Deltaville-?????

Wrap up for Summer 2018
As we wrap up this summer’s cruise, Im reminded of an adage commonly told to new and inexperienced student pilots: “All new pilots begin flying with an empty bag of experience and a full bag of luck, the object of this game is to fill up your bag of experience prior to emptying your bag of luck”. The similarities in the two fields of knowledge: Aviation and boating – are remarkable. The long hours spent gazing at the horizon in the quiet solitude (when everything is going well), the amazing feeling of being the tiniest of specks relative to the vastness of the space surrounding you – above, below and as far as the eye can see in every direction – vast open space. Its as blissful and peaceful in a boat with hundreds of feet below and absolutely nothing on the horizon in all directions as it is in an airplane in exactly the same conditions. The absolute humbling reliance one must have in his skill, his craft (or boat), and the multiple factors that are beyond ones ability to control, the weather chief among them.

But back to our bag of experience and luck… Without question, we have used a bit of “luck” on this trip – largely “luck” we have created by preparing ourselves and our boat (thank you Alec) to the extent that we were able. We have researched multiple sites to compare weather reports and we have even hired a weather router to check and re-check our understanding of the weather and the causes for what we are experiencing. Additional “luck” we created was by deciding to “shake down” our new boat with a long 5 month coastal cruise where we could get help, should we need it, reasonably reliably. (Again, thank you Alec). We attempted to avail ourselves as a crew of every opportunity to learn and to stretch and to grow in our knowledge of ourselves, our boat, and each other. And so here we are, way off shore, enjoying the single most beautiful day of cruising we have had in 5 months but knowing that all of it can and will change. Again, we are attempting to tempt the fates and improve our odds of a successful 4 night passage – knowing that circumstances change, minds change, the cards in our hands at any one time will change, and we will make the next decision based on that new information. Again, just as in aviation, when we depart, we know what the forecast is but even in the space of a few hours, all of that could and frequently did change. Weather that we thought would be good turned bad and the opposite was true also. We make a new plan, we choose a new option. Just as in aviation, the crew of the Gratitude is facing that as I type. It is nearly 1900 on Tuesday having departed Monday morning. At the time of our departure the weather was forecast to be good Monday and Tuesday becoming less so Wednesday and possibly downright lousy on Thursday. Sorry – these are not technical terms but when I refer to weather as lousy or not good, mostly Im talking about the ride and the sea state. Any reader can put to rest any concerns that we would EVER continue into known unsafe weather. That we will NOT do. But to push our limits a bit in terms of comfort was something we have yet to cross off of our list of goals for this summer. So here we are.

At our last update, the router encouraged us to get as far South as possible while the weather is good because the area of concern was on the Florida/ GA border on Thursday. Alec and I discussed this the day before we left and we both decided then that trying to push the speed a bit more might be a way to improve our weather odds. We did push it up to between 8 and 8.5 kts. At the higher RPM We burned nearly twice as much fuel per hour but we also increased our milage per hour so ultimately, the cost was closer to 25% greater. If we didn’t have weather to be concerned with – we wouldn’t have done it but in order to improve the odds of making it past weather moving in, a price we were willing to pay. A decision to be made. Further down the road off the coast of North Carolina we again decided to bump up the power to 1500 RPM for a greater advantage of speed and now we were at 9.3. Given the pristine calm conditions that we were in, this was the time to do it. In terms of filling up our bag of experience, we have both learned a valuable lesson. First, anytime we are considering a long off shore passage, ensure that we have the bottom (or at the minimum) the prop cleaned. Also, ensure that we have the fuel to make the decisions that we want to make. But also never leave the dock with a known problem if it is within our power to fix it. More on that below…

We had a starter on our No 1 generator fail to cutout on our leg from Oxford – Deltaville. While underway and on my watch, Alec and Jack smelled a strong electrical odor. Alec quickly shut off all power to the electrical panel and notified me of the condition. I rapidly scanned the cameras in the engine room and notified Alec that there was no apparent fire that he was clear to enter the engine room. While trouble shooting this issue, we both remembered that we did maintenance on the no 1 generator and one of us – not sure who decided to shut it down. The smell began to dissipate and Alec checked all temperatures with his heat gun. Very quickly he diagnosed the problem with the extreme heat on the starter of the generator. I believe we both on our own decided that this was simply not a problem that needed to be fixed in Deltaville. We were going to be tied to the dock until we left for Palm Beach and then we could use the No 2 generator. Further, should something happen to it, we have hydraulic alternators which we have used under way but have recently opted away from them do to “strange” readings on our inverters and batteries and also their inability to take very much of a load. Anyway, long story short, we never fully discussed this as we were both on our own comfortable with waiting to get to Palm Beach where Gratitude is going in for a major trip to the spa. We both felt we had adequate redundancy with the remaining electrical options. Unfortunately, the first time we really talked about it was while underway and dissecting our weather issues in the next couple of days. Unfortunately, this was nagging Alec in the back of his head that he wished he had 2 generators. Simply a comfort thing. Another lesson learned and dropped into our bag of experience. When a crew has stuff playing around in the back of their head – better to have dealt with it rather than have it nagging there when other factors begin piling on. So, how does the story end????? We all have to wait and see, as I said, it is only Tuesday at 1900 🙂
Filling up our bag of experience part II

