Daily Archives: November 14, 2012


As the moment of truth was overtaking us in the canal the other day we heard Jack’s phone ring down below. We were too busy to answer right then, but later I checked the voice mail and we learned that our dear friend who had a health crisis shortly after we moved aboard just suffered a turn for the worse and seemed to be nearing the end. We decided to call as soon as we were settled for the night. We learned soon enough we were entering a black hole of no cell service. Normally this would be an annoyance, but that night we were desperate for information.

Against all odds I managed to find an open wifi signal from an unseen house ashore and get the boat connected. I tried sending a few iMessages but they didn’t go through. It would have to be email, not the most immediate way of getting critical information. And then I thought of Skype. Most of our friends and family don’t use Skype, but our son Drew does and almost any time of the day or night I can find him logged on. I opened the app and immediately a Skype text message from Drew popped up, sent less than an hour before. His grandmother, my former mother-in-law, had suffered a suspected stroke. Now two of our near-and-dear were in the hospital and we still had no way to call anyone.

I texted Drew and asked him to make phone calls for us, convey our warmest thoughts and report back with whatever information he could find. He brought us up to date then called my sister to share the news with her and let her know we are out of contact.

In the morning we motored eight miles to the town of Belhaven, which is also completely disconnected from the planet. We’re pinned down here by nasty weather for at least a day or two and we have no cell service and there are no open wifi networks. It’s amazing to me that everyone feels the need to lock their network, and makes me appreciate the towns that provide free or low-cost wifi for visitors. How else can you learn if there’s a pharmacy or grocery store or sailmaker ashore? What better way to advertise a farmers market or community event or sale? We happily paid $12.99 for a month of pretty good wifi at anchor in Annapolis. A local company here wants $15/ day. Seriously? More than a New York City hotel charges business people on expense accounts? I tried contacting them to see if they really get customers at that rate and to share the rates from other places we’ve visited, but their login page — which is the only thing I can access — doesn’t list an email address, only a phone number. And we have no cell service.

All of this does not bode well for our mental health in the future. We will probably activate our satellite phone to use in emergencies like this one, but adjusting to being unplugged will take some doing. We are both news junkies — ok, a shortwave radio will solve that problem — and love the day-to-day interactions via Facebook and Twitter. We can save up blog entries and post when we have Internet access. We’ll have to accept the fact that we won’t be able to indulge in the instant gratification of Google and Wikipedia and the New York Times. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.




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Tense night

We awoke about 1:30am to howling wind and an odd feel to the boat. Jack jumped up and went to investigate while I took the time to put socks and shoes on, then joined him just as he came back inside.

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“I can’t tell,” he said. “It’s too dark.”

I grabbed the iPad and we both went back outside. It was the darkest of dark nights; the only thing we could see were a line of anchor lights north of us, and two more southwest of us. We couldn’t see land, or any landmarks that we normally would take bearings on to see if we had dragged. It was windy, but not any more than we’ve experienced in a front.

I had placed a marker on the iPad chart when we anchored and it was clear we had dragged in the gusts.


We both went out on deck and peered into the darkness. With so little visual information we had a hard time deciding what to do. We could see the flashing green channel marker we’d passed earlier. Using that and a little compass chart weight, we oriented the iPad on the table so we could see which way the shoals were. We were on the edge. That was one problem. The other was that in the blackness we couldn’t tell if an anchor light was on a really big boat far away or a small boat really close.

Just then one of the anchor lights started moving and a large monohull we had traversed the canal with appeared right beside us. There was muffled shouting and we could just make out that they were re-anchoring, too close to us, we thought.

We had a choice, either re-anchor or put out more rode, hope for the best and stand watch until morning. By this time the wind had died down so we chose the latter. While Jack went up on the foredeck I manned the helm. By the time we were finished, the wind was back to nothing and EV was hooked and quiet. If the wind came from the west we’d be pushed toward the shallows, but it wasn’t predicted so we took a chance. The monohull was anchored fairly close beside us, and with our additional rode if the wind came from the east, we might swing too close to them. But again, that wasn’t predicted.

Jack went back to bed and I curled up in the bridgedeck with Izzy to wait out the night. Before long, I was asleep too.

At first light I went outside to see where we were. Except for the large monohull beside us, all of the boats were farther away than we had thought during the night. The morning was calm and warm and Izzy and I watched the sunrise.





We also saw Snow White across the river closer to the channel than we were. I hailed Alan on the VHF and we discussed the plans for the day. Weather’s moving in. With our faster motoring speed, we could make it as far as Oriental, where we hope to get our mainsail repaired. It would be a long day’s run, and part of it would be in the waters of Pamlico Sound where the weather could deteriorate quickly. No thanks. We agreed with Alan to go only as far as Belhaven and wait out the weather. It turned out to be a wise choice. About an hour after we anchored the wind picked up and it’s going to be like this for the next day and a half.



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Too late in the canal



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