Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sailing out to meet a Pac Cup returnee...

While I was enjoying my time on the Chesapeake and in Oriental, my friend John McCartney was trying to bring his Nordic 44, Music, home from Hawaii after placing second in his division in the Pacific Cup race this summer. He'd had two starts home that both needed to be aborted, and finally the third succeeded.

It was my great luck to be sailing on Dog Days when he arrived through the Golden Gate on Music last Saturday, and I was equally fortunate to be the only boat from our club (the Encinal Yacht Club) to meet him outside the estuary. It's impossible to tell anyone how thrilled he and his crew were to see us, camera in hand to snap some photos, and welcome them home. Maybe you can see his grin.

Check out John's Pac-Cup blog, which tells you the whole story. It's really well done.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eats, Shoots and Leaves...

You may know the story. It's been around a while.

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

A bit slow in my old age, I've just discovered Lynne Truss's wonderful book entitled Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who appreciates a "zero tolerance approach to punctuation" and a writer with style. Who could not love a writer who gives us this wonderful little insight into the history of punctuation:

"...western systems of punctuation were damned unsatisfactory ... until one man - one fabulous Venetian printer - finally wrestled with the issue and pinned it to the mat. That man was Aldus Manutius the Elder (1450-1515) and I will happily admit I hadn't heard of him until about a year ago, but am now absolutely kicking myself that I never volunteered to have his babies."

Really, my friends, you need to read this book!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Big boat series...

As I sit here in Oriental, NC, in light winds and in reach of gunkhole heaven, I am so missing sailing the slot in SF Bay. In a couple of weeks I'll be out there on Dog Days, might sweet little Islander Bahama 28, but for now I'm just envious of my sailing friends in SF Bay. Looking forward to sailing the bay soon.

Tropical storm Hanna...

It must have just been good fortune. I arrived in Oriental on August 30, settled into my slip at Oriental Yacht Harbor, spent much of Sunday, September 1st with Karl and Lucy Lichty on Lu Sea, and got to listen to jazz and even sit in. It was a propitious start to my stay in Oriental, but even greater fortune brought me  new friends and a tropical storm. It must have been magic.

But for now, tropical storm Hanna. I think the first news of an impending hurricane event came on Tuesday, September 2nd. In the next four days tension and excitement began to build, although one would have hardly known a storm was coming and the sunsets were gorgeous.

Boat owners who had been here for a long time had plans already laid. Several in my marina decided to move their boats to hurricane holes. John Standley, captain of the s/v Bounty, a 36' double-ender and who had been in Oriental for a year, made arrangements to take his boat to River Dunes, a new and protected marina, and suggested I might do the same.

John wasn't so worried about Hanna, but we were looking at three hurricanes on the horizon. Ike was just east of the Bahamas and a few days behind it was Josephine. On Wednesday it looked like both might track right up the eastern seaboard, following Hanna. But then Hanna stalled southeast of Florida, and Josephine began tracking northeast into the center of the Atlantic.

On Thursday, Hanna started moving toward the southeastern U.S. coast and the track showed her making landfall somewhere in South Carolina and then moving up through North Carolina, probably 50 miles inland from Oriental. She might be a category one hurricane (70+ mph winds), but maybe just a tropical storm (50-60 mph winds), but she could dump a lot of water and that could bring a tidal surge of three to five feet, maybe over the docks. Even more worrisome, John thought Ike was probably coming right behind her.

The problem, of course, is everyone I spoke with had a different take on it, and there were numerous different plans for securing boats, moving them, and so forth. Sure Ike was a concern, and by Thursday most people, including my harbormaster, Ross, thought Hanna would just be a tropical storm, and he thought I'd be fine in the harbor - just double up lines on the windward (eastern) side of the boat and put out good fenders on the leeward side.

While I mulled this over on Thursday morning, I decided to check out River Dunes. I followed John who wanted to leave his car and have a ride back to take his boat up that afternoon. On the way I reached my own decision, and when I met the harbor master who agreed to take my boat (it's an upscale marina, and he wanted only to take upscale boats), I said that if Ike pushed up the coast, I'd bring my boat over on Sunday or Monday, but I'd ride Hanna out in Oriental. He agreed.

