Playing The Waiting Game

Friday November 30, 2012

At least this time we get to wait out the doom and gloom in warm weather.

(Photo taken during Hurricane Sandy)

When we woke up the morning the sun was shining and as I looked out at the storybook  landscape on the waterfront it was easy to pretend that we had come in under our own power last night and would spend a wonderful day sightseeing before pushing off again in the morning.  Reality is rarely the same as daydreams though and we were forced to face the fact that our stay would now be all about Serendipity, checking her damage, and seeing what needs to be done to get her moving again.  Getting on the phone first thing in the morning we began calling boat yards as soon as they opened.  Both Justin from Tow Boat US and the guy working the office at the Municipal Marina suggested one marine center and we called in before their morning coffee was even brewed.  A very helpful woman answered the phone and as I gave a rundown on the situation she sympathized with me but let me know their first opening would be Monday night or Tuesday morning.  Wanting to get hauled out that day if possible I let her know we’d need to check our options and get back in touch with her.  Calls went out to two more marinas where one couldn’t get us in until Monday and the other one that could get us in today would only be able to give us an hour in the sling.

Between the calls out to marinas Matt had taken a call in from the surveyor we wanted to hire who explained he would need 2-3 hours to thoroughly check everything.  Playing phone tag with all three marinas I’d constantly call back to see if they had their own surveyors, could we do our own work, and most importantly, rates.  After scribbling so much information onto a page of my notebook that I could barely remember which information matched which location we settled on going with the marine center we had called first.  Although we’d be bringing in our own surveyor they would perform a haul, wash, block, and launch all for under $300.  Plus we could do our own work there which might save us big bucks from having to hire out.  We have insurance if necessary, but if we don’t have to mess with a claim we’re not going to.  Now all that’s left to do is wait until Monday when Tow Boat Us will bring us over there (with our new membership we may as well take advantage of the free tows).

So here we sit in one of the most beautiful towns you could imagine, and we hear on the radio it is world famous for their Nights of Lights.  From what we saw coming in last night we have to figure that’s true.  Another thing this town has to offer is the Sailor’s Exchange which is a marine consignment store and the main reason I was able to talk Matt into a visit here.  Now I’m starting to wish this town hadn’t been so enticing to make us want to visit, but that’s neither here nor there.  Heading out on foot we walked past historic churches, hotels and museums until we crossed a small river and into the business district.  Finding the sailor’s exchange I let Matt wander around and shop to his heart’s content while I rested in a cushy chair near all the books and magazines.

Flipping through the articles of far off places and angelic beaches I hoped these images would reinforce my wanderlust and why we’re out here doing this.  It still must be too soon because all I could see were chances for damage and destruction at every corner.  Maybe no decisions should be made for 48-72 hours.  It was particularly horrifying when I came across an article on how important it is to have a rested crew because bad decisions can be made when one’s mind is clouded by lack of sleep or rest.  It continued to tell a story of how a crew of four was so intent to get into a harbor after multiple days out at sea that instead of waiting for morning for a clear passage into the harbor they went in at night and misread an airport tower for a navigational light, crashing their boat into the sharp rocks that lined the shore.  One person was washed off to their death and although the others made it off the boat was a wreck.  My heart began racing again as I thought That could have been me!!.  Then I thought about it some more and came to the conclusion That wasn’t me!.  In fact, after what we just went through I’m sure we’ve decreased our odds of future accidents because if there’s ever a question that we would have  previously answered Well maybe….  the answer will now definitely be no.  (most likely it will be no)  It also had me thinking that things could have been so much worse and I should be very fortunate for what we still have.

The only thing we left Sailor’s Exchange with that day were zincs, and fittings to convert our grill to run from our propane tanks.  Don’t want to spend too much money until we find out what the damage is.  And after being a little more rested we’ve had time to inspect the interior of Serendipity more thoroughly to find that some tabbing has come undone as well as other dings and dents to the teak.  While looking at the area under the settee near the bilge we did find that a few packages of our spaghetti that had been sitting in plastic bags from the store had hit hard enough to pop open and spew raw strands of pasta through the whole area.  Now it’s impossible to ignore that fact that she really did take a beating.

It could have been worse, right?

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St. Augustine: The Cutest Little Town You Could Almost Shipwreck Your Boat In

Thursday November 29, 2012

With plans to get to the Bahamas ASAP, we almost made the three day journey outside straight from Cumberland Island to Lake Worth just so we’d be able to stock up the boat and leave as soon as the next weather window came.  We knew that St. Augustine, which was a 50 mile jump from channel to channel, was supposed to be a very pretty and historic town complete with another boat exchange shop, so I was able to talk Matt into a one day stay there before booking it to Lake Worth.  Basing our trips on daylight now, as we always have to do, we figured if we left with the sun in the morning we should have just enough time to get inside the inlet before it went down.  Plus the weather was calling for 15 knots from the north with only three foot waves or less, so it would be a nice downwind sail, perfect for Georgie’s first time out on the water.  Getting the anchor up thirty minutes before the sun rose, we fought a pretty nasty current going out the St. Mary’s Inlet which had us moving forward at a measly two knots, but as soon as we were free of the breakers and pointed south our speed shot back up and under headsail alone we were able to average 6-7 knots.  The sun was shinning and it was a beautiful day.  My mind was filled with thoughts of a hot shower and spaghetti dinner that night, and as we crossed into the Sunshine State my spirit lifted with the promise of soon to be warm weather and crystal clear seas.

Even though the waves were low it was not a flat ride, and since we’re not positive Georgie is 100% sure not to jump off the deck even in calm weather, we’ve already discussed that she’ll always be stowed away below while traveling.  Having left our new kitty under the warm covers of bed that morning we constantly went down to check on her to see how she was handling the rocking motion of the boat.  Each time we’d find her bundled under loads of blankets, either unaware that we were moving or so deep in sleep that she didn’t care.  Since she wasn’t getting sick or freaking out I was considering this initial voyage with her a success.  When we were only ten miles out from the St. Augustine Inlet we called the Municipal Marina and made reservations that night for a mooring ball, and with over an hour of sunlight left,  I was thinking that we’d just quickly ease ourselves in through the inlet and be relaxing inside the cabin thirty minutes after.

Our charts of the inlet only showed one green buoy, which was strange since the past few inlets we’d gone in and out of have buoys going out for miles, red and green placed together each mile along the way. Something else strange on the chart was that it didn’t show the depth anywhere in or near the channel.  Having Matt take a look he pulled out our resources and found that constant dredging and shifts are always changing the channel, so that’s why it’s not marked on charts, and entering it should be done visually by relying on the buoys in the water and using local knowledge.  Keeping my eye peeled for the green buoy listed on the chart (even though I wasn’t supposed to follow it anymore) I did not see it, but did catch sight of a red one off our port bow.  Changing course to take the red buoy on the port side, we finally spied a green next to it, Green 1 & Red 2, so I passed between them with no sight of other buoys in front of us towards the inlet.  Following the straight line that we had made between the initial buoys I began to get a little apprehensive when I still couldn’t see any others buoys and the depth began to fall from 25 ft to 15, so I hailed Tow Boat US over the VHF for verbal instructions on how to navigate the channel.

Coming back on the radio and being very helpful, he kept telling me that Red 4 was missing and I needed to find Red buoy 6 and hug it…but I still could not see anything in front of me.   Matt had even gone on the deck with binoculars without seeing any of the markers.  The sun was setting right in front of our eyes, reflecting off the water and blinding us to anything ahead, and breaking waves surrounded us on each side.  Both of us were getting very nervous and were about to about and turn around when we saw a red buoy ahead just off to starboard.  Hooray!!, we were on the right track after all!  Making a beeline for this new marker I still didn’t understand why the depths were not going up if we were supposedly getting closer to or in the channel.  Then, in the few seconds it took for my heart to jump into my throat when I realized something about this wasn’t right, there was a sudden and hard thud as the depth-sounder abruptly went from 13 ft to 4.  We had just hit bottom, and we hit it HARD.  And this wasn’t a drifting forward from deep to shallow water, it was a quick drop on to it.

Quickly throwing the engine into reverse and throttling hard we could not even move before the next wall of water picked us up and threw us down on the hard bottom again.  The stern swung to the side and now instead of running down with the waves, they were approaching us on our beam (bad news!).  It was only a few seconds from breaker to breaker and the next one that came did not lift us up but instead crashed on our side sending hundreds of gallons of water over our deck and into our cockpit.  It was here that the severity of the situation became real, as this is how boats are lost everyday at sea.  We had both been holding on tightly knowing that initial wave was coming and before the next one reached us we both had our life jackets on and were tethered in.  Matt took a hold of the wheel to point us into the waves and I jumped on the VHF to send out a distress call to the guy on Tow Boat US  I had been talking to on 18, and yelled out that we’d run aground and needed immediate assistance.  I let him know we were stuck in breaking waves and required him to come as soon as possible.

