Monthly Archives: July 2012

Last ditch

We took a last trip to Norfolk on the ferry with Alan from Snow White. Norfolk has mermaids all over the city as their symbol. They’re each different and reminded us of the dinosaurs in Pittsburgh. If the mermaids were decorated to elicit various local themes or characters it was lost on us but they’re fun to come across anyway.

Alan decided it was time to move on, so on the morning of his planned departure we invited him for coffee and fresh muffins. He had already stowed his dinghy so Jack headed over to pick him up and I put the muffins on the oven. As I stood in the doorway appreciating the morning, I heard an odd birdcall, a loud and insistent whistle. Funny, I thought, I don’t recognize that call. Sounds like a really big bird. I looked up hoping to see the bird and then I heard “Marce!” It was Jack whistling and calling and I raced around the sunshades to see what the problem was. He pointed to the other side of the boat and I looked up. Holy cow there’s an aircraft carrier! As many giant ships as we’ve seen come through this port, none has been as enormous as this one. It blotted out the city of Norfolk as it passed.

We looked it up. It’s the George H. W. Bush, the last of the Nimitz class carriers. We couldn’t find out why it was coming into the shipyard, but we assume upgrades or repairs.

We got tired of waiting for our autopilot ram so we moved over to Virginia Beach for a change a scene and to be better positioned for an ocean passage. All along the way we passed more and more ships, both navy and merchant.





We crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel on our way to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the third time I’ve sailed across these tunnels. I only traveled the route by car once, and that was shortly after it opened in the 60s when we took a family vacation somewhere that included what was at the time an engineering marvel. I remember my dad being so excited about it. I was probably throwing up in the backseat. Wikipedia tells me this is one of only eight bridge-tunnel systems in the world.


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Lions, Tigers, and Pirates?

Do you think these idiots are following us? This one is so stupid they spell it with two o’s and a t.

Marce was busy giving me my daily orders when I realized that the Punch & Judy Show I was hearing was very close to our very quiet and peaceful anchorage. Stranger still were the attempts at Aussie accents and over the top emoting. I excused myself and went out on the side decks to witness this.
It’s been a strange day, you know the kind of day where you come face to face with your inadequacies. I found mine as I was draped over the generator looking at our recalcitrant starter motor, all 6’1″ of me upside down In a space designed for Nadia Comenici.

The first hour was spent getting the first bolt off, along with a little sparks and DC welding. Two hours later I had that little bastard on the table. Have you ever tried to disassemble something with springs in it? Don’t.

I remember our good friend Stan while on a passage to Martha’s Vineyard, working on a DC plug which has springs, losing one part after another until, boing, the last indispensable part and spring described a perfect arc into the Atlantic. The entire plug followed a second later. Wise man.

I called a starter professional. He’s picking it up tomorrow.

In the meantime it was like the Duke decreeing that ,” he truly was the son of GOD.” From on high our Ram Guru has surfaced with a maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow, I’ll call. Yeah!

Water worries again. I think I’ve schmoozed the local marina into letting us have some of that fine Virginia Beach City Water instead of crappy well water, and letting us tie up our dinghy to their fuel dock. These are things that in Portsmouth we didn’t even think about, not that it was easy, but when you’re a stranger, nobody knows you and they don’t get a lot of transients so props to the fish center.
More irony in that the starter guy is located in Norfolk where we just left, but after all the brouhaha I’m enjoying the serenity of lake Wesley.

Its Bean Night on Escape Velocity and Marce is lit appropriately. All’s well that ends well.


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Tale of two Cities

Many have asked why we have no pictures of our nightly thunderstorms and I usually say that we’re a little busy at the time. This is what it looks like when you arrive at an anchorage late and in a storm.

They were a little busy too. I don’t know if we’re getting nonchalant about our nightly storms but we found time to snap this shot. Gusts about 35knots with lots of rain.


With Escape Velocity in the middle of the Elizabeth River, poised to collect that pot of gold. No gold but we did find that after two weeks of inactivity the starter in the NexGen generator whirrs but doesn’t turnover the engine. Not my favorite place to work, it’s hidden away in the bow storage compartment. The older and decidedly wonky start battery for the strb’ Volvo didn’t like the hiatus much and decided to go on strike as well. We were planning to hike over to the local sports watering hole to watch the Olympic opening, when the thunderstorm moved in so we thought we’d better stay with the boat and crank up the generator. No joy. We were able to see a little until the inverter started to get the best of the batteries. That’s when we found out about the generator.

