Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rock Hall Harbor to Swan Creek, MD

2.0 nm
Wind: S 10-15 knots, gusting to 25
Maximum speed: 3.5 knots
Average speed: 2.4 knots
Latitude: 39°08.85’N
Longitude: 076°15.36’W

There’s more bad weather headed this way, quelle surprise. They had been predicting a cold front moving through for a long time, but I didn’t think that meant sixty-knot winds, which is what they’re predicting again for tomorrow. So this morning we got our necessary town stuff done—Karl put in the new macerator pump and rebuilt the salt-water pump, which is unfortunately still not working, and I trekked into town again to exchange his West Marine boots, get thirty more pounds of ice, and use the internet access at the local wireless café, because the boat’s is too unreliable.

I wasn’t able to post, though, because I used all of my bandwidth to download the charts that we’ve been missing from our computer, although I ran out of room on the computer halfway through. That means no more room for pictures, either, which is a major bummer. The computer’s a gift, a four-year-old hand-me-down, so it has a miniscule hard drive. I wanted to buy an external hard drive before we left, but it’s one of the things that got shoved to the bottom of the list. So we’ll have to make do with the charts we have until we get a new hard drive.

Karl finally came and got me, and we both thanked the very wonderful internet café for the use of their facilities, and we were grateful to drink coffee, too, since we’ve been doing without since we ran out of water two days ago. No water means no coffee. We lugged the ice and the boots back to the boat, and then finally refilled our water tanks from a construction site near the water, lugging our six-gallon water tanks back and forth, while the oystermen watched. I think we looked fairly hardcore. Finally, when we were almost done, one of them offered us a ride in his truck. It was very kind, but it was a little too late. Keeps you strong, anyway.

I’m relieved to have water again, and to have been able to do laundry, but this no shower thing is driving me crazy. I don’t know how long I can deal with it. We finally fled the seawall to a neighboring anchorage in Swan Creek, where we can wait out this storm and get progressively stinkier. I’m pinning my hopes on anchorage, which has a town dock where there are allegedly $1 showers. But chances are those will be shut down for the season, too, and we don’t have a way to contact them. We also have a friend from the AT who might be able to pick us up and take us to showers. Here’s hoping.

Pictures of another sunset

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rock Hall Harbor, MD

0 nm
Wind: S 5-10 knots

Things I learned today:

1. I can carry thirty pounds of block ice in a backpack.
2. Karl and I together can carry a full grocery cart of groceries ($100 worth) in our two backpacks.
3. Having no shower for two weeks and a day makes me feel like something in which a dog rolls.
4. People in Maryland are afraid of the winter, which is why they shut down every possible hose containing water, as well as every possible place to take a shower.
5. Nachos are very yummy.
6. New electric macerator pumps at West Marine are very expensive.
7. Peeing and pooping in a bucket is still not fun, especially when you are female and it is time for you to menstruate.
8. Being female is not fun, end of story.
9. Apple juice, in no matter how high of quantities, is not a sufficient substitute for water.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fairlee Creek to Rock Hall Harbor, MD

15.5 nm
Wind: calm
Maximum speed: 5.1 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 1.3 knots
Average speed: 3.6 knots
Latitude: 39°08.09’N
Longitude: 076°14.81’W

I have wireless! I'm extremely psyched, as this is the first time from the boat. I'm sure I'm pirating off one or the other of the marinas here, which we will do our absolute level best to patronize tomorrow, so I don't feel too guilty. Besides, I have to stand halfway out of the boat, with the laptop on the companionway to get a signal. As long as it's not too easy, that makes it right, right?

No wind today, and fog again this morning, but Karl still got a lot accomplished. I guess I did, too, but my accomplishments were getting the dead fish smell off the dishes and pounding out 3400 words of the novel I have to get finished by November 30. I'll be kind of happy when November's done, although I'm thrilled to be on track. I haven't even posted any of my word count to the website.

But Karl unpacked and repacked the entire quarter-berth, put the 120 genoa on our roller-furling system, and went through all the random crap lockers on the boat. He even, bless his heart, found space for his toolboxes somewhere other than beneath my table. It's things like that that let me know he loves me. Despite the continued use of the five-gallon-bucket for a head.

Besides, which when we got into town tonight, we went and splurged on burgers and wings, something which my heart was definitely set on and his was not. There's a great little place right on the water, and they had fantastic food. We wolfed it down like we had never even heard of food before. I thought we were bad on the trail, but we were awful tonight. I felt like a vampire or something. We've been eating great on the boat, but there's nothing like having a huge slab of greasy meat. I've also been dreaming, every night for the last week, about baked goods. I guess there's nothing for it but to learn how to bake a danish.

We're tied up to a free dock for the first time on the trip, right behind Serenity, who we've been tagging along behind. I feel a little bad for Geoff, because he's all alone and has even less money than we do, which is really saying something. We were able to splurge tonight, and he had food too, but I know we have more than he does. It's just hard when we know how we have to ration for the rest of the trip. We've been splurging so rarely, which is why we were able to tonight. I'm sure it would be the same if Lise and Marcel were here, but the other way around.

So I guess I'll hang my head out the companionway and see if this will post. The pictures for this leg may be a little more tough.

Picture of more fog

Fog in the morning.

More fog.

Another sunset.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Still Pond Creek to Fairlee Creek, MD

7.6 nm
Wind: calm to S 5 knots, dense fog in the morning with quarter-mile visibility
Maximum speed: 5.4 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 3.4 knots
Average speed: 3.2 knots
Latitude: 39°16.25’N
Longitude: 076°12.60’W

We caught a fish last night! It was very exciting. Karl’s been putting out his crab traps because we’re in the Chesapeake, which is famous for its blue crabs, but last night he caught a seventeen-inch catfish in one of them. The crab trap was subsequently lost to an errant log this morning, but still, it did its job, I guess. We kept it alive all night in a bucket of water, and I woke up this morning to find it looking at me, accusingly, still breathing.

Our macerator pump is broken down again. At least this time we’re smart enough to not keep pumping the holding tank full. So Karl finally has me peeing and pooping in an actual bucket, which has been his goal for sometime. I’m quite convinced that he thinks that any more sophisticated plumbing system than a bucket is for effete literary snobs.

I don’t even know what we’re going to do about the macerator pump. We may have to pay someone to fix it, or buy a new one, but for whatever we pay to fix it or buy a new one we could probably use to buy a whole new head, a simpler one. A glorified bucket, basically, that would be far easier to repair and use. Or we may be able to rig up some kind of manual pump, so that we at least don’t have to use electricity to pump out our holding tank.

My point being, this morning, I woke up to go out into the cockpit to pee in a bucket, and while I was sitting there, I was able to stare into the eyes of a barely-alive catfish, looking up at me from my dish basin. Such was a thrill I had yet to encounter.

The fish was delicious, even though my Joy of Cooking preparation didn’t quite do it justice. I am unable to pan-fry food, evidently, at least to the point of crispiness. I think Karl gets to cook the next fish. The meat itself, though, was delectable. I haven’t always liked catfish before, but as Karl says, fish is all about freshness. It’s hard to go wrong with something that was alive, watching you pee, an hour before.

I also attempted to make fish chowder out of the head and carcass, as per Joy of Cooking’s mandate. I’ve heard about fish-head soup since my days living in France, and have always wanted to give it the old college try. Unfortunately, however, it was disgusting. And when neither Karl nor I are able to eat something, that’s really saying a lot. We actually threw out the broth, retaining the potatoes and onions, and turned it into a decent clam chowder from cans. Karl argued that the potatoes had retained some of the fish flavor, and that it added to the taste of the chowder, but all in all, I think the fish-head soup was a rather colossal failure. It may have had a lot to do with the water we used, however. We’re almost out of fresh water—down to our last gallon—so I’ve been using water from the bay in all my cooking. It’s fairly nasty water. I’m not even sure it’s salt water up here. In some of the weather reports, they call this the tidal Potomac River, and we’re far enough north that it’s hard to know where the river ends and the ocean begins. Most nights we end up anchored up some river or creek or other, and most of the time I imagine it’s right where the fresh water turns brackish.

This doesn’t mean it’s any less nasty, however. Catfish are kind of disgusting, scum-sucking fish, after all. The mud on the bottom is a thick black sludge. I’m not sure we should be using this water for anything, let alone eating, but I figure as long as I boil it vigorously it should be fine. It does not, however, taste fine, as proven by the soup. At least I’ll blame it on that, rather than the boiled fish head, with its shriveled-up whiskers. Because knowing me, I’ll give it another try with the next fish. God forbid we throw away a perfectly good corpse.

