Andante's Sailing Blog

May 2013

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May 1 Wednesday through May 5 Sunday -- Fernandina Beach
Wednesday: Still here and waiting for weather. Walk through town and dinner at Espana; great food.

Thursday: Moved out to the mooring field to make room for all the boats that had reserved space in the marina for Shrimp Fest.  It is raining and breezy.

Friday: Stuck on the boat all day due to rain and wind.   There was a short break in the rain in the evening for the fireworks show.   Four law enforcement boats in the harbor in expectation of the hordes that usually are here when the weather is good.

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Saturday: Stuck on the boat again. Higher winds, but the rain is lighter.  I am sure that the hardcore festival goers are in town, but the crowds are probably far short of the couple of hundred thousand that were predicted.

Sunday:Sunny skies. Hard to believe after sitting on the boat at anchor for three days listening to the wind and rain.  Did a LOT of reading.   Wolfgang and I dredged up our recollections of the rules of cribbage and played a game.  On the rules we got a little help from the WWW: The marina internet AP here is VERY slow because everyone is stuck on their boats with nothing to do.   Thank goodness for the ability of iPhone to access the net via the cell network.   Looks like tomorrow at least Andante will be leaving Fernandina Beach for points north. With the sun we, along with thousands of visitors, went into town to participate in the Shrimp Fest.

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At the end of the day the crew of Indian Summer and Andante had dinner at "29".  I had the scallops on a bed of cauliflower puree with fingerling potatoes and fresh green beans on the side.  Excellent.  A few nights earlier we went to Espana for paella and a bouillabaisse washed down with sangria. Excellent.   On the ICW Fernandina Beach should be a must stop for all cruisers.

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May 6 Monday through May 8 Wednesday -- Fernandina Beach to Wrightsville Beach
A summary of the entries in the ship's log during the passage:

Monday 05/06: 0900 off Tiger Point Marina, sunny 60 deg, apparent wind 9 knots from the west. Wind remained light from the W and WSW through the morning. Started engine at 1300 hours, too little wind to sail. 1730 hours - shut down the engine now that there is enough wind to sail.  Sea state very flat all things considered. Wind from S at 10 knots apparent. Sailed broad and beam reach a little off course to the east so that we could keep the boat moving through the night.

Tuesday 05/07: 0730 launched the spinnaker. Doused spinnaker at 1030 since the wind dropped, motor on.  Spinnaker back up at 1600, but to keep it full we had to steer too far off to the east so we doused it at 1730.   Motor on all night as motorsailed to keep up boat speed. Rain showers in the AM.   When there is not enough wind for the sails to drive the boat we feel every little ocean swell coming in off the port quarter, making for an unpleasant and noisy roll.  

Wednesday 05/08: Partly by design and partly by dumb luck we arrived at the entrance to the Cape Fear River just in time to ride the end of the flood current upriver to the point where we turned NE out of the river to Snows Cut and the ICW.  Just as we got into the cut the tidal current reversed to the ebb and we rode that current almost entirely up to Wrightsville Beach.  What timing!

About 300 miles in 52 hours anchor to anchor.  We work in two hour shifts around the clock.  The first day is the hardest. The second 24 hours is easier because by then you are so tired that when off watch one just falls asleep instantly. On my facebook page I moaned about the conditions during various segments of the passages from Great Sale Cay to Wrightsville Beach. Wofgang reminded me that for a sailor it is the journey not the destination. My response is "Yeah, it is the sailing, not wallowing in the swell for endless hours." When there is wind to drive the boat without being overwhelmed by the ocean swell then there is no better journey, but a sailboat was never meant to be motored as a means of passage making, then it is nothing better than a motor trawler with a big stick in it and a small engine.

Now in the Wrightsville Beach anchorage there is much more wind than had been in the forecast.  If the timing had been right we probably could have sailed on to Beaufort.  Doing so would have meant entering Beaufort at night.   There are scant anchorages there, there is big ship traffic and we would be just too darned tired to risk it.  As it stands we will leave Wrightsville Beach on Friday for the run across Onslow Bay to Beaufort.

FB_WB_clouds.jpg (77455 bytes) I liked the clouds and the color of the spinnaker against the blue sky.

The wind and chop in the anchorage combined with our fatigue caused us to lose interest in getting the dinghy in the water to go ashore. Still tired after a night of sleep:What a mug.  Been working on growing that hair since October 2012; have to do something useful in my retirement.

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05/09/2013 Thursday Wrightsville Beach
Wolfgang went off to do his laundry and I went to sit out on the beach and read.  Apparently UNC-Wilmington has just finished exams.   The beach was covered with college age students of both genders; a few surfers in the water. Dinner at South Beach Grill. The shrimp was overcooked and there should have been a side of rice to soak up some of the great sauce on the eggplant - shrimp stack.  

At the anchorage there is a small public dock for dinghies, a gazebo and a small flower garden.  Although it is just a small effort, the plaza was designed to afford some control of rain water runoff.

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05/10/2013 Friday -- Wrightsville Beach to Morehead City
A boring motor sail across the 70 nm of Onslow Bay.  Tied up at the Sanitary Seafood Market and Restaurant for a so-so meal of bay scallops. On the other hand the dockage fee for the night is only $25. A block away there is a very good bakery where we bought "Pepperoni Bread," which was used for two subsequent meals while underway.