Still at the wheel, Matt was doing his best to move us forward and into deeper water.  The waves coming at Serendipity were eight foot breakers and they were completely having their way with us.  Every 10 seconds we’d be lifted up sixteen feet and then slammed down hard onto our keel.  It was like an earthquake inside the boat, and with each slam the whole boat would shake and shudder inside and out.  I was only used to running into soft sand but this felt like we were pounding down on cement.  My mind kept racing with what was happening.  Would we be able to make it out of this any moment basically unscathed?  Would we make it out, but with lots of damage? Or worst of all, Are we going to have to abandon ship and leave Serendipity behind?  Somehow in this I never feared at all for our safety.  Maybe it was because we had on our life jackets and were only a few hundred feet from shore, but I was never worried that we wouldn’t make it out.  Continually slamming up and down though without any sign that Serendipity was about to miraculously make it out, Matt gave me instructions to hit the Distress Signal on our VHF which sent out an alert to all boats in the area, and then after that he instructed me to put out a Mayday call to the Coast Guard.

Still trusting that Serendipity would get this through us I was calm and collected as I talked to the Coast Guard and explained what the situation was.  We had run aground in the inlet and there were breaking waves coming over us.  They took information as to: how many people were on board; did we have any medical conditions; were we taking on any water.  ”Two, no, no.”  While responding I was still bracing myself at the navigation station below, knees giving out underneath me from the force of each slam down onto the hard ground.  I had to wonder if they could hear it on their end as well, the sickening crash and shudder from the drop of each wave.  The  TV sitting on a swinging mount in the cabin had been wildly swinging back and forth this whole time, slamming into v-berth door and leaving indents.  I flinched with each hit, knowing it would leave permanent damage to the door, and then getting disgusted with myself for worrying about something so trivial at a time like this.  We were in danger and I was disturbed with the physical appearance of the boat.

While speaking with the Coast Guard I heard the engine shudder to a stop, but hadn’t even realized we weren’t crashing down on the keel any more.  We had drifted out of the breakers and into deeper water between the channel’s shoal and shore which in itself was good news, but in all the chaos, the sliding genoa car that holds the line for our jib lines had broken loose and wrapped around our prop leaving us dead in the water.  There was a strong current and smaller breaking waves still pushing us toward shore, and due to Matt’s quick thinking he dropped our anchor, a Rocna 25 Kg, which stuck immediately, kept us into place, and allowed us to face bow into the waves.  This was very important because not only would we have drifted to shore and shallow water again, but the breaking waves would have also likely turned us on our side and rolled the boat over if we were not able to keep ourselves facing into them (Typically, you only need breaking waves half the width of your boat to roll it over… these were larger  than the 5’6″ our boat would need).  If we didn’t have that Rocna, and it didn’t hold right away like it did, we would not have even had a chance to save our boat while waiting for help to come.  Getting back on the VHF with the Coast Guard I informed them our engine was not working due to a wrapped line around the prop and we were now adrift in deeper water.  With the wind coming from right where we needed to go, sailing out wasn’t an option.

 Not having anything to keep him preoccupied now, Matt let his nerves start to get the best of him as he stumbled down the stairs, still assured in his mind that we were going to lose the boat and have to be evacuated.  Between short breaths he tore through the aft cabin pulling out our backpack and stuffed Georgie inside of it.  Going into our hanging locker in the head he grabbed our dry bag and started throwing in our laptops, important papers, passports, and anything else small and of value.  These were all smart things to do, but the look in his eyes was terrified as if to say ‘We’re not going to make it‘.  Calming him down the best I could I assured him that the three of us would make it out of this and that’s what was important.  Even if the boat was lost we’d still have each other.  Even though the chance of losing the boat was not what he wanted to hear this seemed to work a little and his breathing slowed down as he started to gain control again but I could tell his mind was still full of what ifs?.

 Not knowing who/when/if anyone was still coming to rescue us since the Coast Guard Station was all the way up in Jacksonville, I was relieved to hear the voice of Tow Boat US come back on the radio and say he was moments away.  By now the sun had already set and pale pinks and blues were painting the coast of the Atlantic.  When I looked over to see the bright flashing lights of Tow Boat US my heart lifted as I could now see help was on the way.  Our Rocna was still holding us steady in ten feet of water, which is enough for our keel to clear the bottom, but now in the heavy breaking waves of the beach’s surf line, we figured that with this assistance we may still save our home.  Communicating through VHF he said he was going to trail a line with a bridle at the end and when it drifted close enough to it, Matt who was at the bow with a boat hook, would grab it and attach it to our cleats up front.  Once that was done we’d pull up the anchor and be on our way.  It sounded so effortless and I began to let myself relax in just the slightest.  We were going to be out of here in just a few minutes and leave this nightmare behind.

As the tow boat made it’s first pass we kept our eyes on the water for the yellow bridle that was to be our savior, but it was nowhere in sight.  When he called back on the VHF I replied that it hadn’t come by yet, but then I spotted it.  100 feet off our starboard side and not drifting any closer to us.  Calling this information back to him he said he’d make another pass.  Swinging around once more his boat passed a few hundred feet in front of us and as soon as he was even with our bow he shot back out into the deeper water.  Once more we watched the bridle pass this time 50 feet to our starboard side with no indication it would come any closer.  I didn’t get why he couldn’t pass any nearer to us or why he wouldn’t continue past our bow before heading back out as in my mind that would seem to put the lines within reach.  Then it occurred to me that he couldn’t do either of those because those large breakers we were stuck in, and by coming closer, he would be putting himself and his boat in danger which would be a lose/lose situation for everyone.  The optimism of getting pulled off was diminishing and for the first time I let myself get scared.  It was getting dark out, the tow boat couldn’t successfully get to us, and we might lose everything after all.  A lump formed in my throat as I tried to hold back tears.  All the confidence and repose was draining out of me and I was moments away from breaking down.

Just at the moment I was about to succumb to the fears building up inside of me, there was another voice on the radio.  Local search and rescue had been listening to the distress call and our interaction with the tow boat on how he was unable to get the line close enough to reach.  They were sending out one of their jet skis that could grab the line from the tow boat and bring it directly to us.  We were thrilled to hear this, but the waiting began again.  Matt was still stationed at the bow and I was in the cockpit.  Both of us would have to brace ourselves as the waves that were starting to grow again would throw our side up before coming back down.  We were now at a 50-60 degree angle to the waves and although they weren’t sending water in the cockpit it was a very uncomfortable ride.  As the sky turned the color of a blueberry I looked back to shore to see a Coast Guard search and rescue truck stationed on the beach 300 feet away with lights flashing, reflecting off the sand and water.  The waves built a higher, and as I’d start to get small rushes of water over the gunnel and into the cockpit, my heart began to beat faster.  I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to take this.

As my mind started to go into the darkest places of what might become of us we got a call on the radio that search and rescue had us in their sights.  Looking over our port side we saw their bright flashing lights and hopes lifted again.  Coming up to our boat to check on our physical (and probably mental) well being, they advised that instead of bringing the bridle to us they’d instead have us cleat off our own line that they would bring over to the tow line.  Knowing that time was a factor I started grabbing lines from the cockpit floor and unknowingly began to start handing out our reef line thinking it wasn’t attached to anything.  Having come back to the cockpit to feed the line to search and rescue, Matt caught my mistake and dove into the back lazarette for our double braided drogue line and handed it to me to untie.  Although it had been tied and stowed properly, it became a mess as it fell onto the cockpit floor while trying to get all 200 feet ready to hand out.  Using all my strength I heaved and pulled at the now wet line trying to work out kinks and knots.  When we had 3/4 of it  straight Matt took the line to the bow to cleat off and search and rescue made a pass to pick up the other end.  After two attempts the line was secured by them and they made their way back to Tow Boat US who was sitting safely off in the distance.

Keeping in contact through the VHF we discussed the next steps with Tow Boat US.  Once he had the lines secured, he would notify us when we were to take our anchor up, and once we were free, we’d call back to him and he’d tighten the line and begin the tow.  Everything went smoothly on his part and after working our windlass hard to pull ourselves to the anchor and get the Rocna up, which had dug itself in pretty deep, I was given the signal by Matt which I excitedly relayed on the radio and the towing process started.  Being walked through step by step from the tow boat I had the wheel cranked hard to starboard to get us facing the tow boat, and once we were pointed at the stern, I was told to keep it there.  We were now in pitch black and all I had to go by were the yellow and while lights shinning on the top of his boat.  Letting my eyes sneak to the chart several times I kept an eye on the depth, fearful of being pulled back into the shoals we had passed through earlier.  The tow boat captain was knowledgeable of the area though and brought us far to the south of the breakers before rounding to head back into the channel.  Every time we were about to make a turn he’d call it back to me on the radio and pass through very slowly so I’d constantly be able to position myself behind him.

