Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sous Chef

Our galley is what is known in the cruising community as a "one butt galley." We have managed to work both of our backsides in by performing this elaborately coordinated dance. Still we often collide and have to adjust with a "Would you please step to the right for a second?"

We gave up virtually all prepared foods several years ago and cook most every meal from scratch (check out Michael Pollan's book, "In Defense of Food"). Breakfast frittatas in the morning, Kung Pao chicken for lunch, and beef and broccoli stir fry for dinner - are examples.

We worked out our routine while spending a year at our land based home and moved it to the boat with just a few adjustments.

When we moved back on the boat this time, Dyna decided that she had to lay down in the middle of the galley during all meal preparations. In the beginning we would shoo her away but she was back before we could turn around.

So now we've adjusted the dance to include 3 bottoms - "Dyna, honey, can you please put your head down so I can open the refrigerator?" Why? Because we have spoiled dogs, of course. Haven't you been following this blog?!?!

As for Dylan, he perches at the edge just happy to be in the vicinity of food.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Storm

All day, we knew it was coming. Winds grew from 15 kts to 30 during the morning and afternoon. At anchor, I keep a wind alarm at 25 kts and it's never a good thing when I increase it. Still, we were very safe and secure.

Around 3 pm the National Weather Service started issuing tornado watches for our area. We kept a careful watch on the front, got out our life preservers, and even re-fit them on Dyna & Dylan. We discussed emergency plans and were all ready.

At around 6 pm, it got quiet. Eerie quiet. An obvious front line was visible in the west. We prepared the boat, disconnected much of the electrical systems, lowered the antennas, removed the screens, and shot one video of the approaching front.

We decided that the safest place was in the stateroom below so all crew retreated there. The wind picked up to 40 kts, rain thrashed everywhere, and in 5 minutes, it was over. The red dot in the radar image above is directly on our location.

We stayed below for about a half hour watching the weather radar on the iPhone and listening to the handheld VHF.

The radar now shows another band coming in about 2 hours. No fear though. The crackerjack crew is ready.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home Again at Olverson's

Living on a boat is a bit like being a gypsy. We wander from place to place, rarely staying for too long at any one. Each place has its charm or event or people and places to see or a dog park. But where is home? I mean, where is that place that feels familiar and comfortable, where people know you and will always stop to lend a hand?

When we left Solomons we anchored in St. Mary's, MD off the college docks. There's a great little beach right there. We can take the dinghy up to the St. Mary's College docks and let the dogs run and swim. Every afternoon the students fill the cove with small sailboats and wind surfers. It was the perfect spot to ride out several days of high winds. Our plans were to leave there and anchor up the Corrotoman River at a place highly recommended by Cassie and Godiva on September Song for dog romping.

Unfortunately, when we went to put the dinghy back up the automatic tilt began emitting a pittiful groan and stopped working. A functioning tilt on an engine our size (40 HP) is a necessity if you want to beach the dinghy for dog swimming. It had to be fixed.

Now it might seem strange but fixing something like a dinghy can be a bit of a problem when you're living on the water. Most outboard places are inland catering to the weekend boater with a boat and trailer. We have the boat but no room to store a trailer. In addition, this is the busy time for these folks as they begin winterizing boats and preparing them for storage. No one would commit to looking at the boat any time soon. We needed help.

A call to Freddie at Olverson's Marina and the calvary was put into motion. Boats were rearranged to make space on the dock. Boat trailers were found. Parts were ordered. Trucks were offered to haul her out. And true to the male psyche a flotilla of men were quickly gathered around the engine. The offending part was a badly corroided tilt motor which "simply" needed to be replaced.

As these projects always go, little went smoothly. There were uncountable trips back to the boat for tools, phone calls, devices, etc. Bolts were broken and pins were jammed. By last night it was back together but still not working. Finally this morning in pouring rain with Mike Thompson's advice and a bit of work with a Dremel tool she was back in order.

Now we wait for the rain to stop pouring so we can bring her back on the boat and hopefully head for the Corrotoman River tomorrow. The kids are dying to swim in a new spot. But if it weren't for Freddie and Steve and Mann and Mike and this familiar place called Olverson's, who knows where we'd be heading. It was nice to be home for a few days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


No, we're not sending out an SOS. But we can all use some help from time to time.

We had planned on leaving Solomons today but Jeff felt a bit under the weather yesterday so we fell behind. Today we are getting out an ActiveCaptain newsletter which will mean lots of emails, updates, and comments, so we decided to stay put one more day.

We had lots of folks asking for beginner's help using the ActiveCaptain site, so we've put up a Getting Started tutorial. Look for the big help button under the articles section.

We're also announcing some big discounts at two of our Co-Op marinas here on the Chesapeake, Bay Creek Marina and Severn River Marina.