So now I started preparing Alizee, inventorying all my lines, putting two large fenders with a fender board where I touched the dock piling on the starboard (leeward) side. I doubled up stern lines on the windward side, put three lines on the bow (two to one near piling and a third to a piling thirty feet away), and then ran one long line on which I put canvas hose chafe protection from a center piling to Alizee's stern and bow. I tied down the sail cover with a Jacob's Ladder, which I saw how to do from several other boats, wrapped several turns around the genoa and staysail, tied the dinghy on with extra lines, and took off the bimini (which I dropped off to Down East Canvas to have some protectorate added where some chafing was starting).

Nothing else to do, now, but sit and wait and hope I'd prepared well enough.

Friday morning the sunrise held hints of the storm to come. Winds from Hanna started building on Friday late afternoon. By midnight I was clocking 25 to 30 knots out of the east and on the beam and it rained steadily. During the night the large fenders slipped out from behind the fender board, and I had to readjust them in lull when there was no rain. At about 05:30 the winds started building fast, and by 07:00 I clocked as much as 52 knots. Later I heard it had gotten higher, as much as 62 mph.

As it got light, boat owners joined the dockmaster Ross in tightening up lines. It turns out the biggest danger was weak pilings that gave up during the storm. Five pilings went down, and the boats tied to them had to be retied to new pilings. Ross and his crew had spools of new line and doled it out liberally as needed. In this photo you can see a sailor on the back of one sloop throwing a line to another boat which had lost a piling, and the piling is seen in the water next to the hull of the boat.

By noon the winds were gone, back down to 10-15 knots, and within a day Hanna was forgotten. Moreover, Ike, which by Friday morning I sort of thought would head straight across Florida, actually slammed Cuba, and as I write this is a monster about to hit the Texas coast.

More photos

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Norfolk to Oriental, NC ...

A jointly prepared log of the delivery of Alizee from Norfolk to Oriental, NC (mostly by first mate Bruce Sinclair; transcribed and added to liberally by Jim)

August 28.
We depart the Little River Marina at 07:10 in overcast weather and east winds of 15-17 knots. A roily ride downwind to the Big Bridge and Tunnel at the mouth of the James River, and as we came up into Norfolk winds clocked to the south. It always takes longer to get into Norfolk that it seems it should, so it is past 10:00 by the time we get to Mile 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and on the way we have a brief shower, but we are zipped in for it.

We were going to go via the Dismal Swamp Canal, but the timing for the lock opening wasn't good, and, besides, a friendly tug pushing two barges filled with gravel advantaged us to go through the Steel Bridge and Great Lock on his opening. So, it finally happened. And the guide books talk about it, hooking up with a commercial tug which every bridge and lock will open up for, but Bruce had never managed it until now. The downside is that the tug is a bit slower so that while we got the advantage going through he Steel Bridge and Great Bridge, we had to wait for him at the Centerville Turnpike Bridge. However, a northbound tug, Gold Coast, has to pass our guy, Buchannan 11, and they need to slow down for that, so we got through enough ahead for the North Landing Swing Bridge to let us through on schedule (14:30).

Drinking some very nice Bogle Zinfandel, along with crackers, cheddar, apple slices, and brie makes a lovely lunch. But, horreurs! The wake of a passing powerboat tips the bottle over and we lose 60%. That happened because on a prior uncorking, the screw came off the cork puller. Hellas! What to do? A screw driver, Philips of course, deftly inserted into the cork at its center, pushed firmly but not roughly down into the bottle (with a cloth around the neck, for course), and voila! But that left us without a cork with which to stopper up the bottle and the rest is sadly, history.

On the mechanical side of things, the water pump seems to have given up the job, and it awaits our examination once we are stopped for the night.

