Monday, December 28, 2009

Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation

Reboot is equipped with a single sideband (SSB) radio.  This gives me the capability of talking much longer distances than the marine VHF (very high frequency) radio.  Since I live on “cruisers hours”; to bed when it gets dark, up at dawn, I have gotten into the habit of turning on the SSB radio as the sun comes up.  The SSB radio depends on ionization of the atmosphere for long distance communications.  At sunrise and sunset (the grey band) one can sometimes get amazing distances even though in general the lack of sunspots (think ionization again) has made long distance communication difficult for the past several years.  This morning without much effort I talked to a ham in Uzbekistan and two hams in the Russian Federation.  That is a distance of about 6,500 miles.  Not bad!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Project Days

The seas laid down today and the winds moderated so it was a good project day. I started the day continuing to hook up the solar panels in test mode. By the end of the day I had one panel sitting on the deck generating about 4 amps of current. Considering that it was later afternoon and the sun was behind clouds this was not a bad outcome. I have moved the panel so that it catches the morning light so we will see how that goes. I also made some progress on reconfiguring the house and starting battery setup. Ultimately the 4D I use as a starting battery will become part of the house bank and a new 800 MCA starting battery will provide the power to start the engine. They will be hooked with an automatic charging relay so that when the engine comes on the house batteries will charge without me having to throw any switched.

I spent a good part of today up on Gypsysails mizzen mast mounting and wiring a new radar head. You may remember that Maury helped me do the same on Reboot a couple of weeks ago,

Then it became VHF radio play time as Capbam, Gypsysails and I learned how to use the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) features of the radio. This was motivated by the fact that I was woken up last night by a DSC distress call on my radio. Apparently it was a false alarm but the sound of the radio blaring its distress call alarm really made me pay attention.

It is interesting how priorities change. We have been anchored for several days in a row. One of my three water tanks just went dry. I have a water maker aboard but it is not yet commissioned. It is definitely now on the priority list for before I leave for the Bahamas. In the meantime my choices are to bring water in jerry cans from shore or do a 15 mile round trip to a marina that has water at $0.35 per gallon. Water from shore, although a lot of work, will win out.

I received a call today from Steve, an old Navy buddy (actually, my Commanding Officer three times!) It looks like he will be coming down to spend some time on Reboot. I have not seen him in person for years, it will be a great reunion.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Transit, Transit, Transit

Sunday 20 December 2009
Sunday is a big cruise ship day. There were five of them in "Government Cut", the main Miami channel when we left this morning. That meant, of course, that we could not use the channel. I guess it is a 9/11 thing. So we used the alternative channel and headed out to sea.
As an aside, cruise ships have certainly changed a great deal in the many years since I have been on board, Most people are aware that they now have many more staterooms than before. But what about the large screen TV, the size of a baseball scoreboard, on the top deck. Not only that, but the old fashioned "we are getting underway" and lifeboat drill has been replaced with a full scale disco blaring almost as loud as the ship's whistle to the accompaniment of a woman screaming to the crowd to "get it on." Quality!
I have been in a parade of boats today, but I have yet to see any but Capbam and Gypsysails. A group of 5 other sailboats left Miami Beach this morning and is headed for the same anchorage at Rodriquez Key. I have seen a couple of their sails in the distance. I am still 3 miles from destination, so I expect to see them soon.
Monday 21 December 2009
Up this morning at 6 AM to get underway at 7 AM. The anchorage had 7 cruising boats. I expected to be one of the very few up this early but by the time I housed the anchor at 6:55 AM every other boat was either finishing up or already underway. I presume we are all headed for Marathon, FL. It is about a 40 mile trip. In a sailboat in the middle of winter 40 miles is a good day trip. (BTW today is the winter solstice, the daytime will start getting longer again tomorrow.) As I write this we are strung out in a line about 3 nm long all follwing the "magenta line" which marks the Hawk Channel on our charts.
I am slowing starting to understand how to sail Reboot out here in the ocean. The sail configuration for Lake Michigan provides far too much drive out here. I am currently sailing with the wind on the beam, waves at 2 to 3 feet. I have the jib furled to 105% and no main up. I am doing 6.5 to 7.5 knots in 15 to 20 knots of apparent wind. I expect that my normal setup for coastal cruising will be a double reefed main and an 85% or 105% jib. I had the entire 155% jib out earlier and was seeing 9.5 knots. The problem with that is the autopilot does not do a good job of steering. So I hand steered for about 2 hours this morning. I enjoyed it, particularly rolling all the other sailboats that had left before me. Then I cranked the jib down to 105% and slowed down so I could take a break from steering. Since I single hand it is important to have a wide slot that the autopilot can steer in. If I really trim up the constant gusts drive it crazy. Reboot heads up, the autopilot reacts late, over steers, we drop off, etc. If I de-trim a little bit we slow down but it is a much smoother ride.
We had two days of very heavy rain that moved north and blanked the East Coast with 2 to 3 feet of snow. The cold front that came in after the rain has dropped the temperatures a lot. At the moment it is 60 F. With the wind chill I spend a lot of time in my foulies. They do a great job of blocking the wind. In a couple of days it will go back up into the 80F range and I will be back in a bathing suit.
When I used to sail with my family I spent almost all of my time in the cockpit. I was so worried that something would go wrong I would obsess. Now that I am alone I find myself moving around the boat a lot more. When the weather is cold like today I spend a good part of the time in the cabin. On the trip from St. Johns to Ft. Pierce a lot of stuff that I had stored around the salon table slid all over the place. I stowed it all. I had forgotten how nice it is to have a big open salon area. I have rafted up with other boats a couple of times and my salon is the indoor party location of choice. Party On!
We took mooring balls at Marathon as there is no place to anchor in the harbor. As predicted, the ladies of Gypsysails and Capbam cooked dinner, I provided the dining room, space heater (it was a bit brisk tonight) and charming company (lol.)
Tuesday December 22, 2009
I am underway again in the Hawk Channel. The ICW crosses the keys at Marathon. It runs on the north side down to Marathon, and then runs on the south side to Key West. The Hawk Channel runs on the south side all the way from Miami. They are now essentially one in the same, but my charts again have the statute miles distances along the ICW from mile 0 in Norfolk VA. I have about 15 miles to go to my intended anchorage north of Sigsbee Island at Naval Air Station Key West.
I had a great conversation with Spencer yesterday. He had finished his last final for his fall term of his junior year. He is definitely on the back side of the undergraduate experience, only three more terms to go.
Today has been a mixed bag. I am loafing down the Hawk Channel. I am flying the full jib, the water is clear, the wind pleasant but a bit cool. This morning I left the company of Capbam and Gypsysails a bit before 7 AM as the wind had clocked Reboot around to where I could slip the mooring line and not get blown down on anyone. I noticed as I retraced my route out of the very large mooring field that the water seemed a little thin. Sure enough before I had even reached the bascule bridge Gypsysails announced that she was aground. Fortunately the tide was dead low and they floated off a bit later and followed me down the Hawk Channel.
I find myself surprised at the number of emergency calls that we hear on a daily basis. In Lake Michigan an emergency call was rare and groundings were nonexistent. Here I hear between 3 and 6 calls per day from boaters in trouble.
Tuesday December 22, 2009 3:45 PM Eastern Standard Time
I am here, behind Sigsbee Island near the Sigsbee Marina for the Naval Air Station Key West. After 3,000ish miles, some sailing, some motoring (Erie Canal, ICW) and 4 ½ months I have arrived in time for Christmas. To be fair I spent a month in New York (Weehawken NJ) so I was only sailing and such for 3 ½ months. It is great to "check off" my first big destination.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ups and Downs

