Old Articles Resurrected
Written by Frank Cingel, at one time or another
SOUTHERN LADY DOES THE NANTICOKE
September 23, 2004
For years I've been reading about the pristine and beautiful Nanticoke River. Which is to say I've been wanting to travel up the river and visit Vienna for a long time. It is a six day minimum trip from the Magothy so it was not easy to get someone to make the trip with me. Actually I couldn't get any one. But near the end of the CSC fall cruise this year, when everyone started heading home from the Yeocomico River, things sort of fell in place for a solo run to Vienna.
I sailed from the Yeocomico to Hooper Strait and into the Nanticoke the first day, anchoring in Wetipquin Creek. Well, not really. I tried. Chesapeake Bay Magazine's Guide to Cruising Chesapeake Bay said I "can head straight toward the finger of land near the creek's mouth and anchor in 9 feet of water". Not. Whoever wrote that must have been there during hurricane Isabel. Believe the chart. I anchored over a quarter mile from shore, practically out in the river, in 7 feet. I wasn't sure where I stood tide wise because there isn't a reference point nearby. Tides run over 2 feet and the current 1.5 to 2 knots.
It was a quiet and somewhat pretty night, with a moon and good holding, so no problem. Next morning I rode with the tide the 13 miles to Vienna arriving about 10:30. I should say "historic" Vienna. One of Maryland's oldest settlements it dates back to the 17th century. I know that because when I was taking a picture of Southern Lady tied up at the fantastic town bulkhead, a woman came out of her house nearby and said "beautiful boat". Nice lady. She gave me some town history and a nice brochure describing a walking tour of historic buildings in town. Asked if many sailboats made this trip she said I was the second this year. There were four last year. History in the making.
Vienna has a public bulkhead with 12 feet of water suitable for 3-5 boats, more if rafting. Looks fairly new. Also a small boat floating dock and a boat ramp. All backed by a park type area. They seem to be making an effort to encourage visitors.
When the tide turned, I rode the current back down river and anchored on the Southern shore of Penknife Point. A better anchorage. If you need to choose, this is probably the best spot. There are no really good anchorages along the river. Any spot you can fit into and still be clear of barges running the river will have to do.
If you've ever traveled the ICW, through South Carolina and Georgia, you've seen the Nanticoke. That's the way it looks. Low marsh and winding with numerous small creeks. The water was not clear like one would expect. More on the slightly muddy side, like after a heavy rain. Maybe that was the case, I don't know. At any rate there was not the abundance of wildlife that the cruising guide alluded to. Very few birds, fish jumping. The fish traps along the river weren't lined with cormorants as is typical of productive traps. Few crabbers. Actually very few boats from Hooper Strait to Vienna. It made me a little nervous, being alone, navigating these wide open areas with many shallows.
THE OTHER WAY
November 15, 2002
The quickest way to take a boat to Marathon, Fl is offshore with overnite passages. It avoids all the bridges, the marina fees, and the poor anchorages. To say nothing about the tedium and spousal disputes. Most wives refuse to go offshore so its 1455 miles of motoring on the ICW.
So to show how easy it is, Jack Buckley and I decided to take Fancy Free (a Pearson 34 with full cockpit enclosure) to Marathon doing offshore as much as prudence would allow. So who's prudence?
It started with an overnite down the bay from Castle Harbour, Chester River, to Norfolk. Rain and wind. Motor half way. The mouth of the Potomac sure is wide when it's dark and the wind is on the nose. Off Smith Point my MOB strobe, which was faithfully hanging on the stern pulpit ready for an emergency, jumped overboard on its own when we banged a wave. One of many hard waves to come. Efforts to find it failed. It was nite. What's wrong with this scene?
Somewhere N of the Rappahannock the engine started complaining loudly so it was shut down, we sailed to the mouth of Broad Cr and were towed into Deltaville. Engine fixed, we thought, and its off to Norfolk the next day. Sailed all the way with strong N winds. Next day its Coinjock. News was the Alligator R bridge wasn't opening due to high winds. If you go this route make sure you have the phone No of the bridge. There's virtually no refuge if you go and can't get thru.
