Saturday, December 19, 2009

What do These Two Creatures Have in Common?

Surprisingly there have not been many comments on this, I will just tell you that it's their rugged good looks and sexy crooked smile. OK, so maybe only one of them has those qualities and they probably don't actually have much in common...

A prize for the winning entry!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Rocky Voyage Followed by a Blustery Day

Well, we are off…again. It feels like we have had a few false starts, but, as one of my favorite sayings goes…”We cannot adjust the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” I suppose that’s what this lifestyle means; you just have to take what is presented to you. After much anguished evaluation of all the weather forecasts offered by NOAA, Weather Underground, Wind Finder, Passage Maker etc, we decided to take the ocean route to skip over the shallows of Georgia and head directly down to Florida. It can be very frustrating to track the weather with a plan in mind since the information changes on an hourly basis. What looks great for an ocean hop can easily change to a different picture a few hours later. But, the forecast held out for our departure on Monday afternoon, albeit borderline OK in my opinion. That allowed us one last lovely day with David and Gini. We relaxed, had another great dinner, watched the Dallas Cowboys get beaten (poor Gini) and topped off the evening with a movie. I also made yet another batch of peanut butter candy. We have developed a serious addiction to the stuff, thanks to Angie and KC, which I am not sure we can beat.

We left Callawassie at 1:30 PM on Monday December 8th using the high tide to safely navigate away from the pier and out the Colloton River. David was there and waved as we pulled away with all of us feeling just a little choked up. As we headed down the river, doing almost 10 knots with the receding tide, we were escorted by the Callawassie dolphins! Yes, I had been waiting for them to race the boat ever since first sighting them in North Carolina. Although we had seen many from afar, they never approached the boat. I supposed they were just too busy working to catch their dinner; that maybe the bad economy had left them no time to play. At long last, in Callawassie they came out in throngs. We would see them in the distance and as if they were curious, they would come over and then start swimming along the bow of the boat. This happened at least six times. Usually 2 or three would arrive and once there were five! It is so thrilling to watch them swerve back and forth under the boat and sometimes jump out of the water. I just can’t get enough of it. Then as quickly as they arrive, they abruptly veer off and disappear under the water.

Knowing that the wind was forecast to be 15-20 knots and the waves 3-5 feet, we left from Port Royal Sound into the ocean. The conditions were as predicted (or a little worse in my opinion) and we were in for a rough ride through the night with the waves meeting is on the stern quarter. This means that the boat rocks…a lot. Even letting out the mainsail didn’t really help much. If you are checking on our SPOT you may have noticed we zigzagged a few times through the night trying to get a better angle on the waves. Finally we just hunkered down and road it out for 14 hours. I have definitely decided that I do not like overnight crossings, unless there is a full moon and waves of 2 feet or less, which does not seem to be what we get. But, we arrived at Cumberland Sound safely and feeling very weary. Unfortunately, we were about an hour early and had to circle in the rough water waiting for the sun to come up as we will not transit an inlet in the dark (KC picked up on this when he checked out SPOT and thought we might have had a navigational mishap). It seemed like the sun would never rise, but once it did we safely navigated through St. Mary’s Inlet and anchored at Fernandina Beach FL.

We then set to work cleaning up the boat. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to successfully batten down all the hatches. I was sure I had it this time, but while underway our nav station chair mysteriously managed to break away from its’ bungee and both computers flew off the desk along with papers and other paraphernalia. Luckily everything survived undamaged. Once we cleared the clutter we had a hot shower and hit the sack where we both slept soundly for the next 3 hours. We then ventured ashore and were greeted by a lovely historic little town all lit up for Christmas. Today we again went to the town and I had a bit of time to shop between having lunch and ice cream. I actually purchased 5 presents! We also checked out the Palace Saloon, in a building built 1878. The saloon has been in continuous operation since 1903, the longest in Florida, and the bar and woodwork are original. The story goes that during prohibition the owner secretly stashed $60,000 of booze in a boat in the harbor and served in the house of ill repute above the ice cream store!

