Skip to content

Back to Sea

July 27, 2018

“Travelling is not just seeing the new; it’s also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes.”

Jan Myrdal

Why is it we travel? Certainly it’s not because we crave creature comforts. There are certainly very few creature comforts spent in a 250 square foot space (that’s probably overstating the space we have onboard). The constant attention to keeping a boat in good enough shape to cross an ocean safetly wears one down but then I think it’s better than having to go out and cut the grass!

So, we’re headed out to sea having gone up the Chesapeake and then down the Delaware River to Cape May.

Cape May viewed from the Delaware River

Above is Cape May as we approach from the west and see the Atlantic once again. We’ve motored a lot in the east coast and this was no exeception. We motorsailed down the Delaware from the Chesapeake- Delaware Canal, a 45 mile jaunt with currents to fight all the way, or, if you’re lucky, you get to use the currents in your favour. For us we had a little of both; the current against us and the current behind us.

With fading light and fading winds we pulled into Cape May and anchored….

Rounding Cape May

Trying to re-power Sage

July 21, 2018

Trying to figure out how to repower Sage and thought that this would be a great array on Sage’s stern.

The answer to no wind on the Chesapeake!

Chesapeake White Caps

July 16, 2018

I think the only white caps we’ve seen on the Chesapeake are those created by powerboats, water skiers, sea dos or kids rollicking in the water. There hasn’t been enough wind here to cause much wave action.

When there is some wind, the waves set up by the hundreds of thousands of motorboats cause the wind to spill out of the sails and the wake throws us 20 degrees off course and limits forward progress. Then one starts to sail again but within minutes another powerboat roars by. The other day we anchored in Annapolis for 2 nights and the water was so disturbed from the movement of powerboats that we had to stay ashore during the day returning in the evening when the motion was livable.

I can’t recommend the Chesapeake as a long distance sailor’s destination. The water is very silty, the anchorages close to towns have very little in the way of services with shopping centres located miles from town. The water is usually very shallow and the towns are located up long inlets. The one last item to mention is the abysmal public transportation – here’s a story (link) to shake your head at re: public transportation.

Yes, there’s lots of history onshore to discover – if you can get transportation – very friendly people, great crab cakes, yacht services galore, marinas up the yin yang and lots of arts and crafts.

In retrospect it’s a great place to sail to, leave your boat in a marina or on the hard and travel overland. We left our boat in Almshouse Creek with Westbrook and Cindy. Using Trustedhousesitters.com we managed to find an apartment with 2 cats to housesit for a week in Washington DC. It was a great experience, the condo well located to public transportation and in an interesting area called Columbia Heights. For a week we wandered around Washington, visiting museums (all free), testing restaurants, saying hello to Donald (don’t get me going), dancing the nights away in an African bar, wandering through neighbourhoods and joining in on July 4th celebrations on the Mall.

At present we are headed to the Chesapeake-Delaware canal and crossing over from the Chesapeake to the Delaware river and then north to New York. If you have any spare wind please send it our way.

A few photos

We joined an Ocean Cruising Club rally and this was the ‘dinghy drift’ on our last evening

Our generous hosts on Almshouse Creek – Westbrook and Cindy

Almshouse Creek

Connie attending to the painting details

Seen out front of the White House – need I say more

The Renwick Gallery Washington – The Art of Burning Man

Renwick Gallery

A replica of one of the ‘burning man’ temples which are burned at the end of the festival

One of Washington’s newest museums – African-American museum. A beautiful building with an incredible exhibition on slavery from the beginnings up to modern times

The Vietnam memorial. Simple, exquisite, moving…

July 4th on the mall with entertainment, fireworks and buckets of patriotism

Despite the cold, austere and unwelcoming feeling of the Canadian embassy nothing can beat the amazing Bill Reid bronze from the Pacific North West – made me homesick

Finally my next ship – oh to ride the waves in a ship like this

ICW and the Chesapeake

July 11, 2018

Wow, I guess time has moved very quickly as I see I have not written anything on my blog in over 2 months. Not only has time flown by but there has been quite a bit of water that has drifted by the keel. Those miles are not the miles achieved offshore but rather slowly accumulated mostly under power.