After a weather layover day we sailed across the Albemarle with 15-20 N winds and took refuge at the Alligator River Marina, in rain. That nite it rained and the wind blew hard across the beam and the mast pumped and the whisker pole mounted on the front of the mast made an unbelievable racket along with other undefined sources. Glad we were in a slip. Next nite was Dowry Cr Marina and on to Beaufort Town Dock. A layover day to get ready, resupply, fix the cantankerous john, etc. A 2 day weather window and it was out the inlet toward Frying Pan Shoals, 90 miles away, and then on to Charleston. Not.
A beautiful day, a pleasant sail, for a while. The wind became light and headed us so we were motoring mindful of the impending weather. Forty miles to the shoals and the engine did its thing again. So we diverted to Masonboro inlet, Wrightsville Beach. Started the engine before going thru, sounded normal. If you pass that way stop at Masonboro Marina, mm 288. Nice, relatively inexpensive, a good place for repairs, and a most enjoyable restaurant, the Trails End, next door.
No mechanics on Sunday. Monday the engine got the once over but still no definitive cure. An oil change and off the next morning to catch the current down the Cape Fear River. We exited into the ocean about 11:00 AM.
Two days of healthy north winds and we are forced to go into Fernadino Beach Fl because of a broken wheel pilot. If you think we should have simply hand steered, you haven't tried steering a boat under sail down 6 foot waves in 20-25 knots of wind at nite when you can't see the sails or otherwise know which direction the wind is blowing. Dropping a main (already reefed) in those conditions at nite isn't fun either. The wheel pilot, a Simrad 30, did a great job up to that point. It was simply asked to do more than it could handle. The wheel pilot went back to the mfr for repair that same day with a promise of 2-3 week repair.
Next day off again. Four days in the ICW to Fort Pierce, which is the next useable inlet other than Cape Canaveral. A call from Simrad and we received and installed the wheel pilot the next day, and out the inlet we went. After 25 hours of pounding into S winds we sought refuge at the Miami Beach Marina just inside Government Cut. A tour of South Beach was a must. Our wives stocked the boat well. Having already eaten out too many times prudence said we should eat on board. Who's prudence?
No more wind. Motored from Miami to Marathon in light air. We went outside the reef, staying as close as possible to avoid the influence of the gulf stream, which averaged about 0.75 knots against us. Went deep water after dark to avoid the crab/lobster pot floats. Arrived at Sombrero Light 1:30 in the morning and took one of their mooring buoys used for snorkeling. It made a nice stop. Into Boot Key harbor 7:30 AM., 22 days after the start. Our wives were glad to see us. Prudence was too.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE THE HARD WAY
written by Liz and Frank
Thursday, March 8, 2001
It was hard to "cut the cord" and leave Sombrero Resort Marina, Marathon. Frank called it "dockitis". I think some of it was leaving new friends and my apprehension about this trip.
We headed out in the Gulf of Mexico with 10 knots of wind on the nose in light chop. The winds picked up and so did the chop. The Little Shark River in the Everglades was our first stop. Two anchors were required in 1.7 knots of current. We favored the current for anchoring rather than the wind and they held. The mangroves were 40' tall. The noseeums were out and we had to hide inside.
Friday, March 9 - The River was 5' lower this morning as we left. It's nice our Bristol 35.5 has a shallow draft. A dolphin came up blowing beside the boat as we exited the river.
We did not see another boat all day. The current going into Everglades City was a roaring 2.5 knots. Our docking skills were tested as we came into the Rod and Gun Club Marina since they don't provide help at the dock. Someone on the dock helped us.