After taking advantage of the proximity of the marina to a West Marine and Publix we (Gypsysails and I) left our $90 per night marina slips and anchored south of Causeway Island to get ready for the next leg of the trip to Key West.


I finally got to do something that I have wanted to do since Milwaukee – jump off the stern into warm water and swim.  It was delightful, and weather permitting will be a frequent occurance.


We took off from Ft. Pierce in south winds and beam seas.  There was just enough veer that I was able to sheet in about 105% of the jib right against the spreader.  This made for a much more comfortable ride.  In addition to beating to windward we also had to cope with the Gulf Stream.  It comes very close to shore on the Ft. Pierce to Miami coast.  We spent most of the trip on the 50 foot depth curve.  That meant we were about ½ mile off shore.  There were two other sailboats paralleling our course but further out in the stream.  We tired to raise them both on the VHF but only got an acknowledgement from one of them.  At about sunset Capbam, the sailboat that had answered our call asked us our destination.  We told them we intended to sail all night and get to Miami Beach in the morning.  They had been planning to pull in but decided to join our happy little band and continue on.  With adverse wind and current we finally arrived at about noon, several hours later than our projected arrival time and got to meet Cappy and Bam in person.  The three boats traveled down “Government Cut”, hung a right, passed under the bridge, hung another right and headed for Miami Beach.  We anchored opposite San Marco Island


The weather forecast was pretty ugly with wind from the South so we relocated the next morning between Watson Park and Palm Island.  Little did I know that my trauma was about to begin.


We took a dinghy ride into the Miami Yacht Club to arrange to have parts that were being shipped to us delivered to the Yacht Club so we could pick them up..  How hard could that be?  Apparently “above the grade” of the staff of the Yacht Club.  When two packages arrived they accepted one and refused the other because they did not know who it was for.  Then they didn’t want to give us the first package because they thought it was for the Yacht Club.  After several minutes of pointed out that it was addressed to Gyspysails rather than the Yacht Club they finally gave up the box.  But of course we had to deal with Federal Express and get the second package redelivered with little hope that it would be accepted.  It did arrive the next day and we did get it.  Of course it was raining cats and dogs and blowing like stink.


Cappy rented a car and we went to Sailorman.  This is a very famous new and consignment boat store in Ft. Lauderdale.  It was fun but I was not motivated to buy.  We then shared a nice dinner in a local diner and headed back to the boats.


The wind started to pick up and the weather radar showed a solid band of rain and thunderstorms to the south.  At around 1 AM Reboot started to drag anchor.  Fortunately Maury was up and zoomed over in his dinghy to help me reset it.  Before the day was out we would reset it 4 more times.  We finally got out the Fortress, set it as a stern anchor on 350 feet of rode and Reboot seems to be holding position.  By that time I was totally exhausted.  In addition, the entire day has been one of thunderstorm, high wind and heavy rain (and dragging and resetting the main anchor.)


Finally tonight the rain seems to have stopped.  We took the dinghy into the Miami Yacht Club, swam in the pool, and got warm showers.  Tomorrow the weather forecast is for strong winds.  In addition, the wind shift means that the waves in the Atlantic will be nasty.  So we are planning to depart on Sunday for Key West, a trip of about 120 miles.  I will be in the company Capbam until Marathon.  The final destination for Gypsysails, like me, is Sigsbee Island at the Naval Air Station Key West.  I expect to also see other retired military that I met in Little Creek, Norfolk, and Jacksonville.  Hopefully we will get some nice weather and have several days of easy and enjoyable sailing.