Having been caught offshore of Southport, NC by virtually no wind we motored our way the last 100 miles and since Southport have had very little sailing. Connie refutes this claiming that we sailed 40% of the ICW but by my reckoning most of that was motor sailing i.e. with what little wind being from the south I would raise the drifter and pretend to sail along the ICW. The reality being that the sail did little to move us along and the engine really accomplished the virtual sail.

Yes, we went all the way up the ICW from Southport NC to Norfolk VA. I can’t say I would do it again but in many respects it was very interesting. We usually only made 25 miles/day as I couldn’t stand the motor any longer. That was OK as we stopped at some beautiful spots while other boats roared by trying to motor a minimum of at least 60 miles/day.

Lots of opportunities to launch the kayak and paddle some of the backwaters if the ICW 

The ICW meanders its way north through mostly man-made cuts intersecting the low-lying lands. There are some occasional open areas but one cannot stray off the channel which is generally wide enough for two boats to pass each other going in opposite directions. It may be enticing to wander off the channel to explore what may be beckoning but with most off-channel areas being less than 5 feet Sage cannot risk drifting off the marked channel.

Home Sweet Home

                                                        Dinner on the fly

There’s no relaxing when moving along the channel. To take your eyes off the channel risks either wandering off to the sides and going aground or colliding with another boat. One must follow the markers and each one is numbered. Each one also has a resident osprey who screeches at all the boats to keep them away from the nests.

           What – this one must be on a trailer being pulled along the road

There is never any problem pulling over and anchoring along the ICW. Most parts of the edges of the channel allow boats enough depth to pull off and anchor out-of-the-way of moving traffic especially if one anchors bow and stern. Otherwise there are lots of areas for anchoring off in side bays and outside of the markers. In the picture above we are anchored in quite a large bay (enough for 15 boats) where the main channel allows others to keep on moving.

Calm yes but it’s the calm before the storm. Just another wild summer lightning storm arriving with buckets of rain. Never have had problems collecting enough rain for the tanks

Most traffic along the ICW is recreational. There are few commercial barges in active service but one always has to be ready to make way for them. In the one and only lock we went through we were placed in between the walls of the lock and a barge. Everything moved like clockwork and the workers helping maneuver the boats knew exactly what they were doing in the Great Bridge Lock just south of Norfolk.

The barge to starboard and the concrete lock wall to port. Not too much room to maneuver

Being the one and only lock we went through I can’t say there are many more on the ICW. But there are lots of bridges. Most of the bridges have a 65 foot clearance but if they don’t then they are staffed and generally are swing and/or lift bridges which open on demand or on the 1/2 hour or hour.

Just don’t swing that shut when I am halfway through

There’s one other hazard on the ICW. We anchored for the night in Hammock Bay, NC. It’s actually part of Camp Le Jeune a Marine Base. For most of the afternoon noise of the airborne death jets scream overhead from the local airbase. The sonic sreams silence the natural sounds of lapping water in the anchorage. The might of America is on display.

The next day we continue up the ICW and come to a large sign indicating a firing range which crosses the ICW and the large traffic lights let you know if it’s safe to proceed for the next 5 miles. The light was green. It was eerie – on both sides of the ICW one could see the military had planted derelict tanks, planes etc to use for target practice. They were all riddled with bullet holes and missing sections. The wildlife was incredible but all I could think of is what does the wildlife do when they are caught in the crossfire of the firing range?

No longer an APC (armoured personnel carrier)

This was our first sighting of the US military might but it wasn’t the last. Norfolk was not far up the ICW. If you ever want to be impressed by military strength then Norfolk is the place to go. It has the largest naval base in the world.

The ICW enters the Chesapeake at Norfolk. The lock is just south of Norfolk and once out of the lock the navy makes its presence known. I think, as we went through Norfolk, we saw 4 aircraft carriers; not the biggest ones but large enough to make one quake at the fire power.

USS Wisconsin — a WWII destroyer – just a small ship by today’s standards

After a few days in Norfolk getting some much-needed supplies and getting a little culture (Chrysler Museum) it was time to head out into the Chesapeake.