Before I knew it we were through the channel and into the Matanzas Bay.  I let out a huge sigh and my tense body was finally able to relax.  We had made it through this.  Looking up into the town of St. Augustine the waterfront was covered in Christmas lights and it looked like something out of a fairy tale.  Letting myself get distracted by something other than the boat I took a few minutes to appreciate all the beauty around us.  As I sat there admiring the lights I heard movement in the water next to our stern and puffs of air escaping the blowholes of a pod of dolphins that came to surface next to us.  I couldn’t see them but they stayed there for a few minutes, as if they were surveying the situation and making sure we were ok.  Unhooking the tow lines our guide boat came up beside us to ‘hip tow’ us the rest of the way to the mooring ball we had made a reservation on for the night.  Secured in we began the paperwork and got the chance to chat with the guy who saved Serendipity.  Captain Justin Daily is the one who heard our initial questions about navigating the inlet and had already been on his way out to help guide us in before our distress call went out.  Through the whole ordeal he was calm, confident, polite and made it very easy to put our minds to rest of the whole situation.  Back at the mooring ball he was insistent on making sure we were alright and worked with us to make the bill as manageable as possible since we were not yet Tow Boat US members.  We could not have asked for a better person to help us out that night.

When all the paperwork was finished and the tow boat was gone we immediately had visitors from Hideaway who were at the mooring ball next to us and heard the whole thing go down on their radio.  Changing out of our soaking we clothes we jumped in their dinghy and after all of us checked in to the office we took advantage of the hot showers and walked across the street to get some food.  We relayed the whole story to them over drinks and a hot meal.  They assured us it probably wasn’t as bad as we anticipated and boats are much sturdier than we think they are.  Asking what our plans were next we could only tell them that we’d have to haul out to inspect the damage.  As far as what was after that, neither of us had a clue and agreed not to make any decisions that night.  If we had that night, we probably would have been two one-way tickets back to Michigan on our credit card.  It was a trying night and we were so thankful to have friends there waiting with open arms, give outside perspective, and remind us what we have to be thankful for.

In the end we made it out mostly in one piece.  We’re safe and although Serendipity will have permanent damage, hopefully it will be minor repairs that will have us back on our way in a matter of days.  She took a very bad pounding but through it all we never had any water coming in, steering was moving freely and besides some cosmetic issues to the interior plus all of our belongings scattered around her, she looks to be holding up pretty well.  Probably better than us at the moment.

Some very big thanks need to go out to all that got us and our home back to safety that night.  Thank you Justin Daily for coming to our rescue, before you even knew we needed you.  You braved breaking waves yourself and held our hand through the whole situation.  Your calmness and awareness let us know we were in good hands and and all of us (boat included) would be taken care of.  The community is lucky to have you around. Thank you to the local search and rescue team.  Without your assistance we may have never received the tow lines that pulled our boat to safety.  You were out to help us without a moments notice and without even being asked.  We appreciate it more than you know.  And lastly, thank you to Rocna Anchors.  Without your reliable anchor that we have trusted since the beginning of this trip, we surely would have lost our boat to the smashing waves of the inlet before rescue could make it out to us.  You make a remarkable product that all boaters would be wise to take advantage of.

If there was any lesson learned today, it’s to always follow your gut.  Both of us had a bad feeling about our entrance into the inlet but didn’t react in time to save ourselves a night full of heartache.  We should have circled back out right away and either re-evaluated the situation, waited for another boat to follow in, or just kept going down the coast until we found an inlet we were more comfortable with, even if that meant skipping St. Augustine all together.  So many people put themselves in bad situations and just get lucky that they come out of it fine.  ’It won’t happen to me‘ is a common phrase in people’s minds and always floated through ours as well.  From now on I have a feeling we’ll be over-cautious in many situations and we’ll be living by the adage ‘Better safe than sorry’.  Because now we know what ‘sorry’ feels like and it isn’t very good.  In fact, ‘sorry’ downright sucks.  Taking a look around though the bright holiday decorations, historic buildings, and friendly people will all help us get through this.  I’ve only seen a little bit of it, but St. Augustine really does look like the cutest little town you could almost shipwreck your boat in.

He’s a map showing where it all went wrong.

 

After talking to local Fire & Rescue I was sent a clip of a sailboat that ran aground in the same exact spot we did, just one year earlier.  They were not as lucky, the keel of their boat fell off causing them to capsize and sending two people into the water, both of whom were rescued.  Click here if you’d like to see it.  The water conditions were the same for both them and us, but  we had clear skies and a pretty sunset.  A sunset that partially caused our demise, but it was pretty nontheless.

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Georgiana On My Mind

Sunday November 25, 2012

Both Matt and I are totally animal people and when we lost our greyhound Mazzii (short for Maserati) back in April of 2011 due to cancer it was very hard for us to deal with. She was always on the boat with us every weekend and when she was gone it just felt so empty without her. There’s no way that she could ever be replaced in our hearts, but the need and want for a furry little companion was still there. We’ve heard and read from many other cruisers that cats make great boat pets because they are comfortable living in smaller spaces and since there’s no need for them to get off the boat they’re much easier to care for while traveling. Not that there aren’t just as many people out there with dogs, but a cat just seemed like a responsibility we could handle. Before leaving I bugged Matt incesently about getting one. When he asked what I wanted for my 30th birthday my response was always “A boat cat”. He’d confirm that yes, an animal companion would be nice to have and yes, a cat would require less work than a dog, but the fact that he grew up with dogs and had always been a dog person kept him hesitating, maybe later. Luckily for me, two boats in our buddy armada have cats and after hearing stories of how great they are to travel with and having these cuddly critters forced on him on multiple occassions he finally broke down and said we could look at getting one.

 Hearing from Anthyllide that there was an adoption center right in St. Mary’s where we were staying we walked out to the offices on Friday to inquire about looking at the cats. Finding the actual office was closed we had been told the husband of the shelter had his office right night door and after talking to him and giving our information he said his wife would be in contact with us. We stressed the fact that we were only in town visiting and wanted the cat before the next workweek began so it was a pleasant surprise when we heard from his wife, Terra, first thing the next morning. The shelter that housed the cats was a few miles from the waterfront and she scheduled an appointment for us to come out that afternoon. After being very surprised about hearing that we lived on a boat and this would be the cat’s home as well. I figured with this being such a big cruising community it would be common for her to hear this but maybe adopters fear this question and get their kitties while they still have a land based address. Either way she still agreed to let us come.

Neither of us had an idea of what to expect since back when we adopted Mazzii there was a whole process where they brought the dog to the house for a visit, and after certifying that we were capable pet owners there was a background check and a slew of paperwork. If you ‘passed’ the dog was brought back at a later date. Matt was thinking this would be similar and wanted to make the trip out to the shelter on foot. I kept thinking ‘What if they give us the cat today? How are we going to get her back on foot? (it was always going to be a girl) We don’t have any supplies back on the boat’. Teaming up with Kim we got a hold of a SUV for the afternoon and with six of us stuffed into it we drove off to hopefully be returning with a seventh member. Locating the place based solely on verbal directions from that morning we entered the gates and were greeted by a few dogs wandering the property. Sitting off to the side of the main house was another building and on the front railing an orange tabby was poking it’s head out of a cardboard box. We all swarmed to it and while the girls cuddled and cooed Matt was standing back probably thinking ‘Ahhh crap, we’re going to be leaving here with a cat’.

Shortly after, an assistant came by to lead us into the building and began asking questions on what we were looking for. We knew we wanted a female and a kitten young enough that it could easily adapt to life on a boat. Walking through the hallway there were stacks of beds and scratch pads all full of full grown cats looking for a little attention and love. We had found out from the husband the day before that this is a no kill shelter so they were currently housing 209 cats!! That is a lot of cats looking for love! We also had heard from him that there is a full time staff of three people that regularly take the cats out and play with them so it was nice to hear they weren’t shut away and ignored. Being led into the room of young cats it was so hard not to pick up every one and say “I’ll take this one, and this one, and this one”. Some were roaming free and others were in cages but the woman started opening all the doors to let them jump out and play. Matt had the idea that he wanted a white cat or one with white in it since he thought they were pretty, and sitting in a cage were two mixed color cats with white in them. Of the two one was male so he was out, but opening the door I scooped up the female to find her quickly jumping out of my arms and onto the counter. Picking her up a second time she did the same thing.