Today we had three cruise ships in Government Cut.  The Atlantic coastal forecast was nasty: strong winds, thunderstorms, high seas, etc.  Did that stop the cruise ships?  Of course not.  They all left on schedule this evening.  I wonder how the passengers are fairing.


I got a chance to spend some time on the phone with both Trevor and Spencer.  It’s final exam time for Spencer; he has one down and three to go.  I can still remember (however vaguely) how much I hated that time.



Monday, December 14, 2009

On the way to Miami

Leaving today from Ft. Pierce on the outside to South Beach and Miami.  It will take about 24 hours.  I will check back in when I arrive.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

From the top to the (near) bottom

I left Jacksonville in the company of Gypsysails and headed for Ft. Pierce.  We went outside with a following strong wind and seas.  We arrived at Ft. Pierce after dark and anchored just off the main channel in the inlet.  Both Gypsy and I have to go back to “stow for sea” school, we had stuff sliding all over the cabins of both boats!


First story:  I could not get my anchor up to move the boat.  Reboot had sailed around the anchor chain during the night and wrapped the anchor rode around the keel.  After several fruitless hours of waiting for the tide and wind to change I finally called Towboat US.  (Thankfully I have Towboat insurance so it was covered.)  It only took a couple of laps around Reboot by the towboat and then I was able to raise the anchor.  Off I went to join Maury and Ginger at Harbortown Marina for the night.  We decided to take a night in a marina so that we could go to the local West Marine and the food store.  Both were a short walk.  Interesting coincidence, after I called Towboat the local coast guard RIB stopped by and asked me if I was OK.  I explained that the anchor rode was wrapped but that Towboat was on the way.  They were very friendly but during the conversation Towboat arrived so they wished me good sailing and were on their way.  The Towboat skipper told me that 90% of his calls were for the location I was in. Apparently the winds, currents, and tides tend to get a lot of boats wrapped around their anchor rodes.


Second story:  I wrote a few days ago about my wonderful experience at The Marina at Ortega Landing.  Today I was brought back to earth.  Harbortown charges the same slip fees as Ortega; since they are both in North Florida I consider them in the same market.  But the amenities and experience are like night and day.


First, the slips are serviced by narrow finger piers.  They are so short that I am climbing over the bow of my boat to get on and off and so narrow I throw things off the bow to the dock rather than trying to carry them down the pier.  Second, they did not have a slip with the proper power.  Fortunately I had the ($250) adapter I needed to hook Reboot up.  Power, of course, is an extra daily charge.  Who goes into a marina and doesn’t plug in?  Then of course there was the Internet.  That is, of course, an extra charge.  How about cable TV? Sure, but only the most basic cable – essentially the local broadcast stations and a couple of other channels.  No pool, no hot tub. 


Credit however, where due, the dockhand was most helpful getting Reboot settled in.


This will not be on my list of repeat marinas.


Third story:  Last night was the Christmas Parade of Boats.  Each boat came down the inlet to the marina and passed by the fuel dock.  The decorating on some of the boats was simply amazing.  Some people had invested many hours in lights and music.  It was great fun.


Plans:  After several days of North winds the wind has shifted to the South for the next few days.  This would be great if I wanted to go to the Bahamas.  Since I am headed for the Keys the wind is now in my face.  This is not good for sailboats.  I will most likely truck on down the Intracostal for a bit until I reach Miami.  I have to go outside at that point since someone in their great wisdom built the Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge at only 56 feet (fixed.)  It is the only bridge with less then 65 foot clearance on the entire 1200 miles of the ICW.  Does Julia Tuttle know that every ICW sailor curses her name?


Monday, December 7, 2009


When I got Reboot she had a Raymarine ST-50 radar unit.  This was a LCD black and white unit that I had previously had on the original Reboot, a Catalina 30 that had been built in the 1980's.  Yesterday with the help of Maury of Gyspysails we got the new 18" Garmin HD radar dome mounted.  We also moved the radar dome location from a pole on the stern to on the mast between the first and second spreaders.  This should give us a lot more range for low lying targets.  Today we are shifting locations again so I should have an opportunity to see how it works out on the water.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Marina at Ortega Landing - Going Upscale

As those of you who follow my blog know I tend to be on the cheap end of things.  I anchor out rather than paying for an overnight slip.  I find the free docks provided  by municipalities for transient boaters.  I frequent military marinas not only for the company of my fellow comrades-in-arms but also so I can use the commissary and post exchange.

This weekend was a major change of pace.  Gypsysails and Reboot left Jacksonville Landing where we had gone to wait out strong south winds and headed for the Ortega River and The Marina at Ortega Landing.  This is a very beautiful high end condominium complex and a beautiful high service level marina.  It is the first facility on the north side of the Ortega River just beyond the Ortega River bridge.

The pampering started even before we arrived.  Rather than the normal procedure of calling a marina several times in order to get them to respond they called me as I was clearing the bridge!  Again, instead of the normal "count this many docks and then turn and count ..."  the instructions were clear - "Do you see the dock hand in the yellow slicker?" "Yes."  Like an airplane coming into the terminal there was a dock hand at each spot directing us into our slips.  Backing an 11 ton (Gypsysails is 24 tons) sailboat into a slip is alway an adventure.  With three knowledgeable dock hands handing our lines it was a non-event.

