Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Morning After

Tuesday morning we awoke to only mild winds and the sun attempting to peek through the clouds. We felt very lucky but were sobered by watching the morning news reports about what happen to the north. She may let us become a bit complacent but Mother Nature will always let us know that in the end she is in charge.

The sight Monday morning was somewhat different. The highest tide of the storm was predicted for around 9:30 Monday morning as the surge and the tide combined. Jeff found a cool graphic on the NOAA site showing the predictions.

The alarm was set for 7 am Monday morning as the dark skies were confusing our usual "alarm clock", Dylan looking for his breakfast. We wanted to ensure we were awake, warmly dressed, and fed so we would be ready to adjust the lines and fenders as the water rose and the winds picked up. The water rose to just inches from the tops of the pilings on the other 3 docks, giving us about a foot of leeway. All the boats in the basin held fast and as the water began to recede we breathed a sigh of relief. Just about then the cold began to set in and we dug into our stash of warm clothes.

We were fortunate that the maximum storm surge was somewhat less than predicted and that the winds took longer to clock around and push us towards the pilings than expected. By mid-morning on Monday our fender boards where well positioned against the pilings as the wind pushed us hard towards shore. We spent the day listening to the winds howl while feeling periodic bumps as the winds pushed us against the pilings. But we knew we were safe.

By evening we had pulled the boat back close to the docks and decided to go into town for dinner to celebrate. Even bundled up in our foul weather gear it was a cold and blustery walk. We decided on Chinese food and when the waitress ask us what we wanted to drink we both said, "Hot tea!"

Back on the boat we setup the rabbit ears and pulled in some local news for the first time thinking about those further north and hoping all would be well. As the temperatures dropped and we wished we had one more dog we remembered a small ceramic heater we had tucked away and pulled it out. It at least took the edge off. We set it up in the stateroom as we went to bed and even had to get up in the middle of the night to turn it off.

Today we worked to out the boat back to rights. The morning was spent putting the bimini and antennas back up on the flybridge. It was cold with occasional gusts of wind. We kept winter gloves on except when we had to use our fingers for something. Dyna sat on the settee in front of the ceramic heater until she got too warm and moved to the side. As I came down to fetch things I kept wondering what was wrong with this picture.

In the afternoon we pulled in our extra lines and fenders. The biggest job was getting the anchor chain we had pulled across the basin undone and back on board. The picture below was taken by fellow cruisers the Lovings on Compass Rose and is of us feeding the chain out on Friday. Note who is doing the messy job of feeding the chain. Just sayin'...

All is pretty much back to normal on board. The plan is to move down to Top Rack Marina tomorrow afternoon and stay the night. Thoughts of real heat, hot showers, some laundry, and a fabulous meal at the Amber Lantern are keeping me going right now. With a few long days we still plan on being at River Dunes Marina for our scheduled seminar on Sunday. That is, of course, if there are no other unforeseen obstacles.

We've seen a few boats meander south today anxious to get going. I'm happy to let them find out first what Sandy may have left in our way. For now we are safe and dry and reasonably warm. But most of all we are proud of our seasoned crew for pulling together. With two hurricanes now beneath their belts, Dyna and Dylan have proven themselves true salty dogs.

We thank everyone for their expressions of concern and warm thoughts. For now we wish the best for those who suffered far worse than we did. Please stay safe everyone.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

So you know it's real when Friday morning the men begin to gather on the dock. They're pointing to the high buildings surrounding the basin, discussing which way the wind will clock, how high the storm surge should be. Then they begin pointing to their boats and the cleats and pilings around the basin. A plan is formed.

Next thing you know they've launched the dinghies and started weaving what looks like a giant macramé project. Lines are snaking back and forth between the boats and the docks opposite.

The issue for us is not the winds. We're only getting the edge of the storm and we're also surrounded by numerous high buildings which will block much of the strong winds. The issue is the storm surge - how high will it go?

The pilings on the Portsmouth municipal basins are not terribly high - we measured not quite 5 feet above MHW for the ones beside our boat. The ones on the other three sides are about a foot lower. The predictions for the area are for the surge to be 4 feet, not much leeway. The key is to ensure your boat stays tied to the dock while also not being damaged by the dock pilings. The worst case scenario is the surge bringing the boat above the pilings and the wind pushing you onto them. Big holes in the bottom of a boat are a bad thing.

These are the same pilings as above at the first high tide with Sandy's surge beginning. The next two tides will be even higher.

So we and the crews of the four sailboats sharing this square basin with us spent 2 days snaking lines back and forth across the basin to keep all the boats suspended a safe distance from the docks.

Friday we decided to take a walk to the grocery store for some final provisions. We estimated it was about 1.5 miles and knowing we'd be spending the next few days onboard thought the walk would feel good. What we didn't anticipate is the pouring rain that would come as we started back. A kind soul stopped to pick us up. "I saw you in the grocery store and knew you where on a boat," he said. Still deciding if that was an insult or compliment but appreciated his kindness nonetheless.

