Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hurricane Sandy

We spent Saturday prepping the boat for the hurricane. In actuality there wasn’t much to do. We sausage wrapped the jib. We have a boom furling main so we didn’t need to remove it, but we wrapped the little bit of canvas that covers the mast end of the boom. We rigged a Fortress anchor on the bow and measured out an appropriate amount of scope ready to go in case the mooring failed us. We doubled up the lines to the mooring ball. We tied an extra line from the end of the camber spar to the mast to limit the movement there. We took in the flag and the cockpit cushions and secured the dinghy as tightly as we could. We went back and forth about whether to take down the vinyl cockpit enclosure. We’ve experienced some leaks at the instrument panel and we wanted to protect them–and us, if we wanted to go out in the cockpit to check on things during the storm–so we made the decision to leave it up. The boats around us mostly left up their canvas, and ours is heavy vinyl, not canvas. We felt confident.

Late in the morning a beautiful Hallberg Rassey sloop took the last mooring in our little group. We were concerned that it might be too close to us, but when we spoke to the skipper we learned he is the same person who had emailed us a few days ago recommending the city moorings and he told us this will be his third hurricane on that very mooring. Good to know. We were feeling better by the minute.


Sunday morning we watched the parade of panicky owners getting their boats to safer digs. A crew from the boatyard adjacent to us maneuvered a large sloop around the near dock. We thought they were just going to pass through the mooring field but as they got a little past our position they reversed and aimed back toward another dock. Just then a gust hit them and they lost control. Suddenly tons of very nice boat were aiming right at our starboard hull. From down below Jack yelled “Marce!!” as if I could do something about it. The crew got control in the nick of time and motored against the floating dock behind us. Whew!


After we recovered from that we enjoyed our morning coffee in our mobile voting booth. We were so glad to be able to vote absentee thanks to the combined efforts of our friends Jeff and Marylyn and Nancy and Dave. After we filled out our ballots we read that they have to arrive in Pittsburgh no later than 5pm Friday. Oops. That may be a problem as we’re stuck on a boat waiting for a hurricane.


All day Sunday we had pretty consistent wind out of the NNW at 15-20 knots with flat seas. We kept thinking of our time in the Hudson River where the three mile fetch kicked up a nasty chop in any breeze at all, and being on board during a storm felt like the wash cycle in a Maytag. This is better.

I spent the afternoon making two loaves of whole wheat bread and a pot of minestrone. Alan joined us for a last meal off his boat before the storm hit. Overnight we had periods of higher winds but the calm water made us feel secure.

Monday was tense and cold. Jack and Izzy napped and watched TV whenever we had the generator turned on to warm things up and charge the batteries. We got intermittent weather news and watched for Sandy to decide where to make landfall. We fielded texts, emails and phone calls from friends and family asking if we were ok and offering prayers and good thoughts. It’s so nice to know you’re all thinking of us, but as time went on we realized many of you were also in harm’s way because of Sandy’s sheer size.



All morning the wind stayed at about 10-15 knts, even though we had 20-25 predicted. We monitored the path of the storm and the buoy data out in the bay through our various apps. Just before 1pm the wind jumped to 25-30 knts with gusts in the mid thirties, then died down again to the teens a half hour later. This pattern repeated itself all day, bands of higher winds then periods of relative calm. We knew that the highest wind would start to reach us about 4pm and it did, right on time. It was still up and down, but higher up and higher down, ranging from 20-25 to 25-35 with gusts in the upper 30s to low 40s.

A little after 6:30 Jack said “Holy Cow!” and pointed at the barometer. We’d never seen it that low — 984!


Sometime around then we lost our Internet access and couldn’t get a fix on where the storm was and if it had made landfall. Between 6:00 and 9:00 we had frequent gusts in the 41-44 range but then the wind would drop back down to 25-35 knts. The wind whined in the rigging, the mooring bridle made a deep creaking sound as it stretched with the gusts, the chafe guard on the mooring lines squeaked against the fiberglass hull, and we heard an occasional unidentifiable clank when something metallic would bang on the deck, accompanied by the constant ever-changing rhythm of the rain. It was an appropriate Halloween soundtrack. Jack ducked out of the cockpit to check on things and the rain stung his eyes.