Part of the Chrysler Museum’s glass collection of Tiffany lamps

The Chesapeake is a vast low-lying collection of rivers and inlets with very little rising more than 15 metres above sea level. It’s shallow making it arduous as it takes a while to get out into the open water and into enough depth to more north. Then when one comes to the end of the journey one has to spend another 1-2 hours motoring up a river or inlet to get to an anchorage or town.

The towns are tiny and services very limited. Those towns we do visit don’t even have a grocery store within a couple of miles so it’s always a struggle to replenish stores.

Our only schedule for the season was to join the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) rally in Reedville. We’re recent members and joined as we thought it would be a good way meet people on the NE coast of the US. It’s proved to be well worth while and the 4 day rally was our first connection with an OCC sponsored event. 4 days spent together with almost 30 boats visiting Reedville, St. Mary’s and Leonardtown.

Only a few of those boats that joined the rally

The end of the rally saw us 1/4 of the way up the Potomac. Instead of going all the way to Washington DC we went back out the Potomac and north to Annapolis and here we are….

Welcome Back to America

May 14, 2018

It’s been 8 + years since Sage has been in America. She’s almost been around the world and stopped in many wonderful places that some people would call exotic. All those different places have something special and there are many memories wrapped up in the 100s of anchorages. Despite all the amazing places Sage has been we were still excited about visiting a country close to home that much of it we haven’t seen.

The east coast is something Sage and her crew are not all that familiar with. Stories abound of the early history with the arrival of Europeans, the taking of the land, the building of the infrastructure, the conflicts and the celebrations. We on Sage were/are looking forward to poking our noses into as many little nooks and crannies that we can find.

Waving goodbye to friends as we go one way and us another

Our last Bahamian sunset. In actual fact our last tropical sunset

Our adventure began with our departure from Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. Picking a weather window was tricky as we wanted the wind predictions to solidify and give us a good 4 day window in which to get to Norfolk Virginia as we wanted to use the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) as little as possible.

We got flung out of Marsh Harbour like a rocket with Sage bucking over the northern swells with a NE wind in her teeth. Sage set out to the north-west on the hunt for the 4 knot north-setting gulf stream. She bucked and shot her way forward throwing water over the bows and the dodger for 36 hours at which time the wind veered to the east a little and dropped from a boisterous 20 knots to 12 knots. Ah perfect you say. However, another 24 hours later we realised the wind was dying and knew for sure that we were soon going to be windless.

Just another lazy day on one of those pristine Bahamian beaches

Windless is OK at times but it’s not OK when ensnared by the Gulf Stream. The combination of current and left over boisterous seas from a good blow are not a good mix. What little wind can be captured in the sail is quickly spilled out especially when the wind is coming from the stern. There the decision was made.

With Southport only 80 miles off the beam we headed inshore using the wind and the motor. 24 hours later and a night arrival in Southport we lay our anchor down having already gone aground first in the anchorage. No problem, reverse and slow speeds meant we got off lucky and we dropped the anchor on Provision’s (a restaurant) doorstep.

1/2 lb of shrimp with corn and chips for $US11.95 – a deal after the Caribbean and Bahamas

Welcome to America!

Wow, we actually made it. 0500hrs, a couple of hours of sleep, clear customs and immigration and we’re ready for adventures in a new (old) land.

Not to bore you with long tales of our breakdown, our arduous motor up the ICW or our suffering from the cold (!) I just want to tell you a few tales of our cultural experiences with modern-day America.

Story Number 1

In almost every country of the world hair dye is an essential product. No matter where one is you can see hundreds of varieties of black dye lining the pharmacy shelves. Of course, in America, it’s not only black but all the other colours of hair dye in the rainbow.

However, for those of you who have met Connie, she hasn’t used dye in 30 years. To let you on to a secret there was a time when she ran for political office that us back room pundits convinced her to dye her hair leaving a white streak at the front fringe. I will say it looked great. Now this didn’t last long as soon after the election she threw out the dye and went au naturel once again.