While I was trying a third time to grab her a few other kitties tried to come in and fill the space this one was leaving open by cuddling and purring and trying to get their faces, bodies, and tails anywhere our hands were moving. These super social cats were a little older than we were looking for but Kim was there to scoop one up give it a little love while we kept looking. In the smaller range (5-7 mo) was a litter of domestic black striped/tiger cats (?). One of the females (I can’t remember her name so I’ll call her Dylan) was also very interested in being pet. After playing with her for a few minutes on the counter I tried scooping her up as well to see how she liked being handled. I couldn’t keep her in my arms very long as at first chance she’d crawl up my shoulder and on my back. I was very fond of her though and as we paraded around to all the other cats in the complex she stayed attached to me the whole time. The other cats were cute but they were all either too big or too old, or even too young. 90% sure that I wanted Dylan I kept putting her on the table and picking her up to try and keep her in my arms, and each time she’d crawl up my shoulder. As we were getting to the point to make the decision, Dylan jumped off and scampered to another table. We went to search after her but she seems to have a twin in her litter and it made picking the right one difficult. With the help of the staff who know the cats much better, we found which one was Dylan and that her twin was Roxie. Thinking I had been carrying Roxie around the whole time though, the assistant raved about her personality, what a great cat she was….and while doing so was holding this cute little kitty in her arms without it trying to climb or run away. Split second decision between Dylan and Roxie I chose Roxie. The paperwork was filled out and even though they desperately tried to get us to adopt a second one as well (for no cost even) we had Roxie in a carrying case and ready to go.

Back in the car I looked at Matt and presumed “We’re not going to keep her name Roxie, are we?”. “Hmmmm,” he thought, “Probably not”. Not that Roxie was a bad name. We just have this thing where we like to name our pets. “What do you want to call her?” I probed, curious to see what he had in mind. “It’s your cat”, he retorted, “You pick a name”. So I went with a name that I had been saving for a child that he’d probably never agree to (Name or child? You’ll never know.) It’s something that’s fit for the Southern Belle of a kitty she is and specific to where we got her. Georgiana. Maserati, Georgiana…what kinds of yuppy names do we give our pets? But we’ll be calling her Georgie for short so any new cruisers that meet her along the way won’t know how stuck up we really are. Georgie took the car ride back very well and even accompanied us in to a quick trip into the pet store where we picked up food, bowls, a collar, toys, and treats. When we got her back to the boat she was eager to explore and even more eager to cuddle. She does this thing that we’ve started to call dive-bomb cuddling where she’ll lunge her head really hard at your hand or neck or face to cuddle with you. She constantly wants to be on your lap and will purr like crazy any time you’re touching her. She wants to be around you so much that if you pick her off your lap and set her to your side she’ll come back again and again and again. I had to do work on the computer with her on me because she just wouldn’t go anywhere else.

So far we are loving the new addition to our crew although Matt did have a small breakdown when he tried to fit all her new belongings (litter box, litter, food) into our already cramped living space. It all worked out though and the love we’ve already received back from Georgie totally outweighs any negatives of space. She always wants to spend time with us, gets excited for guests, and has the cutest little meeew while looking up at you with big saucepan eyes. If you’re ever in southern Georgia or northern Florida I highly recommend going to For The Love of Pets and adopting one of their animals. We’re already trying to talk Rode Trip into going back and getting one as they’re now the only boat in our little armada without a cuddly little feline that brings so much joy. You hear me Brian? Go back and get one. Now!!

Entering the grounds for the shelter.

Cats everywhere!!!

Sorry kitty, you’re just a little too old.

Georgie making herself right at home.

Couldn’t get rid of her if I tried.

 

Click on the monkey’s fist to read others bloggers on this topic.

The Monkey's Fist

 

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Cruiser’s Thanksgiving

Thursday November 22, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Hideaway)

Let me set the stage for you on how our Thanksgiving morning began.  The sun was out once again and we had let ourselves sleep in until 8:00 where we allowed ourselves to lounge under the warm covers while checking messages on the phone.  Suddenly there was a rap on the hull to take us out of our early morning daydreaming.  Stumbling (literally) out of the v-berth I tried to find pants and jacket to put on while I wondered who on earth could be visiting us this early.  Was it the master of ceremonies for the night trying to get a head count or find out what dish we were bringing to pass?  Just as I was about falling on the floor trying to pull on my skinny jeans from the night before, the only thing accessible to me at the time since we had actually put away all of our laundry right away for once, I just got to the companionway as there was another rap.  Popping my head out there were two cruisers in a powerboat hanging on to our rail.  ”How many people you have aboard” one of them asked, confirming the thought in my head that it must be about dinner.  ”Two” I replied and as I said that he opened a cooler and pulled out two Dixie cups and set them on our gunnel.  ”Two Bloody Mary’s.  Happy Thanksgiving” he nodded and drove off to the next boat.  Alcohol delivered to our boat for us?  Free oysters for dinner one night, and a Thanksgiving turkey the next night?  I could see why this town was so popular for cruisers around the holiday, they really know how to take care of their own.

Here’s a little history of Cruiser’s Thanksgiving and how it came to be, taken from All At Sea.  The tradition began 12 years ago when a small group of cruisers tucked into St. Marys to wait out a nor’easter over Thanksgiving. Local resident and avid sailor Charlie Jacobs knew how difficult it was to prepare even a small turkey breast aboard a boat, and he didn’t want the sailors to miss out on the holiday meal. He asked Riverview Hotel owners Jerry and Gailia Brandon if they would open their lounge for a cruisers’ potluck. With Jacobs cooking a turkey, other townspeople providing food and supplies, and the cruisers bringing the side dishes, a tradition was born. As word spread about the warm hospitality, the event began to grow to numbers no one ever imagined.  We ended up here after hearing about it from Anthyllide although we had originally planned to be much further south at the time.  Since it happened we were not in Florida yet (although St. Mary’s is right on the border and our boat may have been anchored in Florida water) we thought that good friends and a turkey dinner would not be a bad way to spend the day.

With clothes on and Bloody Mary in hand I went to work making my contribution for the day, cornbread muffins.  Not fancy, I know, but we were low on groceries and they go with the season.  In the next few hours I managed to get all my cooking done plus take a nice sink shower and get myself into a dress.  30 minutes before the early afternoon dinner was to begin all of us piled into our dinghies and made our way to shore.  On our way in we saw Hideaway pulling into the anchorage, making it just in time.  As the six of us (Serendipity, Rode Trip, Anthyllide) made our way into the restaurant we could see that most of the tables had been staked out, plastic plates, glasses, and bottles of wine already set out on all but one table in the main part of the restaurant.  Quickly throwing our own plates and glasses at that last table we tried to figure out how we’d sit the six of us at this little round table meant for a max of four people.  When we saw the one next to ours had only two place settings we pulled it together with ours now forcing these strangers to have dinner with us.  Although etiquette among cruisers is usually very relaxed we seemed to be seated near one uppity lady who seemed to be very disgusted by our rearranging of tables.  We didn’t pay any mind though and although I was at the other end of table surrounded by only people I knew, our forced joiners didn’t seem to mind either once they came back and found their new dinner companions.

Once the ok was given the group of 150 cruisers that gathered for dinner made a line around the buffet table.  With this many people trying to grab food at once we thought we’d be smart by waiting for ten minutes before getting in line but even that plan still put us in the line outside and wrapping around the block.  Maybe a dress was a little optimistic for this time of year in Georgia, it was still pretty cold out as I stood there with plate in hand waiting to get back inside.  While waiting though, Hideaway caught up with us and the four of them were able to jump in line right behind us.  Plates full of ham, turkey and a bunch of other delectable sides we went back to our crowded table and somehow managed to squeeze Tasha, Ryan, Grace, and Bill in with us as well.  Plates were on laps and the table was saved for glasses of Black Box wine and the Leinenkugel I had saved in our fridge for a special occasion.  Shutting down the dinner at four o’clock we stayed well past clean-up.  There were too many stories to be told and too much to catch up on that we could have stayed there all night.  When we finally got the hint to leave (Aka, they told us they were going to charge rent for us to stay any longer) we realized we were not ready to end the night and the party must go on.  What does this entail for a group of young cruisers on a major holiday when everything is shut down?  A boat crawl!