It has been a very blustery day but fun to be in a new place again…it feels like the adventure finally continues! Tomorrow we head south in the shelter of the ICW with St. Augustine the planned destination. Right now a thunderstorm is approaching…better go batten down the hatches!

Note: I included a picture of our ceiling so you can appreciate Lynn's beautiful workmanship!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Suspended Animation

That is the state it feels like we have been in for the past 11 days. If you have been following Coyote SPOT you will have noticed it has not budged in quite a while. After wondering if we would stay in Beaufort through Thanksgiving, we have been here for that, plus 9 days! As a result of enjoying ourselves, waiting out yet another storm and having generator woes, we have managed to significantly overstay our welcome here at David and Gini's. Just kidding, they have been incredibly gracious hosts despite our extended visit. I told them we may just stay here forever! I think they are starting to believe me. We have definitely had our boat at the River Club longer than anticipated and have been drawing the attention of the local residents since we are almost certainly the largest vessel thay have seen docked there. They don't seem to mind though and it has been fun being the subject of discussion!

It has been a very nice time here. David had surgery recently and has thankfully been fairing very well. He and Lynn have had a great time just hanging around together...the two of them can putz for hours! You all know what Lynn is like...can you imagine two of the same time?!

After recovering from Thanksgiving dinner, we have been spending our time living the good life. This has involved lunches at the club and cocktails with friends (the Potrykus')...visits to local community fairs and yoga in the in lovely southern towns like Bluffton and Beaufort...leisurely morning breakfasts and walks along the golf course...a festive evening in Beaufort with a Christmas tree lighting and the Paris Island Marine Band playing dixieland-style carols. This is all the regular routine for David and Gini (plus golf thrown in!). I can't believe how quickly the days go by. I really can't remember how I managed to find time for work. I guess I will have to do that again in the not-so-distant future, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying this time out.

When Lynn and I were finally ready to tear ourselves away from this life of luxury, we spent a few days getting the boat back in order, which included Lynn diligently changing the oil in the engine and the generator. All went swimingly until he discovered that a breaker switch had broken in the process. No generator, no power. Uh OH! So, the next two days were spent in a race against time on our battery charge to track down the necessary breaker...a typically unusual, expensive, hard-to-come-by, marine-style 42 amp breaker that is. He finally contacted someone who could help by overnighting the part to us. It arrived this morning and we were back in business in a few hours after Lynn deftly reinstalled it with surgeon-like precision in the usual cramped space. We held our breaths as we started up the unit and shouted out with a big hurray when it purred into action. Whew...just in time to prevent the thaw of all our meat provisions!

So, I have checked the weather and it is looking good for an ocean hop from Port Royal Sound to Cumberland Sound in Florida. It will take about 18 hours and we should arrive there on Monday morning...yippee! After such a long wait we have started to lose our sea legs and some of our momentum. It is definitely time to be going again. But, we will be sad to say goodbye to David and Gini and really can't begin to thank them enough for helping us out while here and offering us their home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving in Beaufort SC

Today I sit here in Gini and David's house (Lynn's brother and wife) in Beaufort SC feeling great (and full) after an incredible Thanksgiving feast held yesterday at their friends the Wojciks. I may not have to eat again for about three weeks. This is most definitely my favorite holiday. You get all the pleasure of being with friends and family, plus turkey dinner, without the commercial trappings of Christmas. Sue and Greg were brave enough to provide a sit down dinner to a group of around 30 people that included their close friends and many of their children and grandchildren. As I looked around the gathering I thought this was exactly what the day was about and Lynn and I were indeed so grateful to be included in this wonderful group of extended families.

