Posted on October 20, 2016
North Carolina: not as bad as we expected.
Really, North Carolina has been beautiful. We were just concerned about the after-effects of Matthew, and thought we’d be stuck (literally) in shoals and shifted channels, along with the crowds of laggards like us. This has not really been the case. While it’s true that we share the ICW with lots of south-bound traffic, we’ve always found a quiet place to anchor. The two marinas that we’ve contacted for dock space have always had it. Depths have been greater than charted, almost all markers are in place; and so far, we haven’t seen less than 10 feet of water under our boat.
To our southbound friends behind us: we hear this is not so much the case south of Beaufort. From our friend Matt this morning: “Brown’s inlet. mm 237 green 61A is off station and is almost onshore. When southbound, honor red 60, the head straight for green 61A, leave 61A 20 ft to starboard (treat it like a red), the ease back to mid channel at green 63. We saw 8′ mlw. Those who ignored 61A went aground.” Our friends on Perla can verify this tale: they went aground there a few days ago. We also hear reports of Spanish Moss eddying in the canals and wrapping a death grip around propellers.
For our boat, those hazards are theoretical and in the future. For the moment, we are tied up in Beaufort, NC, having some work done on our engine. When the boat is back up to speed, we’d like to jump offshore and avoid some of the pitfalls of Matthew’s wake. Our timing is, as always, a question. When will the engine be done? What will the winds be like? For the moment, it looks too windy for us to want to be offshore, starting Saturday. We may delay our departure until Tuesday; we may take the inside path. We shall see, we shall see.
In the meantime, Beaufort is not a terrible place to get some stuff done. Milou was coming due for an oil change, and in preparation for that maneuver, Michu decided that the amount of oil leaking from the engine had passed the point of acceptable. Sorry, Buffalo mechanic; we should have changed out that rear seal in August. We’ve also been enjoying a fine mist of transmission fluid all over the engine room for far too long. We though about waiting until Florida to have things worked on, but Beaufort looked like the kind of place where we could find very qualified help, and spend up to a week without losing our minds.
More tasks: mailing absentee ballots; sewing in new zippers in the mainsail cover.
Mostly, we are pressed to finish boat jobs before we leave to the Bahamas. Once we’re out of the country, we anticipate parts being hard to get. International shipping rates, VAT, isolated tropical post offices, and a total lack of Amazon Prime–it’s a different world out there, and we’ve only just noticed that the clock is ticking down for us.
Having a non-functioning engine is no fun at anchor, so we’ve parked ourselves at Homer Smith Docks and Marina for a bit. Wifi streaming to our boat, and shrimp sold at the end of the dock–not too shabby! The waterfront area has a great, free maritime museum, filled with artifacts from Blackbeard’s pirate ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. We don’t seem to be in easy walking distance to a grocery or library, but we’ll manage. Maybe we’ll just live on shrimp.
Posted on October 14, 2016
After a long couple of weeks of waiting for weather, our boat is finally back on the move south.
We spent a lot more time than anticipated in the Chesapeake. First, we were waiting for some regular old wet-and-stormy weather to pass; then we were waiting for Hurricane Matthew to make up it’s mind; finally, we had to wait for the after-effects of the hurricane (combined with a wicked cold front) to pass through. It’s getting cold. We’re ready to go south.
Unfortunately, the south might not be ready for us. We’re not the only boat that was waiting on Matthew; lots of folks stayed north longer than expected, and the ones that were already south of us parked and waited. Now traffic following the Annapolis Boat Show is piling on, and on top of everything, the Dismal Swamp is closed due to flooding. That means everyone is headed for the Virginia Cut, and traffic is nuts.
We’re trying to slow down, to let things clear out a bit. We hear the Alligator Creek is jammed with debris, and we’d like to let it recover. We also hear Madison got some frost last night, and it makes the sunshine and sand we’ve come across feel that much sweeter.
We absolutely do feel like we’ve entered a different landscape. We are approaching the Carolina lowlands–away from the Bay that felt more like the southern Great Lakes. We’re sad to say good-bye to the crabs (although we hear they’ll range a bit further south!) but are ready to find some shrimp.
These guys turned into nori rolls…
Mostly, we feel like we are once again turning a corner.