Starting out at Rode Trip we piled eight of us (we lost Scott & Kim) into the cabin for the first cocktail of the crawl and a tour for anyone that hadn’t been on it before.  Stories were recounted of good times we had on there and then it was time to move on to Serendipity.  Here a tour didn’t need to be given because the only people that hadn’t been on it yet were Bill and Grace, but with them having a Sabre 36 back in Port Washington there weren’t many differences to show.  What we did show was our defense system against any possible break-ins (we can lock ourselves down in there pretty well) and out came the arm knife where everyone took turns doing their best bad-ass impression of how they would take down a pirate with it.  (Don’t worry mom, it will never need to be used.  It was a gag gift from Matt’s old boss)  Lastly we ended at Hideaway where Kim & Scott joined us once again and I kept forcing the cats on Matt so he could see what great pets they are and how we should get one.  I think I may have talked him into going to a shelter this weekend to look at getting one.  There may have also been a bit of drinking as well but who wants to hear about that, right?

All in all it was an AMAZING Thanksgiving and I’m so glad we made the stop here to enjoy it.  We were surrounded by great friends and in a town that could not have nicer people in it.  We never did the tradition of going around the table to say what we were thankful for, but I think Tasha put it best when she said that because we’re living the lives we do, we’re nothing but thankful everyday and because we all so deeply feel it sometimes it just doesn’t need to be said out loud.

Early morning Bloody Marys.

Ready to feast.

The arm knife is out!

Kitty yearning is going around.

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Awwww, Shucks!

Wednesday November 21, 2012

Having made a last minute decision on Monday night,we planned to, instead of waiting for the swing bridge on the ICW to open at 9:00 and take that route down to Port Royal where we’d jump out into the Atlantic, we’d instead leave with the tides at 5 am the next morning and just jump out from Charleston. Our next destination was St. Mary’s, GA which was 145 miles from channel to channel. There we’d be able to enjoy cruisers Thanksgiving and meet back up with Rode Trip. And if anyone was wondering where they are or why we haven’t mentioned them in any of our Charleston posts, they were supposed to meet us in Charleston and as we pulled in just after Anthyllide Friday morning neither of us had any clue what happened to Brian and Stephanie who were supposedly making a straight shot there from Beaufort, NC where they had left just a few hours before Anthyllide. Not hearing a word from them since Wednesday afternoon both of us boats that did make it there were worried that they were not in the anchorage and not responding to any text, e-mails or calls. Finally we heard from them Friday night that they had arrived to Charleston Harbor Thursday night but the fog in the area was so thick they could not tell where they were going and instead of chancing that they’d hit something they kept going on to Georgia and went in at Sapelo Sound. Although I thought it would never happen to me I was like a panicked mother all Friday thinking the worst had happened to them. Once we knew they were safe we had Anthyllide and Hideaway to fill in as buddy boats and still had a great time in town.

 Getting back to the present. Staying on schedule as we always do on travel days, the anchor was out of the water at 5 am and through the dark we rode out the currents and dodged large tankers until we were in the ocean. When the sun had come up behind the clouds and we traveled the necessary five miles out the channel until we were free of the jetty we turned the bow south where I successfully marked the St. Mary’s inlet. Overall the trip was less eventful than the past few ones which was a relief to me. Since batteries were low and we wanted to try our hand at working the water maker (which worked out great) we turned the engines on just after noon and ended up leaving them on the whole time since winds were dying to under ten knots and we were slowing to a crawl. Knowing that we’d make it to the inlet at sunrise if we were going six knots it wasn’t an issue to slow down, we’d still make it in during daylight, but the fact that we skipped laundry in Charleston for one last day of sightseeing put us in a little hurry since we did not want to show up to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday in clothes that had been worn for days on end and smelled like it too.

Keeping in touch with Anthyllide through the VHF because of our close proximity to each other we still ended up in sight of each other when the sun rose and went through the channel just in front of them with their aluminum hull and red sails making it look like we were being chased by something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Dropping anchor as quick as possible I was thrown on the dink with our dirty laundry where all the cruisers that gather here had put together a shuttle to bring people in to town for such necessities as the laundromat or grocery store. Arriving back a few hours later with clothing that was now acceptable to wear around other people I found that Matt had fully cleaned the boat and we even had sheets now set back on the v-berth to sleep on. It had finally become warm enough that the condensation wasn’t as big of an issue and we could go back to sleeping in there instead of the settee like we’ve been doing for the past month. Did I also mention we found the sun in Georgia? Things are really starting to look up.

Not having time to enjoy the newly cleaned boat though I was quickly whisked off to shore again with Anthyllide and Rode Trip in tow. As part of the holiday festivities the hotel/restaurant that is putting on the dinner tomorrow was holding an oyster bar tonight. If you brought a side dish to pass you could participate in the festivities and even though we unfortunately did not have anything to bring we could take advantage of the drink specials at the bar. It was after all the biggest bar night of the year and who could pass up such an occasion with a legendary bartender ‘Cindy Deen The Porno Queen‘ (no, she was never actually in porn, still trying to figure out how she got that name) or now that she’s married, ‘Cindy Chubb, Queen of This Pub‘ serving up your drinks? Pulling together a few tables to seat the six of us we started taking advantage of the ‘buy one drink get a free refill’ special. We caught up with Rode Trip and listened to their stories of storms on the high seas with waves as high as their spreaders and how they managed to catch and clean a tuna along the way.

We hadn’t even been talking an hour when one of the gentleman putting on the event saw that we were sitting at an empty table with no food in front of us. Asking the guys if they’d like to learn how to steam oysters we all followed them out back to the patio where the action was going on. Sitting all the way in the back were bags and bags of raw oysters. Pulling them out they had to be set on a table to be hosed off and cleaned before going into a giant steamer and finally transferred to the oyster bar to be shucked and enjoyed. Matt and Brian got working with the hose while us ladies stood around with beers in hand watching. Having cleaned a full batch they went in the steamer and more oysters were placed on the table to be cleaned. A few more rounds of that and we figured we (they) had worked enough oysters to enjoy a few. Standing at the end of the table we waited for the next batch to be shoveled from the steamer into wire baskets attached to a plywood table. Only having one knife available since it was still a crowded area with oysters being picked up as soon as they were set down, we set Brain to work shucking and when he opened one he’d pass it around for the rest of us to eat.

I was able to eat one from the first batch and had it without and kind of lemon juice or cocktail sauce. It was a little chewy but overall not bad. Waiting for the next batch we were each able to get one more and this time I topped it with cocktail sauce. Waiting ten minutes for each of us to get an oyster though was becoming old so having a stroke of genius, Brian walked over to the table for us to start shucking them raw. Adding cocktail sauce again I thought these were even better and now we were able to enjoy an unending feast. Eating until our stomachs were full (surprisingly didn’t take that many) we started talking to other cruisers about their journeys and even met back up with Groovin who we enjoyed the roast with back on the Erie Canal. Ending the night we used Anthyllide as our tour guides for a late night walk through a cemetery with graves dating back to the past two centuries and then landing at a gazebo in a quaint little park on the riverfront. Talking until the low temperatures for the night started forcing us back to our dinghies it was exactly how the day before Thanksgiving is back home. Spend the day traveling so you can make it to Thanksgiving dinner but not before catching up with some of your best friends out at the bar. Some things never change.

Matt’s earning his dinner.

Giant steamer housing the oysters.

Thanks for letting me enjoy all your hard work Brian!

Shucking away.

(All photos courtesy of Rode Trip.  How could I forget my camera on a night like this?)

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Honey Bear Don’t Care

Monday November 19, 2012

Quick post about the rest of our time in Charleston. It’s almost perfect that the weather was too bad for us to leave our bed yesterday because after the good time we were shown on Saturday night I don’t think we would have been able to. Our plans had originally been to leave Charleston this morning but after realizing we’d only spent one day actually exploring the town we had to fit another one in before we could force ourselves to go. Wanting to see a few of the parks along the water I tried to memorize directions from the miniature map on our Waterway guide. Going past some of our favorite houses on Montague we hooked a right on Ashley were all I knew is that we had to follow it until it dead-ended in the water. Getting there we could tell it was a big money area although the houses looked much newer, mostly made of brick with large staircases and porches. If we were here three weeks ago this is definitely the area I would have hit up for trick-or-treating. We came up to the park where tours on horse driven carriages were being given and the area was surrounded by cannons, gazebos and statues. If it was a sunny warm day it would have been the perfect place to have a picnic and lounge around just reading a book or listening to music.

