I advised my Daughter-in-law’s Sister Elise to consider that old saying before joining the crew for this trip aboard BETTY ANN. But she was game to do it, so on Sunday 10 May we gather at the Southwest gate for the flight to Charleston, South Carolina. But, surprise, we learn the BETTY ANN had put in at Savannah due to tropical storm Ana so a new plan is put in play.
Larry had flown to Charleston the previous day so he rented a car, met us at the airport and we drove to the Isle of Hope Marina located on the Skidaway River portion of the Intracoastal Waterway. We picked up Archie, and with Elise navigating on her phone, headed into the Savannah Riverside Market section for lunch. We ate at Joe’s Crab shack (actually a large full service restaurant- and very good) then return to the marina. Archie and Larry take the car to go provisioning and Elise and I spend time familiarizing her with Betty Ann, stowing our gear and doing final preparations for getting underway in the morning.
The provisioning crew return with three overflowing dock carts. While they begin stowing that Elise and I take the rental car and the marina’s loaner van to National rental at the airport. We fear the worst since neither of us are listed as drivers on the agreement but the agent smiles and says, “You’re returning this for a friend, right” NICE! The two of us then head back to the marina in the van – a true beater – with labels all over the interior indicating what doesn’t work. lol most everything! On the way back we make a quick stop at The Pirate House Bar and Restaurant to check it out, have a beer and then return to pick up Archie and Larry for dinner. Unfortunately, the little place Archie had picked out had just closed their kitchen (9:00) , as had the second choice Japanese restaurant. The third try is open, Jalapenos Mexican food, pretty good, perhaps because we were starving by then.
MONDAY 11 MAY
Up early for showers etc. and a quick trip to Walmart for some forgotten items. We’re underway heading down the river for open ocean and have plenty of excitement as a large outbound RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ship and and incoming container ship meet with us at a narrow bend in the channel. Things get back to normal quickly and soon we’re in the Atlantic. We make our turn onto course 060 M; unfurl the main, jib and stays’l, cut the engine and bask in the glory of an 8+ knot broad reach. For Elise the thrill is short lived as she begins to succumb to seasickness. She applies a Scopolimine patch, and through the bright sunny day appears to be making a recovery. The watch bill is set with a four on: four off schedule so at 1600 I go below for a quick snooze before my watch at 2000. My eyes open at 1800, still no diesel engine noise so I lay back, smile, and enjoy the sounds of the Betty Ann working in the seas.
One of the great things about offshore sailing is dealing with adapting to the watch schedule. You go to sleep with one set of circumstances on the boat, then awaken several hours later and your mind has to catch up to what is now going on. I spot Elise, she is upright, a bit pale but smiling. What I had missed was her “mal-de-mer” moment of truth that occurred when Larry had handed up a big bag of garbage to stow in the dingy on the aft deck. She relates her husband Rick’s line to sea sick boaters, “How would you like a Whoopie Pie dipped in an ashtray”? With that she lies back in her rack for some more sleep. We’ll have to wait for 2200 to see how she’s doing.
Tuesday 12 May
Over my many trips aboard the BETTY ANN I’ve come to believe she will always present the crew with a problem to test their worthiness. Our test this trip arrived at around 2 AM. I’m awakened by the sounds of a sail change. Archie and Elise are on watch and I go up to assist. When Archie pulls the throttle back to idle we hear a beeping alarm. Thinking it’s the autopilot he taps the “Auto” button, but at the same time I see the red ignition warning light – the engine has died. Attempts to restart it prove futile, it cranks but won’t fire. I check the Raycor filter bowl and it’s clear, no water. There’s a light breeze so we decide to sail through the night and figure things out in the morning. Some things you just can’t do in a powerboat! Archie and Elise go below and Larry and I take over.
0600 and Archie arrives on deck. We start the generator, make coffee and charge the batteries. The engine still doesn’t start so we ponder the possibilities. There aren’t many on a diesel – fuel, air compression. It ran perfectly immediately prior to stalling and hadn’t overheated or smoked excessively so air and compression aren’t likely issues. We check the filters again and they look fine. We change them anyway and assure there is fuel pressure leaving the secondary filter. While Archie cranks the engine I crack the forward injector nut and very little fuel comes out. Perhaps the fuel shutoff solenoid is faulty. Larry reads the engine schematic and identifies the solenoid wire color coding. I find the white/brown wire and test it with a meter while Larry works the ignition and stop switches. There is some voltage to the solenoid but not the full 12 volts. Larry disassembles the control panel in the cockpit, there is some minor corrosion but no major issues. Not much else we can do so we set sail for Southport, NC . With a fresh breeze pushing us at 7 knots we plan on making the Cape Fear River entrance channel by late afternoon. I go below to get Elise out of her cabin and into the fresh air and sunshine. The news we are heading into Southport does wonders for her.
The wind holds and we have a great sail into the channel and up to buoy #15 where a Tow Boat US Captain meets us to take us into the Marina. He’s alone on the boat and hands me a ratty length of 3/4″ line to put on a bow cleat. I’m thinking “this isn’t the way the USCG has us do it” There is a strong current against us and he tells me “I’m going to tow you up to that daymark in front of the marina dock. When we get there drop the line and I’ll drift back to put you in a side tow. Besides being very skilled at what he does he also has a sense of humor. When we get to the daymark and I drop the line Betty Ann is still making about 5 knots. He drifts down the starboard side and calls up to Archie at the helm ” Slow it down Captain, you’re going way too fast”. It takes Archie a few seconds to realize the joke. He takes us right to the dock which involved making a 180 degree turn against the current which he did by using a spring line from his boat, to the dock and back to our boat. Later, while completing paperwork he asks Archie for his name. “” Archibald Kenyon says Archie. “Now that’s a realname says the captain. “Yeah” replies Archie, “You learn to fight early growing up with it”.
While walking to the marina office a guy passing by asks us if we’re going to his weather briefing. We asked when and where it was and agreed to go later that evening. Being perhaps a bit to casual, Archie and I show up at the marina conference room with cold Yuenglings in hand. “where’s my beer”? asks Hank, the presenter. It turns out Hank Pomeranz is a retired US Navy meteorologist, who not only provided an excellent briefing on the upcoming weather (pretty much guaranteed perfect 10-15 kt SW sailing winds for the next few days. He also convinced us to take the inland route to Masonboro Inlet rather than going back down the river and around Cape fear as we planned. He gave us detailed charts of the route with up-to-date comments from other boaters and explained the shoaled spots had been dredged and we would have no problem. That tip alone would save us 50 miles, or about 7 hours, and we’re anxious to put it to use.