The facility itself is modern, beautiful, and immaculately kept.  It boasts clean modern rest rooms, a free laundry room, free ice and a helpful and a knowledgeable staff.  There is a swimming pool that we have not been able to use due to rain and very cold temperatures.   A real treat for me is the cable TV hookups, I have not had cable either in my old apartment or Reboot for over a year and a half.  There is a modern mall which has a West Marine store and a large variety of other stores a short walk away.  All in all a great place to stop to visit Jacksonville FL and the surrounding area.  Now if we could just get some of the Florida sunshine!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reboot's New Crew

We are cycling up for our next offshore trip.  This morning I discovered that I had a group of volunteers who wanted to come.  See picture below:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cruisers Lunch

Reboot and I are back at Jacksonville Landing waiting out strong South winds and rain.  Today we were just hanging out waiting for the weather so I decided to invite the other boats at the dock to a Cruisers' lunch.  We had Maury from Gypsysails, Connie and Bob from Meredith, and Don and Betty from Ram-sea.  I picked "The American Cafe" here at The Landing as the meeting place.  We got there only to find that half of their kitchen was not working - they were having gas problems.  Of course as cruisers we are all used of something not working on our boats so we made do with what they could prepare. In fact, that was quite a bit of their menu and I think we all had a good time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Boats before the mast

Today was climb the mast day.  I started the day on GypsySails.  Here is a shot of them coming up the St. Johns River the other day.  We were both at the St. Mary's Thanksgiving dinner and came down together on the outside.  For whatever reason the radar has decided not to work so I when up the mizzen mast and did some testing.  We finally decided that we needed to bring the radar head down for repair so I went up a second time and disconnected it.

The next step was to go up the mast of Reboot and start the process of installing the new radar head.  While I was up doing that I got this shot of Ginger and GypsySails.

Of course every project of this type needs to have people on the dock watching and offering advice.  This project was no different.

One last picture.  I am working about 1/3 of the way to the top of the mast.  Here is the view of Naval Air Station Jacksonville from there.  I promise some shots from the top of the mast when I do the wind instruments next week.

Friday, November 27, 2009

St. Mary's Thanksgiving

Once a year cruisers gather in the St. Mary's River (Georgia) for a Thanksgiving feast.  (They also do this in other places, but I wasn't in any of them!)  This year there were 90 boats in the anchorage on Thanksgiving morning.  The Riverview Hotel (c 1916) closes for the day and opens all its spaces for the Thanksgiving dinner.  And what a dinner!  Members of the town (I was corrected - this event is put on by a group of people that live in St. Mary's, not any official body) provide the turkey, ham, paper goods, drinks, and utensils.  The cruisers provide the "Fixin's."  And oh what fixings.  From salad to main course to desert there was more variety then I have ever seen in my life.  And enough food to feed not only all of the cruisers and towns people but the entire Kings Bay Submarine Base!  After the big meal we adjourned to the local park for dancing under the stars.  Of course supper was left-overs from the Thanksgiving dinner.  What a great event.

I left St. Mary's Friday morning and went "outside" to the St. John's River and back to Jacksonville Landing.  I am traveling in the company of GypsySails, friends I met in Norfolk.  We arrived at the Landing to find that tonight is there Christmas Tree lighting ceremony complete with fireworks in the river.  Fortunately we had already docked so we were not stuck out in the river doing circles until after the display.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

83 Cruising Boats

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. At the oyster roast tonight a total of 83 cruising boats were represented here for the St. Mary's Thanksgiving dinner. We all retired a bit early so that we can be prepared to both enjoy and help out on Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

St. Mary's Thanksgiving preparation

Last night I arrived at the St. Mary's River on the Georgia - Florida border. Many cruisers can not cross the line into Florida until after December 1st without paying an extra premium on their insurance. They have gathered here is St. Mary's waiting for the clock. Since the end of November is also Thanksgiving the people of St. Mary's, starting in 2001, have hosted the visiting cruisers for Thanksgiving dinner. The town provides the place, hams and turkeys; the cruisers provide the "fixens." This morning there are 27 boats. The expectation is that number will grow to over 100 by Thursday. This is my first big cruiser "Gam" and I am looking forward to the experience. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the next couple of days is rain. Since everyone travels by dinghy this will put a damper (pun intended) on the festvities for the next couple of days.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Current Position

At 6:41 PM on 11/20/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 30°19.46' 081°39.71'W heading 143T at 0.0.
Anchored in the St. Mary's River for the Thanksgiving festivities

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, NAS Jax

I have been remarkably productive the last few days.  This said by the man (the family in Trevor and Spencer’s opinion) that has made procrastination an art form.)
Yesterday I did my laundry and realized what a difference water quality makes.  The Jacksonville water must be very soft.  My clothing has not been this soft and smell this good in a long time.
But more to the point I finally got the radar display/chart plotter mounted at the helm and hooked up.  I will no longer need to run down inside the cabin to look at the chart plotter and then run back up to the helm to steer.  It would have been really nice to have when I was navigating some of the more shallow parts of the Intracostal.  I also removed the flaky AM/FM radio and replaced it with a new radio.  I now have more music choices that I know what to do with: XM Satellite (which also and more importantly provides my real time weather data), AM/FM and IPOD.  At the moment I am listening to Sinatra.  It takes me back to great steaks and cold Grey Goose at Mo’s.  Apparently I have a dedicated channel for Jimmy Buffett (Margarita of course.)  It looks like I will luck out and there will only be one Christmas channel.  I never listen to FM after Thanksgiving; every station is playing Christmas songs.  To make if more complicated the channels seem to change over time.  For example tonight there are all sorts of news channels (e.g. CNN, Fox, CNBC) that I have never seen in the channel guide before.  And just to keep me up with Nigel I can listen to the BBC World service!  There is even a POTUS channel.  It is obviously a political channel but I don’t know who is behind it.  And finally, for Ace, the Metropolitan Opera channel.  Reboot has it all.
I still need to get the radar head attached both to the mast and the electronics before I venture too far.  My friends on GypsySails had to stand off the St. Mary’s River this morning for several hours until the fog cleared.  That of course is the proper procedure but I would not like to have to do that without know who else was around me also standing off.