At about 8:30 we topped out at 49 knts accompanied by a funny thud. Jack ran out into the cockpit and reported that one of the corner panels in our enclosure had blown out.


It was more that the old stitching gave up than anything, and we know that it’s been stitched and restitched through the years so we still feel good about our decision to leave it up. The rest of the enclosure is fine and we were happy for the protection it gave us. If the winds had been predicted over 50 knts we definitely would have taken it down.

We had a long break from about 9:30 until 1am when we were once again in the 25-35 range with higher gusts but by 4am things had died down considerably. Jack went to bed at 9:30. I stayed in the saloon snuggled in blankets watching the instruments and recording the wind speeds before I dropped off to sleep at 4:30.

I awoke about 6:30 to a cabin at about 42 degrees and damp with condensation dripping from the aluminum frames of the hatches.


It was time to fire up the generator again and get us warm and dry. I put the kettle on for coffee and — damn! — the propane ran out. Are you kidding me? Oh wait, the generator’s on. I heated water in the microwave to make coffee in our Melitta drip thermos, completely forgetting there is an electric coffee pot right next to the microwave. Doh! It’s been so long since we’ve used it that I didn’t even think of it.

Jack went out in the rain to unearth the spare propane tank from the forward sail locker and we were back in business in time to make an omelet and home fries for breakfast. Alan and Dave from Auspicious joined us and we had a cozy morning aboard. Dave had errands to run and graciously took our empty propane tank, had it refilled and returned it to us an hour later. What service!


During the height of the storm when we could check in on Facebook we learned of power outages all along the eastern seaboard and one by one we lost connection with family. This morning we can’t reach some people; others we know to be without power. I think of them in cold houses, no heat, food in the freezer to mind. We’re lucky we can turn on a generator and keep our food cold, run a heater, charge the batteries and our cell phones and iPad and check the news on TV if we want to. In some ways, life aboard Escape Velocity is so civilized. Except for the occasional Halloween soundtrack.


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The List

Just looking at the list we knew today would be a tough one. It’s the kind of list that makes you think that this day could go sideways in so many ways so that scratching off just one item would be a kind of victory.

There’s a back story to the list and that is that we’ve been nursing our starboard start battery since Stuart, Florida. I wasn’t sure if it was the battery or something else because it tested nearly the same as the Port battery but the engine started very slowly. We have a switch to combine both start batteries in an emergency but in an emergency you don’t want to have to run into the saloon down the stairs, fold up the mattress, pull the hatch up, bend over and find the battery combiner switch.

This is typical of the kind of decisions one is faced with as a liveaboard sailor. Hauling a group 27 battery on a bicycle is something even I wouldn’t want to try so we thought that we could get the battery when we rent the car to go to Lancaster for my license renewal. We had to get to the dinghy dock by 8:15 to catch our ride to the car rental shop but the Battery Warehouse isn’t open until 9am and we had to have the old battery as a trade in but we had to get on the road. Maybe later.

The rest of the day went well. License, mail, and bags of bulky stuff in hand, we ran into traffic on the way home, which put the kibosh on the battery again. I was getting anxious about getting one of the last three mooring balls in Back Creek but in the morning we had to return the car by 9am and the Battery Warehouse doesn’t open until 9am so no battery without a car. Our friend Jim, who has already helped so much had once again stepped up and offered to drive us to pick up a battery, however we needed both motors to get to the fuel dock and back down the Creek to pickup a mooring.

I refilled the bad battery with water and after an hour queue for the fuel dock we finally had our tanks full. However Marce found smoke rising out of the starboard engine compartment. Smoke is bad. I hustled down there and found our own little China Syndrome happening where there should be a battery. No more nursing. Annapolis Landing Marina graciously loaned us their courtesy car.