Wednesday 13 May
At 0815 Dave, the mechanic, arrives. He is a classic “Tar Heel” and could have been Tom Hank’s voice coach in Forrest Gump. He talks constantly as he completes the exact same troubleshooting steps Larry and I had, explaining the technical steps he’s following, providing advise to us and relating personal stories as he goes. I only had time to jot down a few notes as I realized he had “good material” Excerpts from Dave’s monologue:
“When I was on a commercial fishing boat I had to go below and change fuel filters if I wanted to get home. All those other boys would just stand around watching, saying we don’t know nothing about that stuff”.
“If you ever have to go to Dosher Hospital (the local hospital), what you need to do is ask for a ride to Wilmington.”
“Look now boys, you came close to solving your one problem but getting yourselves into bigger one.” (he explained how cranking the engine for long time could build up water in the exhaust and back flood the engine. He showed us the drain plug in the exhaust muffler, and said to close the engine seacock to prevent that.
“Don’t Armstrong that plug when you put it back in” (plastic plug, steel pipe = be gentle)
He also had an offshore fishing boat distress flare story. Hopefully one of the crew can remember that and edit it in because I did not take note of it.
Dave gets the engine running but re-starting it is still a problem. He noticed the same low voltage we did and replaced the starting battery which was bad. (“If they’s big ole batteries I’ll need to get a couple of those yard boys to tote them down here”) He thinks the alternator may be the problem but acknowledges ” I’m a good mechanic but electrical systems are way over my head”. So Larry , Elise and I walk along the river into town for lunch while Archie waits for the electrician. Larry returns to the boat and Elise and I explore further having beer and wine and Rum Runner punches at the Flying Fish and Provisioning Co. bars. Archie texts us that the electrician found a bad fuse in the main electrical panel. If course it is not a stocked item so we’ll have to wait another day. We all go to dinner at Frying Pan Restaurant even though Hank had given it an “interesting” rating. The food is good and the view over the marsh and inlet is spectacular from the 2nd floor dining room.
Thursday 14 May
The waiting to get underway is killing us. The winds are holding as predicted by Hank and we could be making a lot of progress. Elise has to be back to work Monday and we’re starting to run out of time . The fuse arrives via UPS and is installed by Jay, the electrician. The engine fires immediately. Larry drops the spring lines but when I pull the throttle into idle the engine stalls. OOPS! I restart it and go below and find air bubbles in the filter. “Long story short” I install new O rings, and follow all of Dave’s advice about closing the seacock, draining the muffler etc. crank the engine and it starts. So off we go, North up the ICW to Masonboro Inlet following Hank’s guide sheets. At 1800 we depart the inlet at slack high tide, all of us packed with Larry’s secret recipe Philadelphia Lasagna. Our course of 090M will take us clear of Cape Lookout and ESE winds at 10 Kts, 2-3′ seas and clear evening sky will make for good motor sailing. We’ll round Cape Hatteras tonight or early tomorrow morning and then decide if we can make Cape May, NJ in time for Elise to make connections home. If not, we’ll head into Norfolk, VA.
Friday 15 May
Under power and stays’l we pass Cape Lookout during the night and Cape Hatteras in the morning, a distance of 150 NM. Thank you Gulf Stream for the push! The day slips by with only one porpoise and a few flying fish for distractions. Given our progress we now think we can make it to Liberty Island Marina inside New York harbor, a good transportation hub for Elise.
Saturday 16 May
By mid morning it is apparent we can make it to Point Judith if the forecast Southwest winds proves to be true (always a crap shoot as we’ve found out on prior trips). So we alter course to starboard, set the main with a jibe preventer and motor sail wing-on-wing making just over 8 Kts. Archie announces our decision to go for it to Larry ” Because of your wonderful cooking the crew has approved an award for you, we are sailing directly to Point Judith”.
The conditions hold all day with only one sail adjustment needed. It is warm and sunny, a perfect day for an on board shower. Minutes later I emerge obviously refreshed and Elise decides to go for it too. She comes out with a big smile and destroys a large bowl of Larry’s chili. As we pronounce her totally cured of seasickness, as if on cue a large pod of porpoise come to the bow to welcome her to Neptune’s kingdom. She heads forward on deck with her camera and a big grin.
If we can continue at this rate we should make P.J. between 8 and 10 PM tomorrow.
Sunday 17 May
Night watches pass without incident and the morning breaks cloudy with the South wind easing to the point the sails aren’t drawing as we motor along. The GPS shows nine hours to the waypoint off Montauk so our ETA still looks good. Smoke and fumes from below indicate the galley master is active and soon a wonderful breakfast of cheese omelettes and grilled English muffins appears. We develop our final Plan-Of-The-Day: motor sail until we are within cellphone range and call Andrew, who is in R.I. for a wedding, hoping he can pick us up at Point Judith Marina, take us to the airport to pick up Larry’s and Elise’s cars, drop off his rental and head home.
It is 05 December 2016 and I’ve waited far to long to transcribe my scribbled journal notes into a cohesive accounting of this trip. So I will capture the highlights I can decipher. Captain Archie’s crew for this leg include “veterans Jim and Larry, and “greenhorns” Ray and Glen.
0600 sunrise on Tampa bay. Winds light and variable means 30-40 hours of motoring to Key West.
Helm school for the new crew
Guiness World Record Blueberry pancakes for breakfast
Slab of Prime Rib for lunch
Ray eats mostly rice cakes but the brand/style Larry bought are not to his standard. Larry bought “a lot” of them so we spend the day brainstorming possible uses. (Life jackets is the best idea)
Ray’s new nickname is “Rice Cakes”
Late afternoon converstion:
Ray “Where will be be stopping?”
Jim “Key West”
Ray ” when will be get there?”
Jim “Tomorrow afternoon.”
Ray “I meant where will be stopping tonight?”
Jim “We aren’t”
Michael McCloud at Schooner Wharf Bar and dinner at PEPE’s for dinner
Ray and Jim find good music, Jameson’s whiskey and West Virginia dance partners at the Hog’s Breath Saloon
Ray proves to be an excellent liberty “wing man”. On the way back to the boat I tried several directions with no success but kept insisting it was only a couple of block so we should keep walking. Ray hails a cab and tells the driver the marina we’re going to. “But that’s only 2 blocks away”, says the cabbie. “That’s what this guy keeps saying but he doesn’t know which two”.
The main outhaul needs replacing. With splicing, jerry rigging and patience. we manage.
We depart into 15-20 Kt Northeast wind with 4-5′ seas. It’s going to be a very long day and night.
Archie and i share a 3 on 3 off watch schedule supplemented by Ray, Glen and Larry.
0230, autopilot shuts down and we do a 90 degree turn in a couple of seconds (WOW).
Another conversation during middle of the night watch.
Glen "So where did you grow up"?Jim "New Jersey"Glen "So did I, what part of the State?Jim "East Orange, outside of Newark"Glen "Wow, so did I. What school did you go to"?Jim "Ashland grammar school and E.O. high"Glenn "I went to Ashland"Jim "Is your last name Ramsey"?Glenn "Yes it is, Hey! You're Jim Beardsley and we were best friends in the 4th grade".
