It is late in the summer and Pete calls.
Heard from Archie yet? I need to get back on the water!
Timing is everything, Archie had called earlier to confirm his crew so I told Pete the BETTY ANN would be leaving Point Judith October 9th. He immediately signed on so I called Archie to let him know, unfortunately, I also had to tell him Andrew would not be making this trip. His new job in Austin, TX started earlier in the summer and he has no vacation accrued. So me, Pete and Archie will make up a shorthanded crew, Hmmmm, not good for the watch standing schedule.
SUNDAY – TUESDAY
We meet at the boat on a fine autumn morning, load aboard and stow our gear. Pete has recently returned from New Hampshire so the Rum Locker is completely stocked with Captain M. Nice!
There is a 38 foot sloop at the fuel dock that had had a run-in with a fishing trawler in the fog. Apparently the boat got under the outrigger boom, snapped the fore stay and broke the mast at the first spreader. The boom was lashed to the side and the rigging piled up on deck – a real mess. As we pull away from the dock we all appreciate the fact that, unlike the dense fog of last year, we have unlimited visibility, a fresh westerly breeze and warm sun to bid us on our way.
We exit West Gap, and Archie mentions the wind direction instrument stopped working properly after Hurricane Irene and we need to re-calibrate it. To do this the instructions are to make a slow 720 degree turn, wait for the instrument display to beep and flash and then to use a combination of button pushes to re-set the analog indicator at zero as the ship heads directly into the wind. Sounds like a good job for our absent crew member, the one most proficient with technology issues. In any case, Archie makes the turn while I stand by the indicator and Pete heads up on deck to put wool strands on the stays as temporary tell tales.
720 degrees later, no beeping or flashing so we go around again. Still nothing but I push the required button sequence anyway to see what happens. No change, so we try a third 720 but this time in the opposite direction. We are all thinking the same thing – one of the boats in the area is going to call the Coast Guard to tell them we are drunk, lost our rudder or have some other kind of trouble. Anyway we have no success so we set the sails and head south-south west comfortable in our knowledge that we can gage the wind well enough without the instrument.
Of course it didn’t really matter because an hour later as we clear Montauk we turn directly into the wind, which then slowly drops to zero to remain there all the way down the coast to Chesapeake Bay entrance . Given the conditions (calm wind and dead flat seas) and the small crew, we set a 3 on 6 off watch schedule with no second person in the cockpit, without a doubt the simplest watch bill ever posted aboard the BETTY ANN.
By the way, I haven’t mentioned our food provisions. Just because Larry couldn’t make this trip doesn’t mean we were going to go hungry . Before we left the dock he stocked us with his signature home-made Ribs, Chile and Chicken. Try as we did we could never eat it all, as delicious as it was.
While we are all thankful for the flat calm seas, the outcome was the most uneventful, one could say boring trip to date. Think about the classic definition of offshore sailing (days of tedium interspersed with moments of excitement) now take away the moments of excitement! However, we did add to our body of knowledge regarding the ecosystem of the offshore New Jersey Sea Flies and the little finch-like birds that always visit the boat in these waters (Andrew has written about both on prior trips).
I discovered that if the flies, we stopped counting at 100, were put out on deck instead of down the cockpit scuppers as we murdered them the birds feasted on the carcasses. To our dismay we discovered the next morning that the well fattened birds had chosen to spend the night in the rigging and they shit all those flies back on deck!
The forecast is for a front to move through Monday. The old version of Captain Archie makes the suggestion that we could SCOOT around the cape and then duck in. Did he say scoot? That is a point of sailing neither Pete or I have heard before. We will have to add that mode to the autopilot!
Ultimately we all agree not to challenge Cape Hatteras weather again so 49 hours 50 minutes of constant motoring later we pull into Tide Water Marina, Portsmouth, VA. All of this presents a bit of a dilemma; Archie had suggested I buy 16 October return flight tickets from Norfolk and I had kidded him about taking his new leisure cruise philosophy way too seriously. Yet here we were in port on the 11th. Pete and I aren’t going to stop here so we will need to cancel and re-book our return flight, probably from North Carolina.
We get things shipshape, relax with a cocktail and then the three of us take the water taxi to Norfolk to visit the Nautical museum which features the battleship Wisconsin. It is a good museum even though you’re not allowed below decks or into the turrets like you are on the Massachusetts in New Bedford. The ship’s long and distinguished history, including being reactivated for the Gulf war, is well documented. We eat at Crabby Joes restaurant and are pleasantly surprised with the food and the live entertainer (Pete names him Flounder for his look alike in Animal House), less so with the dancing wait staff.
On the ferry trip back Pete disappears, but I know where he can be found. Sure enough I go to the wheelhouse and he is there talking it up with Captain Ed, a retired Navy captain who gives us advice on where to find good pubs in Portsmouth. later, following up on our recent intelligence, and fortified with a dram or two of rum, Pete and I head back out around 8pm while Archie catches a nap at the nav station. At the Bier Garten Pub (beer from everywhere in the world but no hard liquor and no music) in answer to our question of where to find the latter the bar tender suggests The Stil, a couple of blocks away which he noted was a topless bar. Who does he think we are, a couple of rowdy sailors in port for a good time? We get there to find a very classy, subdued below street level pub. I take a seat at the bar and Pete wanders through the several rooms, comes back and asks the barmaid if this is the only bar in the building. She answers yes and asks why the question. We break out laughing and Pete explains we were told this was a topless bar. I think perhaps he actually said top shelf bar she replies. And yes – all the very best brands of every possible liquor were lined up on the shelves in front of us.