When we left Baltimore we thought we may not hang around in Beaufort long enough for Thanksgiving, but after waiting out the 4 days in Norfolk we began to wonder if we would actually make it to Beaufort in time! As it finally turned out, we had 10 days of great traveling weather and arrived on Tuesday. Along the way we had some very pleasant stops and discovered a few new places. Swansboro NC was an unexpected highlight. We anchored there overnight and had time to explore the little town. It has a kind of western town feeling with clapboard storefronts like you see in the movies. We stopped into a great Irish pub where KC bought us a beer. Lynn may have actually set a record as the easiest drunk when he declared feeling lightheaded after consuming a Mich Ultra! I knew he was a lightweight, but that takes the cake! We also enjoyed an outstanding spaghetti dinner at La Trattoria (yes friends, some things never change).

The next stop was Wrightsville Beach where we met up with Lynn's grandson Ryan, who is attending college at the University of North Carolina at Wrightsville. It was so cool that we literally pulled over to the side of the ICW at Dockside Bar to dock overnight about 5 minutes away from Ryan's residence! He came over for dinner and a visit, which was enjoyed by all. It was so great to see Ryan and I think both grandfather and grandson were very happy to be together even if it was just for a short time.

The next night we arrived at Myrtle Beach and again stopped in a Marina overnight. There we met Angie, KC's wife, who drove down from Virginia to pick him up. So, in about six hours Angie travelled the same distance we had for the past 7 days! That evening we had the luxury of a car and opted to go out for dinner at Fibber's on the ICW, moving faster than I had in several weeks, a strange feeling. It was a fun night and a lovely treat from KC and Angie. Sadly though, this was where KC left us and we were again on our own when we left the next day. We really miss having KC on board. He was a very pleasant companion and a huge help with so many things. Plus I thoroughly enjoyed his humor and ongoing commentaries about the people and sights we passed. Things we learned from KC: how to make peanut butter candy; how to use the trip odometer on the GPS; they are called fenders, not bumpers; how to hang the lines out to dry; how to eject a stubborn DVD from the computer (I swear it wasn't blocked KC); stuff about water pumps and engines (OK, Lynn learned that, I didn't pay much attention); and most importantly, how to relax and enjoy the moment...he definitely has his priorities in order.

After leaving Myrtle Beach we had four more successful travel days without incident, anchoring out most nights. We encountered numerous boats and traveled alongside with a few for a time. It's funny when that happens; I actually feel a bit like I have been dumped by a boyfriend when they decide to head off on their own way. On Wednesday we were joined on board by Gini and David and we departed the ICW to venture up the Chechessee River and then into the Collaton River, where we have docked our boat at the Callawassie Island community pier. It felt adventurous since the rivers are not marked and we were a little uncertain of the depths at the dock...but, we managed well and the boat is floating, but probably sitting on bottom at mean low tide. We will stay here until we have a good weather window to travel in the ocean to Florida, or they kick us out, whichever happens first. It feels very nice to relax in their beautiful home after 10 days of travel. It is surprisingly exhausting to travel in the ICW with very early mornings and long days in the fresh air watching for the turns and being on the alert for shoals. We have been pleasantly surprised that the ICW depths have been good, even in areas notorious for bad shoaling. We never touched bottom...which is a first.

So, I will sign off now. I must get ready for a soiree we are hosting on the boat for Gini and David's Callawassie friends. I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend...we miss you all!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Underway Again...Finally!

After being stalled in Norfolk for four (long) days, we finally left again on our southern journey on Sunday morning. We spent our days in Norfolk exploring the city…didn’t take long…going to the grocery store, the movies and the mall. We saw Amelia (the story of Amelia Ehrhart) while there, which was very inspirational. But, I would have been fine if they had decided to change the ending…who cares about historical accuracy. We definitely ate well as there was plenty of time to cook. I have been trying to perfect peanut butter candy and we have been overdosing on sugar while taste testing. But, I think I finally have it down. We toured the USS Wisconsin, which was very cool. The evenings were occupied with a dominoes tournament with numerous made-up rules. So far KC is in the lead, but we are planning the grudge match tonight. I may just have to change the rules again.

