowd sourcing app that cruisers use to rate and discuss harbors.  We have one other valuable source of information.  Fellow yacht club members and friends, Dan & MaryAnn Crouch have shared their logs of the past 7 years of sailing Cutting Class to FL and the Bahamas.  They are already in Florida this year!

Active Captain had told us there was room for 3-4 boats across from Hampton Public Piers.  Before heading up the river Tom called to verify there was room for us and there was.  The irony is a few storms have brought a lot of wind and this past weekend 11 boats were anchored here for the Nor’Easter.  The highest winds hit us between 10PM Saturday and 1AM Sunday.  We ended up staying up until 1AM as three boats were dragging their anchors and attempting to reset them in heavy winds, rain, and thunderstorms.  So glad our anchor held!  The small monohull on our port side that dragged had no engine so was getting a tow from another dinghy.  It took them two hours and at least six attempts at setting and hauling the anchor to get it to hold.  The much larger monohull on our starboard side gave up and moved way down river after 5 or more attempts.  The next morning, the 47′ catamaran that was now close in front of us dragged and reset his anchor.  This one made us the most nervous as he has a lot of exposed surface area (more windage) and if he dragged it would be into our three bows (we’re a trimaran).  Well we made it through that storm and another blow here, all is well.

We are very close to downtown Hampton and many conveniences are near.  We are taking this opportunity to receive mail and packages, do laundry, stock up on food, boat supplies, and prescriptions.  On Monday, we walked 2.7 miles to a super Walmart and used Uber to get back.  Today Tom borrowed a bike from the Marina as he had to go in multiple directions to pharmacies and a small hardware store.  We do carry a folding bike on board, but borrowing one saves time and energy.

Tom has started the next big project – installing the ham radio, tuner, and antenna.  All will be located in, or through, the aft cabin which we currently use as our storage area.  The first task was to empty out the cabin so he could install a ground system under the large bunk.  The ham radio also functions on the Single Side Band frequencies and will be a source for weather information as well as communicating with the cruising community and friends and family once we are outside the U.S.  Tom studied Morse code and radio intricacies, took the Ham test in St. Thomas in spring of 1988 and received his call sign; N1FUN, while we were on our first cruise onboard Sundsvalla.  He’s looking forward to being on air again soon.  Any other ham radio users out there?  What ‘nets’ do you listen to?

Installing the antenna by sliding it up the aft stay was very difficult. The casing had to be spread and much force applied. Tom first tried from a bosuns chair, then hip harness. What finally worked was removing the stay (after replacing it with a halyard) and tying it down next to the mast.

Saturday, we took a half day to visit the VA Air & Space Museum. It was educational and fun. Great displays and awesome volunteers; lunar module simulator engineer and a ham radio operator were memorable. The view of the harbor entrance from the rooftop was beautiful:

Heading south in the Chesapeake

Picture:  Nice and warm on a cold windy day in Deltaville, VA once the Captain and Engineer cleaned and repaired the cabin heater!

From the beautiful and quiet Goodhands Creek on the East Shore of the Chesapeake we motored in light winds straight south to St. Michaels.  We toured the local maritime museum using a reciprocal agreement with the Mystic Seaport Museum.  Nice place with friendly staff, it was quiet as it’s their off-season.  Well done exhibits with lots of info about the history of the local area.  One noteworthy highlight was the round lighthouse that has been restored.

We had an occasional cell signal of one bar so were able to send email and text on and off.

Bad weather was predicted, so we decided to head back to Annapolis four days before we could pick up our new dinghy.  We chose Weems Creek that borders the Naval Academy as it is well protected from all sides and has good holding.  Real nice place!  We were entertained by the Navy crew teams practice a couple times.  There was a convenient ramp to bring the dinghy ashore and we enjoyed several walks into town from here; once for exercise and to see Annapolis, another time for boat supplies at West Marine.

WEEMS Creek and Lone Star are in the background here:

We look forward to a return trip to this lovely anchorage.  Our “lay” days were filled with boat projects.  Tom tackled a big one; mounting the chart plotter in its permanent home.  It looks good right behind the steering wheel and it’s easier to read and manipulate as it is closer to the helmsman and no longer blocks the view when it was resting on the forward dash area.

On Sunday, October 14 the last day of the Annapolis Power Boat Show we motored around the corner to South Anchorage in the Severn River.  This is a wide-open bay.  We did NOT stay here over night, just attended the show, picked up our new Ports-bote 10’ dinghy, towed it back with the old 12’ Porta-bote and Torquedo electric motor. We then motored Lone Star around the corner into Back Creek for a four-night stay.  You guessed it, another cold front with rain and wind.  Nice to have the option to stay put when the weather is less than ideal.  We enjoyed several walks from here to the Post Office, Laundry, Hardware store, West Marine, and Giant for groceries.  Fun to meet up with a fellow SSCA cruiser at the hardware store and again at the grocery.  We shared an Uber to get back to the dinghy with more than we could carry.  The project in this harbor was outfitting the new dinghy with davit lift points, a drain plug, registration numbers and such things as must be carried: anchor, locking cable, engine, oars, ladder, etc.  We like the new smaller dinghy, easier to lift on davits and it seems to go faster.

Finally, on Thursday, October 18 we had a nice NW wind to push us 45 miles south to Solomons, MD.  Ah, it’s a few degrees warmer, but not for long.  A very large cold front stretched from Canada past Florida took a few days to pass by and brought lots of wind again.  We walked the boardwalk and local streets for exercise when it was too windy to sail.