It is 16:15 and we are on the North River at the top of Currituck Sound, with its long stretches of string-straight dredged channels. This is where the autopilot really comes into its own, since the edges of the dredged channel are steeply precise and to stray offline invites trouble. Hand steering Bruce's lovely Rhodes sloop Napanee here was a real pain. After a nice bright interval, we are back into dark grey overcast, the wind on our nose, and in these shallow waters, it kicks up a short, steep little chop that sends spray all the back to the dodger for whose persona we are grateful.

Unless something dreadful happens in the next five minutes, we'll be in Coinjock at 18:45. Nothing happens and we arrive on schedule, a little over 11 and a half hours. We are burning fuel at about 1.12 gallons per hour and, except when slowed by the tug we latched on to, we've averaged about 6 knots. Total distance made today: 62 nm.

August 29. Added 1 quart of oil to the engine. Fresh water pump is not susceptible to repair by the likes of us, it appears, so we'll rely on the foot pump for water.

Leaving Coinjock at 07:55 under 7/8ths cloud cover, warm and a bit humid. One storm cell to the west, but otherwise high clouds and the promise of clearing. (What is this man saying? There is weather, and plenty of it, now apparent in the west and closing on us.)

Mile marker 55 at 08:40 = 48 minutes per 5 statute miles.
Mile marker 60 at 09:28.
Mile marker 65 at 10:01 = 32 minutes.

Our weather forecast is for 40% chance of rain and occasional thundershowers, and one of those is just ahead of us as we enter Albemarle Sound. But it is moving off to the left and while we feel its wind, we may miss its worst effects. Otherwise blue patches of bright sunshine.

We pass the Coasties, working on green light marker 173. Some of us say Bellhaven by 17:00, others are not so sanguine (and do better math). The 1700 estimate will be far from correct.

11:10 - on Albemarle Sound in bright sunlight. Light wind and too close to sail. So, we motor on, but with charming Vodka Bloody Marys in our hands. Pas mal.

Mile marker 80 at 12:08.

Through the Alligator River Bridge at 12:45 and mile marker 85 at 12:50. So 20 miles in 2 hours and 50 minutes. Or, since Bellhaven is at mile 136, we have 51 miles to go at 8.5 mph, which should equal about an 18:00 arrival.

Mile marker 90 at 13:30. Bruce listens to Desmond Dekker and the Aces on his Ipod.

Mile marker 95 at 14:13.

Warm and humid, and it looks like afternoon thundershowers may be in our future.

We take turns watching the chartplotter display, such is full of wonderful (and to some) mysterious tricks. And now we are coming to the bottom of that long, straight stretch down the Alligator River, where it gets narrower, turns, gets more winding, and where we leave it for the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal ... another long straight stretch - 22 miles of it - before we are emptied into the Pungo River.

Mile marker 100 at 14:57.

At 15:00 we hoist the staysail and gain .3 knots over ground to 6.5. Coming up to the entrance of the Alligator/Pungo canal and mile marker 105 at 15:38. Had to roll up the sail as the wind drew down on our nose.

Mile marker 110 at 16:14. A big weather cell to starboard 5 miles or so will pass us by.
Mile marker 115 at 16.58 = 5 miles in 42 minutes.
Mile marker 120 at 17:33.
Mile marker 125 at 18.13 = 5 miles in 40 minutes.

We seem to be missing the weather cells that come our way, driving out of them or not quite into them. It looks now as though one is parked and awaiting our arrival at the Wilkerson Bridge (mile 126).

This is turning out to be a long day. Probably 13 hours, but we will make Bellhaven.

Lovely company though. Bruce and I seem to have an endless number of things to talk about and its never dull. He's a great sailing mate.

Mile 130 at 18:54 = 41 minutes.

Having a destination in mind, and rather looked forward to, plays havoc with judgment. Discretion argues we should have anchored after coming out of the Alligator/Pungo canal - big bad weather on the right, and in front of us too, and the sun already down. Maybe a little foolhardy to press on, to arrive in wind and dark. But, in the event, the Gods smile on us and we come in with a gorgeous sunset, and just enough light to find our slip at the River Forest Marina, where we get good help in landing at 20:00.

