Monday, December 28, 2009


Winter has started to set into Charleston. We knew it would eventually get here but we thought we'd have a few more days of warm weather.

When we arrived back after visiting Karen's family for Christmas, I reconnected the water to the boat. Sure enough, the hose was stiff and difficult to manipulate. That means one sure thing for us - it's time to leave for a warmer location.

Getting ready to go means we need to re-provision.  We've been out for over 4 months and ran out of our supplies of food.  With a supermarket a block away in Charleston, it wasn't a big deal. But now we'll be vagabonds for the upcoming months and it's time to load up on all the important things we need (notice the multiple large boxes of Pita Bites).

Before returning the rental car we used it to go shopping at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.  Sam's especially is great for buying month-loads of meat.  Some $400 of groceries later, our freezers are full. The kids were extremely interested in each and every bag brought to the boat. Now there are just a handful of small projects to complete before we're ready to head toward Georgia, Florida, and wherever the seas take us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Week in Charleston

It has been nice to be in a city this close to the holidays.  Each day we walk the streets of Charleston looking for places we haven't seen.  Slowly over the past couple of weeks wreaths, lights, and Christmas trees appeared.  The beautiful homes of Charleston became even more beautiful.  The stores are decorated and the coffee shop has Eggnog Latte as the special.  Several boats in the marina have lights, including ours.  Marion Square in the center of Charleston has the most impressive display.

Tuesday we leave for my parents for Christmas.  Once again we will travel by land to spend time with loved ones.  Fortunately, the crew travels well by land or by sea.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bill's departure

Our friend Bill Corbett arrived on Spray last week with an original reservation at the Charleston Maritime Center for 2 nights. That turned into 3 nights and then into an entire week. It's one of the "problems" with Charleston. It's so nice that it's hard to leave. The Harris Teeter grocery store is a couple of blocks away and all of downtown Charleston is just a couple of blocks further. It's all walking distance.

This morning Dyna and Dylan had a last romp with Riggs in the field. Riggs is an amazing ball retriever and can easily outrun young Dylan on every throw. That's pretty incredible because Riggs weighs only 14 lbs. But boy can he move!

Prior to Bill's departure this morning, we made breakfast from a recipe that Bill gave us when he made it for us last week. Forevermore on aCappella, this recipe is going to be called, "Bill's Frittata."

Bill took off from the marina at 9:30 am heading south toward the continuation of the ICW. He plans to head down to Stuart and across Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway. Once on the west coast of Florida at Ft. Myers, he'll head south again toward the Keys turning north at Key West and then back up the east coast.

We'll meet up with Bill again, probably in the Florida Keys. Dylan wants one more chance at racing for the ball...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dyna and Dylan's Field

One of the attractions of the Charleston Maritime Center is the huge field just a block away.  It turns out it's an off-leash field for dogs.  Several dogs gather there every morning to romp and play.  It's a wonderful sight to watch.  Dyna and Dylan's favorite Charleston friends are two yellow labs, Huck (short for Huckleberry), age 10, and Goose, age 2.  They even match each other in color!

Needless to say, with a week of on and off rain, these morning outings have led to piles of muddy towels. A small price to pay to bring those we love so much joy.  A really cool thing about the Maritime Center is that the laundry facilities are free.  That gives us access to a regular sized washing machine and dryer for the messy dog things.  It's a very nice touch that few marinas provide to transients like us.

The weather earlier in the week was cold - 45 degrees at night!  We're now back up in the mid-70's wearing shorts again.

Lastly, we just acquired the domain!  We currently set it to forward directly to this blog so just use from now on.  It gives us the flexibility to build on the blog.  But mostly, we just like the name.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dark and Stormy in Charleston!

If you're a boater, you've most certainly run across a drink called a "Dark and Stormy". Since we have excellent supplies here in Charleston, we decided to give it a try.  We shouldn't have.

To make the drink, you put a shot of dark rum over ice. Then add ginger beer "to taste" which is difficult if you've never had one. Add a slice of lime and you're done. It's simple to make.

Gosling's Black Rum from Bermuda is supposed to be the official rum to use. That was easy to get in a wonderful liquor store right across the street from the Harris Teeter grocery store. We also picked up a bottle of Sailor Jerry's spiced rum. If we're on a boat, we should have a good supply of rum, right?

We couldn't locate Goslings ginger beer but we did find Goya Jamacian ginger beer at the grocery store. The secret of making a good drink appears to be using real ginger beer and not a ginger-flavored soda.

We met up with Bill who is still at the Charleston Maritime Center. He was supposed to originally stay for 2 nights. Then he signed up for the week. He's now showing us the calculations for a monthly stay. I understand there are condos for sale next to the marina too. Anyway, we all went out to a wonderful Thai restaurant called Basils and then back to our boat for a movie and Dark and Stormy's.  It was the first one any of us had ever had.

I have a feeling, there will be many more to come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Karen's Chicken Soup

Today is a stormy day. There are small craft advisories out and even a tornado watch. Seems like a good day for chicken soup.

So we're getting ready to have lunch when I check on the progress of Bill Corbett aboard Spray. Bill is a friend of ours who left Castine in late September on a mostly solo cruise along the east coast and ICW. He was supposed to show up at the Charleston Maritime Center tomorrow and we've been looking forward to his arrival.

Checking his SPOT tracker (he has one too) showed that he was entering the Charleston Harbor.  How could this be? So I called him on the phone and he tells us something about bad weather and coming into the marina early.

Ten minutes later he arrives and we all share Karen's famous chicken soup (with matzoh balls).

Yeah, sure Bill - bad weather.  We know you could smell the soup...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our December Cruise

Our December cruise was completed without a hitch.  We pulled out of the City Marina at 9:30 am and arrived at the Charleston Maritime Center by 10:00 am.  We've had more difficult days.  Large tents were being put up and it turns out a Chili Cook-off for the Charleston Humane Society was happening in the afternoon.  We took Dyna and Dylan for a walk where they got to meet several of the dogs in attendance.  There's a large field about a block from the boat where the kids can romp.  Great restaurants, grocery shopping, video rentals, and other attractions are walking distance.  In the evening we look out over the beautiful lights of the Charleston bridge over the Cooper River.