Our last evening in Solomon’s, we finally caved to the cold weather and attempted to start our Dickenson diesel cabin heater.  Oh no, it won’t start!  Tom inadvertently twisted and broke a short piece of copper tubing while cleaning and dismantling the heater.

Wouldn’t you know we have a LOT of tools and spare parts on board, but no copper tubing.  We contemplated staying here another day to locate some, but the urge to press southward and seek warmer weather won out.

VIRGINIA

It was a long day of motor-sailing.  In the afternoon we were heading into the wind and sun as we were approaching Mill Creek, VA.  At one point, we had to quickly turn the boat to avoid a long fish trap: many sticks drilled into the bottom in a long row; we thing there is an underwater net between the sticks.  These were not marked on the chart, yet there are areas that say Fish Trap where there is no evidence above the water, confusing to say the least.  We arrived in Mill Creek about 20 minutes before sunset.  A few more boats came in after us.  There were about a dozen boats anchored in this beautiful and quiet place.  Only private houses here, no cell service, no dinghy access and no hardware store.

The following morning, we pressed on to Deltaville, VA.  This is a large spread out yachting center, second largest in Virginia we are told: Norfolk is larger. There are many creeks and many Marinas.  At first, we planned to go in Jacksonville Creek, but another cold front is approaching and Tom preferred the shelter and swinging room of Fishing Bay.  Darn, no cell service here either. A friendly member of the local marina gave us a ride to the hardware store a couple miles away.  Yippee, we were able to find copper tubing and a few other essentials on our list.  Despite the offer for a ride back, we opted to walk the two miles back for two reasons.  The first was for exercise and the second was to be able to stop at West Marine; not that we bought anything – this time!  We were looking for a “fishing yoyo” that the hardware attendant told us about.  We think it may work to store and control the downhaul line for our jib.  Eventually we will order it from Amazon or online at least.  Upon returning to Fishing Bay Marina, we spotted a couple cruisers on computers and cell phones in a lounge area.  They shared the WiFi password and we stayed for an hour or so to catch up on communications and check the weather.  Yup, another cold front coming through tonight; no rain just wind up to 30 miles an hour primarily tomorrow morning.  We’ll stay another day and fix the heater!

We leave tomorrow Thursday, October 24 tentatively heading for Hampton, VA.

Annapolis Sailboat Show

This is my first blog after opening up the site to the public.  There should be no more login needed.  Hope that makes it easier for all.

HOT!  Wow, it was the hottest day we’ve had yet.  92 degrees and it felt hotter.  We ended up keeping Lone Star anchored at Maryland Yacht Club and caught a ride with the folks on a neighboring boat, “At First Sight”, that rented a car.

What a treat to ride and visit with another cruising couple of a similar age and experience.  We ended up working together at the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) booth for a couple hours at the show in the afternoon.  There were a lot of people at the show even though it was the first day.  Glad we did not volunteer for a weekend day when it will be overcrowded.  It was fun to have people stop by and really want to chat and learn about this cruising organization.

We had time to see the show and find half the things we hoped to research.  Most important we saw the demo 10’6″ Porta-Bote dinghy that we purchased and will pick up at the end of the Powerboat show.  We will be selling the 12’8″ one as soon as possible.  We are researching Balmar high-output alternators for our Yanmar engine and lithium batteries.  This time of year there are fewer hours of sun to charge the batteries with solar.  After a few cloudy days in a row, we need to run the engine for a couple hours to charge the batteries.

The picture is of Tom visiting with Tony Smith at the sail boat show; former owner of Gemini production catamarans, now demonstrating a prototype of Zephyr, a 15′ three person, 8′ wide, light-weight trimaran with an angled sail.  Really cool!  He’s looking to find a young entrepreneur that wants a startup company, interested?

After the boat show we drove most of the way back to Pasadena, MD and went out to eat at a popular restaurant: Two Rivers Steak & Fish.  Great food and good company!  Anita had her first crab cake on a roll; she won’t be afraid to try others.  This one had no filler, just honest crab and grilled to perfection.  Tom had a Caribbean Jerk chicken sandwich that he really enjoyed too.

Despite the heat we had a lot of fun, meeting new people, seeing the show, and a yummy local dinner out. Amazingly the next day is the coldest one we’ve had yet; it was only 62 degrees with clouds and drizzle.  However, we finally left the beautiful Maryland Yacht Club.  More about this in the next blog…

The Journey Begins

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Thanks for joining us!  We will post highlights of our adventures here for friends and family.

We returned from our first two-year cruise in August of 1989.  We are so excited to be sailing south this year, 2018; 29 years later.  Our goal at this time is to escape winter: the cold, shorter days, and the snow.  We have no idea how long this journey will last.  As we said last time, we’ll sail as long as it’s fun for both of us.  To all of our family and friends that love winter – ENJOY the cold, snow, ice (the ice boating Tom will miss) and the extra hours of darkness for catching up on sleep!  We plan to soak up Vitamin D from the sun, experience different cultures and foods, explore coral reefs and sail and swim in warm tropical waters.

We will need to maintain our floating home as we go.  The project list of things to install, repair or enhance is rather long.  Thankfully the safety list that must be complete before we leave the harbor is short.

We plan to rendezvous with other cruisers at the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) annual gathering in Annapolis, MD at the end of September for: cruising seminars, an exchange of sea stories and practical information, camaraderie and lots of fun!  Then on to the Annapolis boat show for one final shopping spree.