It'll be a busy day with lots of time behind the computer. However, that doesn't mean we can't find some time for a dinghy ride with Dyna and Dylan to the swimming beach around the corner. Gotta keep the crew happy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


October 10th - the day we all turn back into pumpkins. For the last 6 weeks we've been speaking at various rendezvous or preparing to speak at them. Yesterday's double session with the Krogen Cruisers annual rendezvous was our last for a while. This morning we awoke at anchor to see the 40 Krogens preparing to all take off from Solomons, MD enroute throughout the waterways. One thing about these Krogen owners - they know how to throw a party! We were dancing to live music until late last night...

We met many hundreds of people and made lots of new friends for life. We provided two types of talks at these get-togethers - the combination of our EMS/emergency medicine experience applied to cruising, and Q&A's about ActiveCaptain. It was all a wonderful experience and incredibly fun for us.

Now that all the speaking is over, finding a good swimming hole for Dyna & Dylan has become a priority. We'll stay in Solomons for a few days - we have some local knowledge about a beach good for swimming around the island. Then we're thinking of heading to St. Marys, the Piankatank River, or wherever the seas carry us. Having no plan is sometimes the best plan - for both pumpkins and puppies.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Arrgh...Married Again!

Every five years, Karen and I have gotten re-married. We've gone as far as flying to Las Vegas to getting re-married by a local minister in Castine. So with our 25th anniversary, the 5 year alarm clock went off.

I called the City of Baltimore and attempted to get re-married at their courthouse.  "But you're already married - we don't have a form for that" the clerk told me. "Do you have a form for getting a divorce?" I asked.  Well not surprisingly, they do, so I asked if she could see the irony in that. I think while trying to figure out the meaning of the word irony, she hung up on me.

At a dinner party, licensed captains Steve and Diane Koch married us again on a boat but something else was needed. Something more fitting for the seriousness of a quarter century. Then I remembered Bones.

Captain Wayne Flatt (aka Bones) is the captain of Skinwalker with his wife Lynn, a cruising boat that I've had contact with over a few years. Wayne is also a reverend  and a member of the Blessed Order of the Navigator Ecumenical Society. If that weren't enough, Bones is also captain of the P/V Fearless of Urban Pirates in Baltimore. P/V stands for pirate vessel.

So we met Wayne and Lynn for dinner and discussed the whole thing. Wayne researched our relationship and crafted a fine set of vows fitting for a pirate ship and a 25th anniversary. On Tuesday with rain threatening, we were remarried in a way I surely will never forget. Dyna and Dylan were able to attend and were little pirates themselves for the afternoon. They completely exhausted themselves by swabbing the deck with all paws until they fell asleep.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fells Point Fun

It doesn't take a festival to have fun in Fells Point but boy, what a festival there was this weekend. Sandwiched between two storm fronts, the weekend festival covered a few miles of closed streets with hundreds of booths, food items, and fun.

We found out about this festival by accident last week. It was a 10 block walk from the marina - hard to get much closer than that. I'm working on ways to get event information like this into ActiveCaptain because it would bring a lot of utility and enjoyment to cruisers planning where to go. An obvious solution is to have various chambers of commerce update information about major events in their towns. But is there a standard place to do this?  How can we get coastal communities to update an online calendar so all of us can find and use the information?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Boating Dividend

Both of my parents were raised on farms during the Depression, so self-reliance and frugality were things I was raised with. I remember many weekends watching my dad tear apart the dishwasher or seeing his head under the hood of a car with wrenches and assorted tools. Calling a repairmen was a sign of defeat.

So imagine my horror when after a few months of marriage I came home to a dishwasher that wouldn't start and my husband's only response was, “Better call the plumber.”

Over the years I adjusted and developed a list of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other repair people. Then we bought a boat. The first boat was a 40 year old lobster boat, a tank we couldn't destroy even if we tried. Every Winter we turned the boat over to the the local boat yard for repairs and maintenance.

Next we bought a new Albin. Jeff had more trouble blindly putting this boat into the hands of another and started learning to do some of the work himself.

With our trawler we realized that self-reliance translated into independence. After 8 years of cruising there are few projects we don't dive into and complete ourselves - engine maintenance, new system installations, electronics, carpentry, finish work, and whatever else comes up.

Last week it was the washing machine – it wouldn't drain. It took about two hours for us to get the machine out of it's nook below and check all the hoses - which were clear. A quick search on the Internet led us to the pump with suggestions for what to check. Jeff changed a seal and cleaned it up although the pump was a little chewed up. Another couple hours to put it all back – it drained for 2 minutes and then stopped. We ordered a new pump online and two days later spent another few hours taking it all apart again (hey, we learned some lessons from the first time), replaced the pump, and we now have clean clothes again.

And the best part is these new found skills are finding their way to our land based home. Last time the refrigerator stopped making ice, my dear sweet husband said, “Let me take a look at it.” I call it The Boating Dividend.