Friday, 6 December 2013
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Sunday, 17 November 2013
05 – 13 November 2013: Annapolis to Deltaville – 37 32N 76 20W
We used this unplanned stopover in Annapolis to update some of Balvenies ageing systems. The refrigeration was a major - the compressor had recently started making banging noises, the copper piping which houses the gas was corroding; as with everything onboard Balvenie it was getting old (including us!).
Our friends on Cristata had recently installed a Dometic self contained unit that ran on 12, 24, 110 or 240volts and they were very happy with it so we looked at the options and decided we could make one fit into our existing area. We ordered it from West Marine and skipper started tearing the old system out – condenser, compressor, piping, wiring – out it all came, what mess! A week later our new unit arrived so we borrowed Mike & Marguerites pickup and collected it.
Weighing about 15kilos it was big and bulky and getting it from the pickup down to the dock, into the dinghy, out of the dinghy onto the boat and inside was no mean feat. Can you imagine our dismay when we plugged it in, turned it on and nothing happened!! It would run on the emergency power setting but not on the regular controls.
After several phone calls to Dometic and West Marine it was decided they would need to replace it. The new one came super fast express and arrived the following day so it was back via dinghy, dock and pickup, this time we were smart enough to unpack the new unit in store and plug it in to check it was working.
Our new fridge has been christened Frieda and she is taking up quite a lot of real estate on our saloon floor for now, but she will live there until we get to Trinidad later in the season when we will have the necessary cabinetry work done to fit her into the galley. So far we are very happy with her performance, however when the air temperature inside the boat is colder than the temperature she is set at she doesn’t have to work very hard!!!
Whirlwind Tour of Washington
Sunday was clear, crisp and sunny, a perfect day for sightseeing. Mike and Marguerite had offered the pickup (we were using it more than them!) and suggested we drove to the outskirts of Washington and catch the train downtown, an easy and quick way to access the city.
We have both been to Washington before, albeit over 20 years ago, so this was really just a refresher and we had a great day out. It was Veterans Memorial Weekend so all the War Memorials had reunions and commemorative services underway, it was an interesting time to visit.
We ticked off the hotspots: peered through the bars at the White House, walked along Constitution Avenue, joined the Mall and climbed the stairs to see Abraham Lincolns statue, walked back along Reflection Pool, past the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument (currently shrouded in scaffolding following earthquake damage in 2011), detoured for coffee, lunch and museums then skirted Capitol Hill.
Washington is overflowing with museums and many of them are free. Of course there is only so much you can see in one day so we did a quick fly through past the Dinosaur exhibits at the National Museum of Natural History, then crossed the road to the National Air and Space Museum where we spent an informative and enjoyable couple of hours watching liftoffs and landings, stepping into space and going where no man has ever been before.
Mark gazing into space whilst dreaming of being an astronaut
We stopped at the highly recommended cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian for an excellent bowl of Buffalo Chilli before venturing upstairs to view several of the exhibits in this interesting museum. Then we headed for Capitol Hill late in the day, the sun was dipping and the cold wind was whipping up the fallen leaves, it was a very autumnal scene. Before darkness fell we headed for the Metro and wound our weary way home, it had been an excellent day out.
Back To Work
Mark continued upgrading some of the aging systems onboard Balvenie whilst I supervised. When floorboards are up and lockers are emptied to gain access it is virtually impossible to do anything else onboard but keep out of the way! Of course when its warm you can make yourself scarce outside but when cold, well you just make do.
During this time very good ex cruising friends Lynn and Larry Lewis were passing through Annapolis and came to visit us. Had I started this blog when we left New Zealand Lynn and Larry would have featured on many postings as we spent time with them in Fiji and Vanuatu and then cruised from Brisbane down to Tasmania and back with them during summer 2005.
We learnt so much from them regarding our systems onboard and the maintenance of them, it was invaluable. Lynn and Larry sold their yacht Zephyr in Brisbane and have lived back in Louisville, Kentucky since. We spent a great day with them, they hadn’t changed at all and it was super to catch up after so many years.
We collected our Injector Pump from J & G Parks, it looked brand new and came with a fully comprehensive list of what had been replaced and refurbished. They had done an extremely professional job and we were very hopeful we might now see an end to our engine woes.