The Club was built in 1864 as a private club and has spotless white exterior and yellow-stripped awnings. The downstairs has dark wood walls; there is a huge screen porch where one can enjoy lunch or dinner, a pool table, swimming pool, and many stuffed animals, as the name of the club implies. It's surprising to find such an elegant hotel in the Everglades with a guest list that includes Presidents and actors.
Sunday, March 11 - We departed Everglades City and headed to Marco Island. Frank likes challenges so we went in the "back door" to Marco Island through Coon Key Pass. We saw 4'4" depth as we entered the Pass. The chart showed several 4' spots so we went in on a rising tide, even at that we saw 4'1" and never touched bottom. Towboat/US shadowed us for a few miles but we managed to disappoint him. It's evident I didn't weigh the boat down too much with canned goods. We made it and will spend 2 days visiting Marco Island before moving on.
Monday, March 12 - We went on a trolley tour of Marco Island. It's a beautiful place. The winds were 25 knots and gusting Tuesday so we stayed another day. I went shelling on a boat from the marina. The boat stayed in the waterway to Naples since it was blowing, beached, and we walked across the island to the Gulf side. I have never seen so many shells. Fun. Marco Island, Captiva and Sanibel are great places to go shelling but the hotels and condos have most of the beach access. We sat on the boat at night and listened to music from a nearby tiki-bar.
Wednesday, March 14. - We arrived in Ft. Myers Beach for one night and will start crossing the Okeechobee Waterway Thursday. Frank talked to the Corp. of Engineers, Indiantown Marina, and TowBoat/U.S. We know there is one bad spot in the lake (there is no tide here). It's a long way if we have to turn back.
Thurs., March 15 - We arrived in LaBelle on the Okeechobee Waterway and tied up at a bulkhead for $.25 a foot including electric.
Friday, March 16 - We took the 250' wide rim route of Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Canal, into Clewiston. After Clewiston the rim route is closed due to low water, too bad because that's the scenic route and it's protected. Acres and acres have burned but not recently as there was green vegetation. Alligators were all along the beach, BIG ones and babies. We watched otters playing on the beach and in the water.
There is one marina and no anchorages in Clewiston. It's in the middle of nowhere. We tied to what is called a dolphin, which are 6 huge pilings tied together at the top. We set an anchor in front and backed beside the dolphin and tied lines to it. We are about 12' from shore and still floating. An Anhinga (bird) sat on a fallen tree near the boat for hours fishing. He didn't mind our presence.
Saturday., March 17 - We had a lot of input regarding crossing Lake Okeechobee. Some right, some wrong. We weighed it all and decided to go, or we should say Frank decided to go. Being down over 2 feet, the lake has become unnavigatable for many, including us it turned out, even with our 4' draft.
We made it but it was a highly stressful day, and, in fact, days leading up to it were stressful because of the long distance if we had to turn around and go back halfway across Florida, down the west coast and up the east coast. The Gulf of Mexico kicks up pretty good, weather fronts are still rolling thru, so there would be many days we would have to sit tight, extending the time for the trip.
Light winds were predicted for Saturday so from that standpoint it was good. If you have to run aground, wind exacerbates the problem. Light winds also meant the fog stayed around in the morning and we didn't leave until 9AM. Even then sometimes you couldn't see the next mark.
At the Clewiston end (start) of the 25 mile trip across we ran aground 3 times, but did find deep water to get through. Before long we realized we couldn't make the 2PM lock at Port Mayaca and would need to go for the 4PM opening.
We were shadowed by a nasty looking sky as we approached the lock and were anxious to get through. You have this huge lake at your back, shallow all around the edge, and no shelter to be had except thru the lock. The Corp of Engineers told us there was 4.2 feet at the entrance to the lock. It was nowhere to be found. The lock was getting ready to open, we were looking it in the face 200' away and couldn't move forward. What a scary dilemma. Anyone who came to help would have to come thru the lock, and the lock wouldn't open again for 2 hours, and what would be expected of the help. We would somehow have to be tilted over or dragged into the lock. Back at Clewiston the bottom was limestone something and hard as it was a dredged channel. Fortunately the bottom at the lock was a silt type and soft. So when the lock opened its doors and the green light came on we gambled and applied full power, rocking the rudder back and forth. We moved slowly into the lock. Talk about relief. Liz started cheering and clapping. We had an audience at the lock and some of them clapped.
