Reality bites

Hey Internet,

Thank you for reading our blog and for your positive words of encouragement since we started writing. Regrettably, this will probably be the last post we do on this trip. Some things have come up and we are going to halt our journey. I will go back to Philly for a while and Kasy will stay in St. Petersburg, Florida.

That said, I again have waited too long to update you on our journey, so I’ve got a month’s worth of pictures and information to share.

When last I wrote, we were sitting on a mooring in Fernandina Beach, about to wait out a storm. The current and chop in the harbor, combined with strong winds, were enough to strand us on the boat for one day and to strand us on shore for another day. To be clear, this was because we have a rowing dinghy (no motor) and in those conditions rowing a dinghy to and from the boat was very dangerous. However, we did have a good time because of some highly hospitable locals (Thanks Jason and Anna!) that we came to know.

After one harrowing row back to Stout one night, we continued down the ICW a short distance to St. Augustine, where we managed to meet up with our friends on Finest Kind yet again! We spent a day walking around St. Augustine, “the oldest city”, which is a very interesting place but very tourist-trappy.

We stayed a couple of days, hung out more with Finest Kind, and then took off again. About fifteen miles south of St. Augustine is the Matanzas River, which was the site of another Spanish fort built in the 16th century. There is a free ferry you can take to the fort and a free tour given by the National Park Service. This fort was built to ensure that no intruders would attempt to go up the Matanzas River to attack St. Augustine. There were people stationed here consistently for almost a century, and they only fired a cannon 7 times that entire time, and never hit any vessels. I had fun imagining how a bunch of bored Spanish military personnel would entertain themselves during all that time.

After this pleasant anchorage situation, we took off again down the ditch. This time our goal was Vero Beach, where we planned to leave the boat for a week and go visit Kasy’s sister Kym. This period of time was very tough because we, mostly I, had completely lost patience with the ICW. And then in the process of planning an offshore excursion to Vero Beach, the engine started giving us problems, so we decided to go inshore. Each night we would troubleshoot, and each day we would listen to every noise the engine made, praying that it wouldn’t quit on us during a bridge opening, tight turn or some otherwise stressful situation. So the pictures here look great, but maybe this is a great example of how things are more complicated in real life than they appear on the Internet.

The engine problems were solved by replacing all of the fuel filters and bleeding the system repeatedly. With that out of our way, getting to Vero Beach for us was like finding the Holy Grail. For months, ever since we figured out that the marina there had the cheapest moorings available on Florida’s East Coast, we had been fixated on it. When we get to Vero, it will be warm. We’ll be able to take a break. We’ll go to Kym’s and not worry about making miles the next day.

In Vero, we ended up having to raft to another boat, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened. We rafted up to Ken and Luiselle, a retired couple cruising around on a 30′ Allied Seawind Fair Winds, same type of boat as Finest Kind. Apparently these boats contain the best of human beings. They had all sorts of advice for us, and were very impressive people. Ken sailed the boat for years by himself, and since he only has one arm, he is a true singlehander. They proved to us (and the world) that being retired doesn’t have to mean living on the largest boat possible with all the bells and whistles. (When I’m retired, I want to be like them.)

I obviously forgot to take pictures while we were still attached at the hip to their boat, but here is Luiselle waving goodbye.

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This is pretty confusing, but here’s what happened: we left Stout in good care, rafted to Fair Winds, and Kym and her husband Eddie picked us up in Vero Beach. They had to drive two hours to get there (They live near Ft. Lauderdale) but we had no choice but to stop in Vero Beach, because every marina south of that was outrageously expensive, and our frayed nerves and tempers needed a break. We had a great five days, being fed extravagantly and hanging out with Kasy’s family.

Since Kym and Eddie are wonderful people, they insisted on going grocery shopping for us before we got there. Not being able to turn this down, we gave them a long list and it was all waiting for us when we got there. While there, we began to formulate another plan: through a series of friendships, we got connected with someone with a dock in Ft. Lauderdale at which we could leave Stout while we waited for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. That way, Stout would only be a short drive from Kym’s house and we could visit… again!

So they drove us back to Vero Beach, where we still had stuff to do. We put all the food away, installed a new radio we had ordered, and climbed the mast several times. Kasy changed the oil in the engine and replaced a fuse that was blown from being too aggressive with the starter switch. With everything in working order, we said goodbye to Ken and Luiselle and headed south.

We traveled 10 miles to the Ft. Pierce inlet, anchored for the night, and then went offshore from Ft. Pierce to Lake Worth, which was 50 miles. We left at 4AM and found our way out of the inlet in the dark, which was an adventure all on its own. The red and green lighted channel markers on the chart look like a straight shot, but against the pitch black ocean all the lights appear to be the same distance away. It was very nerve-wracking despite the fact that each light flashes at different time intervals. I guess you get used to this sort of thing with experience.

Once we reached the ocean, we sailed south for two hours in the dark, and then watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. There was a steady 15-20 kt north-northwest breeze, and we were running with the swells. In other words, pretty ideal conditions for us.

The breeze lasted all day, so we sailed downwind until 4PM when we reached the inlet. After a stressful moment of heaving-to in order to wait for a gigantic cruise ship to enter the harbor, we threaded our way in against the current through hundreds of sport fishing boats and a sailboat race. Feeling accomplished, we finally anchored and slept like babies.

In Lake Worth, we were forced to sit at anchor through two days of gales and rain. The final night was so rough that we got out our lee cloths, the hammock-type things we attach to the sides of the settees to keep from rolling onto the floor. After the weather cleared, we knew we had to face a day of Florida’s infamous bridge traffic; with our offshore jaunt we had done our best to avoid this up until now, but had to face it in order to get to the “free” dock.