Another long, hot, humid day of motorsailing into big swells
The seas cause Larry to do a pole dance between the two posts in the salon earning him “the stripper” nickname
Meat balls A-La Cockpit floor for dinner. “It’s like dog shit” says Larry to Ray, “You’ll track it all over the boat”.
Ray “We’re still going to Fort Pierce aren’t we”? Archie, “No, we’re going straight to Charleston”. Ray “You’re bullshitting me right”? Archie “No”
A perfect day. 10-10,7 Kt beam reach in the gulf stream.
I take my first shower while underway in an active sea. To use Andrew’s description of scuba diving “It’s a lot of work for what it is”
Ray proves to be a comic with great one liners. Like “I’ve never in my life been with a bunch of guys that sleep so much and drink so much water”
During deck rounds I find the jib furling line is nearly parted and we do a temporary repair.
Glen hears a US Navy transmission about a warning on the VHF. I get US Warship 42 on the radio and they say we are 8 miles inside a 25 mile exclusion area and are sailing into a live fire exercise “firebox”. I get instructions to sail East, and coordinates where we can resume our northerly track. When we make the turn the radio comes alive. “Sailing vessel BETTY ANN, this is USN warship Predator, is it your intention to cross my bow?” We turn to look and see a frigate steaming up our stern. “Predator gives us new instructions which we willingly follow.
Big plates of corned beef and cabbage for dinner.
Clear and hot with a 10-12 Kt port quarter wind and ETA at MEGA Dock of 1200. We’re two days early so we hope there’s a spot and there is.
Larry is off to visit his son. We do some work on the boat, have dinner at Fleet Pier and a drink (or two) at Salty Dog bar and turn in for the night.
I make two attempts at splicing double braided line but can’t get it right so Archie gets it done for $20 at the marina shop. I make a pledge to learn this skill and now splice all the dock lines, mooring lines for friends at our boat club.
I talk on the phone to Jake, son of a friend of mine, that is stationed at the USN base attending nuclear school. He’ll meet us tomorrow for dinner and recommends the Blind Tiger Pub. He suggests we try the King St. Grill Sports bar tonight. We do and the appitizers are great but the meal is mediocre. The Pop D.J. that follows drives us from the place.
We do more cleaning and work on the boat and provision for the next crew.
Evening at the Blind Tiger Pub where we meet Jake, and are all taken by the beautiful and entertaining bar maid. It is the day of the Kentucky Derby. She stops at each patron at the bar and asks “Which horse won the race, I missed it” The answer of course is “I’ll Have Another” So she refills your drink and moves on to the next person.
We leave the slip at Belle Viu Marina, in Wakefield, RI bound for Charleston, S.C,. Most likely we will pull into Chesapeake Bay for the inland route around Cape Hatteras, but if Neptune were to grant my wish for favorable wind and seas – unlikely given the forecast – we will round the Cape on the outside, something I have yet to do.
It is a cold, gray morning with an unfavorable wind and the predictions are it will go down hill from here. Joe Hitchery has “signed on” again as has Ray Xavier. Both have done a northbound leg from Tampa to Charleston. Larry and I round out Archie’s crew.
Joe Ray Larry
We head out past Montauk Point and down the south shore of Long Island for the 50 hour passage and by the time we finish dinner (the first of Larry’s masterpieces) we encounter rain, increasing west/southwesterly winds and building seas. It continues to slowly build and by the time we are furthest off passing NYC and Delaware Bay we are in 5-7′ beam seas. Larry gets thrown from his windward bunk and covered with an avalanche of books from the shelf. Ray spends most of the night in the navigation station swivel chair but gets little sleep between our 4 on – 6 off watch schedule. As for me, comfortably settled in my sleeping bag on the leeward settee it is sweet dreams. To plagiarize a comment Ray made later – “It was cold, windy and rough all night but there is nowhere else I would rather be.”
Jerry rigging the canvass seams
Friday morning’s offshore forecast for Hatteras is no better so in we go, up the Elizabeth River, past Norfolk, through the Great Bridge lock and settle in at a rear dock at Atlantic Boat Yard. These are the docks behind the marina, up a short canal where boats are stored in large sheds with metal roofs. No shore power and not much in the way of conveniences but it is quiet and the boat is not rolling. The shower facilities don’t get much in the way of reviews so I shower aboard – no sense wasting all the hot water the engine has been generating.
After a round of beers, and a couple of rums, we grab a ride to a new restaurant with the bartender they sent for us. She is a hot ticket, and gives us her suggested favorites on the way. The place is called the Court House Restaurant and the menu is formatted as a Subpoena – much to the delight of our two lawyers Archie and Joe – and also to Larry who it seems has been on the receiving end of perhaps one or two
Anyway, the food (I had fried oysters, prime rib with beans and greens) was outstanding. When our waitress Channa “You can call me Donna” asked if she could get us anything else I said “Sure, the recipe for those greens”. Five minutes later there it was nicely written out on a scrap piece of paper. So – well fed and happy we were driven back to the boat for a nightcap and a long, uninterrupted sleep – well except for Ray who can’t seem to get settled.
Saturday, 26 October
I wake up early and go on deck with my camera. The sun is just about to rise and there is fog rolling up the canal and I anticipate getting a picture Andrew will covet. As I walk to the bow I suddenly find my feet zipping out from under me. WTF?? there is ice on deck! The old adage “one hand for you and one for the boat” served me well and I swing back up using my grip on the stay. But I grabbed the shot, and several others in the ground fog as we make our way down the ICW passing some rowing teams out for practice.
Atlantic Yacht Basin
Referring now to my 2 year old notes it appears Joe’s Lone Ranger joke was the only excitement of the day. I don’t recall the complete telling of it but remember the Lone Ranger and Tonto make camp and Tonto wakes him up in the middle of the night and asks the meaning of what he sees. The Ranger waxes eloquently about the multitude of stars and infinite space to which Tonto replies “No dumbass, someone steal our tent”. The other excitement is that the chart plotter decided to take the day off.
SUNDAY 27 October
My notes are really sketchy now but I assume we made it to Coinjock, N.C. The following morning we depart and take the route around Roanoke Island comforted by the information I obtained from the Oregon Inlet Coast Guard Station that the channel had not silted in. Larry provided additional narrative on channel depths that he miraculously obtained from Google Earth images on his I-pad. We anchored in Adams Creek at 0200 with a full moon rising while we dined on Larry’s Chile and a rum chaser (for me).
MONDAY 28 OCTOBER
Larry makes breakfast while the sun rises over Adams Creek
We awake to a wonderful sunrise, and make our way to the Moorehead City. I text Andrew and find out he’s leaving for work in Austin, TX as we we head out the inlet to sea.
