Pacific Cruise 2010-11


Wednesday October 27th, 2010,  Baltimore, MD

    It's a rainy and dark day here in Baltimore and we are not moving for the first time since we left Newburyport over a week ago.  Roger is upside down in the bilge with pump schemes dancing in his head.  I therefore have no excuses to postpone the writing of this log any longer.   So here goes.

   The first thing I want to say is this:   We have our sailboat back!  I mean this in more ways than one.  The most obvious is that the boat is finally back in the water with us aboard.  For almost four months this Summer Shango was on the hard at Merri-Mar, our Marina in Newburyport, MA. while we were housed by our huge-hearted friends, Chris & Dale.  Roger and the amazing Merri-Mar crew spent innumerable hours designing, building, installing, renovating, repairing and preparing the boat for this trip.  It was a spectacular Summer in New England.  Sadly it wasn't spent sailing.  In early October she was finally back in the water and almost ready to go.   The other meaning of the sentence refers more specifically to the word "sailboat".  After fourteen years of use, the most recent five with us, the boat's old sails were retired and a new suit was made.  Thanks to the time and care spent by Downs Sails, Shango is a joy to sail once again.

As we head off for an undetermined amount of time to places we have only imagined we know we have a good boat, well thought out and cared for by good people.  We also know we have the proverbial boatload of family and friends sending us their good vibes.  So lets get this show on the road. 


A recap of week one...

Monday October 18th, Provincetown, MA.

    Just before sunrise Shango, along with Fred and Pat on Marianna, untied our dock lines.  Jay and Deb ( and Tug the dog) were on hand to say farewell.  Both boats were eager to make headway.  The New England sailing season was most definitely coming to a chilly close.  We wanted to get at least far enough south to dispense with our long johns.  Once under the Gillis bridge we were joined by a third boat, Sea Mist.  All hands exited the mouth of the Merrimac River and pointed bows south.  The loud exhale of our collective breaths was heard for miles.  Sometimes leaving your own dock can be the most daunting step.

The wind didn't fill in till we rounded Cape Ann, but when it did it was a wonderful west wind, blowing 15-20k, gusting 25.  This was day one for the new sails.  They were absolutely beautiful.  With a full main and a much larger genoa the boat flew.  Roger was beside himself with excitement.   The old sails were so exhausted they could not be convinced, with any amount of tweaking, to attain any sort of shape.  Not so the new sails.  They were spectacular.  Adjustments were now possible.  The boat took off like a rocket.  It was a broad reach to beat all previous broad reaches.  We reached Provincetown in record time with a very happy captain.  We dropped the hook and called it a terrific day.

Tuesday, October 19th, Cuttyhunk, MA.

    Once again we left in the dark.  We wanted to catch the tide through the Cape Cod Canal and make Cuttyhunk for the evening.  It was a motoring day sadly, but at least we didn't get thrashed by the southwest wind which often blows up Buzzards Bay.  The sun was out and one or two layers of clothing were able to be removed. Shango and Marianna arrived at the outer anchorage of Cuttyhunk by 2:00 p.m.  Sea Mist needed to make a fuel stop so we didn't see them until 5:30.  Farewells were made to the other two boats that evening since on Wednesday our paths would separate.  We would head to Block Island to wait for a weather window to head to Cape May.  Marianna and Sea Mist were making the trip down Long Island Sound then south from Sandy Hook.

Wednesday, October 20th, Block Island, RI.

    We departed by 7:00 a.m.  We were in company with Marianna until our tracks slowly diverged.  With a WSW wind of 15-20k we motorsailed then sailed then just motored as we covered the distance to Block Island.  We saw our first dolphins on this run down Rhode Island Sound.  It is the furthest north I have seen them.  We also saw a large sea turtle.  We arrived at Block Island by 1:30.  We had time to do some chores and download a GRIB file to see if we had a window to Cape May in the next few days.  It looked like there was the briefest of windows if you call NW 20-25, gusts to 30 a window.  After that the wind would blow out of the SW for almost a week.  Spaghetti with pancetta and arugula for dinner.  Mmmm.

Thursday, October 21st, Offshore.

    We decided in the morning to put the dinghy onboard in anticipation of heading out.  The wind was going to pick up later and it's a bear to hoist it in the wind.  We had not made our final decision but we were definitely leaning toward leaving.  We hemmed and hawed over the weather all day and finally decided to head out.  We picked 6:00 p.m. as departure time so we could continue around the tip of Cape May and up the Delaware Bay with the tide on Saturday.  That is if we still had the energy after thirty-six hours of cold and wet.

Friday, October 22nd, Offshore.