We had one more obstacle. Just past the lock is an old railroad lift bridge. This bridge is the controlling height for the waterway, 49 feet with normal lake levels. Indiantown marina, where we stopped, will come out and tilt your boat over to get you through the bridge. We anticipated doing this, as our mast height is 51' plus 3' of electronics. Happily the water level was down enough, and we crept thru without even our antennae touching.
On our way to Indiantown the engine temperature was slightly above normal. Installing a raw water filter before our trip was a good move. We kicked up a lot of sediment running aground.
We had 11 bridges opened and 5 locks on this leg. Locks are needed because Lake Okeechobee is higher than the ocean.
The impact of the drought in Florida didn't hit home until we crossed the lake and came through the canal to the Indiantown marina. Everything is low. The marina is a disaster. Boats have been hauled because there isn't enough water in the slips. Docks are so high steps were built to access the boats in the slips. Many people store boats here for the summer and come down for the winter. Half the people must be from north of the border.
The trip saw much wildlife, otters, birds, and lots of alligators. There are 4 alligators in the marina along with several turtles that look up at you begging for food. We saw a water snake resting on a boat platform and watched an alligator eat a fish he caught.
Lake Okeechobee is the second largest natural freshwater lake in America covering approximately 660 sq. miles. Our route across was 25 miles long. Three locks raised us 10' and, after crossing the Lake, 2 locks lowered us 10'. Along the Waterway we saw hundreds of cattle, acres and acres of orange groves and sugarcane fields. By taking this shortcut from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic we saved 400 miles. We are VERY GLAD that we didn't have to turn back.
SOUTHERN LADY DOES MAINE
Sept 20, 1998
Sail to the Keys? No. Bahamas? No, maybe Maine. Maine! You and the boys can sail the boat up and I'll drive and we'll rent a house for the whole family. The master plan has a ring to it. Everybody says they can make it. It's a go. Those in the know say Penobscot Bay, Camden. Get the boat ready. Could be very bouncy. Water in the cockpit. Fog. Modify the vents. Need radar, life raft. Prepare. Prepare. Only one house big enough for 19 in the whole area. How many beds in how many rooms. Plan. Plan. Leave nothing to chance.
Thursday, July 2, 3:00 PM we're on our way ready or not. Max current thru the C&D isn't until 2:53 AM. No rush. Ha. No wind. Motor. Motor all the way out the Delaware Bay. Hot. Light S. wind on and off until Saturday. Visited by a school of dolphins that play around the bow of the boat. Bill tries to reach down and pet them. Full Moon is beautiful, when its not clouded over. Monday start our turn North, 50 miles off Nantucket. Good sailing, bad fog during nite and morning. Thankful for radar. Get chewed out by a trawler in the fog because we didn't have our radio on, but we did. Line jammed roller furling headsail, had to lower and fix. Glad it was still light. More motoring, starting to think about fuel supply. Made contact with ham in Raleigh who called Liz to communicate our safe being. She liked that. S wind pushing us toward Penabscot Bay. Saw 2 whales. Arrive Maine outer Islands Tuesday 10 PM, following breeze and beautiful moon. Less than 30 miles to Camden, we'll be in after day break. Lets keep going. What can go wrong. All hands there's lobster pots. It's 200 ft. deep! Where did this come from, 7 miles to go can't see a thing, fog. At least it's daylight. Rocks ahead turn 10 deg left. 20 deg left. 30 deg left. Keith what's wrong, forget your own senses use the compass. That red '2' for Camden harbor is supposed to be here. There's a radar target at 290 degrees. Is it a 'gong'? Yes. I hear it. There it is. 310 for .4 mi. We're in. A mooring let's grab it until we can see the harbor. No No. We came this far we're going all the way. Pull out the rum, so what if it's 6:30 AM, been up all nite. Five and a half days. Motored 60 hours, almost half way.