NOTE: anyone who wants to complete this log is welcome to since I have no notes on the offshore trip to Charleston.
The journal for this trip really begins shortly after last year’s fall run to Charleston. Eric Baruzzi (Officer in Charge, USCG Station Point Judith) mentioned he hadn’t seen my journal (still haven’t finished it) and while talking about the trip Eric commented he’d really like to join the crew. I figured it would probably never happen but lo-and-behold June 2nd rolls around and the two of us are on a Southwest flight from RI to Baltimore and then on to Charleston, SC.
Our B 50&51 boarding passes produce two seats in the last row of the plane and the flight is uneventful. On the connecting flight we have slightly better passes and as we walk up the isle I spot a row with an attractive woman in a window seat with the isle and center seats open. “How about here Eric” I say. “Let’s just go to those same seats in the back” says he. As we settle in we realize there are a total of 5 babies/toddlers surrounding us. “Want to go back”? Eric remarks. But the seats have been grabbed so we hope for the best. Turns out not one of those kids cried, screamed, whined, coughed, needed changing or sneezed. Totally amazing.
We make it to the Betty Ann at the far end of the Charleston City Marina Mega Dock before noon, meet Archie, stow our gear and I take Eric on a tour of the boat. Salty Mike’s bar is closed so we have lunch at the restaurant above then return to finish preparations for getting underway the next morning. By 3 PM we are ready for liberty in Charleston and, as is our habit, start at The Blind Tiger Pub. After a couple of rounds the rest of the crew arrive (Jim Geib and his daughter Stephanie) and we finish a few more rounds along with some fried green tomatoes, fritters and artichoke dip appetizers, then head off for a quick tour of downtown.
Eric recalls a prior visit, while on liberty from a USCG cutter, and a place where the back wall of the bar was a row of slurpy machines that served up different flavor margaritas. We happen to be right in front of Wet Willies bar, look inside, and that is the place! We did a quick tour of downtown then walked back to the now open Salty Mikes for dinner and drinks. A group of ‘locals’ provides some good eavesdropping entertainment. One guy is explaining that he can’t brush his teeth in the morning without gagging and the female in the group bursts out with some serious trash talk. All-in-all a good liberty call.
TUESDAY 03 JUNE
We are underway at 0700 with a full USCG sendoff!! (well I did have this great photo sitting around so why not push the truth a bit) Our destination is Point Judith R.I. and the plan is to go well off shore for a non-stop passage. This will be my third chance to round Cape Hatteras so I am psyched. The forecast is for a hot sunny day with light southerly winds; enough to fill the sails for motor sailing but nothing more. Eric starts an hourly plot of our progress which each subsequent watch faithfully maintains. Larry is not with us this trip, nor has he provisioned us with his frozen rib, chili, chicken and lasagna entrees. So what’s for supper? Archie pops open the freezer (which is struggling to maintain 22 degrees F during the hot day) and explains he bought a tray of chicken breasts, a bag of shrimp, a pork loin, two Willow Tree Farms chicken pot pies and some frozen mixed vegetables – the kind where you cook the bag in a microwave or pot of water. This is going to be like those cooking shows where the chefs are given a basket of ingredients and challenged to create a meal. I’m thinking Chinese chicken and vegetables on rice but there is no soy sauce. End up making a Thai type of sauce with milk, peanut butter, coconut rum and hot peppers.
WEDNESDAY 04 JUNE
Another hot day like yesterday with variable southerly winds. Jim G. tweaks the sail trim and we maintain about an 8 knot motor sail. Archie has acquired an asymmetrical jib and we’re all dying to try it but given the forecast we’ll be using the iron jenny instead. We dine on Archie’s sandwiches for lunch and then Eric and I break out fishing gear. There are only two lures in the tackle box so we put the small Kastmaster on the spinning rod and a tuna squid lure on the larger bait casting rod. Amid a bit of heckling we settle down behind the cockpit. Music from Eric’s phone, and even a cold beer, complete the setting. An hour or so goes by with no fish so we switch rods to change our luck but the fish are not cooperating and the heckling intensifies a bit. Eventually we reel in the spinning rig and secure the other rod to the inflatable.
I take the helm and while Jim and Stephanie are enjoying a dolphin show at the bow I spot a weather “super buoy” charted several miles ahead on the chart plotter. Hmmmm, a good spot for Mahi Mahi, so I alter course three degrees to port and after a bit tell Eric to man the rod. We take the buoy close aboard and after we pass Eric calls out “fish on”. I slow the boat while Eric fights the fish.
Even the doubters are on board now – they are even suggesting ways to cook it. But it is not to be. Eric gets it to within 50′ of the boat, it is a good sized Mahi, but it surfs down the face of the large following swell, spits out the hook and disappears. We try again at a large abandoned light tower off Hatteras. It is an imposing structure and Archie, who is at the helm, maintains separation and I come up empty so frozen shrimp replaces fresh fish on the dinner menu. But on the bright side I have now made it around the Cape. We should have implemented some sort of recognition ritual – a minor version of King Neptune’s Court for those that cross the equator.
THURSDAY 05 JUNE
As dawn beaks it is apparent the NOAA’s predicted west wind has not materialized and we continue to motor sail along our 038 M track with the same following breeze at 7-8 knots. A front was forecast to pass our area but we are now so far offshore the VHF weather stations are quiet. Out comes the users manual for the single side band radio. Hmmmm – complicated stuff – multiple daytime and night time frequencies to choose from, weather only broadcast at certain times (like the system we experienced sailing off the coast of France). Lots of squealing/howling type sounds but nothing useful.
Late in the afternoon I suggest we kill the engine for at least a bit of sailing and for one hour we do glide along quietly enjoying nature’s free power. But then the front comes through. Wind goes calm, fire up the engine, reef the main, wind and seas pick up, oops – Jim and Eric deal with a parted mainsail outhaul.
Then a truly insane experience cooking dinner. I’d planned pan seared pork loin with peach salsa and mashed potatoes and managed to pull it off. But while rocking and rolling, slipping and sliding in the galley with a pot of boiling potatoes and a sizzling frying pan next to me as I’m dicing peaches and vegetables I was thinking P&J sandwiches would have been a wiser menu. Stephanie wasn’t feeling up to a full meal but chowed down on some mashed potatoes. Jim also passed so there was more than plenty for Archie, Eric and me.
The rest of the night was reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode. When I came on watch at 0200 Eric asked me to check his last two hourly plots. I plotted the two GPS fixes on the chart and came up with near identical positions as his. “Then we have a problem” says Eric, “we’re heading straight toward Jones Beach”. The chart plotter showed our heading parallel to the coast, compass course was fine and we were well offshore so we weren’t concerned, just very puzzled. Throw in a couple of 180 degree wind shifts and a missing sea buoy and the hairs started rising on the back of our necks. We agrees we were too fatigued to figure out the plots so put that off to tomorrow.