We had really bad fog again this morning, which is really hurting our mileage total. The weather forecast says that the hot temperatures (in the sixties) during the day and the cold temperatures (in the thirties) at night are what’re doing it. The last two mornings we’ve woken up completely unable to see land. It generally burns off by about noon, but it cuts in half the amount of miles we’re able to do in a day. There’s a town with a free dock, groceries, and other services that we’ve been aiming for for the last three days, but we can’t seem to get to it. Tomorrow it’s really going to get desperate, because we’re going to run out of water. Karl keeps reminding me of the gallons of apple juice we have in the storage lockers, but I’m not convinced they’ll do the trick. We’re near a marina tonight, but it’s a long dinghy ride away and we’re not even sure they’re open. We tried to hail them on the VHF—a first for us—but couldn’t get through. I suppose if we’re socked in by fog tomorrow, we can always row over there and try to find a working hose. Things are getting serious, though. As of tomorrow, it’s been two weeks since a shower or internet access, more than two weeks since laundry or groceries, and we’re all out of ice. I don’t know why we always push things to this extreme.

Pictures of the catfish

The catfish, the night Karl caught it. Note his glee.

Before its imminent slaughter, filet kit at the ready. Not so excited now, is he?

Sunset that night.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bohemia River to Still Pond Creek, MD

16.2 nm
Wind: SW 5 knots to calm
Maximum speed: 6.0 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 4.1 knots
Average speed: 3.0 knots
Latitude: 39°20.06’N
Longitude: 076°08.58’W

Anchored again tonight with Serenity. It was a beautiful, but exhausting day. Karl singled-handed all day, basically to see what it was like, while I cooked and cleaned. Lin Pardey says her duties as chief cook and bottle-washer only take her three hours a day. To that I say: Ha! And: Pshaw. There’s no way. She also scoffs at the idea of a “galley slave,” saying that the galleys are the best-equipped part of a modern cruising yacht.

This may well be true. Ours, however, is nothing of the sort. It took me about two hours to wash two days of dishes this morning, wrestling swamp water to a boil using the vise clamp as a pot grip. I can barely fit our plates in the miniscule sink, and we’re out of fresh water in our holding tank, so I can only use salt water scooped from the ocean. It’s not bad, and I’m gradually getting the hang of it, but it’s exhausting and time-consuming. Then I decided the filthy floor needed cleaning, so swept it, twice, and bleached it down by hand. This was in between doing the navigation duties this morning that I had neglected last night and making tortilla roll-ups for lunch. By the time I was done with the floor, we were pulling into our anchorage and it was time to start dinner. Now I’m writing—I’m days behind on the novel, with only four days to go I have 14,000 words to go. I’ll pound them out.

I know that Karl feels as tired as I do, but hanging out in the cockpit while the Master steers merrily away somehow doesn’t seem like as much work. Or at least more fun work. Maybe we should take turns. I’m just not sure, physically, if I could handle the big tasks like tacking single-handed. And it was such a gorgeous day for a sail. There was a quarter-mile visibility because of fog this morning, so we didn’t get off until 11:30, but Geoff came over and had coffee and rafted up. He’s over again right now, and Karl and he are hanging out in the cockpit. We’re going to try to make it to a town with a free dock and services tomorrow. We only have one more day of water, no ice, and I’m feeling in sore need of laundry and showers again, not to mention internet access.

But Karl sailed off the anchor, single-handed, when we were finally able to leave, and then tacked beautifully down the bay at about three knots, before finally succumbing to the diesel when the computer starting beeping, telling us it was out of batteries. The wind was exactly in our faces again, but sometimes that makes it more of a challenge. When we pulled into the anchorage, and I started cooking dinner, Karl killed the diesel and tried to sail onto our anchor again tonight. We were going maybe a quarter of a knot, drifting endlessly towards Serenity, Geoff’s boat. Karl started pumping the tiller, but even there he could barely get more than a half-knot. Still, it was a fun way to end the day, drifting slowly towards our stopping point.

The moon’s getting fuller again. I love watching the changing phases of the moon. We’ve watched it set the last couple of nights, a little fingernail of light, sinking below the trees. Moonset gets later and later as the full moon approaches.

Pictures of the fog and sunsets

The sunset through the rigging.

Over the Chesapeake Bay.

The fog that kept us barely moving for three days. You can see Geoff's sailboat in the distance if you look really, really hard.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Reedy Island, DE, to Bohemia River, MD

22.7 nm
Wind: NE 5 knots to calm
Maximum speed: 6.5 knots (with current)
Maximum speed under sail: 1.8 knots
Average speed: 3.8 knots

It was a beautiful day for a sail again, today, although we didn’t get very much sailing done. We were a little unexcited about going through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal under power, but it ended up being a lot more fun than we thought, mainly, I think, because the Master is working again. We decided against short tacking up north of Reedy Island, and ended up right at the entrance of the canal. We had thought we would sail those six miles, so had budgeted four hours, as the wind was only supposed to be five knots. As it was, we ended up at the canal two hours early for the current.

We still did fine, our speed building to six knots as we picked up the current halfway through the canal. We only had one big huge barge pass us, a Swedish one, carrying who knows what. They ended up passing us with a huge wake right as we were nearing a bridge piling, and we had to fight a little hard to avoid getting thrown up on it. Still, it was exciting being so near such a huge ship. They kept sounding their horn, making sure we knew they were there. We had our main up for extra power, so they were probably wondering, what the heck is that little sailboat doing in the middle of the canal under sail?

We passed by Chesapeake City, which is supposed to be a good stop for restocking, but we wanted to make more miles today so we headed on to a beautiful, pristine anchorage in the Bohemia River. We’re both shocked by how beautiful Chesapeake Bay is. I had always wanted to visit, but I don’t think Karl expected it to be any more unusual than Buzzards Bay. There are quaint-looking old plantations and farms right up to the water’s edge. You can tell we’re in the south by the plethora of Nascar flags and the orange-painted camaros.

The best thing about tonight was meeting another cruiser who’s crazier than us. Geoff, a Vermonter, sailed his 23-foot Oday Serenity all the way from Lake Champlain, single-handed, without having any idea how to sail. He was like us, just wanted to live on a boat, and ended up the proud owner of a classic plastic. Sometimes I think that we’re pretty crazy, but doing what we’re doing except single-handed? That’s really crazy. To make things worse, he has a swing-keel that got jammed during the last big storm when he ran aground, so he had no ballast coming through Delaware Bay. I’m shocked he’s alive, honestly. Especially with no storm jib and having to hank on his sails himself, while he ties off his tiller, because he has no self-steering.

When we were heading into our anchorage, about a mile away, with hours of beautiful sunshine left, Karl decided to anchor under sail. We progressed at a stately pace of about one knot, into the anchorage, the Master performing admirably. Geoff radioed us to find out what was wrong, it being unthinkable that a boat would actually try to sail under such conditions. It really was rather unthinkable, but we had a blast, actually sailing, trying to coax an extra quarter-knot from the slack sails.

So when we got into harbor, we had to radio Geoff back, thank him, and invite him over for a pasta and sausages dinner, it being about all the fresh food we have left. We’re running low on water, too. We really need to find a town, and fast. We had a great time, though, talking late into the night, about boats, heads, solar panels, electricity, ice—all the fun things we crazy people talk about.

Pictures from the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal

In my usual post, working on my NaNoWriMo.

Tinkerbell, trailing along dutifully behind, carrying our garbage.

A gigantic Swedish ship passing us as we transit the Canal.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Greenwich, NJ, to Reedy Island, DE

23.1 nm
Wind: N 10-15 knots
Seas: calm
Maximum speed: 5.9 knots
Average speed: 3.2 knots
Latitude: 39°30.74’N
Longitude: 075°34.00’W

We’re south of the Mason-Dixon line! At least I think. Delaware is the south, isn’t it? I’m actually not quite sure. But we’re getting there, at least. Tomorrow’s Maryland, and then after that we’ll be in the south proper. I’ve been whistling Dixie all week. It was a beautiful day for a sail, too, plenty of sunshine, the temperatures in the sixties, the wind about ten knots. The only problem was that the wind was coming from exactly the direction we wanted to go, which it always seems to manage to do. This, we know, is part of sailing. We are learning to live with it.

Quite well, actually. We tacked across the Bay about five times, practicing our tacking skills. I kept the helm the whole time under sail, and I think I’m getting a lot better at maintaining us exactly in that sweet spot where a vacuum is created right in front of our foresail and the wind just sucks us along. We were maintaining around five knots, which is generally our goal speed Even though seven is our hull speed, it’s fast enough to scare the pants off me most days, unless we’re running. We haven’t run at seven knots yet, and I think that would probably scare me too.

At around three, when the current turned against us, we decided to break out Ole Faithful, the diesel, to carry us against current and wind combined. Even she couldn’t do much against both of them together, barely breaking two knots. The best part was that the Master is back in service again, so neither of us had to be slave to the tiller. Finally, Karl hoisted all sail, and that got us clipping along. It’s pretty bad when you have to have all your sail out, plus your engine in full gear, in order to fight a current!