We have that sinking feeling again, you know, that we’ve been left behind, I guess it’s because our friend the Brit solo sailor left for parts North, and we can’t even get our Ram Guru to tell us anything about our autopilot. It’s been ten days! So, as we prepare to leave our snug anchorage and head North we hope we can find a place to send the ram that’s as convenient as this would’ve been. That’s assuming he hasn’t sold the thing and left town.

The bikes are back on EV and that’s a sure sign that we are blowing this town. I can hear the lilting trumpet notes of “Retreat” echoing across from Hospital Point, sand blasting at the Naval Shipyard, and a really irritating party boat that crisscrosses back and forth in front of Norfolk’s waterfront. That’s life on the water.

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When Izzy ain’t happy . . .

When we found Izzy in the Trader Joe’s parking lot she was tiny and tar-covered and scared to death.

We took her back to the house and tried to find a home for her. For two weeks the poor little thing hid under furniture, ran from shoes and cried. The only thing that would calm her was being held tightly and petted, then as soon as we put her down, she ran under the furniture again.


She came to know her surroundings and grew more comfortable with us, and when none of our cat-loving friends had room for her we knew she was with us to stay.

She finally got over her fears and became the most playful cat we’ve ever had. She loves to chase the laser pointer beam, wrestle twist-ties, and play soccer with wine corks. I’d never seen a cat dribble a wine cork the length of our first floor as well as she can. She became even happier when we started letting her out. She rarely ventured beyond our little yard and the neighbors’ and she seemed to mostly sit under a shrub and watch birds, but she wanted to be outside all the time, summer and winter.

So then we sold our house and Izzy went to stay with Jack’s family while we boat shopped. At first she reverted to hiding under the furniture but within a few days she grew to love her foster home. There were people to dote on her and play Catch the Twist-Tie and lots of bird feeders to watch. Best of all there was plenty of room to run, because more than anything, Izzy loves to run.

When we found Escape Velocity we drove back to Pittsburgh and collected Izzy for what would be a much longer car trip than she’d ever experienced. And she did not like it.


We stopped for a week with my family and it took only a day or two before she was right at home, getting hugged and playing outside.


Then, just as she was getting used to that, we were back in the car for a long ride to Florida,

two weeks cooped up in a short-term rental while we wrapped up the purchase of Escape Velocity, and finally the big move aboard our new home. She was understandably frightened. We figured a couple of weeks and she’ll be exploring the docks and making friends with the neighbors. But no. She hides in various places on the boat and only comes outside under cover of darkness and even then any sound at all makes her flinch. When we’re underway she heads down to the lowest place on the boat, and if it gets at all bouncy she cries.

The night before we arrived here in Portsmouth we tied up to a free dock alongside a town park. Izzy must have smelled land because she came out on deck, saw how close we were to shore and walked up and down the side deck choosing her spot. In a flash she was off the boat and under a bush. Lucky for us she doesn’t run away but just hides. We grabbed the leash and hooked her up and stayed with her while she enjoyed the cool feel of grass between her toes.

It broke our hearts to have to bring her back inside when it was time to go. We’ve had to face the fact that our little cutie would be much happier in a land-based home.

We love this little kitty so much, but more than that we want her to be happy.


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Dead and risen

As usual, Jack and I are undecided about whether to wait for our ram here in Portsmouth or relocate ourselves to Virginia Beach. While we weigh the options we’re still checking out this lovely town. Yesterday we were riding around when we came across this old churchyard. I’m a sucker for dead people and had to go in and get to know the residents. Jack waited at the gate. 20120720-152917.jpg
When we learned that the movie at the Commodore Theatre would be the first-run opening night The Dark Knight Rises we got ourselves into town early enough to wait in line for table reservations.

After a while they let the head of the line move indoors until the box office opened.

We got to choose our table and selected a deuce right in the middle of the theatre. Show time was 7pm and we were advised to get there by 5:45 so we’d have plenty of time to order and enjoy or dinner. We biked into town and the theatre owners were kind enough to let us bring our bikes inside and we stowed them behind a velvet rope in the lobby.

Each table has a telephone on it. Ours was a black princess phone.


To order I picked up the phone and dialed 0. A voice answered with “Hello table 317. How many in your party?” We ordered our dinner, and we were advised to “put a hold” on dessert so it would come just after the movie started. Turns out we didn’t have to ask. The voice at the other end told us she’d put a 40-minute hold on our Hot Cinnamon Loaf.