FRIDAY 06 JUNE
My favorite way to wake up – “Anyone want egg sandwiches”? asks Stephanie. And she delivers some excellent ones on grilled English muffins. Eric and I return to the plotting question and conclude since the only chart we could use that far offshore was the small scale chart covering Cape May to Cape Cod, our plots had been skewed.
It is obvious to all that the weather has kept us from making a hoped for stop at Block Island so we settle down motor sailing in a pleasant Northwest breeze and plan for a late arrival at Point Judith. Stephanie has had enough for one trip and makes arrangements for a pickup when we tie up. The rest of the crew celebrates another successful trip with beer, rum and whatever else is found in the Captains liquor locker.
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. Continue reading “Betty Ann Southbound 2011”
Surprise, surprise! I normally do only one leg of the delivery trips but this year Archie called to ask if I could do the final leg from Miami to Tamp Bay since someone else had to cancel. Not one to decline an opportunity to sail, particularly this leg which would include a stop in sunny Key West in the middle of November, I readily agreed! The crew would be Archie, Larry, and me.
The flight to Miami was uneventful, and we stepped out into 80 degree plus warm humid air, Ahhh I love doing that, and hopped a cab to the downtown marina where BETTY ANN was awaiting. I checked out the boat, including the cold beer storage, while Archie and Larry went provisioning. I should go on that trip to the market some time to see Larry in action. I imagine it to be like a mother shopping with an active child.
“Look Archie, these steaks are prime grade!”
“But do we really need 5 pounds for the three of us?”
“Hey Archie, bacon is on sale – four pounds for the price of three!”
“But we are only at sea for four days, wouldn’t one pound do it?”
Anyway, they came back heavily laden with top grade supplies which were stowed away and off we went for dinner in South Beach. With memories of $14 drinks in mind we went one block back from Ocean Drive, and found the Puerto Saqua cuban restaurant on Collins St. that looked interesting (and inexpensive). This was not to be Larry’s favorite place to eat. He ordered a non-alcoholic Becks but got the regular kind, he is still waiting for his lobster long after Archie and I are served, his meal is judged mediocre while ours is delicious. Maybe he said something that unknowingly pissed off the waitress? It is obviously a very popular place with lines out the door and everyone else seemes to be having a good dinner.
Whatever, we walk back to the boat and turn in. Good to be back on board!
We depart 0630 at first light and motor out the inlet into an easterly breeze, unfurl the sails and turn towards the south. We are motor sailing at 8 knots when BETTY ANN decides to spring her surprise on us to see if we are worthy to continue. ( She seems to do this each trip lately (snapped halyard, parted jib outhaul, loose propeller shaft coupling, snapped main reefing line etc) The engine temperature alarm sounds! No real problem here, we can maintain our course while sailing and sort this out. Archie goes below to check the raw water strainer and finds it has a bit of weed in it, but more worrisome is the fact the bottom of the screen has corroded off so it is basically useless, and we wonder what might have passed into the raw water pump or beyond. We decide to cannibalize the screen from the A/C unit since it is basically the same size, just needs to have an indent in the bottom drilled out to fit. This done we refire the engine but find the problem remains. Time for McGiver! I configure the the valves to use the emergency bilge suction that works off the engine raw water pump. Nice, the alarm goes off so we know the pump is good and the system clear. Next I run the hose we use to shift fresh water between tanks and use it to back flush the intake. When everything is reconnected the problem is gone.
It is a really hot day with pretty good swells and Larry doesn’t fare well trying to work in the galley so breakfast and lunch are light.
We have used up a lot of time poking along while making repairs so the kinder, gentler Captain Archie decides we will be forced to pull into Key Largo instead of making an night time entry into Marathon. Damn! As we head in the Largo Canal there is a tight 90 degree bend known locally as Crash Corner. A blind corner which requires a Sécurité transmission. Archie makes it and another boater answers with Which crash corner? How many are there? answers Archie.
By 1500 we are docked and Arch and Larry have jumped in the pool. Funny thing about that pool. When I got there for some reason I read the large blue Pool and Spa Rules signs posted nearby; the rules were the same for each. My attention is drawn to Rule # 8 and I wonder what happened, and when, to make that rule necessary. Swim call is over at 1700, we shower and head for dinner at Sharpies Pub, not more than 100 steps from the boat. The food is good, the beer is cold and there is live entertainment. The first set is pretty good but the singer has a female vocalist from N.Y.C. that joins him for the second set and she belts out jazz tunes in a really loud, high voice. Good thing a day at sea makes you very tired because she keeps singing long after we have turned in.
We are off early for Key West and enjoy 12 hours of a beam reach motor sail at 8-9 knots. Larry is back in the galley and serves a huge lunch. As we approach the marina we are directed to a slip on the western side of the pier where we are met by Diane, the dock mistress. As Archie backs into the slip Diane steps to the very end to receive my bow line and the board gives way beneath her. This is not going to work she shouts, and we are directed to dock alongside the easternmost pier, opposite a spectacular 87 foot custom build Jim Smith Sportfisher named PATSEA. More about that later.
Once secured, and after we spliced the mainbrace (I leave it to you to check the meaning of that salty phrase) we were off the The Schooner Bar. Too late for Michael McCloud but Greg Walther, a good cover artist was taking requests so of course I asked for some John Prine and he sang Paradise, and Angel from Montgomery – wow – two of my favorites. He also had a really funny original song about a weather channel reporter sent to Key West to cover Irene. There was no wind or storm when he got there so the crew rigged a huge fan on the beach to get the effect.
Back at our slip we met the crew of PATSEA and got some particulars about the boat, but not a tour since the owners were due to arrive shortly for a birthday party. Anyway, power is twin 2400 HP MTU diesels which give a top speed of 45 knots, while burning close to 125 gallons of fuel per hour!
After delicious breakfast waffles at Two Friends patio restaurant we head to the marine hardware store for replacement strainers and a repair parts kit for the broken safety line gate snap hook. (To get the part number, which was written upside down on the strainer I got so far into the compartment under the cabin floor that Larry had to pull me out by grabbing onto my shorts) Once the maintenance is completed it is back to the Schooner Bar for lunch, and a full afternoon of drinks and Michael McCloud music. He puts on a good show with some new patter between songs, and a new, at least to me song about his dog Cinderella. Lyrics something like
A woman sat down at a table in front of the stage and dropped some bread crumbs for the pigeons. McCloud stops in the middle of his song and explains how hard they work to keep the pigeons away because when one person feeds them they fly over someone else and shit on their head. “So what I am saying mam is don’t feed the fucking pigeons!”