There are two possible ICW routes out of Norfolk…the Virginia Cut and the Dismal Swamp cut (much prettier than the name would indicate). The former is more traveled and the latter is less so because it is shallow with a controlling depth of only 6 feet. Both were closed after the storm because of malfunctioning locks and fallen trees. The Dismal Swamp was the first to reopen, so we took it! We moved slowly through the shallow waters and bumped underwater logs at least 20 times. It felt a lot like African Queen, especially when the logs we hit sounded like torpedoes. I thought Lynn might have to pull a Humphrey Bogart and start dragging us through the water. We did hit an overhead low hanging tree with our mast and were showered with small limbs and leaves. We faired much better than one of the boats we saw on the way who were caught in the current while waiting for the lock bridge to open. They were swept into the trees which tore the mizzen mast right off. Our timing was perfect though and we made both locks just in time for their scheduled openings. After leaving the second lock we decided to anchor overnight in an unused barge channel tied up to the old, overgrown bulkhead. It turned out to be a perfectly peaceful setting. Along the way we joined up with another sailboat called Plan B and have been traveling with them ever since.

The next morning we left for Elizabeth City, which was only about 20 miles further south but we had heard so much about their hospitality to mariners that we wanted to see it for ourselves. Besides, they offer free dockage for 48 hours, hard to pass up. Before arriving we spotted a metal silhouette of a man across the canal from a few houses. It was riddled with bullets apparently from their target practice…a little disconcerting. KC figured it was much more effective than a plain old No Wake sign. “We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.”

We were not disappointed when we reached our destination where we were greeted by Sam, who is in his eighties and has been the local dockhand for the last 7 years. He expertly helped us tie up and then told us about all that Elizabeth City has to offer…he even told me I had a beautiful name! That evening they had a party for all the boaters with wine and cheese and roses for the women. The greeters are called Rose Buddies and are carrying on the tradition of a local resident (think his name was Fred??) who for many years greeted the incoming boaters in this way and gave the ladies a rose from his garden. He died in 2007 in his nineties…I wish I could have met him. We have already met lots of other cruisers, including a group from Montreal with whom I was able to practice my French. I am definitely rusty, but managed to make them all laugh so I guess I wasn’t doing too badly. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

We were back underway this morning at 6:30 AM and have crossed the Albemarle sound without incident, albeit a little rocky and rolly, and are now traversing the Alligator canal, a 20-mile long, straight and narrow passage. At the end we will anchor in the Pungo River. It is a beautiful day. We are all smiling and feeling good. Right now Lynn is at the helm while I write this and KC is doing some exercises on the foredeck…I may have to get him to swab them next! That’s all for now, I think it may be nap time.

Hmmm…nap never happened as we anchored soon after in a lovely cove off the Pungo River. We then discovered our water pump was not working…so no hot shower either. But, Lynn and KC have managed to fix it just now so we can finally relax and enjoy the evening. It’s great having someone else to help out around here!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Soggy Start

Off we go again…well, sort of. As our friends and family know, Lynn and I have been preparing for this second journey for the last few months…with the more intense provisioning and last minute work happening these past few weeks. We finally set off at 12:30 PM on Monday, November 9th. Unlike the last time when we left in the middle of a snow storm, the conditions in the Chesapeake Bay were ideal with flat calm water and relatively warm temperature. Although we could not sail (wind was too low and on the nose), motoring was very comfortable. We decided to continue overnight and get to Norfolk, which seemed prudent as there was a predicted Nor’easter for Tuesday night so we wanted to get safely tucked in before it arrived. More on that later…

Back to getting ready. Lynn spent last winter installing a new ceiling in the salon and galley. In his words…he outdid himself! It is absolutely beautiful with gleaming white panels and custom teak trim. We installed solar panels and a new autopilot, which operated perfectly throughout the first leg down the Bay. But most importantly, Lynn has a brand new ice maker that makes perfect little cubes to keep him in ice heaven. So, we are finally getting close to having the boat fully outfitted, at which point we will have to start replacing some of the things we started with…it really is never ending. But, we are definitely very happy with the condition of our vessel for this cruise.