Service was incredibly efficient, even if the food was mostly generic bar food. Still, sitting in a theatre eating dinner surrounded by the buzz of an opening night crowd was fun. And when the movie started we remembered that it was largely shot in Pittsburgh, so we have a good time identifying the locations.

Our warm cinnamony dessert came early in the movie as promised, as did the check, and we also called for refills on our drinks. When the movie was over we watched the entire credit roll looking for any Pittsburgh locals on the crew. We shouldn’t have. As we wheeled our bikes out of the theatre there was a light rain falling and by the time we got back to the dinghy it was downright pouring.

We waited a little while hoping it would stop, but in the end we figured we were already wet so we went for it. We had filled our water jugs before the movie so we had to lift them out of the dinghy before we could lift the dinghy. We took our wet clothes off in the cockpit and hung them on our permanent clothesline (thanks Danielle and Roger.) Thanks also to Ed and Sue on Angel Louise for recommending the Commodore Theatre experience. What fun!



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Water water

We’re still experiencing the effects of the full tank of well water that we inadvertently took on over a week ago. The water was ok for washing but undrinkable, even after running through our excellent filter. When we anchored here in the Elizabeth River we didn’t know how long we’d stay and just figured we’d use up the water and refill next time we stop for fuel. Of course we ended up staying here longer and eventually we used all of the well water. So here we were with an empty tank and a marina with a fuel and water dock right beside us, but it’s a little tight to get to. Also, we have a good set with the anchor, and our anchor chain is very messy and rusty and leaves a terrible mess on the deck every time we raise it. So what to do? We decided to stay put and ferry water out to the boat in collapsible containers. We have four jugs holding five gallons each. Every day when we dock the dinghy behind the marina Jack refills the jugs using a dock hose that a nice marina resident offered us. Then we haul them up on deck and pour the water into our tank. We figure we’re using about 10-15 gallons a day for washing and cooking so we’re slowly gaining on our 100-gallon tank. If we were anywhere else but the ICW we’d be using our watermaker, but you need clean seawater to make clean water and the water here has too much crap on it.





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Sounds of silence

You’d think a sailboat at anchor would be ghostly quiet. It isn’t. If there’s any breeze at all there is always a thrumming in the rigging that takes on depth the higher the speed. This can be disconcerting. With every gust you can feel her start to lift chain off the bottom and then the bridle ticks ever faster over the bow until she stops tugging and then the elastic effect of the stretched line bouncing back. Because of the Naval yards and Norfolk there’s a low end city rumble. In every anchorage there’s always a knucklehead that hasn’t led a halyard to a quiet place. I like the occasional tug whistle and one morning we awoke to that distinctive fire breathing rumble of large block twin V8’s of offshore speedboats. There were at least 50 of these things, all colors and designs, coming into Tidewater Marine in Portsmouth.

Sometimes a voice will reach you from a boat or shore, and for a second or two you’d think that they were right next to you. On weekends Norfolk often has bands playing in the park opposite us, But our favorite, because we’re anchored off Hospital Point, is that every night we hear a bugle playing Retreat and every morning Reveille. Kind of nice.

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I’m just waitin’ for a ram

Portsmouth’s not a bad place to hang out. The cruising guides warn against wakes in the Elizabeth River, and we do get bounced a little from time to time, but with the heat wave we’ve been having it’s so much cooler out at anchor than we would be at the free dock at the ferry landing.

Being in a busy harbor we see lots of marine traffic all day long. There are two pretty schooners that take tourists out a couple of times a day; there are barges and tows; various pleasure boats come and go, either near us at anchor or to and from the adjacent marina. There’s the USS Wisconsin just across the river and huge cargo ships.



We’ve explored Old Town and visited the lightship.





We’re located between a naval base and the navy shipyard. When we take the ferry we get a great view of the ships being worked on at the yard.

Yesterday morning Jack said, “Holy crap! Look at that!” it was a huge warship just across the river being escorted to the shipyard by six tows.


We looked her up — the USS Donald Cook, going in for an upgrade to Aegis class — and watched until she was out of sight. You don’t see that everyday!

Later we enjoyed the company of our neighbor in the anchorage, Alan from Snow White, a Brit sailing out of Northern Ireland.