So off we went, through 14 bridge openings in one day. To be honest it was not nearly as bad as we thought it would be. Our VHF got a workout, but most of the bridge tenders were very courteous.

So we did find that free docking situation, which we are very lucky to have, because otherwise we’d be out of money by now. We’re at Kym and Eddie’s house again, where we have been trying to work out our situation.

As I said earlier in this post, things are much more complicated than they appear on the Internet. I’ve shared with you the best and most memorable of times, but there are many things about cruising that are more stressful than I was willing/able to explain here. It’s incredibly sad that we have decided to stop the trip at this point, but we’ve been forced to address the reality of our personal lives and how they have affected our situation.

Until next time, readers, stay inspired.

 

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So close

Hello from Fernandina Beach, Florida! Yes, we made it to Florida, which is 300 miles long and we’re at the very north tip of it, but still, it’s not too cold here. To all our friends in the northeast, we hope this weekend’s storm isn’t too bad. Just remember, even though everyone in Philly seems to be freaking out, that this happens every year. You know what to do!

We soon grew weary of Charleston, after a few days of rowing a mile through raging currents just to get to shore. But the coolest thing was that our friends on Finest Kind showed up in Charleston, then almost left because the anchorage was so terrible, and then decided to stay put. We spent some time huddling in each other’s boats, and finally realized that Charleston was not going to be the land of milk and honey we hoped it would be. So we invested our hopes and dreams in a new place: Beaufort.

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Steering, with my butt, down the ICW

On the way to Beaufort, there is an island called Morgan Island, which we heard had feral monkeys living on it. So, obviously, we had to go. After looking into it, we found out that this is the largest of six islands that the government owns and uses to breed monkeys for “scientific research”. I didn’t gather that they were torturing these monkeys, but we didn’t quite approve. We did see some monkeys on shore while we were approaching, but a patrol boat buzzed through and scared them away.

So we headed to Beaufort which is much more transient-friendly than Charleston. There is a free dock that you can tie up to all day, as long as you leave between 1 and 6AM. The anchorage only sucks a little bit. And Beaufort was a cool town! So cool that the crew of Finest Kind decided to stay there for a few extra days, while Kasy and I figured we should probably keep trucking.

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Bidding farewell again to our friends

And truck we did, from South Carolina into Georgia. The ICW in Georgia is a winding patchwork of waterways going through the middle of nowhere. It’s notorious for not being maintained or dredged for lack of funds. So we figured we would just try to get through it as quickly as possible. It wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be, and was beautiful in parts.

One of the more memorable parts of Georgia was St. Catherine’s Island. The island is a protected wildlife refuge and the only people allowed on it are scientists. However, we were anchored right next to it so I just… went ashore. Because I wanted to. And found some cool things.

For two out of the ten days it took us to get through Georgia, we were stuck at anchor because of weather, not being able to move or get off the boat. We kept going to bed thinking our anchorage was protected, and then would be woken up in the middle of the night by lumpy waves. I was getting a little stir crazy. I kept cooking elaborate things to entertain myself, and figured out how to make scones in a frying pan (I will photograph this next time). Also, made some good soup, and what not. We only saw and talked to ONE (1) human the whole time we were in Georgia, and that was when we were getting fuel.

The most eventful Georgia day was crossing the Sapelo Sound. That day the wind was blowing a sustained 25 knots and opposing the strong current, so short choppy waves were happening. We had the jib up and the motor going, but the wind was blowing right out of the channel. When we took the jib down and tried to motor straight into the waves, our speed dropped to 1kt (from 5) and we felt like we were on a broken roller coaster. We figured the only way we would get across was to tack, which we did, still very uncomfortably. At the end of that day, we anchored near Little Sapelo Island, where we found an abandoned house in the wilderness.

And then, drumroll please, WE WENT OFFSHORE! Finally the conditions were right and we decided to do our first offshore jump from St. Simon’s island to Fernandina Beach, a day’s run of about 40 nautical miles. In order to time our exits and entrances with favorable tides, we got up at 4, put the dinghy on the cabin top, hoisted our radar reflector, and left at 5:30 AM. It was still dark for the first hour, so we navigated using a spotlight to see unlit channel markers. That got us on our toes. But then the sun began to come up as we sailed away from land (sailed! yes!) and it was glorious.

The ocean swells were about 3 feet and felt very gentle. The wind was shifting around and sometimes died on us, so we were forced to motor sometimes just to keep going. We were 10 miles out, and the water was still only 30 feet deep. It felt great to be on open water, to know that we weren’t going to hit anything, and to finally get an offshore experience.

We got to St.Mary’s entrance to Fernandina around 2PM, where we encountered the biggest swells of the day (due to increasingly shallow water closer to shore). It was pretty uncomfortable since there was absolutely no wind, so we couldn’t put any sails up for stability. And we casually passed a nuclear submarine heading out to sea. Actually it wasn’t that casual; we were ordered to stay 500 yards away from this massive hulking submarine, so we had to bounce around outside of the channel for a while.

And then Fernandina, what a lovely town. We hadn’t seen people or civilization in nearly two weeks, so we figured burgers would be a good form of reunion. Also, we made friends with a pelican that swam alongside us as we tried to anchor in the harbor, keeping pace with the boat and swimming against the current. He was staring into my soul and making it very hard to concentrate on anchoring.

We’re hanging out here until this freaky storm passes, and then we can go for South Florida!

