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.