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31 October 2010

Day 15: Update from Beaufort

We left Belhaven on Wednesday the 27th and headed for Oriental. We took a slip at Whittaker Creek Yacht Haven, which is a little way out from town (long walk or reasonable bike ride).

We ended up staying a few nights; the sun protection on the jib sail was coming loose, and when Susan and JP took it down to stitch it, they found a lot more of the thread gone than they expected. On Thursday, we checked with the sail loft on site and they were fully booked (read: already behind on existing commitments) but we found Inner Banks Sail Loft not far away, and they agreed to give it a go. Knute at WCYH took us and the sail over to them, and indeed by noon on Friday they had it out, dried, fixed and beautifully folded, and JP caught a ride with another marina denizen to pick it up.

Thursday night we ate a really good meal at Broad Street Grill (they also picked us up and brought us back to the marina), got dropped off in town in the pouring rain on Friday, had lunch, and when the sun came out, took a rather hot walk back to Whittaker Creek. The deck light had also died, so Knute ordered a new one and a spare from NAPA (it's a tractor light, as it turns out) and JP climbed the mast yet again on Friday to install it.

We borrowed bikes from the marina Friday afternoon and made another trip into town, stopped at "The Bean" for cappucinos (JP and Susan) and mint chip ice cream (Leigh);

another restaurant, the Oriental Steamer, picked us up for dinner on Friday night.

Susan and JP re-installed the jib on Saturday morning, and we headed off for Beaufort.

Whittaker Creek caution: we grounded BOTH entering and leaving the VERY narrow Whittaker Creek channel. We got off both times pretty easily, but that place is a bit of an adventure.

We returned to Beaufort Docks yesterday, our first repeat from our 2008 trip; loving it every bit as much this time.

"Dined" at the local wine bar (mostly enjoyed two nice Pinots and had a small pizza and some NC artisanal chocolate to accompany it) and had fun looking at some wild and crazy Halloween costumes and listening to a band called The New Familials (I think).

JP took our port bike off to the Food Lion for a little light re-provisioning - we will cook jambalaya on board tonight - as we looked at 25+ kts of wind on the nose today and decided to hang here until tomorrow morning, when the speed and direction look a bit more favorable.

We are keeping an eye on Tomas - will hole up in Wilmington, up the Cape Fear River, if need be - and heading to Swan Point (about 45 nauticals away) tomorrow.

26 October 2010

Day 10: Belhaven, NC

Arrived here before 2 in howling wind, so the docking was - ahem - interesting. We are safely ensconced for the night and planning to make our way to Oriental tomorrow, weather permitting.
Yesterday hit high winds (but not high enough to close the Alligator River Swing Bridge) and rain on our way to an anchorage in said river; had our second experience ever with dragging after dark, and thus raising and re=anchoring in less than prime conditions. A bit less stressful than the last one (Pumpkin Key in 2005, not long after we got Raconteur) but always...interesting. Second time was the charm and she held fine through the night.
Headed down the Alligator-Pungo Canal today, also in some driving rain for the first hour or so, but then the sun came out AND we actually got to SAIL for an hour or two on our way in to Belhaven. Took an ancient golf cart into town, had true North Carolina BBQ sandwiches at a place called Farm Boys, then risked life and limb to take the cart on out to the Food Lion for some light re-provisioning - including the frozen pizza we had for dinner. Susan did some laundry, JP rescued my pictures from the camera card, and all is right with the world from here.

24 October 2010

Day 8: German Chocolate Cake, Smith Island Style

Somehow the card for my Olympus has become corrupted. I can still see the photos on the camera, and can still take pictures, but can't download. I will switch cameras tomorrow, but meanwhile, another BORING text-only blog, interspersed with Internet photos.

