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"Gone Cruising" with Bill & Shirley Martin, and their dog Saylor

The Sailing Blog of At Ease

Web Posted December 19th, 2001

The holiday season is well upon us, even here in Key West where the weather is certainly not conducive to Christmas cheer. Here in the Navy Marina, cruisers are coming together with informal parties and happy hours and plans for potluck dinners and such. It is a time to be together with others or at least be in touch.

One of the things that has been most important to both Shirley and I since we began this cruising lifestyle has been staying in touch with and hearing from our old and new friends. Email seems to be the most reliable way for all that to happen. We fire up the radio and computer link at least once a day and it is always a delight when we have mail from those dear to us. While it may seem we send out messages to long lists of folks, and that just seems so impersonal, please know that each of you are personally important to us. Multiple addressees just means that we are able to send many messages out while only sending one across our high frequency radio link and, therefore, it just makes it possible for us to stay in touch with more of our friends given the limitations in this system.

Each and everyone of you are in our thoughts. Here's hoping for the merriest Christmas and happiest New Year for you and yours!

Bill and Shirley

s/v AT EASE

Key West, FL

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Web Posted December 3rd, 2001

S/V AT EASE departed New Smyrna via Ponce Inlet and moved offshore for an overnight trip into Lake Worth/Palm Beach for a short boatyard stay to get some work done on the sticky starter solenoid. While we were only five to six miles off shore, swells from the mid-ocean tropical storm were pronounced and confused, striking us on the beam while the light and inconsistent wind just rattled sails rather than delivered power. Even motoring to create relative wind did not generate enough pressure to stabilize the boat's motion very much. Results... a lumpy ride with both of us hanging on. Even simple activities take on a new difficulty in such conditions and one begins to balance the product against the energy expended with this equation typically leading to decisions to stay put and wedged in. We know from experience that sore muscles and bruises will be there in a day or so. Just compensating for the gyrations is a form of continuous isometric exercises that is tiring over a 24 hour period.

After the overnight run, we entered the boatyard to tie up at the service dock. We had a mechanic/electrician on board shortly who agreed with our diagnosis. Off came the starter and solenoid to be sent off for rebuilding. Of course the alternator had to be removed to gain access, at least improve access, to the starter. I decided to not only get this one rebuilt, but to purchase a new unit as a spare. We know from others' experience just how difficult it is to get such parts down in the islands. I decided to change fuel filters while there. No good deed shall go unpunished. With parts returned and reattached, and the engine fired up again, I had air in the fuel system. Repeated efforts to bleed the system were unsuccessful, even with the assistance of the yard's Service Manager and Diesel Shop Supervisor. Adding beer to this equation did not good. Also noted the tachometer suddenly wasn't working anymore. Next day, with more time to study the problems, noticed that the tach sensor was very near the starter brackets... Bingo! Remounting had dislodged the wiring. When ready to leave the next day we were just clear of the dock when the engine failed, air in system again, and Shirley had to hurriedly get a line back to the dockmaster to pull us back in. Back came the mechanic, working hard to keep a straight face. Finally became suspicious of the Racor fuel filter gaskets and replaced them. Bingo! Diesel engine began making familiar and reassuring sounds. Somewhat embarrassed by my failure to do a better job seating the filter and bleeding the system, we finally moved over to the fuel dock to top off with diesel. I have had a small leak in the vicinity of the inspection port and outlet lines on my fuel tank. Thinking this was a good opportunity to track this down, Shirley watched diligently while the tank filled. Sure enough... A small leak around the brass fitting on the outlet line. Out came the tool bag and, with trusty wrench, I tightened down the leaking fitting. "What", he said, "try putting some muscle into it", he said. Did you ever see one of those brass nuts after it cracks and falls off the copper tubing? No more little leak... much easier to see now. With Shirley's finger on the hole in the dike, off went Bill, much chagrined, searching for that mechanic yet again. Quick response and repair from service staff. Suspicious that they were ready for us to leave, especially after the mechanic said "You keep breaking it and I'll keep fixing it", embarrassed Bill quickly got the boat underway before he messed up something else.

We departed, moving offshore toward the Keys. This offshore run made up for the uncomfortable trip in. Wonderful conditions with a clear sky and after dark, a huge, full moon, with a mild swell on the beam and a 10 kt following wind. AT EASE danced down the coast, overnight moving past the busy ports of Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades and Miami, across the reefs and into Hawk Channel for the run down to the Keys. We were close in to shore. Initially we had moved out about five miles but had a consistent three kt current opposing. We finally concluded the Gulf Stream had moved in near shore, actually to within about a mile of shore, so we had to snuggle in close to shore before speed over ground and boat speed through the water began to agree. That close in we had a up close view of the series of hotels and condos and apartments and such lining the Florida coast until south of Miami. Unfortunately, we were also in among the large number of small fishing boats, many of whom stayed out overnight, each with a range of creative light displays, or no lights, making identification difficult. Needless to say, these don't show up well on radar either.

About 9-10 that night, a fast moving small boat, a Zodiac about 20' or so, turned and rapidly moved up, then along side where I could see the prominent Coast Guard markings. The three Coasties on board looked me over with flashlights from about 10 feet off the starboard side and then asked a few questions... "What port are you out off... Where bound... Are you aboard alone?"

"Alone... of course not", he replied. "Shirley, the mate, is below and in repose in preparation for her watch, and damned disappointed she will be", he added, " that she didn't get to meet you fine gentlemen." They apparently decided not to wait for the invitation to dinner which I'm sure Shirley would have given, and also decided not to board by force, so they said their "goodnight and safe voyage" and sped off into the dark to frighten some other mariners, and hopefully even some terrorists if such could be found off the coast of North Miami on such a Friday night.

South of Miami the traffic dropped off quickly and we pretty well had the night to ourselves apart from the random transient cruiser or fishing boat. Shirley enjoys her watches by night and reminds me, as she experiments with sail combinations and trim, "This is my watch and I get to do what I want." She is, of course, right. The wind faded through the night and by dawn we were motoring inside the reefs in Hawk Channel. We anchored about a mile offshore at Islamorada where we had arranged to meet a friend. I dropped the dinghy from the foredeck and mounted the outboard for the run in and picked up John Hixson, our old lake friend and now resident of Key West, who joined us for the overnight run on down to his home port at the Naval Air Station marina. We couldn't have asked for better conditions. Again that marvelous, full moon, with a 15 (sometime 20) kt wind from the beam and no more than light chop on the sea. A few scattered showers gave us a chance to use Shirley's newly made vinyl curtains around the cockpit but overall the weather was Florida balmy and pleasant.

At 0730, we dropped sails and motored into the Boca Chica channel, into the Air Station's marina, in time to tie up in a slip and enjoy a breakfast before everyone crashed to catch up on sleep missed while watching standing these several nights. We're as far south as you can get and still be in the continental US and in an atmosphere about as close to island culture, admittedly pretty eccentric if not outright weird island culture here, as can be got without crossing to the Bahamas and points south. We're glad to be back.

Bill and Shirley Martin

S/V AT EASE

Key West, Florida


Web Posted November 23rd, 2001

We stayed at St Simon, GA for over a week riding, at anchor, a blow which resulted in 20-30 kt winds through the anchorage most days. We went ashore only once, in search of a post office and library for Internet things, and then looked over the historic village area around the prominent lighthouse and museum. Seems a pleasant place, although the resident population is quite prosperous and property development and prices reflect this factor.

We moved about 10 miles south along the ICW to Jekyll Island where the same phenomena is present but to somewhat a lessor extent. With the median age about 60 (I guess), I thought the signs prohibiting skateboarding at the local strip shopping center were a bit much. We did stay overnight in a marina there where we had access to a courtesy car to tour the Island, a laundromat which occupied Shirley into the wee hours, and a hot tub which allowed us to use some of the time while the laundry machines did their thing. 

Heavy fog the next day, with boats leaving for the ICW and returning to the marina, but we left and found no real problems with  visibility (about a half mile). We motored on down to Cumberland Island, to an old Andrew Carnegie (sp?) mansion and estate called Plum Orchard Plantation. Cumberland is part of the historic seashore system and has only a few private homes remaining. The rest of the 20 mile island is kept primitive, a sanctuary for wild horses who graze and such even on the August lawns of the Carnegie mansion. On the 20th, we moved on down the ICW to St Mary's Inlet adjacent to Kings Bay, the Trident Missile submarine base, and exited into the Atlantic for an overnight run to Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona, and New Smyrna Marina where we were to meet some other cruisers for a cooperative Thanksgiving.

Leaving the harbor, past the old Civil War era defense fortification and cannons, a police launch, two loitering tugs and Coast Guard vessels all suggested the pending arrival of a Trident submarine and, sure enough, one surfaced well out and motored into the Inlet escorted by the array of vessels above and a circling Navy helicopter, probably out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station. 

While viewed from a distance, we had already exited the Inlet channel, the Trident submarines are still an awesome spectacle. The run to Ponce Inlet was a straight shot, averaging about 8-12 NM offshore, motor sailing most of the way. We did get to sail for a few hours during the night but the wind, following a light front, clocked and varied until we were again beset by a following wind and countering swell that was confused. The swell worsened during the night and from about midnight until dawn it was a series of sail changes, even some course changes, trying to ease the ride. Rolly indeed... through 60 degrees port to starboard on the big ones... with little we could do to ease the ride. I stood at the fantail trying to make sense of the seas for quite some time but it just seemed confused. While cool, those vinyl curtains in the cockpit, courtesy of Shirley's innovativeness, made the watch standers comfortable and snug. 

At dawn we turned into Ponce Inlet and, once inside of the prominent rock jetties, were sheltered from the swell and had only to contend with the ebbing tidal current of about 1-2 kts while we moved in to the marina. After securing the boat, Shirley was off visiting and exploring while Bill crashed to catch up on his napping. As overnights go, it was a tiring ride but we are now officially in Florida and supposedly warm again. All the travel brochures say so. Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

Bill and Shirley Martin

S/V AT EASE

New Smyrna, FL


Web Posted November 12th, 2001

AT EASE spent a pleasant week in Morehead City, in company with Dick and Betty on N'Joy, tied up at the Sanitary (interesting name) Restaurant so jaunts ashore were only a good step (up or down depending on tide state) away. Ship's dog was appreciative of shore leave opportunities, and once engaged Shirley in a spontaneous game f "catch-me-if-you-can" when she ran blissfully down the waterfront with Shirley in hot pursuit. Picture, if you will, Shirley running after her calling out "Here Saylor, come here." along a waterfront peopled by folks who tend to think of themselves as sailors. Heads turned.

Availability of other restaurants and stores, including a good ship store, made the stay an opportunity to work on various chores as well. Shirley worked on clear vinyl curtains for the cockpit to make the boat more weather friendly. I did various odds and ends of maintenance and round-to-it jobs. We tried to make arrangements to go to Camp Lejeune for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball and had a wonderful and generous offer of the loan of a vehicle from a new old friend, Jim Grimmett, at Camp Lejeune, but alas it was not to be. The various Balls on base which looked attractive were either sold out or had been held the previous week. We did get a brief rental car opportunity to visit the base again, and then back to prepare for getting underway.

Along with N'Joy, we poured over weather faxes and decided the time was right for an offshore jaunt around Cape Fear and down the coast. We decided on St Simon Island, GA, a 315 NM direct line trip, as an intermediate destination since we had bypassed it on the way north. After taking on fuel and water, we made our offing via the Beaufort ship channel, weaving through hordes of small boat fisherman sitting in the channel even as two Coast Guard cutters came in. No one seemed to think this mad scramble of maneuvering was in the least bit unusual. I thought it was pretty tense for a while.

Outside we expected winds from the south at about 10-15 kts, clocking to the northwest over the next day or so. We set out motor sailing with main and headsail but went to main only rather shortly given the head winds. During the course of the day, the wind built from 5 kts or so to 15 kts, maybe more from the SW, and the waves became steeper (2-4 ft) with very brief intervals (9- 10 seconds) so there was the attendant crashing and banging forward with clouds of heavy spray the length of the boat. By dark the relative wind across the deck was at 20 kts with some heavier gusts, and the waves had more than a few occasional 6 footers. We were motor sailing but even then our boat speed was down to the low 5 kt range, down to 3 kts if we punched through larger seas, and the motion of the boat was excessive with rapid pitching and rolling. With Shirley's vinyl curtains we stayed relatively warm and dry in the cockpit but we both got our share of boat-body collisions and bruises through the night. The interior was another story with salt water spray finding entry around the cabin heater chimney and through the foreward hatch's solar fan. Other leaks, I'm sure, but less sure where. That much water under pressure will just find a way to penetrate. We both dreaded having to go to the bathroom what with getting layers of clothes off and on and hanging on also during At Ease's wild gyrations. However, Shirley did decide that a hot meal was in order and we had chicken breasts smothered in mushrooms and garlic with green onions and Greek seasoning... and a suitable wine of course. Glad we bought her that new stove to play with.

After we had rounded Cape Fear, we turned to move closer inland and slowed the boat to about 4 kts over ground. Both these actions improved the motion of the boat which still bucked and rolled but less violently. Clanging noises foreward were identified as a loosened Danforth anchor and chain banging on the bobstay and bowsprit but we elected to wait for daylight when Shirley went forward and secure the anchors. By daylight there was less wind and what was there was both clocking, becoming more northerly, and gusty, making sailing hard in the still large seas. Plus, we seemed to be getting headed by a one kt current and were probably in the fringes of the Gulf Stream which had crept in relatively close to shore. We moved in to about 10-15 NM off shore and found much calmer seas and got out of the opposing current but winds continued to clock until they were dead astern.

AT EASE does not like a following wind. The mainsail can't really get over far enough without laying on the shrouds and then the sail battens are bent and the chafe on the sail is extensive. Plus, the main tends to shadow both the headsails so they flail and flog, filling and luffing, with little real benefit in power. Using headsails alone in any significant wind and sea seems to push the bow down too much for my taste and the boat doesn't feel well balanced. Sheeting the main in tight and putting out a headsail helps with power but any shift in wind or yawl in boat movement, pretty normal in a running sea, puts so much pressure on the main that the autopilot has trouble controlling the boat's direction. Poling out the head sails and even trying wing on wing (head sail on one side and main on the other) improves things some but rigging the pole is difficult if not dangerous on a pitching foredeck and I usually opt to avoid that. Bottom line, I much prefer the wind ahead or on a beam. Well, we had a following sea and wind for all of day two. Numerous changes in sail array and trim were all for naught. We were entertained by several pods of dolphins... always a pleasant diversion. Nice to be back in waters where they abound. By evening we were about 12 NM off shore, near the Charleston inlet channel, and motor sailing with the main only.

Watching standing through the night was pretty typical. The night air was wet and cool but not really all that uncomfortable in our foul weather clothing. The sky was clear with bright stars and a few shooting stars. With radar on we were able to identify both navigational aids (lights and marks) but also to avoid other boat and ship traffic. Another beautiful night with moonlit seas and the accompanying music of the waves and water along side the boat. By dawn winds were very light and variable but, ever the optimist, I had all sails hanging out there just in case. During the rest of day they would fill and spill, bang and luff. But even in these light airs (five or less kts), they did give as a bit of power added on to the engine. I squeezed out all the power I could, trying to make time, as it became more and more clear that we would not reach St Simon until after dark.

Yep... dark again when we entered port. There is a long entry channel, well lighted but with a strong 2.4 kt cross current opposing. We moved into the confusion of shore lights and navigational aids, turning up inside of St Simon's into a Coast Guard designated anchorage where we had the hook down by about 2200 local time. Coming in, I stood high on the fantail trying to make sense of all the lights and current, scanning the radar and bending down to check the electronic charts below. Shirley manned the wheel, supervising the autopilot which tended to get weird and too hot when it struggled with all the current and waves, and watching the depths. Between the two of us we managed to avoid hitting anything hard, although one unlighted marker passed pretty closely along our port side.

Great trip, all in all. We covered 353 NM over 58 hours and had recovered from the first day's lack of sleep to settle into a routine of watch and nap which was increasingly comfortable and pleasant. Glad to be in port and looking forward to exploring ashore, but being out there alone on the sea was pretty nice as well.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Cape Fear, NC


Web Posted November 1st, 2001

After moving down from the Rappahannock River, we anchored off of Fort Monroe at Hampton Roads, hoping to leisurely provision from the commissary while waiting for some friends, Dick and Betty on N'Joy, to do their brief yard interval and move down to join us. We had no sooner hauled a dinghy load of food back to the boat, it was about 1:30, than we got a call from our friends that they were then off the entrance to Norfolk at Cape Henry with the intention of rounding Cape Hatteras that night and continuing on to Lookout Bight in North Carolina. It was a great weather window with clear skies and a north wind of 15 kts sustained from the north, expected to gradually clock around to the east after two days. Shirley hurriedly stowed provisions and I scurried topside to get ready for an offshore excursion. With the dinghy collapsed on the foredeck, outboard mounted to the stern rail, and most of the deck cargo lashed, up came the anchor and we motored out into the harbor.