 

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Wahhh

Hi from Charleston, South Carolina, Intracoastal Waterway mile 570! That means we’ve gone 570 miles down this ditch since Norfolk, which we left on December 11, and about 400 since we last wrote. It seems ridiculously fast for us, but we have been pushing ourselves and going 30+ miles every day, just to keep moving south.

To be perfectly honest, our Intracoastal Waterway experience since we left Oriental has been less than magical, so even though parts of it have been beautiful, we’re getting pretty bored. Mostly, it’s because you have to motor down the ICW, not sail. And sailing is… well, kind of the point of having a sailboat. We have stopped in Charleston to give ourselves a break, get a lot of boat work done, and wait for a weather window to go offshore and get our sailing legs back.

There are many reasons our experience hasn’t been as fun as it could be. The weather has been wet and the wind has been blowing from the south. It’s also been unseasonably warm, so the humidity has produced an interesting musk inside the cabin. The ICW is also difficult to navigate. We count on a combination of our GPS, 10-year old paper charts, and the Skipper Bob guide. We take turns steering every hour, but much of the time it takes both of us to figure out the markers so we don’t run aground–which we have, twice. Though not disastrously.

The other thing we’re not used to is strong currents and large tidal ranges. In the Chesapeake, there was barely any current in most places, and tidal differences did not exceed 3 feet. But the Carolinas have presented us with many challenges. Since the ICW is basically a ditch running down the coast, there are numerous inlets to the ocean. The tide forces water into these inlets in all different directions, and since you might pass three or four inlets in a single day, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether you will be going with or against the current at any given time. We have a one-cylinder Yanmar engine which drives us at average speeds of 4.5 knots, and does not compete well with 3-knot currents. However, when the current is favorable, it’s awesome–notice the picture of the GPS says 6.3 knots!

Okay, enough complaining. We have had some fun. We had a proper Christmas celebration of Star Wars and Chinese takeout in Wrightsville Beach, and that was fantastic.

Also, on New Year’s Eve we anchored in a deserted marsh, where we rowed around and explored an abandoned wreck, then witnessed all the fireworks that happened within 10 miles. We did find it difficult to stay up past midnight, though.

And we’ve witnessed lots of pretty weather too.

And some unusual stuff, too.

We’re glad to be in Charleston, and it’s been pretty nice to us so far aside from the mile-long row to the dinghy dock. We even got a free slice of pecan pie because Kasy is so charming.

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“i’ll trade you some pie for your boyfriend”

We’ll see you when the weather clears.

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Dolphins and monkeys

It’s about 60 degrees here in Oriental, North Carolina, so instead of the holidays getting closer, it seems as if time is reversing. It worked… we headed south, and now it’s sort of warm!

Last time I wrote, we were in Philly visiting family and friends. Now we are in our sixth state of the trip. When we got back to Virginia, we spent a ridiculous amount of time at our friend’s house before we managed to leave. We had a serious case of “leaving tomorrow”, which is a highly contagious affliction that particularly affects cruising sailors. Our only excuse was that we needed to get some projects done, which we did.

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How we felt about leaving.

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One of our projects: a bag to hold our charts, coffee, snacks, binoculars, and navigation supplies while sailing. I first hand stitched it and then finished and reinforced it on a machine while we were in Philly.

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Another project: we screwed a length of bronze half-round to the bottom of the dinghy, so we wouldn’t have to worry about damaging her while dragging her to shore.

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We also screwed some bronze to several spots on the boat where ropes have begun to chafe through the paint and wood. This is where the anchor is tied to the bowsprit.

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The dock at Mike’s house on the Corrotoman River.

So we finally managed to leave, and two days later we were in Norfolk/Portsmouth, which mark the end of the Chesapeake  Bay and the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway. I suppose it took us long enough to get out of the Chesapeake, but its flaky winds, steep choppy waves, and shifting shoals made us much better sailors and navigators.

There were dolphins swimming with us when we came into Norfolk in the rain. That made up for being cold, wet and surrounded by tankers and submarines!

052In Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, this. is commonplace.

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The lovely free dock in the town of Portsmouth, VA, which is across the canal from Norfolk. If you’re in Portsmouth, go to the movie theater, which is also a restaurant where you order food by phone while you’re watching. And it’s cheap.

We woke early and started motoring down the Intracoastal Waterway, navigating through railroad bridges and drawbridges. Pretty soon we were at a fork in the road: one led to the “Virginia Cut”, and one led to the Dismal Swamp Canal. Both branches lead back to the Intracoastal Waterway, but the Dismal Swamp is notoriously quiet and beautiful, despite it’s strange name. So we chose that one.

067Naval artifacts like this were everywhere on the way from Norfolk to the beginning of the Dismal Swamp Canal.

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Soon after making that turn down the Great Dismal Swamp Canal, everything started to look like this. The canal is a 50-mile long, 30-foot wide street of water.

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Going through the Deep Creek Loch in the Dismal Swamp Canal. This is the oldest loch system in the country, and the first we’ve ever been through. The loch tender was a Dismal Swamp historian and played the conch shell like a flute.

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The swamp is filled with cypress trees that grow straight out of the muddy water.

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Putting fenders on at the Visitor’s Center in the Dismal Swamp, after a low hanging tree attacked our backstay while we were trying to turn into the dock. The decks were covered in leaves, but we won the battle with the tree.

While going through the swamp, we met some new friends. Brother and sister Elias and Lily of Finest Kind started in Maine and went offshore for almost all of the trip down here, skipping the whole Chesapeake Bay. They say that their boat name is an expression people use in Maine, but it’s really because they are truly the finest kind of people.