We had booked Dick from Vosbury Marine to come and install it all. With 40 years experience working on Volvos he instilled confidence in us immediately. If anyone was going to get Olive back going again, he would – and he did. She sparked into life and sounded better than she had for a long time. It looked like we might just leave Saltworks Creek before it froze over after all!!
And Now We Wait For The Weather
So now it was time to fill the fridge to capacity and jam as many supplies as possible into the lockers, we might just get to the Caribbean this season after all. We had missed the departure of the Salty Dawgs Rally, which in hindsight was a very good thing as the boats that left on the scheduled date encountered atrocious conditions and many suffered damage. We were pleased to still be up our creek.
So we filled our final days doing last minute provisioning, well you just never know when you will see a supermarket, liquor store, chandlery, Dollar Store or Walmart again. Things had got so easy for us in Annapolis, Mike and Marguerite had been just wonderful hosts and their generosity in loaning us both their pickup and car had been outstanding. We knew our way around like locals, and zoomed around collecting all manner of items deemed necessary for the oncoming cruising season.
Heading South at Speed
With final farewells said and easing northerlies forecast we left our sheltered creek, headed down the Severn River and into Chesapeake Bay. When we reached the bay we had winds gusting 35kts and the temperature was –1c, this didn’t seem like such a good idea but we had to get south. Under staysail only we flew off down the bay averaging 7kts and anchored just on dark (now 5.15pm) at the mouth of the Potomac River.
Next morning the winds had increased (not in the forecast!!) and it was even colder. With 11 layers of clothes on I could hardly bend, skipper only had 7 layers on so was a little more mobile! Conditions eased throughout the day and we pulled into the sheltered anchorage at Fishing Harbour, Deltaville late afternoon. There was just one other hardy soul at anchor, and wouldn’t you know it – they were kiwis too! It was Victoria with Karin and Jim onboard who we had met very briefly in Newport, time to catch up again.
Autumn Has Been Magic but How Much Colder Can We Take??
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
25 Oct – 04 Nov: Saltworks Creek, Annapolis – 39 00N 76 31W
After our unplanned stop for the night at Pooles Island to shelter from the strong winds we had a reasonably comfortable trip the 30 miles down to Annapolis. We were stopping for the night to visit cruising friends Mike and Marguerite who we have known since the Mediterranean. They finished their circumnavigation on Ithaca last year and have settled back into their beautiful riverfront home after 15 years away, Ithaca is moored on their dock in front of their house - perfect.
Mike was there to help us at the dock when we stopped to fuel up at the Town Marina and we arranged to meet later at their house for dinner and a catch up before taking advantage of the favourable winds and moving further south the following day.
Olive our Volvo engine had different plans. We motored away from the fuel dock and headed up the Severn River then turned in to Saltworks Creek where we were planning to tie to a mooring ball for the night. As we entered the creek the engine died and there was a mad panic to try and steer towards the buoy, pick it up by its shackle (no line attached), attach our line to it and then secure it to the boat whilst not being able to stop or reverse, there could be no second chance!
Lets just say is was not one of our better manoeuvres and any onlookers would have wondered just what we were doing when we finally attached the buoy to the stern of the boat before slowly repositioning it back where it should be on the bow.
Having a broken engine is really a low point in a cruisers life. We were in a safe spot tied to a hurricane mooring, we had friends nearby to support us, but we had reached a real low. We had just done our haul out, we thought everything was in top form and were ready to carry on south, join the Salty Dawgs Rally and head into another season exploring the warm waters and interesting islands of the Caribbean with fellow cruising boats.
We had had the turbo rebuilt in Florida in May and at the same time had the injectors cleaned, the turbo had been the cause of our last engine failure but it was still spinning now – this time it was something else. Of course it was Friday afternoon so nothing would happen till at least Monday.
We had a wonderful evening ashore with our friends, a trouble shared is a trouble halved the saying goes, and it is surely true. They offered us the use of their house and car and just having them nearby made us feel much better.
Skipper donned his mechanics cap on Saturday and checked everything he could, but Olive was not co-operating, we were here to stay.
Sunday was declared a day of rest and we borrowed M&M’s pickup truck and headed into Annapolis for the day to do some sightseeing. The downtown tourist area is centred around the harbour, as with many of the places we visit. In Annapolis a huge part of this area is dominated by the USA Naval Academy, the largest in the USA. The streets were full of Naval Personnel out for a Sunday afternoon stroll all looking very dapper in their uniforms.