Norfolk is a busy harbor with large, well marked entrance-departure  channels and big ship traffic. However, we eased out of the main channels and moved off around Cape Henry and the Virginia Beach-Little Creek areas and set sail. It was only then that I went below to work out the navigation involved and to set a route for the trip. It looked to be a 30+ hour run with arrival at either Beaufort, NC or Lookout Bight after dark on Halloween night. What a very special night it was. First treated to a spectacular sunset, we had the joy of a spirited sail under a full moon and clear sky, charging off shore to round one of the most significant landmarks on the east coast. With a 15 kt sustained wind on our port beam and seas off the port quarter of 2-4 ft pushing us along, we kept boat speed up to the high sevens all night. The swells were big enough that we surfed into the 8 kt range routinely and once I saw a dizzying 9.2 kts over ground. It was cold enough that a sweater and our foul weather gear felt good in the cockpit, in spite of the weather cloths all around and some special Sunbrella gates Shirley had made to break the airflow into the cockpit from down the port and starboard walkways. We stood watches off and on all night but it was uneventful. At some point we passed over the watery grave of the Monitor, of Monitor-Merriac fame, where she sank while being towed around Cape Hatteras. No shortage of wrecks around here. However, fishing boats and ships must have known we had something special going and they graciously let us have our night to ourselves. We were treated with the music of the sea all night with the musical chimes of rigging in wind, the whisper of a building wave in the dark, the foaming slide as At Ease would slipped off the side of some waves, or the blustery rush as we surfed down the front of other waves.

At daybreak, between the running lights, radios, radar, autopilot, etc,  we needed an engine run to recharge the batteries. That must have broken the spell because in short order that superb wind became erratic in puffs and clouds moved in for a Cape Hatteras squall. In the midst of this, we heard a Coast Guard advisory that winds above 20 kts and seas at 6 feet had been reported off Diamond Rocks. We could confirm that. The squall line had winds up to about 23 kts and the winds within the squall were variable and gusty and not much use for sailing. The swells built to 4-6 with some honest 8 footers from time to time, all from the stern quarter, so the boat was pretty active. We motor sailed for the rest of the day and evening. The stern swells really bothered the autopilot which seemed to react too slowly so the boat was yawing widely and the sails were filling and flogging. No trim or sail combination seemed to solve that problem. I switched to the wind vane autopilot, a Monitor, and it quickly took hold eacting much more quickly and actually holding the boat pretty well until the winds became even more erratic. We never did get any reliable wind and the sails went in and out, up and down in an effort to trim to some benefit. Alas, to no avail. All we got for our efforts were banging, flogging sails and one broken sail slide from a pesky, unexpected gybe. Another beautiful sunset right on the bow and on into the night. About 10 PM, after about 32 hours, we crossed Lookout Point shoals, picking our way carefully through the shallows, all under an unbelievably bright moon that almost seemed like a search light beamed directly on us. We turned in to Lookout Bight, a curing spit of sand with a prominent lighthouse, well marked and roomy and a great place for a tired crew to harbor. With only about four other boats there was plenty of room. Splash went the anchor and within minutes we were both snuggled down and seriously asleep. Out and around Cape Hatteras... Okay, we've done that.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Lookout Bight, NC


Web Posted October 31st, 2001

Bill and I are in the backwoods of "Virginny" at Yankee Point Marina. We have been here for twelve days, longer than we had hoped but things always take longer than you think they will in a boat yard. We got the bottom job done and a few other boat repairs completed. We are waiting for a part that should come in today. The Marina yard is having an oyster fest tomorrow and Bill wants to fill his belly with oysters before we head south, but if all goes as planned, we will leave Sunday. This is an absolutely gorgeous area with trees at their peak color right now, but Yankee Point Marina isn't close to anything. Since we don't have a car, finding a place to buy groceries and wash clothes is always a challenge. Another boater told me about they had heard of a bus that would take you to town, so I got a phone number from the marina office, who knew very little about the bus, other than that you had to call for the bus to come get you.  

Bill had lots of boat chores, and I had lots of clothes that needed washing so I bravely called the number and asked about riding and whether I could take my dirty clothes with me. Understand that I had a huge sail bag of clothes and didn't have a clue what this bus would be like. The dispatcher explained that I would need to go to Kilmarnock, 13 miles away. The cost to ride the bus is $1.00 per stop, and $1.00 per county. What a deal! The van, not bus, just happened to be fairly near where I was and picked me up in 15 minutes. The van is actually a part of Area Agency on Aging. Some of their passengers include the elderly, people without transportation who need to get to work, drunk drivers who have lost their driver's license, and boat bums like me. It seems to me a great use of service that I thought was only available to the elderly. The bus driver pointed out the post office, library, and grocery store on the way in to town, then let me out right at the door of the Laundromat, thank goodness--me with my big red bag of dirty clothes slung over my shoulder, and told me to call the office when I was ready to go home.

While the clothes were washing, I asked Phyllis, the young African American female laundry caretaker, how to get back to the post office. She said, "Oh that's too far to walk. Let me see if anyone is going that way." She asked Connie, another African American, if she would take me and said not to worry about my clothes, she would watch them for me. Connie not only took me to the post office, but waited for me and took me to the library. Giving me a big hug, she carefully explained that when I left the library, I was to stay on the sidewalk on the right side of the street, turn right at the U-Haul and I would be back at the  Laundromat in 10 minutes. When the clothes were finished and packed in their big red sail bag, I left them with Phyllis, and went across the street to buy a few groceries. Shoppers in the grocery were warm and friendly. I found a pay phone and called for the van, which luckily was just coming into town with another load of folks and picked me up at the Laundromat within 10 minutes. Meeting the people on the van was a delightful experience itself. They told me stories of their lives, engaged each other in conversation, and gave me a sense of being at home and welcome in a new community. I will be sorry to leave this backwoods Virginny.  

Shirley


Web Posted October 18th, 2001

AT EASE is "on the hard", in the yard and on stands, at Yankee Point  Marina off the Rappahannock River. We pulled out on Tuesday and anticipate being here at the yard for about a week. AT EASE didn't look bad after a pressure wash to get the growth off. There were a scattering of barnacles but the bottom paint put on last year held up well. We'll do a light sanding, put on one more coat, and get back in the water by Friday. While here, I installed the new Broadwater galley stove which seems to be a good hunk of hardware and Shirley seems pleased as well. I'm anticipating significant output from that oven so we are planning a reprovision trip to stock the pantry after leaving here. Certainly can't do much along those lines now.  

This is rural Virginia... surrounding land is wooded and laced with rivers and navigable creeks which are lightly developed with attractive retirement and summer homes (mostly). Lots of boats, power and sail, tucked into coves and at private docks. Even this far inland there are active crabbers working their traps daily. There are a number of marinas, many new ones, including this one which is only a few years old. Within the marina there is a marine store, of sorts, and a coke machine sets outset beside the ice machine. No groceries. No restaurants. Nothing else short of a limited country store 3.5 miles away and a small community, Kilmarnock, about 13 miles away. The low density of people and services feels a lot like Arkansas, but without the associated rural poverty so characteristic of much of Arkansas. Our impression of coastal Virginia is pretty positive so far. Green, neatly groomed and relatively prosperous. And now blooming with bright fall colors so vivid in the crisp, clean and sparkling fall air.

I have a few chores remaining. I have to pull the dinghy to shore, flip it over and scrape the marine growth from its bottom. I had the anchor chain regalvinized and will have to mark lengths on it when it returns. It's always so difficult to judge how much chain we have out and any paint tends to chip away as it is pulled back aboard through the windlass gypsy. And we use the plow anchor (CQR) pretty well all the time having been disappointed with the Danforth anchor while fails to set pretty often even in this coastal mud. Our Fortress anchor, however, really digs in and holds well but is a bit undersized for me to be confident in any heavy weather. We broke out the sewing machine and Shirley mended our sail cover for the boom. The cold led us to rig our weather clothes, the canvas on the life lines on each side of the cockpit. Mornings are pretty brisk with a heavy frost this morning and maybe a mild freeze last night.

The flood of cruisers heading south has really begun and we hear them checking into the morning high frequency radio net up and down the SE US coast with many already deep into the Carolinas and into Florida probably. Our friends on Nocturne, Ray and Terre, left today heading for a meeting with friends in Pamlico Sound, NC. We enjoyed running into them again but look forward to trading new sea stories when next we see them. Other cruisers are out and about their boats. The standard greeting is "Heading south?" The answer universally seems to be an emphatic "Yes". We hope to get out and cruise up the creeks today or tomorrow to explore the area from a different perspective. We're getting restless though... ready to head south and stay ahead of the bad (read COLD) weather coming. I'm still wearing shorts, guarding my personal record for consecutive days in shorts, but finding those wool sweaters are really calling me and it is challenging now to step into the water when I beach the dinghy... sandals are not much protection from the shock of that chilling water.

Bill and Shirley Martin

S/V AT EASE

Yankee Point Marina, VA


Web Posted October 10th, 2001

Well the boat show is over and, like the typical Christmas, it was somewhat disappointing. But even a disappointing day in Annapolis is still pretty cotton picking good. There seemed to be just a few less exhibitors this year and no new gadgets that we fell in love with and just had to have. We did manage to purchase a new galley stove (Broadwater) that Shirley is excited about, and did purchase a night vision scope which I am so far pretty disappointed with but just found a new adjustment which I intend to try (tonight) before shipping it back to whence it came. I also bought a new filtering system for diesel algae (Algae-X) which has been advertised in a few of the magazines but as far as I know has not yet been evaluated by Practical Sailor or other independent sources. I may have just installed a high tech pet rock but if it will cut down on changing diesel filters I'm ready to experiment.

We spent two days at the show, wandering from tent to tent, and saw a few old friends. We were disappointed we did not see anyone from Arkansas or the Iron Mt Yacht Club... probably another big party there kept folks from heading to Annapolis. Perhaps more exciting than the show has been the gathering of cruisers who are in one stage or another of preparation for the annual exodus south. For those familiar with Annapolis, Back Creek and Spa Creek are just jammed with boats anchored unbelievably close to one to another. Even with two anchors it just looks frightening. Yet, even with two gusty blows in recent days, each exceeding 20 kts at the mast head (not sure of surface), I only heard of one dragging and he was chased down by a fleet of dinghies that did tug and tow duty. Annapolis Harbor itself is, of course, largely occupied by the newly erected floating docks associated with the show. However, there are a hosts of boats, some pretty impressive and just BIG, anchored just off the harbor in unprotected water. Pretty lumpy water they're setting on. Much worse with all the traffic produced wakes interacting with the collision of Severn River current and Bay tide. 

We're setting in Weems Creek on an Academy mooring ball and doing just fine thank you. Just prior to the show, more boats came in and anchored here and there but there is still plenty of room and most folks are painfully courteous in the creek and at the dinghy landing. Most are US boats but there are several Canadians, some Brits and one French boat just showed up. Picture the various moored boats, surrounding wooded bluffs with trees just beginning to turn, all bathed by delightfully cool days (with frankly chilly nights) and bright sun. Most afternoons, the various Academy rowing teams do their training runs through the creek, even some mild weaving as they move through the anchored boats. 

Annapolis residents themselves seem really into boats with day sailors out pretty well all the time, kayakers (sp?) galore and even a few private racing sculls. We'll be sad to leave. But leave we will. I've pretty well completed most of my immediate boat chores and we have partied, visited and chatted with just about everybody we know in the area. Time to head south. I've made an appointment with Yankee Point Marina on the on the Rappahanock for a bottom job and a little roller furling work. From there it's off to Florida and from there across to the islands yet again. We're looking at an offshore trip around Cape Hatteras to Beaufort, NC just to say we've done it. I really would rather do this than go back down through VA to NC via the ICW. I've had enough ICW for awhile. Weather considerations will make that decision for us. 

Bill and Shirley 

S/V AT EASE

Annapolis, MD


Web Posted September 25th, 2001

We're anchored in Weems Creek, just a mile or so from downtown. The creek is perhaps a quarter mile across at its mouth, and goes in a half mile or so before one comes up against bridges too low for most boats to pass. Water is 10-15' deep, mildly brackish. Around the creek are bluff shores, heavily wooden with striking homes tucked in among the trees. At night, at the homes light up, one becomes aware of the expanse of glass overlooking the water. It is quite and peaceful mostly but the Severn River is very busy during the weekends, churned up to a confused chop by wakes and roily from the collision of current heading down and tide heading up. This turbulence finds its way into the creek, especially toward the mouth, and creates a not uncomfortable but active action in the anchored boats.

Actually, anchored is somewhat a misnomer. Most boats are tied up to mooring boys, placed by the Naval Academy and where they deploy their fleet of sailboats if threatened by hurricanes. These are free to cruisers here in Weems, and in several other area creeks, until such storms when the Navy comes by and politely asks folks to vacate. There are other boats anchored among the moorings, that includes us for now, and I suspect there will be more as the boat show crowd gathers. More boats are coming in daily, and quite a range indeed. Most are crewed by couples, some young and some retired and some it's difficult to tell. Motor- sailers, trawlers, sloops, ketches, cutters, some sleek and new and most salty, well traveled and clearly lived on.

I think our AT EASE fits into the latter category. Yesterday, we had forewarning of a front coming through with some reportedly intense storm cells within, reportedly arriving in the mid afternoon. I made a run into town, down the Severn and around into Annapolis past the Academy, and encountered swells of 2-3' where river and bay met. Our new Caribe dinghy performed wonderfully. It was a dry ride, but bumpy, and it took some care and throttle work to keep from flying off the crests and crashing down into the troughs. Coming back, the dinghy ran even better without the crashing and banging. Later, when the storm hit, we were on a friend's boat, and got a radio call that our anchor was dragging. Back to the boat in a hurry to board and let out more chain. That pretty well stopped us but by then we were near a private mooring, empty, so I tied on it as well for insurance. Even in the rain, two other boaters came out in their dinghy's to offer help.

Today, we'll move alongside another friend to raft for the day. They plan to leave tomorrow and we will then occupy their Navy mooring for the remainder of our stay here. Maintenance is still never ending. Anchor chain must twist as it comes in over the windlass and down the hawsehole into the locker. Months ago, we got some monofilament fishing line on our chain and this kept it from twisting naturally. Now, with frequent use, we have accumulated some snarls and binds in the chain making it more difficult to deploy. This looks like a good opportunity to let out the 200' of chain and then retrieve it more neatly. The chain is also rusting pretty badly and it needs to be regalvinized. I'm a bit intimidated by the workload involved in getting that off the boat and to a place for regalvinizing.

Bill and Shirley 

S/V AT EASE

Annapolis, MD


Web Posted September 21stth, 2001

We've come back to Annapolis to collect mail and found more of our friends anchored. I suspect we will tarry for awhile, maybe pass for now on doing the Eastern Shore of Maryland, maybe not. In any event, the pressure is off and we have no particular schedule we have to meet for now. We do want to see the boat show here (Oct 4-7) and then will start moving south again for the winter, pausing for a haul-out and bottom job in Virginia enroot. Cruisers abound here and there will just be more as the show date approaches. We had barely gotten our anchor down when another cruiser dinghied up and invited us to a party of cruisers planned for tonight.  

Everyone is glued to radio and television. As a spectator, I am encouraged by the responses of Americans. But I am not inspired by the melodramatic patriotism. That will pass, it always does, and while better than nothing the superficiality of it all is distasteful. What impresses me is the level of discussion out there in the "heartland" where people are suddenly aware there are major issues in the world to which they were massively indifferent and unaware. To that degree, terrorists objectives have been met... Americans are making an effort to become more knowledgeable about Islam and aware of the intrusive and insensitive way we have treated Islamic and Arabic countries, especially the poorer ones, through several administrations. We are becoming aware that Arabic politicians, in non-democratic countries, have been very  successful in characterizing the US as anti-Islamic and anti-Arabic rather than anti-totalitarian.

Economic issues have been distorted by these spin-masters to the point that their citizens don't recognize our concerns about economic or political issues but instead see US policy and presence as attacks against their religion, hence their basic beliefs and culture. These awareness's, while terrorist goals, will also make us a better and stronger country. We do, however, have to make a major effort to educate the Islamic and Arabic world as to what we are attacking and, at the same time, demonstrate to them we are willing to defend and protect and support their culture and religion. Pretty major effort and one which will take more time, probably, than the military operations.

Oops! I've gotten preachy again. But, with apology, it's hard not to have one's  thoughts dominated by such intrusive contemporary events.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Annapolis, MD


Web Posted September 17th, 2001

We went into Washington yesterday, riding Amtrak in to Union Station. Initial impressions... very few folks on the streets and many police. The state of emergency had been canceled so no military presence was noted apart from some helicopter traffic. We walked immediately by the capital, then down the mall to the Vietnam and Korea memorials, then back to Union Station via the White House. As the day progressed, more people were on the street, some locals, but some tourist types as well. Flags everywhere. The police were very visible, some standing on corners, vehicles parked in the middle of intersections and simply in the street. New traffic barriers were everywhere, especially around the capital and the White House. Interestingly, security was not especially evident at Union Station. We did not see the Pentagon from the rail line.

Security at the base continues to be heavy with roving water patrols for the riverside boundary and walking posts around the entrances and exits. However, people are clearly less intense and seem to be relaxing back into something like a routine. Word is this will be more relaxed at noon today. I'm afraid that with all the extra security presence there are still serious flaws in the effectiveness of the additional efforts. I can't help feeling that this is more psychological... it makes us feel better to be doing something and/or to see something being done. I'm afraid the security succeeds in hassling average folks rather than in inhibiting anyone skilled or motivated to breach security.