At the end of the Dismal Swamp is Elizabeth City, North Carolina, a small town that is notoriously friendly to boaters. We spent a few days hanging out there meeting the interesting locals that frequent the city docks. Among the most colorful of people there was a man with a pet monkey who loved to steal credit cards and chew on Kasy’s ears.

We also got to hang out with Patrick, who has the same boat as us, and has been Kasy’s Internet friend for three years. He drove over from the Outer Banks to meet us in the city, and we had a great time. He also convinced us to bypass the next section of the ICW and go out to the Outer Banks instead, so we could avoid motoring and see him again.

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Patrick, Kasy, and the crew of Finest Kind in Elizabeth City

From Elizabeth City, we headed east through the Albemarle Sound into the Pamlico Sound, bound for Ochracoke Island. The Pamlico Sound is a large expanse of water at consistent depths of 10-15 feet, so there is no boat traffic and very little civilization. I would recommend sailing through here  AS LONG AS the wind is less than 15 knots. Anything beyond that and the shallow water will kick up into steep, short waves that will absolutely suck.

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Sunset in the Pamlico Sound. Sometimes this is like being offshore.

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Early morning on the Pamlico

We ended up making it from Elizabeth City to Ochracoke in two days (about 80 miles), which was a stretch for us, and we had to navigate to some anchorages after dark. However, we now have the aid of our GPS chart plotter. While in the Chesapeake Bay, we did not have the chart information (the micro-chip) for that area, so the GPS was basically just good for determining our speed, latitude and longitude, and we navigated by plotting positions on our paper charts. Now we have the micro-chip for the coast from Norfolk to Florida, so we can navigate after dark by looking at the GPS screen. This is not a preferred course of action–we don’t like to depend that much on technology. But it definitely came in handy.

130Anchored at Silver Lake, in Ochracoke.

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Lily and I hanging on the beach in Ochracoke

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Fools in a tree on the beach

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Fools at the Ochracoke lighthouse.

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Finest Kind, all sail ho!

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DOLPHINS!

 

Ochracoke was FUN. About 80% of the establishments were closed for the winter, but it was unseasonably warm and we went to the beach a lot, hanging with Elias and Lily. After two days, we left Ochracoke in some, shall we say boisterous weather, proving the theory that the Pamlico is awful in anything above 15 knots.

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On the way to Oriental, after things calmed

After the wind calmed a bit, we ran on an enjoyable beam reach and then downwind to Oriental, another super friendly small town. Everyone here seems to have sailed long distances and ended up here because it’s so low key, beautiful and comparatively cheap for waterfront living. Needless to say, we like all of those aspects.

We are headed to Beaufort, NC and then probably offshore. Will update soon!

 

 

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Slamajammin

Hey world, it’s been a minute. We’ve left Stout at our very generous friend Mike’s house in Virginia, and got a ride back to Philly to visit friends and family this week before finally heading south. Since our last post, we’ve navigated through fog, withstood days of sustained 25 knots with 40 knot gusts, nearly lost our dinghy, traveled with some awesome Canadian friends, learned how to catch blue crabs and oysters. Maybe that hooks you into the ridiculously long post that’s about to happen.

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First off, our plant is doing well. Lots of tiny baby plants.

After we left St. Michaels, when last I wrote, we sailed all the way up to Chestertown, at the end of the Chester River, to meet my family and a couple of friends for the tall ship festival there. It was an awesome weekend, so much fun.  We were sad to see everyone leave.

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Liz and Tim in Chestertown!

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Ferrying my Dad around in the dinghy

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Mom and bro with us in Chestertown.

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Our favorite tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, recreation of the first Swedish ship to bring settlers to the New World.

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Taking the fam for a sail.

We had our new folding bikes shipped to my family’s house and they brought them down when they came to visit. As people who traveled exclusively by bike in Philly, we are excited to be able to ride around and run errands.  But even in their folded state, they don’t really fit well anywhere.  After they sat on the settees for a few days, I dismantled one of them in a fit of rage and discovered that if we take off the wheels, kickstand, and rack, we can make them disappear pretty well. So far we’ve decided that the positives of having bikes outweigh the negatives.

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One of the new folding bikes.

After leaving Chestertown, we went back down the Chester river and made a series of big leaps down the Bay. We had two weeks to meander and end up where we are now, off the Corrotoman River. Our route was to go down through Kent Narrows into the Eastern Bay, then south to the towns of Oxford and Cambridge, then to cross over the Western side of the bay to Solomons Island, and then up the Rappahannock River to our friend Mike’s house.

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One morning anchored in the Chester, the fog was so thick we couldn’t see beyond the edge of the boat.

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We did try to move that day, but it was too scary to navigate so we reanchored.

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We headed from the Chester through Kent Narrows, which is a shortcut to the Eastern Bay. Anyone attempting this should go with the current or at slack tide…

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The freaky bridge at Kent Narrows

The day after Kent Narrows, we woke up to fog and drizzle. The fog wasn’t too bad so we got underway, but the only other people on the water were duck hunters. We went through Knapps Narrows Bridge, another tiny drawbridge that allows boats to cut through the shoaly Tilghman Island, and then sailed all the way to Oxford, MD, land of beautiful parks.

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Beautiful park in Oxford.

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Pretty good selfie in Oxford.

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Beautiful sunset…. in Oxford!

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Somewhere in there we bought an Indian cookbook. This plate looks complicated but its not. For the bread all you do is mix flour and water, roll it, oil it, and fry it in a hot, dry frying pan, and bam you got Indian flatbread.

