Sunday, 25 June 2017

Twenty Two Years On, We Return To Annapolis

Boat dreaming, in June 1995. This image captured with an early Digital camera, all of 756 pixels wide.

Way back in 1995 Ley and I visited Annapolis, playing the tourists while on a business trip to the United States. We were busy running a growing business, but we dreamed of sailing and cruising to places exactly like this. Two years later we purchased Crystal Blues and the dream became a reality.

So, almost exactly twenty two years after that first Annapolis visit, we're now able to sit on the same docks and look at our own floating home, moored just a 100 meters off shore. It does feel good!

Since the adventure began we've sailed over 50,000 nautical miles, crossed several major oceans and visited seventeen different countries. √Źn an email received yesterday, our friend Jim Cate encouraged us to "have as much fun as possible" while we are here. I can assure you Jim, we will keep trying!
Back In Annapolis, Older & A Little Wiser

Crystal Blues arrived in Annapolis on Friday afternoon after a down-wind run up Chesapeake Bay from Solomon's Island. We've taken a mooring for the weekend right off the town dock, which is ground zero for boat watching in this most nautical of cities. Members of the local Annapolis Yacht Club have hosted us to the club, so once again we are being looked after very well. Tomorrow we head further north up Chesapeake Bay, then enter the C&D Canal for a (hopefully) smooth transit through to the Delaware River.

Southern Hospitality

Here in Virginia, we've been blessed by southern hospitality - on arrival we were hosted by family friends (thanks Lael & Katherine!) who have a dock in beautiful Horne Harbor, a small tributary of the Great Wicomico River. Horne Harbour is a recognised Hurricane Hole, with steep forested banks plus a few homes peeking through the forest on the ridges above. Miles from the nearest town, it is both natural and rural. Otters and beavers live in the creek, there are deer and squirrels on shore, bald eagles and osprey nesting along the banks. It's a perfect anchorage, though the shallow entry needs a rising tide for safe navigation.

Horne Harbour - Peaceful, Pretty & Protected
After 10 days there we moved down river to Cockrell Creek, in the town of Reedville, staying on another private dock, this time as guests of Walter Keith and Mary Frazer who are, like us, members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). Walt & Mary volunteer as "cruising station" hosts for the area. We joined the SSCA about 18 years ago, and it has taken until this month to meet members on their home territory - what a great welcome they delivered.

Crystal Blues At Rest, Walt & Mary's Dock, Cockrell Creek

Rocking Chairs On The Balcony, With Walter & Mary

On Horne Harbour we were able to relax and enjoy the local environment, plus start a series of jobs on our maintenance list, including the removal and refinishing / bedding of another deck hatch.

Those jobs were completed on Cockrell Creek, with great assistance from Walt & Mary, who provided transport and a vehicle when we needed it.

They also managed to ramp our social life up by several notches, with sundown drinks on the balcony each evening, beautiful meals together and an introduction to the local community, specially through the Reedville Fisherman's Museum. The museum is only 100 paces from Walt & Mary's front door, and is an important social connector in the area. Members gather every second Friday evening for a pot luck sundowners session at the museum. Our first Sunday in town the museum also hosted a New Orleans Blues music event, with a great local band headlining - check out the Adrian Duke Project. With all that hospitality we felt quite at home in Reedville, also hosting locals onboard Crystal Blues.

Cockrell Creek Mast Work - A New Windex Instrument Installed
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings the wooden boat workshop at the Museum is in action, attracting a keen group of local volunteers, restoring vessels and building new ones. I was of course invited - its a great way to spend a day.

I think it's a little unkind for the local ladies to refer to it as the retired men's club - but whatever fits! The shed smells exactly like a wooden boat workshop should and is very well equipped.

These guys do great work - evidence is floating at the museum docks, with beautifully restored and maintained fishing vessels, both power and sail.