We came into our anchorage after dark, as usual these days, and those last hours are always very stressful as I hover around the GPS watching our depths, and Karl freaks out about that light or the other. We made it just fine, to just where our GPS said we should be, and our now anchored safely right under a giant blinking green and white light on Reedy Island. The currents are still insane here, and I imagine they will keep being so until we get farther south in Chesapeake Bay again. We had delicious leftovers for dinner, improvised gravy out of cream of chicken soup, and are drinking leftover fruit punch. All is right with the world.

Lovely scenic Delaware

Light from the horizon, underneath the moon.

The gibbous moon and a vapor trail.

A nuclear power plant. Lovely, ain't it?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day!

Greenwich, NJ
0 nm
Wind: N 15-20 knots, gusting to 30, rain

Our first Thanksgiving on the boat. We have much to be thankful for. Not dying the other day, for instance. Even on Tuesday, when we were heading over here, I thought—if we make it through this, I’ll have a lot to be thankful for on Thursday. The boat. Each other. This wonderful new adventure we’re on, and that we’re both crazy enough to want to keep going, and that we found someone else as crazy as we are. So, a lot to be thankful for.

No turkey to be thankful for, though, unfortunately, although we do have plenty of food. We had planned to buy a little two-pound turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, all that good stuff, but thanks to the gale we weren’t able to make it to a grocery store. The town of Greenwich, winking accommodatingly a mile up the river, was very tempting, but even if we had braved the 35-knot winds to head up there yesterday, I’m not sure anything would be open. Or even if there’s a grocery store in town.

So we had to do with a boat Thanksgiving, which was basically how close we could approximate real Thanksgiving with the canned goods in our storage lockers. Luckily we still had fresh onions and potatoes, as well as an apple, and bread. I made stuffing as fancy as I could without celery or sage, adding dried fruit and nuts and an apple. Then I topped it off with canned chicken, to approximate a turkey with stuffing. I whipped up some mashed potatoes, as good as at home, and a green-bean casserole with our last can of green beans, which had to be beefed up with our last bit of cabbage. Karl made a fruit punch as beverage, and I invented a blueberry-cherry strudel for dessert. The cherries were PCT vintage, and as such had absorbed a little bit of the plastic Ziploc flavor, but the dessert was still a hit.

I took a bunch of dumb pictures of the food I made, and Karl took some silly pictures of me looking exhausted, we listened to music, we did a little dancing. We tried to call our families, but have a really horrible signal here, so were only able to make out a word or two. Still, I am happy and sated and feel surrounded by people who love me, all of the feelings you’re supposed to have on Thanksgiving. What a wonderful holiday.

Thanksgiving pictures

Karl displays the dinner of which I am so proud. Note the "Melissa" mug, a mainstay of the boat.

My candlelit casseroles, of which I was so proud.

Exhausted and happy.

Thanksgiving pictures

Karl displays the dinner of which I am so proud. Note the "Melissa" mug, a mainstay of the boat.

My candlelit casseroles, of which I was so proud.

Exhausted and happy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cohansey River to Greenwich, NJ

2.6 nm
Wind: NE 15-25 knots, gusting to 45
Maximum speed: 3.5 knots
Average speed: 2.1 knots
Latitude: 39°37.26’N
Longitude: 075°34.66’W

We’re socked in again today, trapped by the storm we saw coming yesterday. The wind is supposed to be gusting to 45 knots (40 is gale force), and it might be, although we think we’ve only seen about thirty. We’re not getting a very good forecast on our three-mile radius VHF radio, so it’s hard to know. We’re supposed to be out of the worst of it. But this morning we woke up to realize that the land we thought we had anchored behind last night was really a couple of reeds sticking out of the water. It might have been an island when there wasn’t six feet of tidal flooding.

After thinking it over, we decided to move farther up the river, where both Skipper Bob and the Reed’s Nautical Almanac, our two guidebooks, told us we’d have more protection. There’s a marina in the town of Greenwich, which we’re in sight of, but we decided to anchor behind a stand of trees in twenty feet of water. Right now we’re watching the tides very closely, hoping the tidal current after low tide doesn’t swing us into land. We’re anchored in a river that flows into the bay, so hopefully the river is strong enough to not reverse current. I’m making pizzas, and trying to decide how to make tomorrow’s boat Thanksgiving a good one.

We had planned to buy a little turkey and some other fixings, but now it looks like we won’t be able to get to a grocery store before tomorrow. So it looks like it’s going to be a canned chicken Thanksgiving. We’re pretty good at doctoring things up, so maybe I’ll be able to make it into some semblance of a festive event. It’s Karl’s favorite holiday, so I’m a little sad that we won’t be able to do it right, but as always, he doesn’t care about petty everyday concerns like that. If I get ambitious, maybe I’ll even make a blueberry pie.

The passage up the river was crazy, even though it was only three miles. Our GPS doesn’t have charts for inland sections (we’re working on this problem, and should be able to download more charts the next time we have internet access), so all we had was a rudimentary drawing of a river. Karl stood outside, at the helm, in the brutal cold and icy rain, trying to maintain the center of the channel. I watched the GPS like a hawk, giving him hints about which direction might be deeper, even though I had no idea. It worked out great, though. It was deep enough the whole way, and I feel good about heading up our first patch of uncharted water. I’m sure we’ll end up in more by the time we get around the world.

Now we’re cozy with the oven and candles on, and Phil Ochs on the CD player. I’m looking forward to my sausage and onion pizza, with cheddar and mozzarella.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sunrise over Cape May

Cape May to Cohansey River, NJ

35.7 nm
Wind: NE 10-20 knots, sustained gusts of at least 25 in Lower Delaware Bay
Seas: 4-6 feet, extremely choppy
Maximum speed: 5.5 knots
Average speed: 3.7 knots
Latitude: 39°20.72’N
Longitude: 075°21.75’W

We had a bunch of firsts today. We double-reefed the main for the first time, and we were out of sight of land for the first time. Not exactly things you want to do on the same day. But we did them. We had been warned about the nastiness of Delaware Bay, but thought that it had been exaggerated, that it was probably no worse than Buzzards Bay, which we grew up on. But it was, a lot worse. At least a lot bigger. Halfway through the morning we looked out to realize that we were completely out of sight of land, even though we were surrounded by it. It was a creepy feeling, especially given the weather we had.

We woke up early to catch slack tide through the three-mile Cape May Canal, and on our way out past the last buoys, a guy in a huge sailboat came past us going the other direction. We were trailing Tinkerbell, our dinghy, behind us, like we always do. “Better pull that dinghy up,” he said. “It’s choppy out there.” At the same moment, we noticed two fishermen, who had made fun of our matching yellow foul-weather gear on their way out, before leaving a wake that nearly washed us into the rocks, came back the opposite direction. Hmm, we thought to ourselves. Maybe it’s bad out there.

And it was. As soon as we got out into the bay proper, waves were hitting our bow so hard that it was being driven underwater. Everything in the boat fell out of place—drawers were banging open, stuff we had neglected to tie down was falling out on the floor, coffee cups spilling all over the table. Karl had the helm at this point, I was below trying to control the chaos, and we both thought that we had gotten in over our heads.

There’s a huge storm coming in tomorrow, allegedly, and everyone else in the harbor had chosen to wait it out in Cape May. This wind was the vanguard to the storm, and it was coming from the opposite direction as the current, which makes the chop almost unbearable. Starting this afternoon, winds were supposed to gust to 25. Our brilliant plan was to head north during the relatively good weather today and get into the protection of Upper Delaware Bay, where the storm isn’t supposed to hit so hard.

But coming out into that wind, and those waves, made us almost want to turn around. Karl proposed putting two reefs in the main, which we hadn’t raised yet, and I agreed enthusiastically. I don’t even know if I would have bothered to try to sail if he hadn’t suggested it, but I’m so glad he did. Every time we start using the boat as she’s designed to be used, as a sailboat, our motion eases out, she takes the waves better, and we all relax.

It took about an hour to put the reefs in the main—we were both in full raingear, Karl was clipped in to his harness, up by the mast, I was making plans for what I would do when he fell over, or cracked his skull open and started bleeding all over the deck. But once we did, and reefed the main, and curled out a handkerchief jib to balance the helm, we were sailing pretty, at about five knots, and Secret was doing just fine. Because of the cold, we decided to take shifts of an hour on, an hour off, and I took the first hour. I just kept talking to her, especially when the waves would hit us broadside and nearly knock us flat. I knew she could handle it—we know someone who made it through 60 knots of wind in the Pacific with a triple-reefed main and a handkerchief jib. Knowing that made me a lot more confident, as did thinking about the racers who, God bless them, would have said we needed more sail out.