As I walked into the Battery Warehouse there must have been 20 people waiting to buy batteries! Sandy the hurricane. Didn’t think if that.

Back at the boat the new battery solved the slow starting of the starboard engine and we picked up the next to last mooring. Without missing a beat we started to prepare for Frankenstorm. It’s difficult to assess what will happen when it gets up here, reports are all over the map but it’s hundreds of miles wide so we are going to get something and right now it’s aiming right at us.

We all decided to go to Davis’ Pub for a pre-hurricane dinner. Jim said we’d better make it early because there’re so many people in town to take care of their boats there’s bound to be a crowd. It was a “drink to forget” crowd. It works for me.

That’s life on the water.


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Cold feet and Sandy

It’s been a very hectic couple of days. We got word Thursday that Jack’s license renewal and our absentee ballots arrived at my sister’s in New Jersey. Friday morning she and Dave drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Jack and I rented a car and met them at a PennDoT photo center.


A few minutes later Jack had a valid driver’s license in hand and we all piled into the Strifes’ car and went to the Lancaster Central Market.




Nancy and I checked out every stall while the men lined up at the meaty meat sandwich place.




We ate lunch on a bench outside and went back to make some purchases.



Nancy and Dave had an errand to run and a long drive ahead of them so we said a reluctant goodbye and a big thank you for bringing us our important mail and helping us to check a big To-Do off our very long list.


Jack and I went to Best Buy and replaced his twice-dunked iPod nano, then took advantage of having a car to stock up on bulky things that are hard to carry on a bike, like toilet paper, paper towels and the like.

We should have enjoyed the road trip more than we did, but hurricane Sandy looming in our future put a pall on the day. During the entire drive there and back we kept checking the storm track and read emails from various people offering suggestions and local knowledge. When we got back to Annapolis Alan met us on the dinghy dock to help unload the car and we all came to the same conclusion, that we were in a very protected place and all we needed to do was move from anchor to a mooring. The moorings here are Helix type, screwed deep into the bottom and will give us better holding than our anchors can in high winds. We believe the protection from the adjacent trees and buildings will shield us from the full brunt of the wind. Neither of us wants to be slamming against a fixed dock, which is all they have around here. Being on a mooring means the boat can swing around to face the wind and that’s better for the boat and rig.

We considered high-tailing it south but Sandy is so big that we wouldn’t really be able to get far enough in a few days to avoid the winds, and we’d have to choose a creek to anchor in without knowing beforehand if there are already boats there or if the holding is good. We had a lot of suggestions for possible anchorages but we chose the known over the unknown. Time will tell if we made the right decision.

All night neither Jack nor I slept much and we were pretty happy to see that by 5am the storm had been downgraded to tropical storm. We finally got up and took the rental car back. When we got back to the boat we saw that Alan had moved upstream and was already on a mooring. There were only three left so we borrowed Alan’s dinghy and tied it to the one we preferred — which you’re not supposed to do — then took Alan up on his offer of help, raised anchor and motored over to the fuel dock where we waited for nearly an hour while a big motor yacht sucked up enough fuel to keep the Middle East in palaces. We topped off the fuel tank, emptied the holding tanks, filled some jerry jugs with fresh water and filled our gas can for the outboard. When I went below to get my wallet I saw smoke coming out of the guest cabin. Jack!!!

It was our ailing starting battery which we had planned to replace this afternoon. Can’t wait now. Jack and Alan got the smoldering thing off the boat and the marina lent us their courtesy van to drive to Steven’s Battery Warehouse for a replacement.


Less than an hour later we fired up the engines, motored upstream and picked up our illegally reserved mooring. Alan helped us sort out the lines and left us to our storm preparations.


We’re one of four boats who have chosen the city moorings in Back Creek. There were five, but a large sloop just changed his mind and went to a marina. We’re rigging a different anchor and will have it ready to deploy if the mooring gear fails. We’ll spend today and tomorrow getting ready.