We have the farm house on Wednesday. It's big enough but old and helter skelter with 3 baths for 18 people, and dirty. Make the best of it. Get it in shape. Nobody fights over bedrooms. Things are looking up. Many farm animals for the kids. Camden is a great town and harbor. Neat shops, schooners and lots of neat boats and nautical things to see. Next to Camden Hills State Park. Good choice. Maine is a sailing place with emphasis on traditional, old, well maintained boats. Lets buy some lobsters. How do you pick em? A strenuous hike to the top of Mt Megunicook overlooking Camden and Penabscot Bay. The old man is dragging behind. A days drive to Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mtn. and Bar Harbor. Day sails, look for whales. Swimming and parasailing in a nearby lake. Scuba diving to watch the seals that wern't. A ladies only spree to Freeport. Cocktails w/ Dave & Laura Ellerbrake on their boat enroute to Nova Scotia.
Saturday everyone leaves, Liz and I have no car. Stock the boat. Visibility isn't too good. If the wind's SE or E, fog may roll in say the locals. Only 10 mi to Pulpit Harbor on North Haven Is, good for our first day out. We couldn't find that red '2' buoy in the fog because the loran is .4 miles off in this area. Only private moorings, use one and hope the owner doesn't show. A dinghy exploration. Its low tide lets gather mussels. Sail to Castine, will the visibility hold. Barely beat the rain. $15 for a mooring. A lovely town, go for a walk. Memories of 15 yrs ago. A very foggy nite. Motor thru Eggemoggin Reach. Stop at Center Harbor. They make wood epoxy boats here. Prop zinc is coming off, over the side to tighten it. Water is 61 degrees, new wet suit works. Entertained by a huge nest with a family of eagles. Mom, or is it dad, brings fish to feed the young. Gather huge mussels. Hike the island. Suck it up. A zillion lobster pots in Jericho Bay. Tough navigating and dodging the pots in wind and poor visibility, can't hold a course. Three miles to Burnt Coat Harbor, Swans Is. Pea soup. Pots make it tough. No time to blow the fog horn. A lobstering place. Two 2 lb softshell lobsters from the co-op cooked aboard. Great. On to Long Is. and Frenchboro. Liz notices the swells and realizes she's making an ocean passage. The hidden agenda. Moorings are tight. Many cruisers. Hiking paths. Food orders placed in advance. A 50 ft 1913 racing sloop. Friendly fisherman that go out fog or not. Camaraderie. A 5 star. Stay 2 days. Learn about pots with 2 floats in series with 20 ft. between (toggles). Deadly. Merchant Islands, few navigation aids. Hard to identify with chart. Loran more accurate here. Pots are so thick Liz can't decide which way to go. McGlathery Island - avoid on weekend. Popular place but not enough shallow water (under 30 ft) to anchor for everyone. Boats bumped in the nite with no wind and longer rodes at low tide. Fox Island thorofare to North Haven, a return to Pulpit Harbor, and back to Camden. Nites 2 blanket and screens on the hatches. Days on water often jeans and sweatshirts.
July 30 Peggy and Ed arrive by car. Leave the boat at Rockland. Off to Nova Scotia. Sussex N.B. to Hopewell Cape and the fascinating Hopewell Rocks created by the Bay of Fundy tides to the Moncton tidal bore that didn't. Cross the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Is, stay at pretty Charlottetown. Attempts to find the best places to see failed, we left with a ho hum. Ferry back and on to Cape Breton Island. Driving the park road at the north end, truly the highlight of the trip. Hills and gorges and whales offshore. Bras d'Or Lake a second. Visit the Alexander Graham Bell museum at Baddeck. He was into a lot of stuff. Stops at Port Hastings, Cheticamp, and modern Sydney. A cool vacation place. The long and winding south road to Halifax. Stop at a remote and very nice inn booked by chance. Visit the Maritime/ Titanic museum and gravesite and the Citadel. Peggy and Ed visit Peggys Cove. The famous fishing schooner Bluenose at Lunenburg. Digby, self proclaimed scallop capital of the world. Never saw a scallop shell and the scallops we ate were small. Must ship the big ones to the states. Tour pretty Digby Neck. Ferry across the Bay of Fundy in fog to St. Johns, N.S. and return to Rockland. Exchange rate and return of sales tax at the border make for a relatively inexpensive trip. Weather was mostly shorts, virtually no rain.