Karl, while reefing the main, was praying. A lot. He told me later that he had a crazy dream last night in which a sign on the wall read, “The way out is through God,” and he thought that could have been an omen. This could be it. But the minute he took the helm, the waves started to smooth out, the sky cleared, and even though the wind was still blowing us over, it was a beautiful day for a sail. I looked out at him and he had a euphoric smile on his face. “This, this is beautiful,” he said.

The wind and the seas calmed down in the afternoon, and we were even able to unfurl a little more jib, although we kept both reefs in our main for safety’s sake. We could see the line of building clouds on the horizon behind us—we just prayed that our boat could move faster than the storm. We ended up sailing almost right into the river where we’re anchored tonight.

We both felt ecstatic all day. To take our boat, to take ourselves, and push them to the limit, to realize that our limit can be stretched just that much more. It makes you truly alive. One day like that is worth a hundred ordinary days.

I leave you with a quote from Brion Toss, the author of the Rigger’s Apprentice, taken from the Pardeys’ Storm Tactics Handbook:

“If you spend any time at sea, you’ll spend sometime wishing you were someplace else. But the truth is that those times can be some of the best of your life, a tempering process that nourishes and confirms the resilience of the human spirit.”

May you always sleep as well as I will tonight.

Heading into the Cohansey River

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cape May, NJ

Wind: NW 10 knots

I don’t understand Karl’s blog entry. I’m not sure if it’s a compliment or an insult. Oh well. So the rest of our passage went fine, aside from our severe lack of sleep causing us to snip at each other. Karl had a bird come and visit him during his last watch, sitting on the boom to keep him company. I had a huge tug pulling a barge pass me about 100 yards away. I kept shining our spotlight (thanks Ralph!) on the sail to make sure he would know we were there, and I hope he did, but I would have had to take evasive maneuvers otherwise. Karl’s attempting to fix our autopilot, the Master, right now, so that we can use it if we decide to do the DelMarVa coast (the offshore route between Cape May and Norfolk, VA).

There’s a storm supposed to blow in on Wednesday, so we were supposed to head up the Delaware Bay tonight to get away from the coast, but I don’t know if we really will, especially because our friends on Sea Belle just showed up. We’re sharing the anchorage here with two other cruising boats, too—Decibel, out of Freeport, Maine (they have a sailing dinghy and a dog!), and Hispaniola out of Portsmouth, NH. So we’re in the New England section of the harbor, I guess. We haven’t met Hispaniola yet, but both boats appear to have three crew members, including captain, without being much bigger than our boat. An arrangement I can’t say I envy. We can barely keep from killing each other sometimes and there are only two of us.

After we got in, we were severely hypothermic the rest of the day, and exhausted, but I refused to go to sleep because I thought it would throw off my sleep schedule. Fat lot of good it did us—we still slept in until ten this morning, and haven’t left yet. But Karl made me awesome clam chowder last night, doctored out of cans, and I threw baked potatoes in the oven, and we ate those with butter, cracked pepper, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. I don’t think I’ve ever had better food in my life. Actually, I know I have, but those first creamy, delectable bites of potato in my frostbitten, sleep-challenged body were like heaven.

We’re certainly eating well on the boat. This morning, with the leftover baked potatoes, Karl cooked me up bacon, scrambled eggs with cheese and spinach, and curried hash browns. It was delicious. It’s been a week since we’ve been shopping, and we’re still eating like kings. All these things keep amazingly well—the spinach had barely begun to go bad, and we ate every last leaf of it, the sour cream, even the bananas. We’ve eaten both bacon and kielbasa that had been left, unopened and unrefrigerated, in the boat for over a month, without getting sick. Let that be a lesson to all of you people out there about the quantity of nitrates in your food. Not good news to you, I imagine, but for us cruisers, it’s definitely fortunate. So does unopened non-dairy creamer, opened mayonnaise, and unrefrigerated citrus fruit.

I’m sure, at this point, that you’re beginning to worry about our health. Karl makes fun of me saying that I’m never happier than when I can eat moldy food, and in some ways it’s true. I was thrilled to discover that Lin Pardey recommends hanging a side of bacon in your chain locker and wiping the mold off of it with a vinegar solution before hacking off chunks and eating them. In fact, she goes into great detail about the kinds of mold that can be wiped off raw, unrefrigerated meat after which it may still be eaten. It’s awesome. A girl after my own heart. It’s still nice to know that other people have eaten unchilled food for decades, living to a ripe old age, without keeling over and dying.

Things that do go bad quickly: salsa. Bagels. Anything that’s opened and is liquidy or moist. Actually, moisture kills everything, even cabbages that are supposed to survive indefinitely. Ah, the joy of the cabbage, though. We’ve been eating one down for the last several days after I rescued it from death by mold. Karl put some in eggs yesterday morning, it’s delicious in soup, especially ramen, when spiced appropriately. There’s something very heartening about cabbage soup in the cold, despite its bad reputation. I keep wanting to write recipes, like the soup I made for Karl on watch the other night when we used a vise clamp as a pot holder to keep the soup from falling off the stove. I had all my leftovers from burritos in the pan—refried beans, taco meat, spinach, habanero salsa, and chopped tomatoes, and then added a ton of cabbage and an Oriental ramen. It was delectable. Again, we were freezing, beam-reaching over the chilly wine-dark sea, so probably anything would have been good, but I swear, someone should market my Mexican ramen. Especially the dissolved refried beans in the broth—mmm mmm.

Lin Pardey also says you can keep food on the stove indefinitely by bringing it to a boil for a couple of seconds every day, as long as you keep the lid tightly on. Keep leftovers indefinitely? On the stove? It’s thrilling, this boat life. Waste not, want not. Most of our leftovers become the basis for our meals the next day—the tacos turned into soup, the soup turned into new soup, the potatoes turned into hash browns, the squash turned into beef stew. I’m just now trying to figure out what to do with the leftover clam chowder. Maybe white clam sauce for pasta? Who knows.

I’m very excited about our prospects for Thanksgiving. I was just surveying them in Joy of Cooking right now. I think Karl’s going to do a little turkey on the grill, that will probably feed us for a week, I might bake some rolls and make stuffing, and we have the ingredients for the rest of Thanksgiving dinner already on the boat. I’m trying to decide if I want to try to make pie, too. That might be a little ambitious. It won’t rival the feast I had last year at my sister’s, but what could?

Sorry to go on and on about food. In the cold, on the boat, one has little else to think about. And it’s been a while since I had to manage the cuisine of my own household. It’s very exciting.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sandy Hook to Cape May, NJ

121.6 nm
Maximum speed: 6.7 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 6.6 knots
Average speed: 4.3 knots
Latitude: 38°56.98’N
Longitude: 074°53.18’W

We’re here. We made it in one piece. I’m exhausted and barely coherent, so I’m going to let Karl write the blog tonight. Which probably isn’t a good idea, since we got into a big fight today.

Im writing bthis the same way Melissa



Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Jersey Fishermen

They use sails while they're clamming!

En route from Sandy Hook to Cape May, NJ

Wind: Calm, building to up to NW 15 knots
Seas: 3-6 feet with swell

It’s midnight, and I’m getting ready to start my shift at the tiller, from twelve to three, so I can’t write for very long. The boat’s dark, Karl’s outside sailing on a beam reach. A beam reach to paradise, or so they say. I’ve just gotten about a half-hour of sleep out of my three hours of alleged sleep. Sleeping is difficult when you have water rushing past your ears at about 50 decibels, as well as all the miscellaneous creaks and groans a fiberglass boat makes under sail. Karl says it’s the hull flexing, but it freaks me out. Every time it happened I could swear something hit the hull.

I had the craziest dreams, too—that Karl was walking around the cockpit, not at the tiller, that we had stopped in someplace named Fargut, and docked with a nice young couple, that I had slept through my alarm and Karl had had to hold the tiller until five in the morning… The mind does crazy things at night on a sailboat under sail.

It’s our first time. It’s very exciting. I wasn’t very enthused about the idea. In fact, I had thought that we could go into Manasquan Inlet to anchor tonight, especially after we had to motor almost all day today. There was no way I was motoring all night, in the frigid cold. We pulled into Manasquan, after the wind picked up and we were able to sail for about an hour. It was freezing cold all day, and the prospect of sailing all night made me chilled. But for some reason our GPS doesn’t have detail for the inlets, and dark had fallen while we had messed around dropping the main, and all we had was a seven-year-old chartlet from Reed’s Nautical Almanac for navigation. There were no buoys in the channel at all, and the rumor that we had heard, that Manasquan was awful for anchoring, was rapidly proved true.

Karl said, “Screw this, we’re heading back out to the open water.” And we did. With a two-hour detour. Now we’re heading straight for Cape May, if the weather holds.

The best story of the day is that we almost caught a gargantuan fish, almost being the operative word. We have three fishing poles on the boat, as well as two boxes of fishing tackle, two crab pots, and a nine-foot casting net, but we have yet to fish from the boat. Yesterday, after watching all of the charter fishing boats leave Cape May on their twice daily excursions, Karl dug out our trolling rod and a tuna lure, costing $4.95, that I insisted we buy.