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This doesn’t look good



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Tension in the Creek

There’s a perceptible undercurrent of tension in Back Creek today. I can’t see it, but I can feel it. Will Sandy hunt us down or pass us out to sea? We have friends on the coast so either way it’s not good. We feel protected and hopefully hidden away up here in Annapolis, but you never really know for sure.

The forecast was good for Thursday so when our friend Jim invited me to join his bicycle riding group I jumped at the chance. There are some beautiful trails here in Annapolis but I wasn’t sure about matching my boat atrophy with guys that ride every other day.

I had to dinghy over to where we left the bikes in Eastport, load my bike, and transfer it to the other side of Back Creek where Jim said to meet him at 8:45am for the ride to the meet the other guys. We headed out at a brisk pace on an overcast misty morning, and soon I was beginning to feel every day I sat at the wheel steering Escape Velocity. After a couple of miles I seemed to find my bike riding form and realized that I could hang with these guys.


But just barely. We had a pathfinder Jim, and a sag wagon…me. Creek after isolated creek we rode around. This is a beautiful place.


Obligatory photo op at Thomas Point.


Nice spot for a rest!


A country lane, fall leaves, and a good bike under me. If it weren’t for Sandy creeping up the coast I’d be quite content.

That’s life on the water.

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On the yard

Yesterday we played tourists and walked over the bridge to the United States Naval Academy. In all the years we’ve been coming to Annapolis we never visited.



We started out at Tecumseh Court as the Middies streamed in for the noon formation. Jack is checking out the bronze replica of the figurehead of the USS Delaware.





The tourists milled around, the midshipmen milled around, the dignitaries milled around, and suddenly, without any signal we could recognize there was complete silence and the Brigade of Midshipmen was in tight formation. It was thrilling to watch each unit report readiness for duty and I welled up that so many bright young people want to serve our country.



One thing that struck both Jack and me independently was the height of the middies. I guess we were expecting tall strapping lads, but they were mostly average and below average height. I was taller than many of the men and women we passed on the sidewalks.

We wandered over to the chapel — which by all accounts is a must-see — but unfortunately it was closed in preparation for the annual Halloween concert. That meant no Tiffany windows and no crypt of John Paul Jones in the basement. We decided to sneak in past a Do Not Enter sign anyway and as we pushed the heavy door open we heard an organ rendition of Dance of the Marionettes, the unmistakeable theme of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. We followed the sound to a side chapel where Monte Maxwell, music director of the chapel was practicing for the concert.


We talked to him for a while about pipe organs. He has played the Wanamaker organ, the largest in the world, which my sister and I heard many times growing up. He said if we emailed him after the concerts were over he’d give us a personal tour of the organ.

The campus was beautiful and there were interesting memorabilia at every turn.



We spent most of the rest of our time on the yard at the Naval Academy Museum. The first floor has exhibits telling the history of the US Navy from the Quasi and Barbary Wars to the present. The second floor was amazing, with a collection of ships models that would appeal to anyone with obsessive compulsive tendencies.



There was a exhibit in the back that particularly appealed to me. These are models made largely of bones and found objects by French prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars held in Britain.


Apparently the prisoners were encouraged to use their artisan skills and sell their wares in craft markets. The intricate ship models they built brought a good price, and the prisoners could buy food and clothing with the proceeds.



The reason these caught my interest is that my ancestor, Charles Riou de Lagesse, was captain of the brig Jeune Henry when he was captured by the British ship Tartar.

(IX, Guernsey, March 18, 1804.
We have the honour to inform you, that on the 9th instant, our lugger Tartar, Letter of Marque, Francis Pironet master, being in the latitude of 45 deg. 14 min. n. longitude 6 deg. 46 min. w. fell in with and captured, after an engagement of two hours, the French brig Jeune Henri, of Bourdeaux, Rio (sic) Delagesse master, two days out of Viverro in Spain, had taken nothing: she is a fine vessel, British built, and coppered ; mounts twelve guns twelve-pounders, and two four-pounders, had fifty men on board at the time of capture, had two wounded; the Tartar mounts ten four-pounders, had fifty men on board.
We have the honour to be, &c.