We will be leaving today and heading back into the Annapolis area, perhaps to St Michaels or Oxford, MD. We still want to do the boat show before we start back south and we need a brief boat yard period for bottom paint and some rigging work and hope to get that done in Virginia. It will be nice to get back into a cruising mode and back around other cruisers.  


Web Posted:  September 13th, 2001

We are tied up in the on base marina at Quantico, a Marine Corps base located about 27 miles out of Washington and right on the Potomac river. We came up the Potomac yesterday with the television going in the cockpit as this horrible story evolved. Washington declared a state of emergency restricting physical access via road and, of course, shutting down the airports. They also closed the Potomac to commercial and recreational boats at Washington. We knew the base had gone to a high state of security and wondered if we could get in. As it happened, they were still getting their security in place and we came in and tied up without problems although a boat just before us had been turned away. Now there are combat equipped sentries in the marina proper and armed patrol boats in the river. We've seen many helicopters moving in and out of the base, some of these are the special use helicopters configured for VIP transport in Washington such as the president uses, and some are, I suspect, being used for casualty recovery. The combat air patrols over Washington actually fly over us as well as they make their sweeps of the city and an AWAC is visible from time to time. I've made sure the sentries in the marina know we are aboard, but even with that I have not wanted to be moving around the marina after dark. I'm sure these young Marines are pretty excited. I know I would be. 

I just spoke to an Army officer who was at his office in the Pentagon yesterday. He says he was adjusting television watching the Trade Centers in New York when everything went black... power off, black smoke and fireball. Debris slammed into the outer wall but neither the blast nor the debris broke the window in front of which he was standing. He was thrown to the floor and ended up with badly bruised buttocks but was incredibly lucky that the glass did not shred him. He says both he and the officer sharing his office with him knew immediately that the blast was part of what had just happened in New York. They grabbed a somewhat hysterical secretary and departed, manually overriding the closed fire doors, into smoke filled hallways where they had to guess at the safe exits from the building. Once out, there was confusion. They eventually were told to go home until they were contacted. He was walking down I-95 in his dirty, smoke stained uniform when some college students gave him a bike. He rode the bike for about 6 miles until out of the area and then got a ride home. He described the blast damage as largely restricted to the first ring, with fire and debris blown onto the roofs of the remaining four rings, where the fire did more damage. What a wake up call for America! There really is no defense against this sort of suicidal attack. We will react, and probably over react, with increased security measures which will make life more complicated for Americans and will make it a bit more difficult for terrorists to make other successful attacks. 

However, there will be other attacks and there will be more casualties and we will all feel much less secure. In fact, security was always an illusion. We are at war. This is a different kind of war, but it is a war. It is not a "crime" and I hope it will not be treated as a crime. To call it a crime is to actually deny the magnitude of the event and confuses us as to an appropriate response. Was Pearl Harbor a "crime scene"? Were Japanese airmen tried as simple murderers? The rules for this war will be different. I'm not even sure this could be considered a "war crime" given the "new" rules. We may not even know the rules at this time but they will require some different applications of military force. The neat and clean use of aircraft, smart stand  off weapons and missiles will probably not be sufficient. People will likely have to cross borders and use a more personal form of violence to counter this threat.

 I think we will stay put here until things settle down and certainly until Washington opens up again. We would still like to go into Washington but suspect that it will be far from "business as usual" for quite some time into the future. Cell phone service is not very good... too many calls probably. We did get voice messages from several friends but somehow the calls did not come through.

Bill and Shirley 

S/V AT EASE

Quantico, VA


Web Posted:  September 9th, 2001

Annapolis has been its usual, special self. Shirley and I have both enjoyed walking these marvelous streets in  the historic district, many brick and all rich with a flavor of times gone by. We sampled the fare at several restaurants... some better than others but all rather expensive. The scenery is spectacular, regardless of where one looks. We have visited other boaters, some who we haven't seen in months and months, and other friends with whom we have enjoyed wonderful times even in the last few weeks. Truly one of the real delights of cruising has been discovering and rediscovering old-new friends in the different anchorages as we wander. Shirley has been doing her thing again... meeting local, non-boating folks who have graciously invited us into their homes and introduced us to their friends. With this, we have had rather privileged access to Annapolis and even the Naval Academy that would not have been otherwise possible. What a cosmopolitan community... we met a retired Army officer, Grant Walker, who is a historian at the Academy and an assistant curator at the Academy museum. We met his wife Annick, a Belgian national, and their friends Allen, an engineer with electronics background (originally British and now dual American) and Carol (French but originally from Haiti) who had a career with the World Bank and traveled extensively around the world. What fascinating conversation that led to over dinner, and how interesting to find commonalities in all our experiences. Grant later led us on a personal tour of the Academy museum with wonderful background and insights into his area of personal expertise, the age of sail and the 17th and 18th century models of Royal Navy ships, carved in exact detail and created at the time the ships themselves were actually constructed. He has a book pending publishing... we're eager to get a copy.

We have taken advantage of the numerous marine services available here. I've had our propane tanks upgraded and recertified, had a spare alternator rebuilt, had our refrigeration tweaked so that it now draws less power but is more reliably cold, and even bought a small, folding bike. It appears that we have the energy problems under good control, at least for now. We're able to largely manage daily energy needs with our alternate sources (wind and solar) with relatively brief engine runs likely most, but not necessarily every, day. I now have good enough instrumentation to monitor energy so very much better. The bike will give us more range when visiting in various ports but we are not yet sure they will be worth the lost space and additional clutter on the boat. Hence, only one for now. It has been handy here what with my ranging out into the town to get marine "stuff".

We've been anchored out, just off the Academy, while here and the ride has been bumpy most days but not really uncomfortable. This anchorage has given us a ring-side seat to view the essentially daily sail boat races at the mouth of the Severn, both Academy racers and groups from the community. Everywhere one looks there are boats, both motor and sail, of every imaginable size and shape, coming and going or just planted here and there. It's hard to believe that the numbers will grow so very much larger during the boat shows. One wonders were additional boats could fit but apparently they do. We have found that the Navy Station for Annapolis has a marina which they state is unsheltered (couldn't be worse than where we have been) but which apparently has space (mooring balls) even during the shows. This morning, with weekend boat traffic and tide and current in opposition, the water is churned into a veritable maelstrom. We popped up the anchor and motored in to fuel and water, then upstream to Weems Creek, where some good friends have been tucked away, to grab one of the Academy's mooring balls for an overnight. There's a three boat potluck meal tonight then out tomorrow morning for the Potomac and Washington. Shirley's plans are to take shorter days underway with stops in mid afternoon so we can explore ashore. From here, that probably means The Solomons (Patuxent River), then two stops on the Potomac somewhere... Mt Vernon and somewhere else maybe. Will have to look over the cruising guides to see what's available.

The weather has been absolutely delightful. Good snuggling weather at night and sunny and moderate during the days. Warnings about the humid heat of the Chesapeake have not been realized at all. Guess we have just been lucky. However, they were right about the flies and we now have two fly swatters in play.

Bill and Shirley 

S/V AT EASE

Annapolis


Web Posted:  September 3rd, 2001

With some new friends from S/V Tumbleweed, Bob and Jill Thompson, we went into Kilmarnock, intending to walk the mile or so down a country  road from the small harbor where we anchored. Within a quarter of a mile a local gentleman offered a ride. I was wearing a Marine Corps tee shirt and he volunteered he was a former Marine as well. Very nice man... he drove us around the town and left us with a very warm feeling about the whole community. I suspect he would have picked us up even if I had worn a Navy tee shirt but then one never really knows. Kilmarnock is a community that tries. The local art show was impressive and well attended. We lunched later at an apparently popular cafe and were struck with the numbers of older, retired folks much like us only better dressed of course.

We departed there enroute to Annapolis but stopped overnight at St Mary's River which enters the Potomac just above its entrance into Chesapeake Bay. St Mary is also the site of the original colonial capital of Maryland and there is a reconstructed state house, a 17th century plantation and a replica 56' brig-rigged, square sailed, three master from that era, all on display. The ship was a treat... tarred hemp standing rigging and wooden deadeyes and blocks. Topmast were in place on the main and foremast and the mizzen had a spanker on a boom. I saw her sailing with main, foresail, and topsails and she moved remarkably well even when tacking back and forth to move down the river. It's a well done replica with no messy auxiliary engine. Would love to have sailed her. Other displays in the historic area were interesting but confusing.

They have built "aesthetic" reproductions on sites away from the original and had some apparently original sites located there as well so it was a bit confusing to both of us. However, it is a strikingly beautiful area. Along the shore there are farms and homes. frequently on prominent bluffs, surrounded by manicured and expansive lawns and bordered by lush patches of forest and lawn- like pastures of brilliantly green grass bordered typically by white wooden fences. Today we stood on a bluff near the historic site, overlooking the horseshoe bay below. There were a dozen or so anchored sailboats, including AT EASE, and trawlers, with dinghies here and there trailing creamy wakes in the blue and otherwise calm water. Add to that scene a crisply cool Fall morning with dry and clear air under a brilliantly blue sky... My, my, my. Tomorrow, it's off for Annapolis.

Since our departure last year, we will pass the 3000th total nautical miles within the first mile tomorrow. Down the St Mary, left on the Potomac and out into the Bay. Hoping for some air to sail with but how bad can it be?

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

St Mary's River, MD


Web Posted:  August 31st, 2001 -- Kilmarnock Wharves, Virginia

Well Sarah Creek was a busy stay for S/V AT EASE and crew. We met interesting fellow cruisers, ate some great seafood and  did some inter- boat visiting while I spent time busily crawling about the boat armpit deep in the wiring and 12 volt system yet again. This time I was going for a solution to lingering and unexplained energy losses which have plagued us for months. I installed new monitoring equipment as well as a new voltage regulator and alternator. Unfortunately, the regulator was faulty and created more problems which took a couple of days to resolve. The supplier, West Marine, graciously sent a new unit overnight and, once installed, seems to be working correctly. By selectively turning equipment on and off we have discovered surprising energy losses. Our refrigerator draws not just 7.4 amps (which I thought very high), but 9.4 amps. Our TV/VCR uses 15 amps when playing but actually draws 2 amps just sitting plugged in but turned off... probably the internal memory and moisture control. That accounts for the 3-4 amps loss which I could not explain earlier.

Hopefully we have the energy management problem under  better control now. We motor-sailed from Sarah Creek back out into the Chesapeake and then up the Rappahannock River to Urbanna, another very old Virginia town with its own pre-revolutionary buildings. Nice little anchorage and very well protected. One of those scattered thunderstorms did come through with gusty conditions and lightening but all boats managed well and anchors stayed in place in this good holding ground. We've marked this as a hurricane hole should one be needed. Anchoring out, we quickly met two other cruisers, one out a year and the other had been in Northern Europe for 10 years and had just returned. More inter-boat visiting, dinners and outings together. A local marina manager very graciously offered dinghy access, and local knowledge, and the town is truly accessible by foot with marine supplies, groceries, drug stores, etc... We enjoyed our stay.

We left for Kilmarnock, a small town up Indian Creek (which opens into the Bay proper), where a Labor Day Arts Festival has attracted attention. The trip in was just another beautiful day. Bright sun and hazy conditions out on the bay, with good wind but right on the nose again. The "creek" is substantial with heavily wooded shores and some residential development. Most homes have piers and docks with power and sail boats. As it meanders in from the Bay, the creek narrows but there remains a good, deep channel and a sheltered anchorage is readily available. From the city wharfs on the creek, it is about a mile up a well marked road to the town proper and we haven‘t made the trip yet. Probably will over the next day or two, or may wait for some friends to join us in this anchorage, probably today. I plan to do some more boat chores and some reading. Time to don the diving gear and do a little cleaning on the bottom. An embarrassing amount of grass is all too visible around the waterline. I also need to clean the small paddle-wheel that tells boat speed. I've been relying on the GPS to give that information but the boat instrument is helpful in identifying current as well as speed. While the weather has been hot during the day, the nights have been cool and there is a touch of Fall in the air with geese flying and raucously calling, and a pleasant coolness in the mornings. We have used our boat canopy only twice, the weather having been so moderate, but will put it up today... just because. It has been nice to get through the worse of the summer without air conditioning and without much discomfort. Chesapeake Bay has been wonderful thus far. There truly are thousands of possible anchorages and areas to visit. Everyone we meet suggests their favorites and the list is getting longer and more impossible. It's easy to see why the Bay is so popular among boaters... everything we have seen has been beautiful as well as replete with historical significance, and even more interesting and exciting places are just up the road.

Now the technical stuff ... I installed the new alternator, three stage voltage regulator and a Link 1000 instrument system to monitor the boats 12 volt system. Everything checked out initially but when I got underway, on a Sunday so no help immediately available, problems emerged. It's not the first time that I've found brand new equipment being faulty. The regulator failed to cycle so the alternator stayed in bulk charge until the batteries were at 15 volts... then I shut it down. From then on, the regulator blew fuses each time I turned it on; it had blown one fuse even earlier. Drats! Had to wait, of course, until Monday to call for help but West Marine was very helpful and apologetic and sent a replacement regulator overnight. Installed that and everything has worked well since. With the Link 1000 I can actually monitor amperage used and the status of the battery bank (voltage and amperage). By selectively turning on/off equipment, and with use of a neat hand tool that measures amperage (which I borrowed... got to have one of those), we discovered surprising energy drains. The new refrigeration, which I knew to use a whopping 7.4 amps hourly when ctive, in fact uses about 9.4 amps. Making ice is pretty expensive,  energy-wise.

Even more surprising, our TV/VCR uses 14 amps when playing but even just being plugged in it draws 2 amps. This undoubtedly has something to do with moisture control and maybe even internal memory but is outrageously extravagant in energy use. If we leave it plugged in, we lose energy and if we don't the moisture/humidity is such that it won't come on until it sets with energy for a period of time and dries out. We can hurry that along with a hair dryer but there goes the energy again. In any event, this accounts for the 3-4 amps of energy loss per hour that I couldn't understand before. We have a respectable battery bank now (440 amp hours capacity) but using the recommended 50%-85% rule for charging, we really only use 35% (154 amps) of that capacity most of the time. Hence, losing up to 96 amps a day unnecessarily really cut into our reserves and had us charging up to twice a day even with our alternate energy sources (wind and solar). Solutions... well, we both like ice so the fridge keeps on ticking. We haven't enjoyed or used our TV all that much so suspect it will gather more dust even in the future. Both Shirley and I prefer reading and reading lights are less energy expensive than the TV.We are both more energy conscious and will likely save amps just from more judicious use of lights, fans, radios, etc... Bottom line, we like our electricity and like how it improves life quality, so will charge as often as necessary but will be more conscious of our energy budget.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Kilmarnock Wharves, Virginia


Web Posted:  August 20th, 2001

Yesterday and today we did the Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown visits. What a wonderful opportunity to travel from the first successful English colony, through the first representational government in America (Hourse of Burgesses), to the end of the English colonial experience... all in the space of a few hours and a few miles. Both Shirley and I have enough of the romantic within to easily picture scenes from 1607 Jamestown (midst heat and bugs and swamp), 1774 Williamsburg (and that superb common green and simple small town that was the Virginia capitol), and 1781 Yorktown, with the vision of those columns of redcoat soldiers marching to Surrender Field to the tune of "A World Turned Upside Down". Quite an experience. Williamsburg is especially well done and a marvelous walking tour. The employees, in period dress, are all apparently well informed and very helpful. We had dinner in a tavern across from the Raleigh Tavern where members of the Burgesses met unofficially and passed resolutions after having been disbanded by the British Governor for their less than loyal leanings. 

We rented a car and drove about this peninsula with so much US history jammed into such a small space. We saw the Confederate field fortifications which had been built atop the British fortifications from 80 years earlier, and looked out across a field where once 25,000 fought which today would be the frontal area assigned to perhaps a 250 man company. That was war up close and personal. The road side markers all along the peninsula were so numerous we finally stopped reading so we could cover some ground. The National Park Service and their Virginia counterparts have done a wonderful job of preservation, restoration and presentation. We're anchored off of Sarah Creek, York River, near a large and modern marina. Immediately across from us is Yorktown. Within a biscuit toss of our route in, the French fleet of 1781 stood off of Yorktown and participated in the shore bombardment and blockaded the British fleet while bottling up Cornwallis' command. There are still remains of sunken British ships in these waters. Cape Gloucester, our side of the York, was also fortified by the British but this has not been preserved. 

I would love to simply wander these woods to see what artifacts have been overlooked but suspect I would not be the first such hopeful. The trip up from Norfolk was a treat... open water again after miles and miles of the tightly channelized Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). Departing the Navy Base Marina we entered the main shipping channel, pausing to graciously grant right-of-way to a huge container ship, and then motor- sailed out past Hampton and Fort Monroe, over the Bay Bridge Tunnel, and turned back into Chesapeake Bay proper. The sun was bright and it was hot but there was a haze that blurred the horizon until one could not distinguish between water and sky. We had all three sails up given a forecast of 5-10 kt winds, but this was overly optimistic. What wind was there we probably made. The water was starkly flat... greasy flat... with wakes from occasional fishing boats prominent and traveling on into infinity. Moving into Sarah's Creek for anchorage was another adventure... nature's way of paying us back for the uneventful trip over. Immediately outside of the twisting entry channel we bumped aground. No big deal... low tide and all. Groundings are remarkably commonplace along the ICW and in the Chesapeake. Every boat we meet describes these common experiences. It does seem it happens to us all too often, but we usually manage to get free without help. I shut the engine down to wait and decided to try and pull-push us free with the dinghy. 