A drink or two later we continue our quest and we are told to try Griffs back on High St. But as we arrive it is closing, have we lost track of time, so we go across the street to Barons Pub where there is a lively crowd, good music and the tempting odor of pub food. We settle in and meet some interesting people including , Dallas the chef from another place down the street who confirms Griffs and Stil both have great food. Also Stephan and Caitlyn, a wild couple who recommend Kraeken Rum. How do I remember all this you ask?, all items were dutifully recorded on a bar napkin labeled Most Important Document.
Actually there was also a second most important document created the next evening but the waitress gave me the pen used to check for counterfeit money which uses essentially disappearing, invisible ink. Last call comes out of nowhere and we find ourselves walking by The Deck Restaurant back at Tidewater Marina. We hear voices inside, and not ready to end the evening, head up the stairs where we are invited in to join a private party. At 0430 Archie leaves messages on our phones curious as to our whereabouts and hoping we have not ended up in the hospital or jail. Or, to use the bartenders expression for someone who has lost it ..were we Off our Chains ?
Captain Kenyon mercifully lets us sleep in and we start down the ICW at 1000 fortified with a full breakfast of bacon and eggs. At 1345 we are docked on the front dock of the Atlantic Yacht Basin, Chesapeake City, a whopping 12 miles from Great Bridge. Pete and I agree we have set sail with Carnival Cruise lines. Dinner is at a new Italian Restaurant, Fabbrizis, a short walk from the marina. Pete orders meatballs even though they are not on the menu explaining any good Italian restaurant always has them available. Archie and I go with veal Marsala which turns out to be a delicious but low fat version of the traditional dish. The Chef visits the table to ask Pete how he liked the meatballs explaining it is a new recipe he happened to be trying out for tomorrows special. They get high marks.
As we walk back to the boat Archie asks me, See any bars? No Archie I reply, this is a recovery port, no bars for us tonight.
We take our departure at 0800 and tie up at Midway Marina, Coinjock, N.C. at1300. How we are keeping this torturous pace. With time on our hands Pete and I decide to repair the masthead wind vane. I had checked it with binoculars at Tidewater and discovered the plastic rudder on the vane was broken off. Now we know why we couldn’t calibrate it. We haul Pete up the stick in a bosuns chair with Archie on the main winch and me tending a secondary safety line on the halyard winch. Pete brings down the unit and after brainstorming options I buy a couple of popsicles at the marina store. Pete buys some epoxy and in a couple of hours the new McGivered unit has been assembled, wind tunnel tested in front of the galley fan, is in place and appears to be working.
We celebrate with bloody marys and rum and head up to Crabbys Restaurant. The only other boat at the dock is USCG Buoy tender # 551034 and the crew is already in Crabbys. We buy them a round of drinks and have a good time talking with the BM1 in charge. He also gives us a great new expression when he refers to his wife as The Mammadant (take off on Commandant, get it?). We all have great meals, including wings to go, and the owner, Terry, explains he had fired the entire kitchen staff who had been ripping him off by telling them they had a choice – hit the road or go to jail.
0720 departure for what will be our only long day. A trawler, LADY M, joins our bomb list by making an unannounced pass while we were feeling, literally, our way under the Coinjock bridge. Pete provides appropriate commentary.
It is a breezy day, 20 KTS, but all on the nose as we cross the Albermare Sound so we can’t sail and can’t calibrate our new wind vane. Shortly before sunset we anchor just inside the Alligator-Pungo Canal in what will be known in the future as Pistachio Cove.
Pete – You want some pistachio nuts Archie?
Archie – No thanks
Pete – Wow, Archie these nuts are very stale!
Archie – Yeah, really old ones. Why do you think I said no when I love pistachio nuts.
A perfect 10 morning and at sunrise after cleaning a ton of mud off the anchor we get underway for Belhaven. I make massive omelets breakfast in a futile attempt to use up the supplies Larry has laid on board. We slow for a bridge and a sportsfisher passes to port. Pete waves and the captain flips him the bird which gets quite a reaction from Pete. Ten minutes later Pete is at the helm and we slow for another boat who has called for a pass. From below Archie asks what is going on. Pete answers that another boat is passing. Don’t piss him off says Archie.
We finally get a chance to calibrate the wind vane as we approach the B&A Aeronautical Test Range on the Pungo River. We man our stations as on the first day but in celebration Pete replaces woolen telltales by holding our National Ensign on the fore deck . Although the unit still refuses to flash or beep as the manual specifies after the 720 degree turn it does accept the correction input as we head directly into the wind. Archie even ventures that the popsicle sticks seem to work better than the original vane.
Our last stop this leg is Dowry Creek Marina which we make early in the day. There are still a few boats careened up in the marsh compliments of Irene but the marina is in fine shape. Neighbors at the dock are heading into town and ask if we need anything. Ice pick shouts Pete. They returned empty handed but Archie came back with a nice one in a wooden sheath.
It is a really hot day now that we are off the water so we truly enjoy the sight of our replacement crew, Jim Gieb, burdened with a couple of cases of Yeungling coming down the dock. Betty Ann is put ship shape, we shower and head out for dinner at Georges Sports and Oyster Bar. This is the heart of NASCAR country, the races are on the TVs and we were even joined at our table by a celebrity.
Another great dinner and the end of another great trip.
- A new and safer ice pick replaces random knives from the drawer
- Archie daydreams of rounding Cape Horn
- Pete doing what he likes best
- Requisite winch shot (not bad for a point-&-shoot hey Andrew)
- Marlinespike duty in Pistachio Cove
- Enjoying the captains comfy chair
- GPS Upgrade with Scoot Mode
- Yeungling Time
- A tight one whistle pass