The last month or so has also been filled with send offs by our friends and family. I was starting to worry that people were getting tired of saying goodbye! My work girlfriends treated me to a lovely dinner and some of my workmates took me out for lunch. We had dinner with several of our friends, including Joe, Carol, Chris and Lu from Havre de Grace, Butch and Rosemary, Peg and John and George and Delores from the dock. Lynn’s kids and grandkids came out for a brunch again and we had a great time eating and hanging out on the boat. I love to see Lynn with his family, it makes him so happy. Thank you to everyone for such nice farewells…

Now for the soggy part. While we knew that we would be affected by the remnants of hurricane Ida, the weather forecasts were predicting up to 30 knot winds and about one day of rain. Based on that information (or misinformation as it turns out), we decided to head down the bay and wait it out in Norfolk. Lynn’s nephew KC met us here (in Norfolk) on Tuesday night and will be traveling with us until he has to go back to work or gets tired of us, whichever happens first. It may be the latter since we have now been stuck on the boat for three days waiting out Ida. Had the weather predictions been more accurate, we would have definitely made different plans.

OK, the previous paragraph was written yesterday. At that point we decided to go for a walk in the rain to get some air and “blow the stink off” as Lynn would say. When we ventured out from the boat we discovered that the Norfolk flood gates were closed and the headlines read “Nor’easter Packs a Punch”. Yes, we are in fact in the middle of an historic storm that is wreaking havoc along the south east coast, causing record tidal flooding and beach erosion. We spent the afternoon on a blustery walk and roaming the mall. Later I did a little sewing project to make a seat for my tush at the helm and the boys did something else while giving me helpful hints.

Around 5 PM, KC took a peak outside and discovered that the floating docks were actually about to float right off the pilings! By about 6:30 PM they did…which needless to say caused us some stress. The storm was at its worst with heavy rain and winds gusting over 50 knots. Apparently the resultant tidal surge is equal to that of hurricane Isabel. After much consternation and discussion between Lynn and the dock hands (one of whom broke two fingers in the process), they tied the dock to some pilings and we made it through the night. As an aside, the people on the boats on either side of us poked their heads out of their cabins a few times but didn’t seem the least bit concerned that we all were about to float away en masse! Today we woke to more of the same, although the wind and rain has died down somewhat and we seem to be holding on to the dock. KC says we have been having a three day slumber party! We plan to make some peanut butter candy (a Hershfeld family tradition I just recently discovered) and maybe play some games. We are hoping that we will be able to recommence our travels by tomorrow.
I had wondered what I would have to write about this time around but it turns out that we started our trip in the middle of the storm of the decade! Definitely good fodder for story telling. But, all is well now and other than dealing with an annoying leak in the master cabin and feeling soggy and a little frustrated, we are doing just fine. I don’t think I would have said so last night, but I still love cruising…you never know what it will bring. Stay tuned for the next blog when I will hopefully have more to tell you about than being stuck in Norfolk!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Welcome to our Seafaring Tale

This is the blog of Lynn and Beth, who traveled from Baltimore MD to the Bahamas and back in our 50-foot Gulfstar, Coyote. We made the journey from December 2007 to April 2008 and attempted to record most of the adventure here. I hope you enjoy reading…for those who are particularly interested, you should start at the beginning of the saga by going to the archived blogs.

The journey ends...but the adventure is just beginning...

Well, hello again…is anyone out there? I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I last wrote a blog about the grand Coyote Adventure. I suppose I have been unwilling to face that the journey came to an end, but I have decided it is just a new beginning to the adventure.

When I last left off we had stopped in Cumberland Is., Georgia. We spent a lovely few days wandering through the live oak and strolling on the immense beach along with the wild horses. We also saw naval ships accompany inland what appeared to be a foreign submarine. As planned, we departed at dusk to head north in the ocean…arriving in Beaufort SC late the following afternoon. We resumed our shifts at the helm and, as I recall, the trip was reasonably comfortable with fairly big rollers off the stern quarter. Unfortunately our autopilot continued to misbehave and we decided that we were not going to continue ocean cruising without it working.