After a day in Oxford, we headed to Cambridge, where our lives would forever change! We tied up to the free seawall there, and met two other small boats heading south.  Hannah and David of Cicindele (a Hurley 24) started from Ontario, and Louie of his 28-foot Pearson which has a French name I cannot spell, started from Quebec. We were so happy to meet other small boat people traveling on the cheap, and these guys take it to a new extreme. Hannah and David have spent $5 on food since they left Ontario. They do this by possessing immense self control, being expert foragers, and finding entire untouched cases of food in dumpsters behind super markets. Their blog is called The Free Life. Louie says he was running out of money until he met them, and now he’s the richest man in the world!

We had so much fun traveling with these guys for a week. We still hope to catch up with them at some point on the coast. Sailing with other people made us push ourselves much farther, and we went out in conditions we wouldn’t have gone out in by ourselves.

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Le Crew!

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Hannah’s awesome picture of Stout reaching with full sails.

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Our three little boats tied to the seawall in Cambridge.

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Sailing with Cicindele in the fog.

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Louie singlehanding and beating us all to the destination every time.

There were a couple of days sailing with these guys when the wind got up to 40 knots, and the waves were short and choppy and about 7 feet. This was more than we had ever had to handle before, but after some panicking mostly on my part, we realized that Stout can take a lot more weather than we can.

And then our dinghy  Hell’n was almost lost. One rough day, we made the mistake of trailing her behind us. With each wave it would either yank hard on the towing line, or it would ride down and slam into the back of the big boat. To make matters worse, at one point we realized that it was slowly taking on water. So we tried to hove-to, brought the dinghy alongside the boat, and Kasy hung over the edge of the boat and bailed out the dinghy while I got in the fetal position in the cockpit, shoving the tiller over and clinging to Kasy’s foot. (He was clipped to the boat, but still.)

And then, the dinghy line escaped Kasy’s hand and we watched the little boat float away from us. Ten panicked minutes and a few sail changes later, we managed to chase the rogue dinghy through 7-foot waves until I could grab its towing line with the boat hook.

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Reefed down at the beginning of a rough day. The sunny sky was deceiving.

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It’s a windy one. As you can see we don’t have many mirrors on the boat.

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What the floor looks like after a rough day, and we had already cleaned up half the mess.

So we traveled in a regatta with our new friends across the bay to Solomons Island, then across the mighty Potomac River, eventually landing in the little town of Deltaville on the southern side of the Rappahannock. Every night, we would row over to one of our boats, make awesome food and hang out.

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In Solomon’s Island, we anchored near the maritime museum. You can see our three dinghies in the background.

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Kasy and David on the free dock in Deltaville.

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Hannah and I in Deltaville.

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Milo and Fea, the other two crew members of Cicindele

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In Deltaville, Hannah and David traded in their dinghy for a shiny new one. Here is everyone getting it ready for the water.

After Deltavile, sadly, we departed from our friends. They kept heading south down the ICW, while we went up the Rappahannock River to our friend Mike’s place, where we were greeted by two friends from Pier 3 in Philly who are also staying there before they head south. After three days of Mike’s generous hospitality, Matt and Roza’s international cooking, and wandering around the woods with Scooter the Australian shepherd, we drove with Mike to Philly.

And what’s the first thing we do here? Obviously, go sailing. We went out on the Delaware River with our friend Andy, who we met in Chesapeake City. What an awesome day of sailing, plus after chugging along at 5 knots for a couple of months, sailing in Schrappie (Pierson Ariel) felt like flying. We went out all day and came back down the Delaware to this sunset over Philly.

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The next cover of Good Old Boat magazine?

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Amazing sunset on the Delaware!

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More of that…

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Andy and Kasy with their (manly) cigars, sailing home

If you find it difficult to keep track of our meanderings, it’s no wonder. It’s hard to even write about it clearly because we’ve moved almost every day for the past month. But that’s the awesome part about sailing, you can always go somewhere different.

We will write again when we’re back on the water, if our fingers aren’t frozen off!

 

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Always look on the bright side

After meandering south to St. Michaels over a week ago, we are now back up north, at the end of the Chester River in Chestertown. This weekend there is a big festival involving lots of tall ships, and better yet we have friends and family coming down to visit us!

This won’t be too great of a post and here’s why. After St. Michael’s we headed to Annapolis, where our goal was to get our motor-driven electricity generation system figured out. I refuse to go into details about this, because I don’t really understand engine alternators and regulators, and I think the experience may have scarred us for life. We anchored in Weems Creek, in West Annapolis, which the guidebooks say is a “well-kept secret” and a “gem”. Well it is, if what you’re looking for is to spend money on art to hang on your limited wall space. But it’s not a gem if you’re trying to repair an alternator or do laundry or buy groceries or get water and you have no bike, no car and no money to rent any of these things.

Anyway, West Annapolis really punctured our spirits in a way. We ended up walking everywhere, averaging about 6 miles per day, back and forth to the alternator guy, to the discount marine store, to the laundromat… all  of which were 3 miles from the anchorage. It might have been more enjoyable if sidewalks were a thing in West Annapolis, but unfortunately they’re not. Pedestrians and cyclists wouldn’t stand a chance here.

Even so, the experience did make it quite clear that bikes would dramatically improve our experience of this trip. So… we went ahead and ordered two used red vintage Dahon folding bikes from Ebay, which we shipped to my family who is visiting us this weekend. We have no idea if they’ll fit anywhere, so this may be short-lived. We will surely blog about it. We don’t make large purchases like this often.

However, we did go to downtown Annapolis one day which was lovely, and looked like this.

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View from Annapolis city dock

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Annapolis

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Colorful buildings

And as we were FINALLY leaving Annapolis, after 5 days of farting around with the engine, to head for the Chester River, the tall ship Sultana passed us!