I was surprised to find that I could mount the AIS, GPS, and XM/Weather antennas inside Reboot.  This has made for a much cleaner implementation with no apparent loss of function.  I have subsequently had a conversation with the manufacturer of my AIS unit who has told me that the AIS GPS antenna can also be mounted inside.  Reboot now has four fixed mount GPS antennas and three handhelds.  I am reminded that the first GPS I purchased (but fortunately did not pay for, it was a project for my employer of the time) cost $1200.  Now a GPS chipset with WAAS is about $3.95 and a USB hockey puck GPS with the latest technology costs under $50.  

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shuttle Launch

I got to see the shuttle.  It took about 30 seconds to get high enough to see from Jacksonville.  We did get to see the solid fuel rockets drop off and the second stage take over before it disappeared from sight.  Cool!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jacksonville Landing and Global Warming

I moved Reboot to Jacksonville Landing, Jacksonville’s answer to the Milwaukee Ale House.  It is set in the heart of the downtown area with river walks on both sides of the St. Johns River. The city provides free dockage for up to 72 hours but no services.  The “Landing” is a retail complex with restaurants, clubs, stores and a central outdoor court.  On the weekends there is free music in the courtyard.  It is also event driven, tonight the local animal shelter was having a fund raising effort.  Everyone (except me of course) brought one or more dogs down to the festivities.  The dogs remarkably were well controlled.

This morning I took the runners loop, a 1.9 mile trip.  From the Landing one travels across the main street bridge, walks up the east side of the river, comes back across the high rise bridge and back to the landing.  I got a decent workout and some pretty pictures.  The past couple of days it has finally become the Florida of my expectations, sunny, clear and hot.  It was great to be outside.

What does any of this have to do with Global Warming?  As I understand it man’s contribution to global warming comes from exhaling and burning fossil fuels.  Why do we burn fossil fuels?  In large part to create electricity.  And what do we do with the electricity we create?  Why we light up our cities with beautiful decorative lights.  If we were serious about global warming we would not light up our bridges, fountains, etc. just to make them look pretty.  For that matter why waste electricity to pump water up in the air, it just falls down again. (“Gravity, more than a good idea, it’s a law!”)  Anyway, I am glad that the crisis has not reached the proportions where we have to turn out the pretty lights.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First Times - November 9, 2009

The wind is calm.  The waves, all 6” of them, flow past Reboot quietly.  The anchor rode hangs down from the bow.  It is dusk, and everything is quiet.  Quiet is strange.  Sailboats are always making noises.  The slap of the waves against the hull; The sound of the wind thru the rigging; Pumps, refrigerator, radios, there always seems to be some noise.  It is so quiet that I can hear the propane flowing out of the stove as it heats water for my dinner.


Why is this remarkable?  For the last 48 hours I have been stressed out waiting to see if Hurricane Ida would chose to take all of my possessions.  I have been checking the weather, conversing with other sailors, getting Reboot ready for strong winds and high seas.


One thing was certain.  I could not stay at Mulberry Cove Marine, Naval Air Station Jacksonville.  I have been docked on the face dock, a location for transients and also the only place deep enough for Reboot.  With a 22 mile fetch the face dock is not a place to be with heavy winds from the South quadrant.  Boats are picked up and deposited on top of the dock by the storm surge.  I knew this to be true as I had met a couple in NOB Norfolk who had just gotten their boat back after 4 months in the yards.  It had been severely damaged right where I was docked.


One option was to move to another marina.  It would be an expensive and not necessarily a good solution.  None of the local marinas are particularly well protected.  In a slip one runs the risk of damage from the marina itself.  The second option, and the one I chose, was to anchor on the southeast side of the St John River.  I would be protected from the strongest winds by the trees on the bank, and from the waves by the short ½ mile fetch.  Of course I had to find a place that was deep enough so that the keel would not bottom out in high waves but close enough to shore to get some protection.  In addition, the wind was predicted to “clock”; starting in the Northeast, clocking to the Southeast and South, then the Southwest, and the back to the North. So the spot had to have some protection from at least three sides.   I located a suitable spot, left NAS Jax and headed across the river.


I have been sailing since my early teens.  I have been racing Reboot for years.  I have anchored out numerous times on my way down from Milwaukee.  But I have never before set out with everything I own in the world to anchor where there was a 30% probability of tropical storm force winds.  And I knew something else – I was going to be on the boat as I had no way of getting off once I set the anchor.  Getting the dinghy working has been well down the priorities of my “to do” list. 


Here I sit.  Ida is dissipating over land.  Reboot has bounced me around, strained on her anchor rode, heeled in the strong winds and stronger gusts.  More strong winds are forecast for tomorrow.  Yet I am much more relaxed.  Reboot and I have been there, done that before.  We have checked off the box at anchor, 30 – 35 gusts to 45.  We know we can do it again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Current Position

At 10:27 AM on 11/9/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 30°12.60'N 081°38.28'W heading 003T at 0.1
Anchored, riding out the winds from IDA

Current Position

At 10:27 AM on 11/9/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 30°12.60'N 081°38.28'W heading 003T at 0.1
Anchored, riding out the winds from IDA

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NAS Jacksonville

I have arrived at Naval Air Station Jacksonville FL. I expect to stay here for a few days. Hopefully I will get internet access and be able to upload some of the pictures I have taken on my trip.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2 November 2009 - Amelia River (FL? GA?)