By early evening there was a crowd gathering on the pier beside our boat.  We remembered that this was the night for the Christmas Parade of Boats.  It started with kayaks, canoes, and shells decked out with lights.  The larger boats soon followed, many with quite elaborate displays.  We were able to watch a bunch of boats pass before being picked up for dinner by friends.

The Maritime Center is very different from the City Marina, both great facilities with their own charms.  We look forward to exploring Charleston from this side of the city for a while.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Farwell City Marina

Wednesday called for gale force winds and driving rain here in Charleston. They predicted gusts up to 70 mph, the strongest we've experienced during this cruise and the possibility of tornados. We woke to pouring rain, so much rain it filled a bucket under cover on the cockpit with inches of water. Charleston streets were flooding. The winds were to come later in the day so we deployed almost every line we had (8 in all), put out our large ball fenders, and stowed anything that wasn't tied down. We instructed the crew on storm procedures and waited. The winds did howl but our wind indicator only showed a top speed of 35 knots. Hey, this crew survived a micro-burst 2 years ago - this was nothing.

By Thursday morning we were back to preparations for our departure on Saturday. Yes, after over 4 weeks here at the Charleston City Marina we are about to start cruising again. This cruise will take us a grand total of 4 miles around to the other side of Charleston to the Maritime Center. Even though it's just a short hop, we need to pretty much do the same prep as a full day's cruise. In addition, much of our time here has been spent on some projects which left the engine room in quite a mess. For the true geeks at heart, Jeff has proudly made an engine room video.  Get the popcorn.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving week...

We left Castine on August 25th pulling into Charleston on November 3rd, putting about 1,500 nautical miles (1650 statute miles) in 71 days under our boat's keel.  Last Monday we picked up a rental car for our Thanksgiving week back on land.  A whirlwind week that included Thanksgiving with my folks and our nephew's wedding in Chicago, covering over 2,000 statute miles in 7 days.  I think this speaks not only to the modes of transportation but also to the land vs water lifestyles.  A week of land-based hustle and bustle makes us appreciate our time onboard.

On the boat our schedules are loose at best, impacted more by the weather than anything else.  Dressing up means putting on a clean shirt and shoes.  There are no time schedules and the only firm appointments are breakfast and dinner time for the canine crew - 7:30 am and 4:30 pm, in case you wondered.

We loaded the car with Jeff's single suit and my one dressy outfit along with food, treats, toys, and the kids' other necessities -- and left Charleston.  Dyna and Dylan put four more states under their belts: Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.

Dyna kept her Grandpa company while Dylan kept his eye on the kitchen hoping to woo his Grandma into some special treats.  She always was a softy.

Their Aunt Jane thought they were indispensible when it came time to carve the turkey.  They were pleased to help clean the floor when pieces of turkey somehow landed there.

Nice big hotel beds were appreciated after months of sharing the master stateroom bed on aCappella.  The wedding was lovely even though Dyna and Dylan's offer of flower girl and ring bearer was politely refused.  Frankly, we think maybe the bride and groom were concerned of being upstaged.  The kids are awfully cute, after all.

There was lots of excitement, good time with family, good food, and the sharing of a very special time with people we love.  A nephew was married, a grand-nephew was born, and a niece was engaged, all in one busy week.  Our niece is planning a wedding for next May or June, about the time we will be returning to the Chesapeake.  That'll call for another trip on land and of course the kids will be there.  Sandra (the next bride to be): Dyna and Dylan are available.  Think about it...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inverter Converter...

It seems like such a simple thing - replacing our old inverter with a new one. I hated the old Xantrex/Heart 2500. It's modified sine wave output destroyed a sewing machine and a variety of electronic equipment over the years. It stopped working in 2007 in Vero Beach when I wasn't able to do much more than just replace it with a duplicate. I had been waiting for the new one to give me trouble so I could yank it out. That day finally arrived.

An inverter is the device that gives us normal AC/120 volt power from our batteries. Many also include a large battery charger used to re-charge the batteries when connected to shore power or a generator. It's an important component providing power and balancing the battery charge with efficiency. It's a pretty complex piece of gear with a lot of wiring.

The old Xantrex remote stopped working during this cruise. This meant that every time we wanted to use it, we had to crawl through the lazarette to turn it on.  That got pretty old and we just left it on all the time - not great for efficiency but better on the knees. With time and access here in Charleston, I ordered a new Magnum MS2812 true sine wave inverter. It's rated a little larger than the Xantrex but is supposed to be a lot more reliable. It puts out a real sine wave AC that all electronics will love. The new remote and battery monitor provides a lot more information to help us monitor and control our power usage. There's a temperature sensor on the batteries to provide efficient charging and there's even an option to automatically start our generator when the batteries get low (we're not installing that yet).

It should have just been some wire disconnects, a swap of the 60 lb boxes, and some wire attaching. But I decided that I'd rather re-route the wiring properly and keep everything neat and clean. The old Xantrex, to my horror, had no fuse - a possibly dangerous situation if the unit ever had a major failure. I corrected that and installed a large 400 amp fuse to protect the large cables coming off the battery. The battery monitor required a negative bus shunt and it seemed like the right time to clean up the ground wires for that end of the engine room.

It took a whopping 30 hours to install and clean everything up. It really looks so simple but there's a lot going on behind the scenes. I'm extremely pleased with the results - it's clean, efficient, and well-installed. It's now keeping the batteries at full charge and giving us all kinds of data on the remote to let us know what's happening. And next time we need a stern anchor to stop the boat from swinging, I'm attaching a line to the old Xantrex and throwing it off the back of the boat.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We Love Visitors...