About this time a crowd of people from a cruise ship pour into the bar and one of them is about fifty, overweight wearing cutoffs and a sleeveless t shirt, and adorned with unattractive tattoos over most of her body. Archie leans over and says, “She is someones Grandmother!” How does he come up with these great one liners?
Back at the dock we notice a manatee had come to drink water from the hose PATSEAS crew were using to wash down the boat after returning from brief fishing excursion. Man, they are really strange creatures -live in the ocean but need fresh water to drink.
The forecast is for high winds to the north so we decide to hold off for a day!
We get to enjoy another day in Key West and put it to good use. The bilge pump has been coming on but can not locate where the water is coming from, all the compartments except the one in the salon were dry, and we assumed that water was a result of opening the strainer the day before. However, after I bailed it out completely the cause is clear. I must have just cracked open the valve for the emergency bilge pump when trying to extricate myself the day before and water was trickling in.
Larry and I wash down BETTY ANN and decide to get a coat of wax on the port side. The captain of the impeccable, mirror finished PATSEA, who wipes off every drop of dew with a chamois cloth remarks on what a good job we are doing. I am sure he is thinking he would be fired on the spot if he ever did a job like it.
We head out for a great dinner at Pepe’s and turn in early – back to sea tomorrow at first light.
I would be delinquent in my reporting if I didn’t mention that, as usual, whenever we have been within cell phone coverage Larry has been involved in several business negotiations. One of the highlights this trip is that a proposal he submitted to the Town Of Charlestown had not been acted on within the required time so was approved by default. (On visits to Town hall he had seen the box sitting under a desk). So we expect to hear complaints about what I call “Larry’s Loophole” when we return.
0630 and we are underway for Brayeton, the end of the line. We enjoy Northeast wind of 12-15 knots on the beam all day with the same forecast for all night. Bets are made between Larry and Archie regarding arrival time – 0800 and 0900 respectively. I know the wager between a seasoned business man and country lawyer who have worked together for years will be debated and justified no mater when we arrive. Was it when we hit the waypoint off Tampa Bay or when we docked at the marina? etc. But BETTY ANN has her own ideas and we sail and motor sail (to charge the batteries) at 7-9 knots the entire way. At our rate of advance we arrive at our waypoint before sunrise and head into Tampa bay under power at 3 knots. We stop for fuel and arrive at twin Dolphins Marina at 0900.
With time on our hands Larry and I finish the wax job on the starboard side.
We go to the marina restaurant for dinner and the appetizers, cocktails and conversation are so good we forget to order our entrees. Oh well, a taxi is coming for us way before the sun comes up so time to hit the sack.
This sailing trip started a little different than some of the others, this would include no planes, and a scheduled layover in Baltimore for a day to visit with a new crew member’s family. The new member is my friend Kelly, and he arrived at my parent’s house in Rhode Island around 9:00 AM. The plan is to drive his car to Baltimore where his sister Kerry and her boyfriend James live. We’ll hang out that night and then get on the boat in Annapolis. Then Kerry will drive Kelly’s car back north to visit with their family.
The drive down is hot, and Baltimore is even hotter. We arrive at Kerry and James’ apartment complex to 100 degree temperatures and 99.999% humidity. Jokes are made about my upcoming move to Texas…”You’d better get used to it.”
After a quick settling in we’re off to Fells Point, MD for some drinks. Our first stop is Max’s where we have a round of Loose Cannon – Heavy Seas. This would be a very easy place to stay for a bunch more rounds, but we have limited time and want to make the most of this night out.
Our next stop is Woody’s Rum Bar for Painkillers (James has a rum punch and then switches to Painkillers when he sees our positive reaction to the mix). It’s hot out on the patio, but the view of the water and the iced beverages keep us cool. We seem to have developed a bit of a hunger so we make a diagonal path over to Shuckers for Flying Dog Pale Ale, oysters, and a “small” fry, which was “as advertised”. Seriously, it was a coffee cup dish of french fries. No bother, our real meal is slowly cooking back at the apartment.
We head back to James and Kerry’s for a rib fest which included the ribs (obviously), Bud Lights, Corn, Potato Salad, and coleslaw with vinegar. James knows how to send sailors off right!
We watch Idiocracy and then fall asleep eager for the next day and the beginning of a new sailing adventure.
We are inundated with bugs! I decide it would be great fun to keep track of how many bugs we have each killed and have it on a sort of leaderboard. I start keeping track but soon realize that this would be a full-time job with the pace that these guys are nailing bugs. Final tally at end (after a couple hours) stands at:
There were more hits, but I justs stopped writing them down because it was taking me away from other “pressing” matters every five minutes.
We make our way up towards the Chesapeake Delaware canal and finally make it into it. Our first scheduled stop will be at the familiar Summit North. We hail on the radio but receive no reply on channels 16 or 9, but cell phones work. So goes the modern in-shore boating experience.
The dockhand struggles with the two lines while getting us situated on the long finger pier, but soon he has us secure. This was a very different experience than we would have later on with the handlers at Liberty Landing New Jersey.
Our spot on dock is literally as far as possible from the store, showers and restaurant. We have to walk halfway around the rectangular marina to get anywhere. Whatever, the lure of fresh hot showers is very strong.
We turn AC on and crack open some Yuenglings (we need to start drinking beer that easier to spell). I attempt some pictures of an egret but am unable to get a good shot.
In the meantime, Archie returns from his walk all the way over to the marina office (no small feat in this heat and humidity). He comes with bad news: no restaurant or bar! They are closed for the holiday! What? That’s BS!
We have a shipboard meal and Kelly and Archie do dishes. After that it’s time for books and showers. Kelly opts for the marina showers, while I elect for the ship shower (after triple-checking for the valve in the forward compartment). Yeah, that’s a very important little valve. In a couple of the previous journeys, one of the crew who shall remain unnamed forgot to open this valve. This valve stands between the shower catch basin and the holding tank (or overboard drain depending on configuration). In any case, the important part is that if you do not open this valve then the contents of your shower and up all over the coats and other articles of clothing in the locker. Archie is not amused when this happens.
The shower and beautiful air conditioning work and sleep arrives fast, as it usually does on these journeys.
June 1, 2011 : 09:12 AM
We all slept in this morning since we had to wait for tides anyway. We take this opportunity to feed ourselves up and Archie cooks up a slamming breakfast of English Muffins, scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee. Pretty much the perfect breakfast anytime, but even better while sailing.
Kelly and I do dishes and then go topsides to fill ship’s water. The process goes fast because the hose has a lot of pressure (no joke). After completing this task we head off to the store to buy snacks and make use of the “facilities”.