 Since it wasn’t a day for that though (remember, just let me rant) we kept walking along the waterfront back into the antebellum area and stopped at every house with a plaque to see how long it had been there and who originally built it. Following the Cooper River now we were dropped out in another park filled with benches off to the path on the side with tables ready for games of chess or board games or just a place to set your cup of coffee. The sun was beginning to poke out and throw it’s light on a large fountain in the center where wading was allowed and children were running around. Picking up the pace on our walking tour of the city we ducked in back towards town and wandered through an enclosed market/bazaar where things like knit hats, cloth purses and reed baskets were being sold. Walking through without actually stopping at any of the stands Matt joked that it was the perfect pace to view the shops. Souvenirs are never very high on his list. We’re not giving gifts this year and there is absolutely no space on the boat for such things.

Doing some more gazing through the town we ended up at a Moe’s which we always seek out on Mondays for the great burrito specials they offer then. With access to the internet in the warmth I was content to sit for the next hour and a half and get as much work done as possible. It’s surprising but with being thrown around the boat and touring cities and visiting with friends there isn’t room to do much else. (You can tell I’m joking, right? I love this life) With lunch done we felt we had actually seen most of Chuck Town and headed to the grocery store to get ourselves prepared for the next few days of traveling. It seems like every town we go to has a different chain of grocery stores and each chain has it’s own club savings card. This town was no different and as we entered the Harris Teeter we signed up once more and added to the collection of plastic cards growing in our wallet. You may ask why we even bother but it only takes us five minutes and we usually end up saving $5-$10 so for us it’s worth the time. We were told that Harris Teeter was more of a high class grocery store and it did not disappoint. Rode Trip would have gone crazy here as they seemed to have every exotic kind of food or sauce or spice you could ever need. I actually turned a little foodie myself and bought hoisin sauce from the Asian aisle to try my hand at sesame chicken sometime.

When we were out in the parking lot taking everything out of it’s cardboard box and stuffing it in the backpack it was starting to get dark out and we made our way back to the dinghy. Attach to one of our handles was a plastic bag and I tore it open to see what kind of present was left for us. As I opened it up I saw a jar of honey, a ginger root and a postcard. Quickly flipping it over I saw it was from Scott and Kim on Anthyllide. On it they had written a recipe for ginger tea that settles upset stomachs. After our journey in from Winyah Bay they found out that the confused waves had made me sick a few times and wanted to give me something to make me feel better the next time. Amazingly nice people and we’re so glad we’ve met them as they’ve always been there before so they know just what we’re going through. The best part of the gift was on they bottle of honey shaped like a cute little teddy bear they had written Honey Bear Don’t Care, a reference going back to the Honey Badger clip online that we just introduced them to a few weeks ago. I think even just seeing that bottle now will be enough to make me feel better.

Just after we had started the motor we joked about how low the fuel was in the tank and hopefully it would last us long enough to get back to Serendipity. We rounded the 2,000 feet of dock separating us from the dinghy dock and the Ashley River we got 200 feet out and the motor started sputtering and died. The current was so strong that it took less than five seconds for us to stop moving forward and actually start floating backward. Very quickly the paddles were unattached and Matt was starting to row us in. Looking at the boat next to us it took him a good two or three hard minutes of rowing just to get past it. From where we were we could barley see Serendipity. It didn’t take very long to figure out there was no way we’d make it to Serendip. Sitting much closer to us though was Anthyllide and we thought if we could just get there they’d have fuel for us or could tow us or at least let Matt rest until he gained enough strength back to make it the rest of the way. Continuously encouraging him we made it inch by inch closer to the aluminum boat that would give us safely. When we were just a few hundred feet off I saw Scott out on the deck and started yelling and waving our dinghy light in the air. Matt turned around to look as well and we could see they had just lifted their dinghy out of the water and deflated it on their deck to prepare for jumping out in the ocean the next day. What we didn’t expect is that there was another dinghy about to pass by on their other side and they were able to flag him down and send him our way. As the guy pulled up next to us he tied our rope to the back of his tender and with the 25 horses on the back had no problem bringing us the rest of the way home. We were so thankful and grateful and all that he asked is that we return the favor sometime to anyone in need. I don’t see a problem of that being arranged.

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When The Sun Goes Down On Chuck Town

Saturday November 17, 2012

Finally dragging ourselves out of bed and off the boat for the first time in five days we were ready to tour The Holy City (named so because of the number of steepled churches around) with no real destination or plans in mind other than we’d stop at a hardware store at some point to finally break down and buy cans of propane to attach to our Coleman heater and warm the cabin at night.  Not even sure where to go we only knew there was a dinghy dock at the marina we had anchored in front of with a charge of five dollars a day just for dinghy access alone.  Following another dinghy in as we always do when we’re not sure where to go we got talking to the couple and found they were also anchored in the harbor on a sailboat named Serendipity.  Very nice people and quickly got the approval to carry the same boat name as us.  Locking up the dink we wandered out into the main road and found out the direction we were planning on heading had a flooded road.  Taking a side street and then trying to get back on course again that road was also flooded and we were forced back to our side street.  As luck would have it we were lucky to have to travel on the little side road we did as this is where all the antebellum homes from the 1800′s were lined.  This is exactly what we wanted to see while we were in town and we gawk and peek through gates and snap photos (ok, that was just me) like a couple of crazy tourist.  When I came across the big while home that was used in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I almost lost it.  I could not imagine what the upkeep to own one of these homes would be, but the history is immeasurable.  If I can get this excited over something two hundred years old, imagine how geeked I’d be in Europe.

Having found our way to the hardware store we stuffed our backpack with more propane than it could hold and made our way back to a part of town that looked really interesting.  Landing ourselves on King St. we were surrounded by upscale boutiques and designer labels that are usually only found in Manhattan.  We didn’t go in any of the shops but consumer part of me still let my mouth water as we passed Kate Spade and Anthropology.  What consumer part of me also realized was we were severely underdressed in this area with our cruising uniform of sneakers, jeans and sweatshirts.  Everyone else was wearing the designers being sold on this street and dressed down meant you were in designer athletic wear.  Peeking in some of the windows we circled around the other side and kept walking until the shops went back down to our social class and were starting to find bars and restaurants lining the road.  Stumbling upon a park we found there was a farmers market going on and went in to check it out.  Although there were a few goods actually being sold we were more interested in the foods and wandered from booth to booth where there was Nutella Crepes, homemade ravioli, and gyros.  Landing on the Mediterranean cuisine we sat down at a plastic table in the park and listened to a live performance of someone playing on a stage with their guitar.  Even better was the park offered free wifi and I was able to get some work done before my fingers went numb from keeping them exposed for so long.

Back on the road we were just walking up and down random streets when we got a message from Tasha and Ryan.  Their friends Bill and Grace whom we had met in Manhattan were in town visiting and everyone was going out that night to celebrate Ryan’s 40th birthday.  Jumping at the chance to get out and explore the town at night while at the same time hanging out with friends sounded like a good idea to us.  Back at the boat Matt napped to prepare for the night while I tried to get myself a little more fancy by actually styling my hair and trying to find the classiest outfit I could wear while still keeping warm.  These bars deserved more than my U of M sweatshirt.

We started out at  Hideaway for a pre-bar cocktail that evening and before I knew it cabs were being ordered to take us into town.  Assuming it was just going to be a bar hop the two of us had already eaten but it turns out dinner was in the plans for the evening as well.  Trying to make last minute reservations in Charleston on a Saturday night does leave you with a 9:15 reservation though so when the cab dropped us off on East Bay St. at eight o’clock we had a little time on our hands to kill.  Trying to find a wine bar to pass the time at, Tasha and Ryan starting asking a girl at a local shop what places we could visit and she made it abundantly clear that our jeans and foul weather jackets would not get us in the door to the wine bar here and our choices because of our attire would severely limit our options.  Not even realizing that jeans might be an issue in the area Ryan quickly ran over to where we were having dinner next door at Magnolias to see if they would let us in.  Coming back he stated that there might be somewhere in the back they could stick us in as not to offend the other classy diners but our reservation still stood.  Still having that hour to kill we found a microbrewery just down the street that would accept us and threw back a pint while waiting for our reservation.

When it did come time for dinner we were in fact lead to to a back room of the restaurant and were sat down with white tablecloths and lots of silverware that I was once taught what to do with but now can’t really remember.  I had only been planning on drinking a beer while the rest of the group ate but before I knew it there was a wine and a champagne glass set in front of me where the champagne glass was filled up and a bottle set on the table with instructions to bring another as soon as it was empty.  The four members of Hideaway ordered steak and seafood meals while Matt and I  were forced to get something so I went with a blue crab soup while he put in an order for dessert.  The food was absolutely delicious and the company was even better.  Who would have ever thought that the six of us would wind up together at some swanky restaurant in Charleston?  Raising a glass to toast Ryan I commented on what a bit of serendipity it was which started each member to go around the table and add to the toast with their own boat name.