He was held captive by the British for years, and may well have occupied himself making ship models. I have no way of knowing, but this display made those times and circumstances real to me in ways that researching documents does not.

We ended our visit with a late lunch at the Drydock Restaurant in Dahlgren Hall.


Later we had Alan and Jim aboard for lasagna and spent the warm evening telling sailors’ tales in the cockpit.



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Autumn on the hook

Life aboard changes with every place and season. The things you take for granted in a home on land are so very different on a boat, and different depending on where we are and whether we’re docked or moored or anchored.

At a dock we’re plugged into city water and electricity. We have heat or air conditioning, TV if there’s a local signal, a clothes washer/dryer, microwave, electric coffee pot, and best of all, hot water. EV has two bathrooms and one of them has a large shower.

At anchor we are living off battery power and the batteries are charged by the solar panels on our roof.


If we have a run of rainy weather we charge the batteries with the generator but we don’t like to do that because it burns fossil fuel and it’s noisy, for us and our neighbors. Running off the batteries precludes using appliances that run on AC power so we don’t use the washer, the microwave, the coffee maker, or the water heater. We could start the generator to power those things, but we don’t. Instead we go to the laundromat, we make coffee using a drip cone and we heat food on the stove like the olden days. But we do miss hot showers.

At anchor we conserve water because we’re limited to our 100 gallon tank. I run the watermaker every couple of days to keep the tank as full as I can, but when we shower it’s a quick navy shower.


But not here. Not now. The water is freezing and no amount of dirt is going to convince either of us to stand under a cold shower. We heat a little water in the kettle and take sponge baths until we decide it’s time to take advantage of whatever showers can be begged or bought. Here in Annapolis the Harbormaster has public showers and restrooms on the city dock right on Spa Creek. We’re on Back Creek so we dinghy ashore and walk across the bridge to town. Yesterday the weather was mild and the water was calm so we decided to dinghy around the point to Spa Creek.


There’s a dinghy dock between the city dock and the Naval Academy and we nosed in behind a cruise ship.


The Harbormaster’s office is a short walk from the dock.


The showers cost a dollar and we go into the office to buy tokens that let us into the shower rooms.



Ahhhhhh! What a delight to stand under hot water with good pressure and scrub until my skin starts getting prune-y!

Yesterday after our showers we met Alan at a cafe for a late afternoon pick-me-up.


We dinghied back around the point toward Back Creek and saw several groups of small boats learning to race or practicing their roll tacks. This is a sailing town and no amount of chill deters the clubs from their daily sessions.


We ended the day with Dark ‘n’ Stormies and a warming dinner of soup and corn bread, feeling clean and shiny.



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The view from the front porch

We love the stillness here as evening falls.


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What? More stuff?!?

It’s been a busy couple of days. We are happy to report that Jack’s and Alan’s ministrations on the battery charger seem to have worked. I crawled out from under the blankets at 7:30 this morning, started the generator to run a space heater and just for grins turned on the charger. Success! We’re pretty happy about that, although in researching a replacement we learned that the charger we have is not putting out enough amps to make running the generator efficient and when we do replace it eventually we will go up several sizes.

Izzy does not like the sound of the generator and will sit below for as long as it’s running.


I made another pass at the safety gear onboard and discovered we have three flare guns, two more than we need. But I don’t know what to do with the extras.


We took a longer shopping trip today that first required us to retrieve the bikes from the park and transport them to the other side of the creek.



We met up with Alan and rode about 5 miles through town and out the other side to a shopping center where we visited Joann, Marshall’s, a bike shop and Trader Joe’s. Annapolis gets a ‘D’ for bike friendliness because we mostly had to ride on surface streets or sidewalks.


We stopped at a marine consignment shop on the way back, then for a late lunch before the last little ride through town to the dinghy dock. We’ll leave our bikes on that side for a few days.


Do you believe we keep buying food? We can’t resist stocking up at Trader Joe’s but I’m seriously running out of room for this stuff.



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The sun goes over the yardarm

The view from the back porch.



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