So he set it up this morning when there was no wind and we were motoring, right as we were approaching the charter fishing boat hangout. Now, our trolling pole is a sad affair, ancient, with a broken eye on the end. Karl attached it to its rod holder with a piece of twine, and was just sitting back as I steered, thinking that if a fish bit big enough to pull the rod out of the rod holder, the twine would never hold it. But it did. A huge fish of some variety yanked that rod so hard that it cracked the wooden rod holder in two. The rod went flying off the back of the boat, and the only thing I saw was Karl, almost jumping off the boat, as he tried to catch the end of the broken pole. He did, and fought with the fish for a couple of moments before it snapped the brass leader right off the line, along with my fancy lure. We’re going to have to buy some more of those, that’s for sure. I want some tuna. Still, it was exciting, and it’s nice to have a big bite on our very first day fishing. We’ll have to be more ambitious in the future. We’re not fishing right now because if we caught one, one of us alone couldn’t handle the tiller and the fish.

I must go. Three hours of finger-numbing servitude to the tiller await.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Our friends, Lise and Marcel

Sandy Hook, NJ

Wind: W 10-15 knots, gusting to 20 knots

Another day in lovely Sandy Hook. I shouldn’t complain, because we’ve accomplished a ton here. The head got fixed, we got showers, and internet, and laundry done, bought groceries, got fuel and water and ice, all of that important but boring stuff. We were supposed to leave today, and I fear we may regret not leaving today. There’s supposed to be a good weather window through Tuesday, but you never know, especially in November. Still, I’m glad we stayed, because I think we got more accomplished today on the boat than we have since we started sailing.

Let me see if I remember the entire list: dishes (which are never-ending on the boat, in my sink the size of a teacup), bleaching all the mildew out of the corners of the boat, off the wooden cutting boards and the trash can, bleaching our toothbrushes, organizing the toiletries, putting back in our navigation station cushion, going through our gigantic miscellaneous box that no matter what we do never seems to get smaller, making a tool drawer for Karl so he doesn’t have to drag rust from his toolbox all over the cabin sole any time he needs a tool, saving the cabbage from decay, rinsing out our floor rags and Karl’s muddy gloves, putting away my summer clothes so I can fit the important papers in the shelving in the vee-berth, sweeping and cleaning the floor, and all-around general organization.

Karl’s list was: putting up my Don Quixote Picasso print on the bulkhead, putting up my knife block, testing miscellaneous loose wires and taping them up, rigging up brackets for our VHF charger, inverter, and solar-panel controller, screwing wires in the head back into place and protecting them with a teak panel, putting up a paper-towel holder, and now he’s still working, trying to rig up more lighting, specifically lighting for the galley, where we’ve been using headlamps to cook.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it, and I’m sure I’ve bored all of you except for those who actually plan to do this someday. Because this is what it really involves—all these crazy jobs that don’t occur to you until you’re actually on the boat, sailing. The mildew is out of control. I’m not sure if it’s just because we have a fiberglass boat, or because we took out the thirty-year-old insulation and went down to a bare hull, but we have fungus coming out our ears. A lot of things on the boat are just management propositions. You can fix the problems. All you can do is manage them.

We were thinking about leaving sometime tonight, and doing the all-day all-night sailing thing straight down to Cape May. But now I think we need sleep. We’ll still try to leave early tomorrow morning, but we’re never very successful at that.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sandy Hook, NJ

Wind: S 20-25 knots, gusting to 35

We’re still in Sandy Hook, and I’m getting very sick of it. Today was the day we had to wait for—in some places the wind is supposed to gust up to 50 knots tonight, although 35 is all that’s forecast for our area. I’m hoping 30 is all that we see. I think it’s the most we’ve ever been on the boat for. We’re not on our anchor tonight, but in some ways it makes me a little more insecure. This is an unknown mooring, with unknown lines and rode, as opposed to our anchor, which we know and love. If the mooring starts dragging, or the lines break, I guess we’ll just throw out all of our anchors as fast as we can. It hasn’t gotten so bad so far, but Karl can feel the pressure dropping in his ears, and there are tornado watches on the VHF. We should be fine. I’m hoping to get out of here tomorrow, but there’s still a small craft advisory for tomorrow, even though it’s only supposed to be gusting to 20.

We had a very late night with our friends last night—early into this morning, in fact. We had a great time, eating popcorn, listening to Bob Dylan, talking about boats, drinking wine. Their boat is absolutely insane. Marcel built it himself, from scratch. It took seven years—three for the hull, four for the interior. He was bummed because he couldn’t build his solar panels himself. He welded the hull together, welded his own mast, melted the lead for the keel down from lead weights for balancing tires in his backyard. 4500 pounds of lead, out of tire weights, which weigh about an ounce. And people think that we’re crazy. They’re great fun, though. I get to practice my French, when they let me, and Karl and Marcel talk on and on about boats. He built his own wind vane, welded his own anchors, bought almost everything off eBay. I, of course, am most impressed by their head, which constantly smells like peaches and cream. I want to just get into it and hang out there, it’s so lovely.

So today’s been a little bit useless. We’ve basically drunk coffee, ate leftover pasta, and listened to the weather radio. No work on the head, no work period. I’m thinking about making beef noodle soup for dinner, and Karl’s avoiding worrying about tornadoes and 50-knot gusts. If we want to leave tomorrow, we’ll have to wake up early. I guess we’ll just have to wake up and listen to the radio. I’m really ready to get out of Dodge.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sandy Hook, NJ

Wind: SE 10 knots

The good news: we fixed the macerator pump. I know everyone’s breathing a sigh of relief. It was not without further horror, however. We came back to the boat last night, after gorging ourselves on Chinese food, emotionally prepared to deal with the head problem. Karl ripped apart the toilet yet again, and after some experimentation, cleared out the hoses that went between the holding tank and the pump. The pump was then able to successfully eject at least half the waste. A huge sigh of relief. It was luckily warm enough for me to perch outside away from the smell, allegedly to watch for telltale bubbling from the pump. When I finally saw the bubbling, I think my actual words were “Oh, you blessed machine!”

The drama was not over, however. We didn’t dump all of our waste because you’re not supposed to dump any this close to land, although I don’t know what they can expect when they close a pump-out station for the season. We just gave ourselves enough space to fill up the tank with water and head decomposer stuff, which can hopefully go to work on the solid matter. We’re going to try to run muriatic acid and maybe lye through the tank to do more decaying work. But after the blessed relief of getting the pump working, we decided to try to clear the vent to the exterior, which Karl guessed was plugged. I came in to help, clearing away books and cushions in case of accident. We then ran a bowl full of water through the system, just to try to flush it out, and—guess what. More crap spray, this time right in the cabin. Imagine your worst nightmare, and then a couple of steps below that. That was where we were. It managed to stay somewhat localized, on the hull, a bag of power bars, and some bagged toilet paper I had stored behind the books, but still. There is absolutely nothing fun about cleaning your own waste off the walls. I have absolute and unmitigated respect for any of the world’s plumbers. And for Karl, who has inhabited this inner circle of hell for the last three days.

We also found a huge wad of cardboard wedged in the holding tank. How it got there, I have no idea. I don’t even know how it could have gotten through the toilet. But it can’t have been helping. So now all we have to do is go offshore a little and pump out the rest of our tank, and then go to work with cleaning out the system completely. Today we did a thorough boat bleaching, and I feel much better about life, the universe, and everything. There is still some odor hanging around, but compared to what it was, it smells like absolute heaven. We also may borrow the Canadians’ pump-out system to try to get some more oomph. But we’re going to have to learn how to manage with ours. I just don’t know how to keep it from getting clogged. I’m beginning to understand why the fewer systems you have on a boat, the better.

After the crap debacle, we moved to a mooring closer to the marina. Our Canadian friends (Lise and Marcel—I suppose I should give them names) have been using a mooring with no charge. Evidently the harbor patrol is closed for the season, too, and bad weather is forecast for tomorrow. I made a lovely rotini casserole this evening, with fresh ground beef and mozzarella cheese from the icebox, while Karl went and bought us ice and filled up our water jugs. We also docked to get diesel today—only our third docking experience ever! It went without a hitch. Now we’re supposed to go over to Sea Belle, our friends’ boat, to split another bottle of wine.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sandy Hook, NJ

Wind: S 5-10 knots

We're stuck here again. On the plus side, we've been stuck long enough for the library to open, so here I am, as pleased as punch, posting pictures and reading books. I've found a book that I've been looking for a very long time, called Julie and Julia, about a girl who cooks all of the recipes in Julia Child's cookbook in a year. It sounds exactly like something I'd do, and I'm supposed to be answering my zillions of emails, and instead I'm sitting here devouring it. Maybe I should make all of Julia Child's recipes while sailing south to the Caribbean and writing a novel? No, maybe that would be too much, even for me.

