Saturday, July 23, 2016

How's The Boat?

That is probably the big question on your minds regarding us right now. And the truth is, that is the big question on our minds as well. It has been about 3 weeks since Rover was hauled at the boatyard and so I figured I'd better bring everyone up to speed. We are still in Colorado and haven't seen the boat in person for a little while.

The primary goal of this time at the boatyard was to get the bottom paint done. Not just a simple bottom paint, but a stripping of all the old and flaking paint followed by a new barrier coat and new anti-fouling paint. Not a fun task and one I'm OK with farming out to a long as they do a good job at a reasonable price.

Soda blasted bottom.

That wasn't the only task though. Another larger task was to have the aluminum fuel tank replaced. With a reported average lifespan of under 10 years, we figured we were living on borrowed time and had better replace it before we awoke to a bilge full of diesel. There are several other potential tasks that we could have the yard perform, but those will depend on the estimates they provide as well as the my feel for how they are doing with the current projects.

The new fuel tank.

Initially, the boatyard was doing well with communication on the projects. Pictures were sent from the soda blasting process and barrier coat and looked good. They seemed to be making good progress and staying on budget. Communications seem to have slowed some, but my hope is that they are doing a good job.

So, they are hopefully finishing up the bottom paint and fuel tank install. They should also be preparing another estimate for another potential job. I guess I will soon see and we are keeping our fingers crossed for good results. It would be nice to know that not all boatyard are crooks.

In the meantime, we are visiting with family and friends and eating out too much...but it has been a nice visit.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Some Colorado Pictures Thanks To A $3 Cable

When we left on this trip, I decided not to bring along my laptop. All we have with us is a small Samsung tablet and our smartphones. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem...unless you want to write a blog post with some pictures from your "real" (digital SLR) camera, one that was made before all the wireless Internet connectivity options. Fortunately, as I discovered, my tablet and my wife's phone are newer Android devices and with the aid of a special cable these devices allow you to connect USB peripherals like keyboards, thumb drives, memory card readers, or cameras.

I couldn't find one of these cables while in Summit County, but found them in Denver. BestBuy had one from Samsung for $20, but I found a discount computer center that had them for only $2.50 (and you can find them on the Internet for a similar price). So, if you have an Android device that supports USB  OTG (On The Go), you may want to grab one of these cables. With the cable I was able to edit pictures directly from the camera on the tablet.

While the thin air at high altitude and the remnants of a chest cold are not good things to mix, we did manage to do a little hiking and sightseeing in the Colorado high country. Here are a few pictures from my home state.

Update: The blog editor I was using (on the tablet) didn't create clickable images.  You can now click on them to see larger versions.

The sign and sculpture at the east end of Main Street in Frisco.

Frisco is a cute mountain town. Near all the attractions but 
doesn't feel like as much of a tourist trap as Breckinridge.

Since this is a sailing related is a sailboat on Lake Dillon 
with Tiger Run and the Breckenridge ski area in the background.

More Dillon reservoir and sailboats with Frisco in the background.

This, and the picture that follows, are what Vaill pass looks
like if you get off the Interstate (I 70).

The road off of Vail pass leads to Shrine pass and the next
Few pictures are also from that area.

You can see the cuts in the trees that make up the Copper
Mountain ski area in the distance.

This rock has its very own wildflower.

Trying to wrangle the dogs for a picture
is a difficult task.

Before it was a tragic school shooting, Columbine
was known as the State flower. They do grow wild here.

A little hike near Freemont Pass, on the
way to Leadville.

A large American flag flying over a park in
Leadville with Mt. Massive in the background. 

Mount Massive is the second highest of the Colorado Fourteeners, prominent mountain peaks with a summit elevation above 14,000 feet. Colorado has 53 of them, the largest number of any state by a pretty wide margin.

Turquoise Lake (actually a reservoir)
with Leadville in the distance.

A bit of a drop off if you don't pay attention
while hiking near Turquoise lake.

Not even sure which mountain this is, 
just know it was west of Turquoise lake.

So there is a little taste of our home state and where we have been spending some of our time the past couple weeks. Places where snow can still be seen in July seems like a world away from our current life on the Atlantic ocean and Chesapeake bay..

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Far From The Sea

We made it to Denver, and just beyond, the day after my last post. The plains gave way to the Great American Desert and then finally the Rocky Mountains could be seen in the distance. We drove through Denver and made our way up to Summit County for our first stop to visit family.

Getting pretty flat here.

Unfortunately, the colds we acquired in Baltimore accompanied us on the trip. The congestion in our heads easily indicated our continuous change in altitude. We went from Sea level, through 5280 feet in Denver (it is known as the mile high city after all), and on to 11, 178 feet at the Eisenhower tunnel before descending to just over 9000 feet at our destination.