We left Crisfield Friday morning, and made a long sail and motor sail to a very weird anchorage off Kiptopeke (KIP-toe-peek) State Park on the southeastern shore of Virginia. There had been a ferry landing there before the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, and so the state sank a bunch of concrete ships of WWII vintage to provide a breakwater for the ferry. Now its just an anchorage; the old ferry dock has been replaced by a long fishing pier, and there is a beach at the northern end of the anchorage. We found one sailboat there when we came in, and two more joined us later. It was a little bit rolly, but very comfortable, if a bit eerie. If I can recover the photos, I will post them later. Meanwhile, here is one from the web.

On Saturday, we set off for "The Ditch"; we made good time and hit the Great Bridge Lock (and Bridge) in time to snag a spot on a little dock just south of the bridge. Warm enough for gin and tonics, followed by Beef Stroganoff and round three of our German Chocolate Smith Island Cake (another picture that is sitting on the camera; here is one from internet photos instead).

Peaceful night despite the proximity to the bridge.

Today we motored another 37 miles or so to Coinjock, NC (goodbye Maryland, goodbye Virginia) where we are tied up at the Coinjock Marina and Restaurant for the night.

Think good thoughts for my camera card; we do have two other cameras on board, so not a disaster.

21 October 2010

Day 5: Smith Island

We have long wanted to visit Smith Island, which is Maryland's last inhabited island (reachable only by water, unlike our own Kent Island). We finally got the chance today when the weather cleared and after a morning exploring Crisfield (photos on the Google site), including a visit to my friend Cindy's family home on Somerset Avenue just off Main Street, we set off for Smith on the local mail boat.

The island is beautiful; those are pomegranates that are growing there. The visitor center was not open when we arrived, although we did get to stop in before we left on the 4pm return. Here are a few pictures; what they perhaps do not convey is the total intimacy of island life - you have to like your neighbors, or at least find ways to live in harmony and cooperation with them.

Stopped here for a shared crabcake sandwich (Susan and Leigh) and a softshell crab sandwich (JP); they offer Smith Island Cake but we had bought a whole one earlier in the day at the Sweet Shoppe Cafe (run by two Smith Island natives; I'll post about that separately).

We walked a little ways into the marsh but it was warm again today, so the mosquitoes were having a little resurgence.

Saw a gorgeous great blue heron.

This was the mail boat, and a few pictures from the boat when we were leaving the island.

A lovely day. We will head south again tomorrow, to take advantage of a wind shift to the NW, though the seas will be a little bit higher than ideal. Heading for Kiptopeke State Park, a bit of a stretch but we will head out early. We will be on the hook and then just have a few miles to hit Mile 0 on the ICW.

20 October 2010

Day 4: Crisfield, cats and dogs

Raining like mad here today, so we will probably stay until Friday morning so we can visit Smith or Tangier Island in nicer conditions tomorrow. Expecting some heavy winds.
Meanwhile, our forward macerator has quit, so after JP and Susan tackled it this morning without success, we have a local marine plumber, and he is here now. We can manage with one head, but...

ERRATUM: I am instructed by the Raconteur Local 410 that it must be said that the even the plumber had to take the offending part back to his shop, and use some combination of a table vise and a locking wrench with a two or three foot handle in order to get the job started. I am so corrected, and meant no disrespect whatsoever to my hardworking maintenance team.

Meanwhile, some images from our first few days, starting counter-clockwise from lower right with a picture taken by our boat neighbor at Castle Harbour; a close encounter with a racer off Annapolis Harbor; JP helming; sunset on Mill Creek (the one near Back Creek, off the Pax); and Leigh helming out of Castle Harbour. Yes, I am still struggling two years later with posting pictures inside the blog!

19 October 2010

Day 3: Back to the future

Just exiting the Patuxent River; after two days of sailing from Chester we are back to our 2008 starting point. Good airs, the sun is out, and we are making almost seven knots under sail. We are heading for Crisfield, Maryland, probably for a two night layover.
We did +/- 35 nauticals each if the first two days, but Crisfield is 40+ from Solomons.
Thinking we will hit the Virginia Cut by Sunday.
Posting from iPhone. Pictures later!