We've since had several folks stop by the boat to offer provisioning rides and to see if we were alright. Both the owners of Skipjack Nautical Wares and an ActiveCaptain user living in Portsmouth have even invited us to stay with them if things get bad.

The more I live this life the more I believe in the goodness of people.

Friday afternoon we heard the Navy had decided to send the ships in Norfolk out to sea to better weather the storm. I was below near dusk when the sky seemed to go black. Rushing above I saw a massive Navy ship passing us blocking the remaining sun.

By Saturday afternoon Jeff had snaked a final line across the basin and used our block-n-tackle to pull our anchor chain tight to a piling across the way. The boat is now too far from the dock for me to reach shore so I settled in for the duration. Dyna and Dylan settled in too but still remain in full storm watch mode.

There is a flock of ducks - or whatever you called a bunch of them - who have settled into the basin also. This reminds me of a saying I've heard to follow ducks in foul weather as they will seek the safest spot. I hope it is true!

We awoke this morning to a near high tide, noting the water was about a foot from the top of the shorter pilings across from us. We expect those to be under water for tomorrow morning's even higher tide. We have 2 more tides to watch. Tonight's around 9 and then the worst one tomorrow morning around 9:30. The second one will coincide with the wind pushing us towards the dock - not a good combination. We're counting on our lines and chain to hold us.

We have deployed every fender and line on the boat. The bimini is down. All loose items have been stowed or lashed down. The dinghy is in the water should we need to leave the boat. The larder is full and we have plenty of "puppy chow." And last time we checked we could still get the news on the TV.

We keep getting calls and emails asking us if we're in a good spot. We'll let you know on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Downtown Hampton Public Piers

There are some places along the waterway that we hear about again and again. Hampton, VA is one of those places. In particular, the Downtown Hampton Public Piers has been one of the highest rated marinas in ActiveCaptain. We've read the reviews, talked to numerous boaters who rave, yet somehow we have never made it there. So this fall we decided come hell or high water (the water came after we left but that's another post) we were going to stop in.

We did and we loved it!

We pulled in after spending 8 days on the hook in Mobjack Bay. The kids loved going ashore every day for a walk. We loved the restaurants, walking the quaint streets, and meeting lots of fellow boaters. The Public Piers is a transient only marina with a maximum stay of 10 days. So everyone there is a cruiser like us.

There is a strong SSCA Cruising Station there with one of the hosts being Kate, the former dockmaster. One night they pulled together a boaters' wine tasting at La Bodega Hampton, a really nice wine, beer, cheese, and gourmet store. There were dozens of boaters there and Jeff was even asked to give a speech. He did pretty well on the fly...

Our final day there we made it to the much talked about Old Hampton Ice Cream Parlor. The kids even got a treat when their dad splurged and bought them each a "Pups-icle" - frozen yogurt, peanut butter, and other tasty ingredients with a Pupperoni stick. Too bad we forgot the camera, it was quite a sight!

We'll now put Hampton on our must visit list. If you make it in there, be sure and say hello to Jake, the terrific dockmaster. And be sure to take your four-legged crew out for "ice cream."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mail Day

When we pulled into Downtown Hampton Public Piers we had our mail drop waiting for us. Over the years delivery of our snail mail has gotten less frequent with each batch being smaller and smaller. But there are just some things you can't eliminate with online banking and bill pay...

This pouch contained our absentee ballots. So, knowing how we wanted to vote, we quickly filled them out and dropped them in the mail. No matter how many ads they throw at us or who starts a rant on Facebook, we have spoken.

And guys, really, the rants never work anyway.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ear Terror!

 I saw a show some years back about the history of dogs. They mentioned the apparent correlation between floppy ears and the friendliness of a breed. It talked about a project that was done to see if it was possible to create tame fox. Can't remember why they were doing it...

They bred fox always selecting the most tame of each generation. Over time they became increasingly docile and friendly towards humans. An unexpected outcome was that through successive generations their ears went from upright to floppy - the tamer the fox, the more its ears hung down.

So that leads us to the breed that is arguably best known for its friendly disposition, Labrador Retrievers. I must say that just touching those velvety soft ears brings a smile to my face.

But floppy ears are not without issues, especially in a breed that loves the water. Moisture is trapped under those adorable appendages leading to chronic ear infections. This means that aCappella carries a stash of items to deal with canine ears.

We have ear drying solution which is placed in all four ears after any contact with water whether a bath or swimming. There's several different cleaning solutions to flush wax and any other debris from their ears. We have a variety of ear ointments for those occasions when our efforts aren't able to stop an infection. We even have an otoscope to peer down the ear when we suspect something is wrong. Ears are checked on a regular basis around here.

You would think with all these manipulations the kids would adjust and let us get it over with. Shoot, they always get a treat afterwards. Dyna shows her distaste with her look. Dylan goes over the top.