Well, in almost all countries we visited I could go shopping with Connie and have no trouble finding her no matter how big the store was. All I ever had to do was go to the head of the aisles, look down, see if I could see a white head and if not go to the next aisle until I found her. Well, in America at our first large store I did the same thing. As soon as I saw a white head I headed down the aisle and then realised no, that’s not Connie. Went to the next aisle and low and behold another NOT white-haired Connie. ‘ What’s the matter’ I thought. I can’t find Connie. Ah, I then realised that, no, people in America are not so prone to dye their hair if it’s gray.

Story #2

Just a personal thing but I hate Walmart but one day we found ourselves in a Walmart food store. It was such a huge store that I really needed a road map to find my way around. They weren’t available so using my nose I headed over to the food section. I guess Walmart is now trying to copy Costco by having food tasters in the aisles offering samples of whatever they were trying to peddle.

One food sampler table had a selection of salad with some white creamy substance floating on top. Being a friendly kind of guy I struck up a conversation with the demonstrator. She was a nice enough person to chat with but I was wondering what an 82 year old woman was doing working in Walmart. Anyway, when I asked her what she was offering she started off on a spiel and forgot what she was pushing. She had to glance down at the bottle and see what is was. She then turned back to me and started the spiel again but by the time she came to name the product she had again forgotten! We both laughed as she turned the bottle again and read the label out. I wished her a good day and turning away wondered whether she worked there to pay the rent.

Story #3

In almost every country we have visited we have purchased SIM cards for our tablets. It’s never been a problem and is an essential giving us access to communications, weather, entertainment and blog posting. However, in America everyone expects you to have a tablet registered to a particular service provider as opposed to being independent.

It took some hard negotiating to convince unknowledgeable customer care providers that yes if you sell me a SIM card I can put it into my South African cell phone and/or European tablet and make it work.

Negotiating a good deal is another matter. I have now settled, at least for my tablet, on AT&T’s unlimited data plan for $60/month. Granted there are some slow periods where they will purposely slow down the internet but generally speaking we’re doing well with what we have chosen considering I can use one tablet as a hot spot if we are each working on our respective tablets at the same time.

Unlocked tablets/phones are a godsend.

Story #4

I’ll admit to being a user of Uber. But not having been in a country where Uber operates for the last two years meant that I needed to update my Uber account. I had the log in and the password. I entered these into the system and they wouldn’t let me log in unless I could tell them the details of my last two rides with total cost and where they originated and where they ended. They also wanted my cell phone number from two years ago.

Needless to say, at my age, my memory isn’t that good and when I think about it my memory wasn’t that good when I was 20! To cut short a long agonizing contremps let me just say that 5 days later I was able to activate my account with my new number. Phew!

Story #5

This last story is also short! 48 hours prior to leaving the Bahamas we decided that we were going to be, at some time, on the ICW and that joining Boat US was a good idea.

Having entered the US at 0500hrs, cleared customs and immigration and had a 2 hour nap before we headed north on the ICW. Within miles we had unexpected problems and had to pull over and figure out how to resolve the problem. Not being successful we called Boat US. Boat US to the rescue. Within 20 minutes a tow boat was alongside and they took us back to a marina where they secured a great mechanic, Jason, who got us going in short order.

Wow! $135 membership and the tow was costed out at $250! That is value for money and we still have 11 months to go for help to be on its way.

There are too many positive things to say about being back in America. We have experienced extremely friendly people in all walks of life. Just this morning while having breakfast in a coffee shop in Swansboro, NC, we got talking to a local who told us to try the house specialty which was fruit fritters. We chose a 1/2 order of strawberry fritters and when it came to pay the bill we found that he had bought them for us. What great hospitality.

Ah, strawberry fritters

One of those great American diners with pictures of Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean and the voice of Elvis welcoming you to the women’s toilet and Marilyn to the men’s!

Services couldn’t be better. What a change from the Caribbean to walk into a place where they greet one in a friendly manner, make sure they offer whatever help they can and make sure when you leave you are genuinely satisfied. It happens everywhere and I can’t say enough of how genuine they are and how pleasing it is to experience.

Bahamas – Land of gourmet delights

April 27, 2018

Looking around Marsh Harbour for lunch after a morning of working on Sage we settled on a waterfront delight.

Gourmet highlight – nachos with chicken and melted(?) Cheez whiz. Ummmmm…all for the Bahamian reasonable price of US$17!

