Archive for December 2010
It’s Santa’s feet!
Without an intense schedule of passage making, Lee and I have settled into a routine not unlike that of teenagers in their first days of vacation. At least we don’t stay up till the wee hours of the morning or drive to the mall to hang out with our friends. We have been sleeping in a bit and then taking it easy for the better part of the day.
Reveling in the luxuries of docked life is nice but I don’t think I could do it for very long. Lee and I spend way too much time in front of our computers when we’re not sailing. It doesn’t help that it’s been cold and rainy for most of our week in Charleston. Most days start with a run around part of the old military base, either before or after a leisurely breakfast. The marina has fabulous showers to warm us up after our run. By the time we’ve showered it’s usually almost lunchtime. Afternoons are either spent holed up in the boat with our computers or out exploring Charleston. I’ve made dinner on the boat every night but one and we’ve been watching TV or a DVD most evenings. We went out to one movie, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (good but not nearly as good as the book).
Charleston is an interesting place. Downtown, the colonial architecture combined with palm (or palmetto) tree-lined streets evokes the quintessential Old South of my imagination. People are indeed friendly and there is a lot of fried food around. I’ve also noticed a higher incidence of extra e’s on the ends of certain words since we crossed into the Carolinas. Shoppe, towne, ye olde…all those silly spellings are all over the storefronts. I know I saw Ye Olde Towne Shoppe somewhere.
Because the marina where we’re staying is a ways away from everything, renting a car made the most sense for transportation. Our little rental Yaris has been very handy for getting to the grocery store, procuring frozen yogurt, and making hardware store runs. Lee has been working on a few projects that necessitated such errands. The propane for the stove stopped working one night and Lee ended up taking the stove apart after ruling out other potential problem sources. It turned out there was nothing wrong with the stove but disassembling it led to some broken screws. That resulted in broken drill bits, minor puncture wounds, and a couple days without 3 functional stove burners. We blamed the propane valve but, in the end, that wasn’t the problem either. The electronic switch that turns the propane on and off wasn’t sending it’s signal to the valve. Such is life on a boat.
Tomorrow our lazy days in Charleston come to an end. Lee and I are flying to Seattle, another cold, rainy climate. I can’t wait to celebrate Christmas with my mom in her new home! Pirat will be safe in the hands of the dedicated Cooper River Marina employees and I know we’ll be anxious to get going when we get back from Seattle.
Charleston at last! I never thought this city would feel like such an important destination on our journey. It turns out Charleston is special for several reasons. One, it’s our first stop in South Carolina (a new stat for us). Two, we sailed here offshore overnight in the cold and wind without mishap or disaster! Three, as a coincidental reward, we will be staying here for a week before flying to Seattle to visit my mom for Christmas. Pirat will have a snug berth in a marina while we’re gone.
Charleston seems pretty cool. The marina where we’re staying has great rates and is really nice but it’s far from downtown. The marina guy gave us a ride in their free shuttle over to the grocery store yesterday but we had to take a cab back. Some combination of bikes and bus should work in the future but we’ve been warned against biking through the local neighborhood at night. I’m looking forward to exploring an old Southern city, seeing the sights, and just relaxing in one place for a little while.
Le put the new wind generator on before we left. The blades aren’t
actually bent. This is just what it looks like when it’s spinning
really fast and you take a picture.
The sail from Southport, NC to here started with some entertainment. A funky little sailboat with three texans on it pulled into the fuel dock at Southport before we left. They were friendly and we chatted withe them about the trip. They had just bought their boat and were taking it home to Texas, mostly by way of the ICW. They were considering going out in the ocean for part of the leg to Charleston and became more enthusiastic about the idea when we told them we were sailing there overnight. They ended up leaving before us and when we pulled out it looked like they were heading towards and inlet part way to Charleston. After we raised our sails and set our course they altered theirs to follow us. It was pretty comical because we blasted ahead of them in no time and they couldn’t follow our dead down wind heading because they didn’t have a pole to wing out their jib.
We sailed wing-n-wing with full sails all evening. The wind was light (10 or below) and we flogged around a bit. The highlight of the sail was the pod of dolphins that joined us after sunset. Lee and I went out on deck to check the chart plotter before the first night shift. Lee thought he heard dolphins but I told him it was just waves. After listening for a second, though, we both agreed that there were dolphins surfacing alongside the boat. We could hear them breathe and even heard some chirping dolphin speak. From the bow, I could see dolphins swimming all around us, dashing under the boat and racing the bow wave. The water was so clear, I could see their bodies under the surface and then glistening as they rose to breathe. I spent quite a while lying on the foredeck on my stomach with my face poked under the lifelines. It felt like I was swimming along with the dolphins.