August 13, Thursday, sail to Boothbay Harbor to provision for the trip home, dinner with friends from our sailing club up for the week, and pick up one crewman from the Portland airport. Three PM Saturday leave Boothbay with Ed and Joe. Wind on the nose at 15 knots, motor to clear the outer islands. Already into the heavy stuff. No time to learn about the safety gear. Ed takes a flyer across the cabin. Liz's casserole gets cooked in a well heeled oven. The captain isn't too hungry. Lights from shore not getting dimmer. A long nite. Next day looks better with winds down slightly and a beautiful day. Vhf quits for a while but recovers after fiddling. Nite brings fog and periods of no wind. Radar gets a lot of use. A fishing trawler coming up behind politely asks for our space. New handheld vhf fails after a nite in the dew, later recovers. Beat to windward until we round the Nantucket Shoals, 25 miles off Nantucket, then still close hauled, slightly off course. Beautiful sailing. Monday evening, very near dark, the distinctive sound of whales blowing air from their lungs. They're all around us. Should I make noise? Start the engine? Just pray? Turn the boat there's one in front of us. They're past. Wow. A bumpy nite, reefed as usual. Next day after unfurling the genoa all the way, a flapping sound. A huge rip. Repair it? Can't furl it, furler's broken. Take it down. 180 miles to Cape May. 70 miles to Long Island Sound. Enough fuel? Doing 4 knots with the main and storm jib but not enough to push thru these seas. 45 degrees off course. We'll continue on awhile. Too far out to hear marine weather but AM radio predicts severe thunderstorms over Long Island, could come our way. Ed on midnight watch raises the alarm - there's lightning. Can't see what's going on because of the fog. Drop all sail and motor to be safe. A short but heavy downpour, only 25 knots. Wind has shifted to the North, great. Its 3 AM. Raise the storm jib. None too soon. Big seas and 20 - 30 knots of wind are suddenly upon us, and some rain. We're off. 6-7 knots on storm jib alone. A calm on the outside warning from Joe and the unmistakable sound of a breaking wave as it rolls in over the stern. Our shoes are sitting in 7 inches of water. Who needs boots it's not raining that hard. Why is it taking so long to drain. Its finally daylight. Joe I'm beat take the wheel awhile. You sure that's a good idea. A roller coaster ride. A visit by a large school of dolphins. Finally catch a few hours sleep. We're slowing, more sail. 30 miles to Cape May, need to power up. Call our wives on the cell phone. Not a word about the sail. Enter the Delaware Bay 3 AM, low tide, favorable current all the way to the Chesapeake. A little over 5 days. Motored 45 hours since Boothbay.