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A Plan is just a plan

We carefully organized our Monday mission.
-Dinghy into the Honda Shop where they think they have the correct throttle cables for our dinghy, install them while we do other errands and pickup the dinghy on the way back to Escape Velocity.
-Exchange our empty LPG tank at Mile Marker 0 Marine.
-Bob & Cassie at Mile 0 are just about the nicest people we’ve ever met. They are going to drive us to the cell phone repair people who have agreed to repair Marce’s iPhone while we wait, eliminating a 12 mile bike ride.

Tied up the dinghy at the Honda Shop called Full Throttle, which after all is what I’m looking for, rode the bikes to Mile Marker 0 Marine with a 20# LPG tank strapped to the rack on the bike. This part went smoothly because of Bob. So far so good.

If you’re ever in Portsmouth, VA, Look them up. True Angels of Mercy, right next to the south ferry dock, which is how I first found them.

Cassie ducked the photo op. We’ll try to catch up with her later. Bob uses all the disparate marine shops in town to fill any order that day!

So, no joy at the cell phone repair shop. Come back tomorrow seemed to be the theme of the day. Same at the Honda shop where we had to beg them to overnight the cables for a possible repair tomorrow. Cassie drove us to TJMaxx, the grocery store, Best Buy, Office Max, and still no joy.


Cassie said no problem, we’ll do it again tomorrow! Tuesday went much better and even Full Throttle came through in the end, although very late in the day. We managed to leave our new printer on their work bench, unfortunately. We had so much stuff in the dinghy we didn’t notice until we were unloading, where we had our own Abbot and Costello moment. Where did you put the printer? I didn’t touch the printer. Why not? Did it fall overboard? How would I know? I will admit that the printer toppling into the Elizabeth River was a distinct possibility because the trip back from Full Throttle was a little ragged due to the fact that I suddenly had full power and after a lifetime of motor cycle driving twisting one’s wrist down for more gas apparently is hard wired into my DNA. This has caused a certain…unevenness to one’s experience in our dinghy. There are even rumors about the harbor,that I tried to mount EV with the dinghy. Let me be the first to disabuse you of this spurious accusation. Not so!

Finally we decided that in our haste we must have left it at Full Throttle and of course they’re closed. Marce said just dinghy over and see if you can get it, and while you’re at it try sitting on the other side so that the throttle syncs with your brain’s wiring. Sure enough the overhead door had just enough space left that if I ducked down into the dinghy I could just slide in under the lip of the door. Now if no one shoots me we’re home free, because this had disaster written all over it. I jumped out of the dinghy, grabbed the printer box, jumped down into the dinghy and made my escape.

Just another day in paradise.


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Lay days

We’re still at anchor across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk, VA. The water front is quite spectacular. It’s lit up like Disney World; it’s a nice change for us.

Lay day doesn’t mean day off on Escape Velocity. We’ve finally pulled the trigger on the non-functioning hydraulic ram and decided to send it to the B&G Ram Guru in RI found by Craig on Anything Goes. After pulling the beast out from under our berth and wrapping it a plastic bag–it’s about 3′ long–into the dinghy it goes, along with the bikes and bike gear and us.

20120715-091958.jpgAs we unhooked from EV one of the shackles that lifts the dinghy broke. This is the second one. We had a replacement for the first one but now we have to find a store nearby where we can find another one.

The throttle cable on the dinghy outboard is broken and can’t be fixed until Monday so we inched at idle speed to shore. We stashed the dinghy behind Tidewater Marina. They want $12 dollars each time you tie up, so we stash behind the Marina. This is me pretending that I own the joint.

After a short ride along Portsmouth’s beautiful riverside trail we came to the ferry landing, found the welcome center and ticket office, paid the .75, for seniors,and waited for the ferry due in 15 minutes.

We’re expert at sniffing out what we need in unfamiliar locations due to our bike trekking and location scouting. We soon had our bearings, and we were at the UPS store in 45 minutes, with the ram still firmly strapped to the rack on my bike. I’m seen here waiting for the shipping quote.

It started to look like rain and we had a long way to go before we could close the overhead hatches–we didn’t want to bake Izzy (adventure Kitty) Katzenbaum so we didn’t take advantage of any sightseeing.

Marce waiting for the ferry, worrying about rain. We got back to EV just in time, after an agonizingly slow ride back in the dinghy. Then I had to scour the joint to find a temporary shackle so we could stow the dinghy again.

The Autopilot ram is on the way. Well, it will be on Monday.

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