Back In Colorado

 Up here we are surrounded by many of the ski areas for which the Colorado mountains are well known. While skiing isn't an option this time of year, there is still quite a bit to do here. Hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, kayaking and...yes...even sailing are options here. At least they are when you well well.

Dillon valley and reservoir.

Not feeling great, we currently aren't in much of a condition to enjoy what the Rockies have to offer. In fact our only plans were to take in a free National Repertory Orchestra 4th of July concert at the Dillon Amphitheater and the fireworks display over the reservoir that evening. Unfortunately we only made it about half way through the concert before our colds had us retreating back home to rest

Dillon theater. Nice setting.

Hopefully a couple days of rest will be all that is needed so we can enjoy the rest of our trip. It does feel like we are a long way from our home on the sea.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Rover is land-bound again. Like usual, it was a tight fit in the haul out pit, but we got her in, got her lifted, and got her blocked on land.  I was impressed with the apparent care they took with handling the boat so I have some hope that I have chosen a better yard this time.

After finding a place for her to sit in the yard, we made some last minute preparations and headed out on our road trip back to Colorado to see family and friends. Until moving onto the boat, I've always lived near where interstate 25 and Interstate 70 cross. I-70 heading west out of Denver and into the mountains is as familiar to me as any place in the country. So, when arriving in Baltimore and seeing the I-70 sign we knew exactly how we would be getting back to Colorado.

Shortly after taking the on ramp to I-70, we saw an interesting mileage sign. Didn't expect to see Denver listed, but there it was...a mere 1700 miles away.

I'd like to say we have been doing the touristy thing, but we both seem to have come down with a cold right after arriving in Baltimore. Not feeling like playing tourist, we are just making the drive. The pretty green rolling hills of the Allegany mountains gave way to green fields of corn. Forested lands have slowly started turning into the great plains as we arrived in St. Louis.  This is where I'm writing this, while popping cold meds in our hotel room just west of town.

We should be in Denver soon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

VAExit, Dragging, and Baltimore

Sorry...lots of topics on this one as I try to catch up with "real time".  We are in Baltimore and I have better internet access but the rush to get here is now a rush to get the boat ready for the boatyard and us ready for a trip back to Colorado.

In my last post we were at Windmill Point, just outside of White Stone, VA. After waiting for a cold front that brought bands of thunderstorms through the area on Thursday, we departed for Solomons, MD on Friday. We sailed a bit, but after a front passes the winds tend to calm down and we ended up motoring or motor-sailing much of the trip.

One of the old Chesapeake lighthouses.

We were trying to find a place to anchor out and my wife came across a marina that offered floating docks for $1/foot with a BoatUS discount. We figured why not and tied to the dock for the evening. Calvert Marina is a large facility with lots of fixed docks, some covered (for boats without masts), and some reasonably nice and new floating face docks for transients.  The facilities are rather rustic, but the price is right and they also have a courtesy car if you need to re-provision in town.

The next morning we slept in a bit and left the dock around 10 AM.  There was some wind, but as far too often seems to be the case, it was coming from where we wanted to go (straight down the bay).  We beat into the wind for a little bit, but after a couple hours of velocity made good (VMG) around 1.5~2 knots, we again fired up the engines and made our way to an anchorage on the Rhode river just south of Annapolis MD.

Rhode Creek Anchorage.  Boat on the right is the one we
believe ended up a bit too close later that night.
As soon as we turned up the river, the 15 knot wind died (or this anchorage is far more protected than it looks).  The anchorage (known as "Rhode River 1" in Active Captain) already had a number of boats but we were able to find a spot and threw the hook.  We had dinner and settled in for the night.  Sometime around 10 PM the wind picked up a bit.  I don't recall why my wife went outside, but she summoned me out and we found a boat rather close to us.  I checked our anchor alarm and we hadn't moved other than to clock into the wind.  Best we could tell in the dark, the other boat dragged past us.  Although we weren't 100% sure, I thought the boat was the one anchored beside us earlier that evening and there were people on board.

I grabbed my handheld spotlight and tried to get the attention of the occupants of the boat.  After a couple flashes, someone appeared on deck and looked like they were scrambling around a bit (with our generator running to top off our batteries for the night, we couldn't hear or talk to them).  I don't know if the crew of that boat got the anchor to reset or it just reset itself by the time they were up, but the boat seemed to be OK.  Downwind of us and a bit closer to shore than I would be comfortable with but no longer moving.  Crisis averted, or so we thought.

Thomas Point Lighthouse, near Annapolis MD.