I am anchored in the Amelia River on the Georgia - Florida border. For some cruisers this is a major line of demarcation. Their insurance coverage does not permit them to enter Florida until after hurricane season is over (December 1st) without paying an additional premium. I have been told that there is quite a gathering of cruisers in St. Mary's, Georgia for Thanksgiving. That is just about two miles from my current location.

I am headed for the Jacksonville, FL Naval Air Station about 30 miles from here. I was originally going to go direct from St. Catherine's Sound in Georgia but decided there was not point in staying up half the night to get to the St. John's River so I ducked in here. As I was looking for a place to drop the hook I found the local anchorage of choice - at least for the 10 to 15 other boats already anchored here. We will find out this morning how many are passing thru and how many are holding for insurance.

Not only are we not longer in daylight savings time but the days are getting noticeably shorter. Growing up in the North I associate short days with cold and snow and long days with warmth. Of course there is no such association; winter days are short because they are winter days. I am becoming more and more aware of how far I can go in a day if I want to anchor before dark as the daylight hours are fewer and fewer.

Hopefully in Jacksonville I will get internet again and be able to upload some pictures of my trip.

Don't forget that Guy Fawkes Day is Thursday - Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot! I still enjoying watching the movie "V." I am not sure how many times I have seen it but the message of overbearing government and apathetic populace still rings true.

I did pass thru the Northern Right Whale Critical Habitat last night but I guess the whales were being critical. I didn't see any. Bummer!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Current Position

At 9:34 PM on 11/1/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 30°40.44'N 081°28.02'W heading 119T at 0.1

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Current Position

At 6:54 PM on 10/31/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 31°40.00'N 081°09.73'W heading 306T at 0.1

Friday, October 30, 2009

Current Position

At 6:53 AM on 10/30/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 32°33.59'N 080°24.11'W heading 190T at 0.2

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Current Position

At 5:17 PM on 10/27/2009 Reboot (and I) were at 33°31.39'N 078°31.95'W heading 228T at 6.5

Monday, October 26, 2009

October26th - Beaufort NC to Wrightsville

My care package arrived at noontime today.  I don’t usually wait as late in the day to depart but I had to move Reboot out of the marina or pay another hefty sum to spend the night.  Since I am on a very tight budget moving won out.

I had a so so weather window.  The good news was that the wind was from the NW at 20 to 25 with seas of 3 to 5 feet.  The bad news was that it was overcast with the possibility of rain.  Net net, as we used to say, it was a very fast sleigh ride down the coast to about 20 miles north of Cape Fear.  I tried to round Cape Fear and keep on going all night but the wave action was rolling Reboot quite a bit and I did not want to venture further offshore to get a stable boat when I could duck in at Masonboro Inlet, pick up the ICW to go around Cape Fear, and then go back outside to travel direct Charleston, NC.

On the way down I ran into two large and several small US Navy ships engaged in military exercises off Camp Lejeune.  I can remember the day when I used to be on one of those ships – either Saipan or Boulder.  I had a nice chat with them as in “do you hold the sailboat approximately 2 miles off your starboard bow?”  Then, after a minute, “Oh yes, we have you in sight.”  Nice, I wonder what the guys in the Combat Information Center (CIC) were doing.  Most likely so focused on their exercise they were not paying attention to me.

I arrived at Masonboro Inlet (Wrightsville, NC) at about 2300 local and almost ended the journey a few hundred yards offshore.  It seems that there is a new jetty that does not show on the charts.  And it sticks out past my GPS “safe” arrival point.  So there it was, dead ahead.  Of course to add drama there was fog.  The good news is that there were also some new entrance buoys that didn’t show on my chart either.  Fortunately I had not disconnected the radar as I had planned.  A combination of charts, radar and dead slow got me to a safe anchorage for the night.  In general it is not wise to arrive in a new location after dark.  I was not wise today.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oriental, NC

I ducked into Oriental, North Carolina to avoid a bad weather forecast.  I was glad that I did as my two day stay was great fun.  As I was coming in I became aware that there was a free town dock with a 48 hour limit of stay.  There are only two slips and fortunately one was empty so I slid on in.  Of course my depth sounder read 0.0 feet but it seemed like Reboot was still floating so I tied up,

I had stopped at the fuel dock to refuel. Since the fuel in the jerry cans was about 2 months old I refueled from the cans and then had the marina refill the cans.  That was when it became apparent that I could scoot over to the public dock.  Since it gets occupied very quickly the marina manager suggested I take the boat over and come back for the cans.  So I did.  On the way back to pick up the cans I discovered a tent being erected for a pig roast and talked to “Tennessee Bob.”  He told me that the roast was a benefit for “Girls on the Run.”  Tickets were only $10 so of course I purchased one.  Good decision, it turns out there were only 300 tickets and I purchased one of the last ones.

The pig roast was great, but the clear highlight of the trip was having dinner with Carol Baldwin (Cook) from North Shore High School ’64.  It never ceases to amaze me how small a world this really is.

I was disappointed by one thing.  I left on Sunday to be in Beaufort, NC to pick up a care package on Monday.  My disappointment?  The Marine Corps is attacking Oriental on Monday and Tuesday.  Apparently a close air support Marine group is in the final stages of training and they are going to sneak into Oriental and laze targets at which point the jets and helos are going to come in and attack.  No live fire of course, but it would have been fun to watch.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nautical Silks

A great gift idea from my friend Laura …

Nautical Silks               for more information Contact:
2976 N. Cambridge Ave.