As the glasses emptied our voices grew and you could tell the people around us trying to have quiet dinners or enjoy a special occasion (hey, we were too) were surprised that such despicable company was allowed through the door.  It unfortunately did not help us to become quiet and we closed down the restaurant with the staff glad to get rid of us I’m sure.  They were very persistent on trying to order a cab to take us out of there as soon as possible.  Instead of going back to the microbrewery or any other bars in the area we made our way back to Hideaway where the party continued until 4 am.  Cats were cuddled too hard, drunken hugs were abundant and we even picked up a stray college kid to come aboard and have a few drinks. If this is how you ring in 40 I have no problem getting there. Even though it was someone else’s birthday we were wined and dined in one of the most beautiful places, had the best time ever, and it will surely be a night to reflect back on for years.  The time the sun went down on Chuck Town…..

Birthday boy Ryan and his beautiful wife Tasha.

And the silly-ness begins.

Tasha, Grace, Ryan, Jessica, Bill & Matt

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Coast Guard Approved

Friday November 16, 2012

When I got back to Serendipity after enjoying a few cocktails and playing with two adorable cats on Hideaway on Wednesday night Matt uttered some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard. The waves might still be too big to jump out tomorrow. We never discussed it much further after that, Ryan’s Painkillers had put me into a sleep coma, and we went to bed with the alarm set for six-thirty the next morning. As we were letting the engine warm up Matt made a comment about how far he thought we’d make it that night which I interpreted as another day on the ICW instead of going out Little River Inlet like we’d originally planned. As soon as the anchor was up I turned right into the ICW. We passed through some small towns and casino boats and came up to the town of Little River. Surprisingly we had been the first ones out of the anchorage that morning and the following current was pushing us along at over seven knots giving us a very big head start and making sure no one was behind us. Passing under a large fixed bridge there was a swing bridge ahead of us so I called in to try and get passage through. Coming back on the radio the guy immediately asks “How many boats are behind you?”. “None”, I replied. After going back and forth a few more times he could not comprehend that during the busy season for boat traffic there might actually be a time where there might actually be one all by itself without the chance of someone coming up behind them in the next few minutes. Still being polite about it he must have still thought he was right because he said it would be ten minutes before he could open, meaning that in that time surely someone would catch up. In the mean time we were now fighting the strong current trying to push us into this immovable structure. Handing the wheel over to Matt as usual he eventually couldn’t fight it any longer and had to start circling the area until the bridge swung open. At which point we passed through alone.

 Seeing that there were two more swing bridges along the way that day he started grumbling that we should have jumped out that morning as we’d be doing so much better pounding into waves than waiting for bridges to open for us. Promising to make him happy since we had always been going by what I want to do for awhile now I told him that we’d jump out at the next class A inlet and keep traveling until we hit Charleston. Turns out that inlet was sixty miles from where we had anchored that morning and now it was a race against the sun to get to it before dark. The day was another cold and crappy one which I actually have something to say about. I know I’ve been complaining about the bad weather lately but it is something that does have a huge effect on cruisers, especially if your boat isn’t fully outfitted like ours. I’ve talked about it being in the 50′s and then I start to get a lot of slack from our friends back in Michigan that I should be thankful for 50 degrees because it was now down in the 30′s there. That is true. If I were walking outside from my heated home to my heated car to the heated grocery store, wandering around in 50 degree weather for ten or twenty minutes at a time would be quite pleasant. But that’s not even close to what we experience. We get up at the crack of dawn when it’s still in the forties and put ourselves outside for ten hours at a time. The wind is blowing hard, the sun is not shining, and there is no escape. The only relief is when you run below deck for a few minutes and no longer have the wind blowing on you. The bus heater runs while the engine is on but the heat always escapes by bedtime and we’re left sleeping in a room that’s in the low fifties when we go to bed and in the forties when we wake up. And then we do it again and again and again. It’s all going to be worth it in the next month when we get down to warm weather and I’m happy to make the sacrifice for the benefits I’ll reap later, but when I start to complain about it, just let me rant because it’s the only way I have to deal with it at the moment. Sympathy votes actually do make me feel warmer inside.

This particular day was so cold though that even though we both usually stay up in the cockpit together all day we started taking turns to go below and enjoy the heat pumping into the boat for a few hours at a time. Then the rain started in and I was just happy we weren’t in the ocean. In late afternoon when the rain quit and winds were starting to die down below twenty we were both in the cockpit when we were hailed on the radio. At first I wasn’t sure if it was for us, they were calling for a southbound sailboat, but the only other boat I could see was a little powerboat and we were in a wide river with plenty of room to pass. When they starting getting more specific and asked for the southbound sailboat passing marker red whatever it was I knew the call was for us. It was a Coast Guard fastboat and they were preparing to board us for a routine inspection. The whole process was very easy, we were allowed to keep our course and speed, and two guys jumped on and brought out all their paperwork to start checking Serendipity and making sure she was up to code. I let Matt go below and show where all our safety equipment and necessary papers were while I stood behind the wheel next to the other guy who was just asking basic questions. In the end we were all up to code except we didn’t have a sticker for waste and that was just a write up but not a fine. They were on the boat less than thirty minutes and it was painless and easy. They said they usually never stop sailboats but their numbers were down and they needed to meet quota. Oh well, I’m sure it would have happened at some point and now if we’re boarded again we just flash them a little paper and they leave. Which I’m happy about going into Florida because I have a feeling the Coast Guard there isn’t always as cordial as these two guys (basically boys) were.

Right after they left we were in the home stretch for the inlet.  Getting myself prepared I popped a Dramamine and put on my pressure point bracelets.  I was ready to go.  Entering the channel in pitch black the waves began to roll in and throw us side to side.  I kept a close watch on both the chartplotter and the lights ahead of me to make sure we stayed right in the middle and didn’t bash into the rocks on the side.  It was a very long channel and took us almost an hour to get out.  I thought we’d be much better off once we turned southwest towards Charleston since we should have had the waves on our stern now, but there was a large shoal we needed to go around so there was another hour of bashing into waves.  Matt came up to relieve me for my 9:00 sleep time and we had also gone far enough to switch to our desired course.  Most of the waves were now on our stern which did make for a more comfortable ride overall, but every so often one would hit us on the side.  Those weren’t so bad while sitting in the cockpit, you just braced yourself a little more, but down below deck it threw around all our belongings and trying to put them away while pitching side to side was not doing wonders for my stomach.  Finally I was able to take off my gear and lay down, counting the seconds between rolls.  One, two, three to one side.  One, two, three to the other side.  I’m not even sure if I fell asleep during that shift.

Waking up for the next shift I was told there was twenty miles between us and the beginning of the channel to Charleston.  I think the math was a little wrong and we were going much faster than anticipated by doing 6-7 under headsail alone and just as I was getting Matt up for his 3-6 shift we were coming up on the channel.  Staying up with him a little longer to spot beacons I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and went back to bed.  This channel is also so long as well that when I woke up three hours later we had just entered the harbor and were making our way to the Ashley River to anchor.  The sky was just light enough that we could make out where we were going and could miss the unfortunate sunken ships in the harbor.  Dropping anchor at 7 am we passed out and did not wake up until afternoon.  With the winds howling outside and my stomach still on the fritz we stayed on the boat all day and did nothing but lay in bed and watch movies.  There was a nice visit from Anthyllide later at night as they had gotten in just a few hours before us.  We all made it in safe but what I realized is  the overnight trip was basically for nothing because even if we kept on the ICW we would have gotten in tonight, well rested and with a boat that didn’t look like a hurricane blew through it.

 

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Even Score

Wednesday November 14, 2012

Waking up to another cold and blustery morning we continued on our way down the ICW, making our way to the Cape Fear Inlet where we’d decided if we were going to jump out or still stay inside. Winds had been howling all night and into the morning and it wasn’t making me feel any better about going offshore again. Rounding through the channel to get to the marina we passed Hideaway at the dock and waved good-bye as they wished us well with our ocean voyaging, should we choose to go that route. Filing in line behind the other boats on the ICW we were treated to a few dolphin sightings and two even came up right next to the boat. They popped their heads out of the water and stared at us for a moment before continuing on their way. After seeing the dolphins Matt told me to keep an eye out on the marshy islands separating us from the ocean as they were supposed to have wild goats roaming around them. Since we had been lucky enough for the ponies (and probably only because Rode Trip was with us, they seem to find every kind of wildlife there is out there) I didn’t have high hopes for a goat sighting that day.