On the minus side, we may be stuck here for longer, at least through Thursday. We thought we were going to get a good weather window to leave tomorrow, but it turns out there's another low pressure front moving in on Thursday, with gusts of up to 35 knots. Knot fun. (Hardeehar.)

So instead, we're trapped in the boat, stewing in our own crap. I kid you not. Karl spent all last night and this morning tearing open our head, trying to repair the macerator pump, the thing that pumps all of our waste out of the holding tank, which is broken. Actually, we know it's not broken, because when he tore it out again this morning it worked fine in plain water. He's blaming it on all the toilet paper I've stuffed down the toilet, and I have maybe been less careful than I should have been, but I know the real reason it's having issues is that our salt-water pump is broken. We ordered a $50 rebuild kit for it before we left, and that was one of the things on Karl's list that didn't get done. So all that's in our holding tank is a mound of human excrement and wads of paper, rapidly solidifying. Our pump is not strong enough to get this out of our boat. And we just found out, from our French friends, that the pumpout station here is closed for the season. Is this possible? Today, while doing repairs, Karl managed to not only spray human waste all over the cockpit, but also all over our pots and pans, that were sitting out, allegedly to catch water. So now I have to go back to a boat covered in my own excrement. Thrilling.

I can't blame this on Karl. Both of us want to blame it on each other, just so we have someone to blame it on, but mainly it just sucks. Our boat stinks, we have no way to get rid of the smell or the waste, and now we may have nowhere to use the bathroom, either. And we're stuck here for another week. I feel vast amounts of money may be spent, mainly on food, to assuage our unhappiness.

We had a budget of $1000 to get out of the United States, which I personally felt was a little ambitious. So far we've already spent a third of that, a lot of it on diesel, since we've been motoring so much, an expense I didn't budget for at all. And if we have to buy a new macerator pump, that'll eat up another $150 buckaroos. I really don't feel like any of this is the end of the world. We'll figure it out, like we figure everything out, but I'm really not thrilled about the vast quantity of bleach scrubbing I'm going to have to do tomorrow. That's my solution: bleach. On absolutely everything. The boat will be bathed in bleach.

The great thing about today, other than the clean, fragrant library, the second hot showers that we snuck in, the internet access, and the lovely book, is that we ran into our French friends from the Statue of Liberty again. They're paying $86 for dock space--quelle horreur!--that doesn't even include running water, since it's shut off for the season! Still, I'm impressed that they crossed over from NYC with relatively little problem, and they're ready to press on down the coast. Maybe we can split another bottle of wine with them tonight--our treat this time. I'd love to offer them hospitality, but I can barely bring myself to go back to my boat myself, let alone invite anyone else in. If only the CSI people could come in with their black lights. What a show they'd have.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sandy Hook, NJ

Wind: NE 20-25 knots, gusting to 30

We’re stuck here, in lovely New Jersey, again today, and signs do not look promising for tomorrow. Last night, we woke up to feel the boat sailing on her anchor. She’d heel over to port as she sailed one way, then she’d get caught by the anchor, and sail back the other way. Just the wind in the rigging alone will do that, and it was freaky. I think it was the worst weather we’ve ever anchored in. The howling of the wind in the rigging was scaring us both—I don’t think Karl slept much at all.

We’d heard the weather report yesterday, and it had predicted gale warnings for offshore north of us, and there was a small craft advisory, but it didn’t really seem that bad yesterday. There was a lot of fog, and some drizzle, and even if we hadn’t had to do all of our town stuff, I don’t know if we would have sailed, but the same basic wind was forecast for today, so we thought we’d be able to leave. Now it looks like we’ll be here at least until Wednesday. Everyone ends up stuck in Sandy Hook, supposedly—I guess now we know why. It’s certainly not for the friendliness of the town folk.

I wanted to go back to that alleged internet café today and give them a piece of my mind. Maybe not my mind, really—my plan was to go first thing in the morning and stay all day, after ordering the cheapest thing on the menu. That’d teach them. As Karl said, though, “That’ll teach them, Melissa. Give them more money.” Still, I was very angry. Aren’t you supposed to drink coffee at a coffee shop? Isn’t that the whole point? I’m mainly frustrated that I didn’t get to post any pictures. Karl’s been taking some amazing sunset pictures. There’s not much else to take pictures of—sunsets and lighthouses.

Still, the advantage of staying tomorrow will be that I can go to the library and use the internet to my heart’s content. If we feel safe enough leaving the boat, which we didn’t today. So I made pizzas from the More With Less cookbook (thanks, Sonia!), did the dishes, which took about five hours, and now Karl’s rebuilding the macerator pump for our head, which has been stinking to high heaven. It’s stinking worse now, but I think that’s because he’s tearing it all apart. If he manages to fix it, I’m going to be in seventh heaven. I definitely understand the appeal of the bucket and chuck it. In fact, if we were to do this again, I’d tear out the head and replace it with a bucket. No one needs two sinks in a boat, and if you have a bucket, at least you can get away with throwing it away in the harbor. I did yoga the other morning, and let me tell you—it is not fun trying to do shavasana with your head resting next to a week’s worth of your own accumulated crap.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sandy Hook, NJ

Wind: N 5-10 knots

So I'm sitting in a little cafe called the Indulgence Cafe, using their wireless, for the first time since we've been sailing, drinking some coffee, and pissing everyone in here off. I came in, plopped down, opened up my computer, and ordered a coffee. That's what you do in wireless coffee shops, right? But evidently they close at three, in exactly 49 minutes, and I also have to order something in order to use the wireless. The waitress has been over three times to ask if Karl is coming over to eat (he came in to get change--he's doing the laundry at the laundromat across the street), I haven't gotten a refill on my coffee, all the waitresses going off duty are obviously sweeping and doing fillups around me, and still, I don't care. I need the internet! I need contact with the outside world!

What's awesome is that we finally got showers. It cost us $25 ($15 for use of the facilities and a $10 deposit), but still. We're in rather an urban area, the Atlantic Highlands, NJ, and I'm shocked by how much everything costs. I'm also shocked by just being around people again. It's very bizarre. I'm not quite sure how to deal with them.

I guess that's all I have time for. I better order something before the waitress shoots me. That would be a very anticlimactic ending to my journey. I'll try to post some pictures if I can find the time.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Sunset over the steely grey water.

A mauve sunset.

Liberty State Park to Sandy Hook, NJ

18.1 nm
Wind: S 10-15 knots
Seas: 2-3 feet
Maximum speed: 6 knots
Average speed: 3.5 knots
Latitude: 40°25.13’N
Longitude: 074°01.39’W

It was a rough day today and I’m exhausted. I’m not sure how much that has to do with sailing and how much it had to do with cumulative exhaustion without a real break. We’ve had one day off since we’ve started, but we really haven’t had any downtime. Mainly what’s bothering me is the lack of cleanliness. I’ve been reading Lin Pardey’s The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew, and she devotes a whole chapter to the need of self-sufficiency when it comes to showering. At one point, when they were on Serraffyn, she goes to a tuberculosis sanitarium to shower, rather than trying to do it on the boat. So when they built their second boat, Taliesin, one non-negotiable was a built-in bathtub.

It’s a pretty bizarre requirement, I must admit, but it does seem brilliant, not just for cleanliness, but in order to have a place to dump all the wet stuff that accumulates on a boat. As it is, all our wet stuff gets dragged all over the place, fouling everything else up. Let me tell you one thing—I wish we had a bathtub on Secret right now. If I have to go one more day, I’m heating water up on the stove and washing my hair in the cockpit. The scratching has become compulsion. I feel like an orangutan at the zoo. Karl’s dandruff looks like snow. Our current state of filth does not seem healthy in any respect.

But today was a huge milestone. Coming out the other side of New York Harbor was insanity. I can’t believe with all the hubbub about Hell Gate, no one warned us about the shipping out the other end. Hell Gate was nothing compared to trying to leave the city. There were oil barges everywhere, mainly anchored or moored, but looking like huge hulking buildings blocking our way. I started counting them at one point, but lost count after twenty. Amid all of that were the crazy tourist ferries running back and forth to the Statue of Liberty, the Staten Island Ferry, fishing boats, powerboats, and sailboats, all throwing wakes, that threw up even more water than was already being disturbed by the currents and eddies where the East River met the Hudson River met the bay. It was very stressful.

We had intended to sail today, and hoisted the main so that we could motor-sail most of the day, but ended up using the diesel the whole way here, just because of timing. We ended up leaving late today, at around noon, because of both our late night last night and the tides, which didn’t turn until about two. By the time we got some place we felt comfortable sailing, it seemed smarter to rely on the diesel to get us to this unfamiliar anchorage before dark. It doesn’t help that we just ran into people who haven’t even used their sails yet.