SEVEN BOATS ON A HOOK
Sept 2, 1997
Shall we break up before dark. No, I think we'll be OK. The forecast is for light winds. Or for 5 knot S winds. All's quiet. The serenade from the other raft was great. The TV watchers have gone to bed. Stars in the sky. There's a puff of breeze. Now it's gone. Wind has shifted slightly. I'm not comfortable. Wish that power boat hadn't anchored so close behind us. Think I'll sleep in the cockpit tonite. Stars are gone. Puffs are a little stronger. But then they subside. The flags on the backstays make it easy to watch the wind when laying down. The wind is shifting back and forth. There's a strong one. Think I'll check the tension on the rode just for the heck of it. That's almost as tight as when Liz sets the anchor. A few drops of rain. Close the hatches. Flash-rumble. There's heat lightning off to the North. You can hardly hear the thunder. We should be OK. If its North it should pass us. The other raft is breaking up. Marge says there's nothing on radar. The last time she said that we got hit with a vengeance. But this time we don't have the trees to block the view. Sky is light. OK we'll stay put. Anodyne, if we get hit drop an anchor over the side and I'll run the engine to take strain off the anchor. You too, Sovereign. Quiet again. I'm comfortable. Its a little wet outside, I'll snooze on the settee. Flash-rumble. Uh-Oh. That was close. Now I'm not comfortable. Still heat lightning - cloud to cloud, not air to ground. Weird. Some rain. Quiet again. No wind. Sky is cloudy but not dark. Air is fairly warm. Not cool like before a storm. We're fine. FLASH. Where did that come from. I screwed up. Where's the wind. This is not like a thunderstorm. Rain. FLASH-BOOM. Wow that was huge. Right overhead. I can't see. The white hood on my slicker is glowing. But it was cloud to cloud. I've never been so close to heat lightning before. This is phenomenal. Heavy rain. Where's the wind. It'll show up any minute. Better start the engine and get it ready. Wind keeps shifting. Rode is off to starboard. Put the engine in reverse to straighten it. Where's the wind. Storm is moving East, Leaving. It's gone. Quiet. There's a twinge of twilight. I'm comfortable. Gonna climb in the sack.
DID YOU HEAR VOICES??
July 11, 1990
They sounded like a lot of men in a bar all talking at once. They were all speaking in monotone. There was no sense to it or identifiable language. This story may never have been told except that at a small party Liz and I attended the day my son Keith and I returned from a sail to Bermuda on our Ericson 35, a very good friend, in all seriousness asked "did you hear voices?".
It was on our voyage over, on the Eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, after an exhausting 20 hours of high seas and wind. We were thankful for the quiet, almost no wind conditions. I locked the steering wheel and went forward to replace the storm jib with the working jib. Actually the jenny would have been too small, but I was tired and just wanted to mope along. A good choice as it turned out because I would have replaced it by morning anyway. The wind may have died but the seas didn't and the rolling and tossing of the boat worked the wheel loose which was then driven by the rudder hard over to starboard where it jammed.
During the previous night and the early part of the day we were on a bare pole run. Waves broke over the stern and at times the boat broached leaving us without way and on the side of a wave, at the mercy of any breaking wave which might happen along. None came. I had just spent the late afternoon and evening attempting to clear the engine of seawater ingested thru the transom fuel vent, so I definitely was tired.
I woke Keith and we installed the emergency tiller and disconnected the steering cables. I then tried to unjam the wheel. It was inside the stern of the boat where the hull is bare that I heard the unmistakable sound of voices. Not the sound of fish because I am familiar with that sound, but of men. Lost sailors of yesteryear? I was up and down many times and sometimes I would send Keith into this hull area to help work the steering mechanism. To get back there one crawls thru the quarterberth and removes an access panel.
We couldn't fix the wheel that nite and decided to wait until morning. As Keith was getting ready to finish his turn in the sack I said nonchalantly "did you hear the voices". A big smile crossed his face. "You heard it too. Wow! I thought I was crackin up". He quickly and firmly replaced the access panel to shut out the noise and climbed back into the quarterberth.
CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE DELMARVA
May 26, 1986
After a year of preparing ourselves and the boat for our first offshore cruise, my three sons (son and two sons-in-law) and I left Thursday evening, May 26, at 6:30 with the only goal being to make Chesapeake City before 8:00 A.M. Friday in order to have a favorable current through the canal. A thunderstorm hit shortly after we cleared the Magothy and the rain continued throughout the night. I had checked the schedule of the Great Ocean Race, a race around the Delmarva, and understood they were leaving the next day. They didn't, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of 43 tacking sailboats. On top of this our three year old charts were almost useless since many of the channel aids had been changed. It was a long night.
