Thursday, October 31, 2013

Map 10-31-13

Now THAT was a day

The sun rose on Styron Creek this morning to find most of the boats with crew already on deck and prepping for departure. The weather gurus have been saying that Friday is going to be an ugly one for sailors. Everyone seemed of the same mind; get a scoot on to put in as many miles as quickly as possible.

The 16 mile run down the Pungo River starts out heading south west, then turns west, then south east. More boats joined in the line as we went along, with the line itself clumping up in small groups of 4 or 5; the groups stringing out for miles. It was a repeat of the last few days, the “V” shaped wakes gently rolling the placid, unruffled surface.

The water on the Pamlico River hinted at a bit of wind. Head sails blossomed on all four of the boats in our little group as we made the turn onto the river. Kintala heeled to starboard just a bit and picked up a knot of speed. (Every bit helps when one is in a hurry on a sailboat.) It didn't last long though. The route crosses the Pamlico into Goose Creek. The breeze was flowing directly out of the inlet so all the sails were rolled back in as the boats came head to the wind and started down the creek.

Goose Creek leads to another canal (this one not as ugly as yesterday's), which leads to Gale Creek. The total run is about 10 miles and it was a pure motor parade the whole way. The breeze didn't fade as expected though and, in fact, seem to pick up a little; perhaps from a sort of funnel affect. I started to think that the weather guessers had called this one wrong.

Gale Creek empties into the Neuse River. Head sails bloomed once again as boats made the turn south east on the Neuse, but this time they snapped open, filled with a solid breeze. We left about one third of Kintala's head sail on the roller as we were too close to the wind to sail without help from our old Westerbeke. Boats near by who put out more sail heeled hard in the wind, struggling to hold the course. Boats a few miles out ahead of us disappeared into a rain curtain. The weather guessers were clearly hours behind what the weather was doing.

It is a five mile sail down the Neuse River and into the Pamlico sound. The wind built the whole way and would once again be right on the bow when we made the turn south west. At the mark we rolled the head sail back in and swung the bow to starboard. It is hard to describe what happened next. The wind increased rapidly and soon more than 30 knots hummed in the rigging. The waves weren't that big, four foot or so. But the biggest ones formed into groups of three and the combined assault stopped Kintala nearly dead in her tracks. (That's 25,000 pounds of boat getting stopped cold in less than a boat length.) With her speed gone it was impossible to steer; the bow would fall off the wind putting us broadside to the waves. The old Westerbeke never missed a beat, but it was clearly over matched.

We eased just a whisper of the head sail back out and fell off the wind. It helped. With the added speed and lift on her bow Kintala was now a match for the waves; shouldering the water aside and keeping some momentum. The deck was nearly constantly awash; spray off the bow blew aft in sheets of water that soaked the helm. It was impossible to tell if it was raining or not.


Just to add to the fun our new Mantis anchor, which never really fit in the bow roller very well, started to bounce and rattle as we pitched our way over the waves. It didn't help any that it was also getting completely buried in the short coupled mounds of water. After one particularly hard thump the pin securing the chain fell free; the only thing holding the anchor on board was the clutch in the gypsy. Losing the anchor overboard at that moment wouldn't help so going forward to secure it seemed the sailorly thing to do. It was a wet and wild ride. I couldn't help but laugh when I got back to the cockpit, yelling to Deb (talking was useless in the howl of the wind) …

Now THIS is a day!

It took more than 3 hours to pound down the 15 miles of the Pamlico Sound, but eventually we made the turn to enter the harbor at Oriental. Deb got her own ride on the bow having to go forward to fix lines. It only took me three tries to get Kintala into her slip in the 20 knots of wind ruffling the harbor. I even managed to avoid bumping into anything.

This is what a dodger looks like after a day in heavy weather
The weather gurus claim the that real weather will be here tomorrow. We have pushed pretty hard to get this far and Oriental is a place we have wanted to visit ever since we learned about sailing. Kintala needs some attention.

I think we will stay here a few days.

Oriental Harbor Marina

(Ed note: I liked all these pictures of the sunrise so much I just decided to put them all in. Hey, we have free wifi :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Map 10-30-13

Call the day "DONE"

Today was a long motor.  Kintala's anchor pulled out of the mud just after the sunrise set the water on fire.  Deb helmed toward the ICW, set the RPM in its "happy place" and we didn't touch the throttle again until pulling into Styron Creek; more than 10 hours later.  (Kintala has two power settings she likes.  One is idle, the other revs for 6.2 knots - no wind / sails down.  Don't ask me why that is, given new engine mounts and all the other shiny bits in the drive train.  But since any $$ that might have gone into a new engine went into the standing rigging instead; what the Westerbeke likes, the Westerbeke gets.)

The Albemarle Sound has a bit of a reputation for beating up on the unwary.  Today it offered barely a ripple to impede the parade of boats heading south.  At least the table flat water made it easier to spot the crab pots.  At one point we spun the head sail part way out, realized it was futile, wound it back in, and kept making like a motor yacht.  (There are some very nice motor yachts out here, by the way.)  The Alligator River was equally placid and we lucked the swing bridge timing so as to leave the throttle untouched as we passed through. 

Ditto for the Pungo River Canal; an excruciating 20 mile ditch hacked through a swamp.  It has a single kink in its whole length and is ugly as sin.  About the only thing we saw moving (save for the boats) were vultures and wasps; a dozen or so of the latter buzzing the boat for miles.  We had planned on taking the channel down the East side of Roanoke Island with the hope of sailing the Pamlico Sound; it looks like a much more enjoyable route.  The Pamlico, however, has an even meaner reputation than does the Albemarle should one get caught out when the wind picks up; which it is supposed to do soon as a cold front approaches.