So, several hours after the above was written and in the middle of my 0200-0600 watch (2am-6am) I noticed flickering red lights on the overhead panel Flickering red lights in an airplane cockpit just as on a boat – not good. I discovered with some light on the subject that they were high water bilge lights – but no accompanying alarm – I figured OK – thats good. And they were flickering – not consistent. Again, I figured – thats good. The sea state had picked up considerably and we were now in quartering seas of 3-5’ with about a 6 sec period. I thought at the time that this new condition of water in the bilge was likely the result of the quartering seas. I really wanted Alec to get his rest so I waited a bit to see if the lights came back on. They did. Time to wake the Captain. Alec turned on the high water bilge pump and reminded me (I totally forgot this conversation that we had while tied to the dock in Deltaville after he cleaned the AC sea strainers) that he discovered that the low water bilge pump wasn’t working. Again, planning the big Spa trip for Gratitude, it was simply added to the list. Still, a bilge pump, I would rather have had that fixed at the dock. Plop – another item added to the bag of experience. That said, we still have the far more effective high water pump. Alec investigated the bilge after turning on the pump for about 30 seconds. All well in the engine room. Back to sleep for Alec. Seas continued to build.

We got another weather brief from the weather router and learned that the seas today would be building continuing overnight with winds to 30-35 kits. 10-12’ seas overnight. New cards – new decision. Lets duck in and formulate a new plan. Options include Savannah and Hilton Head. A little bit of research and Hilton Head is the winner. ETA 1515 Wednesday (3:15pm).

At 0600 Alec relieved me on watch and I went down to sleep. After about 2 hours I felt some unusual motions with the building quartering seas (now 6-8) as if we were being lifted from behind and being pushed up and over to a 40 degree turn. Which, of course, we were/are. I checked on Jack – Alec had given him a 1/2 dramamine and though he had vomited after awaking – he felt “great” now. I checked with Alec how things were and did he need anything? I rechecked that everything was stowed and went back to bed for 2 more hours. It is now 10 and Im back on watch. Alec and I have talked about the new plan for the divert and the all important lunch plan. As with turbulence on an airplane, the most dangerous thing about wave action is what happens when the occupants are not in seat belts or in our case, holding onto the boat. I suggested that since we were diverting to Hilton Head, why not get by with energy bars and grapes keeping everyone seated as much as practicable. That decided, Alec went down to nap in the salon with Jack. It is now 1110 Wednesday afternoon. Hilton Head is a mere 4 hours away.

So clearly this isn’t finished.  The newly revised plan now is to stay here until the weather lifts on Saturday (we hope).  But stay posted 🙂

St. Michael’s, Oxford, MD

St. Michael’s and Oxford, MD

If Mystic, Annapolis, and Washington were all characterized by rushing, running and trying to get one more thing done, St. Michaels and Oxford would be the relaxing vacation which followed. For the past week or two we have been getting caught up on rest, homework, boat chores and otherwise relaxing. St. Michaels and Oxford are the perfect places for this. Each town is, in it’s own right, adorable but completely different. Right now the Star Worlds are happening here in Oxford, MD. Think Olympic trials for the Star Class sailing boat – in fact it is probably just 1 step below the Olympics. If you are a Star sailor, this is a big deal. With12 countries here to participate and represent their flag we are able to watch it happening right in our back yard so to speak.

This respite has given me the opportunity to reflect on the past 4+ months of cruising and all that we have seen and done – and to look to the trip home and what that will entail. At the start of this, we had no idea how our boat would perform. We certainly felt as though we had done all that we knew to do to prepare her but ultimately, the test would be in the months to come. Also, we had no idea how we would handle the time underway. 5 months is a long time to be rarely farther than 64 feet from one another. Well, the jury is in and we all can say with confidence that we have the experience to go boldly in the direction of our European dreams.

Gratitude has performed admirably – truly remarkably. Buying a boat from someone else assumes the whole of the work that they have either done or failed to do for the past 11 years. Thank God, She has been amazing. We couldn’t be any happier with her mechanically or functionally. All of the items that were on our wish list for a live aboard were met with her and we are all so happy to say that we haven’t felt cramped or uncomfortable in the whole 4+ months since we left. We have certainly made her our home this past summer and while she definitely looks well loved and inhabited, she has held up beautifully. Each of our kitties on separate occasions have gotten ill and left evidence of that all over the carpet. With the exception of the mishap with Alec’s toe, it has cleaned up perfectly. We had one small issue with the seam on one of our salon settee’s but that will be cleared up as soon as we get home. Aside from that, Gratitude looks as lovely as the day we moved aboard.