But we made Chesapeake City by about 6:30 A.M. and had a quick passage of less than 2 hours for the 15 miles. The run down the Delaware Bay was uneventful with a steady following breeze all the way. Asleep in the guarterberth I awoke to a continuous thumping in the cockpit which shook the whole boat. Bill, who is on a exercise kick, was doing his thing. This was the only time he had energy to spare though, as getting enough sleep soon became the No. 1 priority. Although we made Cape Henlopen by 7:00 P.M., it was another 5 hours before the beacon was out of sight due to light winds. Light winds or not as soon as we came upon the swells of the ocean, Doug got seasick and stayed sick until we reentered the Cheaspeake. The warm peaceful afternoon had lulled us into complacency and a little beer drinking. The wind was fairly light until noon the next day when it established itself as definitely from the south, the direction we were headed. That afternoon we drove hard to windward on the genoa with a lot of boat motion which made every task 3 times more difficult. But that didn't stop the boys from catching two 7 pound blues. However, cleaning them was an altogether different matter. My filets looked like mashed potatoes.
Bill did a superb job of preparing the evening meal. A stove tilted 30 degrees with two pots cooking on top is a sight to see. We hove to and all sat down to enjoy the meal in the middle of the ocean. Despite 5 - 6 foot seas, it was very peaceful inside. This was our farthest point east which I estimated as 35 miles off Ocean City.
We reduced sail before dark and headed southwest. We were sailing hard and the boys loved it. Keith finally got enough wind to make him happy. The boat seemed to find new pleasure in ocean sailing as she performed beautifully. This was her natural element. The wind continued to build that night and we replaced the working jib with the storm jib and put two reefs in the main. Fortunately the rain was light. This was our only real challenge as Keith and Bill struggled to change head sails in heavy seas and darkness. After accomplishing this I felt that the ship and crew could deal with most anything.
Our depth indicated we were approaching the coast but establishing our position using RDF was very frustrating. Not until hours of drawing position lines did I conclude that it was only accurate over short distances.
Sunday morning the larger sails went back on and we were promptly hit by a very heavy, short duration downpour which surprised us even though we could see it coming. Observing weather phenomenon in the ocean is fascinating. A frontal system can be seen as a long wall of clouds rolling over the water. Disturbed conditions this morning showed spots of sunshine and clusters of light and dark clouds touching the water. As if you could thread your way through provided you had a fast enough boat.
Late Sunday afternoon we sighted our first navigational aid putting us 17 miles north of Cape Charles. The weather again threatened and we went to the storm jib and sought sea room. This was the worst boat motion we had experienced as the influence of the coast on wave action became evident. Everyone popped pills not knowing whether or not they could get by without them but afraid to take a chance. It was sheer determination and keeping busy that kept the captain from loosing his dinner.
But the weather eased in a couple of hours and we were beating our way toward the bridge tunnel. The beacon at Cape Charles can be seen a long way off and served us well. But it wasn't until 1:30 A.M. Monday morning that we went through the bridge and were able to relax on a downwind run. I also finally got through to the Norfolk operator to call Liz. She didn't seem to mind the late hour.
The run up the Bay was peaceful and restful but slow. Bill caught a l2 pound blue, posed for pictures, and promptly threw him back rather than clean it. The wind died that evening after a thunderstorm passed and we motored throughout the night. We were out of fuel Tuesday morning just south of the Bay Bridge and the deck crew was trying to take advantage of every puff of wind when we were suddenly hit by a wall of it out of the north at 25 knots. There was a lot of noise as they scampered to reduce sail. Thinking they were back in the ocean, the storm jib was hoisted.
We arrived at the dock around noon to a bottle of champagne, iced and re-iced several times as our welcoming committee couldn't wait any longer and went home. Never could figure the fuss - we were only a day behind my estimated time. Ships log showed 500 miles sailed.