Boat Trip

14 January 2010:  Tull Bay (prepping to leave)
So for my first post, I figured I’d try and round up some of the random things and to-dos that have occupied our time for the last few weeks.

Rigging inspection. One of the most critical systems on a sailboat is the rigging. A failure here means a loss of our primary propulsion, or worse. So, a thorough inspection was in order. In addition, a spreader light fixture (shines down on the deck) was in need of replacement. Tools gathered, checklist in hand, and crack safety crew assembled, up the mast I went. Head plumbing. Something no one ever really wants to talk about. The plumbing in our boat was old, hoses cracking, things growing where they ought not to. Obviously, this was in serious need of some work. So instead of trying to repair and replace it piecemeal, I pulled the entire mess out. Some parts were sterilized and reused, others were simply replaced. In any case, below is the end result: Wiring. Yet another vital system, we rely on our electrical system for many crucial needs. It runs our bilge pumps, starts our engine, provides lighting, powers our navigation instruments, and so many other things. While the boat's wiring system did not seem insufficient, it was deemed wise to go through it all and ensure everything was in proper working order. Most was just inspected, cleaned, and new terminals installed where they appeared sketchy, but a few modifications were made.This switch was added to enable us to start our engine off any of our five batteries we choose. In combination with two 3-way switches, one for each bank, we can start the engine and run critical systems off any single battery, or any combination of the five available. Also, one battery was selected to be used solely for starting the engine. The only thing that can draw energy from it is the starter, and it can be charged by any or all of the three charging systems available: engine alternator, shore power, or solar energy. This ensures we will always be able to start our engine, even if we completely drain our house batteries.

In the area of solar energy, Southern Cross' batteries are maintained by solar power. Two 34 watt flexible photovoltaic solar panels are used to keep the batteries topped up when not running the engine or plugged into shore power
. Unfortunately, the solar panels were inherited in less than optimal condition.Luckily, Darcy was up to finishing the task I set about three months ago: sewing the panels back together. Pushing a needle through two layers of thick vinyl, an eighth inch of dense foam, then hitting the holes from previous stitching in the plastic layer is no easy task, as I'm sure she'll tell you...

Settee cushions. Okay, so this isn't a vital system in desperate need of repair, but it has bothered me since I purchased the boat. Also, I have never used a sewing machine, so I figured this was as good a time as any to learn. The old cushions were covered in some rough green fabric along the lines of that indoor/outdoor carpeting you see being used as doormats. It was beginning to split at the seams and let foam escape, in addition to holding dust so well when you set something on it a small puff of fine particles would float away. So, I had to fix it.
Shown above are the new cushion covers (left) compared to the old ones (right). A simple draw cord was installed on the hidden end, so they can be removed and washed when necessary. This dramatically cut the dust problem, and no more foam bits scattered around the cabin! They also lighten up the cabin, making it seem more spacious.

Okay, that's enough for now, we'll do another post about more random tasks later...

23 January 2010:  Tull Bay (prepping to leave)
I've been in Carolina for three weeks now, and we've only been floating for a few days.  At the beginning of the week we had plenty of water, but yesterday it seemed the water rushed out in the space of a few minutes while we were working on the boat in the morning.  It actually took a little longer than that, but I didn't notice anything wrong when I stepped onto the boat, but later we were almost sideways (15 degrees feels sideways when you're trying to walk straight!).

At any rate, we're going nowhere soon.  It's the location of the boat - a north wind drives out all the water, while a south wind brings it all back.  It surprisingly has nothing to do with the tides.  Well, it surprised me.  Despite that, we're hoping to get out of here around Tuesday (26 January).

But, in the meantime, the job list is endless.  Here are some of the fun things I've been working on:

Dehydrating food.  Kyle's parents have a dehydrator, and after they made some jerky, Kyle and I went to Sam's Club and bought a metric crapload of fruit.  Not-so-obvious in the photo are blueberries, apples, kiwis and bananas.  I'm not a huge fan of dehydrated fruit except in granola; I'm not really sure what Kyle's plan for eating it is.

Sewing.  Specifically, curtains for each of the ports, and hemming a large sheet to give the front berth a little privacy.  The port curtains in the salon match the settee cushions, but that fabric is fairly light and so I wanted something a little darker for the head and the v-berth.  For the non-nautical, the curtains for the little windows in the living area match the couch cushions, but I wanted something darker for the mini-bathroom and the bed in the front of the boat (shaped like a triangle, hence the 'v' in v-berth).  Since they're so small, we decided that it would be more economic to roll them up rather than bunch them to one side like normal curtains.

My favorite: gardening!  I've started an herb garden right now...well, let me tell you the story.  For Christmas, Kyle's dad and step-mom bought us a herb starter set.  Kyle planted these, but they were poorly maintained so when I arrived I took over.  The parsleys were looking marvelous, but the rest were pretty dismal.  I have been replanting and expanding and caring for the plants like they were children.  However, I unfortunately decided to put them outside on one of the "warm" days.  It truly was warmer than usual, but after a string of freezing days, it doesn't take much to seem warm.  Well, all but one parsley perished.  Also, the tarragon didn't fare so well after that either.  Ah, garden woes.  The good news is that the cilantro are raging, the basil (clear cup) have sprouted with an unforeseen fury, and I'm still waiting for the chives to make their reappearance.  Oh, and I've given up on the cumin (blue cup) seeing as the seeds I planted were meant to be eaten rather than planted.  Also, the mint is doing no better nor any worse than it has been doing for the last three months (not pictured).
Now, if you're thinking logically, your next question ought to be how we could possibly cultivate plants on a boat?  And after we're underway and I've actually done some gardening, I'll make a post completely about boat gardening (by that time we'll have planted some vegetables as well, I'm sure).  But in the meantime, Kyle has granted me the use of some power tools and I only cut myself once, and never did I saw off a limb.  The result?  Voila!  A tiny greenhouse.  Not the best construction you've ever seen, but it was my first time cutting plexiglass and plastic tote, though not my first time using a drill press.  Still, I'm quite proud of it.

It's not currently in use yet because I want to baby the plants inside for as long as I can.  It hasn't gotten below freezing lately but herbs are pretty finicky.

Oh, and here's some extra photos just because I take pictures of EVERYTHING (and yes, Mom, I've been taking pictures whenever I make food here too).  Here's our going away present (champagne and two plastic flutes).  Oh, a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon, some Dramamine, and some Aleve - our emergency kit.
And here's the mud I have to walk through any time I want to go between the house and the boat.  The backyard has become a swamp; I never wear shoes through there anymore.  Only swamp boots.
I'm trying to talk Kyle into a post regarding the dinghy building.  Since he let me paint it, it's really quite...distinguished.  Definitely one-of-a-kind. 
Alright, that's all for now.

25 January 2010:  Tull Bay (prepping to leave)
So, as broke college kids, we'll be spending a lot of time at anchor, instead of marinas. As such, we need a method of getting to shore and back with groceries, water, etc. As the inflatable canoe was deemed unacceptable for such matters, we needed a dinghy.

We had two options. Buy or build. After looking at various inflatables and hard dinghies, I decided they did not meet several of my major requirements; inexpensive, lightweight, and low maintenance. The inflatables had a high initial purchase, questionable durability, and the added hassle of having to inflate it every time we wanted to use it. The hard dinghies were simply too expensive, not to mention the lightest one I found was almost 100 pounds. Just too heavy for Darcy and I to hoist over the side to lash it on deck. So, we build...

Acrux (or Alpha Crux, or Alpha Crucis, depending on who you ask) is a plywood dinghy of stitch and glue construction. This means she's simple plywood panels that are stitched together with wire ties during the initial construction, then later held structurally with epoxy resin. She's modeled after the D4 plans offered free from, with some slight modifications. Anyway, here's the process of building a dinghy.

The first step: lofting. Here, we take two measurements from different sides, at a 90 degree angle to each other. At the intersection, you place a dot. After you have an entire panel lofted, to simply connect the dots, and cut the panels out.
The second step: cutting out the panels, and drilling for stitches. This part is fairly straight forward. Cut along the lines you just drew in the lofting phase, then drill a hole every 6 inches on the sides being joined for your wire ties. Here we can see the frames and side panels ready for assembly and stitching.
The third step: stitching it all together. Yet another relatively easy part. Simply align the panels and frame, match up the holes you just drilled, and wire tie them together. Her we have the bow and stern transoms in place, along with the center seat frame to give the boat some shape:
And here she's been flipped and the bottom panels stitched on:
Now, on to making it a functional boat: laying epoxy fillets in the seams. This step provides part of the structural strength to the boat. Mix resin, hardener, and filler (in this case cabosil), and push it into all the internal seams. After this hardens, you can remove the stitching, and sand the outside smooth. Once that happens, you can lay out fiberglass tapes on the outside surfaces. These tapes hold resin against the wood, giving the joint its strength. If done properly, these joints are actually stronger than the wood itself. Sorry, no pics for these steps. I was in the process of moving the dinghy from my bedroom in New Bern to Moyock. And yes, up until this point, all construction took place in my bedroom in New Bern. Don't tell the landlord.

Step number five or six: taping the inside. Again, fiberglass tapes are used over the fillets to give the joints strength. After that, the entire thing is coated in resin to seal it. We opted to cover the entire bottom in fiberglass cloth, just for an added measure of strength, and to add some durability for dragging over beaches and the like.
Steps twenty and twenty-seven: Finishing touches. Now that the structural parts are done, we have to 'glass and laminate the finishing touches. Rubrails, skeg, all that sort of stuff goes on.This process took several days. a lot of things needed epoxy laid on, then sanded down, more epoxy, then sanded. A whole boatload of fun...

Step one hundred forty seven: Flotation. We opted to fill all three seat compartments with chopped polystyrene (read as: old electronic and appliance packaging) for emergency flotation. You could break this dinghy in half now and she'd still float.
And now, the big finale: PAINT. And lots of it, at that. Green, black, and blue. And fluorescent pink. Because who doesn't want a fluorescent pink boat? I lay no claim to the beautiful paint job seen in the following pictures. Caleb and Darcy cut out some stencils, and after the paint was purchased, I left the garage, Darcy, and Acrux to their fate.

Okay, here we go: the pictures...
Step two thousand, four hundred and ninety seven: Sea trials. Only one thing left to do. Drop it in the water and see if it floats! Luckily, our first sea trials were not only successful from the floating aspect, but we even managed to stay dry! Up and down the canals, one person or two, we tested that Acrux does exactly what she was intended to do. Float, row, and transport us across the anchorage.

And last but not least, here she is resting on her preferred transport spot. Most of the time on the ICW we'll simply tow her behind, ready for quick deployment once we're at our anchorage for the night. But for crossing larger bodies of water, or just for extra security, this is where she'll rest.