                                                                                              Milwaukee, WI  53211




For Immediate Release

Get wrapped up in a work of art. Nautical Silks is a new line of original, hand-painted silk scarves by Laura Livermore, featuring nautical artwork.  Each scarf is made to order.  The designs, painted with French dyes, are inspired by traditional nautical signal flags and can be customized with your boat name, club name or other personal message.

Laura, the designer, felt there was a need to have a stylish and feminine touch to women’s sailing attire.  Somehow the polo shirt and matching team hat just weren’t cutting it.

A Nautical Silks scarf is an elegant, easy-care fashion accessory that lets you step off the boat in style. A perfect gift for women who take their fashion as seriously as they take their boating. 

 (Pictures here, having trouble showing, please visit Laura site to see them)        

Luxurious 100% silk combines elegance, durability and easy care

  • Hand washable and color fast

  • Hand-rolled hem

  • 4 colors

  • 3 basic styles

  • Unlimited possibilities

Nautical Silks is a new division of Silk by Laura established in 2000. European trained silk artist Laura Livermore shows her work in art fairs and galleries throughout the United States


Friday, October 23, 2009

Peeps is Back

Peeps the autopilot is back!

Mile 159.7 Anchorage

October 2009

On west side, saw one sailboat at anchor

Mile 154.1 ICW - Anchorage

October 2009

Anchorage on the west side, approximately 8 – 10 feet of water.  I shared it with 6 other boats.

Underway Visit from the Coast Guard

Since the weather was fine but going to get worse at the end of the week I decided to leave Elizabeth City a day early.  So did everyone else.  By the time I got up almost every other southbound boat had already departed.  Elizabeth City is the home of the largest Coast Guard Air Base so it did not come as a great surprise to see USCG Helicopters and small boats driving around in the Elizabeth River.  I was also not surprised when I heard a Coast Guard small boat hailing several of the sailboats that had been at the dock on the previous night.  In fact, there was a certain level of relief when they boarded the sailboat that had left right before me.  I figured that they would be tied up with her and I would just ease on down the river.


I am sure you have anticipated the punch line. They were more than happy to zoom on down to where I was and invite themselves aboard.  The visit was short, friendly and professional.   It was also obvious that the Elizabeth River is a great training aid for the Coasties.  I would bet they are out every day.


I passed with “no violation.”  I also got a document commemorating the visit.  This is apparently useful as they do ask when you were last boarded underway and if you have the paperwork aboard.  I presume that if it was recent they will leave you alone and head on to the next vessel.

Happy Birthday Trevor!

Today (October 22, 2009) is Trevor’s birthday.  And in celebration a pod of dolphins greeted Reboot this morning in the Alligator River.  Cool!


Much of the ICW in Virginia and North Carolina passes thru swampland.  I expected to have the same experience that Jerry and I did on the Erie Canal passing thru the Montezuma Refuge – lots of aloe and Benadryl to deal with numerous bug bites.  In fact every residence I passed had a screen in porch.  Why am I telling you this now?  It seems I have made it far enough South that there has not been the cold nights or killing frost that suppressed the insect population.  Last night I was visited by mosquitoes for the first time since the Montezuma Refuge in upstate New York.


Then again, it is nice that it is getting warm at night time again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mile 28 Dismal Swamp Route - ICW - Uncharted Hazard

October 2009

Mile 28

North Carolina Welcome Center

150 Foot dock on East Side

Water at North end of Dock, Faucet is hard to find, on face of dock about 8 feet south of the north end.  Not the faucet at the water fountain.  Rest rooms, no showers, pump out or electric

People in the welcome center are very friendly.  Free internet access on Welcome Center computer.  The welcome center staff will give you the boater’s packet of information when you walk in.  They are very friendly.

Uncharted Hazard

North Carolina has constructed a bridge across the ICW just south of the welcome center.  The structure takes 3 ½ minutes to open from the closed position.  It connects the welcome center with a State Park on the opposite side.  The bridge tender on duty said that they watch the canal and open if they see a boat.  There was no telephone number or horn signal posted.  If closed I would suggest the normal long – short horn sequence to get their attention.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ICW October20th - Even a Stone Heart can Break

I woke this morning to 43 degrees F in Reboot.  Burrrrrrrr.  I set out at about dawn.  At 10 AM it was still cold.  The Dismal Swamp Canal is lined by trees on both sides so until the sun gets way up in the sky it really does not warm the canal.


I am used to being worried about hitting bascule bridges as I pass thru.  I was not prepared to have to pay attention to the tree branches that hang over the canal.  It is pretty easy to pay attention to the first 10 feet up, but my mast goes up 60 feet!  I learned the hard way when I trimmed a tree.  The branches were thank goodness small so I just got a shower of old dead branches with no harm done to Reboot.


It feels strange to see the depth gauge reading 1 to 3 feet all of the time.  Normally that would have me concerned but of course the canal only guarantees a 6 foot depth and I draw 5 feet.


Once clear of the South Mills Bridge and Lock the canal continues for a couple of miles.  It is a canal, narrow, shallow, tree lined on both sides.  One has to pay continuous attention not only to the sides of the canal but also the trees overhead.  And then it happens.  The canal section ends and puts you into the Pasquotank River.  The upper section winds around bend after bend.  Although wider than the canal it is still narrow but beautiful.  I felt like I was in a James Fennimore Cooper novel like Last of the Mohicans.  The connection to the primordial was amazing!  Not quite Heart of Darkness as there was no sense of brooding but cool none the less.


I have uploaded some pictures to Facebook (“RebootRacing”) of the sloop parade.  Since we all bunch up at the locks we end up going down the river single file.  I was last so I was able to drop back and pretend I was on the river alone to enjoy the solitude.