While waiting for the bathroom to open up I see a cat sunning itself on the rail. I walk over to pet it and immediately wish that I had not. Maybe 15 years ago this was a nice fluffy cat…currently this feline is in a state of decay and the fur feels dirty, greasy and clumped under my hand. He looks at me with an expression that says “Yeah, I know…I’m gross.”
After taking care of business I head inside the store looking to score some munchies which are always seem to be in short supply on a sailing trip. This is the worst-stocked store I’ve ever seen. There are maybe two shelves of chips and stuff, except they’re all no-name chips and pretzels. There are also a couple flavors of pork cracklins, but not much else. I find something to buy and then head back outside.
On my way out there is a hot chick walking in. She must be on her way to open the restaurant or something I think, for sure she’s not going to be operating the pumpout boat.
Back on the boat we check the forecast which is for HOT, HOT, HOT! Oh, by the way….today’s going to be HOT! The radio actually says that elderly and animals should not be outside. Animals? Really?
Anyway, they didn’t say anything about sailors staying inside so we cast off, exit Summit, and turn left back onto the CND.
The Bruins play today! I have it on good authority that they’re going to go all the way this year. That’s why back in the middle of the season I put down $15,000 on the Bruins winning the cup at 5000 : 1 odds…so far so good, we’ll see! [Edit…wow, I really wish I had done that].
It’s already hot in the sun and it’s only 10:00. When there’s a breeze it becomes fairly comfortable, but without it one quickly becomes sticky-hot; the worst kind. We are all (I assume, I know I am) looking forward to the Atlantic portion of the sail, hoping that the forecasted winds and cool Atlantic water will chill us down.
The trip down Delaware River is uneventful, our plan worked and the tide changed about one-third of the way down and sucked us down the river. It’s always fun watching your GPS ground speed reach further and further ahead of your indicated through-the-water speed, that’s how you know the current is really moving you along in the direction you want.
I went down for a nap shortly after we entered the wide part of the Delaware. While I was sleeping the topside crew began navigating through the “short route” around Cape May.
When I arrive back on deck, the Betty Ann has been settled on her course up the New Jersey coast. That’s the best part about shipboard naps, it turns into time travel.
Dad makes burgers for dinner, which are awesome, but Archie is not too enthusiastic about the baked-on beef bits that are left on the griddle they were cooked on. He was down in the galley for quite a while with the sound of scrubbing coming up from below.
After dinner the sun is beginning to set and the weather radio is going on about the possibility of thunderstorms and tornados. We are very doubtful that we will see either because as far as we can tell there is nothing around us, and a quick check of the radar on my phone shows the closest activity is down in the DC area. In any case, we decide to err on the side of caution and bring the sails in. [Unbeknownst to us, up in Massachusetts a tornado had already touched down at around 4:30PM killing four people.]
And then this…
When accidents happen on a boat, they usually happen quickly, and this was no exception. The Betty Ann has roller furling on both the main sail and jib. The way these work is that each sail has two lines, one to “pull the sail out” and one to “roll it back in”. The line to bring the sail in is called the reefing line, and it’s also what keeps the sail safely stowed away.
What happened to us next borders on the unthinkable. The reefing line for the main sail snapped and the main sail proceeded to come running back out to full set. This is not good.
We sit dumbfounded as to what exactly we should do now. The sun is going down, there is the possibility of thunderstorms and/or tornados. Flying full sail is NOT the recommended sail plan for those conditions.
We decide that we have two options:
Bring down the main sail, or
Attempt a re-threading of the reefing line up the ‘reefing screw’, the contraption that spins to pull in the sail.
Winds are now 20 knots, and this, along with the wave action, would have made bringing in a large sail very difficult and dangerous. Have you ever had an umbrella pulled out of your hands in a gust of wind? Imagine that you have an umbrella the size of an a-frame on a house and think about trying to wrangle that to the deck of a rolling and pitching boat.
One concern with option number two is that the reefing line will be very hard to thread because it fits very snugly into the threads of the ‘reefing screw’. This is where Kelly comes up with a fantastic idea to use a smaller diameter line. It sounds obvious now as I write it (and maybe to you as you as you read this), but I can assure you that if he had not had that thought the rest of this story may have had a very different ending. The crew decides that a re-threading attempt is in order.
Dad and Kelly don life jackets and harnesses, and after clipping into the jack lines (safety lines that run the length of the boat), go out on deck and up to the mast to attempt a re-threading.
After a few minutes inspection of the reefing corkscrew Kelly comes back to the cabin isinglass and shouts through for pliers and a screwdriver. Pliers to pull the line, a screwdriver to push it.
Back in the cockpit Archie and I watch as they fiddle with the line and the furling corkscrew.
Another call comes back for allen wrenches. Archie bounds down the companionway ladder and returns moments later with the requested item.
They start working the new, smaller-diameter reefing line into the corkscrew from the bottom up.
I yell out, “Hey Dad! Isn’t the end of the line in your left hand coming back to the cockpit?”
He nods, “Yeah?”
Time passes and they make a couple more wraps of line around the ‘corkscrew’.
I call out again, “Hey!”
“Yeah?” comes the reply through the wind outside.
“I think it might be easier to start at the top and work your way down?” He looks back to the corkscrew and agrees. Teamwork! Had he continued it would have required passing the entire line through the corkscrew instead of threading it down to the bottom and leaving the rest on deck.
They get it wound up, set the locking bolt onto it with the allen wrench, and then send the remaining slack (from the top of the corkscrew) back to Archie and I in the cockpit.
We bring Betty Ann back into the wind (completely this time), and begin reefing again…
It works! HUZZAH! An extra round of grog for these men when we get to port!
With the sail in we can now turn back onto our intended course (we had been sailing forty-five degrees to the wind which in this case was sending us straight out to sea). I put the boat in gear and begin out turn. She seems very sluggish. Oh well, we’re only going a couple knots and the rudder is hard over, maybe she’s just taking her time. I add a little more throttle.
“Are you in gear?” Dad asks?
“Yeah, why?” I reply.
“It doesn’t seem like we’re moving.”
“Hmmmm, I think you might be right.”
The crew is stunned. We just fixed a major problem with our main sail and now we have another with our drivetrain? This is impossible! No really, the odds must be infinitesimally small and hugely improbable (kind of like my bet with the Bruins).
The crew begins troubleshooting in the cabin again. We loft various ideas of what the trouble might be. Did we lose the prop? Is the shift linkage messed up? Did something break in the transmission? We shift back and forth between forward and reverse, and throttle up and down…nothing happens except for the engine revving up and down.
Dad and Archie go below to have a look. Kelly and I stay topside and probably are both thinking the same thing; this is not good. We have no sail out, and we have no propulsion. This means we cannot steer and are currently just drifting with the wind (which is still blowing a steady 20 knots), and bouncing and rolling with the waves.
I think sailors, like athletes , are inherently superstitious. Having two major problems in a row like this cannot bode well for our ship’s karma. What did we do to make you angry Neptune? Kelly and I sit in the cockpit waiting for word.
