Monthly Archives: November 2012
Instead of a family dinner at home or a rare visit to a favorite restaurant, instead of birthday gifts and birthday apple pie, Jack had a very different kind of birthday. We began the night before with a homemade pizza dinner and a wonderful bottle of champagne, courtesy of Alan from Snow White.
The next day, Jack’s actual birthday, we bent on the repaired mainsail. Mark from Inner Banks Sails & Canvas delivered the sail to the dinghy dock the day before.
We have a boom furler and this is the first time we bent on the sail. With Alan to help, we got the foot attached.
Then we added the battens as we furled the sail onto the boom. We would have preferred to add the battens from the top down as we raised the sail, then furl it, but it was way too breezy for that, so we worked from the bottom up and furled as we went. This went well until the next to the last batten. It kept coming up crooked, meaning it wasn’t lined up with the boom and couldn’t be rolled onto the mandrel. Hmmm. We unfurled, no small task in the breeze, we furled. We unfurled and furled. Every batten lined up until that one, and we couldn’t figure out why. We decided to leave out the last two battens and get the sail onto the boom, then when we could raise the sail, get it furled properly onto the boom, hoping the battens would line up properly. We continued to roll up the sail, skipping the problematic batten, and when we got to the last batten pocket it was lined up perfectly! Aha! Batten number four was crooked! We couldn’t understand how a batten could roll crooked onto the mandrel without getting broken — which it was originally — and then putting a hole in the batten pocket — which it had originally. We wonder why no one noticed this before, or if we are wrong in thinking this is wrong.
In any case, we installed the last batten, so we’re only missing the 4th for now, and the sail should be good to go. Once we can raise it and take a good look we might have a better idea of what’s going on.
That done, we went inside and I baked some muffins to reward the crew. A little later we all walked into town for a few provisions, visited a shop featuring local artists and craftsmen and made our daily stop at the Bean.
In the evening, we had a somewhat scaled down birthday dinner but no birthday apple pie. Izzy was not pleased.
I promised Jack we’ll have a better birthday celebration later when we get to a place where we’re not so darned cold all the time!
They appear slowly out of the shadowy mist which has been hanging over the great Neuse River for a solid week. At first it’s a slightly darker nebulous shape that coalesces into another lonely soul bundled up against the gale, anxious for a small reprieve. One at a time they turn to align the markers coming into Oriental Harbor. At first there were two, now twelve are crowded into this small anchorage, and still they come, refugees from this crazy storm.
We’ll brave the winds to gather a little companionship at the Bean Cafe, where everyone has the same look that says glad I made it and hope I don’t drag. Some just spend a night and are gone at first light. Some linger a day or two. Some appear in the morning anchored right next to you; those guys never stick around. Some are chatty. Some never say a word. Some we’ll probably meet at the Thanksgiving blowout at the Toucan Grill.
Check out the webcams at Oriental Harbor with Escape Velocity here
We had read for years that you are who you are and just because you’ve decided to go cruising don’t expect to radically change your habits. You are going to want to do what you like to do even though you’re now living the “life aquatic”.
We’ve always led a fairly frugal life so we expected few problems adjusting to our new life style. One of our known areas of…adjustment is our apparent habitual need to be plugged into the Internet, more or less continuously. In this I am not without guilt but I also really enjoy relaxing in front of a television set. We don’t have cable and even if we did, the power the TV would use could well be prohibitive. In sunny climes we don’t need to run the genset but we sure do up here. Occasionally we try the TV just using the onboard antenna but there isn’t much available without cable or satellite.
All of this can lead to a need to get off the boat, even in bad weather. Yesterday we picked up our friend Alan for a grocery run and as we approached the dinghy dock we realized that the storm that had been raging around us for days, had blown several feet of water into Oriental and was now covering the dinghy dock which would require an “en pointe” trip down the dock to land. So with wet feet we squished our way about a mile to the Town and Country market. Of course while shopping it began to rain. As we stood outside looking at the sky for a break in the clouds a woman gestured toward her car. “Can i give you a lift?” Why yes! Nice place, Oriental.
No trip into town is complete without a stop at “The Bean” for coffee, local news, and to complain about the weather. This is what we found.
On a better day you can see Escape Velocity out in the anchorage and the dinghy dock not under water.
This is my adjustment to one of my great passions. Watching Formula One races.
Not the same!
Realizing that this Sunday’s F1 race was the inaugural US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, I began to lay pipe to secure a TV that would let me watch the race on Sunday. The Toucan Grill, not 500′ from EV said sure. So come hell or high water, Alan and I had a plan.
We hightailed it out of Belhaven and its digital isolation for an uneventful motor to Oriental. We were last here during the sweltering week of the 4th of July and enjoyed the small town hospitality and Croakerfest. Now it’s the quiet off-season, and while the people are still friendly, the town seems a little less colorful.
We pulled into the fuel dock and — surprise, surprise — there was a Manta at the adjacent dock. It was Sunshine, whose skipper we’d met at the Annapolis get-together. Mike and Margaret were waiting for a package which arrived as we were fueling up. They disappeared below to replace their water pump, and the next morning I watched them leave the harbor at first light, heading for warmer waters. We will be too, but first there’s the little matter of our mainsail.
We would have preferred to take the sail off in a little less breeze, but we didn’t want to wait for what could be days. So we bundled up and pulled the sail off the boom, trying to flake it carefully on deck while the breeze fought back.
Fighting the wind and the weight of the sail, we couldn’t manage to bag it neatly, but we dumped it and the battens into the dinghy and went ashore.
Our chosen sailmaker met us at the dock to save us a long walk with an awkward bundle. He was able to get the replacement battens ordered and on the truck before the end of the day which will help us a lot, since next week is a holiday. On the other hand, the weather doesn’t look too good for a departure south any time soon, so we might as well enjoy what Oriental has to offer.
This morning we went to the little farmers market along the street in front of the Bean Cafe. There wasn’t much produce, but I did get a couple of turnips, some collards and mustard greens. We’re definitely in the south.
Jack got the story of how Oriental got its name from a local on our way to the cafe for our morning pick-me-up. http://www.towndock.net/about_oriental
Belhaven is now definitely on our list of places we’ll never return to. We continued to have no cell service or Internet anywhere.
We took a cold dinghy ride and a cold walk to the local grocery store for some fresh vegetables and to a small lumberyard for lamp oil. We took the groceries back to the boat then went back in and walked the few blocks of downtown where it seemed half the storefronts were empty. We asked around about both cell service and wifi and learned our only option was the public library.
We settled in for a few hours of catching up with the world, but almost immediately Jack got an email from our credit card company with the news that there was suspicious activity on his card. This happened once before but the activity was actually ours and we just had to verify it and the card was reactivated. This time they said they were blocking the use of Jack’s card until he called, but of course we had no cell service.
By the next day when we were finally out of the Belhaven Black Hole Jack called and we learned that within an hour of the two stops we made, the grocery store and the lumberyard, his card was used to charge up almost $400 in Kansas City, KS! Wow. We were lucky the credit card company flagged it, but now the account is canceled and getting a new card is a major pain because it has to go to my sister’s house, then be forwarded to us when we’re in a place for long enough. Thank you, Belhaven.
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.
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.