I arrived in Elizabeth City but of course I was too late for the free wine and cheese party. Perhaps tomorrow night as I came this way to explore.  Elizabeth City has quite a few museums and landmarks.  More tomorrow




Mile 11 Dismal Swamp Route ICW

October 2009

Tied up just south of the Deep Creek Bridge which is 500 yards south of the lock.  Approximately 55 foot dock on east side.  I tried a U-turn but failed as the canal is narrow with a strong current and I could not get the bow around.  If I had someone on the bow to tell me how much room I had left I might have accomplished it.  In the end backed into the dock.  Since I was set up for a starboard side tie for the lock everything had to go over to the port side.

Hardees across the street.

Mexican restaurant next to the dock

Rite-Aid pharmacy and 7-11 across the bridge – a short walk.

Nofolk to Deep Creek Bridge via the Dismal Swamp Route

I left Norfolk Naval Base mid-morning to head down the ICW.  Wind was out of the North and had been sustained enough for the waves to build.  As forecast the wind clocked around as I was heading down along the piers and the sun was a welcome sight after three days of wind, overcast, and rain.


Securite – Securete – Securete …

They do it differently down here!  It is followed (sometimes) by “This it the Coast Guard vessel “name” escorting a Navy Submarine.  Please maintain a 1000 yard security zone around the submarine.  The use of force, including deadly force is authorized.”  Then they call out ships (including the big container guys) and tell them what to do – stop, turn, go backwards.  It is a far cry from the tour boats in the Milwaukee River announcing their intentions.


I am headed south along the ICW using the Dismal Swamp Route.  Like the Erie Canal it is tedious.  The channel is narrow and shoals often so you have to pay attention.  Unlike the Erie Canal I have found myself with boats (“snowbirds”) ahead and behind me all the way.


I stopped around 4 pm in the little town of Deep Creek for the night.  I am tied up just below the Route 17 Bridge. It seems I can’t get away from Route 17.


A sundowner and a quiet night ahead.


Photos on the Rebootracing pages of Facebook


Trivia item:  Today I passed the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) memorial.  I have been a resident of every state that had an Iowa class battleship named for it:  Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri, and Wisconsin.  I am glad World War II ended or I might have to move again1

Clear Channel

Back in the early days of broadcast radio the Federal Communications Commission issued “clear channel” AM broadcast licenses.  The idea was that local broadcast stations could share the airwaves with certain generally big city radio stations but at night the “clear channel” stations had no other competition.  Supposedly big city stations had better access to news and public opinion than the small local stations. At least that is what their lobbyists convinced the FCC over 3 martini lunches.  Several of the New York City Stations – WOR, NBC, ABC, CBS, and WINS were clear channel stations   Most of the clear channel stations had very high power output e.g. 50,000 watts so that they could cover large areas of the U.S.  Since I have an SSB radio on board and the antenna is a long wire (the backstay) it turns out I have a great rig for listening to the New York City broadcast stations.  Of course they don’t play rock and roll any more (“This is Murray the K on the swinging soirée”) But I get that sense of home.  This morning I was told that Obama is back to campaigning again (did he ever stop?) today in New Jersey for the Governor’s race.  I am not sure I needed this information.


Speaking of clear – I am going South to get warm and there was a frost alert in Virginia this morning (October 20th.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Autopilot installed at last, waiting for a weather window

Of course, not only were the wires on the new autopilot control head different.  The mounting was different.  So I had to drill out part of the cockpit dashboard to get the new control head to fit.  The circle drill was under about five other boxes way in the back of the stern cabin.  And the soldering gun was in another box somewhere in the same area.  And the electrical tape … well you get the general idea.  Now I have to figure out how much of the “commissioning” is actually necessary.  Commissioning is the process of setting the operating parameters for the autopilot.  The computer is the same; it is just the display that is different so I am not exactly sure how much needs to be set up again.


If it works OK I will be on my way to Key West.  I figure it will take a couple of months of taking it easy each day and exploring along the way until I get there.  Now I go from waiting for parts to waiting for a weather window to depart.  I could actually leave today or tomorrow, the boat could handle the weather, but I am not really in the mood to spend two days in cold and rain when the sun is forecast to come out on Monday.  The next couple of days (Tuesday etc.) are forecast to be sunny and nice.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Am I crazy

Thanks to Dan – if you every wonder if I am crazy please enjoy the following:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Autopilot Control Head!

It arrived – of course in New Jersey.  But Ace and Bill were up for an aviation boondoggle so they flew it down to me in Norfolk.  Of course this was supposed to be a visit but as the weather continued to deteriorate I got a “Hi, we have to leave, here is your mail and the box” and off they went back to Norfolk Airport. I got back to Reboot and opened the box.  I had been warned by Raymarine that this was a slightly different model then the one I had sent in, and mine was not repairable so they were going to replace it instead.  Slightly different meant that the wire pigtails that were attached to my old unit were not attached to the new unit.  Raymarine had changed the interconnect cables!  So of course I could not hook this one up to see if it worked.


This morning I called Trident, the local Raymarine repair shop.  Joy of joys he had the parts I needed to hook up the new control head.  Of course it is raining cats and dogs here and the control head is out in the cockpit so I am deferring the test until the rain stops.


It is getting cooler here every day and I realized that if I headed up the Chesapeake Bay I would delay my departure South by at least two weeks.  Since installing the heater became a lower priority once I decided not to visit PEI and Nova Scotia this fall, and since the shore power heater is not working for lack of a circulating pump it can get a bit chilly on Reboot.  I expect to leave in the next few days and start my trek south toward Key West down the ICW.