    Thursday night went well if a bit coldly.  We had a double reef in the main and a reefed genoa.  There was an almost full moon which was great.  The AIS and radar displays were blissfully empty.  We hugged the south coast of Long Island as much as we could in case the wind swung from NW to WNW.  Happily the wind didn't shift and amazingly continued in our favor all day Friday.  At about 3:45 the speedo ceased functioning.  Odd.  Shortly thereafter the chartplotter also gave up the ghost.  Roger headed swiftly down the companionway.  Several minutes later his head popped into view.  "We have a lot of water in the bilge."  What he meant to say was that there was water out of the bilge and on the cabin sole.  Lots of water.  It seems that the electric bilge pump had expired but not before siphoning a great deal of seawater into the boat.  The manual bilge pump swiftly earned it's keep, as did the portable dinghy pump and one of my cute little purple laundry buckets...  After the water was under control I was on helm duty.  Roger managed, miraculously, to get the chartplotter back in working order.  We fired up the engine just to make sure it could start with flooded batteries. Fortunately it did.  The only holdout was the autopilot.  It wasn't fried but it needed to be "recommissioned" which one does while at a dock or at anchor.  Where was the beloved Monitor wind vane during all this?  We were under the mistaken impression when we left Block Island that we might be motorsailing a good bit of the trip so we decided to use the auto.  By the time of our "incident" it was a bit snotty to be hanging over the stern to set it up.  In the future we'll obviously take another approach.   So as the sun set twenty-four hours into the passage we knew that the last fourteen hours, in the dark, in the cold, hand steering, were going to be rather crappy.  Certainly it could have been worse.  The trip could have been a multi-day affair, in which case it would have been very crappy.  Happily it wasn't.  We were both cold, wet and tired but our destination was in site, literally.  The twinkle of Atlantic City, halfway down the Jersey shore, kept us cheered.

Saturday, October 23rd, Cape May, New Jersey.

    At 7:30 a.m. we arrived in Cape May.  We cleaned up some of the more appalling remnants of our little disaster, ate leftover lasagna accompanied by bourbon before crawling under the covers to get warm and sleep.  Whew.  When we arose later in the day we were surprised to find that we had been joined by thirteen other boats.  They all must have had the same idea about beating the southerly wind.  Many of them must have started from Sandy Hook at the top of New Jersey, a popular jumping-off spot for Cape May.  It was nice to know that we weren't the last people headed south.

Sunday, October, 24th, Reedy Island, DE.

    We left Cape May at 6:45 a.m. and headed out between Eph and Prissy Wicks Shoals off the tip of New Jersey.  The wind was blowing out of the West at 10-15k and the conditions were good.  There were surprisingly few weekend fishermen out in Delaware Bay which was a very nice thing.  We were able to sail most of the day, though the wind dropped all the while.  By the time we were within five miles of the top of the Bay (and our anchorage) the wind was 8 knots and the current had ceased giving us a push.  Amazingly enough the boat was still moving along at between  four and five  knots.  The old sails would have called it quits long before that.  We dropped the hook behind Reedy Island at 2:30 p.m. with two other boats nearby.  The temperature had improved greatly, allowing Roger to go barefoot.  A successful day all in all.  Tomorrow we'll be in the Chesapeake.

Monday, October, 25th, Still Pond, MD, Chesapeake Bay.

    We took the tide through the C&D Canal at 11:00 a.m.  The wind was blowing strongly out of the SW as we left Delaware Bay so we thought we might be in for a bit of a bumpy ride as we exited the Canal.  The Canal itself was warm and pleasant as always.  It is a respite between two often boisterous bodies of water.  Roger would say it's just dull.  As luck would have it no sea had built up at the end of the Canal.  The Elk River, into which you emerge, is fairly narrow but can still be interesting if the seas kick up.  We had three options for anchoring.  If the wind/wave combo was nasty we could have dropped the hook in the Bohemia River shortly outside the Canal.  Option two was the Sassafras River ten miles further down the Bay and option three was Still Pond, five miles further, which would give us a shorter shot to Baltimore the following day.  Conditions held long enough for us to get to Still Pond.  The wind gusted several times to the high 20's but the sea made no attempts to aggravate us.  We had never been to Still Pond before and found it to be quite nice.  This was probably the right time of year to stop here as I imagine it would be quite popular in the Summer.

Tuesday, October, 26th, Baltimore, MD

    We left at a leisurely 9:30 for the 25 mile trip to Baltimore.  The tide wouldn't be in our favor till eleven but it wasn't too bad out in the Bay weather-wise.  We motored into the wind until we made our right hand turn toward Baltimore and then were able to sail the remaining ten miles to the entrance of the Patapsco River.  The wind was out of the SW at 15-20 with the threat of rain in the air.  We cooked right along until we entered the River.  The trip up the Patapsco to Baltimore is always interesting.  It looks like the setting for Oliver Twist.  There are ancient looking industrial facilities with giant piles of slag alongside.  Ships are lined up next to giant offloading devices and barges churn back and forth across the channel.  Eventually you make your way into the more modern neighborhoods where marinas have set up shop alongside large condo complexes.  When you reach the inner harbor you are surrounded by stores and restaurants, tourist sites and bright lights.  We stop just short of the inner harbor at a neighborhood called Canton.  This is an ideal place to anchor, at least for us.  There is a West Marine and a Safeway within shouting distance and when you are done with your chores there are innumerable good restaurants.  For two people who haven't been off the boat since Newburyport it's heaven. We arrived at our destination at about 2:00 p.m.  We tied up at the marina adjacent to the anchorage to get fuel and water.  Roger was tickled with his new fuel tank "technology."  Before the boat got splashed last month the fuel truck came to our marina and sent the hose up to us on deck.  Roger stopped the fueling process every ten gallons to make a mark on a measuring stick he was holding in the fuel tank(s).  This was the first test of the stick for the main tank.  Roger estimated that he needed 62 gallons of fuel to fill the tank.  62.1 was the correct answer.  Isn't "technology" grand?

Well, there you have it.  The first week of our journey is complete.  It's time to discard the tiny bouquet of flowers that my Sister gave me before departure and acknowledge we're going to be getting pretty far from home.

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