We love meeting people who are out here cruising or are interested in cruising.  Having the ActiveCaptain logos on the sides of the boat has brought people from far and wide to our boat.  We've seen other boats circle us at anchor (waving their ActiveCaptain hat); people have come up in their dinghy (offering cars, assistance, anything we need); and we've been hailed on the VHF radio on the ICW (are you the people who run ActiveCaptain?).  But Friday was more fun.  Don and Cindy drove to Charleston to meet and talk with us.  And they brought pound cake.

Don and Cindy are in North Carolina and have been looking for a boat to do some extended cruising.  They had a variety of questions and wanted to just talk some things through about their needs and desires.  And they brought pound cake.

We had a great time with them.  They are cruisers in every sense of the word.  They'll fit very well into the lifestyle and will make the community better for everyone.  I'm really looking forward to watching their progress and helping where possible.  Did I mention that they brought pound cake?

OK, a word about this pound cake.  It quite honestly might be the best thing I've ever eaten ever.  Cindy gave us all types of instructions about freezing it so it would last.  Trust me Cindy.  Your car wasn't out of the Charleston City Marina when we'd already broken into the cake.  There is no chance that this thing is going to spoil - what little is left of it!  Thanks for coming - it was fun meeting you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Engine Room Checks

My husband is what polite company would call meticulous.  I sometimes have another word for it.  Something he has always insisted on is an hourly engine room check when we are underway.  We do this whether we're out for a day cruise on the Penobscot Bay or heading offshore overnight.  In the beginning I thought he was just "being Jeff" but after discovering some potentially serious issues before they became big problems I realized how important this routine is to our safety.

A week or so ago Jeff did a video about the broken hose clamps he found during our overnight trip to Charleston.  Losing a hose to a water intake could sink the boat.  The engine room checks discovered it when it was just a drip and not a gusher.  He thought the video was a good illustration of the importance of simple safety precautions such as engine room checks.  Apparently others agreed.

OceanLines, the online passagemaking magazine, ran his video this week to emphasize this point.  See what they said at The Underway Engine Room Check: Why You Need It.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dog Days

On Saturday afternoon Linda called with an invitation from Carly and Andy for Dyna and Dylan - swimming at the dog beach Sunday morning. Carly (Carly Simon) and Andy (Andrew Jackson) are a female Golden and a male Labradoodle who have adopted Jeb and Linda here in Charleston. They said that Jeff and I could come along.  The kids gladly accepted the invite.

We were picked up at 9AM at the entrance to the City Marina and off we went to Sullivans Island.  We parked on a little side street and walked down the boardwalk to a beautiful beach, miles long, full of dogs.  As the video shows, a good time was had. Dyna and Dylan experienced their first real ocean waves.  Dyna quickly learned to ride them while Dylan was frightened by a dead horseshoe crab.

An hour or so later, we led four wet and exhausted dogs back to the cars and headed to Jeb and Linda's for dog baths and an air-dry in the back yard.  The kids got baked sweet potatoes and we got great BLT's.  By the time Dyna and Dylan were dropped back off at the marina, the 1/4 mile walk to the boat was looking awfully long.  Needless to say the rest of the afternoon and evening have been quiet and Jeff and I look forward to being able to sleep-in in the morning.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

At Home in Charleston

Charleston is one of our favorite stops. I don't think we've ever missed pulling in. The restaurants are amazing, the city streets are beautiful, there are great grocery stores for provisioning, and the 5 star Charleston City Marina is a wonderful facility with a van to take you wherever you want to go. Typically we stay 2-3 days and move on looking forward to coming again on our next pass.

On our way in on Tuesday afternoon we called our good friends Jeb and Linda and were lucky to have dinner with them before they flew out to Dartmouth on Wednesday morning. They took us to an excellent tapas restaurant where we had the best sliders (small burgers) I have ever had in my life - honest. We hugged them goodbye and promised to stop back on our way north next Spring.

Wednesday morning was glorious, bright sunshine, mild temperatures, and dry air. We discussed over breakfast what to do on our one day in Charleston. First was to get the crew off for a long walk. We decided to take them separately and each headed off in different directions. Jeff has been working with our stubborn Dyna-girl who feels that a creature of her stature should never have to walk on a leash. By the time we had returned to the boat we were wondering why we should be in such a hurry to leave.

A check with the harbormaster presented us with two options for monthly slips. We signed up for the one with the water view for the month of November. So for now, Charleston is home. The kids will have daily walks and Dylan can pursue an advanced degree in Charleston blackbirds. Blame it on the good weather, blame it on good friends, or blame it on the sliders, we are looking forward to becoming more familiar with this lovely place.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Beaufort to Charleston, overnight...

I like overnight passages. You get to put a lot of miles under the keel in one shot and it really tests your nautical skills. There is little room for making mistakes in the middle of the night and the boat has to be in good shape. There's an element of trust between man and machine in the process that I find interesting.

I completely understand that they can be scary too. Once out, it's hard to pull in somewhere if the weather gets too rough. And being offshore can put you so far offshore that just getting back could take many hours.

The trip from our anchorage on the South River outside of Beaufort, NC to Charleston, SC is 240 nautical miles. That's the equivalent of three very long 80 mile days. The weather predictions looked pretty good when we left and moving out the inlet into the ocean seemed within our level of tolerance. In the end, it wasn't our worst overnight, but it was far from our nicest one too. All in all, the videos tell the whole story.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Belhaven, North Carolina...

We've been enjoying ourselves in Belhaven, North Carolina. Belhaven is just off the ICW at mile marker 135. The town is behind a huge breakwater that is about to be re-built. The anchorage has room for hundreds of boats and we've seen as many as 20 anchored here over some nights. There are a couple of marinas and a new condo complex. It's a nice town with a lot to offer. We've been coming here since 2003 when we brought aCappella down the ICW for the first time. This is the first time we stayed here for multiple days though.

We've mainly been waiting for good offshore weather. Wind and wave predictions off the coast of North and South Carolina have been outside our "comfort zone." No big deal. We've gone grocery shopping, taken the dogs off the boat a couple of times, toured around the harbor on the dinghy and worked on ActiveCaptain.