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What is coming at us right now?!

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What cruising in the Chesapeake may have looked like circa 1700

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The Sultana! (they didn’t wave at us, though.)

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Leaving Annapolis we also accidentally sailed through a sailboat race.. it was just a little stressful.

So we will not be returning to Annapolis anytime soon, despite the fact that it’s the “sailing capital of the world.”

Looking on the bright side though, somewhere along the way we successfully made bread in the pressure cooker. Which was awesome. It looks wierd because it doesn’t develop a crust like normal bread does, but I promise it tasted like real bread!

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To make pressure cooker bread, just use any basic bread recipe, let it rise like normal but cook it for half the cooking time (about 20 minutes.) Make sure you place the bread in a heatproof container and add enough water to the bottom of the cooker. When that time is up, tilt the pressure weight to release all the pressure from the cooker- this is what lets the bread get puffy. Then let it sit for 5-10 minutes after lid is off.

Now it’s time for the ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL! Because a few days ago it was our 1-month anniversary of leaving Philly on September 24th. It feels like years since we’ve left. We recovered a bunch of pictures from the first week of the trip and will share them with you now…

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Ready to go, still at Pier 3.

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Our friend Liz, who took the pictures of us leaving and is coming to visit us tomorrow!

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View of Philly

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Awkward selfie

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Ben Franklin bridge in background

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Sunset over New Castle, Delaware

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Classic boat shot

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Me writing a postcard on our third day of voyaging. Who says you have to wait to write postcards?

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What most of the C&D Canal looks like ( a little boring)

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On a fence in Chesapeake City.

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Same sh*t, different day

It’s 9 days after our last post and we’re in St. Michael’s, a beautiful town with a fantastic maritime museum. We are cold. And we’re probably 200% more confident at sailing Stout than we were the last time I wrote something on here. That’s not saying much, but at least now we don’t completely panic whenever something unexpected happens!

To remind our dear readers: Kasy has sailed a lot, lived aboard, and owned a boat before Stout, but that was 10 years ago and he’s spent the past 3 years fixing up Stout more than sailing her. As for me I have no sailing experience, but have spent the past year helping Kasy fix up Stout and make her a home. Therefore, Kasy has an immense responsibility, because not only does he have to become confident sailing Stout again, but he has to simultaneously teach me how to do that, starting from zero.

So it’s not like he can just say, “Emma, put a reef in the main” or “belay that line” or “Let out the jib sheet” or even “steer us toward that green buoy” and expect me to do everything right, let alone understand what he’s saying. So that’s what we’re working on.

When we left Rock Hall, we made the goal of not going to any towns for at least 5 days. Why? Because towns are distracting; we don’t necessarily practice sailing because it’s easy to just hang out… and more importantly, we spend money. We accomplished our goal, and spent most of that time sailing, anchoring, and working on projects in the mouth of the Chester River. I’m going to go with the previous format of captioned pictures to bring you up to date.

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A thunderstorm dramatically blowing through Rock Hall last week. It was gone as soon as it arrived. Luckily we were not under way for this.

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More of that ridiculous storm cloud! It was moving at about 10mph, too.

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Misty morning in Swan Creek, off of Rock Hall

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The round black thing on the staysail stay is hanging there to signify that we’re anchored during the day. We made this out of 6-pack cardboard and Gorilla tape.

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Rowing the dinghy and looking wierdly salty.

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Pretty fog!

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Stout at rest in the Chester River. Me making curry.

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View from the bowsprit, anchored in Gray’s Inn Creek off of the Chester River

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At Grays Inn we were one of about four visible lights, no other boats around. Strangely, one of the other lights was a giant glowing inflatable snowman that someone had put on shore. We went for a row in the dark, and Stout looked kind of like a pirate ship.

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Me at the helm, sailing on the Chester. Looking more at ease than I was, surely.

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Happy Kasy at the helm with rain pants. The wind forecasts have been very inaccurate this week… each day was forecasted to be 5-10 knots of wind, but our experience was 15-20, sometimes with gusts to 30. We talked to at least one other person who experienced the same thing, so we know we’re not crazy. Disconcerting but we got through it!

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We’ve been trying out our self-steering system, but we still don’t totally trust it. We’ve been trying to make it more sensitive and think we’ve got it figured out, but it’s been veering from side to side along its intended course. A work in progress, but we think it will be much more useful in larger bodies of water, not for navigating little rivers off the Chesapeake. (For non-boaters, self-steering systems use the wind direction to steer the boat, so that you don’t have to be at the tiller steering all the time. Notice that Kasy’s hands are free.)

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Sailing downwind is strange because you can only go as fast as the wind is going, and since it’s pushing you right along, you can’t even feel it when you’re moving through the water. While being pushed along, I jumped in the dinghy and was towed along behind Stout.

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I took this opportunity to get a picture of Stout under sail from outside of the boat! And Kasy’s sun hat!

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At anchor on the Corsica River, off of the Chester River.

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Looking tiny on the Corsica.

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Got back from my row just in time before a crazy rainstorm rolled through.

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Black bean soup and stovetop cornbread. But actually, this is not cornbread, because I thought the jar of cous cous was cornmeal. So its actually cous cous bread… but we only realized this two days after we ate it. So… cous cous bread is a thing now, since we couldnt tell the difference.

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The first shower on board… we have a Solar Shower ( a bag of water with a shower head) that we hang from the boom gallows. We rigged up our awning for a shower curtain and it worked great! However, the shower had to be quick because it was COLD outside.

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Morning view looking out of the cabin on the Corsica, off the Chester River.