Generally, planting the bow of the inflatable against strategic locations on the hull, and then pushing the boat much like a tug, seems to be the best approach. It worked again and I pushed the boat into the channel. Behold... boat floating. Behold... no engine. Shirley quickly dumped an anchor off the bow and I tugged one out astern. This time the sticky solenoid was not the culprit... everything came on but the starter failed to turn. Finally found a marginally loose connection on the starter (imagine a largely inaccessible starter and a very hot engine) and tightened it. Yanmar came alive yet again. Into the anchorage we went to discover old friends from the Bahamas, Nocturne and N'Joy, and a fun reunion. Ray, Terre (Nocturne) and Betty (N'Joy) accompanied us on part of our history jaunt while Dick stayed aboard N'Joy working on boat projects and tweaking a recently rebuilt diesel. We're waiting here for some mail to catch up and I'll use this as an opportunity to do some boat chores which have been piling up. From here, on up the Chesapeake, probably over to Mobjack Bay and the Severn River next and then north generally toward Annapolis. Folks keep telling us to go to Baltimore where one can safely anchor in the middle of the inner harbor and conveniently see the town. We will make it a point to go past the mouth of the Choptank River just to check out James A. Michener's descriptions in his book "The Chesapeake". 

Bill and Shirley Martin 

S/V AT EASE

Sarah's Creek, York River, VA


Web Posted:  August 14th, 2001

We enjoyed our stay in Oriental but still have trouble seeing how this could be the "Sailing Capitol of North Carolina". We did enjoy the excellent marine store located immediately within the harbor, and enjoyed the people we met. Free, courtesy bikes from the marina store were a blessing. Supposedly a great assemblage of blue water sailors now call this home. Sure enough, the lady ahead of us at the grocery store was a 10 year live aboard, originally from California, now a home owner in Oriental. Certainly was a friendly town and there are now several marinas and yards capable of doing extensive work. We took the opportunity to upgrade dinghy and purchased a Caribe RIB (10'3") which is a pleasure and really suitable for pretty rough conditions and for longer range explorations. We haven't put it on deck yet and that will be a test. Also, it tows with really pronounced oscillations because of the single tow ring... may install dual tow rings to settle the beast down.  

We motor-sailed up to Belhaven for an overnight stay. Not a very interesting stop but it was an interesting trip up the Neuse River and the Pamilco Sound. Certainly big water and the shores are not overly developed. Seems like it would be really interesting gunkholing but shoal water. We motored up the Pongo River, into the Alligator and out into Abermarle Sound. It has the reputation of being a rough crossing under any weather conditions. The combination of shallow water and typically brisk winds creates big swell action. For our crossing, we had 15-20 kts and a following swell up to 4'. Drove the autopilot crazy... really did overwork it. We shifted to the Monitor, our wind vane self steering system, and the boat settled down and tracked. Felt like we were back off shore and was a pleasant change to the highly channelized routes we had more recently experienced. Even the brief squall was appreciated as the rain cooled us and made the returning sun welcome. En route the fuel filter had to be replaced.. The engine started reving up and down, getting progressively worse until I couldn't put it off any more.

We ducked behind a point into sheltered water and down below I went. I guess I should have known I couldn't go a day without doing something dirty inside the engine compartment. This was among our longest days... 79 NM. We arrived after dark at Coinjock, NC and stumbled around briefly trying to find the marina (which advertised a 32 oz prime rib meal) but really had no problem tying up along side their simple, long wharf. A brief comment on motoring the ICW after dark... seriously not recommended and hence forth to be studiously avoided by the intrepid crew of AT EASE even if a 32 oz prime rib lays ahead beckoning. The route in was snake-like in a creek bed with snags and stumps encroaching from shore into the channel. The markers which were lighted were easy to see. The markers without lights almost impossible until right on them. I've always complained about those folks who move at night blasting everything in their path with huge searchlights. However, if we had not both been so busy navigating and managing the boat, I certainly would have broken out our light and blasted away. From Coinjock, more motoring up the ICW in tight channels and then out into Currituck Sound, another open body of water and beautiful vistas, and finally the Chesapeake-Abermarle Canal where timing is everything.  

Bridges abound and have their own schedule for opening, not at all during rush hours. Plus there is a lock which only operates hourly. We stopped just short of the lock at a boatyard with good reputation (Atlantic Yacht Basin) where I switched out batteries as our Napa batteries purchased in the Bahamas were already pretty soft. We stayed with 6 volt golf cart batteries but upgraded from the 110 amp hr model to 220 amp hrs. More Russian roulette with the maze of wiring but finally got everything hooked up and operating yet again (I think). I guess the real test of that will be time. This exercise, crouching down inside the lazarette locker and bending and twisting to get at wiring bent on hiding in the recesses, was made more memorable by a steady and cold rain. I did finish, but it was too late to go on into Norfolk proper so another night at a marina. I believe this last change will pretty well solve our electrical woes for a while. 

Optimist, I am.

Bill and Shirley Martin  

S/V AT EASE


Web Posted:  August 9th, 2001

We arrived in Beaufort, NC on Thursday (last) and anchored off the  waterfront. The ICW run up from Mile Hammock Bay took us through more of Camp Lejeune (got to watch aircraft making gun runs on ground targets), and Swansboro, NC, which has grown into another boating and summer home Mecca. It all seems pretty well developed and then overdeveloped. Beaufort is another jewel, nestled within a larger community and essentially a suburb of Morehead City which has a relatively large, commercial port. Lots of pleasure boats here, both sail and motor. Anchorage is limited but there always seems to be room for one more. The city operates a series of small docks and basins along the waterfront and makes slips available, provides essentially free downtown parking, and provides a courtesy dinghy dock. The marina proper, and the local maritime museum, offer free courtesy cars to use locally. This seems to be a city which really does want visitors, not just tourists. There is a large historic district with the now familiar pre-revolutionary and pre-civil war homes, all marked with their assumed construction dates and names of the original owners. With the museum, the historic sites, tree lined streets and overall open and friendly people, we have enjoyed our exploratory walks. The restaurants all strive for their unique atmosphere and ambience... overall they succeed admirably. Even Saylor has enjoyed the town... she's had her first opportunity to romp on sandy beaches since the islands. I suspect the costs of living here are exorbitant but the costs of visiting are relatively more modest. We paid our share, both in the local eateries, and a marvelous bookstore recommended to us by our friends, W L and Muriel. A few new, and a few old, boat problems were issues while in Beaufort. Seemed like I was crawling about in the dim and dark recesses just about every day. Alternator problems and the continuing evil spirits which live in 12 volt systems, especially in salt water environments. We left this morning with one functioning alternator (and instructions to get a spare) and a new book of charts of the ICW to make me feel better in these confusing waterways. As we backed out of the slip, a loose line off the stern fouled our propeller. Panic stop, tied up again alongside a restaurant (just at lunch so had an audience), and donned SCUBA paraphernalia to dive on the prop and clear same. Emerged successfully (as in alive and with a clean prop) and left a second time with good cheer and wishes for safe voyage from all. We departed for a 30 mile run to Oriental, which declares itself to be the sailing capitol of North Carolina. With our "new" chart book, we bumped aground within a mile or two. Local fisherman tells us "You can't go there... all filled in... go there instead". Went there instead. A beautiful motor up creeks and waterways with pleasant homes in small clusters all around. Leaving this to enter the Neuse River is impressive. It is the broadest river in the US and enters Pamilico Sound which I understand is second only to the Chesapeake in size. We crossed this to Oriental where we again found our old nemesis... thin water. Bumped ashore just off the harbor entrance and this time were hard enough aground to have to call for Tow Boat US to tug us free. Considered just anchoring with my keel overnight but then what kind of sailor would do that... within sight of probably several hundred blue water sailors many of whom have circumnavigated the world. Ignominiously crept into the very limited anchorage (almost 7' deep here) and dropped a hook. It's hot... really hot. We may pay for the pleasant weather we have enjoyed to date. Looking forward to going ashore and checking out what's new here. Lots of waterfront construction noted and another big marina just north of Oriental. That's all new since our last visit.

Okay, more work on the boat. The alternator, supposedly examined and repaired in Jacksonville, continues to put out only about 50 amps; half its capacity. This makes battery charging a long, loud process. We went into a slip and arranged for a mechanic/electrician to come aboard and he directed me into a tedious but overall helpful search for corrosion on terminals or loose connections, etc... Found a few potential problems and fixed them, but did not resolve the main issue. I installed my spare alternator, supposedly rebuilt in Marathon last year, which  produced the same 50% output. Puzzling. I bypassed everything from the alternator to the batteries, also bypassed the voltage regulator, to eliminate problems but none of this was successful. I did identify an approximately one volt loss as current went through the battery isolator... a bit much but didn't seem like the ultimate culprit. The mechanic I brought aboard produced the following theory finally. The one volt drop (impedance) overloaded the alternator, given that it was slaving away in the overheated engine spaces. The isolator then would get hotter as the alternator tried to push current through, thereby causing the alternator to work harder to get more current through.... see where this is going? Finally the alternator failed (by 50%). However, when he broke down both alternators another element of this mystery emerged. The rat fink who charged me to rebuild the alternator, which he knew was to be a spare, back in Marathon, FL had really only replaced one diode and spray painted the box so it looked as if it had been worked on. Trash, it was! Did bring a chuckle or two to the local pros. I had to search for the humor. Had just got most things put back in order when we discovered the solenoid on the LP system was not working. More 12 volt evil spirits. Crawling here and there with my now familiar jumpers and meters, I found 12 volts to both sides of the solenoid. Being the experienced pro that I am, I suspected that wasn't right so promptly tried to trace the wiring to find the short. No luck... all buried in thick harnesses in impossible locations. So I opted for the more direct approach... tapped in to the side which should be grounded and took it to ground. Wow! It worked! Shirley and I can understand why this life style ceases to be appealing to so many in the first year. Lots of trials and tribulations along with all the adventure and excitement. I'm remembering the central core of mental health is the ability to adapt to changing life circumstances.

Now which locker did I store that adaptability in?

Bill and Shirley Martin

S/V AT EASE

Oriental, NC


Web Posted:  July 27th, 2001

We left Myrtle Beach, after our stay had been extended by our suddenly pesky diesel, and motored up the ICW enroot to Camp Lejeune. It was a 70 mile day, from 0700 to 1900, mostly routine motoring through highly developed coastal areas. The shores, both inland ICW side and the visible Atlantic beach area, were lined with housing, mostly condos on the beach side and private homes on the ICW. I can't begin to imagine the expenditure of wealth this represents... assuming something like a quarter million each (pretty conservative), the amount of wealth committed to housing in this area is stunning. It's not quite like Florida with its row after row of row after row of condos and hotels... somewhat more green and distance separating the homes on the ICW (but not the beach), but the overall effect, mile after mile after mile, is just breathtaking. And more construction underway... bigger... better. Further, almost every home has its own pier, frequently with a sport fishing boat tied or hoisted at the pier head. These piers extend from the homes, across wide expanses, sometimes 100 yds, of grassy marsh to deeper water. By themselves the piers represent a significant expenditure of money. We really are a disgustingly wealthy country, all in all. All the small towns, Wrightsville, Topsail, even modest old Swansboro, seem to have been taken over by the homes. No businesses, apart from the marina here and there. No convenience stores, no grocery stores, no gas stations, no video stores... just homes. Probably many of these are seasonal only. Wow!  

Once we got to the New River Inlet, the "adventure" started. As soon as I made the turn inland, the water shoaled to 7' or less, the channel narrowed to less than 50', the markers moved out to about a mile apart, and we started bumping and banging on the bottom but still kept moving. I was simply afraid to try and turn around... no room. Shirley, trooper all the way, was below trying to relay information to me from the charts and GPS interface. I was on the helm hyperventilating, trying to compress the wheel with my steely grip, and screaming out such helpful and commanding things as "where are we... where do I turn... should I turn... what marker is next... is there another mark... why did I want to do this?" Shirley, calmly and deliberately, would tell me "Steer 352 for a mile... bare a bit more to the port side of the channel... keep the red to the right", etc... Found a new bridge not on the map. Had to guess at its height until we were immediately on the center pilings. Did I mention we had a 20 kt wind and ebb tide with current. I really do think that was the scariest and trickiest passage through shoal water and channels that we have made. Arriving off Lejeune was such a relief, such a pleasure. Much like surviving a parachute jump... really glad it was over. However, it wasn't. The Camp Lejeune marina said "Come on in... you draw 5'6"... no problem... just stay in the channel", they said. Half way in, bumping and banging on the bottom. Out we went to anchor, about a half mile off shore but in only 8' of water. "Better out here", we said, "more wind to keep us cool."

We went in by dinghy today and chatted with the folks in the marina. Really friendly. One of the workers drove us into the Marine Exchange for some shopping... offered to come back at our call and pick us up. However, I wanted to walk around the base so Shirley and I did our shopping (neat new Exchange) and then walked about two miles back to the marina. We ran into another former Marine, now a cruising sailor, who we had met earlier in the Bahamas. Really friendly group here. All urged us to come into the marina but we don't trust the channel, would be the largest boat in the marina, and really like being out where we get more air. We did discover we can get to the Officer's Club from the water. They have their own pier. We'll stick around here a few days. Lots of military training going on. Biggest concentration of Marines anywhere (40,000). We have an anchorage with close air and artillery support. The firing gives us a sound and light show in the evening hours. Better than television.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Camp Lejeune, NC


Web Posted:  July 24th, 2001

Off and moving north yet again. We left Georgetown the morning of the 22nd and motored up the ICW toward Southport, south of Wilmington, NC, via Myrtle Beach. Before leaving Georgetown, we took a trolley tour of some of the pre-revolutionary homes and then did our own walking tour of the historic district. Still a beautiful little village, but we discovered one of the secrets was Federal money. The town waterfront was damaged by a hurricane, Hugo, and that led to grants which funded much of the picturesque waterfront development. To bad... would have rathered this was civic pride and not Federal largesse. Still and all, a neat and special little town worth a return. Our motoring was largely uneventful and overall beautiful. The ICW follows a river which is bordered by "islands" and old rice plantations, all of which are being developed. The movie, "The Patriot" was filmed in this area and loosely, very loosely, based on the exploits of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, a revolutionary hero of fact who lived in this area.

Let's see... boat problems. Sure! Tossed another of those "heavy duty" fan belts I bought. Anchored briefly in an adjoining creek and changed the belt. Motored then on to Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach. This is on the ICW, beside a large... really large... shopping center with restaurants, some outlet stores, and the requisite tee shirt and cap shops. They wisely provide free dockage assuming that boaters will step across the wharf and shop. We did... found a bookstore and had a great meal. Later we visited with other cruisers including a boat from South Africa and another from New York. Sharing experiences is not only fun but part of the learning curve all of us "cruisers" seem to be experiencing. Today we got underway... briefly... but had an overheating engine after I tossed another fan belt. Replacing the belt did not solve the problem... still overheating. Finally had to call for a tow and went into a local marina where a diesel mechanic quickly solved the problem. An air block was created by the initial overheating and this prohibited water flow from the receptacle container to the heat exchanger. I had a variety of replacement belts, acquired in various locales, most of which were not "approved" replacements. Enough of that... only the approved henceforth. Remember that "learning curve" comment? We plan to continue on to Southport tomorrow... perhaps just as well. t  has been rainy and humid all day so not a great day to motor along the waterway.  

Bill and Shirley  

S/V AT EASE

Myrtle Beach, SC


Web Posted:  July 21st, 2001

We motored up from Charleston to Georgetown (SC) via the Intercoastal Waterway, acting on recommendations from many that the waterway in the Carolina's and Virginia provided the most scenic, and least shoal, routes. Well, yes and no. Lots of salt marsh and grass, pelicans galore and other aquatic bird life, one bald eagle, and a few other cruising boats. Intermittently, t ere were narrow and very shoal channels. AT EASE, with a modest 5'6" draft, stirred the mud more than once. On these narrow channels, there is some limited barge traffic. Luckily, I met two of them on one of the longer and deeper stretches and could side alongside at a comfortable (?) six feet separation. Shudder to think of what would have happened if I had met them in a turn. Actually, I know exactly what would have happened. Their wide swinging turn would have forced me out of the channel and aground, commenting extensively upon their seamanship as they churned merrily and indifferently along their way.

The scenery did get better as we moved north and the channels were deeper and wider. From north of Charleston to here, the water turns from coastal dirty to a deep, ice tea brown which is hard to believe. The Black River drains a huge swamp area with numerous cypress and other vegetation that apparently leaches tannic acid into the Winyah Sound and surrounding tributaries. I suspect brown algae also but who knows? We certainly do have that ICW mustache, a brown curl of discoloration, on our bow now so we fit right in with the other, so marked, boats. The salt marshes gave way to low, marshy, pine forest as we got closer. Pretty country! We loved Charleston with its oddly positioned homes, each hundreds of years old and many with their documented history proudly displayed. We even saw the "George Washington slept here" and "was entertained here" placards. The prevalent "Charleston Single" is a multi-stored home, with a one room-wide end facing the street and the long axis, the front of the house, on a 90 degree axis from the street. Down the alley-like walks between homes, and in front of the wide verandas and porches, are jewel-like gardens just glimpsed from the street, but each a pleasant surprise and joy. The more interesting streets themselves, many brick or cobblestone, are heavily shaded by massive live oaks thickly festooned with Spanish moss. Doesn't take much imagination to be transported back in time.