In terms of the Gratitude crew – We all love it. Certainly there have been times that Jack (more so than either of us) has missed his bedroom or toys at home. He has missed his swimming pool and the space of the house. He loves experiencing a new town every week and having Pratt and Whitney with us and of course, he loves us. Having Uncle Paul and Aunt April has been a terrific addition to our summer cruise that we hadn’t planned on and they are coming for dinner tonight and Jack is always happy to see them. We have made friends, and spent time with family and friends along the way. In fact, an interesting fun fact, since we left Stuart we have seen 15 family members and 3 friends whom we may not have seen but for our trip. We met a terrific family and we cruised with several others whom we wouldn’t have ever met. Before we left, I might have thought that this could possibly be isolating but the truth is, we are actually far more social than we are at home. It isn’t at all unusual for a perfect stranger to come knock on the hull to say hello while at home that would be unheard of. It is not unusual to have an impromptu cocktail party with some fellow cruisers and share experiences about what we each have seen and where to go to next and the moment we arrive in any marina we instantly have a kinship with all of the other boats there – regardless of size or type. It isn’t at all that we aren’t social at home, its just that we are all on a different “schedule” at home. There are so many more “things” competing for our family time. With the typical school day ending at 3 and any after school activities ending at 5, there is little time for more than a quick meal and kiss goodnight – and this isn’t only our reality at home, but most of our friends have an even more scheduled week than we do with multiple children and 2 working parents. There is no question that in terms of quality of life, this cruising life ROCKS! If there is anything that has “suffered” it would be my alone time with Alec and all of our “alone” time with ourselves. I have found – interestingly enough – that I don’t depend as much on my alone time. I haven’t felt that if I didn’t meditate AND SOON someone was going to get hurt! Alec and I have found times to be alone and to spend time together and while it has changed – the trade off I believe is worth it. Also, another “down side” has been the absence of a real mirror and a working scale. Without scrutinizing any change to my body in a large full length mirror, I hadn’t noticed until looking at pictures taken a couple of weeks ago that ooops – the river of denial has indeed run deep this summer. All of those trips to the ice cream shops up and down the Eastern Seaboard to see which city has the best was indeed showing up in the dress size. Time to get that under control and make sure we fix this going forward. What has worked incredibly well though has been the elliptical machine! It has been used underway and at the marina or anchorage. It has been used in cold weather and warm weather and it has done beautifully. Thank God! I would hate to see what the scale would read without it and probably that has fit the bill for the “alone” time as well.
So it is with great anticipation and excitement that we confirm our plans for Europe in May. Roughly, we plan to leave May 1 (totally dependent on mother nature – we will go when she says go). We will head to Bermuda (5 days running non-stop) refuel, spend a week, leave with the weather for Horta, Azores, (another 12 days of running non-stop) spend another week or two, then head to Ireland (7-8 days non-stop), Scotland, and England for the summer before running in October/November for Porto, Portugal for the winter. We have done a lot of soul searching and this is tough but we have decided NOT to bring Jack on the crossing. The ONLY reason to bring him is because we will all miss each other. Not a good enough reason! The trip is a working trip. We will all need our heads in the game and we will all have a job (or more accurately, several jobs to do). Jack has had intermittent sea sickness and this really added to our thought process. Him getting sick takes one of us totally out of the loop. Plus, this isn’t on his bucket list – its our dream not his. No reason for him to suffer through it if he isn’t really doing the work. So, Kelly has volunteered to bring him over to Horta after we arrive and spend a week. Speaking of visitors and crew members….

We are hoping to have 1 or possibly 2 others do the crossing with us. We will train anyone interested but we fully expect it to be challenging and fulfilling. Since everyone will be keeping watch for a minimum of 2-3 times per day, we will be operating a “dry ship – no alcohol”. All crew members will assist with galley and cleaning detail. We will be in daily contact with our weather router for any updates or changes and we will be able to send basic text messages so that anyone interested can see where we are. This is definitely NOT cruise ship stuff! and I would not expect this to appeal to any but a couple of readers of this blog. Please let us know if you are interested though and we will talk more about it.

Visitors, however, are also welcome on the non-passage type cruising. During those visits it is fun fun fun and all are welcome. Let us know asap if you would like to come to visit us. We have 2 extra cabins aboard each with 2 bunks so multiple family members are welcome!!!