About 2:30 in the morning I needed to answer the call of nature.  I noticed that the wind had mostly died and what little there was had caused us to clock around about 180 degrees.  I decided to take a look around and, to my surprise, the dragging boat was now nearly beside us and only a couple feet from our starboard bow.  Since our cabin is right where the other boat would have hit us and since we didn't hear anything, I can only assume that we didn't touch. I was able to grab my boat pole and, without extending it, knock on the deck of the other boat.

I think the guy that popped his head out was a bit surprised to see me standing over him on the bow of my boat.  I told him that I've verified our position with my anchor alarm and that it appears he is dragging.  My estimate is that he dragged several hundred yards, making a U shaped path nearly around our boat.  He asked if we hit or if there was any damage and I told him I didn't think so, but that his anchor might be in the shallow area near the shore so he should be careful when he retrieves it.  He got his crew up and pulled up anchor while I monitored to make sure they, and us, were OK.  To my surprise, instead of resetting the anchor, he turned on his navigation lights and motored out of the anchorage under the moonlight. Not sure why he didn't just go reset his anchor, but either way I guess the problem was solved.  The next morning all the rest of the boats, including us, were where we left them the night before.  I do wish I had a chance to talk with the guy that dragged as I would be interested to know what anchor he was using and what see if there was anything I could learn from the second boat to have almost dragged into us in the past couple months. Only thing I know is that his rode was mostly line with only a few yards of chain on the end (what I could hear in the dark while they were raising anchor). Glad our Mantus anchor had no such problems and kept us in place.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and some wave generators.
The next morning, after making coffee, we raised anchor and pointed the bow of the boat up the Chesapeake once again. It was our last leg to Baltimore and was a nice and sunny day with almost no breeze so playing motorboat was again on the agenda.  We motored past Annapolis and under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  It was Sunday and there were a lot of boats about.  We came to learn that there was a sailing race across the bay later that day, but based on the number of fishing boats out, I wonder if most were actually interested in the race or just an excuse to anchor out, toss out a fishing line, and have a few beers. Given the number of dead fish we've seen floating in the upper part of the Chesapeake bay, I'm not so sure I would trust the fish caught there.

Baltimore Light (yes, looks a bit like the first one).

We turned out of the bay and made our way up the Patapsco river, past Fort Carroll, under the Francis Scott Key bridge (near where the man wrote the Star Spangled Banner), past Fort McHenry, and into the rather industrial surroundings of  Port Covington in Baltimore. There were a lot of high horsepower boats heading out to enjoy a day on the water and this part of the trip was the roughest ride we've had since...well...the onslaught of power boats at the inlet to Morehead City.  My wife once pontificated that weathermen were wrong and waves aren't caused by the wind but by all the power boats in the world...and I'm starting to believe her.

Ft Carroll, near Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

We find our way to the marina and yard where Rover will be getting a new bottom paint job and some other work done.  I think this is as close as I've ever been docked to military boats (there are a couple of some sort of military transport vessels at the end of the pier here).  They make our boat feel rather small.  A couple days of prep and we will be leaving our boat for the first time in over a year of living aboard.

Rover at the marina dock.  Big, but quiet, neighbors.
Keep your fingers crossed with us that this boatyard will prove better than those we have dealt with in the past.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

From Chesapeake to Chesapeake

We left Chesapeake Yachts, in Chesapeake Virginia near first light.  The idea was to make it to the Gilmerton bridge in time for a pre-rush-hour opening.  Between 6:30 and 8:30 AM and 3:30 and 5:30 PM the bridge does not open except for commercial traffic with reservations (we don't qualify).  We arrived at the bridge about 5:50 AM...and found the adjacent railroad bridge was down.  The other catch with this bridge is that it doesn't open when the railroad bridge is down as the two are only a few feet apart.  The Gilmerton tender said they would open as soon as the railroad bridge did and expected it to open a little after 6 AM.

The Gilmerton Bridge, railroad track on far side.
We sat for over 30 minutes watching the empty train tracks blocking our path.  The train finally did arrive and pass over the bridge. I guess Amtrak schedules are merely suggestions as they seemed to be running quite late based on how long the bridge was down.  It was after 6:30 when the railroad bridge opened...fortunately the Gilmerton bridge did too and we, along with a barge that had been waiting, made it through the bridge before they were closed for rush hour.

Since we aren't on a work schedule, we usually let barges and other work boats have right of way and stay out of their way.  We were letting them get a little ahead of us since I'm sure maneuvering a barge with a tug is difficult enough without having a sailboat breathing down your neck. The barge captain called us on the radio and let us know we should stick close to him until we made it past a couple more railroad bridges or we might get stuck behind one for a while.  He was obviously local and knew the closure schedule (most things for us boaters just say "normally open unless there is train traffic") and we appreciated the tip.