2 February 2010:  Tull Bay to Albemarle Sound...and back to Tull Bay

On Wednesday, we left around noon.  Nothing too fancy, we just spent the night in Tull Bay - we stayed close to home in case any system wasn't working properly or if any unforeseen needs arose.  The weather was gorgeous, we were smiling, everything seemed fine and dandy.  Kyle took the helm to lead us out of the canals.

So, we spent the afternoon getting minor things settled in or stowed, then got out our books and lounged in the sun.  The plants were loving it!  And so were we, quite frankly.  That afternoon we celebrated our departure with the aforementioned champagne, and later that night the parents and neighbors came out to cook us dinner and wish us farewell.  

In the morning, the real adventure began.  We had an uneventful trip down to Coin Jock, where we filled up on diesel and chatted with some boys delivering a mega yacht from New Jersey.  It was pretty chilly on the boat because even though it was 50-60* out; the wind was bitter.  Little did I know what was to come...

So anyway, we made it to our first anchorage, no problem, around 1pm.  We "battened down the hatches," as they say, because the weather was about to turn inclement.  The forecast was COLD and WINDY.  Those are the proper nautical terms, Kyle taught me those.  We learned that the dinghy cannot be used to set an anchor (the gravitational force of the chain is greater than the pull of the boat when rowing).  Hmm, what else.  It was cold that night, but we had a giant pile of blankets.

The next morning the waves were kind of rough, and that was before we even got into the Albemarle Sound.  Also, they were parallel with the direction we were heading.  I learned then that the direction of the waves is nearly as important as how big they are.  If we had been heading with the waves or even against the waves, we probably would have crossed the Sound.  But going parallel is pretty brutal.  There was utter destruction of the bookshelves, but we already knew that there was insufficient stowage in that area.

So, even though it hurt our pride, we turned around and went back to the anchorage.  This was a tough decision, because the weather reports had already advised us that if we didn't cross Friday, the next earliest we'd be able to cross was Sunday or even Monday, which meant a couple days being confined to the sailboat, no land, no people, just a test of how long we could stand each other.

But it turned out to be more than that.  On Saturday we woke up to snow.  Keep in mind we have no heat on the boat at all.  There is a stove, and we can derive heat from that, but I think that every time we ran the stove it set the CO detector off, which was annoying and possibly a bit dangerous.  And it was tolerable with 2-4 layers of clothing on.  Most of what I packed was intended for tropical zones, however.  So we kept our spirits up by learning how to make popcorn in a pan (not too difficult) and doing a puzzle I picked up at Goodwill (surprisingly difficult).  But even by Saturday I was hardly eating at all, because my body just wasn't using the energy.  Every bite was forced, because I knew it would warm me, but I just wasn't hungry.

Sunday, we didn't wake up to anything, because we never slept at all.  Winds gusting up to 45 knots, I think Kyle said (gale force).  That meant the dinghy constantly thumping on the deck above our heads, halyards pinging against the mast, winds howling everywhere, and constant fear that the anchors would break loose and we'd be grounded.  And just when I dropped off, the radio would crackle in with a "Pan-pan" or "Securité."  In all honesty, not sleeping wasn't such a bother because by that point, we were going to bed at seven and getting up at nine as there was nothing to do in or on the boat, and nowhere to go because our anchorage was very remote.  More importantly, there was nowhere warm except for bed, covered in blankets. 

And it was Sunday afternoon when I finally broke down.  By Sunday, any cheeriness I felt was a little bit forced anyway, but when I saw my two precious art books - Art of the Louvre and History of Art - getting water damaged, I just couldn't take any more.  The condensation was so awful; we were both spending so much time wrapped up in blankets in the v-berth, our breath was causing every surface in the v-berth to drip.  Also, one of the ports in the v-berth had leaked in our short, rocky trip Friday morning, which had also done some damage to the books.  They're nearly all second-hand, crappy books so I don't care about most of them, but it was then that I realized the extent of the damage.  There was even water between the books at that point.  The main salon wasn't as bad, but there was a lot of condensation there too.  So there was water everywhere - all around us, outside the boat, in the boat, and snow on the boat.  It was pervasive, relentless.  Just like the cold.  And we were still only six hours from home.

We talked Sunday night, and we decided that we should just return to Moyock.  That decision was really hard, because we're both proud and stubborn to the core.  But even though the winds were forecast to be fairly calm, the weather wasn't supposed to get warmer than 40* for quite a while.

Monday we woke up to ice.  It was so calm in the river that ice had formed.  Gloriously calm, even.  Heading back to the ICW from our anchorage, we seriously discussed continuing on, because the winds were perfect for an easy crossing of the Sound.  And, making actual progress made everything seem so much happier than the dull sitting-and-waiting that had been our main focus of the last few days.  But calm winds weren't going to make it much warmer, so we did in fact return to Moyock.

And that's where I am right now.  Sitting at the counter, watching cable, in a house warm enough that I only need one layer of clothing.  There is a fridge and a microwave right there in the kitchen, I can cool or warm food at will.  There are actual people here.  I can go the grocery store if I decide I want ice cream.  I can stretch out as far as a I want, and it takes me more than three steps to get from one end of the house to the other.  I'm not saying I can't handle the confines of the sailboat.  But weather this cold makes the boat so much smaller.

When we got back, there wasn't enough water to handle our 4.6' draft in the canals, so we parked it at the end of the canals, and rather than wait until our water taxi got home from work, rowed the dinghy all the way down the main canal home.  It was actually a pretty nice day for it.  Today Kyle spent about six hours trying to get the sailboat back to the dock; we ran aground just around the corner from the house.  It was cold today.  Carolina shouldn't be cold.  Carolina should be at least 50* at all times, and any snow that falls should never stay.  Carolina shouldn't look like this.

So it was a big learning experience, and I think it's safe to say that while we knew turning back was the best option for our sanity, it was a HUGE disappointment to both of us.  But I find it really encouraging that Kyle and I got along really well through the whole thing.  I am extremely impressed by his tolerance for misery - even when I'm cold and the warmth of the house is right there ("Let's just go back and warm up quick a second before we take the dinghy out again and try to haul to boat to the house"), he isn't willing to give up.  It makes me feel like such a ...GIRL.  But it also challenges me to be stronger, and despite our initial setbacks, I think we're going to do okay.

Also, now we get to watch the Superbowl!

9 February 2010:  Tull Bay
So, I was going to write more about our first attempt (I am referring to it as a "shakedown cruise"), but I think Darcy summed it up quite well. So, instead I'll give you a tour of Southern Cross. As an update, we're still here in Moyock finishing up some repairs and upgrades. A few more days and we'll be done, and ready for round two.

Southern Cross is an Yachtcraft/Islander 34, built in 1975. Designed by Robert Perry, she's designed to handle almost anything you could throw at her. I'm trying to track down the exact builder of her, but having some difficulty. It's been difficult to track down the exact history of this hull, but from what I can find she's one of the 14-16 boats built by Islander.

We'll start at the bow, in the V-Berth. Normally made up in bed form, this "stateroom" has some of the most voluminous lockers aboard under the cushions. As seen in the pictures, immediately under the removable center section, drawers used to reside. One of the refit projects was to remove these drawers and build top-loading bins, giving us an almost 300% gain in storage volume. Dividers were installed horizontally in between the old drawer fronts, and the drawer fronts were removed and hinged. This allows us to either access these bins from the top or through the old drawer face. Our library, while not pictured here, resides on the shelves seen here as well.

Immediately aft of the V-Berth, on the port side (left as you're looking forward), is the head. Nothing too fascinating here. The sink is plumbed to drain overboard, but water supply into here is currently limited to carrying in a jug of water.

Directly across from the head is a hanging closet and bookshelf. The shelf is pretty much the "reference" section of our library. It also has acquired the storage of hats over time. The hanging closet was yet another refit project. Formerly just a large closet with one rod, and two small shelves in the back, it now houses two deep shelves and a shoe bin in the forward section, while aft of the new partition the hanging rod was reinstalled for a typical hanging closet. LED touch lights were also installed in the shelves, as it is almost impossible to see into them in anything other than optimal light conditions. At some later date, I plan on painting these shelves white (right now they're just poly over plywood) to make them a bit brighter and easier to see into.

Aft of the head (we're back on the port side now), is the salon. Shown here with the new cabin table (another refit project), it's a fairly simple L-shaped settee, with storage beneath. The new table can be used as shown, lowered and locked in to form a double berth, or removed completely. 95% of the time outside of dinner, we have it removed completely and stowed. This gives us MUCH more room to move around the cabin, or dance wildly to videos, or do yoga, or whatever else you can do in 40 square feet of wide open space.

On the other side of the cabin, we have the galley. Equipped with a Force 10 propane stove and infrared broiler, we have plenty of btu's available for cooking. Forward of that, we have a deep stainless sink, plumbed for running fresh and raw water, along with foot pumps for both as well. Right now the only use the electric water pumps have seen is for shock treating the tanks, but we're retaining them for now. As a side note on our consumables, we carry 40 gallons of fresh water in two tanks, along with 14 gallons on deck, and 10 gallons in jugs in the bilge. Propane is contained in twin 40# tanks stored on a platform off the transom. Anyway, aft of the stove is the ice box, which has been divided into sections for ice and food.

Moving on to just aft of the ice box is more storage and some tools. This used to be a quarterberth, but is now a resting place for one of the twin diesel tanks, thus rendering it too short for sleeping. Even for me. In any case, this whole area is now used for storage. A locker under the former berth is used for maintenance stuff, two totes hold crushable food items (and currently, all the books), the ditch bag, tool kits, flares, and first aid kit reside on top of the berth.

Aft of the salon (yes, we've zigged and zagged back to the port side again) is the nav station. Navigation aboard SC is pretty basic. GPS coordinates are read off one of the three handheld GPS units aboard (two Garmin Legends and one Magellan 315) and plotted by hand on paper charts. Other electronic navigation aids aboard are a depth sounder and Pathfinder RADAR system. I'm currently designing and building a NMEA network that will connect all these devices to a central PC. This will allow us to plot courses and waypoints on the PC, transfer data back and forth between the PC and GPS, and in the end, link to the autopilot (ST2000+ TillerPilot). Essentially, my end goal is to be able to plot the course and have the boat handle itself via autopilot while showing a realtime location on the PC. But of course, positions and course data will ALWAYS be logged and charted by hand on paper. I like my gadgets, but still don't fully trust electronics in a marine environment. Anyway, I'll be doing a post later on all our navigation practices and equipment.

That's pretty much the entire interior. Not much to it, but more than enough to get by.