The Diagnosis Begins
On our morning SSB Radio Cruisers Net we chatted about our situation and Canadian friends Janine and Terry on Cristata were nearby in another creek and offered to come and help. We have known them since we all crossed the Indian Ocean in 2007, wintered in Turkey with them and have kept in touch via emails and our Cruisers Nets since. They have been cruising for over 20 years and have amassed a huge amount of knowledge, skills and tools - they came to help us.
Over the following days, many hours were spent on Olive - valve settings were readjusted, compression was checked and was good in all 4 cylinders, all electrical and fuel feeds rechecked, injectors were removed and tips inspected and the diagnosis was that it had to be the injectors and injector pump.
Terry explained we could have new tips put on our existing injectors, something we had never been offered by the “experts” and he also recommended having the injector pump reconditioned along with the governor which is inside the pump.
We were at a point of considering the possibility of replacing the entire engine which would be a mammoth time consuming and very expensive task. But the thought was that with good compression, rings and valves our engine still had good bones and so we decided to give it one last chance. We contacted Vosbury Marine, the local Volvo dealer who recommended J & G Parks for reconditioning the injectors and pump. We borrowed the pickup again and drove it to them for the rebuild, saving time and money where-ever we could.
Terry and Janine had been such a help but it was a waiting game now, so they continued south – in search of warmer weather. With overnight temperatures nudging freezing and some days not much warmer, we were very glad we had bought our little portable gas heater in Maine, it was doing a great job of making life on the water just bearable.
The Leaves Changed Daily – Autumn was Turning to Winter
Thursday, 7 November 2013
16 – 24 October 2013: Havre de Grace to Pooles Island, Maryland – 39 17N 76 15W
Haul Out Time
After we entered Chesapeake Bay from the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal we turned right and headed north to the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the small town of Havre de Grace. We had the small marina and yard there recommended to us as an affordable and professional place to haul, and Balvenies bottom was ready for a tickle up.
Now Tidewater Marina doesn’t have much water and we knew that depth might be an issue so we timed the high tides just after full moon to give ourselves the best chance of going in and getting out without burrowing through the muddy bottom. With just over an 8 foot draft Balvenie would be the deepest draft boat they had ever hauled and no one was actually sure if they would have enough scope to lift us high enough out of the water to clear the land!!
With 6 extremely professional staff on hand waiting to guide us into the very snug haul out pen, we immediately felt we were in good hands and that if it was possible to get us out, they would make it happen. It was quite entertaining for us to watch their faces as the lifting began, our keel just kept on coming, up out of the water: you could see they thought it would never end!
Life On The Hard Again
All went well and we spent the next three days cleaning and painting Balvenies bottom, getting her sparkly clean and slick for our upcoming season in the Caribbean. We also had use of the marina courtesy car so took the opportunity to fill gas bottles, provision with heavy grocery items and replace our house battery bank, all so much easier to do while on shore, with car and without a dinghy ride.
We splashed again on high tide but with less water and floated back out to the mooring field – almost without incident. We detoured to the fuel dock to fill up with fuel and water but glided to a halt on a muddy shallow – new antifoul only one day old and our first grounding!! oh well, welcome to the shallow Chesapeake.
Off to Explore Inland
We took the time to drive to neighbouring Pennsylvania. We went through the nearby Susquehanna State Park, the autumn colours were ablaze, never before have we seen trees in so many colours. We have always heard of the famous colours of fall in New England and we had seen the beginning of the colours changing further north but now we were seeing the colours at there absolute prime, they were outstanding.
Passing Through the Amish Community
Moving down Chesapeake Bay
With winds forecast out of the west/northwest for a few days it wasn’t an ideal window for us to start heading southwest but the weather really was cooling down. We were staying snug inside the boat with our little portable gas heater but the lure of warmer weather and the departure of the upcoming Salty Dawgs Rally from Virginia looming we dropped our mooring line and headed down the bay.
We were hard on the wind, our new headsail performing well with a double reefed main, but when the wind just refused to move from a westerly, started gusting over 30knots and the odd wave came over and into the cockpit we decided to call it a day and took shelter at nearby Pooles Island for the night.
Thursday, 31 October 2013
01 – 15 Oct: Newport, Rhode Island to Havre de Grace, Maryland – 39 32N 76 04W
It is always such a good feeling to return to somewhere we have been before. We already know where to anchor, where the dinghy dock, laundry, supermarket etc are; familiarity is such a wonderful feeling, but one we seldom get to experience living the nomadic life we do.