Bahamas – land of the the thin long sandy beach and skinny water

April 20, 2018

EXUMAS This is a land (sea) of nothing but water dotted with droplets of rock, coral and sand rarely rising above one hundred feet in a desperate attempt to provide a place to build a shack on. Of course now there are more than shacks. These outcroppings are now owned by some of the world’s glitterati like Little Hall’s Pond Cay owned by Johnny Depp. The cays are isolated, surrounded by sparkling clear turquoise waters and easily accessible by small plane or powerboats only a few hours from Miami. It’s a magical land offering endless possibilities to boaters. Both deep draft vessels and shallow draft vessels can wander for years searching the treasures of tropical waters. There are lots of places to go aground but that’s all the challenge as one wedges the boat between sandbars and coral ledges. One needs good visibility most of the time but the dry climate and almost constant winds provide most days with good visibility. There are both crowded anchorages and places far from the madding crowd but usually moving from one location to another there’s another boat on the horizon. Need help? Call out on VHF Ch 16 and invariably one will get a response. It’s hard to believe that all this exists only a short distance from the Florida shoreline.

The Bahamas is one of the most expensive places to cruise. For all boaters there is the initial charge of $US300 at customs which includes a fishing licence. If you need food supplies, most comes from the American mainland and they are not cheap. However, a boat well stocked that only needs to top-up the fresh fruits and vegetables can make out quite well. Despite this being one of the most expensive places to cruise we’ve spent far less money than almost any other cruising grounds.

How does that work? Well, there are so few places to reprovision in the Exumas that it’s hard to spend a lot. There are only a few places that offer the most basic of restaurants and the only entertainment is the beaches, sand water and sunshine – no theatres, a limited number of bars and no marine stores and a few restaurants. One makes their own entertainment and creates whatever makes it to the table for mealtime. The few centres that offer supplies are Staniel Cay, Georgetown and Highbourne Cay. There’s basically nowhere else to buy stores. And there certainly isn’t local produce available as most cays are uninhabited and if they are inhabited then waiting for the mail boat to bring mainland supplies is where the action is. I think next to the south pacific this is one of the most amazing waters on the planet.

Grace, pictured above, was waiting for us in Georgetown but we had been delayed in San Juan due to weather and arrived three days after Grace arrived. Grace was very patient and in no time we got her onboard and headed out to an anchorage. We managed to get in some good sails and a few different anchorages before saying goodbye. I only hope this neophyte sailor enjoyed her time onboard and made her first step to becoming an ancient mariner

The entrance to Georgetown Harbour is under a bridge and into a land locked lake. Great protection and inside is a convenient dinghy dock complete with fresh water and a grocery store at the head of the docks

Chat and Chill restaurant/bar on Stocking Island provides a venue for sailors to tell long tales and to hang up their old T-shirts! They also have a great volleyball court we got into the habit of joining in for games for a few hours in the afternoons

The wild side of Stocking Island has a nearly deserted beach bordering the Atlantic. This day was exceptional as the wind was from the west hence a calm sea.

2 lost tourists walking down the streets of Georgetown (photo by Grace)

This screenshot is of the southern half of the Exumas with anchors (if you can see them) indicating places we anchored

One of those full moon nights

Sunset reflected in rocks around Rudder Cut Cay

Now this has to be one of the strangest tourist attractions. Tourists even come down on hi-speed tour boats from Nassau to feed the ‘swimming pigs’. If you go to Nebraska do you go to a farm to feed the pigs? I’ll admit I did go but that’s only because I needed a photo for my brother who used to raise pigs.

If you want a laid back vacation on a quiet island surrounded by tropical waters this is it – Fowl Cay Resort – http://www.fowlcay.com

Friends over for dinner

The northern half of the Exumas again with anchors

I just wish we had been around when this three stack BBQ was fired up

Warderick Wells – HQ for the Exumas land and sea park. Unbelievably beautiful and a must see if you are anywhere nearby. Beautiful walks on the cay and interesting snorkeling

The mailboat – the lifeblood of all the communities throughout the Exumas.