Now on to Georgetown which is itself an old city, the third oldest in South Carolina. It has its own pre-revolutionary and antebellum buildings and its restored historic district, right on the waterfront,   and has a boardwalk along the creek, commercial fishing wharfs and marinas, and a complimentary dinghy dock for cruisers. The access to the community harbor is via a creek, maybe 150' wide, which accommodates dockage as well as anchored boats. Dockside are a line of shrimp boats, with a seafood market on the pier, some tour boats and small marinas. Pretty tight quarters. The community is so very picturesque, it looks suspiciously like what a Hollywood set designer would create if he were looking for a rustic, small fishing village (a "Message in a Bottle" sort of village), to feature in a film. We're anchored within 50' of the waterfront... close enough for folks ashore to wave and call out greetings... and they do. Beautiful, it is. Looks like we're going to be here for a few days.

Bill and Shirley Martin

S/V AT EASE

Georgetown, SC


Web Posted:  July 17th, 2001

We made a late start from Beaufort, about 0900, for our run up to Charleston. It ended up being a 78 NM trip, but a nice offshore  run in about 12 kts sustained wind and 2-4' seas. Sailing would have been wonderful but we had to motor sail to make better time. Sailing we would have made about 4, maybe 5, kts. Motor sailing we averaged over 6 and ran 7 some of the time. Schedules really are the bane of cruisers. It was another beautiful day with clear skies and a wonderful coolness which was a blessing after the high heat and humidity of late. We really enjoyed Beaufort and their Water Festival was the extra days. We heard the Parris Island Marine Corps band play the predictable march music, and later a group from that band played some 60's rock and roll. They did a great job... much better than the rock groups we paid to hear the next night. We also did our own walking tour of the historic district's beautiful old homes. The shady streets, numerous live oaks, the friendliness and quiet elegance of the community were all impressive. Probably the best community we have seen since Ocean Springs, MS, and very supportive of cruisers. The community provides a free dinghy dock, the city owned marina provides a courtesy car and there is even a liquor store that will come and pick up boaters to take them shopping. Definitely a place to visit again. The run to Charleston was not without incident, of course. An electrical short emerged in my instruments and disrupted service to the GPS controlling my autopilot. While I have a backup, I went below to sort things out. While entangled in wire and with my typical confusion about things electrical, Shirley took over the cockpit duties. She had heard a Coast Guard announcement regarding a boater in distress and their request to "Keep a sharp lookout" and by golly she did. An impressive amount and variety of flotsam and jetsam required her closer inspection. Good for her! Had there been someone in the water, her attentiveness could have made all the difference. I finally found the short and got all those little electrons flowing in the proper directions again but am even more convinced that evil spirits live in 12 volt systems.  

There was a shockingly beautiful sunset as we entered the ship channel off Charleston. That's right... but the time we got in,  fighting the outbound tidal current, it was dark. Stumbling around a strange harbor at night is never pleasant but not as dangerous as it could have been given the really reliable GPS-computer maps and some helpful cruising guides. We were able to grope our way into a marina, actually right beside Patriot Point with its assortment of ships. The aircraft carrier Yorktown, a relatively contemporary diesel submarine, a WWII destroyer and a Coast Guard cutter are open as museums and well worth the day necessary to see them all. Docking was again an adventure. There was a "helpful", and I'm sure highly paid, dockside technician who somehow believed, in spite of a vigorous current and visual evidence to the contrary, that he could simply hold two to the lines we tossed, saving the cleats on the dock for someone who really needed them I suppose. As our 30,000 pound boat moved down current, Shirley and I provided some spirited instruction, then direct assistance, and finally got the boat under control and parked. We have acquired an impressive collection of marine growth and barnacles on our hull and on our dinghy since returning to the US. This coastal water is apparently a much better environment for growth than was present in the islands. The hull looked good when we left the Bahamas. Now, with the water so murky, and dirty, and the current so significant, I'm unwilling to dive to clean the bottom. I suppose I'll wait until we get further north into less troublesome water for that chore. We'll be moving from the marina today, having spent yesterday touring the ships on display. We plan on anchoring off of the city marina, which provides courtesy dinghy access for a small fee, and which is beside the historic district of Charleston. Both of us are looking forward to being able to walk and see the sights, check out the restaurants and soak up ambiance of this remarkable city. I suspect we will be here several days before moving on. Chesapeake Bay will just have to wait.

We have a series of stops planned in small and hopefully interesting communities along the route. From here to Georgetown, SC, then to North Carolina for stops at Southport, Jacksonville, Beaufort, Oriental, Bath and Washington. Then comes Virginia and its mix of rivers and small towns. We still hope to reach the Chesapeake with enough time remaining for a good visit before heading south again.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE


Web Posted:  July 5th, 2001

What a contrast of experiences. Today, taking advantage of our rental car, we took our laundry ashore to a local Laundromat. Third world experience, overall, and shared with a polyglot of folks indeed. Then we drove to Parris Island again to visit a very well done museum, of Parris Island and Port Royal Sound in particular and the Marine Corps more  generally. Following this, a marvelous meal, sitting on a veranda, along the waterfront in Beaufort, just off of the most impressive waterfront park we have seen. This is a community dating itself from about 1520's or so, occupied variously by the American Indians (of course), the Spanish, the French, some Scots, Confederates, Yankee Aggressors, and then by the genteel South Carolinians. Wonderful waterfront mansions, many predating the War of Northern Aggression, and even those following done in the antebellum fashion. We ended the evening  sitting on the foredeck watching fireworks displays, impressive and protracted, from both Parris Island and from Port Royal, while listening to a stirring CD of Sousa marches. Not too shabby, all in all.

 Bill and Shirley 

S/V AT EASE

Beaufort, SC


Web Posted:  July 1st, 2001

We have arrived at Parris Island, S.C., tucked inside of Port Royal Sound and just east of Beaufort and Port Royal. Hilton Head, the well known Resort is to our immediate south. We motored up from Savannah yesterday, via the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW), a series of dredged channels and some canals through creeks and rivers, inland or at least protected from the sea. The ICW runs from the NE US around the coast to Texas. We tend to avoid it generally... too shallow and narrow, and very busy with recreational traffic. Also, there are numerous bridges which slow things down either by congesting boat traffic or while one waits for them to open the bridge. However, since we were already 20 miles inland, at Savannah, it saved us some time. We left New Smyrna Beach enroot to St Augustine, a one day trip, on Tuesday (June 26). Typical Florida day with light winds and building thunderstorms all around us but it was a nice motor-sail up the coast. In St Augustine we stayed in a marina which gave us immediate access to the historic district and the old fort. There is a small, contained area within the historic district where locals dress in period costume and perform typical day to day tasks much as was done in the late 1600 to early 1700 period. Their blacksmith shop brought back memories and the tools and the smells could probably all have been found in granddad's blacksmith shop. We met a couple, Michael and Carmen on S/V Euphoria, first seen back in Nassau and Georgetown, and had a great evening with them in one of the numerous restaurants on the harbor shore. The next morning we were off to Savannah. The trip up took us pretty far offshore, about 50 miles at its extreme, and was about a 180 NM trip overnight. Weather conditions were about the same as above so we motor-sailed the entire route making good time and letting the new autopilot and computer do their thing. Off Jacksonville, with its Navy base, we saw a Navy missile submarine within a mile in front, still on the surface 20 miles out  (too shallow to dive). Really big boat even at that distance. A Coast Guard cutter was circling about two miles off and I suspect she was escorting the submarine. We did another movie marathon in the cockpit as it got dark and watched The Patriot  and The Perfect Storm. Taking turns standing watch left us both feeling pretty good the next day for the run up the Savannah river and into the ICW where we went into a marina about 10-12 miles outside of the city proper. A cab ride took us into the historic river district where we did tourista stuff for the afternoon and early evening. Really another pleasant city with its beautiful and tranquil squares, and its many interesting restaurants and bars. They've done a good job of restoring their old river front warehouses and buildings into shops and such. Had a great meal before heading back to the boat. The ICW is a challenge. The channel is sometime quite narrow with encroaching shoals which are not well marked. Moving inland, just out from Savannah, we rubbed the muddy bottom but I was able to spin the boat off with a quick turn. Coming out, at the same turn, I found going high was no better than the first attempt to go low. This time I was stuck. Fortunately, had left at low tide so within 30 minutes had more water under the boat. That, plus a passing sport fisherman's wake, bounced me off. This all made me anxious the rest of the ICW trip from Savannah to Port Royal. I had plotted a course on the computer which kept me in the deeper water. The autopilot did a wonderful job, I think better than I could do, following this course with its many twist and turns. The trip really was beautiful. Bright sunlight and billowing clouds, grassy swamp lands to one side or the other with islands with bluffs no higher than 10-12'. Beautiful homes here and there with their own docks and priceless views. Some more congested areas with houses one after another, all well kept and impressively expensive I'm sure. As we got closer to Hilton Head, the homes became more frequent and more impressive, finally transitioning to the Florida-like condos and glitzy marinas which really change the character from tranquil nature to commercial clang.

We did have more equipment problems but probably well within the range expected in a working boat. The fresh water system had been plagued by a trickling of water, much but not all of the time. I had switched pumps out, taken each section of pipe apart and checked all the electrical connections without solving the problem. Finally got around to checking the filter... clogged of course. Leave it to me to not check the obvious and simple solution first. Smelt smoke at one point at sea but could not find the source and nothing seemed to get worse. Later discovered this to have been the battery isolator cooking because of a loose or corroded connection. This drained the engine starting battery which required me to jump start the main engine a few times. The starting battery also drives the electric kill switch, which failed to work. Replaced the isolator in New Smyrna and the battery in Savannah and everything works again. I did notice some surging in RPM and in output from the alternator. Suspected some voltage regulator wiring and replace that with an apparent fix. Feeling pretty good about getting the problems fixed. I'm really pretty well at a loss with things mechanical. My approach is to open things up and then wave menacing looking tools until the recalcitrant part is suitably intimidated and starts working again. Working good, so far. We arrived off Parris Island, the Marine Corps recruit training center for the east coast, mid afternoon and had sundowners in the cockpit while listening to chanting platoons heading for evening chow. I went to boot camp here almost exactly 40 years ago and was able to find an anchorage off the area where our old barracks were located. Immediately behind the barracks were the grassy, swamp lands and Port Royal Sound with the lights of Port Royal visible at night across the sound. We're planning on getting ashore and wandering the base in the next few days and are hoping for a good July 4th show as well. We'll be moving just up the inlet to Beaufort sometime in the next week or so, and will be hanging around Hilton Head during the middle of the month meeting with an old Navy friend and his family. Have I mentioned that we are having a ball? The anxieties in the ICW and the pretty minor mechanical and electrical problems are just spices that add to the flavor of those marvelous times offshore or at anchor in beautiful vistas we have dreamed about for so long. What a wonderful opportunity this has been for us. Wish we could share it with all of you.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Parris Island, S.C.


Web Posted:  June 25th, 2001

(Webmaster's Note:  Bill & Shirley's At Ease is featured on the front cover of Good Old Boat sailing magazine in the July-August issue.  It will be on the magazine stands from now until August 31st.  Saylor even made the inside cover!  Look for it now at larger selection magazine stands and read the five page article about them.  DeGray Lake got good mention of their experiences here getting ready to go cruising)

S/V AT EASE is underway again with her full crew back aboard. Shirley and I arranged for last minute repairs to repairs at the Rybovich boatyard and then left Lake Worth about noon on Tuesday the 19th. Forecast was for scattered thunder storms, 10-15 kts of wind from the east, and 2-4' seas. That would have been wonderful for a run up to Ft Pierce (about 50 miles). In fact, we had about 5 kts from the NE, too close to our course to do much good so we simply motored most of the way. As should have been expected, we discovered more maintenance issues as soon as we got underway. I was puzzled by some erratic action from the new autopilot, especially in track mode, and by the inconsistent read of data from the computer and GPS to the autopilot. Took me two days of staring at it and worrying about it before I finally tracked the problem to a failure to connect a signal ground wire. Autopilot worked great after that was fixed. Even better after I got some ferrite filters onto the SSB and data lines to cut down on RF interference. The foils on the forward roller furler had parted (pin had fallen out somewhere) and allowed the sail to slip out of the slot enough to become  jammed. I can still use the sail (I got the two sections together enough) but the sail cannot be dropped. Probably will have to take the whole thing down somewhere down the line and repair the furler.

We anchored overnight a  Ft Pierce and departed about noon (low tide) for an overnight run up the coast to New Smyrna (about 100 miles). Weather was about the same but we could get some value from the light wind so motor-sailed the whole route while letting the autopilot drive the boat. Watch standing was routine apart from dodging several fishing boats. Radar makes that all so much easier. Shirley took charge of entertainment, prepared a wonderful pork roast for dinner and then hauled the TV to the cockpit for a movie marathon. We went past Cape Canaveral about midnight and were treated to a light show from a thunderstorm banging away over land. The airbursts of light were really spectacular. Arrival at New Smyrna was routine apart from a tricky entrance through Ponce de Leon inlet and a narrow channel into the marina. We were greeted at the dock by friends from the Bahamas who have been here several weeks. This is a nice, relatively small community with stores easily accessible by foot plus our friends have access to a car. The marina is community owned and operates to a large degree on the honor system. Quite a change from the aggressive exploitation of cruisers seen in so many marinas, especially in Florida.

From here we plan on a day sail to St Augustine for an overnight anchorage, then out for a couple of days to Savannah. It's a long drive up the river to the city, about 25-30 miles, but we believe the city will be worth the effort. Then up to Port Royal Sound (Hilton Head) for several days before moving on to Charleston. We expect to move up the ICW through the Dismal Swamp and the Carolinas, probably up to Norfolk, and then off into the Chesapeake in the Annapolis area.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE 

New Smyrna, FL


Web Posted:  June 16th, 2001

AT EASE is out of the yard period with repairs largely completed. Deferred the upgrade on the galley stove... too long a waiting period while the replacement was shipped. Everything else was completed. I did my own list of maintenance tasks while just  sitting in the yard (rebedding hardware, tuning rigging, lube and anticorrosion stuff) and believe I have a more functional boat now in pretty good condition for further cruising. Shirley took advantage of the yard period to head for Arkansas and a round of grandmotherly visits. I had intended to run up the coast alone and pick her up in Daytona upon her return (6/17) but was delayed in the yard just too long. Plan now is for her to fly into Daytona and then rent a car to drive down to Lake Worth where she will rejoin the hardy crew of S/V AT EASE. We'll leave here in the next few days to start up the coast and will probably move fairly quickly out of Florida and then more slowly once we are off the GA and Carolina coasts. I'm looking forward to visiting both major Marine Corps bases: Parris Island and Camp Lejeune. I know that (tongue in cheek) will be exciting for Shirley as well. When I was with a Marine Amphibious Recon unit, we were billeted right on Onslow Beach, with the Intercoastal Waterway immediately behind our barracks. I used to watch the sail and motor boats moving up and down just a biscuit-throw away, but apparently a lifetime beyond my reach. I intend to sail slowly by and only hope I see a Marine or two outside, watching the passing boats, so I can wave. Not smugly, mind you, but with affection. 

Once underway, I'll get to use my new toys. The new autopilot has a multifunction display at the steering pedestal in the cockpit and is interfaced with the computer navigational system. I can plot a route (track), with multiple waypoints, on my computer-based electronic mapping/charting system, and then direct the autopilot to drive that route. I will have data ranging from speed over ground, average speed, distance made good, distance to next waypoint, cross-track error, etc... displayed real time. If  it were not for that pesky traffic, especially those boats bigger than me, I could drive the boat from the navigational station below. All this is not tied in with my radar. I'll have to wait until I get a more modern radar that will electronically talk to the other instruments. No hurry... the radar has done well and is very valuable, especially at sea and during the night. Really eager for THE MATE's return. Have missed her but am also glad she was off playing while in the yard. Yards are just hot, dirty and uncomfortable. Not much way of getting around that. With Shirley back, the boat will feel more like home again and it will be nice to have my best friend back to adventure with once more. I believe we're both ready to get underway again. Looking forward to getting offshore and feeling the boat come alive and to see new places grow on the horizon.

Bill and Saylor S/V AT EASE 

Lake Worth, FL


Web Posted:  June 7th, 2001

Well S/V AT EASE is back in a yard. After 7-8 months of living aboard and sailing her, AT EASE has developed a list of equipment problems. I thought sailors might be interested in the details. I came into the yard to repair a refrigeration unit that went kaput just days before our return to the States. Added to the refrigerator, the electric autopilot, chafing on the main halyard immediately above the head of the sail, and a LPG solenoid that went bad. Optional upgrades... I had 1" SS tubing wielded between the stern pulpit and the first stanchions on each side - more secure mounts for the solar panels. I also had the diesel looked at. I was getting low oil pressure readings at lower RPM. The mechanic believes it is the sender unit and not the oil pressure else the low pressure alarm would have been triggered. While waiting on others, I tackled my own list of repairs. I removed, cleaned, corrosion guarded, and rebedded the stanchions, retuned all the rigging (needed more tension), replaced another automatic bilge switch and cleaned the bilge, pickled my watermaker since inland water is such poor quality, and redid some splices around my windless which had been getting pretty hot during operation. I lubed or corrosion guarded everything I could reach on deck. The salt environment is just viciously corrosive. I am replacing my refrigeration unit with a newer, maybe better, unit. 