27 February 2010:  Tull Bay
With two people living aboard a 34' sailboat, space is at a premium. Imagine sleeping, cooking, and doing everything else you would do in a normal apartment, but in the space of a small bedroom. For a yard, you have a space about 34'x8' and even that space is comprised of varying levels, angles, and contains all sorts of obstructions. There's just not a whole lot of room, to say the least. So, here we'll share a few modifications that were made during the refit to enable more useful, and just some general storage tricks we use to optimize what we have.

In the V-berth is a pair of storage bins. Once upon a time, the bin pictured here was actually a pair of drawers. Each drawer was about big enough to stow a pair of socks, or a half-dozen field mice. There was actually more wasted space around the drawers than there was in them. So, we fixed it. Now in their place is a top-loading bin, with a horizontal divider built in between. The divider is simply two 1/4" pieces of luan resting on cleats. The drawer fronts were removed and placed on hinges to allow access from the front if the berth is made up in bed form.

I've had a few people ask me where we keep our clothes, after seeing the hanging closet's miniscule size. Well, they are in fact ALL in there. One of the refit projects was to retrofit the closet with shelves, which netted us a HUGE gain in usable storage. To any boaters out there who are looking for the solution, let me tell you this: shelves beat out hangers any day. As seen in the picture, one half of the closet was converted. Space that once could hold about 12 hanging items (tightly packed) now holds our entire wardrobes, including shoes. LED touch lights are installed to make finding things at least slightly easier. Also added was a small shelf along the contour of the hull at the back of the hanging section that would otherwise just be open space.

Long items can be problematic to store on a boat. Rarely do we have a compartment with the length required to store long items. One of our solutions to this was to add tall stakes to a narrow but long shelf tucked under the nav station.

Even items that you wouldn't normally think of as being hard to store become a problem when your space is so limited. Some things that you would never notice tucked into the back of your closet can become impossibly hard to find a place for. One such example would be Darcy's canvases (for painting). The biggest one is 24"x24," which fits absolutely nowhere on the boat, and thusly floated around the cabin for a few weeks. We finally found a large, flat spot to store them: the overhead.

And of course, we have the almost always present net hammock above the settee. This holds a vast amount of snack foods, and tends to accumulate daily essentials like hats and gloves, green suspenders and pub signs. Seen under the hammock is the settee berth lee cloth, also being used in hammock form.

And, that's it for now. As an update, we're still trying to leave. Again. Since our tides here are wind driven, we're waiting for a south wind to blow the water in enough to bump our way out. Unfortunately, several gorgeous weather windows have passed with us sitting in the mud at the bottom of the canal.

9 March 2010:  Tull Bay
This is actually an email that was such an engaging story that I decided to share it with the world. But first, a little background for those who haven't always been a part of the adventure that is my life...

I love gardens, but when I was in school, I moved back and forth between MI and NC every three months, which didn't really allow for me to keep a garden (it was also a different house every time). So finally last summer, I purchased some baby peppers and nurtured them and took them to Carolina with me, upon whence I transplanted them into the infamous Pepper Pots. I plan on putting peppers in them once again someday soon, but for now the pots are empty aboard the boat.  Look at last summer's peppers...aren't they cute?

So, back to the story:

When Kyle and I first arrived back from our failed attempt and were trying to get the sailboat down the main canal, just as we entered it, I lost the pepper pots. Now, the pepper pots are decent sized pots, replaceable at no less than $8. Fairly cheap, but I am currently at zero income. Anyway, not something I wanted to replace.

These pepper pots have been with us through it all, sitting calmly on the stern. Gale force winds, waves crashing over the boat, snow, ice and rain, they sat through it all, unmoving. They weren't even tied down in any way, just sitting there!  I kept expecting to lose them but Kyle thought they'd be fine.  Finally, in the calm of the main canal, they fall off and float away (I might have bumped them a tiny bit). We, of course, were fighting the depths and widths of the canal to get home, and could not be bothered with inane details like the pepper pots, floating away as sadly as Wilson on Castaway. I will never be able to lose something from the boat without feeling immense sadness. You have to watch it float away or sink, knowing you can't leave your boat, and that the likelihood of ever seeing it again is slim.  Very sad.

So this was a couple weeks ago, and since then, the winds have changed, the water levels have risen and fall, and it's rained. The pots could be anywhere. They could have floated out into the river, filled with rain and drowned. They could have blown a mile down the river and gotten snagged in the reeds. They could have even drowned of their own accord at the mouth of the canal!

But didn't I say it was the best story ever? Yes. Yes, I did. Because despite the fact that we haven't gone through the main canal since we've gotten here, I kept hoping. So yesterday, when we went out on the bay for the first time, Kyle scanned the port bank and I scanned the starboard bank of the canal, hoping against all odds that they had somehow come back into the canal. And there, at the very mouth of the main canal, on the bank, were two lowly, unattended pepper pots, just waiting to be loved. And do I ever love them...

So, next on my list for today: take the dinghy down the main canal and retrieve the pepper pots! I've been thinking about it every so often, "Maybe today if the weather is nice..." But that is such a long row, especially when I didn't know the pots were there at all. Today is a gorgeous day, and I know exactly where my pots lie.

Save the pepper pots, SAVE THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!

 In other news, I know we've said this before but we're really leaving this time.  The last time, the water was supposed to come up but never did (the winds never really changed).  But now, we're two months (good grief...has it been that long?) past our original leave date.  The winds of change are upon us - spring is here, and with it, the water.  So today we are preparing for the adventure to begin again!  We leave tomorrow.  We're going to have a big day, from Tull Bay through the Albemarle Sound, but neither of us wants to see that first anchorage again.  It is supposed to rain, an extra challenge, but we're both just relieved to be able to get out of the canals.  Even with the extra two months of no progress, we both feel fairly comfortable with the time we need to get to Guate, although we may spend a little less time exploring and a little more time traveling.  The biggest issue I now face is what to do for St. Patrick's Day...

11 March 2010:  Tull Bay to Belhaven
Wednesday morning, the waters were gloriously calm.

The water on the Albemarle Sound was equally pleasing, although a little foggy.
We faced a short bridge...
...and a tall bridge...
...and a channel that went on forever.
And finally, we were attacked by porpoises.  Kyle loathes dolphins and anything dolphin shaped.  I asked him for the difference between porpoises and dolphins, and he said "Nothing, they're both evil."  Thusly, when a porpoise surfaced right next to the cockpit where Kyle was driving, Kyle immediately honed in on how one porpoise distracted us by surfacing in the bow wave while the other sneak attacked him in the cockpit.  I did have my camera out but I did not expect the ninja attack from behind so the only picture I have is where the porpoise disappeared (I have inserted my best rendering of the offender):
And here is his illusive sidekick:
And because Kyle brought up a spelling 'error,' I meant illusive as in putting up an illusion, not elusive.

Cheers from Belhaven!  We made it through our first two days of travel and are currently sitting in the Belhaven Public Library.  We've gone 90.1 nautical miles in the past two days.  I would write more, but neither of us have eaten lunch and we're hungry.

12 March 2010:  Belhaven to Oriental
So, we made it into Oriental! We're currently tied up to the town dock (48 hours of complimentary dockage!), drinking coffee at The Bean looking out over the boat. However, to start this post, we're going to revert back to finish our post about Belhaven...

So, after we left the library, we decided we needed two things: fresh provisions, and FOOD! Now, the cruising guide says the nearest grocery store was "inaccessible" by foot, but after consulting with our friendly librarian, it was determined that a mere two miles separated us from fresh goodness. So we walked.

On our journey, we came across "Jumbo Grump"...

And a rather unique visitor info box...
And "Crabby the Crabber"...
And finally, found the Food Lion. Some fresh chicken, peppers, and a toothbrush later, we began the journey home. But 'twas not long before we were distracted by the wonderful smells emanating from a nearby Hardee's... yes, even fast food sounded delicious to our growling stomachs. Hunger nullified, we continued onward. Of course, the way back was not without it's distractions as well... (the speed shown is actually a Mach number, not MPH)

We left our anchorage inside the Belhaven Breakwaer around 7am this morning, and made it here, to Oriental, in about 7 hours. 20 knot winds, 2 foot seas, and a small craft advisory made it an interesting day for sure. Oh, and the constant drizzle. But, we're here. A two day break to visit friends in New Bern, and we'll be on our way down the ICW once again...

18 March 2010:  Oriental
So, after a thorough inspection of Southern Cross following our rather rough running of the Neuse, a few things came up in need of repair or replacement. Deciding it was better to fix them now in the "Sailing Capital of North Carolina", rather than later when such amenities may not be available.

As far as stopovers go, Oriental is one not to be missed. We spent 4 days at the town dock, and no one cared in the slightest. Currently, we're known as "The kids with the pink dinghy" around town. Not wanting to impose and take up half of the two slips available at the head of the harbor, we've relocated to an anchorage a mere 50 yards from the town dinghy dock, in between a packed marina and a half dozen shrimp boats. Expect more on Oriental in the near future.

21 March 2010:  Oriental
Well, we finally ran out of ice in the cooler and are now completely without any refrigeration.  So we are not eating much meat, and we have started to explore our other options.  We did open a jar of canned venison burger (delicious!).  When meat is typically cooked, a lot of flavor is lost, but in canning, all the flavor is contained in the jar - the canned venison is much more flavorful than normal burger.  It is also a little more crumbly, and definitely cannot be used to make burgers.  We used it to make giant piles of nachos with everything.  I take food pictures all the time, I have no idea why, but this is good news for you, because you get to see my giant plate of nachos and be wildly jealous.

Also, I have been faithfully turning over my serving-sized cubes of waxed cheese.  For those of you that missed my earlier post on waxing cheese, cheese that has been waxed does not need refrigeration.  The only caveat being that the cheese will continue to age.  I waxed mild cheddar, and so now we have medium to sharp cheddar.  There are four cubes of cheese that have a moldy corner, but the rest (twenty or so) are all looking really good.  Yesterday, I cut the corner off one of the moldy cubes, then peeled the rest of the wax off - natural oils in the cheese make the wax come off as easily as peeling a banana.  The cheese was really good.  It was also more flavorful than regular cheddar - after it is waxed, it continues to age / sharpen.  I cut it into tiny cubes and put it in a bowl of some delicious guacamole, which we ate for lunch (see the avocado in the background of the first photo?  I am not lying :P). 