My shift started then. I was in charge of the boat from about 7:30pm to 10:30pm while Lee tried to sleep. The rolling boat made sleeping hard and the shifty wind kept me busy. I was constantly adjusting our course to keep the wind directly behind Pirat. In between, I read my book, drank tea, and listened to my ipod. The shift went by so slowly!
Lee took over for the second watch and the wind increased shortly afterwards. He jibed onto a reach. I finally got comfortable then, since the rolling stopped, but my sleeping time was almost over. Lee was so sweet, he gave me an extra hour and a half to sleep, taking a long watch himself. I was back on duty at 3am. By then we were blasting along on a broad reach. The wind was up to almost 20 knots and the waves were steep at our stern. Pirat surfed like mad and set a new speed record: 13.6 knots!
When I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more I roused Lee, who wasn’t sleeping anyway. We considered reefing, since the wind was gusting well above 20 and heading us to more of a beam reach. Reefing didn’t seem too urgent to either of us and it was nice to go fast so I turned in and Lee went on deck for a wild ride. I don’t know if I slept at all. I was listening to a boat we’d met a while back broadcasting various things on channel 16. I got up in time to fix us both breakfast before we turning into the harbor. First we reefed the main and switched to the solent for a turn upwind. We avoided a freighter in the channel and felt intensely proud of ourselves as we scorched past a few southbound boats coming from the ICW. We sailed here! We sailed really fast (our average speed was well above 7 knots overall and more like 8 knots from midnight on)! The two of us can handle the cold and the ocean!
Enjoying my breakfast after a long night.
After tying up at Cooper River Marina Lee and I kind of collapsed. Lee literally fell asleep after taking a shower and I bustled around frantically, trying to keep moving because I knew I’d zonk out if I stopped. I did my zonking after we’d gone to the grocery store and eaten our meal in a couple days that included fresh vegetables. We made up for our lack of sleep on the sail.
Today it is rainy. We’ll probably go for a run eventually but right now we’re relaxing. This morning I accomplished a few things I’d been putting off for a while. That felt good.
Lee said this last week and now it pops into my head a few times a day.
It’s not every day that I get to do extreme things, just most days.
It’s so true. By extreme things, he means driving the dinghy miles upwind back to Pirat in the dark through steep wind chop after going ashore in Oriental. That was a little incident I forgot to mention that week.
Most recently, we set off into the ocean again and found no shortage of challenging conditions and trying events. First off, it was (and still is) really, really cold. I’m no cold weather wimp. I’ve lived in Colorado, Rhode Island, and Maine. Cold like this when you’re trying to sail and generally living half outdoors on the water is ridiculous. My face freezes and I can’t talk right. My hands get so cold I can’t operate zippers, turn keys, or light the stove. Did someone forget to tell North Carolina it’s not in the North?
Other than being cold, the sail here from Beaufort was a forceful shove back into ocean sailing after too much ICW cruising. We left before dawn and it was already blowing 15+ in the harbor. Squeezing past the huge dredge to get out of Beaufort was harrowing. Lee and I studied the lighting patterns that dredges display the night before so we knew we should pass on the side with the green lights, not the red ones (the side with the length of pipe across the water). Still, there were tugs pushing the dredge around, boats exchanging crew, and plenty of rough water to make the situation interesting.
It was a relief to get out to sea until I went down below and remembered that I get seasick. I took a Marezine then but I knew it was too late. I barely finished making Lee’s pot of oatmeal before I was sick. In retrospect, I know that an empty stomach makes me more prone to seasickness and we hadn’t had breakfast yet that morning. I should have had a bite to eat and a Marezine at least 20 minutes to half an hour before we left the harbor.
I won’t get into the details of my seasickness. This was the first time in years that I’ve gone beyond just feeling seasick. It was not fun. I spent most of the day incapacitated in a bunk while Lee did a masterful job sailing the boat. He clambered around on deck in his red suit. It was very, very wet. A close reach with seas directly abeam meant every few waves one would smack the hull just right and fly onto the deck.