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05/11/2013 Saturday -- Morehead City to Belhaven
We left Morehead City with an ominous weather forecast for the end of the day. In all the day was a mixed bag. Sun, wind, no wind, rain, sun. Motor sail, motor, sail, motor sail, sail, and so on.  Today was the first day that I truly had first hand experience with a severe squall.  We saw the squall far enough ahead of time to reef the main and roll up part of the genoa; and it wasn't enough. The wind came on so strong (35+ knots) and so suddenly that it overpowered the boat. The rain was so heavy that it was impossible to see the bow of the boat, making it impossible to know the direction to steer without oooking at the chartplotter. Even with the sails running free and flogging it was nearly impossible to steer the boat around to run south away from the storm.  As soon as it came on us it was gone!  We anchored in my usual spot off the town of Belhaven: There was no room at the one marina that I am comfortable using here. Since we both wanted showers this was a disappointment.
05/12/2013 Sunday (Mother's Day) -- Belhaven to Alligator River Marina
Feeling that trying to make Elizabeth City before the end of the day was not our cup of tea and in desparate need of showers, we opted for one of the cutest little marinas on the ICW.  I think that Active Captain reviews of this marina under rate it.  We found it clean and friendly and the docks and slips in good condition.  For large parts of the day we had no choice but to motor since the channel is either very narrow, or we were in a canal, or we were headed directly into the wind.  Speaking of tea, How do you know your not in the Bahamas any more? When you find the water you are motoring in to be the color of strong brewed tea.

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05/13/2013 Monday -- Alligator River Marina to Elizabeth City
From the marina to the mouth of the Alligator River we had to motor dead into the wind. Once past the infamous Middle Ground we rolled out a small bit of genoa in the 20-25 knot wind and sailed close hauled.  To try to sail closer to the wind across Albemarle Sound we put up the double reefed main.   With the deep reef in the main and showing only a small hanky of the genoa we still sailed close hauled at  more than 6.5 knots over to the Pasquotank River.About an hour up the river the wind died and we were back to motoring.  Elizabeth City has free slips for visitors at the town dock.  When this project was done the slips were paid for by contirbutions from the towns folk.  This is the comemorative plaque for our slip.

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Elizabeth City is very welcoming to snowbirds stopping on their way south.  In the fall, if four or more boats come into the city dock then the 'Rose Buddies' come out and bring roses to the visiting female crewmembers.  Twelve years ago they also provided the visitors with a glass of wine.

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Elizabeth City is also the home of the Moth sailing dinghy.

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A little known fact is that the Wright brothers spent some time in Elizabethe City after their flights out at Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks.

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05/14/2013 Tuesday --- Elizabeth City to Norfolk
This was an entire day of motoring since for its entirety we were in a small windy creek or in the Dismal Swamp Canal. The canal was surveyed by George Washington.  One goes through locks at South Mills and at Deep Creek.  The locks are run by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Each of them opens at 0830, 1100, 1330 and at 1530.  With just these openings it is important to time your arrival just before they open.  We did a pretty good job of this and didn't have to wait too long at either one.  Once through the second lock we checked the schedule for the Gilmerton Bridge openings.  Aaargh, it looked like we would have to wait as much as 2 hours for an opening. In fact we got lucky. Just as we got up to the bridge we heard a tug calling for their scheduled opening and got permission to scurry through on their coatails.  With such luck we had time to stop for diesel before going on to the anchorage at Hospital Point for the night.

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05/15/2013 Wednesday and 05/16/2013 Thursday - - Norfolk to Rock Hall
This morning we had to pass battle ship row on the way out of the Elizabeth River to head north on Chesapeake Bay. The Navy's warships are an impressive sight.  There is always an aircraft carrier or two in port.  Today one of them had a fighter plane perched out on the bow for the tourists passing by.   Speaking of the US Navy, I have now been up and down the east coast on my sailboats five times. This spring for the first time I have heard a lot of VHF traffic from the warships out on the Atlantic Ocean. In addition there seemed to be a lot of submarine traffic in and out of the St Mary's River down at Fernandina Beach.  I remark on this because there has been one other occasion when I noticed a lot activity by the US military.  At the time that 'W' was selling to the public the idea of invading Iraq I realized that for many months preceding the decision to go ahead there was a lot of air traffic in and out of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station and there was an unusual amount of freight traffic on the nearby rail lines.  Makes me wonder just what the Washington politicians are thinking these days.

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When we were off the mouth of the York River the wind was blowing just hard enough to sail, but not hard enough to keep the biting black flies off of us.  It was all out war as we battled the invading horde.  The battle was hard fought, but we were able to hold out until the wind finally came up at about 1730 hours.  You can see some small part of the carnage we wrought on the enemy in the photo below.

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The sun came up and provided a great photo opportunity as we approached Annapolis.

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After 24 hours, almost all of it under sail, we made it to Rock Hall.  The first 10 hours were in light wind and we fussed with different combinations of main, genoa and spinnaker.  When we jibed off Smith Point the wind finally filled from the SW at 20+ knots as forecasted.  The remainder of the trip up the bay as far as Annapolis there was lots wind and great sailing on broad and beam reaches.   Again, I am thankful for AIS.  Between the Potomac and Annapolis there were 6 or 8 cargo ships and a few tugs with barges.  With AIS I know their position, speed, course and their name.  Knowing their name I can hail them on the VHF and come to an agreement as to everyone's intent. 

I closed the circle that I started in October 2012.   In seven months I travelled about 3500 miles, the bulk of which was under sail.

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Web pages of those with whom I sailed the Bahamas during the 2012-2013 season.

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