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After 5 days on the Chester, we anchored again at Swan Creek. The day after, we completed our longest day yet under sail, from Swan Creek to St. Michael’s, on Friday. It took us 8 hours, but we were proud of ourselves.

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We had been trying to meet up with Adam, of Seeker, who we’ve been talking to through the blogosphere. Though we were both sailing around the upper Chesapeake, It didn’t look like our paths were going to cross, but it just so happened that as we were entering the Eastern Bay on the way to St. Michaels, he was leaving the Bay. After we spotted each other, he turned around and we met in St. Michaels, where we had an awesome time eating pizza and drinking beers. Here is his blog: http://b29seeker.net/

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Kasy on our way to fill our 5-gallon water transportation and storage receptacles in St. Michaels.

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At St. Michael’s there is a fantastic maritime museum. We spent the past two days wandering around to all the different attractions, learning a lot about Chesapeake Bay history. This is a gigantic glass prism, made to multiply the light of oil lamps once used to power lighthouses. You can walk around this lighthouse (the Hooper Strait lighthouse) exactly how it once was, though it has been moved from its original location.

That’s all for now! And our plant is doing great!

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Breaking up with the world

Hello everyone! Here in Rock Hall, Maryland, we’re finally getting a chance to update you about our first few weeks on the water. Basically we left Philly, went down the Delaware to the Chesapeake/Delaware Canal, stopped in Chesapeake City, and have been very slowly exploring the Northeastern Chesapeake Bay since then. We’ve broken up with “the world”; that is, the world of working a job and living in one place. But it’s misleading, because really we’re off to see “the world”.

Since it would be a lot to try to describe everything that’s happened in the last two weeks, I’m trying a new narrative style for this post; it’s called lots of pictures with descriptive captions in chronological order. We’ve been slowly getting our sailing act together, learning a lot each day. It’s hard to take pictures while actually sailing, so most of these are just places we anchored and visited.

I’m assuming it will be acceptable since I have an inkling that not all this rambling text gets absorbed anyway….

Some of our pictures got lost, so we will update if we get them back. here we go!

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Us leaving Philly, courtesy of our friend Liz. That’s the Ben Franklin bridge.

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Slightly farther down the Delaware.

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First sunset of the trip, off of New Castle, Delaware on the Delaware River. After some stressful moments resulting from me not knowing what I’m doing, we got the anchor down and the boat out of the way of container ships.

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More New Castle.

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Kasy in Chesapeake City. We were relieved to get out of the Delaware and into the C&D canal, where Chesapeake City is. There is a free dock and protected anchorage basin here.

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Me at the dock in Chesapeake City. This is a pretty cute place to hang out for a couple of days, and there were a lot of people from Philly who had come down for the weekend to escape the papal visit. We made some awesome new friends, Andy and Sarah, who brought down their boat Schrappy from Philly. If only we had known they were there earlier!

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Chesapeake city boat pizza: pita bread filled with tomato sauce, topped with tomato sauce and cheese, and cooked in the broiler. (We don’t have an oven.)

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Happy camper.

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Most of our pictures from the few days preceding this are missing, unfortunately. But after leaving Chesapeake City, we anchored in the mouth of the Sassafras River. This was the foggy, cold, drizzly morning we left for Georgetown, which is at the end of the Sassafras.

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Stout on her mooring ball at Georgetown Yacht Basin, where we were stuck for 5 days waiting for hurricane Joachin to go away. For the record, Georgetown is not really a real town… i.e. there is no grocery store. All but 4 houses were destroyed during the war of 1812 and now there are three marinas and two restaurants and not much else.

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They did have an awesome boat supply shop at Georgetown Yacht Basin, however, with free coffee and tea and donuts for people staying at the marina. We hung out there as much as possible.

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This describes the weather most of the time during our stay.

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So we did mostly this. One day we couldn’t even leave the boat to row into the dock, because of the wind and rain.

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Our plant and some condensation.

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One day when the weather was less bad, we walked to a neighboring town, called Galena, where there was an awesome produce stand with the most beautiful squashes.

Galena also held another great surprise in store for us: our new friend Donna Lemm. We met Donna at the post office, and when she found out we lived on a boat she offered us immediate and generous hospitality. It turns out that she and her former husband built the boat in this picture and sailed it around the world for 20 years. The boat is Le Papillon, a 68-foot steel hulled pinky schooner. Needless to say, Donna had incredible stories.

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This is Elvis the rooster. Donna introduced us to him when she showed us around the barn where she takes care of her horse.

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Kasy and Elvis.

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We also got to groom a beautiful horse that day. You never know what life will bring you.

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Kasy rowing Hell’n, our dinghy, during a rare warm day in Georgetown.

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After 4 days in Georgetown we couldn’t take it anymore, so we hitchhiked to Chestertown, which was 14 miles away. To my great surprise, we got picked up twice within 30 minutes. Chestertown was awesome, and they have a used book store and a real coffee shop, and all sorts of other stores that sell things like the thing in this picture.

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What most buildings look like in Chestertown.

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There are these huge rhododendron trees everywhere.

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When the weather FINALLY cleared up, we sailed away. After practicing tacking for a few hours, we anchored just around the corner from the Sassafras River in Still Pond. What a beautiful place.

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Kasy at Still Pond

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Still Pond sunset

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And more rowing around Still Pond. It was so gorgeous here.

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Last one I promise

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Leaving Still Pond… you can see our new hydration strategy: keep full water bottles swinging around on deck so you get annoyed, drink the water, and throw the bottle down below.

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One of these mornings Kasy noticed that there were TINY LITTLE SEEDLINGS that sprouted up next to our plant!!! We don’t know what they are or what they’ll turn into but we will keep you abreast of any exciting developments!