He runs through the boat doing his "mad man" or pirouettes as we also call them. Tight little circles with his tail tucked in. He "hides" in the corner of the pilothouse settee or frantically runs to the door wanting out. And this is just when we do something with Dyna's ears.

To date he has never escaped. I mean, we're on a boat, how far can he go?

Today as he was sleeping with his head across my lap I flipped each ear flap up for a quick look. He eyed me cautiously. Both were pink and dry and pretty. Fortunately, Dylan escaped the ear terrors for just one more day.

Friday, October 12, 2012


"Youth is wasted on the young."
Quote from my all time favorite movie, It's A Wonderful Life

Tell any sixteen year old that mature adults know how to party and I can just see the eye roll. They think anyone over 30 is sitting home watching Lawrence Welk.  I thought that when I was 16...

There isn't a sixteen year old on the planet who could say that if they saw the party at last week's Krogen Rendezvous! These folks know how to party!

This was our 4th Krogen Rendezvous in Solomons, MD and we do it for the party they throw on the final night. There's great food, terrific people, and an amazingly good band. The dance floor is full all night long. The music is great with the band having as much fun as we are. When was the last time you saw a band take a picture of the dancers?

We always stay up way past our bedtime until the last dance. Mostly because the dancing is good and the times are fun but also because there's a closing tradition not to be missed. Four band members gather on the dance floor to sing aCappella - without accompaniment - and it will give you chills it is so beautiful.

We're glad the Krogen community lets us be honorary Krogen-nites for one weekend a year in exchange for us talking about some silly subject. Don't tell them but we think we're getting the better part of the bargain. We try to make it interesting enough that they invite us back because if they don't, well, then we may just have to sell our boat and buy a Krogen so we can go to the party. It's just that good!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stormy Weather

We'd love to have our friends and family ashore believe that every day onboard is sunny and warm. But some days are just overcast and raw. That has been the case the past few days. We left Solomons with a small craft advisory on the bay so we decided to try out a new anchorage and dropped the hook at Cockold Creek. Despite the winds we had a quiet night.

Winds had died some by the next morning so we left despite dark clouds and mild chop on the bay. The skies looked threatening all day and we had rain on and off. But the whole crew was dry and cozy in the pilothouse.
Dyna snuggled into her nest bed for a nap.

Dylan took up his first mate position on the settee.

And Jeffrey caught up with emails while I piloted.

Blue skies, stormy weather, or anything in between, it doesn't matter. The crew is happy as long as we're all together, warm, dry, and well fed (Dylan insisted I add the last item).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dinghy Docks, Anniversaries, and Good Times

Small communities seem to love controversy. A good one can easily get you through the long Maine winters. There has been much controversy in our tiny town of Castine the past few years over the "overcrowded" dinghy dock. Of course, we see a dinghy dock that is typically half empty but there was some Saturday that someone had to push a boat out of the way to pull up to the dock. So now, we need rules and regulations and enforcement.

This past week we were anchored in the Rhode River with about a hundred boats to attend the SSCA Gam. It's held at Camp Letts which has very limited dock space. So every boat must anchor out and use their dinghy to get to shore. Dinghies scurry back and forth all day. Now that is a crowded dinghy dock. Surprisingly, I never heard one complaint of "overcrowding". Everyone was smiling and happy and offering a hand as the late comers crawled across boats to get to the dock. I guess no one realized we should have rules and regulations and enforcement.

It was a busy week at the Gam. We met lots of great folks. Gave our medical talk, which is our favorite talk, and had a terrific response. On the final day they had 3 hour round tables where boaters could gather around and ask questions. We had two tables on ActiveCaptain, one for new users and basic questions, and one showing what's coming. Neither one of us had much of a voice left by Monday morning.

Our anniversary was on Thursday so we did take out sometime to play with our anniversary presents. We have 17 foot sea kayaks back in Maine which we love using. It's something we have always missed when on the boat but there wasn't room to bring them. This year we decided to get a couple of the new smaller ones, so purchased two 9+ foot Daggers and decided to make them our anniversary gift to each other. There's no bling that would have made me happier.

While we were busier than a one-armed paper hanger all week, Dyna and Dylan were being sorely neglected. Camp Letts did not allow dogs ashore. We did manage two play dates on a beach on a small island. The first was before the Gam with Dylan's new buddy, Scout, where Dylan manged to find the perfect stick to retrieve. And the second was with his long time cruising friend, Nautical.

This week we are in Solomons, MD. Last night we attended the final day of the Selene Rendezvous at Zahniser's Yachting Center. This morning we made the "long passage" (1/2 mile) up the river to Spring Cove Marina. We then head across the river for the Krogen Rendezvous. The kids are meeting lots of friends and finally getting plenty of time ashore.

The weather has once again turned hot and very humid. We are fortunate to be at the dock where Dyna can keep her nose in the air conditioning. Next week we'll be moving south so the whole crew is hoping for cooler temps.