Finally, I made a first and fatal attempt at making bread in a pressure cooker.  This procedure went south before I even tried to bake it, so I'll definitely be trying again.  Apparently when they say the flour is "self-rising," they only mean in terms of cookies and banana bread and cornbread and the like.  French bread is definitely out of the question.  I did not find this out until today, when I had a chance to ask the Interwebs what I did wrong.  At any rate, after an hour of rising, the bread had not risen at all.  I decided to try "baking" it anyway, because there was still learning to be done in this experiment.  According to the Great Google, there are basically two ways to make bread in a pressure cooker:  either one must use a trivet and a couple cups of water and a bread pan that fits in the pressure cooker to steam the bread (which never really gets a crust, more of a bagel-like surface), or put the bread directly in the pressure cooker.  Our stove is really hot, so putting the bread directly in the pressure cooker would undoubtedly burn the bottom long before the rest of the bread baked.  This left steaming.  Of course, the loaf size I was making (even if it had risen) was a weird size so no recipe could tell me exactly how long I needed to, steam it.  I steamed the whole mess, at pressure, for half an hour.  It looked like pureed porridge.  So I steamed it at pressure for another half hour.  Sad day.  Kyle said he'd try it if I did.  So I cut a "slice" of bread and broke a small bit off to munch on.  It tasted like a soggy, floury noodle.  I guess there's always tomorrow.  I just sent Kyle to the grocery for some yeast so I feel like I've already solved half the problem.  Since it would be really handy to have small loaves of bread and not need a grocery store, I will update you WHEN I find a solution to this problem.

Booyah.  Behold the bread that I have made!  On the stove, in a pressure cooker.  I could not be prouder of this delicious feat.  This was made directly in the pressure cooker, no trivet required.  The pressure cooker was oiled and floured, and the bread was cooked on the small burner on the lowest heat.  The cooker was not sealed (aka not cooked at pressure), and it was "baked" on the first side for 50 minutes, and then flipped and cooked for another 20.  Okay, 18.  I couldn't wait those last two minutes because it smelled so good.
Further, behold the amazing burgers and fries Kyle and I created (with homemade bread and waxed cheese):
Lastly, the green wine we had in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  No green beers for us; just a bottle of white wine with food coloring.

3 April 2010:  Oriental
So, we have effected repairs, all our parts are in, and we're about ready to go. Right now, I have an opportunity to make a little side money doing some online UG work. We're debating whether or not to sit here and take the job (about 2 weeks) while fixing other things that didn't get done in the refit. So far, there's a pretty good argument for staying a little longer. Anyway, we'll keep everyone updated on developments in that area. Here's what we've been doing for the last few weeks...

Aside from the repairs needed, we've continued with the refit projects (always in progress), the largest being relocating the watermaker and going through the fresh water system. The watermaker formerly resided in the very back recesses of our quarterberth locker, where it's almost impossible to service, and takes up half the locker. Now that it's been relocated, ALL of my tools and maintenance stuffs fit in that locker, and a cover will hide the whole mess and regain the storage space outside the locker. Little white flecks appeared in our water supply, and we're trying to determine and fix the cause, which was part of this move. In other news (VERY exciting news, according to Darcy), I finished installing a second foot pump in the galley that draws raw water (whatever water is outside the boat) through a filter, and straight into the galley. Much easier and cleaner than throwing a bucket over the side every time we do dishes or steam something in the pressure cooker.

Occasionally, we'll take a break from our work to do a little tourist stuff. One day, we went to the beach in Morehead... And later that day meandered to the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, where I learned Darcy has an interest in Blackbeard...
And in our wanderings around Beaufort, we came across a sign worthy of reproduction aboard SC...
And other than that, it's been pretty much working on the boat, walking around town, and visiting with new friends. And the occasional day sail around the Neuse, an excellent training ground, now that our windlass is again functional. Oh, and passing my Technician's Class radio license!

We'd like to extend a thank you to our new friends Steve and Lynn aboard Celebration, Jim and Beth and Cameron aboard the soon-to-be Wild Haggis for their companionship and advice. Also thanks to Charlie and Sigrid for letting us do laundry and shower at their house, and to Dick and Jackie for inviting us to what I'm sure will be a wonderful Easter dinner tomorrow! Thanks all!

11 April 2010:  Oriental
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

...It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
--Charles Dickens

That's about how I feel about where we are right now.  For me, it's a lot of sitting and waiting in the Oriental harbor.  By which I mean, going stir-crazy.  Of course I have little projects to occupy my time, but my feet are begging to wander someplace new.  That, and it's been a long week.

Let's start with Monday.  We spent the majority of our day in New Bern at the Emergency Room, because Kyle lost a battle with Daisy the Diesel.  He managed to scrape his hand along just about everything sharp located near the alternator in attempt to fix our battery problem.  The problem was that the batteries were not charging, and we sort of rely on the power the batteries supply.  We couldn't take the boat out for a day of motoring to charge them, because we were pretty hemmed in by this sandbar friend of ours who has pretty much held us hostage for the past couple weeks.  But I digress.

So Kyle ended up with six stitches in one finger, and another finger didn't have enough skin left on it to stitch together - he had a hole about the size of a nickel that went down nearly to the bone.  So I went and got some Subway while he was waiting to be seen, and when I got back they had already taken him back to a room.  I was pretty hungry so I ate my half of the sub then went back and watched him get stitched back together.  Lesson learned, no food before injuries.  My iron stomach did pretty okay.  Oh, and Kyle is fine.

Well, with Kyle's dominant hand out of commission, we lost another crucial system for being anchored - the pump in the head stopped pumping.  At 10 pm I had to row in to go pee.  Sigh.  At that point, there wasn't really much else to do other than take a beach day.  We were both pretty exhausted and just sick of everything.  Back to Morehead City/Beaufort! We found the beach to be far too crowded with holiday-makers and spring-breakers, however.  Oh well.  We were wary of getting sand in Kyle's bandages anyway, so we decided to walk around Beaufort again.

Of Beaufort I have nothing notable to say except that I like the painting on the bricks at the ice company, and we stopped at the Coastal Community Market and found a great deal on some asiago cheese as well as a sprout mix that is going to really spruce up our salads.

But, back at the boat, things were still as bad as when we left.  Kyle did fix the head pump (yay), but we discovered that our isolator (directs power from the alternator to the battery banks) was bad.  In addition, our batteries are so drained that it will take a long time to recharge them.  Oh, and early in the week the cell phone went for a swim so we've had to work around being sans phone as well.

Lastly, the wind has been formidable.  It just won't stop.  I am starting to feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder, sitting on the prairie (except I'm in the water).  One night, I was sitting in the cockpit reading and the wind was cold and blowing my pages in the way.  I was fed up.  So I decided to put up the side curtain for the bimini to see if I could block some of the wind.  Kyle and I had just gotten it zipped on when we realized the bimini zipper was basically disintegrating as we zipped it - the curtain was hanging on by sheer terror.  So now that's something else to fix, and without a sewing machine it's going to take HOURS.

But all is not dark!  I couldn't use the Dickens quote without having some incredible joy to share as well.  First of all, I got the comments working again!  It was apparently a really easy fix (yay) that took hours to find (boo).  Thanks to all of you who failed to tell me they weren't working; my apologies for not noticing.

And more importantly, we decided to spend the weekend at Kyle's dad's house - we are only about 3 hours from their house by car.  One of the neighbors had a birthday, and a rockin' awesome surprise party to go along with it.  We got to see all our friends from this area, in finest form (haha, love you guys!).  Also, we went for a boat ride where neither of us were responsible for anything but socialization.  It's been great.  Plus, we are taking full advantage of all the luxuries a house has to offer.  First of all, bacon.  Yum.  Second, an oven.  I made three loaves of French bread.  Third, a REAL BED.  Glorious.  Fourth, the freezer.  I bought ice cream :)  Fifth, free, unlimited internet.  Since most of this is revolving around food, I'm going to share one of my favorite boat meals, my gourmet chili (it's gourmet because of the saltine garnishes).

So, once again I've written a small novel instead of a blog post.  In my defense, it's been a LONG time since I've written, because lately all my online time has been allocated firstly to email and other necessities, and second I've been trying to fix the comment problem.  Now that it's solved, I can do frivolous things like whine about my life but at the same time make you envious of how great things are going.  Oh, and right now, I'm going for another boat ride where all I have to do is sit in the sun and look pretty.

22 April 2010:  Oriental to Swansboro
WE FINALLY LEFT ORIENTAL!!!!!!!!  Not that I'm incredibly excited about it or anything...

So we got up early on Sunday, planning on taking a final shower and then leaving.  Of course, rowing back to the boat, I noticed our bow frog was no longer with us.  I have failed to mention kiddie Frog Pool until now, my apologies.  The frog is in no way wasteful or spendthrift, in fact, we spent only $3 on him.  He is only prodigal because...well, you'll see.  In the meantime, here is the frog.

So anyway, our bow frog was gone.  I knew that I didn't tie him up too well when we were trying to dry him our for stowage; I take full responsibility.  Finally we spotted him on the other side of the river.  Yeah, that tiny green spot.  So I got an early morning workout rowing over there and back.  Not my first dinghy rescue mission (see:  Pepper Pots).  So the frog was only prodigal in that he returned to us after chancing it out in the big world on his own, which really has nothing to do with the definition of 'prodigal.'

Well, eventually we made it on our way, and waved goodbye to our new family on the dock...  We had planned on going to Beaufort, but realized we had been planning on leaving from New Bern.  Therefore, Beaufort was only a couple hours away, and we had time to make it to Swansboro.

So we started out and everything was going smoothly...until the first wave of the Neuse River hit.  That is the first turn we made - we had been beam to, and so I turned the boat into the waves until we could recover.  Nothing is ever as stowed as it should be, especially in the cockpit.  And from the first turn to the second, we were making sure everything was tucked away for some serious heeling.

But you know what they say, if it weren't for bad luck we'd have no luck at all.  Just after we crossed the bridge by Morehead City, there was a large WHUMP and the boat heeled a little bit.  Darcy found a shoal.  We had grounded, HARD.  It's a lot like being rear-ended in a car - first you make sure everyone's okay, then you make sure the vehicle's okay and you try to figure out what happened.  I hadn't even been watching the depth sounder.  A rookie mistake.

After deciding we couldn't motor our way off it, we hailed a passing powerboat to give us a little wake to help rock us off the shoal.  After getting hit by powerboat wakes all day, I think he had been the first one to actually slow down for us.  Well, after the first two passes on plane, he finally realized that he'd be pushing more water if he slowed down a little bit.  I was sitting on the deck near the shrouds when he came back for his third pass.  He was really close.  Suddenly all the water on that side of the boat went rushing out, and we heeled over.  Almost instantaneously, his wave hit, drenching me up to my shorts - since we'd heeled over, the crest of the wave was much higher than the side of the boat.  I'm hoping my plants didn't get too much salt water in them.  Then Kyle yelled out - we had a seat cushion floating away.  He quickly hopped in the dinghy and retrieved it, despite the strong current of the area.

The towboat had been listening to us on the radio, and he actually came out even though we didn't ask.  We had been about to try kedging off when he arrived.  However, after he pulled us off the sandbar it was clear we wouldn't have been able to kedge off anyway.

So, after that harrowing day, we were pretty happy to anchor in Swansboro.  The town was pretty dead by then, but so were we so we weren't looking for too much entertainment.  And to end, a couple photos from last night.