However, I have now talked to three people from the refrigeration company, each has seemed very competent, and each has given me different information. That is why I opted to just replace the old unit with a new unit. Seems simpler than working out what all is wrong. These folks have extended my stay now about a week beyond that which would have been necessary had they just gotten their act together from the beginning. It is just frustrating to be held prisoner in a marina by service folks who don't quite have their act together. Hope the delay will be worth it, as defined by a cold refrigerator (and beer) at the end of this multi-week nightmare. Have I mentioned that I don't like being in boat yards?

I upgraded from an old Autohelm 3000 to an Autohelm ST4000 which is now integrated with my computer navigation system and GPS. Riggers rounded masthead extrusions with files and we put in a new main halyard to fix the chafing problem (likely the result of a new mainsail used over the last six months and riding differently at the head of the sail).  Living in the yard is less than ideal. The yard is in a bad area. There is good security here but nothing really within walking distance except for dangerous neighborhoods. Hard to even get to small "Mom and Pop" groceries to fetch food for Saylor and self (Shirley is visiting in Arkansas). Purchasing two bags of ice daily just to sustain my cooler in this heat and humidity... eggs, butter and such, not beer. Honest!

Even the yard's marine store is minimal. They seem very willing to order anything I need but all that leads to a longer stay. I don't want to stay any longer. My brother plans to come next week and stay with me for a few days while I move north. What I hope is that I will get out of here before he arrives, move about five miles and anchor off of an area, accessible via dinghy, with a Publix Supermarket and a West Marine within a mile or so, and reprovision with food and other odds and ends of light bulbs, shackles, etc... Then maybe AT EASE will be able to get back in her natural element, moving again in her graceful strut out there where swells are regular and clutter is less. Unfortunately, moving north will be more via the ICW than I would prefer. I always want to move offshore but there are so few inlets back into anchorages, or the ICW, that inshore runs are really necessary. What inlets exist tend to be separated by distances just too far for a day's run and just to short for an overnight run. Bummer! Motoring up the ICW on Florida's East coast is to be snarled in urban sprawl with narrow, congested channels and an unbelievable plethora of bridges, many of which open only on their schedule independent of boat traffic. Imagine, if you will, trying to "park" a sailboat in a narrow channel, among many other (typically motor) boats, backing or stalling, circling if possible, ducking and dodging, while some bridge operator decides to open. Oh boy, we're really having fun now! 

If all this sounds like something less than an enthusiastic endorsement of the Florida Playground... you got that right! Don't come here! Don't spend money in Florida! Quit eating oranges and drinking orange juice! Mickey Mouse is just another rodent! No wonder they screwed up their election... Flori-DUH!

My note seems a bit, only a bit, too caustic but maybe this gives some balance to the paradise-described and exuberance of earlier reports. Both Shirley and I are looking forward to getting into Georgia and the Carolinas where we really do want to do some distance on the ICW. We want to stop at some of the cities and many of the small towns, some of which are friendly to cruisers and some of which are more dominated by local culture which I fondly remember from years past. Hope things haven't  hanged all that much over the years. 

Bill and Saylor (sans Shirley)

S/V AT EASE

West Palm Beach, FL (pending final ransom payment)


Web Posted:  May 29th, 2001

We left Bimini about 1030 local time to ride out of Alice Town harbor on a high tide. Our stay in Bimini was pleasant with our guests (John and Divya) aboard but overall we found Bimini somewhat frustrating. The waters surrounding Bimini were characterized with a pronounced swell, which made anchoring seem like we were underway in the open sea. Alice  Town harbor was flat but very constricted with unmarked flats and bars and  poor holding. Further, the entrance into the harbor was also obstructed by unmarked bars and constriction, complicated further by heavy sport fishing traffic with courtesy learned from New York taxi drivers. We went on a newly installed mooring buoy but even that was fraught with problems. The owners had well secured the moorings to the bottom and the surface line, barely long enough, had a large, rubber hose ring with float attached but with no pendant for securing the boat to the mooring. Given the strong current, it was hard to identify the problem. We ended up with John in the dinghy motoring to the buoy and attaching one of my dock lines, then doubling the line back to me on the boat for securing. After two days of alternating current, my dock line, the light line securing the float to the mooring, and the mooring itself, were badly tangled and wrapped,  requiring another trip in the dinghy to release it all. I think the Bahamian owners of the moorings have some basic engineering to work out.

The distance from Bimini to Lake Worth (80 NM) was just too long for a day run and just too short for a day-overnight run. I opted to leave at high tide and then anchor offshore at some popular reef area where John, Divya and Shirley did some further snorkeling. About 1600 we upped anchor and headed for Florida. The weather forecast was for 10-15 kts from the SW, seas 2-4', and scattered showers and thunderstorms. Instead, we had wind more like 10 kts initially, building to 15 overnight, from the E-SE, with continuous thunderstorm activity (lightening and thunder) around us during the entire run. Seas built overnight to about 4-6' with some 8' to keep us alert. Wind was relatively stable with some gusts up to about 20 kts during squalls. I ran northwest under all working sail but brought in or put out the staysail several times as wind shifted from our starboard beam to astern. Saylor, because of a mix of recent diet, seasickness and simple fear associated with all the thunder and lightening, developed a nasty case of diarrhea which made the somewhat crowed, wet and musty shelter of the cockpit even more pungently interesting. It rained pretty continuously so we were in foul weather gear all night for the warmth as much as for dryness. After dark, I kept the radar on to track ship traffic and we had quite a bit during the early and later portions of the crossing. Only one was confusing (strange light configuration) and it took me quite some time to decipher the heading and then maneuver to avoid. We ended up turning into him and passing along his port side to cross astern… by then he was within a half mile… closer than I like. The adrenalin did help keep us awake. With quartering waves from astern, steering was very active. The Monitor, our self-steering windvane, performed wonderfully all night. What a pleasure to watch it work while we didn't have to work. All hands were appreciative. I hope I can remember to give it a double drink of WD-40 when we have our celebratory arrival drink later.

I had forgotten how very busy the VHF gets on the US coast. We were bombarded all night with radio traffic… mostly from the Coast Guard. It is still surprising how very many calls they get for assistance from vessels with various problems… groundings, failed engines and even taking on water. Those guys really are busy with calls even if all they do is pass the requests on to commercial firms for towing, etc… I get the impression that current guidelines have them deploying their own assets pretty rarely. When called, it seems to me they get more involved filling out their forms and asking a long series of questions (i.e. "How many souls aboard?" and "Do they have life jackets on?", etc… ), when the caller has their hands full with a boat in distress. I suppose the information is important but think priorities get confused.

We arrived predawn by 1-2 hours so we hove to off shore until daylight and then ran into Lake Worth inlet. This is a pretty busy harbor with much holiday boat traffic and probably routine ship traffic. We found an anchorage, called Customs to check in and were told we had to be docked to even report arrival. Okay… up anchor and off to a marina that allowed us to tie up to their fuel dock briefly. I spent a hour tallying up all our purchases ("Hmmm… was that 6 or 10 oranges we bought at Hawkbill Cay?"), compulsively anxious less we miss something which would then expose me to bureaucratic retribution, and was then asked only "Any non-US passengers?" and "Have you bought one of our decals yet?". The $25 decal seems to be pretty important to somebody. In any event, we're officially home (and down came the yellow flag).

There is a popular cruiser's anchorage in the extreme northern end of Lake Worth bight, well protected and within short distance access to a shopping center and grocery store. We motored there on the ICW, dodging busy holiday traffic, and anchored. First things first… down came the dinghy and motor. Quick shower and then off to the shopping center for a wide-eyed ("Look at that Shirley!") tour of the giant Publix supermarket, and large pizza with extra cheese to fix our junk food craving. We asked about a theater and both customers and clerks at the pizza place gave us options within a short distance. "Within walking distance?", we asked. "Walking! You mean… like WALKING? Well no… further than that." We're back in the US. After our travels over the last six months, with few significant maintenance problems apart from battery replacement, things are wearing out on AT EASE. I will be putting her into a service marina for some needed repairs and upgrades. 

Our electric autopilot, an ancient Autohelm 3000, broke a week or two ago. Our refrigerator went out while in Bimini… my inept troubleshooting succeeded in accomplishing little. Back to an icebox, it is. Coming down from Port Lucaya, I noticed my main halyard fraying immediately above the sail attachment. I whipped the halyard for our crossing to Florida but on arrival noted the whipping had frayed and even more of the main was frayed. Probably a broken sheave at the mast head. That needs fixing too. I have a failed "Y" valve behind the head, needed for redirecting to the holding tank, so that needs replacement. I'm going to try and get a bronze fitting. Tired of broken plastic. Shirley had one layer of glass, the internal layer, break on her oven door. She did a hasty repair. We put a sheet of stainless steel plate up behind the oven door, and it has produced a continuing flow of fresh bread and baked goods. However, she wants an upgrade to a new propane galley stove. The safety valve, guarding against propane malfunction, has failed and we had to bypass that about a month ago. I'll get that repaired/replaced while here. I'm also getting some hot wiring around my windlass when it is used. Need someone to check that out. Then there are the usual broken fittings, burned out bulbs, and such that simply are unavailable out in the islands without lengthy delays and customs problems. That doesn't seem like too long a list given how hard we have used AT EASE. I have taken Bahama charts off my electronic navigation system and replaced them with Florida-US East Coast charts. I guess I need to purchase some sailing guides for this area and then do some homework getting ready for the run up the coast. Between repairs and homework, I should stay busy while Shirley flies home for a visit with family.  

Bill and Shirley 

S/V AT EASE 

Lake Worth, Florida, USA


Web Posted:  May 23rd, 2001

Plans are made to be changed. About 20 minutes before casting off lines from Port Lucaya to head to Florida, John Hixson and his friend, Divya, contacted us with the news that they could come over. They flew into Freeport to join us for the trip back. We did another day at Port Lucaya and then left for a wonderful sail back across the Northwest Providence Channel to Bimini. Under all working sail, and in sustained 15 kt SE winds, we had a close to perfect day out of sight of land and in really deep water. Brisk wind and wave action (4-6' mostly), and the predictable beautiful, inky-dark deep water of the Channel. We ducked and dodged supertankers (five met enroot) but other than that the crossing was uneventful. It was even leisurely with the Monitor (our self steering windvane) doing the bulk of the work. Shirley spent what seemed much of the day in the galley sending a never ending supply of snacks and fruit, and a few blended drinks, up into the cockpit for crew replenishment. Seems like when the wave action gets up, she has to reassure herself she is still able to make that galley come alive. In between creations, we had to call her topside for sail tweaking and such. Pretty complete, this sailor-lady.  

Although we were doing 5.5-6.5 kts much of the day, the trip was long and we ended up motor-sailing the last quarter just to get in before dark. We rounded the NW corner of the banks off of Great Issac Lighthouse, slipped past the Hens and Chickens Cays and anchored off the west shore of Bimini (Paradise Point) about 1900. The hulk of a beached sailboat lay ashore to suggest holding may not be good with westerly weather. Winds had stayed pretty well at 15 kts from the E-SE all day and night but during the night a swell developed from the S-SW and we rolled and bumped throughout the night. Shirley's first words this morning were "Make it stop!" I tried moving north around the island but the wind-driven waves from the east, mixed with the S-SW swell, made for even worse conditions. We ended up nosing into Bimini Harbor (Alicetown) through a shoal and narrow channel to anchor in an equally shoal and narrow area at the northern end of the harbor. It was then only a short dinghy ride into town to walk the strip, look at yet again another Straw Market, visit another Bahamian grocery store, and stop by another Hemingway Home and Favorite Bar ("Honest, this was his favorite place and he lived here too!") for a drink.

Shirley, John and Divya have gone snorkeling. I have a healing finger, a clumsy cut while sharpening a knife, so I am home care taking. Saylor and I are well prepared to fend off boarders, or to do a little boarding ourselves if the plunder looks promising. No likely targets yet but it is early afternoon. We expect more snorkeling tomorrow, reefs and a shipwreck just south of here around Gun Cay, and then we will look for a window to run up the Florida Strait and over the stream and into Lake Worth. I'm feeling a bit sad at leaving the Bahamas... we have had a wonderful time. But then we will have the SE US coast to look forward to and the summer in Chesapeake. Plus we do plan on returning to the Bahamas next year before we move on south and down the island chain.  

Bill and Shirley (with John and Divya)

S/V AT EASE

Alicetown, Bimini, Bahamas


Web Posted:  May 20th, 2001

We left Nassau the morning of the 16th… and an auspicious beginning it was. Within 50' of the slip we were aground (soft bottom). Very narrow access lane in this marina and it was only 30 minutes beyond low tide so we initially planned to just wait for higher water but what wind and wake action there was tended to push us further ashore. My outboard was stowed aboard AT EASE and I resisted getting it down and back on the dinghy. A German couple in the adjoining slip graciously mounted their outboard and he used this to tow our bow around where I was able to use my main engine to push us off the mud/sand bottom. Of course we were the entertainment for the pier while everyone had their second cup of coffee. Mustering our tattered dignity, we exited the harbor smartly, all flags flying and a defiant tilt to our chins. Weather has changed. Still bright and clear, a stationary high predominates, but wind is diminishing and we had only about 10-12 kts from the NE as we moved into the Tongue of the Ocean for our run NW to the Berry Islands

This is deep water so Shirley deployed the fishing line and we later did land a barracuda. It truly was a beautiful sail for about 25 of the 35 NM trip… wind finally laid and we motored the last segment. The water was a deep indigo, an inky base highlighted by the bright, white, foamy wash of water breaking off the moving boat. We did have an over flight by a US Coast Guard helo that, I'm sure, dutifully reported on Shirley who was working on her tan line. We anchored off Chub Cay but did not bother going ashore. Shirley caught two more fish at the anchorage, cleaned and cooked them on the grill while I cooked pork chops in the galley. Pretty good meal for sail-fare. After some map work, our route began to take shape. We decided to move to the northern Berrys, to Great Harbor Cay, and stay overnight. Then, off across Northwest Passage  to Port Lacaya on Grand Bahama (near Freeport) for a final marina visit prior to moving back to Florida.

The morning started dead calm and really didn't change very much. We had some 5-6 kt wind for some of the morning but most of the 40 NM trip was by motoring. Beautiful scenery between the series of Berry's drifting by on our port and the outrageously brilliant sea everywhere else. Mid afternoon we had a serious equipment failure. The cap on the end of the motor drive shaft on our Autohelm simply cracked into two parts and defied my attempts at repair. The repair took two hours… the repair lasted five minutes before once again littering the cockpit deck. Slaves to the wheel once more, alas, alas! No wind so no Monitor to fall back on. We anchored at Great Harbour Cay, just south of Great Stirrup Cay where the cruise ships anchor and ferry passengers ashore for a touch of island life. There was a huge cruise ship there, took up a goodly portion of our horizon, but we saw no signs of those pesky and pale denizens of the monster. The harbor area we chose is considered a good hurricane hole and is beautiful as well as large… easily several miles across and sheltered from just about any direction. Some places are a bit shoal but hundreds of boats could anchor here. We shared the anchorage with two other sailboats and one bedraggled Bahamian fishing boat (who decided to run his generator all night long).

Although a mile off shore, we had to use bug screens for only the 4th or 5th time since leaving. Shirley did catch a small "Big Eye" tuna, which was tasty. The trip to Port Lacaya is one of the longest, one day efforts we have made… 57 NM across the very deep and busy Northwest Channel. The morning started with a brisk wind up to about 10 NM steady from the SW and we took advantage of this to sail as long as possible. The weather faxes from the night before suggested we would run out of wind as we moved north, and so we did. Not only had to start the motor but we had to steer again as the Monitor (our self steering wind vane) could not hold course in such light air. Made for a long day of watch standing but Shirley and I traded off steering in one hour shifts so no one got too bored. Fishing again in the deep water… donated two lures either to strikes by large fish (broken steel leaders) or something. The radar was up and running as I anticipated much ship traffic… saw only one container ship and very few other boats all day long. More work on those tan lines! More books consumed. More hours spent just watching the ocean, and the colors, and the waves, and being drugged by the comfortable motion of the boat in this calm sea.

Port Lacaya is very touristy… hotels and condos and big power boats predominating in the marinas. Bright pastel colors on the surrounding buildings, which all look new, and a level of cleanliness and order and bustle we haven't seen in quite some time. There is a cluster of shops and bars and restaurants near the marina and we spent the early evening wandering and people-watching. We ate at a pleasant, pub-like restaurant, a former Pusser's, that had a great menu of English foods. In the plaza next to the restaurant, a band and singer worked their way through island's music while a mix of tourists and locals and numerous children danced and pranced the night away. Plumb pleasant, it was! We expect to stay another day or so… would love to find some wind to drive us across the Gulf Stream. It's about 80-90 NM to Lake Worth, Florida. We anticipate leaving in the early to mid afternoon for an overnight run, arriving about daylight off the Lake Worth inlet. The weather is so stable now, after being so troubled for that three week or more period, that no real wind is anticipated. That will make for a long night of watch-standing and steering but we are, of course, dauntless seafaring types who, with sun-seamed faces and salt-reddened eyes, laugh in the face of such adversity. Can't wait to get to Florida, and the land of marine stores, to get a replacement for that pesky autopilot! 