And here the best laundromat seen anywhere in the world – courteous, clean, reasonable and the best view while scrubbing those shorts

And here’s the proof

This little guy in Warderick Wells was afraid of nothing. He wanted to climb into my backpack for the water. Unlike George the gecko onboard Sage this guy has a curly tail

Warderick Wells and environs. Lots of skinny water, coral and rock

ELEUTHRA

To escape some westerley weather we left Wardrick Wells and scooted over to Rock Bay at the south end of Eleuthra. Another tricky entrance on to a shallow bank and then a little tricky navigation in to Rock Bay and the town of Rock Sound!

Skinny water continued to challenge us with depths of 5-12ft with scattered rocks and coral. It does take a while to adapt after spending so much time in the deeper waters and anchorages of the eastern Caribbean. However, there’s nothing like scooting over the sand at 6 knots through crystal clear water. I don’t think we have been properly baptised as we haven’t gone aground yet. We did anchor in one spot and dug a little furrow in the sand at low water with the keel gently rocking from side to side.

Our initial glimpse of Eleuthra gave us the feeling of abandonment. Many of the houses were unoccupied, boarded up and rapidly declining. However, our first taste of a well stocked grocery store was here. It wasn’t quite mainland quality but it did signal the change as we move northwards towards what we refer to as La-La Land i.e. North America

We didn’t stay long as we heard there was an Eleuthra Jazz Festival starting on Friday night in Governor’s Harbour, the capital of Eleuthra.

Don’t ask me for names but they were good players from diverse backgrounds and various countries

We had a great evening. The featured musicians were giving a full concert on Saturday night but we joined in for the fish fry and community event on Friday. The musicians played gratis – short performances but very gratifying.

The community jazz event took place next to the library and the building used for the weekly Fish Fry – local seafood and chicken done on the BBQ

The Community Jazz event was held as a fund-raiser for the local library. Outside the building metal geckos were displayed and up for auction. They had been painted by various community organizations such as schools, businesses, art groups etc. I wanted two to mount on either side of our bows but was roundly outvoted.

Painted geckos up for auction at the fish fry.

A quick visit and off again and this time further north to Spanish Wells. This settlement was established back in the 1700s by loyalists. The town is the Bahamian centre for the crayfish trade. Our luck the season closed on April 1st so no special deals on a lobster dinner – aaargh.

Interesting place though. Very skinny water all round and one has to time approaches to the town keeping the tides in mind. For first timers we did OK coming in at low water. A little disconcerting as it gets shallower and shallower with the approach. Once in the channel the water deepens to a healthy 9 feet and in looking around and seeing large fish boats one feels better that if they can get out so can we!

The largest commercial fishboats seen in the Bahamas. All kept in excellent condition

We spent a few days meandering around waiting for the right conditions to make the 55 mile jump to the southern Abacos. Meandering wasn’t quite the word as the best way to get around is do it like the locals

Yup, the golf cart. Not electrical but gas driven. Great way to see what amounts to about 25 miles of roadway.

I think we covered almost the entire area and did our food shopping within the 2 hour hire! The rest we hoofed it.

Being off-season the building of new traps is high on the agenda

Abacos

Time to go:

Quick run up to the southern Abacos from Spanish Wells

I think the day we left Spanish Wells there were at least 20 boats making the same jump. They included both power and sailboats. The weather was good but the wind a little on the light side. And everyone knows that I don’t motor if there’s wind. So, we were the last to arrive making our arrival and dropping the anchor right at sunset – almost 12 hours to do 51.4. I hate to say that we did run the engine for 7 of those hours! We figured that it was only the third time in 8 years that we had run the engine for that many consecutive hours!

Meandering the southern portion of the Abacos

We’re not spending much time in the southern Abacos as it’s tax time! We need to get to Marsh Harbour where can tie up in a marina that has electricity and wi-fi. So that’s where we are as I write this. Forget taxes the blog is more important. Right?

So here’s to paying my taxes which if the truth be known I really don’t mind. Don’t let the beer fool you. I don’t really like beer but having good Scottish blood I can’t face paying the high prices here for a real drink (beer is 5-6 dollars/bottle). That hurts enough when in Martinique I can buy a great bottle of wine for the same price or less!