I must say, though, I’m very impressed that anyone in New York sails at all. There were all sorts of local sailboats out there today, with full sail up, zipping around in between the oil barges. I don’t think I’d exactly call that pleasure boating. We even saw a kayaker, out in the middle of all the chaos! Karl’s done some crazy kayaking, but waves are one thing. I don’t think there’s any way one of those huge ships would be able to stop for a kayaker.

We made it, though. Anchoring here was tricky—we’re in the middle of a blank spot in the mooring field. A storm’s supposed to be heading our way, so we may end up stuck here a couple of days. Hopefully we can get some showers, at long last! They’re supposed to have some at the yacht club here, but again, we’re not members. There are also mooring buoys available here for $40 a pop. I’m hoping that not buying one of those doesn’t preclude us from having access to facilities.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Our first bridge, the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Rikers Island.

The barge, outside of Rikers Island. The cage, at top to the left, is where prisoners were hanging out, being outside, playing basketball. I waved, but I didn't check in the binoculars to see if they'd wave back. I was too afraid.

Manhattan. I think that's the Empire State Building.

Long Island. The other side of Manhattan. The ghetto, more or less.

The Brooklyn Bridge. You can tell I took most of the pictures today.

The Statue of Liberty, as we approach.

The end of the day.

Throgs Neck, NY, to Liberty State Park, NJ

15.4 nm
Wind: NW 10-16 knots, gusting to 20 knots
Seas: two feet
Maximum speed: 7.9 knots, with current
Average speed: 3.7 knots

Today was the second day we didn’t even raise sail, but I really don’t feel bad about it. We came through Hell Gate today, and I am very pleased with my timing of it, because we came through at exactly the right tide. The thing that sucked was that no one had warned us about after Hell Gate. We came through it perfect, under the Brooklyn Bridge, past Manhattan, and then came out into this crazy stuff, right near the Statue of Liberty, at the end of Manhattan, where all of the East River and Hudson River traffic converged. It was insane. The standing waves were five feet. I’m not sure if it’s because of the wakes of all the tourist ferries passing or just the divergent tides meeting each other, but in any case, we went through them.

We were supposed to get all the way to Sandy Hook, NJ, tonight, the gateway to the whole offshore New Jersey experience, but Karl was so stressed out after navigating the mouth of the East River that we decided to just head to Liberty State Park, right behind the Statue of Liberty. We’re at this crazy anchorage tonight—we can just see the head of the Statue of Liberty. I can’t believe that they don’t screen for terrorists here or something. We’re in the anchorage with some crazy Canadians who motored down the Hudson River. The best part of the evening was being invited over to their steel boat that they built themselves to drink a box of wine. They’ve never sailed before, never even lifted the sails on their boat! And they’re sailing the same course we are. Makes me feel a little ridiculous for all the agonizing I’ve done about sailing versus motoring.

Still, it makes me feel pretty good to have met our first real cruisers. They had a huge anchor, one hundred feet of chain, a windmill, a radar deflector, all sorts of crazy gear, but they still don’t know how to sail. We have to go offshore in New Jersey just like them, and we probably know our way around our sails a little more than they do. It’s good just to feel like we have companions in this journey, even though I don’t want to be sucked into the group mentality that we were on the trail.

We got back from their boat, and now I have baked potatoes and butternut squash in the oven, which I think I’m going to supplement with fried canned ham. I made fancy bacon sandwiches with salsa mayonnaise today. Maybe I’ll give my recipe.

Melissa’s Fancy BLCSs (Bacon Lettuce Cheese and Sprout Sandwiches)
1/2 pound of cooked, chilled baconPublish
6 leaves of red leaf lettuce
6 thin slices of yellow extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 T of Salsa Mayonnaise (see recipe below)
2 T of alfalfa sprouts
4 slices of wheat bread

Spread bread generously with salsa mayonnaise. Add cooked bacon, lettuce, cheese, and sprouts. Serve while traversing New York Harbor, preferably while going under the Brooklyn Bridge. Serves two.

Salsa Mayonnaise
2 T Old El Paso Hot Salsa
2 T light mayonnaise

Mix salsa and mayonnaise in equal proportions.

Delicious, eh?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Photographic experimentation

The lights of the bridge, from where we anchored beneath it.

Karl has fun with cameras.

More fun with the camera after dark.

Stamford, CT, to Throg’s Neck, NY

18.0 nm
Wind: NW 10-15 knots
Seas: Building to two feet
Maximum speed: 7.7 knots
Average speed: 5.1 knots
Latitude: 40°48.73’N
Longitude: 073°47.75’W

New York, New York! The Big Apple! We’re finally here! And it’s crazy. We’re anchored off of the Throg’s Neck Bridge, just north of the East River. Tomorrow we head down with the tide past Manhattan, through Hell Gate. We’re anchored right where our guidebook told us to, in a protected cove cut off by the western part of the bridge, but we’re the only sailboat in sight. As Karl said, it’s pretty crazy camping in New York City. I was just out, washing dishes off the stern, wearing a tank top because it’s been seventy degrees all day, and listening to the semi-trucks zooming by on the highway honk their horns at me. I just put a mussel noodle casserole into the oven (same as tuna, but with canned marinated mussels instead), and we’re getting ready to chow down after a sleigh ride down from Connecticut.

It was the first day that conditions have been ideal for sailing. We were on a beam reach (the wind was coming from the side), which is the fastest point of sail, a current of a little more than a knot was with us, we had all our sail set, which was just enough but not too much, and we careened on into the New York Harbor under full sail. It was pretty amazing. Even on a beam reach, there were a couple of times I felt our heeling get a little beyond my comfort level, which meant the wind was pretty strong. We would have had to tie a couple of reefs in if we were beating.

We’ve never sailed that fast, though. It was absolutely exhilarating. The sun beating down, the wind and water carrying us along—it was amazing. Karl saw the GPS hit 8.0 knots, a full knot above our hull speed, but it only recorded 7.7, so that’s all I’m giving us. That’s only two-tenths less than with the motor in full gear! It’s just nice to know, after all our frustration, that this old girl can really sail. The conditions just haven’t been right, and we really don’t have the sail area she needs for light air.

There continue to be some difficult things, though. We tried to dinghy up to a marina when we got in, to do all the town stuff that we have yet to do. Buy some more fresh food, maybe some diesel, some motor oil for the engine, get some water (because the stuff Karl got from the yacht club tastes like absolute crap, and I can already feel myself dehydrating), do some laundry—I still haven’t had a shower, which is beginning to affect my contentment. But they said there was no place for us to dinghy up to! The only thing they could offer us was a slip for the night, which we would have to pay for, of course, and I don’t think that would have even provided us with all the resources we needed.

We ended up rowing back by a members-only yacht club, and they were nice enough to give us good, old-fashioned Bronx chicken cutlet heroes, as well as some motor oil Jerry Gearbox had lying around in his locker. (Thanks Jerry!) But still, what I want is a good, old-fashioned Appalachian Trail town stop, where we can get some town food, get all cleaned up, and get our fill of civilization so we can head off into the wilds and not have to mess with people for another ten days or so. As it is, we’re just going to have to keep messing around until we can find some place where we can get everything done.

We just can’t figure out this marina thing. Do you need to call ahead? Do yacht clubs work the same as marinas? Do we need to hail them on the VHF? Do we have to buy a spot from them to get services? I just don’t understand. I thought it would be simpler than this. And to make things more frustrating, I can’t get internet access, so I have going on two weeks of unposted blog entries. It begins to make it difficult to get motivated to write them.

Still, life is good. Tomorrow, Manhattan, and the next day—the world!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stamford, CT

Wind: E 15-20 knots, gusting to 30 knots

We’re socked in today. Rain was predicted for last night, today, and tonight. We had hoped to get a break at least for a couple of hours during the day, but it looks like a lost cause. So this may turn into our first zero (a leftover trail term—a day we make no mileage). The unfortunate part is that we can’t really use it to get any of the town stuff done either, the necessary food, fuel, internet, laundry, shower stuff. Karl was able to get water last night by breaking into the yacht club basement and turning it on and then off again (shh, don’t tell anyone), but the rest of our chores remain incomplete.

We watched another sailboat anchor last night and then set out this morning. They’re hardcore, I guess. They also had a pilothouse (a little enclosed protected area over the cockpit, where you can steer from and be out of the weather), which means they would have been safe from the rain. Still, as usual, I’m comparing us to them and feeling a little weenie-ish.