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Port Lacaya, Grand Bahama, Bahamas


Web Posted:  May 15th, 2001

Underway again. Our guests, W.L. and Muriel McCaskill, arrived at the marina about 1800 05/08/01 and we had a wonderful meal at the Poop Deck restaurant in the marina. Early the next morning we checked weather, found things about the same, and decided to head south to Norman's Cay.  We were underway by 0830 with a smooth departure from the pier in spite of a 15-20 kt wind pushing us against the dock, and a typically congested marina with little maneuver room. We ran a reciprocal of our course here planning to swing further south to Norman's Cay but changed  horses in mid stream and went back to Highborne Cay for the reefs. Winds stayed about 15-20 kts and seas were 2-4' with some occasional higher. We sailed with a reefed main, yankee and staysail, rail pretty close to the water, and boat speeds hanging from high 6's to low 7's. 

Beautiful day but the early part of the trip involved winds on our beam and swells coming up our port quarter so the boat had a pronounced corkscrewing motion. At the halfway point we swung more easterly into more of a reach with beam swells. We arrived at Highborne Cay well before dark and set anchor close to where we had stayed several days earlier. I knew we had good holding there. In spite of the unsettling boat motion coming down from Nassau, crew revived and consumed ration of steak (and grog) for evening repast. All slept well after a day of sun and boat handling. All hands headed ashore for a walking tour of the island. This is privately held but they have a marina and some rental homes on the island and allowed, if not encouraged, our visit. We wandered a couple of miles down an ocean front beach considering whether any of the garbage and trash needed recycling aboard AT EASE… nothing was that attractive but if any of you need any plastic shreds or scraps, I know a plentiful source. 

We made the return trip to AT EASE in a dinghy low to the water but manned by a capable crew. Our guests were introduced to an endemic malady in the islands, Dinghy Butt, a condition caused by butt immersion in saltwater or spray. We've been on the beaches here multiple times. We have never had anyone else on the beaches. How nice! Some old friends came into the anchorage… NOCTURNE and N'JOY. Had a great cockpit sundowner on our boat today and tomorrow will go to N'JOY for sunset honors. A pleasure to see these new/old friends again and have the joy of their quick-fire sense of humor and consistently good cheer. Friday (05/11/01), we went snorkeling, tried a drift dive, over some reefs immediately north of our anchorage. We were marginally more exposed to wind and swell, still 15 (+) kts and 2-4' waves, and there was considerable tidal current as well. I stayed in the boat to keep track of the swimmers. At one point, moving from reef to reef, swimmers held on to the side of the boat while I slowly motored. It was pretty slow and a bit boring for me in the boat, but was a life threatening, endurance contest for swimmers in the water... each in their own way keeping this a secret until later when they, in mass, seemed to question my judgment... go figure! Beautiful reefs and some fish but between wave action and current it made for tiring swimming. 

On Saturday, we moved to Allen Cays, only about 5-6 NM away, and anchored inside the lagoon-like bay. Although there were four other boats in the anchorage, there was still a sense of isolation. We did the usual beach visits to see the protected iguanas that live there, and wandered around inside and outside the bay looking for interesting reefs. We did find some interior reefs that were accessible but had to watch out for a strong, ebb-tide current even there. As they rounded the reef point, both Shirley and Muriel made a break for Africa but, with the trusty dink, we bested the current and retrieved all hands. On Sunday, back to Nassau with an early start in perfect conditions. Winds 15 kts from the NE, subdued swells at 2-4' from the north, and just enough puffy clouds to make the bright blue sky more striking. We raised all working sail, turned on the Monitor to steer, and sat back to watch the world go by. Quite a few boats moving, given the superb weather, all moving north. Just close to a perfect sail with enough boat action to rock us all into a blissful stupor. 

Arrival in Nassau was almost a disappointment. Monday was our tourist day... we walked downtown and toured the several blocks of cruise ship, duty-free, tourist shops. The Bahamian Straw Market is the central feature of this area. This is a multi-storied building, maybe as large as 1/2 block, with one booth after another of individual "shops", mostly selling caps, straw products, shirts, wraps and dresses with some wood carving and hand-made jewelry. There are over 500 such booths... Muriel and Shirley were determined to miss not one. They succeeded. We ended with a wonderful, water-front meal at Crocodiles, a cruiser's hangout in the harbor, and returned to AT EASE to feast on Bahamian Rum Cake, with extra rum of course, to close out the day and the week. I think all this would be considered in keeping with Arkansas' rich nautical heritage... what a marvelous week! 

Bill and Shirley with W L and Muriel 

S/V AT EASE

Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas


Web Posted:  May 6th, 2001

On May 3rd, we moved from Hawksbill Cay to Highbourne Cay at the head of the Exuma chain. Another late start. I downloaded the weather faxes before leaving. Seems the weather faxes, and the area SSB radio nets, all come on about the same time. I have been opting for the weather info and have not been checking into the Cruiseheimer's net so have lost track of several of our friends whom are now pretty well distributed around the Bahamas.

Bright blue skies when we left with building cumulus clouds during the day. Winds up to 20-25 kts from the NE throughout the day with a steep 2-4 ft chop, maybe somewhat higher, and swell mostly from the north, the residual from a pretty good size, stalled front hanging over the northern Bahamas which has been dominating our weather for a couple of weeks. I sailed with reefed main and yankee only, left that staysail alone, and was close to over-powered even with that. The port rail was at the water with occasional waves coming aboard and running down the walkway. Wonderful, exhilarating sail with a comfortable boat action even though we were banging away into the waves and sending sheets of spray over the deck. We were moving good and up to 7.5 kts at one point but the waves became stiffer as the day wore and dropped our speed down to about 5 kts overall. 

Arrived to find only one other sail boat at anchor... the rest were mega-yachts (motor) up to 150'. I bought some fuel for the dinghy… a steal at only $3.00 a gallon (without the oil mix).  We went ashore to explore but that didn't take long. Nothing really ashore except for the expensive marina and a store which opens only when customers make arrangements in advance. Some beautiful reefs surrounding this place but the weather is not really conducive to diving or snorkeling. Wind continues 20-30 kts and at daybreak today we had a pretty heavy squall with rain lasting for a good hour. I was too lazy then to rig for collecting the rainwater, didn't want to get cold or wet, so let it all stop before I rigged. No rain since, of course. Weather faxes all indicate the weather will continue for the next four days, at least. That will make essentially 10 days with winds 20+ kts; some intervals as low  as 15 kts. We need to get to Nassau (30 NM) to pick up some guests by Tuesday and would like to get into a marina there to re-provision and get some minor repairs and parts, but understand the harbor is full of other boats waiting for weather windows to move north and/or return to the States. It seems to work that way… everyone moves or no one moves.

The conditions of the last couple of weeks have kept most people in marinas or at anchor. Most seem to consider these conditions just too uncomfortable. We'll go anyway in the next few days and worry when we get there about anchoring or berthing. May 5th... left Highbourne about 0815 or so. Anchor up and underway with reefed main, yankee and staysail. Made the decision after awakening to winds down to 15 kts and bright blue skies with partly scattered clouds. Real contrast to the night before which had us surrounded with the most prominent cloud-frontal activity I can remember seeing. The sunset was awesome... and a 360 degree phenomena... with shades of gold, red and russet, black and gray and ivory white and formations billowing and piling one upon the other. Strangest thing I have ever seen in the sky. Felt like we were in the eye of a hurricane. Calm here, even clear sky, and surrounded by suggestively violent weather.

The sail was wonderful. AT EASE was moving (about 320 degrees) at, or even over, 7 kts much of the morning with a 2-4 (sometimes 6) foot swell still from the north. The monitor worked like a champ... the harder it blew the better it steered. T'was just a pleasure to watch it work. The wind did build over the morning until we were getting 20+ kts again, and the weather started to deteriorate with intermittent rain and more cloud cover. I did notice that I could monitor rain squalls on the radar. I want to believe it was a rain squall that swam up to us... if not, we were possessed by the Bermuda "THING" cause we sure didn't see anything else out there. We did have to motor the last few miles directly into the wind and fight the Nassau harbor current. Nassau is full! A large number of the Bahamas cruisers have been stuck here for weeks waiting for weather to head north. Big water from here up through the Tongue of the Ocean. We lucked out and got a slip in Nassau Yacht Haven Marina... our first marina stay in over three months. Kind of exciting to get back to anywhere with supermarkets and shopping, even marine parts. As we greased into the slip, no mean feat of seamanship if I say so myself, the boat to our starboard was having a party that went on until midnight or so. When we were off shopping, right about dark, this party decided they needed to retie my boat. Did I mention they had been drinking? I understand the evolution was done in three languages. Took me about a half-hour to clean all that up and get re-secured. Pizza! We had pizza again! Joy to the world!

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas


Web Posted:  May 3rd, 2001

We have been stuck in Staniel Cay, riding at anchor off of an area known as Big Major's Spot... the place where the pigs come down to meet your dinghy... for the last week. The wind has been blowing stink (20-30 kts) and wave action has been pretty dramatic off shore in the sound and uncomfortable on the banks. We have been eager to get underway, to Nassau, to pick up guests next week. We did have a couple of nice days ashore at Staniel.

On our first trip, we ate at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and I believe it must have been the best meal I have eaten ashore in the Bahamas (Lobster... four courses... somewhat European style). The second day was just wandering around. Both of us were a bit cabin-fevered from being stuck on the boat in the blow. We took some unwanted clothes and such in a bag with the intent of donating it to the Bahamians. This is an obviously poor community. We headed for the church, were redirected from there to a bar, and then had to convince the matron that the bag wasn't just garbage. Unappreciated, we felt.

I went looking for the post office. The little store behind the house said they would take the envelopes if they had postage stamps... they did not. "Where", he asked, "might the post office be?" Well it was in the green shed just down the hill from the store. "Well", said I, "no answer there." Nice Bahamian says, "I'll call the postmaster at home". Nice gesture. No answer. "Where do they live", says I. "Why, just in the green house next to the green shed, of course." No answer. "Now what", says I. They sent me to the other end of the bay, to another store, where the nice ladies even had stamps and took my mail. "When might this go out", says I. "Three-four days, Mon... when the mail boat come." Great experience.

Today's sail was just wonderful. We left under blue skies and 15 kt winds with two foot chop on the banks. I put a reef in the main just to contend with those pesky 30 kt gusts we have been getting, but took it out about halfway through the day. We had both headsails out. We did 30 NM... a comfortable distance leaving late (1100) and arriving early enough to get the anchor down well before dark (1600). Brisk winds and beautiful water with building seas during the day and a couple of light showers just to keep things cool. I played with the windvane self-steering, the Monitor, which I have not used in a couple of months. I didn't have the lines set up right on the wheel drum and the boat wandered through 45 degrees, right and left, until I realized my error.

Once led correctly, the boat settled down and tracked within 10 degrees (swing) of the rhumb line and corrected to the mildly variable winds and gusty conditions much better than I could have, had I been on the wheel. We got in to Hawksbill Cay and got the anchor down in about 11 ft of water just as a shower hit. Riding now with about 15 kts of wind from the NE-E under the headland. Now it's Miller Time.

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE

Hawksbill Cay, Exumas, Bahamas


Web Posted:  April 26th, 2001

We're on the move again… finally. Our stay in George Town was wonderful but we were ready to leave some time ago. We were stuck awaiting the return of our "repaired" lap top from the states. Then, when it finally arrived after four weeks, worked an hour before failing again, we were caught in a weather system that sustained winds over 20 and up to low 30's for a full week.  To leave George Town, one must move out into Exuma Sound, which is open ocean for all practical purposes, and move north some distance before coming back on the Bahama Banks. Within a mile off shore the water is measured in the thousands of feet deep. That water was well stirred after a week of wind and a prominent swell from the east of 6-8 ft made exit difficult.

The day before we left, I dove on the boat and scrubbed the bottom (pretty fuzzy) and even had to scrub the anchor chain. Even with that, the residual on the chain became pretty smelly after a few hours in the chain locker. We're trying a bleach/water mix to kill both smell and residual vegetation. The morning of departure, we motored across the bay to a fuel dock and took on 55 gallons of diesel and topped off water. We only needed about 5 gallons or so of water between our water maker and rainwater collected. We needed to make a few provisioning stops in town but they ran us off the fuel dock and we moved into Kidd's Cove, a small bay just outside of the George Town piers, to anchor briefly while we ran ashore one last time in the dingy. It was a race.  Tide was going out and the Cove is less than our draw. Wouldn't be the first time I had anchored with my keel but we did want to leave. As it was, we left clouds of sand in the water and probably polished the bottom of the keel yet again before we reached deeper (relatively) water.

As soon as we neared Conch Cut, the exit from the harbor proper, we were hit with big swells right on our beam. The boat was wallowing in these deep swells with a prominent roll sometimes reaching 40 and onetime reaching 50 degrees… a quick, sharp roll with equal counter roll to the other side. Pretty unpleasant movement and a serious test of our readiness to go to sea. We had believed we were ready but setting at anchor for almost two months had made us too casual. The sounds from the interior of the boat were awesome… cans, pots and pans, storage locker contents, etc. Took a while to get everything packed and quiet. Putting  up a staysail helped some but the wind had fallen to about 10-15 kts, from the starboard, after quarter, and the sail was only partially stabilizing. To compound problems, the autopilot did not work. This was not the time to take things apart and track wiring so, with a firm chin and steely eye ( later a sore neck and shoulder), I hand steered in those conditions for the 27 NM we traveled that day. Saylor positioned herself in her at-sea compartment (the cockpit well immediately under my feet and leaning against the wheel and autopilot), and Shirley did her thing fussing about below stowing and tweaking, or supervising me in the cockpit.

It was beautiful. We stayed about a mile or so off shore. Deep, deep blue seas swelling up all around, with frothy white water topping many.  A few flying fish, a few sea birds, and very few other boats. To our port, the string of islands and reefs and rocks with huge plumes of spray and ominous lines of rollers smashing ashore. Of starboard, just the endless lines of swells and whitecaps leading to the horizon. Still some cumulus puffs here and there but mostly bright, clear and blue skies. The air so clean you could taste it. It felt wonderful to be moving again. Shirley did some calculations and decided we would overnight at Norman's Pond, just north of Lee Stocking Island. The cut through the reefs there was well marked and we could get in by mid afternoon with plenty of light and good visibility. She knows I tend to push on too far and arrive at anchorages in the pink, afterglow of sunset… not a good time to be moving around reefs and such. We entered Adderly's Cut a couple of hours before high tide and motored around inside looking for some protection from swell, wind and current, and for deep water. As always, choice of anchoring location is a compromise. There was one other boat in the area and we ended up not far from them. Overnight, the wind shifted moving us farther out, and the current and swell, that which survived the reefs offshore, had us rolling most of the night. Pretty bumpy anchorage over all. 

We left early the next morning for the run on into Staniel Cay where some friends were anchored with a broken boat. Joe and Holley, on New Horizons, had a starter failure and he had to fly to Nassau with the starter for a rebuild. We were anxious to see them and render any help or support to Holley who was staying on the boat. They were on a mooring ball so the boat was safe, but…  Offshore again for about 20 NM and then through another cut to continue on up the Bahamas Bank. Wind had settled to about 10 kts, right on the stern, and swells were down to about 4-6 ft but still mostly on the beam. Rolly but not as active as the day before. I put up main and yankee, had to pole the yankee and use a preventer on the main. From the troughs to the crests,  especially with the marked roll, we were filling and dumping the sails all morning. I kept the engine running with low RPM just to  maintain consistent power. Once we moved through the next cut (Galliot) and were back on the Banks, the wave action settled to about 2 footers and I could move on and off course enough to keep some air in the sails but still had to run the engine. The change in water color is so striking. From indigo blue to an aqua, crystal clear, screen with strikingly clear bottom, in water never much deeper than 20 feet or so and frequently less than 10.

At some point, probably as we came off the Sound onto the Bank, Shirley's troll picked up a barracuda about 30" long. We have heard other boaters talk about eating barracuda but we're not sure we are ready for that. I did fillet the monster, pretty bony, but we probably will use it for bait. A boat about 20 miles behind us called to say they had caught two dolphins, (webmaster's note:  we more commonly see this as "mahi mahi" around these parts), one very large (that got away at the boat), and another about 30 lbs that they were dressing out on deck. We keep hearing of others catching these delicious fish but so far our fishing has not been very fruitful. We anchored at Big Major's Spot, off Staniel Cay harbor, but 1600 and got the outboard back on the dingy in time for Saylor to get ashore and see the huge pigs that live on the beach. They are semi-pets and have been fed by so many cruisers they now meet each dinghy to see what treats are in store. Disappointed they were. 