26 April 2010:  Swansboro to Georgetown
So, we left Swansboro in the early morning, and continued down the ICW towards Wrightsville Beach. Our first point of interest was passing through Camp LeJeune Marine Base. Occasionally, there will be live fire exercises and the like on this part of the ICW, so signs at both ends warn of such activities. Long, straight and narrow, the most interesting thing about this stretch was the sight of several mobile missile platforms that seem to have been abandoned along the shore....All along the banks of the ICW, residential development seems to be booming. This was one of the more memorable ones...That evening, we pulled into our anchorage in Wrightsville Beach. It's a pleasant little town, and the ocean was within 500 yards of the dinghy dock. We meandered about the town for two days, enjoying the beach and various touristy things like the museum of history.

After leaving Wrightsville Beach, we headed south to Carolina Beach for the evening. It was a short day, but necessary due to the long run to Calabash Creek we had planned for the following day. Shown is the Carolina Beach waterfront.We awoke with dawn the next morning for our run down the Cape Fear River to our anchorage in Calabash Creek that evening. Along the way, we passed through the Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge, the last of it's kind. With ZERO vertical clearance when closed, the traffic waiting for this bridge was fairly intense. Of course, it only opens at the top of every hour, and we managed to show up 8 minutes AFTER the hour.Our anchorage that night was right next to the "Calabash Crossroads", where the ICW, Calabash Creek, and the Little River Inlet meet. From our post, we were able to see the huge casino boats coming and and out of the inlet. Somehow, these thing manage to draft only a few more feet than us.
On the move at dawn again, we were greeted by the sunrise in our wake as we headed to the "Most Worrisome Stretch of the ICW". Neither of us had slept much that night after we read that from our guidebook...But we made it through "The Rock Pile" without incident. As we passed through at dead low tide, we were able to see the sharp rock ledges and such that the guidebook warned us about. Not something you want to find with your keel, and not all of them are marked...That evening, we anchored in the serene Bull Creek. It was gorgeous. Enough said.A little later than dawn this time (at 3am the current and wind became engaged in an epic battle to see how fast they could spin the boat), we got underway. It had started to lightly rain, but we couldn't tell if it would stick around or it was an isolated incident. It wasn't isolated, as demonstrated below by Darcy... we did however manage to gather a few gallons of fresh water from the morning deluge.
And that pretty much covers it. We're anchored in Georgetown, SC right now. Only a few yards from the dinghy dock, which is VERY handy. Stay tuned... 

30 April 2010:  Georgetown to Beaufort
You know how I said in the last post we were anchored in Georgetown, only a few yards from the dinghy dock? Well, later in that same day, we ended up anchored so close we didn't even need the dinghy. Well, of course there's a bit of a story behind it...

After getting highly caffeinated at the coffee shop while writing that post and doing various other internet researches, we returned to the boat with the intention of gathering our laundry and heading up to the laundromat. We had made it about 50 feet down the boardwalk when it was decided I was going to stay with the boat, as the wind was already twice its forecasted speed and only getting stronger. So, I rowed back to the boat, and tried to get some work done. About 45 minutes later, the people anchored directly in front of us drug anchor (it was blowing about 25-30 knots then, with gusts over 40). They managed to get the engine started and motor away, did about four rounds of the very crowded anchorage trying to reset the hook, then finally gave up and tied up to the town day dock. Just then, WE started to drag. The wind direction already had us as close as possible to the day dock, but when the anchor dragged, we came within 20 feet before it reset. Only about 10 feet from the boat that had just tied up. So, now I had to decide whether it would hold until Darcy returned from the laundromat and could aid me, or to try and pull up the anchor and dock us myself. Normally I would have no problems with this, but in a crowded anchorage and strong winds, it was not my preference. Anyway, we dragged back about 3 more feet, so it was decided for me. It went far more smoothly than I could have anticipated, but I will admit sprinting the length of the deck half a dozen times and hauling in over 200 pounds of ground tackle in two minutes is by FAR the best workout I've had in a while. J.J and Anne (the people who had dragged in front of us) were standing on the dock to assist me with lines, and soon we were tied nicely to something we knew couldn't drag. We spent the night at the dock (they don't bother you if it's blowing that hard), taking notes from J.J. and Anne on their travels and recommendations.

In the meantime, we've been enjoying the sights in town and along the way:

Some shots from Georgetown

How would you like this barreling at you?  He didn't slow down.  We found out what wasn't properly stowed.

Low tide - it is apparently NOT safe to go near the markers.

The wind is against us, every day.  This day, we didn't meet a single sailboat that didn't have a jib out.

Sunset through the storm.  The sunsets make the long days worth it.
You might need a bigger boat house...

It's easy to power a ship that size when you're going downhill.

Once again, low tide is no one's friend.

6 May 2010:  Beaufort to Fernandina Beach
Our last stop in South Carolina was Beaufort.  BEW-fort, as opposed to BO-fort (the city in North Carolina).  Another historic southern town.  As we pulled up, we could see two really old looking ships at the city marina.  Apparently the Nina and Pinta were in town for the weekend, so that was really cool - these ships were reproductions, not originals, but they were hand-built.  So that's something.

Anyway, we were following our usual habit of wandering downtown and stopping at a coffee shop for internet.  We wandered through an art store that had some really cool sculptures - I am a sucka for realistic paintings and abstract sculptures.  Here is one of my favorites.  I admired the art while Kyle inspected the welds.  He was right, it was a crappy welding job.  You can't take the engineer out of the art enthusiast....
I can't get the picture to load correctly so instead you can enjoy the studio's refreshing attitude toward children.

Later we walked through another art store and were pleased to find that they had an entire room devoted to old charts.  Kyle said his dream home has a large library covered in old charts similar to the ones we found there.  It will be an expensive room to decorate, if those prices are any indication.

We finally made it to the coffee shop and were enlightened to the fact that the weekend activities in Beaufort included a festival, A Taste of Beaufort.  Of course we partook in the activities offered.  Kyle enjoyed a brat from Bricks, a local restaurant.  That brat nearly defeated him.  I managed to find some seafood that did not involve any slimy, disgusting crustaceans from another booth.

In addition, we were educated about South Carolina's official dance, the Shag.  Some of the other activities available included being eaten by a giant inflatable shark and discovering a giant motorhome full of Jelly Bellys.

 Lastly, we were warned about what happens when you leave your teenaged dinghy hanging out with the riffraff at the dinghy dock...such an embarrassment!  Actually, I was fortunate enough to talk to the owners of these dinghies - they were from New Zealand!  Charming accents, and of course their sailboat was fairly easy to pick out as well.

But, after that, it was back on the road again.  Nothing too harrowing, except for that first morning just as we approached the Port Royal Sound.  We heard a noise that...well, it sounded both like a ripping and an explosion.  I can't quite describe it, except to say that if something had tore a hole in the boat, that is what I would have expected it to sound like.  It turned out to be one of our PFDs that inflated because it had been sitting in the sun.  I later tried it on and found that were it to ever explode when it was around my neck, I would feel more like I was choking than being saved from drowning.  Hopefully I'll never get to experience that.

We saw a sailboat fatality.  Oh, the horror! (this is at low tide - at high tide, I'm sure all that's visible is the mast and rigging)
And here is the only place in Georgia that I actually went on land.  Kyle stayed on the boat.  This is an old fort, I just needed to stretch my legs a bit. 
We passed a facility that builds nuclear submarines - they shut down the ICW if a sub is passing through the waters.
Here are some wild horses on Cumberland Island

And what is a blog post without our favorite sunrise and sunset:
And if you've caught on yet, we completely bypassed Georgia and are now in Florida, at Fernandina Beach.
14 May 2010:  Fernandina Beach
Fernandina Beach is known for its shrimp festival, held the first weekend in May - we arrived a week late for it.  However, there are quite a few sculptures of what I can only assume to be shrimp in all the nooks and crannies of the city.  Fernandina Beach is really quite a touristy town - Kyle and I enjoyed it quite a bit, although the anchorage is a LONG way from the dinghy dock, especially if you're rowing.
Additionally, there seemed to be a pirate theme in the town, but that could have been related to all the tourist shops.  And who could forget SHARK IN A JAR?!  As well as Bacon Beans.  I had hoped they were beans that you could plant and grow bacon, but I suppose bacon jelly beans are the next best thing.
 We weren't big on the tourist shops, although some had marine oddities that we enjoyed.  Kyle and I have discovered that we both share a passion for antiques, and Fernandina Beach had much to offer by way of antiques.  Of course, Kyle is interested mostly in marine things, while my interest is a bit wider, but I think we both agree that it's all very interesting.  Here are some of our favorites:
 I think I am sitting on an antique in that last photo.  But if they didn't want it to be sat on, why would they put it so alluringly at the edge of the sidewalk?

One of the reasons we were excited about Fernandina Beach is that we hadn't resupplied our fresh groceries in quite a while, and a guidebook told us that one of the nearby grocers would pick up boaters at the marina and bring them to the store and home again.  Well, a few phone calls later we could not reproduce this phenomenon.  But a bit of good fortune sprang our way by the name of Robin, a friend of a crew member we met at the boater's lounge.  She drove us to Winn Dixie and we got completely carried away with shopping, knowing we didn't have to carry it all back.  In fact, we even decided a six-pack of snobby beer was in order to go along with the Red Wings game we decided we'd be able to watch that night, but then we picked out a winner and found that the six-pack was $7 and the 12-pack was $10...being engineers, we're pretty good with math and we decided to be irresponsible.  At any rate, the beer was definitely a favorite, and the Wings game was pretty ridiculous as well (have you met my friend Franzen?  It was not a good day to be a Shark).

Also, as engineers, we found this pretty amusing.  It is ONLY a roof over two park benches.  You know, the type of thing that would really seem pretty inconsequential in inclement weather.  I mean, if you're going to reinforce something THAT much, I would have made it the actual marina or something.  But no, this little arbor is going NOWHERE in a hurricane.  As you can see, not even Kyle is able to sway it with all his brute force.

Anyway, that's about all the good news.  The bad news is that the Florida heat has done something horrendous to my home-brewed sparkling wine - we opened the wine locker on Monday to find seven (seven!) popped corks.  Upon further inspection, we found three bottles to be drinkable and the rest had gone bad.  Of course, this meant that all the sparkling red needed to be consumed fairly quickly.  Actually, we had planned for this possibility earlier, and all the red had been in the locker in garbage bags so we didn't have a huge mess to clean up (or smell to get rid of).  It is still disheartening to see all my hard work go to waste like that though.

 Still, a good sunset cures all, right?  

17 May 2010:  Fernandina Beach to Titusville
Again, we headed south. Our first anchorage was in the St. George's River. Not too bad of an anchorage, but very narrow with a bit of small boat traffic. Still, the National Park was interesting, with a fair amount of old plantation ruins to explore.