 Traveling down the waterway you could tell this was the area where big money was coming in to play. All of the homes on the water started ranging from wood-shingled Hamptonesque homes to gaudy Malibu mansions and everything in between. There was even a spot on our charts called Money Point. And they homes placed there looked like they had it. When the homes began to turn to marsh again I looked over the little islands to the east of us and could see what looked like white foam in the distance. We were coming up on Carolina Beach Inlet, the one I almost mistakenly brought us to the night before. The shore flattened out and all you could see and hear where thunderous waves crashing to shore. Coming up on the actual opening to the inlet it was rolling seas as far as the eye can see. I know that the crashing waves are only close to shore and we’d be rid of them once we were a few miles out, but it was not helping Matt’s case to want to go out in it that afternoon. One thing I did see there as well was how shallow the entrance looked. It’s a very good thing that Matt had caught my mistake yesterday or there’s a really good chance we would have run aground on our entrance and probably have run into some of the buoys because they were very small and didn’t look to be marked with lights. Add in that there is no place to anchor in the area and the end of last night could have been much worse than it was.

With both of us wanting to seek the shelter of a warm comfy bed I let Matt go below to lay down in the late morning while I manned the helm. We were coming up to the area where the ICW connects to the Cape Fear River which eight miles later flows out to the Atlantic. Fighting a decent current to get through the connecting channel it more than made up for it once I got into the river. I thought we had been doing great down the ICW at six to six and a half knots but the river shot me into the upper sevens and close to eight. This also made me happy because it meant that I would only be traveling down the river for an hour before I had to make the decision to jump into the Atlantic or continue on the ICW and Matt would most likely still be sleeping so I could make the decision based on what I felt comfortable with and not having him coax me into anything else (can you guess which one he’d like to do?). Not only did Serendipity keep moving forward at that fast pace, but she kept speeding up. I brought out the camera to snap a photo when we hit nine because I wasn’t sure Matt would believe me, and then just a moment later we were up to 9.9, the fastest we’ve ever seen her go. I throttled back a little bit to bring her down since if the current was going to carry us we could reserve a little fuel but before I knew it we were at the fork in the road and I had a decision to make. Probably knowing in my head all morning I would make this decision if it were up to me alone I turned right into the ICW with many extra miles and hours but guaranteed safety. I’m sure we would have been fine if we jumped outside but I was still too intimidated by the day before to take on another ride like that in the overnight hours on watch by myself.

When Matt woke up he asked where our stop was that night, aware I had made the decision and there would be no ocean sailing for us that day. As a compromise I found an inlet forty miles south of us that I told him we’d anchor near and jump out in the morning, once we’d had one more day for conditions to calm. He seemed fine with it although I could tell he was a little disappointed to not be out riding waves again. But he’s very familiar with the saying ‘Happy wife, happy life‘ and acted like it was no big deal that I had just added another day on to our journey. Settling in to spend the rest of the afternoon on the ICW we took turns at the wheel and read from our e-readers. As I was sitting in the companionway enjoying the warmth from our bus heater below I looked up to see the bow of a boat overtaking us and didn’t think much of it. When I checked again it was Hideaway and immediately jumped up to talk to Ryan and Tasha in the cockpit. We compared notes for the day and found out we were both planning on anchoring at the same spot that night. When we told them our plans for the next day Ryan looked at us surprised and in his British accent shuddered, “You mean you’re going out ….there?” and pointed past the lavish mansions to where the Atlantic was sitting on the other side. We told them that conditions were supposed to lighten and we had a report from Rode Trip a few hours earlier verify that winds were only 20-25 and waves were 3-4 ft on their stern. Our optimism didn’t seem to rub off on them and they established they were still going to continue down the ICW all the way to Charleston. I don’t blame them.

After we had been passed by Hideaway and Northern Cross, one of the boats we’ve been seeing on and off since Norfolk, we were trying to beat the sun so we didn’t have another nighttime anchoring. I had left Matt at the wheel while I went below to try and perfect my pizza dough, something that’s getting better each time but still isn’t quite there yet. As I was kneading the dough I hear Matt moving around above and pulling out the headsail. There was less than five miles left to our anchorage and when I called that up to him he said he was getting bored and needed something to do. The line must have gotten stuck on one of the stays so with the autopilot on he went above to release it. I should have warned him that depths had been changing frequently and to keep a close eye on it at all times, but in the time it took him to run up to release the line and come back into the cockpit we had run off course enough to run around in five feet of water. Throwing it in forward and reverse we could wiggle around but could not get free. We were good and stuck once again. That now leaves me at two and puts Matt up at one. I wasn’t even upset at all, in fact I was kind of glad the score was getting evened. The bottom was soft so there was no damage to the boat and the only thing it was costing us was daylight. Checking the tide tables we saw that high tide was coming up in three hours and by then we should have enough water under us to keep moving along. As if knowing we needed a little spirit lifting once again Matt looked off our port side to the little islands that separated us from sea and called, “Look, … goats!!” Sure enough a heard of about four wild goats were making their way down to the water a few hundred feet behind us. Knowing we weren’t mobile anyway (at least in the large ship capacity) I suggested we dinghy to shore to get a little closer to them. “Who knows”, Matt replied, “Maybe they like carrots”.  Putting down the dinghy I thought he was actually going to bring us to the goats but instead he tied a line to the boat and pulled us off.  It’s amazing what a 3 hp engine can do.  Getting to the anchorage just after dark we laughed about the day and I tried to mentally prepare myself for another ocean voyage tomorrow.  I can do it, I can do it.

The inlet I almost brought us in the previous night.

Following the well laid markers.

Goats!!

 

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Bad Weather Always Comes Early

Tuesday November 13, 2012

Up with the sun this morning the plan was to make the 60 mile jump from Beaufort, NC to the Masonboro Inlet near Wrightsville Beach, NC.  The weather report was calling for 5-10 knot winds through most of the day until five in the evening when things would really pick up and start blowing 20-25 and increase waves to 5-7 feet.  Nothing that Serendipity can’t handle, maybe an uncomfortable ride, but we were planning on dropping anchor around that time so all was supposed to be well.  The winds were predicted to be so fair in fact that Rode Trip was going to wait an extra day and then follow us out since they didn’t want to use their motor.  Winding our way through all the channels we were back in the Atlantic around 7:30 am and there was a low swell with winds under 10.  The motor went on and although the mainsail was also raised it wasn’t doing much to help us out at the moment.  After a few more dolphin sightings we started our nap shifts and Matt was down below in the comfort of bed while I stayed above and tried to stay warm.  The temperatures had dropped from high’s in the 70′s to highs in the 50′s and although it’s not unexpected for us anymore it’s never any fun.

When it was my time for a nap I promptly passed out and besides stirring a little bit to tell Matt had also unfurled the genoa I was comatose for three hours.  I could tell the winds had raised and the waves must also have as well because it was becoming an obstacle to get my foulies back on as we rocked back and forth.  Making my way up on deck the winds were reading the 20-25 that was predicted, but four hours early.  Trying to stay on the high side of the boat I kept my spot as Matt asked to go back below as he never actually slept earlier.  Sitting out there by myself I got into the motion of the boat as it would rock from one side to the other.  Then the winds kept picking up and the rocking became even steeper to each side.  Watching the degree of heel, the boat speed and the wind speed keep picking up I began to get a little anxious.  Thinking I could slow us down and level us out a little I let out a bit of the headsail.  All this did was to bring our speed from 6.5 to 7.2.  The heeling didn’t stop either.  Since the winds were now a steady 30 knots I called down to Matt that his nap was up and he needed to come back on watch with me.

Noticing the conditions getting worse we rolled in part of the headsail.  This did slow us down a little but now it was the waves that had me worried instead of the wind and speed.  We were going in a direction that both wind and waves were on our beam and every fifth wave would throw us way on our side until the rail was in the water and then we’d right back out.  I don’t think my legs have had as much exercise as holding my body up against the high side each time a wave would try and slide me out.  We were both tethered in at this point and it’s not likely that either of us would make our way out in the water but each time that fifth wave came I held my breath and prayed for land.  Double checking our course on the chartplotter Matt did notice that I had set the waypoint incorrectly, about 10 miles south of where we actually wanted to be.  Fixing that mistake and setting our new course this shaved an hour and a half off our expected arrival time and was not only nice because it would have taken us out of the waves but we were also getting close to sunset and any less time spent in the dark was fine by me.  While the wind blew over our side at a constant 35 now with gusts up to 40 I counted down the minutes until we’d be safe inside a jetty.  It eventually came with an interesting ride through the channel in the pitch black knowing those jetties were surrounding you but not being able to see them at all.  The anchor was dropped and we were safe for the night.  75 nautical miles traveled in 12 hours.  A new personal record for Serendipity.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning?

Hideaway passing us in the morning.

The waves never look big in photos.

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