The public access in Belhaven to walk to the stores is a little difficult. There are remnants of some type of marina falling into the water next to a boat ramp. We had to find creative ways to tie the dinghy because there's no standard way. Lucky for us, there's a piece of rebar sticking out of the concrete in a convenient tie-up location. I would have felt silly deploying the anchor onto the grass to keep the boat secure...

The front that brought all the bad weather is slowly passing by. We'll get to either Cape Lookout or the South River tomorrow. By Monday, we should be at Cape Lookout either way - a beautiful hook off the coast of Beaufort, NC. The calming trend looks like it'll continue and we'll be able to take off to Charleston on Tuesday. If the weather is very calm, we'll continue onto Brunswick, GA where we'll be sitting for a couple of months, ending this third phase of our cruise.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Going to a dinner party...

So we're quietly cruising down the ICW in North Carolina when we hear over the radio, "aCappella, aCappella - this is the Mary Kathryn, are you out there?" Well, this was a nice surprise - it was Bob Smith from the Annapolis area. So we switch channels, talk a bit, and yadda, yadda, yadda, he's anchoring in Belhaven too and invites us to dinner aboard his boat, kids included. Kids included! We object but he insists. This would be a first - Dyna and Dylan out to a dinner party aboard another boat at night - and a dinghy ride after dark. It doesn't get more exciting than this.

After anchoring in Belhaven, getting situated and cleaned up, we loaded up the dinghy and navigated to Mary Kathryn anchored nearby. Gail prepared a wonderful stuffed flounder and vegetable/jasmine rice. Dyna and Dylan enjoyed fresh ice and Charlie Bear treats. I have to honestly say that everyone behaved themselves. Dyna and Dylan too.

Notice the nice black-and-blue bruise on Karen's right thigh. That was awarded in Great Bridge when she walked into the bulwark door of the boat. It has been a spectacular array of colors changing each day like the leaves turning colors all around us.

Mary Kathryn anchored in the Bahamas

Moving through North Carolina...

Although I said "ICW smile" in the video, it's correctly called an "ICW moustache". Either way, it's a nasty thing to remove and everyone has their own special techniques and formulas to get it off.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Entering The No Flies Zone...

It was time to leave the Chesapeake and start heading down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). I told Karen that when you couldn't coil a hose easily because of the temperature, it was time to head south. That day arrived as 60 degree temperatures invaded the Piankatank River. For some reason, this made a large number of flies decide to take up residence in our boat, something that Dyna and Dylan decided was unacceptable. We had officially entered a no flies zone.

Underway we got a radio call from Joe Nekola on Sea Pearl.  Sea Pearl is the twin sister boat to aCappella - identical boats built together. We've known Joe for years and knew he was planning to head toward the ICW too. A half hour after the radio call, Joe email'd me a picture from his iPhone - it was our boat all alone on the Chesapeake with Joe approaching.

We caught up, shared a free dock outside Norfolk and mysteriously lost wine somewhere. We need to spend more time with Joe and Salty (the dog) - he might end up in Brunswick while we're there.

Passing through Norfolk is always interesting. There are Navy ships everywhere along with their restricted 500 yard approach distances. Patrol boats with real guns move back and forth along the water. There was a broadcast about a Navy War Ship taking off from Pier 5 immediately. Karen and I looked over and saw we were right at Pier 6. Ten seconds later, a pretty large ship pulled right in front of us. I took some video and none of the guys with machine guns on deck liked that. We were way closer than we should have been, sort of our own no fly zone.

Eventually we split from Sea Pearl (a mighty fine looking boat if I do say so) and ended up at another free dock right next to the Great Bridge lock and bridge at mile marker (MM) 12 on the ICW. There's a lot of shopping here - grocery, hardware, restaurants, Dairy Queen, everything you'd ever want. We're hanging here watching the boats come through the lock and sleeping in the warm sun. There's no problem coiling hose here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What I Do For Love

We've all been there. They're so cute with those big soulful eyes. You say, "Oh, I'll just take a look," but then they snuggle up to you, give you a kiss, and you just can't resist adopting them. I adopted my people two years ago. In the beginning it was great! They loved to cuddle and learned my food and bathroom routines pretty quickly. It was touch and go there for a bit when this little interloper showed up but I got him in line pretty quick.

We'd settled into a very happy routine. They loved their walks in the morning. I took them out to play in the afternoon. I even let them sleep in bed with me at night – I know you're not suppose to but they just love to curl up with me and there's those eyes they give you. It was great having them around.

So when they wanted to go on this boat trip it was hard for me to say no - their little eyes looked so sad. I let them know that if they really wanted this then they were going to have to do all the work. They've fussed a bit here and there but all in all they've been pretty good.

That was until this morning. Now we've done some silly things these past couple of months and I've just gone along and didn't complain. But this was just expecting too much.

This morning they had their little alarm go off at 5AM and jumped right out of bed eyes bright and all raring to go (well, sort of). And the little twerp's right there with, "If you want to go, we'll go." He makes me sick sometimes. Well, I wasn't done sleeping but they finally made such a racket it was easier to just get up than lay there. Next thing I know we're pulling away from the dock in the pitch dark and heading down some narrow little canal. They didn't even bother to make me my breakfast first. Where's the gratitude?!

All of this nonsense so we could go around in circles in front of a bridge and then go around in circles in front of a lock. Well, by then I'd had enough. Finally they pulled into Great Bridge Lock and I figured it would be an easy jump to the wall and I'd be out of there. I even had the twerp convinced. But then I saw them there looking so cute. How would they get on without me? Geez, I'm such a sucker for those eyes. Besides it's a lot of work to train new ones.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Berkley Island on the Piankatank River

Here Comes the Sun

It has been raining for days. First it was just rain, then pouring rain, then rain and wind, then rain, wind and, cold – so cold it was breaking records in Richmond, VA.