We had returned to Newport on Rhode Island to collect our new headsail that we had ordered from Quantum Sails before we went north to Maine. It was ready for us and they delivered and fitted it promptly, we had increased the size slightly but it was perfect, a job well done. Every time there was a lull in the wind at anchor skipper seemed to roll it out, just to admire it – he was itching to try it out!
From Newport we were planning to head south around the outside of Long Island and do a two night passage down to the entrance of Delaware Bay then up the Delaware River, through the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal and finally into Chesapeake Bay. The weather however, had other plans, we weren’t going anywhere.
So - Back Onto the Bikes
We found a safe spot to lock our bikes so kept them ashore for the duration of our stay. One warm sunny afternoon we cycled around to Fort Adams, built around 1824 it is the largest coastal fort in the USA and sits defending the entrance into Newport. The road to the fort was bordered by small farms, it was just like being on an English country lane: stone walls separated the paddocks, cows grazed, pigs rolled around in their pens, autumn leaves tumbled – just beautiful, all very rural and just minutes from Newport town.
From there we just kept going along Ocean Avenue which fringes Rhode Island Sound, we passed modest homes, seaside cottages and magnificent mansions all sharing the same wonderful views over the Sound.
It was an excellent afternoons bike ride, followed by Quahog Fritters (just had to order them as we had no idea what they were!!) and a relaxing drink at The Lobster Shed, a great spot we found in Newport’s converted warehouse waterfront area. And to enlighten those of you, who – like us have never heard of a quahog, it is a shellfish found around these parts and was very tasty!
In the late 1890’s Newport became THE place for the incredibly rich to build “summer cottages”. Yes, the photos are not actually of mansions, these are all just cottages.
Known as the “Gilded Age” the absolute wealthiest of America’s society built these incredibly opulent mansions, mainly along the cliff edge on Bellevue Avenue. Each owner went to great lengths to have the latest inventions installed (electricity for the newer ones!!) and it really goes without saying that they simply wanted to outdo the neighbours.
We purchased the Preservation Society 5 Property Pass for $31.50pp and took a few days exploring these decedent properties. 4 had audio tours which were entertaining and informative, they told the stories of the owners and staff and enabled us to gain a real insight into this age of extreme wealth for a select few. They also told stories of which properties had, over the years, been used as movie sets – remember Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby, the ballroom scenes were filmed at the Elms.
Although we were getting rather settled and sunny weather in Newport, offshore a tropical depression was loitering, sending gale force winds and huge seas onto the Delaware Coast south of us.
In the end we decided to head back through Long Island Sound and New York, day sailing to cover some miles, whilst giving the weather and seas time to settle before we headed out into the North Atlantic for what would then be only one night at sea to the Delaware Bay.
Our good intentions of leaving at first light got scuppered when our anchor chain had not only a lobster pot wrapped round it but an old rusty anchor hooked through it as well. We eventually managed to untangle ourselves and dropped them back into the deep for the next poor cruiser to hook onto!
We headed out into lively seas and had a fast and furious ride for the first few hours, conditions improved slightly the further we got into Long Island Sound. We had a mammoth day, logging over 70 miles to Joshua Cove and anchoring just on dusk. Next day the seas were slightly more agreeable and we made it to Port Washington on dusk, anchored in a deserted bay and watched the lights of New York twinkle in the distance as darkness fell.
The tides were right for another early departure: with up to 4 knots of current through the East River, you sure want to get the tides right. We flew through at speeds of over 10 knots, passed Manhattan in a flash and next thing we knew the Statue of Liberty had come back into view after our 3 1/2 month excursion north.
But we were soon past it and carried the current all the way out through the channel and into the Atlantic.
Finally Into the Chesapeake
We were met with an extremely messy sea state and winds too fickle to hold the sails so we motored south until late in the evening when we finally filled the sails. With a full moon to light our way and temperatures not quite down to freezing it wasn’t a bad overnight sail. We carried on into Delaware Bay and motored up the Delaware River in calm conditions and warmer climes, finally pulling over to the rivers edge and anchoring at sunset, just 10 miles short of the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal.
Working the tides meant yet another early start as we headed through the D&C Canal, by late morning we had, at last, reached Chesapeake Bay. We headed across the shallows to Havre de Grace, a small riverside town where we had arranged to haul out and antifoul.
Time To Turn Balvenie into a Two Storey Condo