Our own work included removing the washing machine from the lazarette space, so it could be repaired on deck - this provided great entertainment for the locals. The machine has done great service since we installed it in Singapore 8 years ago, but the refit in Trinidad almost killed it - the exit hose was choked with anti-fouling paint. We also installed a new long range wi-fi receiver, in reality a wireless bridge, to replace our older Wave WiFi device - but that's news for a future story.

Reedville offers visiting cruisers a friendly and peaceful home, with several good restaurants and countless quiet and sheltered anchorages. Three local marinas can provide fuel, water and dockage if required.

Check the link below for more images of the beautiful Reedville village.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

New Cockpit Shades - Looking Swish Again

Beautiful New Cockpit Shade Covers
After 6 months on the hard stand in Trinidad, our cockpit covers were looking kind of shabby and unloved. Almost 8 years old, they had seen a lot of use in hot and steamy Asia, plus windy South Africa.

Ley purchased 40 meters of Ferrari Stamoid Top fabric in Singapore back in 2011, and over recent years she has sewn new shade covers for the fore deck and the midship area. The balance of that fabric roll was intended for new cockpit covers - a project Ley has just completed.

Why Stamoid Top? On the web, we found the following statement, by W Marine canvas:

"Stamoid Top is a vinyl-laminated (both sides) high-tenacity polyester.  Although Ferrari Stamoid makes a wide variety of yachting textiles I chose Stamoid Top due to its prevalence compared to the other Ferrari Stamoid products. This fabric is very durable and tolerates extreme long-term exposure quite well considering that many of the applications for which it is favored tend to remain installed year-round.  Stamoid should only be used for applications which do not require the fabric to breath since as a vinyl-coated fabric Stamoid will not breathe." Read more about the differences between Stamoid, Sunbrella and other similar materials here.

We whole heartedly agree with that review of the qualities of Stamoid Top. Longevity of the covers against UV damage and abrasion is excellent, specially when sewn with Tenara thread. Our covers were all sewn on Ley's Sailrite sewing machine with a walking foot.  Sewing with Tenara can be a bit of a challenge at first, as the thread needs quite tight tension to make a well balanced stitch, but it can be mastered with a little practice.

Cover Rolled Up, Inside View
We love the Stamoid white also for the diffused light it bathes the cockpit in on a sunny day, while reflecting most of the heat. Further, the fabric is not bulky to roll up and store.

 Both our boom shade tent and the new cockpit shades are attached with bolt rope tape sewn to the covers. This slides into a PVC bolt rope track that is screwed or pop riveted to the boat. This makes for a very secure installation, and also allows very easy installation and removal.
Cover Rolled Up, Outside View

Our covers are stowed in position, rolled up and secured with straps. It's simple to undo the drop-nose hooks and unroll the shades.

We use bungee cord and nylon hooks to clip quickly onto the life lines.  This combination allows us to have excellent shade, cool breezes and shelter from the rain when we need it.

Best of all, our outlook is not blocked and the cockpit remains dry in all but very heavy rain.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Charleston Hurricane Reminder

Like a sad and permanent warning sign, this sailboat has been high and dry on the banks of the Ashley River in Charleston, South Carolina, for the past 10 months or so. It dragged anchor during the last hurricane that passed by here.

One American friend told me that through the summer, he is "always looking over his shoulder" as he sails on this coast. You just can't tell when a hurricane will head your way.

In Australia, tropical cyclones don't extend much below 28degrees south, but on the US east coast hurricane impacts are felt all the way north onto Long Island, at 40 degrees north.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy killed over 40 people, destroyed 250,000 vehicles and flooded the New York subway system, shutting down business and cities all over Long Island and the New Jersey shore.

The storm surge was over 14 feet above normal high water.

Hurricane Matthew Passes North Of Us In 2016

Our (new) marine insurer, Y Yacht Insurance, asks us to be north of 36 degrees by June 1st, or we would not have cover for damage caused by "named storms" - this is not an uncommon condition, though some insurance companies allow cover to continue somewhat further south.