A drink at the bar and take out dinner from the River Forest Restaurant, located in a classic rustic mansion. We manage to get a couple of cell phone calls in (terrible service), then devour our meals on the boat with some good wine.

August 30. Lazy morning. Hot, humid, foggy, hazy, and still air. In the face of all that the meteorological data, we decide to forgo a sail over to Okracoke, a wonderful destination on the outer banks of the Pamlico Sound. And so we walk into town on Water Street, past lots of lovely old houses with very well kept gardens, turn on Pamlico Street, pass the Ace hardware, the description of which promises over 10,000 fasteners, champagne and caviar, western union, and Cellular One service. We go on to O'Neal's for breakfast. Clearly the local hangout: pick up trucks, bib overalls, and overweight women. Bruce has eggs over easy, grits and ham; Jim has eggs over easy, bacon and biscuit and gravy - classic!

Underway at 10:00 and, as the night before, people suddenly appear to help with lines. We are headed straightaway for Oriental, Bruce looking to find a flight back to "Bedlam," and Jim to join Karl and Lucy Lichty and friends for a jazz night in New Bern.

Mile marker 140 at 10:45.
Mile marker 145 at 11:25 at 6.6 SOG.
Mile marker 150 at 12:01 at 6.8 SOG.

Passed the Reed Hammock Yacht Club anchorage, which seems an idylic spot. Jim is liking what he sees of North Carolina so far.

Mile marker 155 at 12:42 at 5.9 SOG.

Bruce has turned out to be quite the galley slave, turning out sandwiches for lunch and snacks of great variety. Today he puts together a marvelous platter of peaches, apples, cheddar, and goat brie served with a pleasantly chilled Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely!

Past Hobucken and into the Bay River, with houses on stilts and guys armpit deep in the water, who started fishing and ended washing off.

Mile marker 160 at 13:26 at 6.4 SOG. Always at 3,000 rpm.

Looks like Bruce wins the pool. He guessed a 16:45 arrival time; I guessed 17:15. But I put out the sails - genoa and staysail - and we kicked up to 7 knots SOG. If I wasn't such a competent skipper, I'd have won the pool. Damn spit!

Mile marker 180 at 16:51. Arrival in Oriental at 17:05. Harbor master Ross helps us tie up. Drinks and snacks at the deli/restaurant, served ably by Jennifer and Vicki (with whom we flirt shamelessly) and cooked up by David. Since the skipper has not provided oil or butter, Bruce cannot do a stir fry, but, ah ha! Maybe he'll just serve up the cooked chicken and pork with vegies. What an idea! And good.

August 31. We take an early taxi (07:30) into the Craven County Regional Airport, where Bruce hops on a 09:00 flight back to Bethlehem and Jim rents a car from Hertz. A wonderful trip, which we both regret had to be so rushed.

Altogether, from Annapolis to Oriental, Alizee has
performed wonderfully. We've put 40 hours on the engine during the entire trip and averaged 1.12 gallons of fuel per hour. The water pump turns out to be nothing ... just sediment plugging up the faucets, and it's soon working fine. There's a whistle between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, which I think is the shaft, either the cutlass bearing or an alignment problem. I hope to get it worked out before I return to California.

I drive back to Oriental after seeing Bruce off, and later that afternoon I return to New Bern and join Karl and Lucy Lichty on Lu Sea for a visit, which morphs into a party as they invite their friends Mary and Glen, Melissa and Craig, Caroline and Steve, and Steve and Jana Tyson. It turns out Melissa and Steve (of Caroline) are brother and sister, and Karl's sister (I think I have this right) is married to their other brother, which explains in part why Karl and Lucy are here at all. It's a great party that migrates up to the outside deck of the Sheraton Hotel Marina (where Lu Sea is docked temporarily), and where a jazz band is playing standards. Karl and a couple of others in the group know the guitar player, who once played with Boz Scaggs. Turns out the band leader is Bob Tyson, related to Steve and Jana, and before long I have been invited to sit in. Great fun ... played four or five tunes with a really great band. More to come, I'm sure.

Welcome to Oriental, North Carolina.

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