So the Alligator river and the Pungo Canal were the better choice, but it was a huge relief to launch the anchor off the bow and call this day "DONE". 

Coffee Meter: 10
On the menu for today

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

10-29-13 Map

ICW thoughts

My current bike - still for sale - any takers????
 We used to ride motorcycles a lot. To the tune of a quarter million miles for each of us on a couple dozen motorcycles over the years. But one of the trips I remember most is a 5 day camping trip on one of our first bikes, a Yamaha 750 triple with 6" over forks. It was, without a doubt, the worst handling motorcycle we ever owned, with the worst set of brakes. We packed up 5 days of camping gear and clothes and rain gear and the two of us and off we went. The end of this trip involved an endless ride up I-95, which is an endless 4-lane swath of concrete cut through a forest, leaving you nothing to entertain your eyes but two walls of green for hours on end. I was still riding on the back at the time and more than once I woke up from a dead sleep having toppled over to where the first sight that greeted my eyes was concrete roaring past my face shield. Many miles, and many mountains of rainy roads later, Tim coasted the bike into its storage shed, dismounted, removed his helmet, and said "Tomorrow you get your own bike."

Here we are 32 years later and as we were motoring down the Virginia Cut today that trip was all I could think about. We motored 7-1/2 hours since this morning through countryside that rarely changed and saw almost no wildlife (which surprised me to no end). There were bits and pieces that we enjoyed, like Coinjock, a cute little waterside town with great character and many characters. Unfortunately, we have been limited in our stops at places like these because of the constraints of our boat. If we had stopped in Coinjock, then the next stop available to us (for either depth or expense reasons) would have been either too close or too far. There are very very few places that a boat like ours can stop on the ICW without being in a marina, something we are not wanting to do because of the cost. Anchorages for a boat the size of ours are few and far between and at $2.00 to $2.50 per foot per night, the marinas add up quickly.

On the few bluewater excursions we took prior to choosing Kintala we found out quickly that we are open water people. We like the long days of sailing with no land in sight. We like the challenges of weather and the endless inky sky with a billion stars on night watch. We love the nuances of the ocean's personality, the colors, the sounds, the smells. So while we agree that this trip down the ICW is a necessary part of our voyage, and there are certainly things we have enjoyed seeing and doing, the boat we prepared for our retirement is a true bluewater boat that is most at home in blue water. After seeing how Kintala dug in and let fly on the open water of the lower Chesapeake, I will be happy to see her where she truly belongs on the open sea.


So the open steel deck bridge made last night every bit as long an noisy as feared.  The people at Centerville Water Marina are good folks, but it is not a place to try and rest from a long (or even short) day on the ICW.  We powered our way out of the mud to launch south through the first bridge opening of the morning.  Along side for a couple of minutes was the determined-looking ketch rig Passage.  When asked her single handing Captain said, "I'm going to Mexico".

"I'm going to Mexico."  Kintala's destination is "south".  Friend John is heading to the BVI.  David and Nancy to FL.  Bill and Christy are off "to the Islands."  Most of human kind has put down roots, put up borders, and now protects those same borders with violence and hate.  There are a few tribes of gypsies left however; who hunt and gather and wander.  The cruising community is one of those tribes; Deb and I among its newest members.  Sure, the hunting is mostly for the best ice cream cone (or the closest laundry) and the gathering mostly for sundowners, but we are certainly wandering.

It must be admitted that today's wanderings were a bit constrained.  The ICW in these parts is shallow and narrow.  Even when the water spreads out in all directions, as it did today in the North Landing and then the North rivers, getting more than a hundred feet or so off the track would stop all wandering by sticking the keel in the bottom.  A good part of the day had the depth sounder showing 10 feet or less ... sometimes a lot less.  Here in a place called (mistakenly) Broad Creek, the depth showed "0" under us at one point, and now we are anchored in about 7 total feel of water.  Two other boats have joined us, one being Passage from this morning, the other a cruising sailboat that has been in here before.

Tomorrow we will wander some more, across the Albemarle Sound, around Roanoke Island, into the Pamlico Sound, and eventually to Oriental...or Mexico??

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Cool is That - Part II

We were sitting here posting and uploading pictures when all of a sudden the traffic noise stopped and some strange water noises started. Curiosity got the best of us and we looked out the companionway to see a huge barge gliding by in the night, less than 20 feet away. There is no recreational traffic here at night but the commercial guys never sleep. To see them piloting these behemoths in this narrow passage of water just takes your breath away.  The pictures aren't great, but I think you'll get the idea.


Someone asked for a map of our travels and I haven't had time to modify the blog sidebar to do this but Google Earth does a pretty good job of importing our Navionics tracks so we'll post the for you whenever we have the bandwidth to do it. Here's a synopsis so far, minus the first day. The first day's track got messed up on the iPad since we weren't sure how to use it yet.

Day One was Oak Harbor Marina to the Magothy Beach anchorage.

Day Two was Magothy Beach anchorage to Back Creek Annapolis:

Day Three was Back Creek Annapolis to the Solomons:

 Day Four was the Solomons to Fishing Bay:

Day Five was Fishing Bay to Hospital Point in Norfolk:

Day Six was Hospital Point Anchorage in Norfolk to Centreville Waterway Marina on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW):

The rest of the days were spent sitting, waiting on weather, repairs, or visiting friends. Now you're caught up!