This trip has naturally divided itself: first, Lake Michigan; next, the North Channel; Erie and the Erie Canal; The Hudson and New York City; Delaware and Chesapeake Bay. Each segment means applying skills to new conditions–tides, bridges, anchoring. While our current skills seem to involve Dealing with Crowds, we hope things will ease up in the Albermarle Sound. We’re looking forward to what the Carolinas will bring.
Posted on October 11, 2016
One of the cool things I noticed when we started writing was that very few other blogs had two voices consistently providing content. I thought it was great that you could hear from both Michu and I; we have pretty different writing styles, and what we have to say is obviously not the same. But Michu’s been absent from the blog lately. Maybe you’d like to know what he’s been up to?
Since we left the boatyard up the Milwaukee River, Michu has:
- Connected the solar panels
- Installed and configured the solar charge controller
- Wired in and attached the (useless) Wifi antenna
- Installed a professional-looking loud hailer on the radar arch (doubles as fog horn, not just for yelling at drunk college kids)
- Installed lifting points in the dinghy
- Marked the anchor chain
- Installed a thwart and oars in the dinghy
- Rigged the dinghy to hoist off the arch
- Finished installing the autopilot
- Installed the inverter
- Fabricated and installed a panel at the nav station with a USB charger, A/C power and our sat phone
- Installed the sat phone antenna
- Replaced the drain hose for the galley sink
- Installed a flag halyard
- Fabricated and installed a new panel for the automatic bilge pump control panel
- Wired in a new bilge pump
- Installed a new high-capacity backup bilge pump
- Replaced the throttle cables and gear-shift cables for the diesel engine
- Repaired the diesel engine cooling system after a near-catastrophic failure
- Caulked the cockpit floor
- Repacked the stuffing box
- Fiberglassed repairs to the hand rails
- Aligned the diesel engine
- Planed down various cabinet doors to insure latching
- Tuned the rigging
- Resealed the lower unit on the outboard
- Installed a new mirror in the head
- Changed the oil in the diesel five times
- Finished installing the remaining LED cabin lights
This doesn’t include the many, many hours of general engine futzing (that’s what the professionals call it), both with our diesel and the now-defunct outboard. It’s also important to keep in mind, too, that everything takes much longer on the boat. There is no running out for the part you’re missing; there’s no setting up the table saw; there’s no leaving your project sitting out until tomorrow—someone probably needs to walk or cook or sleep in that space. If you spill diesel oil, it is a serious disasterville.
We are currently anchored next to a couple who’ve been cruising for almost seven years. They’re very do-it-yourself folks—they built up their boat from a blank hull—and when Michu opined about not yet having things done from his launch list, they laughed. They still have unfinished work, too—things they had felt were important before they left. In the meantime, though, they’ve been all around the Caribbean, to Colombia and to the San Blas.
So that’s what Michu’s been doing, instead of blogging. I would argue that our time overall has been better spent doing this work while we travel; obviously this is easy for me to say, since I’m not doing the work. Michu might argue that his life would have been much easier if we’d left a year later, and he’d been able to get more done while availing himself of certain crazy luxuries like “a car”, or “income” (and yeah, some of these projects have made a noticeable dent in our budget; see: outboard motor). But I’m not sure it would have been easier to pull F out of middle school; T might have had an even harder time leaving his friends. So the work will continue, at anchor or underway, as it does on all cruising boats, and hopefully someday soon, Michu will be able to tell you all about it.
Posted on October 6, 2016
Edit: this post was written last week. Since then Hurricane Matthew has crushed Haiti and is headed for the US via the Bahamas. We are safely hidden up a creek in the Chesapeake, and plan to wait for Matthew to go offshore before heading south.
We had to pull ourselves away from DC.
It is a wonderful place to be a cruiser, and a great place to visit with kids. Our spot in the Capitol Channel used to be wide open for anchoring, but development has curtailed that to a small spot near the police dock; our spot in the 6-bouy mooring field was serenaded each morning with construction and low-flying helicopters; but we were only blocks from the National Mall, two blocks from a great grocery store, and had access to the finest laundry and showers in all the land.
We started off our time just getting oriented–hiking the path from Air and Space, just north of our marina, all the way to the Lincoln Monument. It takes longer than you’d think. Fortunately–as we’d established in New York–our kids were built for walking.