Needless to say, we'll cruise the US coast this summer somewhat cautiously, always watching over our shoulder. In reality, we're watching the 5 Day Tropical Weather Outlook on the NOAA web site, as per the image at right.

You can see the current NOAA Hurricane Center warnings, if any, by clicking here.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Charleston, South Carolina

We arrived in Charleston after a five day passage from Cuba, running north west through the Old Bahama Channel and then north up the coast of Florida and Georgia, riding the Gulf Stream current towards our first US landfall.  The current did not disappoint, giving us 10 and 11 knots over the ground for many hours.

Approaching Charleston in the early morning, we were surprised to see three large square rigged ships ahead of us, all waiting in the offing for Charleston Pilots to guide them in. On VHF radio we spoke with the tall ship Picton Castle, seen above, and learned that a tall ships festival was happening in Charleston that coming weekend.

We sailed on through the entry channel, all 15 miles of it, entered Charleston Harbour (without a pilot) and berthed at the Charleston City Marina, the Mega Dock. Welcome to the USA!

Checking in at the marina office we learned that our two day stay on the dock would cost over $300.00 Australian dollars, plus power and water of course, and plus taxes .... but OK, they do provide a great courtesy bus service, and the staff are very friendly, but ouch it sure costs. So we made the required phone call to US Customs & Border Protection, and soon enough were visited by two very courteous border protection officers, who cleared us into the United States and departed with all our citrus fruits, pork products, eggs etc. The fact that they asked us to throw all this "dangerous" stuff in the river makes a mockery of the actual risks associated with this produce - we refused, and insisted they take it with them for proper disposal (incineration). Maybe not such a great welcome after all!

Ah, but Charleston is just so genteel (and yes, I've been wanting to use that line for weeks). A city of only 20,000 odd souls, the major industry is tourism, followed closely by more tourism and then education coming in a distant third. A single cruise ship arriving in port will swell the population by more than 10%, but when they leave the old town is staggeringly beautiful, and the university students get on with life as they do anywhere else in the world - with music, good food and boundless optimism. Charleston was the major British trading port before the War of Independence, and also a major center for landing and selling slaves from Africa, so it does have a chequered history.

After a couple of days on the (expensive) Mega Dock, our bank manager insisted we move off, so we anchored in the designated anchorage area just off the marina, spending time with local resident friends we had first met in Trinidad.

Cutting Away The First Obstacle
Two days later it was time to leave, however our departure was rudely delayed by something big and ugly attached to our anchor chain. With about 20 meters of chain still out, and the windlass straining, we hauled to the surface a major ball of chain,  three anchors, rope rode, and general barnacle encrusted mess. Our chain was wrapped twice around this nightmare, which also had another chain running to the bottom, now drawn tight.

With over a knot of current running in the river it was going to be a challenge to clear this, so first we cut the other chain with our angle grinder, taking some pressure off. Then we were able to motor forward against the current and eventually flip the twists of our chain off the ball of anchors. It was too big to lift onboard, so then we cut it away and let it fall to the bottom. Next we continued retrieving our chain only to find our anchor was stuck fast on something big and heavy.  We engaged the chain stopper on deck and tried to motor off it, but only managed to blow a lot of diesel smoke in the air. At this point we decided to call a diving service and went forward to release our chain - we'd be here for another night - but found the chain stopper jammed by the rising tide.

Hooking Up The New Rocna & Swivel
Now we were truly stuck - the windlass couldn't haul chain in and the rising tide was rapidly pulling the bow under water. Out with the angle grinder again, and we proceeded to cut our own precious chain, abandoning the big Rocna anchor we purchased in Thailand.

Then it was back to the Mega Dock marina for three days while a replacement anchor was delivered to Charleston for us. We will not anchor in that part of Charleston Harbour again!

Despite these problems, our overwhelming memory of Charleston is positive, it is a great town for cruising visitors. An excellent anchorage is available off the James Island Yacht Club, just a few miles down stream, where we christened the new anchor before heading off into the North Atlantic again.