Phew! That was longer than I thought it was going to be but my fingers just kept moving while my mind was spinning so I went with it. It has been so much fun this summer doing all that we have done and sharing it with all of you. We love you so much!

Here are a couple of shots of the Museum in St. Michaels, the lighthouse and some ice cream stops and boat trips here in Oxford.

Tons of love,
Laurie, Alec and Jack

Annapolis, MD and Washington, D.C.

Annapolis and Washington, D.C.
What a town Annapolis is! Kelly recommended it after spending time here this summer for a wedding and having had corroborating recommendations from boaters, we decided to add it to the itinerary and we were NOT disappointed. The town itself is loaded with history and we availed ourselves of this with a tour of the city. While many others large cities “bulldozed” their history to make way for greater harbors with the advent of larger steamer ships, Annapolis decided to stay small and historical. The entire town, in fact, is a historic landmark and the inhabitants may make no changes to the exterior of their home without consulting the historical society. As a result, there are homes here dating back as early as the mid 17th century and most of the homes are from the 1800’s. To say “charming” would be an understatement – even the shops dotting the Main Street must comply with authentic historical facades – only the interior hinting at the current times. Unfortunately, the first several days were rainy but not to be deterred, we hit the ground running and filled the first few days with tours of the town, a tour of the Naval Academy and several wonderful dining opportunities. One notable stop was the most amazing restaurant, Mission Bar-b-q  – the best Bar-b-q we have ever had. The taste alone would have warranted multiple stops on this short week long visit, but in addition to the tastiest food, (they don’t have a freezer or microwave in the store – everything is made fresh) they are certainly the most patriotic restaurant we have ever been to. Every day, no matter how busy, at 12:00 sharp – all activity in the restaurant halts while the loud speakers announce “Every day at 12:00 we ask that ALL STAND WHILE WE SING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM”. Employees and patrons alike stop, stand and hand to heart sing the national anthem. It is hard not to get a little teary eyed to see that in the crazy rush of every day life, this one little bastion and haven of American pride exists – a place which pauses to pay tribute to the flag and those who serve to preserve the freedom that it represents.

Annapolis being the yachty town that it is, we were able to treat ourselves to a few indulgences, the first – a spa day for Gratitude- She got her first “professional” wash since we left Palm Beach. In addition, we hired someone to give the wheelhouse carpet their best effort. After two attempts of cleaning to get the blood out from Alec’s toe mishap, it remained. The pro did a better job – still, there is a slight albeit, faded reminder.

The other notable 2 days were spent in Washington, D.C. A little bit of geography here –

The Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the United States fed by fresh water from several rivers (notably the Potomac, the Miles and the Susquehanna Rivers) and of course, the Atlantic Ocean. We entered the Chesapeake from the barely visible on a map C and D canal, near the Delaware bay. We are now headed down the Chesapeake Southbound. We haven’t even neared the Potomac River yet which is quite a bit South of our position. To bring Gratitude to Washington, D.C., which we considered doing, we would have had to travel up the Potomac river for approx. 100 miles each way. In addition, with all of the rain and extreme weather the area has had, the runoff which includes large debris such as logs and “deadheads”, logs which remain largely submerged. Having survived the minefields of lobster and now crab traps, none of us had the desire to push our luck with this side trip. Ultimately, it was incredibly simple to pay the $5.00 fee per person to hop on a very comfortable bus and ride it to the front door of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum where we spent a full (and rainy) day inside touring the multiple amazing displays. Honestly, we could have spent another week inside those walls. I could fill pages with the artifacts contained therein but the most personal of all of the exhibits is the one pictured below. What are the chances that in the SAME display case I would see both the start and the end to my own airline career? An Eastern Airline Flight Attendant uniform on the left (and behind my head) and a Southwest Airline Pilot uniform on the right? Funny right?

IMG_2994

We spent the night in D.C. at a lovely Hyatt Regency and then hit the ground running the next day with tours of… Are you ready for this:
The White House
The Capital Building
The Lincoln Memorial
The WWII Monument
The MLK Monument
The Korean War Monument
The Vietnam War Memorial
The Roosevelt Memorial
and a drive by the Washington Monument. I think I left something out here but who could blame me.

Alec and I had seen several before but the ones we really were most impressed by and which we had not seen before were the Korean (my father served) and the Roosevelt. Also the MLK was incredibly well done. Jack’s favorite was the Lincoln. All in all – it was a fantastic and memorable trip. Of course, 2 days is not nearly enough time but we certainly made the most of it.

Arriving back in Annapolis, the weather cleared and we enjoyed a couple of days of beautiful weather. Of course, after the non-stop movement of the past few weeks, the crew of the Gratitude wanted a couple of “lay days” – so we mostly enjoyed it at a leisurely pace.

Next stop…. St. Michaels further south down the Chesapeake but on the Eastern Coast.