Hospital Point Anchorage near Portsmouth
We made it through the train bridges, Portsmouth, and Norfolk without any further rush hour delays. After and enter the Chesapeake.  Finally out in the open, we were able to set the sails and shut down the engines that have been droning on for what seems like days as we traveled the canals and rivers of the ICW.

With wind from the west-southwest, we were able to sail all the way up past Mobjack bay and the Severn river where we spent the prior summer building the hardtop.  We sailed past Deltaville, where we had hauled the boat a year before in a failed attempt to get some work done. Along the way we saw a couple of the old Chesapeake Bay lighthouses that mark, and sit out on, some of the shoals.

Thimble Shoal Light near Norfolk
We crossed the Rappahannock River and stopped at Windmill Point marina. It was a long day and the weather forecasts on the radio helped us decide we should go for a marina.  Having a courtesy car so we could reprovision a bit was a plus.  The marina was reasonably priced and a newer facility, but I wasn't a big fan of the fixed docks as I found it difficult to set fenders. The weather the next day was filled with rain and thunderstorms, so i was a nice place to hide from the weather.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Dismal Day

After a good meal and a good nights sleep in Elizabeth City, it was time to head through the Dismal Swamp. This route has two bridges that need to be raised to let most boats pass and adjacent to those bridges are two locks.  The locks run on a very limited schedule so you need to time your arrival.  The schedule at both sets of locks and bridges are at 8:30 am, 11:00 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm.  In order for us to make the 11 am opening at the South Mills lock, we needed to leave the dock at 7:30 am. So, at 7:30 we untied the dock lines and headed on.

Winding up the Pasquotank river is nice.  Being the only boat as the path starts to narrow is even better. We left the river itself and started traversing a canal as the river became a bit too narrow.  Oh and then there is the depth.  When we left Elizabeth City the depths were not a problem and we saw lots of depths well above the usual ICW 12 foot range.  But the Dismal swamp canals are a very different story.  Here, the controlling depth is only 6 feet.

The Pasquotank River north of Elizabeth City.
A bit smaller than it is south of town.

The depth, and the fact that most of the canal is a no wake zone, and those that travel this route are a very small subset of those you find elsewhere on the ICW. They tend to be slower or smaller craft, or at least ones that will fit and aren't interested in going fast. It wasn't until we were nearing the first lock that we saw another boat.  We had slowed down since we were arriving early and a trawler appeared behind us and caught up as we were waiting at the first lock.

The South Mills Lock after we entered.

And again when we were ready to go.

The schedule of the locks in combination with the no wake rule means that, if you want to go all the way through the canal, you do so at about 5 knots.  While there are no anchorages, there are a few free docks where you can stop if you want to spend a bit more time in the canal. There are walls and docks near each of the locks, one at a park next to the canal and one at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center. All the docks are free for a one night stay. In our case we again didn't have time for a lot of exploring...hopefully next time we can spend the night at the welcome center dock and check things out.

One problem with a less traveled and narrow canal is that you can occasionally find floating debris in the canal.  The pollen is one thing, but the large branches or small logs are another story.  Twice we approached ones that blocked 2/3 of the canal span.  In each of those cases, we slowly approached the log and I managed to use a boat pole to push it out of the way.  In one case, we scared two turtles off of the log as we made our approach.

Yes, it was calm on the Dismal Swamp this day.

The highlight of the trip this time is the same as the one from our trip south last winter.  In a name, it is Robert.  He is the lock operator of the Deep Creek lock. A wealth of information on the Dismal Swamp and the surrounding area.  We were there for the 3:30 opening and he even checked with the Gilmerton bridge for us to see if there was a commercial opening scheduled so we might be able to make Portsmouth (of course, there was not).  He is a great guy and well worth spending a bit of time getting to know.

We ended up stopping at a dock that was marked in Active Captain as a free dock. This dock is actually part of a boatyard called Chesapeake Yachts and we got there just before they closed.  We walked up to the office just to verify it was a free dock and we were in a good spot. The lady in the office told us that it technically is not a free dock and they usually charge $1 a foot for dockage. She mentioned that there have been times where their dock was full of boats hiding from weather to the point they couldn't get space for their customers.  But, since we were nice enough to come up and talk she would let us stay there. I wonder if they once offered the dock for free and too much advantage was taken, but I hope they continue to let wayward travelers stay there.  I even found out that they could haul my boat, so I may look into them the next time I need a DIY yard.

The only thing dismal about the swamp this time around was the number of biting bugs out due to the lack of a breeze.  But the area is quite pretty and green and I'd recommend you take the route at least once if you have a boat that can make it.