Dyna and Dylan were little troopers – no swimming, no running in the fields, not even a walk. They ran to the bow several times a day as we tried to hurry their business along so we could get back in out of the wet and cold. Dyna took it in her stride using the time to catch up on her beauty sleep. It was harder for Dylan. He grew restless. Jeff took him below to “open a can of whoop-ass” on him. I think they both needed the rough housing. I pulled out some of the reserve toys I'd brought, something I learned from traveling with young nieces and nephews.

We made hot drinks, kept the dogs close, and wished for the sun. This morning our wish came true. We woke to glorious sun! We're on our way to an anchorage on the Piankatank River. According to ActiveCaptain it's a great place for dogs. The kids will let you know. But I think we'd go there regardless just because it's fun to say the name. Go ahead, try it, it's pretty much like it's spelled – Pee-yank-a-tank.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three Dog Night

We left Olverson's to continue working our way south. Friends of ours from Vero Beach onboard a Krogen trawler named Fluke were anchored on the Great Wicomico River at Rogue Pt and we thought it would be nice to share the anchorage with them. We didn't know how cold it was going to be. Wicked cold. Richmond, Virginia broke their all-time record for cold last night.

For me, checking email on the settee was pretty nice with two dogs tired after moving just 30 miles down the bay. Karen, on the other hand, was complaining of being cold.

It's hard to believe that just this Tuesday we washed the whole boat wearing T-shirts and shorts. By Wednesday we wore long pants for the first time during the day. By Thursday we were wearing socks. Socks! That's not supposed to happen when cruising south. It's cold and rainy and windy and just miserable.

So we fired up the boat's heating system and got everything warm over a couple of hours. Karen turned happy. The comforter came out on the bed and we rushed down to get under the covers earlier than usual. The only problem for us was that it was a three dog night and we only had two dogs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Karen and I have had the luxury of being on our boat at many marinas. In addition to this, ActiveCaptain has put us in contact with tens-of-thousands of marinas, yacht clubs, and marine facilities. There are different types of marinas just like there are different types of resorts. All have their advantages and disadvantages.  But what matters the most, we've found, is how true a marina is to their own goals and customers, and how well they are able to use their own advantages to make a boater's stay better. If that is the measure of success, Olverson's is at the top of the heap.

Freddie Olverson's father bought a mile of waterfront property just after World War II. Together they built a marina themselves in Lottsburg, Virginia. It is a very rural place with farmland surrounding the area. There isn't a lot to do in the immediate area. Heck, there isn't a lot to do in a 5 mile radius. Don't come here looking to sign up for a pilates class or expect to make an appointment for a massage with cucumbers cut and applied to your eyelids. That isn't going to happen here. But what the Olverson's have built is the perfect thing in so many ways for the transient boater - a welcoming place, clean facilities, access to whatever you need, and community.

It is so rare to find a full-service grocery store near a marina. The same is true of a hardware store or almost any type of store. And none of those things are around here either. But at Olverson's, there are three courtesy cars ready for the needs of boaters. This means that "walking distance" doesn't matter. We have wheels here.

So on the first day we ran the kids around the field and while they slept, we ran off to a real, full-size grocery store. It was 6 miles away - nothing we could ever walk to. On the trip home we noticed an ACE Hardware store so we went back today - there's a water shutoff I want to add to one of the water lines and they have everything I need for $20 there. We also stopped at a Dollar Store because Karen had a bunch of things that we didn't need but had to have.

The car we used is a Jeep Cherokee. It isn't fancy and the Air Bag light stays on and beeps at you every 5 minutes. But it ran well and carried everything we needed. And if we want to go to the Italian restaurant that Freddie told us about this afternoon, the keys are in the car right now and we can just go.

When we pulled into the dock on Monday there were at least 5 people there waiting to assist with our lines. Trust me, you don't get that at a "top rated" marina. I wish I had taken a picture of it. There's a spirit around this place of being home. Freddie and the Olverson family have done an exceptional job of making the community of boaters and transients here feel welcome. That's no easy job. Sure, we'll stay at fancier places but I doubt we'll stay at a place that cares more.

When driving north on I95 and entering the state of Maine, there's a famous sign that greets you. It says, "Welcome to Maine, The Way Life Should Be." Welcome to Olverson's - the way a marina should be.

To view Olverson's in ActiveCaptain, use this link:

Everyone gets grits today...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yankee Doodles in Dixie...

When we adopted Dyna from JoDee, she came with a nickname: Doodle. It's a good name for her and we've continued to use it. Of course Dylan needed a nickname and he seemed like a doodle too so we now have Dyna Doodle and Dylan Doodle. Together, I call them "Team Doodle" or the Doodles.

One thing we know for sure. These Maine born and raised dogs are definitely Yankee's. Today we crossed the Potomac and entered the great state of Virginia and although we crossed the Mason-Dixon line a long time ago (it's above Maryland), to me the south always really started with Virginia. We've now just entered Dixie.

We're at a marina - more about it tomorrow. For today, we took our Yankee Doodles off the boat and let them run in a beautiful huge field with large hay bales everywhere. Team doodle had never seen these before - they required close inspection.

And some more analysis...

Finally, Dylan realized what these things were really for...

So there you have it. From now on we'll only be going deeper and deeper into Dixie land. Can these Yankee's make it?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Diving Dyna...

You know the TV commercials showing dogs diving, arms outstretched into water? Well that's Dyna. She's a beautiful diver. She does it often, sometimes even when just running into the water from the beach. With iPhone in hand, we captured a mini dive during today's swim.

Tomorrow we're heading to a marina in Virginia to get water, go grocery shopping, and explore the other side of the Potomac. There probably won't be diving for a couple of days but marinas are interesting to the canine crew in many other ways.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere...

My parents celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary this summer. I think that's quite an accomplishment. After all those years they are still completely devoted to each other and are the perfect example of opposites attract, my father being the ever logical engineer while my mother is led by her emotions.

Jeff and I just celebrated 24 years of marriage and would be better described as two peas in a pod. We both have math and science degrees and approach most every decision with logic and calculations. Remember our lists!

So in our calculations for getting to Cuba we decided it would be a good idea to see how self-sufficient we could be. Could we get to Cuba and back without needing anything other than what we brought with us?