We ended the evening at Staniel Cay Yacht Club for dinner (best meal yet in the Bahamas) where we had lobster and steak with our friends on New Horizons. Then it was a dark, I mean DARK, run with the dinghy, about 1.5 miles, across the bay to try and find our boat. Found it quicker than I thought but took some motoring around in the anchorage. We had, of course, forgotten to turn on an anchor light when we left. Just before daylight this morning, Saylor came down from the cockpit and stood up along our bed, nudging me and whining. I think she was just anxious about a squall and front coming through but the effect was as if she  were telling me "You better get up and check the boat… weather coming in." Pretty good sailor, that Saylor.  Bill and Shirley S/V AT EASE

Staniel Cay, Bahamas


Web Posted:  March 13th, 2001

Well the Cruiser's Regatta is well started. This is a remarkable enterprise put together by transient cruiser's in the month or two after the first of the year when folks start arriving here. It is a full week of activity, ranging from Beach Party motif to Variety Shows, Dance Contest, Sand Sculpture, children's events, and of course sail boat races. Some of the latter are serious (your life's at stake) and some are fun. The in harbor race has two prizes... one for fastest time and one for biggest fish caught during the race. There is even a party hosted by the islander's for the cruisers where food and drink are free for all.

There was a relatively spontaneous "Dingy Bridge" formed from Stocking Island across Elizabeth Harbor to George Town with something like 300 dingy's involved. A Bahamian flag was passed across and presented to Exuma Market. This market deserves special mention. They serve as the mail box for cruisers, receive messages and faxes, and sponsor the Dingy Dock which serves George Town and provides free water for cruisers (of uncertain quality and usually brackish}. In return, the cruiser's shop there for grocery needs. Synergistic and damn smart.

 I'm playing in the volleyball tournament. Volleyball is a serious activity here with about five courts permanently set up on what is known as Volleyball Beach. It is "fun" volleyball, which of course means no prisoners. I've enjoyed the volleyball so much I am sure there will be withdraw to contend with after we leave.

We've met such interesting and diverse folks down here. Yet we are all really much more alike than we are different. There are some younger couples, apparently in their 30's, a few in their 40's and most in their 50's and up. Most have come here annually for years and cruise elsewhere during the rest of the seasons. Some are here for extended vacations of several months... haven't figured out how they manage that and still have a life "back there". There is an international flavor but it is heavily dominated by Canada and the US with many French Canadians who really do seem like a different nationality than the other Canadians we have met. Several South Africans are here and more than a few Germans. The other countries are less represented. 

Trips to town are an adventure. We time our excursions to meet the various supply ships that bring in produce, groceries, propane or other products. One learns the shipment schedules rather quickly. While one can generally get most basics, you may have to shop for them on specified days rather than when the mood strikes. There is no shortage of booze, as a general rule. Marine stocks are very limited and basic. The cruiser's net in the mornings allows boats to announce their needs and expertise and spares seem available much more often than one might suspect. Even the odd parts for specific equipment and models seems to be magically available more often than not.

There are a couple of very small hotels, a couple of very small restaurants and a couple of bakeries, and a couple of dive shops. Conspicuous by their absence are tee-shirt shops. Even the marinas are very limited although one can purchase water and diesel and rent slips if needed. Most folks do like us and just anchor out. We have been using our water maker daily and have had no shortages. Anchoring here is quite comfortable with good wind and solar power to augment the diesel. We usually run the engine only when working the SSB for email or voice transmission, or to charge some or produce hot water about every other day. 

Bathing has been somewhat optional with salt water showers not all that uncomfortable. What we have found is we brought too many clothes and too few books. We are leaving shortly for the "formal" dinner dance of the regatta. Plans were to wear long pants but I do have my building record of consecutive days in shorts so think I will stick to formal shorts... that probably means I will wear underwear too.

Bill & Shirley Martin S/V AT EASE


Web Posted:  March 2nd, 2001

Yesterday we went exploring in the dingy, going to the end of Stocking Island and crossing the reef between Stocking and Elizabeth Island, about a two mile trip. We motored across a shoal sand bar and into the pool immediately inside the reef and watched breakers come in looking for the best exit. The breakers were about every 20 seconds, up to 3-4 feet high and pretty steep faces but I saw another dingy manage to cross without mishap so we tried as well. Pretty scary to see that green water rear up just in front of the boat and a bit wet when it broke around us but we got through with a crash and jolt falling into the trough. 

Outside there were several dingys, some anchored, and several snorkeling swimmers working the reefs. We motored for a while looking for a beach to park the dingy but no joy... all sharp coral or rocks. I did get in too close during this search and we ended up crashing through two more waves before we got back outside the surf.  We anchored and started snorkeling. The water was  typically clear, about 20-25' deep at the edge of the reef and shallowing onto the reef itself. Underwater was a mix of sand, some granite, and coral. Colors and variety were not expecially striking. There were some fish, mostly in close to the reef and on the bottom, ducking in and out from under ledges, even a grouper or two and some yellow-tail snapper that were big enough to shoot but they were so deep I didn't want to risk the spear and wasn't sure I could retrieve it.

The swell was a bit disconcerting and brushed the bottom and moved the fish back and forth even as we bobbled and surged on the surface. There wasn't much in the way of current but I was still leary of approaching the reef face too closely with the wave action so prominent. I'm sure the fishing would have been better but it just seemed too risky. We saw no lobster. They're there... we see others who get one or two, and hear of others who have been successful but I have yet to find one. Shirley wants fish... I want lobster (garlic butter stands ready).

By the way, crossing the reef back into Elizabeth Harbor was a hoot with the surf pushing us across. The foaming crest parked immediately behind our transom and pushed us across at about the speed of sound, or there abouts. Neat!

Bill and Shirley

S/V AT EASE


Web Posted:  February 25, 2001

Things are getting pretty routine here in George Town. The big issue is the upcoming Cruiser's Regatta, followed by the Family Islands Regatta, and the associated parties and races.  One interesting cruiser's race... A series of staging lines is bouyed, some hundreds of yards apart. Up to six boats move to each of these lines, apart from the actual starting line, and then anchor. All sails must be down. When they start, they must raise anchor, hoist sails and move to the starting line (they may motor until then).  From there, the race is on.  There are 440 boats in the harbor now but it really does not seem especially crowded. There are more US boats, probably, but the number of Canadian boats is really surprising and frankly there may be more of them. There is a significant sprinkling of other nationalities present, English, French, German, Spanish and at least one Irish boat, so there is an international flavor to the radio and to the beach gatherings. As might be expected, the range of boats by size, character and style, varies greatly. We've seen boats as small as 25' and as large as 96'. Overwhelmingly, most are sailboats and most are 40-50', center cockpit, sloops and ketches. There are a few trawlers and sport fisherman but not many. Most couples are about our age but there are a number of young couples, some with young children onboard. Many are live aboards, but most seem to be winter cruisers coming from their homes and returning to their homes and careers in the spring. Not sure I know how they manage that much time off.

Semi-organized activities include singing, bridge, softball, volley ball, cooking. Fishing, diving and snorkeling are more individually driven activities. Plenty to do without going to town where the night life is largely restricted to the two hotels... haven't really seen any interesting restaurants here. There is a fair amount of visiting back and forth among boats, sundowners and dinner and such, and it really is delightful to run into boats seen earlier in various anchorages.  We're still hanging on the anchor, tucked in behind Stocking Island, across Elizabeth Harbor from George Town proper, and really go to town rarely. We do go to Volleyball Beach pretty well every day for volleyball and conversation. The wind has picked up again to 15-20 kts, mostly from the E-ESE and this has limited our snorkeling but has not been otherwise uncomfortable at all. The weather is remarkable. Bright sun, which itself is hot enough to cause perspiration, combined with the brisk breeze, actually makes it cool. I think I'm getting closer to the WIOCDS (World Indoor and Outdoor Consecutive Days in Shorts) record.

Between the wind generator and solar panels we have been producing more energy than we have used, even to the point that I have been running the water maker to use up some of the surplus. Given that water sells here for .60 per gal, the water is appreciated too. I took the Ham License test on Friday and passed the Tech, Code and General portions so will get a license. Studying for that has occupied a good deal of time over the last week or so since we arrived here and I have gotten behind on boat chores. We need to restitch an area of our staysail which broke some stitches in a 30 kt wind. I need to do some plumbing... putting in an inline cutoff valve on our lavatory sink drain so it won't siphon in water when we are on a port tack and healed.  I had been having trouble with my 6 volt batteries not holding a charge for very long and finally just replaced the whole bank with some NAPA batteries I bought here. I went on the local cruiser's net offering to give away the old, compromised batteries and they were gone in a hurry to a couple of grateful cruisers who were also having battery problems of one kind or another.  That cruiser's net is remarkable. Folks come on with all sorts of questions and problems and seem to always get very helpful responses and even volunteer time to work on engines, refrigeration, electrical systems, etc... A 96' motor cruiser from England, enroute to the Pacific via Panama, came on this morning looking for charts of Panama and the Galapagas Islands, and looking for one or two more crew members for Pacific cruising. Wonder if he got any takers?

Shirley has been busy with boat chores and with baking bread. She has polished and cleaned most of the hull and has been  cleaning the rust from stainless steel and fighting the battle of sand and salt in the boat. The boat looks great... and so does she. She's experimenting with different bread receipes ranging from sourdough to whole wheat and even a salt water bread which was lovely. With fresh bread and a tin of New Zealand butter I think we can last out the season right here. Under the heading of expedient repairs, one layer of glass in the oven door just shattered (who knows why). Her repair was to take a sheet of stainless steel and mount it inside the oven door. She has continued to bake away with hardly a pause.  Under the lessons learned, and relearned, heading. We really do need a new dingy with more powerful engine. In many of the anchorages, we've been confronted with long rides across chop and current; these rides are wet, wet, wet... We've been impressed with the Caribe RIB's. They have large tubes and, with the RIB hull, are much drier rides. With a 15 HP engine, one can really have the range necessary to explore, take care of chores, and do all the other things a "family car" has to do. While I'll be looking here, I expect the purchase will really have to wait until we get back to the US (the Land of the Great PX). 

Just heard on the VHF... last night a sail boat inbound into George Town harbor hit a reef at the entrance, drove the keel up through the hull and sank. That reef has accounted for other boats in the past. Good rescue effort this morning from cruiser's who noted the wreck this morning and rescued three men. Boats have been moving among the anchorage collected clothing, tooth brushes and such for these fellows. 

Hope things are going well there. 

Bill and Shirley and Saylor

S/V AT EASE


Web Posted:  February 15, 2001

Dear IMYC:

Seem to have trashed one of my computers... got some salt water on the display screen and the screen got strange, then worse and finally blank as the salt corroded something. It dripped in from a less than tightly fastened porthole. Guess will have to go through the hassle of sending the computer back to Texas for repair. Lucky I had my old lap top computer on board as a spare so we can still navigate and communicate.  The weather is beautiful. I just can't describe the color of the water, just crystal clear and a brilliant aqua blue. Last night, under a full moon, I could still see the bottom in about 15-20 feet of water. There is a beach in front of us and two abandoned hogs, about 3-4' tall with small bodies and long legs, that live in the scrub brush. Boaters over the years have fed them so they come out of the brush to meet every dingy that goes ashore. I'm not sure how Saylor will react, or how they will react to Saylor, but we will find out today.  Shirley and I have been snorkeling here every day. The fish hang at the live coral reefs and are colorful beyond imagination. The movie, Thunder ball, a Sean Connery "James Bond" movie, was filmed here in the 1970's or so. There is an underwater grotto now called Thunderball, where you swim into a cave which quickly opens into a pool. In the roof of the cave, there is a break to the sky so the sun shines down into the pool and creates beautiful colors and patterns in the water. We're going to dive there today.

This is very much what we have been looking for. Absolutely beautiful.  We went to shore yesterday and feel like we have found at least a foreign country, versus another version of south Florida. The people are as friendly as can be, and live in relatively small, simple houses, typically of concrete construction. There are two small groceries, in houses themselves, embedded among the houses. These are very limited in choices and only a relative few items of each, but really do have enough for replenishment. They remind me of the country (and I mean country) stores of childhood. The "streets" are really more like golf cart lanes and some people on the island drive golf carts. There are a few pickup trucks. The land does have dips and hills of a sort with the highest elevation about 50'. Water is from cisterns and collected from rain.

Some wells are dug but the water is a bit brackish from these. They do have DVD satellite receivers for TV and probably Playboy Channel, certainly CNN. I'm not sure you can travel far enough to get away from television. There is a nurse on the island, a US RN, who provides all medical care for people and for animals apparently. Power comes, I assume, from large diesel generators but I'm not sure of that. There is a small shop selling tee shirts and such with Staniel Cay on them. There is a yacht club with a few slips and a pier, a bar and restaurant, a few cottages for rent, and that's about it. There are at least two other bars on the island, really more like cottages themselves, and an airport for charter flights from elsewhere. There is a municipal dock where all cargo is offloaded and it is about the size of a tennis court. Not much else here.

The folks make their living from the sea or from tourists and boaters. Not enough dirt on the islands for much beyond simple gardening. There are at least 40-50 boats in the area, mostly cruising sail boats like us, and many local boats mostly just drawn up on the sandy beaches. Wish you all were here. Shirley and I are doing great and Saylor is tolerating us well.

Bill and Shirley and Saylor

S/V AT EASE


Web Posted:  January 22, 2001
We're back in Boot Key heading up the Keys looking for an opportunity to jump
across the Stream to the Bahamas, probably from about Key Largo.  Maybe next
week.  Another front coming through today with northerly winds (again).
Enjoying Boot Key and getting some boat maintenance chores done (added hard
solar panels to the cockpit lifelines, got Sailmail receiving  (via SSB) and
expect to get the sending part ironed out shortly, receiving weather faxes
now).  I have my new main (full batten) up and working.  I already need to
scrub the bottom of both the dingy and the boat because of vegetation.

Life is getting a bit more routine with daily chores both on the boat and
simple housekeeping tasks.  Just keeping the crud off of stainless steel
seems like a full time task.  Then, of course, there are the 12 volt demons
which have to be exorcised from time to time.  We both have become water and
energy conscious.  We spend about a third of our time in Marinas for the
access to laundry, water and provisions.  The rest of the time is on the
hook.  Our water maker will make about 1.2 gal per hour but we really need to
be out of anchorage and in clean water to use it so typically we don't turn
it on.  Florida is not very conducive to anchoring in "out of the way" spots
so we end up in designated anchorages which are inevitably dirtier or more
polluted. The dingy, and that reliable 5 HP kicker, are pretty important for
mobility but we have pretty well accepted that a ride in a dingy is always
wet... the only issue is how wet.  We read voraciously and trade books at
every opportunity.  Even bad books are better than none.  I'm reminded of
years ago in the Navy when I would wander ships reading bulletin boards and
No Smoking signs just to have something to read.  We are both very weather
conscious and find that a major part of daily interaction with others has to
do with weather conditions.  We simply are not as insulated from weather as
when we lived ashore.  We are typically pretty busy.  Boredom has simply not
been an issue.

Saylor has adapted pretty well.  She would clearly prefer running free in the
woods, or even around the docks, but pretty well has to be restricted to the
boat or on a leash.  She will use the deck for toileting, but just resists
that if at all possible.  She has learned that the dingy is her route ashore
typically and we have to watch her as she will jump in the dingy and just
wait for us to notice.  Please picture her looking back over her shoulder,
sitting in the dingy, waiting for us to finally understand her all to clear
communication.  She must think we are intellectually challenged because it
takes us so long to understand.

As everyone has said, it really is the people you meet that is most
memorable.  We've met such a range of wonderful people and do run into the
same boats over and over as we move. We had two other Lord Nelson's in
anchorage at Key West... a 35' essentially identical to ours and a 41'.  We
discovered more boat history from those couples.  There were 85  41' boats
built and only 28 35' boats; At Ease is hull number 17.  Both couples had
been cruising about 1-2 years and each was planning a return ashore in the
near future, each with different reasons.  Lately we've been cruising with
boats we first met in Biloxi (Point Cadet) and ran into again in Key West (a
Crealock 37', a 30' Baba and a 27' Columbia).  The Pacific Seacraft
tentatively plans to cross over to the Bahamas with us but their plans are
pretty flexible so we shall see.  One issue we've noticed is that cruising
together requires the faster boats to slow down and the slower boats to
struggle.  Creates some tension which is unfortunate but it is a real issue.
A kt difference in speed over a full day is a significant difference.  We
find we are a bit faster at this point... maybe our bottom is cleaner than I
thought.  Motor sailing is typical.  Even when there is wind, one is still
confronted with the need to get to that next safe anchorage before dark.  The
alternative, overnight sailing and watch-standing, is just not very wise in
these coastal situations.

Good Old Boat magazine is doing a feature article on At Ease, now scheduled
for July issue.  A couple spent a day with us in Key West interviewing and
taking pictures of the boat. A neat experience... hope the article is good.

We spent a good month in Key West with John Hixson and even had some
opportunity to sail locally.  The weather was not good (I know that's
relative).  One front after another, every 3-4 days with cold bursts into the
50's sometimes but mostly in the 60's.  More significantly, the fronts have
been from the north with high winds (20-30 kt is not unusual and 15 kts has
been routine).  No good anchorages around Key West and the marinas are very
expensive and tend to get appreciably higher around events like Race Week,
Christmas and New Years.  It was great seeing John again.  He really has
become a traditional Conch and seems to feel very much at home in the Keys.

We've got another front coming through tonight but this is a relatively
sheltered anchorage and the rain will be the most limiting factor.  Hope the
weather has finally started clearing for you guys and you are back to that
wonderful community on the Lake that we remember so fondly.

Keep in touch.

Bill and Shirley Martin, S/V AT EASE

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