It was about time for a zero, anyway. We were both getting a little worn out. I know I was frustrated with the motoring-sailing conundrum. But we had a nice long talk about it over the bacon and eggs that Karl made me for breakfast, and the whole plan seems more manageable. Basically we need to figure out how to use our staysail for heavy weather, and additional power in medium air, figure out how to rig our spinnaker pole as a whisker pole to pole out our jib when we’re running, and how to use our spinnaker at all. So our only major need is a big genoa for beating to windward in light air. We’ll work it all out. And we really, really need a wind vane. For anyone else thinking about doing this: buy or build a wind vane! Cut out your budget for epoxy or canned goods or something!

In the meantime, we’re hoping our anchor doesn’t drag in thirty knots of wind. We haven’t anchored in that much ever. We’re staying tuned to the weather, reading books and charts, and just hanging out. It’s a little chilly in the cabin, but not bad. Maybe I’ll make some tea.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More lighthouses

Another lighthouse. For a while there, we fell off the picture wagon.

Fairfield to Stamford, CT

20.2 nm
Wind: calm to S 5 knots
Seas: building to one foot
Maximum speed: 5.3 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 3.1 knots
Average speed: 2.5 knots
Latitude: 41°01.59’N
Longitude: 073°32.19’W

I’m sitting in the dark boat. Karl’s gone to get water, and none of our interior light is really working. It’s okay—I have the light from the computer, the light of my headlamp, and I’m perfectly content. The computer is happily singing me Wilco songs. It’s astonishing to me how much enjoyment and civilization just music brings. I wish I could have put our entire CD collection onto my computer to randomize it all. Instead, I’m getting very familiar with the random selection of CDs that were loaded onto the computer. Every day I resolve to play an actual CD instead of my CD collection on random, but every day it seems like too much work and a waste of electricity.

Some huge powerboat ran aground right across the channel from us. As far as I know, he’s still there, waiting for the tide to come up. Yup, still there. I just peeked out of the companionway to check. I feel a little sorry for him, because I know how he feels. I hope he doesn’t think I’m mocking him, sitting over here with my light and my music. Not very much light, but light nonetheless. He called over another little fishing boat to come pull him off, but hasn’t seemed to want to ask for our help. We’ve been monitoring channel sixteen on the VHF since he ran aground, waiting for his call for help, but he hasn’t made one. Karl was going to row over and offer our assistance, but I’m not sure what we could do with a rowing dinghy.

We actually got to sail today. Very slowly, but sail nonetheless. Karl sailed us effortlessly out of the harbor at a rate of about one knot. When our speed dropped to about half a knot and the sea turned that glassy texture that indicates an absolute absence of wind, we decided to motor. We made a fair amount of progress before I made the casual observation that the wind appeared to have picked up. Then we were able to run with the wind (it was behind us) basically into Stamford harbor.

It was great to not to have to beat for once today. It was nice to be able to make a rather effortless three knots under sail. But both of us continue to be frustrated by our lack of ability to sail efficiently, and torn between the choice of sailing slowly and inefficiently and ending up stranded in winter gales or motoring our way out of danger. It’s a very tough choice. I lean towards sailing anyway, storms be damned, and Karl leans the other way. I just don’t want to begin a habit of reliance on the diesel. How then are we going to revise our sail plan? Where will be the motivation to work out our spinnaker arrangement, build a wind vane, get a larger genoa, all those things that need to be done? Even now, I feel our laziness when we’re both depending on the diesel to start soon. Why do we need to sail well in light wind when we can just fire up the engine?

Still, I feel backwards. Why not just use the engine if it will take us there faster? But then why don’t we have a blasted powerboat instead of this ridiculous sailboat? I know that sailing will be what helps us eventually, so it seems worth our while to learn to do it well now. But is this really the best time? I don’t know.

I had resolved that today was the day we got to go into town for some real food, ice, groceries, laundry, showers, and water, and I’m very dismayed that none of that happened. Neither of us quite know how to go about approaching a harbormaster or a marina. Do you just call them? Radio them? We don’t feel like real sailors yet—will they really believe we came from Massachusetts? And can we just dock and get these things without paying for a mooring? It’s all so bewildering. We’d rather just continue our habit of anchoring on the fringes of civilization. So Karl’s sneaking into a yacht club after hours to find an outdoor faucet. God forbid we actually try to talk to a living human being. Eventually we’ll have to figure all of it out. In the meantime, it seems amusing to continue our life of innocence, completely unconnected to the real world.

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Haven to Fairfield, CT

25.5 nm
Wind: SW 5-10 knots
Seas: One foot
Maximum speed: 5.4 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 4.9 knots
Average speed: 3.0 knots
Latitude: 41°08.70’N
Longitude: 073°13.21’W

I know I shouldn’t be frustrated right now, but I am. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat anything, because I can’t cook what I want to cook, which is stubborn and childish, but true. Our dishes are all still dirty from yesterday, because we’ve run out of water in our holding tank. I tried to wash them by boiling salt water, but the pot of water flew off the stove and all over the cabin sole. I decided that we were too far heeled over to wash or cook, but that since I had water on the floor anyway, I could clean the floor, which is filthy even though I swept and scrubbed it two days ago. But the dirty filthy floor and the dirty filthy rag conspired to make everything even more dirty and filthy, and there was too much crud on the floor for me to sweep into the bilge, and it was too wet for me to actually sweep up the crud, and I don’t know how to keep a boat clean and I’m hungry and cold and frustrated.

We’re actually sailing right now, and that is some part of the frustration. I love it when we’re sailing, and it’s mainly because of my stubbornness that we’re sailing at all. I insisted this morning that we tack out of the harbor under full sail against an incoming current, and we did, beautifully, and ended up outside the harbor, on a lovely southern tack, beating into the wind, with our rail nearly in the water.

It was nice—we sailed almost all the way across the Sound and were able to dump our holding tank, which has been stinking and making both of us think that we’re leaking propane. And we thought we were perfectly aligned to make a neat tack to the west and end up in Bridgeport, a respectable little hop for the day.

Instead, the wind died. Now we’re barely making two knots, and even with only that degree of heel, I still can’t do anything in the cabin or on the stove. It’s so frustrating to me that we can’t actually get anywhere under sail. I know why it is—we don’t have reliable enough light-air sails, and we don’t have a wind vane, which would allow us to be much more efficient sailors at any point of sail. Our autopilot is electric, meaning Karl doesn’t like to run it when we’re under sail, because it could run down our batteries and then we couldn’t start the engine. We’ve only attempted to use it under sail once, the day against the current, and it couldn’t hold its own while we were beating into light wind, which is what we’re doing again today. That means that one of us has to be a slave to the tiller at all times when we’re sailing, making us much less fond of sailing than of motoring, which is not the point at all.

I’m frustrated that we didn’t learn more about sailing before we left, not because we’d be safer, but because we’re so inefficient. I’m frustrated that I didn’t try to repair our 170 genoa and our spinnaker before we left, frustrated that we don’t have blocks for our staysail, frustrated that we didn’t try to build a wind vane. I know that we had many important things to do, but all of these things would make us so much more happy right now.

We can’t seem to be able to tack 90 degrees across the wind, like we’re supposed to be able to. A sailboat is supposed to be able to sail 45 degrees off the wind, meaning if the wind is coming from 270° (west), the boat should be able to go to 315° (northwest), or 225° (southwest). Instead, we seem to be unable to take tacks of less than 110 degrees, meaning that we make little to no progress on days like today, when the wind is blowing from the west and we need to go west. And I have no idea why this is, and no one to ask. Is it because we’re poor helmspeople? Is it because we have bad sails? Is it because we don’t sail close enough to the wind? Is it because of the current? It could be any of these things, and I don’t know which one of them it is. I feel like I spend most of my time on the boat cooking, cleaning, or washing dishes, and have next to none to spend on things like sail handling.

But we have to have some idea what we’re doing to even get better. How can we fix things if we don’t know what’s wrong? What if nothing’s wrong and this is just the way it is? I don’t want to live in an inefficient motorboat. I don’t want to burn fossil fuels, or spend $20 a day on diesel. I don’t want to be unable to use my kitchen whenever we’re sailing. I want to live on a sailboat.

I know it will take years to figure out all these systems. I could dig out the 170 genoa tonight, break out my sail needles, and start cutting up our backup main to patch it. After all, that’s the whole reason we brought those sails and the sewing machine, which I fought so hard for. But my floor’s dirty. I have a whole stack of dirty dishes to clean, and the system that I spend the last week working so hard to develop is now null and void because of a change in circumstance.

Things could be worse, after all. I could have a real job and have to drive a car to work every day. I guess I just want to be perfect at everything all at once, and that’s not going to happen. Of course I knew that. It’ s just frustrating to be reminded of it so thoroughly. Every day we’re learning, still. Today we beat out of a harbor for the first time, and learned it could be done, even in a foul current. Today Karl dumped the holding tank for the first time. Today we ran out of water for the first time. Eventually we’ll work on our sails, work on our self-steering, work on our galley. I’ll figure out how to keep my blasted floor clean. We’ll figure it out. I know this. I’m just an impatient little girl.