Calculations for much of this are easy. Jeff's fanatical logging of our fuel consumption allows us to accurately estimate our fuel usage (see our article). I've done enough provisioning I'm confident I can feed us for 2-3 months. However, when it comes to water usage we had few firm facts. And as it turned out the facts we thought we had were questionable.

We left Maine with the notion that we would put ourselves to the test. In particular, we wanted to see how long we could last with our onboard water supply. This was more than just an interesting exercise. We have been having the great water-maker debate for some time. Do we spend $4,000-$5,000 plus installation on a water-maker which would give us a virtually unlimited water supply but also another system to maintain, or plan on buying water in the Bahamas and using that for our planned month in Cuba.

We gathered our facts and began our experiment. Our water capacity is listed as 450 gallons. We filled just prior to leaving Castine. We went into water conservation mode – saltwater wash-down on deck, military showers, no running water while washing dishes, etc. It was actually pretty painless.

When we purchased the boat the previous owner had thoughtfully marked the water tank site-glass in 1/4 increments. We figured we'd simply check our consumption weekly and log our results. At the end of the first week our tanks were less than 1/4 down – not bad. At the end of two weeks we were down between a quarter and a half – nice to know we're consistent. Then we committed the ultimate experimentation sin. As we knew we would be at a marina in Crisfield the next day, we did 3 loads of laundry and.... didn't checked the tanks before filling up at the marina. Why should we? We'd used less than 200 gallons of our 450 and laundry only took 15 gallons per load.

Upon leaving Crisfield we continued our experiment which turned out identical over the next two weeks. We were feeling pretty confident in our calculations and thinking maybe a water-maker could be avoided for now.

I then decided to do two loads of laundry before we left Solomons and the next day we headed off to our current anchorage in Horseshoe Bend off St. Mary's College. We were now at two weeks 4 days since we had last filled the tanks and I was thinking maybe I'd do one more load of laundry. I decided to take a quick look at the water level – it was off the scale! How could that be?

We put our two analytical heads together and decided the problem had to be the site-glass measurements. They were marked as linear measurements but in reality must be a curve. We poured in our two 6 gallon jerry cans we always keep in the lazarette and headed to shore to fill them 4 more times, giving us an additional 60 gallons of water. I looked at the site-glass and sure enough it showed we were between a quarter and a half full – or approximately 178 gallons of water based on a linear scale. We then took measurements of our water tanks and calculated they would hold around 300 gallons and not the 450 they claim!

So now we're back to square one. In two days we leave to go to another marina were we can fill our tanks. We are developing some strategies for determining the actual capacity of our tanks and a method for accurately marking our site-glass. I'm pretty sure it will involve me spending too much time in the bilge watching the site-glass. We will then begin our experiment again, hopefully this time armed with some real facts.

Please don't breathe a word of this to our college professors or they may want our degrees back.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Swimming and swimming...

Our time at St. Mary's has been nice. During the mornings we work on some boat projects, the web site, and new software. I've been doing a lot of work on finishing the next version of the interactive guidebook called "X". It's a major re-write and has some really nice capabilities based on working with ActiveCaptain for almost 4 full years (and hundreds of suggestions). Karen has been re-working all of the articles online by updating them with the latest information available. She's also been handling the enormous number of user-updates we've been receiving lately.

But...after lunch...the dogs know what's coming next - Swimming. It's their most favorite activity. We've been going to a nice beach on the college campus. The school's boating facilities make it easy to pull up and the water is really nice there. Back on the boat, the team is exhausted giving us real quiet time to do more project work. I've been able to get a lot done during these days. It's been the perfect environment for software development.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jeff's bread...

Our friends back in Castine all know that I have been working on making bread for the last 2-3 years. Right before we left Maine, I made sure there was enough basic ingredients to try and bake some on aCappella.

After leaving Solomons and arriving in St. Mary's, Maryland, we awoke yesterday to gale force winds. There was no way that we were going to take down the dinghy and go into town. We were all going to stay on the boat snuggled up against each other. At anchor we keep a wind alarm set at 25 knots so we can watch our anchor setting if any larger winds appear. We had to adjust the alarm to 30 knots and finally 35 knots because it was continually going off. What a perfect time to bake bread!

My recipe takes 24 hours of rising time so we had to wait until today to actually bake the loaf. But first, we took the dogs swimming at St. Mary's College and walked around the historic areas of St. Mary's City. When we got back, we popped the bread in the oven. It came out looking funny but tasted great - there are some adjustments I need to make for the next attempt. We proudly set the finished loaf in the warm breeze of the setting sun on the bow. Dyna was very, very interested in it.

Needless to say, within an hour, the bread was gone. There is nothing better than warm bread with honey on top. And of course, Dyna and Dylan had their share.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dylan and his studies...

Dylan is a thoughtful dog. At home, he'll watch birds and squirrels for hours. He studies their movements and occasionally gets to chase one. But here there are no windows. For Dylan, he gets to experience nature up close and personal.

While we've been busy in Solomons meeting people, having dinner out on other boats, having people over to our boat, and enjoying a variety of other social events, Dylan has been watching ducks. Here at the "Solomons - 2" anchorage they cover the water. They swim all around the boat and can't understand why we're not throwing food to them. Dylan studies their every move, quietly standing watch and hoping they'll move closer. If degrees were ever given out to dogs, Dylan would be due a PhD in ducks.

The people onboard aCappella have been very busy too. With the end of TrawlerFest yesterday, we were finally able to do some normal errands and household tasks. This included laundry, walking to the large grocery store that is further away, walking to the closer grocery store (for ice cream reserves), walking to the fish market, and walking to the pet supply store who carries our special dog food in 30 pound bags saving us shipping costs later. It was a lot of walking but it was a beautiful day with crisp, cool 70 degree sunshine.