15 October 2010

T minus 1 and counting (we hope)

Thursday night we did indeed have a little farewell dinner at the Severn Inn; here is a picture of JP and our friend Kay.

Susan spent yesterday morning finishing a sewing project, JP did some non-boat client work, and I harvested the herbs in our Maryland garden to freeze and store for the trip. From the lower right, clockwise, you see mint, oregano, marjoram, lemongrass, basil, sage, rosemary, tarragon and lemon thyme. It was fun, time-consuming, and a little weird to be working with 'earth produce' when we are heading to sea. Here are the 'before ' and 'after' photos...doesn't look like four hours of work does it? And it was SO much prettier BEFORE, no?
Today we loaded the food - fridge and freezer are full - and more clothes - and generally ran around like crazy (sometimes in circles) trying to be ready to head a whopping 35 nautical miles south tomorrow. It's a weird thing to prepare for some unknown number of months away from this house, two months or so on the ICW, some time in Florida (and, for Susan, New Hampshire), AND (to some extent) for the Bahamas or even the Tropics.
ETD 0800 off the dock, probably 0845 off the fuel dock and pump out at Chester Harbor. Two possible first stops, Cason Point on the Little Choptank, or Herrington Harbor on the Western Shore.
Think good thoughts for us.

14 October 2010

Non Photo Update (borrring!!)

Having our farewell dinner tonight with Kay, Judy and Tom at the Severn Inn, but the actual departure will likely be Sunday thanks to the possibility of "GALE WARNINGS" in the Bay tomorrow and Saturday. Susan spent most of yesterday afternoon with our excellent electrician and instructor Bob, fresh from the Annapolis Boat Show, as our Galvanic Isolators needed to be replaced. Since neither Susan nor I (can't speak for JP) had even HEARD of Galvanic Isolators (and were uncertain as to whether Raconteur even had them), it was indeed a useful experience. The symptom (zincs replaced three weeks ago, 35% gone) is probably caused by the non-functioning GA's (don't ask why that acronym) and so we are hoping to at least see a slowdown in the erosion. Tomorrow we are having another electrician replace part of our shore power, as something else (we think) caused the boat end of the cable to be sufficiently hot to have burn marks.
See, told you this would be boring.
Promise farewell photos and setting off photos on Sunday...of course, promising things in sailing is a bit of a challenge to the sailing gods...
However, for unedited pictures of my trip to Portugal with Jackie, Joan and Cindy, go to

06 October 2010

...and not a moment to be lost

Once the Blue Peter is flying, everyone knows there is not a moment to be lost. Cruise preparation is not very exciting, so we have not been posting regularly (for your sake). But, on October 2 we took some photos for a "typical prep day" post.

We have turned out and inventoried (and cleaned) every 'storage location' on Raconteur. It turns out there are 84. Surprising what you find in some of these holes. But, now we know what's there and where it is. There are 914 unique item/location combinations.

This is the aft end of the banquette on the starboard side of the saloon. It's where we store many of the spares and repair materials. There is not a particular organizing principle inside (except that whatever you want is under at least 5 other things).

This is the tiny banquette in the forward cabin. It is actually pretty deep and has maybe half of our tools, including most of the electrical tools (voltmeter and such).

This is the port lazarette in the cockpit. It contains all of our dock lines (12), hoses, power cables, and a bunch of other things including the dinghy anchor and engine hoist.

You get the picture. The whole job took more than a week (interspersed with many other things) but it's great to have it done.

October 2 was the first calm sunny day in a while, so we took the opportunity to mark the anchor chains. It's amazing how hard it is to estimate how much chain is out when you are in the process of anchoring. The main anchor chain is 200 feet long, although in most anchorages we are within the first 50 feet.

While the paint was drying, we went up the mast to inspect and tape a few things, and place a line to raise the new radar reflector.

Pretty good view from up here!