Pirat flew along at 7-8 knots or more with the solent and a triple-reefed main. We were overpowered for the gusts and probably would have gone just as fast with the storm jib and main. Maybe we would have switched head sails if I had been able to help more.
Lee took this great video on the foredeck.
I was just starting to feel human and had collapsed down below after putting all my foul weather gear on when I noticed something strange. The boat was flattening out. The sails were luffing and it felt like more than just a header. We were tacking. I was up in an instant because I knew a tack was not in the plan. Lee told me the auto pilot had shut off as I tended to the jibing main. The auto pilot hadn’t actually shut off. It had decided we were going to do circles. The rudder was over not quite all the way and the wheel was stuck – held by the auto pilot – so we couldn’t regain control.
I don’t know how many circles we did before Lee ran down below and cut power to the a.p. and chart plotter. We gybed three or four times, then dropped the main and eased to jib to stop the turns. It’s amazing how long it can take to do something that seems like an obvious action in retrospect. Lee realized that he could have just shut off the chart plotter to fix the problem. Some sort of bug in the software brought up a weird auto pilot mode when Lee tried to turn the a.p. on. At least no one was hit with the boom. The boat survived. We survived.
We arrived in Wrightsville Beach, NC shortly after that. It was perfect timing. If our boat was any slower we would have come in after dark. Days like that make us so glad we have a fast boat that really sails!
Next stop: Southport, NC on the other side of Cape Fear. We decided to take the ICW because it’s about half the distance of sailing out around Cape Fear, doing a 180 degree turn, and beating upwind to the inlet. As long as we leave at high tide we’ll be fine in the ditch.
My uncle just sent me a picture of Doc, my dog, from Thanksgiving. I miss Doc but he would not like boat life at all. He gets the starring role here because he makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
This morning, like many mornings, Lee and I are transfixed by our various electronic devises. Lee is working on Boatlogger programming on his computer. After reading the LA times on my kindle over a big bowl of hot cereal, I’m wrestling with the local wifi on my computer. It connects. It disconnects. I manage to read one email. Hey, it’s free internet.
Unlike other mornings, I’m torturing Lee with Christmas music today! It’s December so now I can listen to my favorite Christmas album (Mom, you know what I’m talking about). Thanks to Doug, Pirat has a fancy-shmancy stereo and we can blast our music of choice inside or outside. Outside, it’s “not a warm one”, to quote Lee. Frigid temperatures have descended over North Carolina. The locals tell me this isn’t normal. Everyone here is very, very nice, by the way. Southern hospitality is real and it helps us figure out where to anchor, get free drinks at a local bar, and generally feel welcome in this otherwise foreign land. The owner of a local clothing store even gave me a free hat leash when I told him about losing my windproof beanie.
We spent last night at Beaufort Docks, where we picked up new alternator #2. Lee installed the alternator and it seems to work. It is so nice to have power again!
Yesterday afternoon we moved over to an anchorage on the other side of Beaufort. The guy at Beaufort Docks said this was a good spot and that “the Canadians like it” over here. Well, there are no other boats at the moment, let alone any Canadians. I have a theory about Canadian cruisers, by the way. We see a lot of them and I suspect that they travel south a little later than their American counterparts. Maybe they leave around the same time but end up at the end of the pack because they have farther to go. We are certainly at the end of the pack now. Lee was looking at how far we have to go and estimated that we might get to the Bahamas in February if we keep up this pace. While trudging down the U.S. coast is certainly interesting, we’d rather get to the tropical island part of our journey sooner than February.
Tomorrow we’re leaving the ICW for the time being and sailing down the coast to the Masonboro Inlet. We’ll try to waste some time there before heading to Cape Fear. Our replacement wind generator should show up at a Cape Fear marina, although the company neglected to ship it from England until day before yesterday. Grrr.
These next couple ocean sails will help Lee and I decide whether we’re ready to pick up the pace. We could cover a lot more ground if we sailed in 24 hour (or more) spurts. There is also the problem of figuring out there we’ll be by Christmas. I really, really want to go see my mom and her new house in Seattle for Christmas but to make reservations we have to know where we’ll be and find a safe place to leave Pirat. The fact that Southwest doesn’t fly out of anywhere on our route till Jacksonville, FL is motivation to speed up.
Here’s a little video from a few days ago. Lee is having fun with the new camera.