All of the museums here are free, but as in New York, it’s easy to get overwhelmed; we had to be selective about what we’d choose to see. We already had our White House tour set up, as well as our Capitol tour; we decided to add to our list the Air and Space Museum, the National Archives, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Library of Congress. We also had to add in a few days for groceries, laundry, and relaxing; and visiting with Michu’s dad was high on the list. Honestly, we could have used two weeks, but even with an affordable mooring and free museums, being in a city is just inherently expensive. Oh, the coffeeshop temptations! Pizza, delivered to the marina! We are weak. We spend the money. So one week was our limit.
F has told us repeatedly that all she wanted for her birthday this year was a tour of the White House. It’s been one of our top priorities for the trip, and we’ve been managing our time carefully to make sure we didn’t miss our date. The tours are not easy to set up–you have to ask for one via your congressional representative, and your date isn’t confirmed until two weeks before the tour. There’s also a security check; I spend some cellular data inputting everyone’s passport info from our anchorage in Harbor Springs to keep our application moving along. Fortunately, we made the cut, and now we obviously don’t have to do anything else for F’s birthday.
The tour was restricted to the public rooms of the mansion, and is now self-guided–we think to allow more people to go through. F was thrilled. We did not see Bo.
I was more impressed by the National Archives, which contained not only the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but one of the original surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Rare documents: we are all about it.
Michu’s dad is a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian, so he was able to give us a personal tour of the museum, including an exhibit he curated on the Inka Trail.
T’s top priority: Air and Space. Michu’s too, probably. It’s an amazing place–so much of the history there is recent, that they’re able to have the actual vehicles used in some of the first moments in flight. The actual airplane flown by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk; the command module from Apollo 11; one of Amelia Earhart’s planes. Not to mention a fragment of moon rock that you can touch. There was so much awesomeness, we had to go twice.
We missed out on so much of the city: the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Supreme Court…not to mention the new Museum of the African American, which is supposed to be amazing (and which we hear is booked through about April). But we’re headed down south–unwinding our route through the Potomac, checking out the southern part of the Chesapeake, and making our way to Norfolk.
Posted on October 3, 2016
Boilerplate disclaimer: this is not what it will cost you to go cruising.
People’s constant advice, discussing cruising finances, always seems to be: It’ll cost what you have. We did not find this helpful in our planning, however true it may be. What we’re trying to show is the cost to us, more or less, for one month to go cruising. We’re going for monthly expenses, because they’re easier for us to track; so you won’t see the boat insurance amortized, you’ll just see that expense when we pay it. It won’t be what you’ll spend, but it was the kind of information that helped us out when we were trying to wrap our heads around that magical number for our cruising kitty.
Hey, remember last month, when I said we’d be returning to our frugal ways? Mwah, ha ha ha. Right. Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?
Marinas: $356 Grocery: $705.41 Restaurant: $369.78 Supplies: $534.76 Booze: $8.50 Ice Cream: $36.50 Laundry: $35.75 Transportation: $53 Communications: $50.10 Entertainment: $72.99 Pump Out: $20 Boat Parts: $1,599.90 Fuel: $141.27 diesel; $53.90 stove fuel; $10.50 dinghy Boat Work: $0
Grand Total: $4,348.86
I swear, we did better this month. We really did. Here’s what is throwing us off–two major capital improvement items:
- New outboard for the dinghy!! Because it has never run well. Because the parts we needed didn’t come in–again. Because Michu has devoted way too many hours of his life to resuscitating that sorry piece of equipment. We weighed the costs and the benefits and said, let’s pull the cord. Our new outboard is lighter, slightly less powerful, and doesn’t die. It’s the little things, I’m telling you…
- New violin for F!! We’d planned on replacing her half-sized violin in New York, but I had a hard time finding a place to buy an instrument that wasn’t a “purveyor of exceptionally fine strings,” which is not quite our wheelhouse. We were thrilled to find Music on the Hill in DC, within walking distance of the boat and carrying exactly what we needed. She’s practicing more with her new instrument, and the learning tapes are off. Success all around, even if it does make us look like budget-disregarding spendthrifts.
If you knock out those two big purchases, our budget for the month comes in at $2653.25. If we can shave down the restaurant expenses a bit, we’ll be looking awesome.