It's funny how little walking is done any longer. While cruising, we're forced to walk often. I have to admit that we were offered cars by 5 different people here in Solomons over the week - the cruising community is small and friendly and we know a lot of people here. We appreciate the offers and would make use of them in a heartbeat in an emergency. For normal needs though, walking is OK with us.

We have these two wonderful Rolling Carts that carry groceries and fit well in the dinghy. We bought a fair amount of food today, filling the carts. Arriving back at the boat we were greeted by two wagging tails. Given the choice between fresh food and ducks, even Dylan goes for the food.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Zahniser's gets it...

Unfortunately, like so many waterfronts across America, there is no public access in Solomons, Maryland. We're anchored in the Solomons - 2 anchorage right near Zahniser's Yachting Center. Zahniser's is a full-service marina with slips and moorings. But we're going to be here for a week and we prefer to anchor. In environments like this, many marinas might not allow us free-loaders to use any of their facilities. Staying at a slip for the week would cost us about $700. One of the moorings for the week would cost about $280. Our total cost for the week will be $0. Yeah, we like anchoring a lot.

But we also like walking to the grocery store and throwing out garbage, and sometimes just getting off the boat and walking around. A quality facility like Zahniser's makes that possible for us even though they're giving up hundreds of dollars to do it.

When we go to a marina office, we print out their full ActiveCaptain listing. If they don't know how to update the data online, they can just write in the missing info and we'll enter it for them. When I walked into Zahniser's office and explained the sheets, the dockmaster and assistant manager jumped out from their offices.  "You're ActiveCaptain! Thank you for having us in your listing. We follow it and update our data all the time." This was a nice surprise - they actually know us.

Zahniser's currently has 9 reviews and has an average rating of 5 stars out of 5 in ActiveCaptain. There are only a handful of marinas across North America with such a perfect rating with more than 5 reviews. But then, it's really no surprise. They get it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our Girl

Dyna is short for Dynasty. Dyna produced the first litter at Birchwood Labrador Retrievers, a small hobby kennel in Maine, and went on to produce four more litters before she was retired. There are dozens of adorable Labs out there thanks to Dyna. JoDee Edes allowed us to adopt Dyna two years ago, the same summer we brought home her grandson Dylan.

Dyna turned 11 this year, but don't tell her that. When we decided to bring Dyna into our home Jeff made me promise we would only keep her if she could learn to do all her business on the boat - something we feel is a requirement for safe cruising with your dog (see our article, Canine Crew). Fortunately, he didn't check for crossed fingers behind my back. We worried if we could teach an old dog new tricks. We didn't need to worry.

Since leaving her comfortable home in Castine, Dyna has kept up with numerous dogs half her age, swam nonstop with Dylan and several groups of children, boldly climbed the pet ramp at every imaginable angle, calmly slept through rough seas, and even dove from the dinghy into the water for an unplanned swim. She now eats "senior" food and takes supplements for her joints, and sometimes gets up a bit more slowly after a hard swim but we have some medication for that.

Dyna brings joy and humor to us every day. We have satellite TV on the boat but haven't bothered to turn it on. We've been busy and besides last night I watched the two dogs tussle over a toy. What sitcom could be better than that?

Yesterday I met a women who's Black Lab lived to be 18 years old. Come on Dyna, we can beat that!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hurricane Gloria

There are no storm or hurricane projections active at this time. It's something that we check multiple times a day. Hurricane Gloria was an earlier storm with an interesting history. It was a Category 4 storm, almost at the top of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale when it formed. To this day, there has never been a more powerful hurricane that hit the east coast further north than Gloria. It first made landfall on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and then traveled along the coast until making a second landfall on Long Island and a third landfall on Connecticut. It caused almost a billion dollars of damage back when a billion dollars was real money.

The part of the storm where it moved along Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware happened on September 27,1985, exactly 24 years ago today. We were living in Maryland at the time and I remember the day pretty well. The power to many parts of the Washington, DC area went out and there were inches of rain that fell from the sky as the wind blew. At 4:30 pm, Karen and I were married. Outside.

There's an Italian saying, "Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata" which means that a wet bride is a lucky bride. Well if rain is considered to be lucky for the bride, I'm proof that the most powerful hurricane ever seen in an area is quite a lucky thing for the groom.

Happy anniversary, Karen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Gam

In olden times, friendly ships would pass at sea and come up against one another. The crews would lean over the sides of the boats and exchange news and stories from the lands they came from. This was known as a gam.

The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) is a 10,000 member organization of experienced cruisers. You can't become a voting member until you've lived on your boat for a year and have met a variety of other experience requirements. There is an emphasis on cruising outside of the country and around the world. When they have a rendezvous of members, it's called a "gam". Tonight was the last night of the Annapolis SSCA 2009 Gam. The last couple of days have involved seminars, information exchange, and eating. There is always eating when cruisers get together.

The dinghy dock for this harbor is pretty full. Amazingly, no one complained. No one made a fuss. No one is calling for new rules to be put in place to limit access to the dinghy dock. After all, a busy dinghy dock is a good thing, isn't it? Of course, my own dinghy, lost in the maze above wouldn't be allowed to pull onto the Castine dinghy dock because the Castine dinghy dock is full of rules and nonsense. And they wonder why the dinghy dock there is never full. There's a lesson there.

We gave 4 different 45 minute sessions about ActiveCaptain and internet access on boats today. It was extremely well attended with scores of questions and follow on discussions over dinner with many people. My throat is sore from all of the talking. Isn't ice cream a cure for that?

After dinner we took a cold, wet ride back to the boat. The harbor is ablaze with some 90 boats all anchored. The anchor lights make a beautiful light show that isn't captured very well by video and really needs to be seen in person. Tomorrow the boats will start to pull anchor and head off in many varied directions. The news has been exchanged and it's time for each of us to continue on with our journey.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wye Dogs?

OK, this is my last play on words with Wye. It's driving Karen nuts ("Wye - we're here - get it Karen, get it?).