Beaufort was great…we docked at the Beaufort City Marina and had a nice visit with David and Gini (our crew on the voyage to the Bahamas) and explored the town. We also hoisted Cindy in a Bosons chair to the top of our 65-foot mast to retrieve our radar reflector which had again cut itself loose…she is such a brave girl! We left a few days later and continued north, this time in the ICW. We stopped in Charleston SC, where we stayed just one night, but it was fun. We took the Marina shuttle into the center of town and wandered around and then had dinner in a fabulous little Italian restaurant of, you guessed, Lynn’s choosing. It really is a cool place where one could spend much more time exploring.

We had to pay very close attention to the depths while we traveled in the ICW as there were many areas with rather severe shoaling. I used Skipper Bob’s site on the Internet to get the latest information on shallow spots, which proved to be very useful in at least alerting us to be extra diligent in certain areas. Not sure how often we hit bottom, but Lynn had to power us off a number of times. I do remember one spot where we got stuck on the bottom three times on a single turn…but, we never needed assistance getting off again.

We stopped at several Marinas on the way because it is tricky finding good anchorages for a boat our size and timing stops between bridge openings and nightfall. One stands out where Lynn had to make a sharp turn and slide the boat in with only a few inches to spare below us and rocky outcrops on both sides of the very narrow entrance. We chose the spot because they had cheap gas, but somewhat regretted that decision when we realized how difficult it was going to be to get back out. As usual, Lynn handled the situation expertly and our worry was unfounded.

The other town that stands out for me was Oriental NC. We made an unplanned stop there when we arrived in the Neuse River and were greeted by very high winds and waves. When we realized how uncomfortable the trip north would be, we decided to turn east and stop over in Oriental for the night…which became three nights. But, it is a fabulous small fishing town where we had so much fun exploring, attending the dog parade and photographing the picturesque fishing boats. It is definitely a cruiser-friendly place. Sadly though, this was where Cindy decided to leave us and head back to Cleveland. Despite coming very close to begging her to stay, she was determined that this was the best time for her to reenter reality. Anyone who knows Cindy understands how futile trying to change her mind would be. I was amazed that we could spend a full month in such close quarters and really, honestly, not want her to leave. It was very sad and quiet for a little while without her happy giggles.

Lynn and I then completed the last leg of our journey as a twosome, which I feel was right. We did have a few more misadventures before arriving home, including a scary morning when we couldn’t raise our anchor in 40-knot wind as it kept overpowering the windless. We finally manage to lift the anchor and made the prudent decision to wait out the weather yet again in Coinjock NC. There we rested and did some laundry. We also met John, a person we will likely never forget…he was such a trip! We had just tied up when he came zooming in on his approximately 30-foot sailboat. He put our feelings of bravery in perspective as an 80-year-old who had just single handed the journey to the Bahamas and back! We had dinner with him that evening, and thoroughly enjoyed his tales of traveling through life. We all left the next morning heading for Norfolk VA, where Lynn and I planned to spend the night and John, I expect characteristically, was going to continue up the Chesapeake Bay.

The next morning, we started the last long trek up the Bay, anchoring near Deltaville and in Annapolis MD. Our final day was a cold, wavy one. We were very happy to finally arrive in Baltimore where most of Lynn’s kids and grand kids were waiting on the dock…such a perfect welcome home.
So, we have come full circle. The adventure proved to be everything we hoped it would be…and we can’t wait to do it all over again…who knows what will be in store for us next time. We learned so much on our shakedown cruise, but, there is still so much more to learn. We have spent the winter living in our condo. Yes, it does feel like a bit of a live-aboard cop out, but winter on a boat in the Bahamas is quite a different thing than winter on a boat in Baltimore! We (OK, mostly Lynn) are now working on improving and outfitting the boat for the next trip. We will be finishing the interior and adding additional power sources, like wind and solar power. Lynn’s wish is to install a watermaker and paint the deck, but we will need to see whether all of it can be accomplished within time and budget! I have been spending my time working and developing skills that I hope will translate into work I can do when not cruising. Our plan right now is to start south in early November and we’ll just see where it takes us…