After the next day's travels, we anchored just off the ICW north of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. This was a large, fairly popular anchorage due to its having weaker currents than south of the bridge. We did not go ashore here, as the only dinghy dock was out of range for our poor rowing arms. Immediately to our east was the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which looked interesting but was not easily accessed from our position. Pirate ships abounded in these waters, and made for some entertainment value.

On our third day of this leg, we anchored near "R44" in Daytona Beach. Unfortunately, we touched bottom here while working our way through the anchorage, but were able to get free after a few hours of work and tidal inflow. Of course we were IN BETWEEN other, larger boats when we found this bar, in depths charted to be 14 feet. We never saw enough water in this anchorage, and getting in and out was fairly nerve-wracking. Neither the electronic or paper charts showed the same depths as our sounder.

And finally, we made it to Titusville. The anchorage is typical of what we've come to expect in Florida. Off the ICW, in six to seven foot depths. Darcy took the helm and tried to manuever us as close as possible to the marina, but we kept running out of water. So we settled for being close to the ICW channel, and getting a bit more exercise rowing in. Titusville is not much of a tourist town, but it IS great for provisioning, with groceries and such within a few blocks of the dinghy dock. Save-a-Lot seems to be cheaper than Sam's, without the bulk requirement! Also, our first night in we splurged on a Papa John's pizza with pepperoni, which was absolutely delicious!

And so I sit in Titusville. Darcy boarded a bus Thursday bound for Michigan, and two weddings. I got to stay and watch the Shuttle Atlantis launch on what is probably its last mission. Friday, thousands of people flooded into Titusville to watch the launch. The bridge just south of our anchorage was absolutely covered with pedestrians, as a prime viewing area of the launch. I tuned to the NASA AM radio station, and listened to the commentary and countdown in realtime. Even at a distance, I could here the cheering of the crowd the moment the shuttle lifted off the pad. It was an amazing thing to watch!

Rowing in to get provisions for the Shuttle Launch Potluck at the marina in the evening, I saw evidence of the thousands of people that flock to the area for a launch. Not a single space in Titusville did not have a vehicle on top of it. Some people even tried parking the driving lane on the major highway! Trailers peddling shaved ice, cold drinks, and inflatable space shuttles were everywhere. I was able to classify six different languages, and saw license plates from 18 states. Anyway, here I sit in Titusville, awaiting the return of our vessel's navigator/skipper/chef.

20 May 2010:  Pressure Cooker Baking
WARNING:  Do not try this at home.  I can't picture a scenario in which this information will be useful to anyone, excepting that small crowd which has no oven, a propane stove, and an eight-quart pressure cooker.  Small crowd, this post is for you.

Just for the record, I started out baking something slightly more essential (and successful) - bread.  You can read about it here, and you can rest assured that this has been the recipe for bread that we've followed ever since we found it to be successful.

My first endeavor was brownies.  I used a mix (half the box) to make things really simple.  I mean, who could screw up brownies from a mix, right?  Wrong.  Apparently eggs are not an optional ingredient.  I tried to compensate for lack of eggs by adding either extra oil or extra water, I don't remember which.  Either way, the brownies never really baked, they were a sort of thick goop.

The next batch, we had some farmer's market eggs (fresh eggs - we didn't refrigerate them for a week and they never got rotten).  So I used the other half of the first box and tried to use minimal amounts of liquids.  I baked them on the smallest burner on the lowest setting - our stove is hot - and I had the lid on the pressure cooker but I did not cook them under pressure.  I had them in for maybe 30 minutes and they smelled burnt.  It turns out, they burnt (the propane stove is very hot).  Also inedible.  Nearly ruined the pressure cooker, which is our main cooking pot when it comes to making meals.  Lesson learned:  better to be underdone than overdone.  Here's the pressure cooker soaking - the engine was running and the vibrations showed in the water.

Third batch:  Once again, farmer's market egg and a little less liquid ingredients.  Cooked on the lowest setting of the smallest burner for 20 minutes.  Lid on, but not under pressure.  A little dry, but close to perfection.  Baking time correlated with the baking time on the box, but I was only using half the box.

It seems to be a theme - two or three trial runs before a success.  So a couple weeks later, when my sweet tooth started getting to me again, I tried cookies (also from a mix; I have all the ingredients to make them from scratch, but a mix is more reproducible).  I used powdered egg mix this time instead of real eggs.  I could only fit six in the pressure cooker, and I had them on the bigger burner at the lowest setting.  I baked them for about 10 minutes and they turned out a little soft on top (so they collapsed) but they were still pretty good.

The next round I put them in for about 12 minutes and as you can see it was a little too much time.  They were pretty inedible.  Kyle and I picked off all the non-burnt parts and ate them immediately.  This batch was a failure, so after this I moved the cooker to the smaller burner.

After that, I decided there was no way I'd be able to make cookies like I could in the oven.  When I burnt them, the tops were still soft, so it didn't look like there was any way I could cook them through.  The next time I made cookies, I "baked" them all on the small burner and lowest heat for 8 to 10 minutes, and even though it doesn't look that appetizing, I consider it a success.  They were still delicious, although Kyle implied they were better suited to being crumbled on top of ice cream, I think ice cream is the one favorite food that I just can't have on the boat.

25 May 2010:  Titusville to St. Augustine
We are now two days north of Titusville, in St. Augustine, FL.  We have been here before, but the first time we were here we never left the boat.  However, the night we arrived I really wanted to go wander through town a little bit.  We are anchored right next to the Castillo de San Marcos, which is surrounded by an old tabby wall.  So I just had Kyle ferry me in and climbed up a very convenient set of steps in the wall and went and wandered.  We couldn't leave the dinghy tied there because a) there was no place to tie it and b) it would have been smashed up against the jagged tabby and...well, she's not looking so hot after a stint on the ICW and we don't want to push our luck.

So I was meandering down the very touristy St. George street when I spotted a walking tour group.  I stopped with them to listen to what the guide had to say, planning on seeing what they were touring and then continuing on my merry way.  It was a tour of all the haunted building in St. Augustine.  Interesting if a little far-fetched.  Anyway, as they moved on to their next stop, I was about to continue in the other direction when one of the touring ladies grabbed my arm and said "Come along, dear."  Soon we were best buds, chatting about the boat and why I was alone, etc.  She kept telling me that "us redheads have to stick together!" and holding my arm.  She and her husband were on their way to NC from Orlando and were just passing through for the night.  They actually caused quite a scene within the tour group, which was impressive because her husband was a VERY quiet man.  I managed to escape when darkness fell, because Kyle had no idea where I was or what was taking so long, and also it is a little more precarious to hang out in a rowboat at night.  But before I left, I made sure to get a photo of Sue and our booming tour guide.  I might look a little frazzled, having spent ten hours in the sun.

So after such a crazy evening I convinced Kyle that we ought to take a day to see the town, because it really is beautiful - lots of old ornate buildings - and it is full of crazy people.  This was kind of a problem because rowing to the marina to tie up the dinghy really wasn't feasible given the distance and current.  However, as previously mentioned, tying up at the fort presented it's own problems.  We ended up tying the dinghy painter to a small mooring anchor that was hanging out right next to the steps, and then leaving our anchor as far out as we could get it, thusly holding the boat in limbo between anchors, but able to be pulled to either anchor without upsetting the other.  As the tide dropped, it became easier to illustrate how we tied up.

After an obligatory stop at the Sailors Exchange, we chanced upon a winery that we had picked up a brochure for at the tourist center.  We walked in an immediately were ushered into a conference room to view a short film with the rest of a tour group.  After that, a quick walk around the winery, and then on to wine tasting!  We learned how to sample wine, then tried out our new technique on five different wines, plus a sherry and a port.  And it was all free!  Amazing.  The wine was delicious.  You can see Kyle and I look like old pros at wine tasting.
And as always, we walked around all day until my legs were numb and Kyle was walking like an old man, despite the heat and humidity.  When we finally stopped for food - our first restaurant meal in quite some time - we were famished and our burgers were heavenly.  See how happy Kyle is?  And after the burgers, we stopped at an Irish pub for a pint, and were pleasantly surprised to find a real Dublin native manning the bar.

Oh, and I mentioned that St. Augustine is full of free wine.  Well, in addition to the winery (which can't be beat - they poured very large glasses of each "sample" wine), there are also a few winery stores along St. George St (the main tourist drag).  They each offer free wine tasting, so Kyle and I were able to also try some sparkling blueberry, Cocoa Beach (orange wine made with chocolate sauce), and Hot Sun (wine made from hot peppers and tomatoes).  We also met quite a few interesting people today.  The couple that witnessed us trying to free our dinghy at high tide were probably the most talkative ones, but if you saw someone suddenly dig into the water and pull up a rope that magically was attached to a small boat you'd probably be pretty curious too.

And because I take photos of everything, here are some favorite shots from today.

Here is the Castillo de San Marcos.
Kyle and I nearly had our dinner at the old mill, which was turning impressively (read: suspiciously) uniformly for how little water was flowing over it...
And of course, the lovely buildings - Flagler College and I'm not quite sure what the second one is.
And, here is our spider buddy that was chillaxing in the sun as well as the WALL OF FIRE in one of about eight overpriced hot sauce stores that plague St. George St.

26 May 2010:  St. Augustine
So, as some of you may have realized, we're in St. Augustine for the second time. Please allow me to explain...

We're headed north again. Why? Hurricane season is here. Or will be very soon, at least. Due to various delays for weather, being stuck in the mud, and waiting for this or that, we have decided not to continue south and risk it. We want to enjoy our trip, not rush to get south of the hurricane belt. To do so would go completely against what we've set out to do, which is experience the places we visit and enjoy our time at each place. So, we're headed north to our home port in North Carolina.

As to our plans for the near future, our intentions are to find jobs for the next few months, and wait out this hurricane season. We will head south again sometime near the end of this year or the beginning of the next.

In the meantime, we still have a trip to finish, and we're changing it up a bit for our North-bound travels, so keep watching...  

29 May 2010:  St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach

We won't keep you in suspense long.  We have left the "comfortable" ICW waters for the vast depths of the ocean.  When I say "vast," what I mean is that I went at least fifteen minutes without looking at the depthsounder.  And when I did, this is what I saw.  That is not five point three, that is FIFTY-THREE feet of water under our keel.  Amazing.

Everything that we have read and researched indicates that ocean-going is far superior to ICW, and therefore we decided to try it.  A sailboat in the ICW is really just a very inconveniently shaped powerboat, at least in our experience.  This is partially because whenever we were going south on the ICW there was a south wind.  And as soon as we turned north, we had north wind for a week straight.  We couldn't have sailed even if we wanted to, but frankly, there isn't very deep water in the ICW, which makes sailing a little uncomfortable.   There is also a lot of small boat traffic (read:  we get hit by a lot of powerboat wakes), very strong tidal currents, crab pots and bridges to wait for.  On the ocean, there was nothing but water for miles around...almost.