In the last 2 days, we've put out some 30,000+ emails between our new newsletter and the fuel update to marinas. Who says you can't do all of this from a boat? Even way out here on the Wye River, we have an outstanding internet connection. We haven't even enabled our DirecTV account yet because we've been able to watch our favorite programs on our laptops. The flip side is that we have no idea what is going on in the world except that there are no named storms from the National Hurricane Center.

Today we took down the dinghy and circumnavigated the entire Wye Island. It took a while - at first I thought it was a couple of miles. It turned into a 7 mile cruise around this incredibly pretty place.

Dyna is feeling all better and back on real food. Dylan still isn't fully well. We're taking it easy on the little guy and he'll be back to normal soon. He couldn't help but lean over the dinghy, watching all the wildlife, but we could tell his heart wasn't really in it. I think he needs one more day of rice before he'll be following Dyna's lead in trying to jump out of the dinghy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why the Wye?

I've been told that when God takes a vacation, he goes to the Wye River. I can fully appreciate this now.

It was a long day from Crisfield to the Drum Point anchorage on the Wye River. We've never been on the Wye or in Eastern Bay. We have a few days before SSCA to try it out. It is quite pretty and an excellent anchorage.

The dogs have been sick over the last couple of days. Gastrointestinal sick. It hasn't been fun. They are both on a diet of rice and are starting to look better. They either caught something from one of the many dogs they played with in Crisfield or they ate something on the dock.

So we'll explore the area by dinghy tomorrow if possible. It might just end up being a chicken soup kind of rainy day though.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pictures from our presentation...

Thanks to Celeste Yost (again!) for providing pictures from our MTOA presentation about ActiveCaptain.

A copy of the slides used during the presentation can be seen here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Where Did Everyone Go?

The Marine Trawler Owner Association (MTOA) northern rendezvous ended last night with an awards ceremony and party. Karen and I each received a highly coveted ruby pin. By this morning, most of the boats had disappeared.

Our presentation on ActiveCaptain went really well yesterday afternoon. There were some excellent questions and the response was wonderful. It's times like this when we realize that we're onto something important and believe even more strongly that we're headed in the right direction.

Going even further in the "we believe" direction, released a feature article about ActiveCaptain on Wednesday called, "ActiveCaptain Could be the Wave of the Future." Quoting their first paragraph:
Telling you that ActiveCaptain “could” be the wave of the future is probably a little bit like saying the Internet will “probably be a big thing.”  The truth is, ActiveCaptain already is a fantastic resource for cruisers and passagemakers, but it might actually become something huge — a source of real-time, up-to-the-minute information that your navigation system can access while underway.  That’s saying something and the more ActiveCaptain develops, the less far-fetched it sounds.  But more on that later; let’s see why it’s already worth your time to “become” an ActiveCaptain.
The MTOA seminars that we attended were great. We met hundreds of people, ate exceptional food, exchanged sea stories, and made plans for future get togethers with new friends. All of this was exhausting! Today we lounged around, went grocery shopping, caught up on computer work, and arranged play times for Dyna and Dylan with other dogs.

The grocery store in Crisfied is pretty small with few selections. I was, however, able to prevail in getting Breyers ice cream. Karen was seriously considering a type called Turkey Hill and another called PET. I now have veto power over ice cream selection and I draw the line far before ever purchasing something with an animal name or any play-on-words cute names. PET ice cream? That's just asking for trouble!

There are a bunch of DeFever trawlers still here so we're all getting together for a group dinner tonight. It'll be a group of a dozen or so people. Dyna and Dylan were specifically invited and will tag along for the fun. You know, our song was right - it isn't about the boat, the places, or the sunsets. Cruising is about the people you meet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mail Day!

Jeff went off to some diesel engine seminar or some equally geeky thing while I stayed onboard to catch up with email, ActiveCaptain, etc. I heard a knock on the side of the boat and someone called, "aCappella, mail call!" Somehow, the dockhand was able to penetrate our cracker jack canine security crew - he was good!

I went to the stern to collect our large package. Our first batch of mail since leaving home. I've spent months moving as many bills as possible to electronic delivery. On top of that our friend Susie has a knack for filtering out the junk. Two bills (one already paid and the other on auto-pay), a couple of notices, several magazine (mostly boating), one piece of junk mail, a hose part that missed us when we left, and a surprise from our good friends and neighbors Dick and Helle.

Dick and Helle, we thank you, will wear them with pride, and heed your warning!

The Coffee House...

MTOA has been a lot of fun. We're deep in the middle of it right now. We've met a lot of really nice people and have had fun at the different seminars. There are many trawlers here and it's been fun to look at them and get ideas about things we'd like to add. We know we need some type of ramp system to work with fixed docks in a better way. It has been difficult for both man and dog here to get off the boat.

Tuesday night was a pot luck dinner.  With hundreds of people, this was a massive pot luck rivaling any New England dinner we've ever been too. The food was outstanding. After dinner, the dining area was re-decorated as a coffee house with candles, coffee beans, and a warm dark atmosphere. Peter Colket performed for a couple of hours with just one break when he gave the stage to Karen and me. We performed a couple of songs. Thanks to Celeste Yost for taking the video of one of them so we could share it!

Our second song was a re-make of the Marshall Tucker Band's song Can't You See.  Here are the words and music:

Can't You See What That Trawler's Been Doing To Me
(sung to the tune of Can't You See)
Chords: D, C, G, D (repeat)

Verse (Jeff):
    Used to have a day job,
    Workin that 9-to-5,
    Life went by so fast,
    Got me a trawler now,
    Life in the slow lane,
    I know I can't go back.

    Can't you see, oh can't you see,
    What that trawler's, been doing to me
    Can't you see, oh can't you see,
    What that trawler's, been doing to me

Verse (Karen):
    Used to wish for diamonds,
    Wear the latest fashions,
    Silk and satin was for me,
    Now I dress in T-shirts,
    Rarely put my shoes on,
    And only wish for calm seas.


Verse (together):
    So we're out there cruising,
    Life on the water, now,
    A life that's hard to beat,
    It isn't just the places,
    It isn't just the sunsets,
    It's the people that we meet.

Chorus (twice)