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You can see them better here! They are just hanging out, reaching for the sun! So cute

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The next night we anchored in Worton Creek, a very protected anchorage with a tricky entrance. Here I am sailing the dinghy around in the morning, looking for wildlife.

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I know, all of these places look the same. Honestly I don’t know which one this is.

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The next night we anchored in Fairlee Creek, which has another crazy entrance, you have to head straight for the beach and then turn sharply to starboard in order to avoid going aground. It was worth it!

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Fairlee Creek had this awesome little sandbar with some woods on it and a small patch of beach, full of beautiful round colorful stones.

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Relaxing on the beach with a huge bag of popcorn.

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Looking tough

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Sunset at Fairlee Creek beach.

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I know you didn’t think we were capable of awkward beach selfies, but we are.

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Sunset and cooking dinner in Fairlee Creek.

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Stout tied up to the free dock in Rock Hall, where we are now.

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Sunset in Rock Hall.

Some other highlights I didn’t get pictures of… I ate a bowl of delicious crab soup. We saw a bald eagle in Still Pond, and even saw it diving into the water to catch fish. We’ve seen great blue herons, lots of ducks, turkey vultures, and an OTTER in Fairlee Creek. Yes, an otter! We must work on our wildlife photography.

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Cheap Jersey Water Ice

We are off on our adventure! We left Thursday from Philly and now we are tied to a mooring in Georgetown, MD. However, we never got to blog about what we did in the boat yard in Riverside, NJ for three whole weeks, because we were too busy binge watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and that’s what we chose to do with the free wifi there.

Lucky you, now you get to find out (the highlights of) what we did… and I will post more about our first week at sea the next time we get a good signal!

We started by going to Riverside from Philly, and packing a shop vac, two bikes, a bike trailer, a ladder, and several other tools in the V-berth. It was kind of like a clown car.

Then we were hauled out of the water and put on jacks next to her big sister Merry, a Bristol Channel Cutter.

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Shortly we realized that our ladder was too small, so we had to make a ladder. The bike trailer was the only option for hauling those 10-foot 2×4’s from Lowe’s. That’s an experience I don’t need to have again.

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After checking her out to find any unanticipated problems to be solved, we got to work scrubbing all of the grey wood on deck to prepare it for painting. This hadn’t been done in three years, so I will just say that we killed a lot of spiders doing it, and any good luck you want to send our way would be welcome.

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Then we set to work peeling and scraping off all the old varnish, paint, and adhesive on the wood.

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Then we sanded all the wood and taped off all the nooks and crannies…THEN we finally put on a coat of primer! And started to paint!

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The paint went much slower than anticipated, in part because it kept raining. One day between coats, the rain created water bubbles in the tape and also cemented the tape to the boat in some places, so we had to remove all of that ugly stuff and re-tape the whole thing.

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We also painted the whale stripe black. This had its share of difficulties too, because paint is incredibly frustrating. But Kasy taught me a cool skill–the technique of roll and tip, where one person rolls on the paint to get it in an even layer, and the other person immediately follows by brushing out the paint with a wide brush. If done right, it should look like one long, even brushstroke.

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Fine, I will give you a break from paint. There were a lot of interesting problems with the rudder that needed to be solved.  One problem included reattaching the auxiliary rudder for the self-steering gear. If you’ve read our earlier posts, this smaller rudder was cracked off by ice in January, and in August Kasy scuba dived to the bottom of the marina and miraculously found it.

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So after drying it out and epoxying the cracks, the rudder was bolted back into place and Kasy wrapped it with fiberglass to secure it.

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Another rudder issue was that the bearings on the rudder and the auxiliary rudder for the self-steering gear were worn and ovalized, so when you tried to rotate either of them, there was a lot of play.

The coolest thing about fixing this is that you can MAKE A BEARING using epoxy and graphite powder.  What you have to do is mix up a bunch of epoxy with graphite, squeeze it in and around where the bearing needs to go, and then put a coating of wax on whatever needs to turn inside the bearing (to keep the epoxy from sticking to it). Then, you squish the waxed thing inside the hole with the epoxy and let it set overnight. Since graphite is a natural lubricant, the epoxy will cure to make a tight seal, but the graphite lubricates the bearing and allows movement.

Not sure if any of that made sense, but it’s so useful I had to explain. Hopefully the pictures below will give you more context.

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The one issue with this method is that sometimes there are gaps in the epoxy when it cures, so those have to be refilled and you have to wait another day until the bearing is complete. But it’s worth it because it’s so cheap and easy!

Back to paint real quick: We painted the rudder cheeks, that white part on the upper part of the rudder. I included this mostly because I like the phrase “rudder cheeks.”

That puts us late in the Riverside Marina journey, and the last thing we did was complete the bottom paint. We evened out our old water line and taped it off, and then spent a whole day sanding the hull and the rudder and putting a coat of thick viscous black bottom paint on.

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Then we were really tired of working in the boatyard so we got some cheap Jersey water ice…. making Kasy a happy camper.

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The transformation is sort of complete… even though it’s never complete… as they say… So then she was ready for water! We were launched and then headed back to Philly for two days to say our byes and head south.

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Ah, Philly… land where the Phillies mascot attends neighborhood barbecues and rides bike share bikes. We will miss you.

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Those are real pictures taken by me, by the way.

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Last Philly sunset. There will be much more soon, as we will be marooned in Georgetown for a few days waiting for hurricane Joaquin to blow over.

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Fish out of water

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WE’RE OUT OF THE WATER!!!

TO BE CONTINUED….

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