But, more importantly, when we're only going one direction, Helga does her best work.  Meet Helga, our favorite helmsman and semi-trustworthy autopilot.  With Helga at the wheel (tiller), we only need to check on our course every ten to fifteen minutes.  It leaves us free to try to scrape the Titusville barnacles off the dinghy, or do something fun like wash dishes.

Even though we didn't really have enough wind to sail, it was still a very good day to be out.  The weather was nice, the waves were small, and I got introduced to the ocean.  I have never been out on the ocean before.  I'm from Michigan, and I don't come from a family of boaters.  I may or may not have spent some time frozen to my seat in terror, but with such an easy day I had no problem relaxing.

Finally, meet our escort into Fernandina Harbor.  And when I say "escort," I mean a giant mass of steel and and smoke that chased us down the channel.  Happily, it turned right where we were turning left so we weren't forced to get out the jousting poles.

We arrived in Fernandina Beach just as a band was setting up on Centre St., so we were serenaded with 50s and 60s music and entertained by young and old trying to do their best at The Twist.  And let me tell you, it was pretty entertaining.  Of course, all our days end in a spectacular sunset. 

5 June 2010:  ICW tips and tricks

Kyle and Darcy compiled this so that others can learn from OUR mistakes and assumptions, without having to go through the trouble of making our rookie mistakes.  

Things You Need:

  • A boat. It seems obvious, doesn't it? But one of the most important things about this boat is the draft, because there will be times when a six foot draft isn't going anywhere if the tide is low. We're nearly five foot and we've made it through some tight situations where I wouldn't want to take a boat that draws six foot.
Ignoring the chart, we went where
there was deep water.  It looks
like we went over the island though.

  • Charts, and a grain of salt. They will often tell you where you can go and where you can't go, but they aren't the final authority on the matter.  We tried to anchor in the "fourteen foot" depths of the Daytona Beach area and never saw more than 8 foot (and then ran aground looking for these mythical deep waters). Especially in the past week or so, the charts haven't even really been guides, they've just been way off. At other times, however, low tide matches exactly what the chart says.  We've seen charts that have anchorages highlighted - that is very helpful if you don't want to spend money on marinas.
  • Waterway Guides! Muy importante. And definitely more than one! Something to tell you the name of the bridge and when it opens, what kind of holding/shelter you can find in which anchorage, and something to tell you when the markers have been moved or reversed. Even if they're a little dated, the info will probably still be useful. We really enjoy Skipper Bob, who tells us things like where the dinghy dock is, how much it costs, whether there are grocery stores nearby, etc. Since we never go to marinas (poor college students, remember?), this is pretty vital for us to know.
What We've Learned:
  • Your depth sounder is your new best friend. At some places, the chart will show a channel magically deep to the shores, but it is not. Kyle has learned how to "feel" for the channel via depth sounder. Darcy is not so good at that yet...
  • It is much cheaper to buy TowBoatUS or SeaTow insurance and not need it than to not get it and need it. I am talking about $1000 savings here. As this page shows, you'll be paying $250 per hour plus $20 per foot to be towed or ungrounded. Or, you just pay $150 at the beginning of your trip and stop worrying. Also I am discovering other perks likes $0.10 off per gallon of diesel.
  • In addition, you do not have to be a member of these services to call and ask for advice. We met some liveaboards in Georgetown who advised us that there was no way we could make it past Jekyll Island at low tide. Of course, we arrived at Jekyll Island at low tide. However, a quick radio chat with TowBoatUS let us know that the shallowest depths were six foot in the middle of the channel - things did get a little tight, but we made it through without issue.
  • Look over your route the night before. This is a lot like homework, but you're going to have to suck it up and just do it. If you fail to look over tomorrow's route and arrive at a bascule bridge at 7:05, only to discover that it doesn't open again until 9am because of morning commuters, you're going to be sorry.  If you look over your route the night before, you can decide whether to get going early or sleep in.
  • Avoid this marker at low tide!
  • Here's another reason to look over the route - tides. The NC ICW tides are mostly wind-driven, and really don't matter too much. When you start getting south, if you have a larger draft you are probably going to need the tidal schedule for the area you'll be passing through, and note that high tide on the coast could be an hour or three earlier than high tide on the ICW. Even if you have a shallow draft, this is still really good info to know. A good site to check for this is Saltwatertides. Another possibility is to know the tidal schedule at a major inlet or such body of water, and use your guidebook to calculate the offsets.
  • Speaking of tides, they apparently cause some pretty swift currents that reverse four times a day. We've had days against both current and wind where we were making only 2-3 knots. This is also something you want to pay close attention to when setting your anchor - when the current reverses, you need to be sure you're not going to drag, which might mean setting two anchors on occasion.

Helpful Hints to Know:
  • Seaclear II: A free, downloadable chartplotter for use on your laptop. We use it daily. Of course, our position is verified visually and recorded on paper charts frequently, but it's still a very nice tool to have. Downsides are the fact you can't see most laptop screens in the daylight, and of course electronic aids are always a possible place for failure. But did I mention it's free?
  • Giant wake!  And did he slow down?  No.
  • Weekends: when you're on permanent vacation, the weekends start to be a bane. Weekends are when all the little powerboats start buzzing around like mosquitoes. You think you're in a nice, peaceful anchorage making a pot of soup and suddenly the galley turns sideways because these powerboats will show you no mercy with their wakes. Ever. EVER!
  • Dolphins - they prowl around the boat, surfacing just underfoot trying to scare you and make you fall in so that they can maul you.  Sometimes you can see them coming, sometimes they come out of nowhere!  Occasionally manatees do the same.  I hear they're herbivores, but that doesn't mean they won't take a big chomp out of our dinghy.

11 June 2010:  Fernandina Beach to Georgetown
Let me just preface this all by saying that we're back in Georgetown, SC, which is a lovely town mostly because the dinghy dock is like ten foot from our boat (which is far better than the half mile we had to row in Fernandina Beach).

Anyway, so in our last town (Beaufort, SC), Kyle and I made a two mile trek to Dairy Queen.  Let me express now that ice cream is one of my favorite foods EVER.  I grew up with a family in the ice cream business; it was a staple of any family get-together.  But I have not had ice cream in a very long time, because there is simply no way to sustain it on the boat and I refuse to pay $4 for a tiny little cone in the touristy sections of most towns.  Not that DQ is so gourmet, but it was still ice cream.  Anyway, so after debating whether to get a small or medium blizzard, I opted for the small.  I could not eat it.  It was literally too cold for me.  Halfway through, I had to get up, go outside into the blazing heat, and warm myself up before I could go back to the A/C and eat more.  This was no ice cream headache.  My body has just adjusted to warmer temps - since we never have ANYTHING cold, ever.  I mean, we don't even get cold drinks to cool us during the middle of the day when we're out in the sun driving the boat: no fridge, ice doesn't last very long.  Even the ice water I got was almost too cold to drink.  It was a weird sensation.

And now that I'm in Georgetown, the lovely Rachel has made known to me that a package is waiting for me at the post office.  It seems so simple, doesn't it?  Well it's not.  It's a fiasco.  First, it was sent to the wrong town (we talked about so many towns and dates; apparently it wasn't clear at the end of the conversation where we would be, and when).  So we were in Beaufort and had a package waiting for us in Georgetown.  It's only three days away, no big deal.  But when we got to Georgetown, we went to the address of the PO and found a children's development center.  I walked up and down the street, wondering where I'd gone wrong.  Nope, Google definitely has that listed as the post office address.  So I stopped in a shop and chatted with the proprietor.  Apparently that PO shut down and there's a new one:  "Do you know where Walmart is?"  Is it within walking distance?  The response I got was a very assured 'no.'  So today when I got some internets, I looked up the address of the new one on the USPS website.  It does seem to be near a Walmart, but it did look like a pretty long walk in nearly hundred degree heat.  However, it would have been about $20 round trip in taxi rides (they have a $10 minimum).  But the Coffee Break Cafe owner - who, incidentally, remembered my name even though it's been a good six weeks since we've been here - says it's only about two miles.  That's very walkable.  I probably should have figured that out when I asked an old and slightly decrepit woman whether or not I could walk to the post office.  So I just heard from Rachel, who called the PO, that my package is in fact there (even though it was sent to the wrong address).  I am so excited.  You see what she sent us last time?  Oh man...

The only sad news is that Kyle and I have eaten the last of our waxed cheese.  It had aged deliciously, so we saved the last block for what is known as EPIC NACHOS (also found here), an amazing collection of chips, beans, salsa, canned venison, green peppers, and cheese.  It's quite a treat.

Alright, so that's it for now.  We might not post too often coming up because we don't plan on stopping very much anymore, unless we meet up with our south-bound friends on Wild Haggis.

12 June 2010:  Georgetown

So, after a trek of two miles in hundred degree heat, Kyle and I arrived at the post office.  Apparently they moved FIVE years ago - get with the program, Google!  We also stopped at Walmart, needing a few things that we couldn't pick up at the usual downtown shoppes.  And then, laden with goods, we started the trek back, watching the bank thermometer try to decide whether it was "blazing hot" or "hellish."  After about of mile of that nonsense, some angel of mercy stopped and asked how far we had to walk.  As an extra stroke of luck, he was going literally right next door to where our dinghy was parked.  And once we got home, we surveyed the damages.  Baked goodness....mmmmmmm.  I can see that my breakfast for the next week is going to consist of Mt. Dew and puppy chow (apparently no one knows what puppy chow is - Chex cereal covered in chocolate/peanut butter then coated with powdered sugar).

Kyle stole a picture of me enjoying my first luscious bites of cookie in a long time...

Then later, we made friends with a man named Robert at the day dock.  He was in a 23' 1951 Herreshoff sailboat, and he said he had been living aboard a boat for 30 - thirty! - years.  That is almost ten years before I was even born.  He was very exuberant; we really enjoyed talking to him.  He was about to board a Greyhound to NJ for a month of work.  His plan was to anchor out and then swim in to shore in the morning.  Obviously we couldn't let him do that, so we offered him a lift.  He reciprocated by inviting us to an awesome dinner of brown rice, fresh scallops and stir-fried vegetables.  It was seriously the best meal we've had in a while, Epic Nachos notwithstanding.  But of course, we hadn't gone grocery shopping in a while so we didn't really have anything to bring, except we'd just gotten some awesome baked goods and Robert had not had access to an oven in some time either, so we brought the loaf of cinnamon bread that Rachel sent, and it was a perfect end to a delicious meal.

So now we're parked at the day dock in Georgetown; I hopped ashore for a hot minute to write about what a great time we had last night.  And also, I thought this was hilarious:  apparently one of Georgetown's finest gave notice to all the derelict dinghies in the wee hours of the morning.  I have withheld his name merely because I don't like posting things like that without permission from the man in question.  Cheers!

18 June 2010:  Georgetown to Oriental

We are yet again at the courtesy dock in Oriental, NC. Or ONC, as we've often heard it referred to. They've even got those little white oval stickers with "ONC" in the center plastered everywhere. Cars, telephone poles, store windows, small dogs, you name it. We spent enough time here on our way south it almost feels like home. Right now, we're sucking up the air conditioning at The Bean. Hot does not begin to describe the last few days/weeks. Daily highs in the 90's, humidity near 150% and it has been unrelenting even as we head North! I personally find it mildly amusing that we've put up with our carry-on air conditioning cluttering our deck and obstructing our vision this whole time, and have yet to use it once. Then again, that would require shore power, which requires a dock, which we haven't done since... well, the last time we were here in Oriental. In any case, we've managed to survive with a fan and judicious use of curtains and awnings. Yeah, it's hot in the cabin, as you can see from the thermometer.

BUT... we've been meeting a few of our old ONC friends as we head north! We met up with Jim, Beth, and Cameron of Wild Haggis in Bull Creek. They shared with us a delicious meal of chicken, wild rice, and green beans. Oh, and COLD drinks. People just don't understand how amazing that is to us right now. Anyway, we had a lovely evening with them in one of our favorite anchorages, then headed North the next morning.

Next up was Calabash Creek, just south of the North/South Carolina Border. We watched some absolutely amazing thunderstorms pass by (and overhead) just after dark. Unfortunately, this translates to no sleep for us, with that big metal stick running down the center of the boat and all. Oh, and I found all the leaks in the boat. ALL of them. Somehow, the rain and wind combined just perfectly to exploit leaks we've never had in heavy seas and rain before. As you can see below, the V-Berth was unusable that night.

Then a long day of traveling, and we were in Wrightsville Beach. We had not planned on spending more than a night here, but some more ONC friends just happened to be headed to Wilmington the next day, so we arranged to have dinner with them. The delay was more than worth it. We spent all day at the beach, then had a wonderful dinner that evening. It was excellent to catch up with everyone over these last few days.

The next few days were uneventful. Just a lot of cut channel and motoring. We're taking today to relax and effect some small sail repairs while we have the convenience of a dock, then we're headed North again.  And, what you've all been waiting for - last night's sunset.  Or, the clouds above the sunset:

21 June 2010:  Oriental

Oriental is now one of our favorite places to go, since we know so many people (not to mention the people there are the cream of the crop anyway).  We were really hoping to make it for a Music Night at M&Ms restaurant, but we docked on Thursday night and left Saturday morning.  Fortunately there was an opening at the town dock so we had two free nights of stepping off the boat onto land.

So Dick and Jackie, the same ones that bought us dinner in Wrightsville Beach, returned to Oriental the same day we did.  We were really hoping to return the favor by treating them to a homemade boat dinner, since we were able to find a place at the town dock.  Not only is our dinghy built for two people, but Jackie broke a bone in her foot and we didn't want her to end up in the water.  However, it was not to be.

At the very least, Jackie did get a chance to come see our boat (we love to show her off :) ), and she had to decline dinner because she was making dinner for another couple that night.  Of course, soon she had at least asked us to come over after dinner, and by the time she left, we were invited to dinner itself.  So there our good intentions backfired and we actually imposed on them again.  Friday night consisted of cold drinks, delicious steak, and friends both new and old.  Actually, the couple that were the original dinner guests were a lot of fun, plus they were extremely generous.

So, Dick and Jackie, thanks for the wonderful evening :)

23 June 2010:  Oriental to Tull Bay

Okay, so technically we're still about three feet from our home dock (a small shoal has built in our absence), but we were able to step onto land without more than a small hop. We were planned to arrive Monday evening, but being so close to air conditioning, refrigeration, and a real bed spurred us to convert three days of travel into two.

Sunday was a HUGE day which saw us traveling 87 miles over 14 hours (compared to our normal 40-50 miles). It started before six, with a gorgeous sunrise.

Not long after that, some fog rolled in.

We managed to thread our way between and around several ominous looking clouds near the end, only enduring a few minutes of light rain.
The wind however, we could not escape. All the way across the sound, we motored through light or non-existant winds, trying to get the jib to fill out enough not to luff. Once we entered the Northwest River though, that all changed. Between those storms, the winds started gusting, which made for some fast exciting sailing! Just before entering the canal south of Coinjock, I went up on the foredeck to shorten sail and managed to get my sunglasses knocked off (somehow, my ONLY pair of sunglasses managed to stay on the deck) and a nice welt from a whipping jib sheet across the abdomen. Oh, how we envy those with roller furling sometimes.

The sun was just starting to set upon entering the canals, where we met Dwayne and Janet on Fourplay 2, and were treated to what can only be described as the longest boat horn welcome I've ever heard. Seriously Dwayne, I thought it had shorted out!

We weren't destined for conciousness much long after arrival home. The next day however was full of those things we've been missing. We slept in until 7ish. Darcy made Manicotti for lunch. In the OVEN. We ate ice cream. We drank a cold beer with dinner. It was amazing, to say the least.

Anyway, we're here for now. We've spent the last few days job hunting and throwing new parts at the truck. 
7 July 2010:  Tull Bay
Now that we're back to a secure location, we can tell you more about the lessons we learned while living on a boat instead of bogging you down with all the adventures we had (right now the adventure is finding a job.  Weeeeeee this is a fun ride!  Not.).

For those of you who joined us post-January, one of the things I need need NEED on the boat is plants.  They make me happy.  Apparently, I do not make them happy.  In January I told you about the herb garden surprise as well as my awesome greenhouse build.  Well, needless to say, after we got back from First Trip the herbs all died.  I replanted them.  Then I realized I'd been feeding them brackish (salty) water.  Well that explains why Second Planting never sprouted.  So I planted them again.  I think one or two sprouts sprouted up and then died.  After that I gave up on herbs.  Somewhere around this time the mint also died and so I bought some mint that was absolutely glowing with chemical health.

Well, what are herbs but a supplemental flavor to a meal?  My real passion was for the vegetables.  As previously stated, watering them with salty water does not work.  That was the first planting of vegetables (particularly, ones we eat a lot of - lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, and peas).  I tried planting them in an egg carton to start - saving on space is always a big deal.  Nothing sprouted.  Yay.  So then I moved up, sprouting them in one of those little plastic six-packs.  I got three out of six to sprout (out of three peppers and three tomatoes, I had two peppers and one tomato sprout).  They were doing marvelously, until I transplanted the tomato to a more spacious environment (Solo cup).  The next day, the first pepper fell over and shriveled up.  Later that afternoon, the second pepper did the same.  The tomato still thrived, and the chemical health of the mint (pictured, left) was waning but still present.  I cried.  Okay, so I was down to a tomato plant, after failing miserably at everything.  I get too emotional about plants, I do.  I placed all my hopes and dreams in this little guy, the one plant child I had left.

But then tragedy struck.  I had to leave Titusville and attend a couple weddings in Michigan.  I warned Kyle before I left that he needed to treat this tomato plant with all the love and respect he treated me with.  Sufficiently threatened, he promised to "do his best."  Hardly good enough, but what choice did I have?  Upon arriving home, I was dead tired but I noticed Kyle was acting a little...guilty.  I couldn't imagine the cause, but when I got back to the boat, I knew.  My little tomato guy wasn't looking so hot.  Kyle promised he'd watered and loved it and took care of it, but it was still shriveling.

So what went wrong?  When I made the greenhouse, it was January and I aimed to trap as much heat as possible.  Maybe the Floridan temperatures were too much for my veggies.  Peppers are sensitive fellows, maybe the trauma of removing their tomato friend pushed them over the edge.  In Titusville we were attacked by a massive swarm of lovebugs, maybe the little mater was overwhelmed.  Or maybe it's just my black thumb.  I've never been the main gardener, only caretaker (okay, Mom, you're right - I was weeder and potato-bug-picker.  And eater).

20 July 2010:  Tull Bay
Back in January, Kyle and I told you all about how we built a dinghy out of plywood, epoxy and bright paint.  Here's how it worked out:

After putting a couple thousand miles under the keel, our homemade dinghy has definitely seen some sights.  And better days, I might add.  I would like to point out that just Sunday afternoon some grown women were screaming in admiration of my paint job, and they didn't even see it in its full magenta glory.

Maiden voyage - 1.20.2010
Home again - 7.20.2010
Despite the strength of the epoxy, in rougher waves the docks still took quite a toll on "Dinghalicious" (I swear, Kyle came up with that.  To this day, we still refer to her affectionately as 'Liscious).  One thing that we considered when building the dinghy is adding a second sheet of plywood to the bow.  As you can see, it would have been extremely beneficial.  While we were in Oriental, the dinghy could just slip under the dock, then a few waves sent the brunt of the force to the middle of the bow.

We had even put some pool noodles on 'Liscious to combat the brutal dinghy dock in Oriental, but by the time we left, you can see the bow was still looking a little sad.  Right now all we have left is the stern noodle, and it disintegrates on whoever leans against it (usually me.  It took me quite a while to figure out why I had blue stuff all over my back and shorts whenever we were walking around town).
These are all pretty cosmetic, nothing substantially structure-related.  Our worst problem, by far and above, was oar locks.  If you are going with a rowboat, shell out the extra cash and get some good oarlocks.  If you have to row a half mile, crossing a busy channel at night, you don't want to risk shearing off an oarlock and having to row canoe-style the rest of the way to the boat.  We started out with clamp-on oarlocks.  Those twisted, which made rowing nearly impossible.  Next we tried U-style oarlocks, and those both sheared off right below the U (and this always happens where you're about halfway between the dock and the boat). 

The original oarlock sockets were on the brink of failure by the end of the trip, but they were still holding.  On one oar, we have half of each original clamp-on oarlock (almost too twisted to row with), and on the other we have a combination of hose clamps through which we put a ratchet extension.  We've been through a couple hose clamps on that too.
Oh, and also, we managed to accrue a few barnacles whilst sitting in Titusville for a couple weeks.
The dinghy is alive!

Finally, we've made some serious decisions about "next time."  Next time, we are building a sailing dinghy - too much fun, and only a little more work.  We actually saw the sailing version of our dinghy while we were in Titusville, FL.  It would be a lot of work to modify our current dinghy, plus she's a little beat up already so we would just build a new one.  And next time, we're bringing an outboard.  Maybe it will just be a little electric trolling motor, but dangit, we're going to have one.  Some of those anchorages are just too far from the dock to row.

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