Kelly relays a command back to me from down below, “Shift into forward.”
A few moments pass.
“Back to neutral.”
A few moments pass.
“Shit into forward again.” I am beginning to wonder what they’re looking at. I have no other information except for what the state of the transmission should be in. Thankfully Kelly relays another message back to me, this one a short description of the problem. Kelly says, “They say they can see the shaft moving when you look in one door, but not when you look in another.”
Ok, apparently we have a magic shaft that only rotates when observed from certain locations, maybe it’s a quantum propeller shaft or something. Whatever, I await further instruction.
Kelly relays another command, “DO NOT shift into gear!”
I wait another couple long minutes until a new command arrives, “Try it now.”
I shift into forward gear and turn to look behind me. We have prop-wash! Fuckin’ A! Our crew has fixed and conquered another problem that would very likely have daunted a lesser crew.
I add more power and turn back to the north. I wait until Archie is done with the dishes (he’s still grumbling about the messy griddle) to add full power and come completely back on course. It felt good to be moving again and if I could do anything to ease Archie’s dish duty (especially after having been upside down fixing the propeller shaft), I was going to make that happen.
Tonight would be an overnight sail to New York City. Our plan is to arrive in the early morning. Dad draws up the watch schedule for the night. It’s a pretty standard schedule. I was at the wheel when the schedule was made, so it started off with me at the wheel from 8:00PM to 10:00PM, and then on standby from 10:00PM to 12:00AM when dad would be at the wheel. Archie would relieve my dad at midnight and I would go to bed. Kelly would be on helm 02:00AM to 04:00AM when I would arrive to relieve him, and he would go on standby until 06:00AM. Explaining these watch schedules always sounds complicated, but in reality you only need to know one thing when you’re a crew member…who do I wake up.
During my time on deck there was a series of radio calls from United States Navy Warships informing us that they would be doing live fire and rudder tests. Their position was well east of us, but after a couple rounds of these warnings a new voice came on the radio, this one in a very thick middle-eastern accent, “Please to be telling again what are the coordinates of the live fire?”
My dad and I had a good laugh at this and entertained ourselves by repeating this radio call between ourselves for the next hour or so. You find any way you can to keep yourself alert during night watches.
Soon we noticed bright flashes off our starboard (right) side – the same general direction of the Navy ships’ reported positions. We listen for a boom but hear none. Soon there are flashes every few seconds. We are hoping that these are the result of the live fire exercises, but were pretty sure that it was only heat lighting. The storm continued through the rest of my watch, and I would find out later, the rest of the night.
As scheduled, at midnight I go below and leave Betty Ann in the capable hands of Archie and dad. Minutes after going to sleep however a loud alarm pierces through the darkness of the saloon (the area of our boat that would normally be considered the “living room” or “dining room”, it serves both functions, currently it is also acting as “bedroom” to two sleepy sailors, Kelly and myself).
Kelly and I pop up out of our bunks, and look out into the blackness of the cabin. I had never heard this alarm before, and certainly Kelly on his first cruise with the Betty ann never had either. I had no idea what it was, but alarms are never good. After the events of the evening I think we were both prepared for anything. What now? Bilge alarm? Engine oil alarm?
The engine slows down and Kelly and I look at each other. We looked like two meerkats on alert with our heads rotating around. However, the alarm stops and we soon hear the engine RPMs increase back to normal cruising power. Satisfied that there is no emergency Kelly and I both crawl back into our bunks and drift back to sleep.
What seemed like a short thirty minutes later we are again awoken by the same alarm; I hope this isn’t going to be a recurring problem. Actually, I always find that on overnight watches it seems to be when I’m off duty that stuff like this happens. It’s either some loud noise, or the sails need to be changed, or the jib sheets decide to come free. I suppose it’s just that human nature thing of “why do the bad things always seem to happen to me?” when in reality it just feels that way.
In any case, Kelly and I are already accustomed to this drill. Instead of popping into meerkat pose we both just roll our heads and look up at the companionway. This alarm ends like the first did and nothing happens. We both return to sleep.
The two alarms are indicated on my watch schedule picture by two squiggly lines in the “12” box.
June 2, 2011 : 04:00 AM
I am back up on deck at 4AM to relieve Kelly at the wheel. To my surprise the sky is already beginning to lighten. I realize that this is because other cruises I have been on were always earlier in the year when sunrise comes later. It is June instead of the May that this leg usually occurs on.
Kelly and I discuss the alarms from last night, but apart from that not much happened in these early morning hours. A welcome respite from the drama of the last 12 hours.
Kelly snoozes like a complacent cat in the blue comfy chair while the sun rises. When Kelly goes below and my dad comes on deck I decide that a snooze in the blue comfy chair is just what the doctor ordered. The rising sun feels great on my chilled body and I soak up every last drop. I continually re-position myself for maximum sun exposure as the sun rises and the boat makes minor course corrections. After my “on standby” watch ends at 08:00AM I decide that I will continue my sleep down in the saloon.
June 2, 2011 : 09:00 AM
Awake at 09:00AM and come on deck to see the Verrazano bridge in the distance. We are navigating through the entrance to New York harbor and Sandy Hook. It is a veritable cornucopia or red and green buoys, as well as permanent lights that mark the multiple channels to these two locations. Kelly arrives on deck soon after I am up so I didn’t need to go wake him up after all.
Archie makes pancakes which are good and much-appreciated. As we eat we watch some tugboats getting floated onto a giant floating drydock. The winds are high which must be making their job all that much more difficult.
Soon after we see the Trump helicopter fly overhead and then up ahead something even more amazing. There appears to be a tallship coming down the river towards us. A little closer and we see her unfurl even more sails and soon she us cruising by on our starboard side. A little research later on would reveal that this is the Maltese Falcon, a 289 foot privately-owned yacht. Not really a tallship, but a modern sailing yacht equipped with an equally modern “tallship rig”. Quite a sight to behold.
Soon afterwards we make our standard left-hand turn into Liberty Landing marina. Remember those winds I mentioned? We were a bit concerned about our upcoming arrival. After some back-and-forth with the marina on the radio we discovered that were were assigned a spot that was going to be difficult to get into, with not much room for error. We raced to complete the required lines for a “port side to tie up”. It always seems that there is just enough time to get all the lines and fenders ready. Maybe it’s some sort of conspiracy between boat capitans and marina crew, let’s see how fast these guys an do this. In any case, it was lucky for us the dock crew was superb and despite the wind attempting to rip us away from the pier, their “capitan” shouted orders around and they quickly had us tied up and safe.
As usual, the boat crew is more than ready for a spot of shore leave. First we need to tidy up though. So we wash the boat, wash the people, and then get on a water taxi headed for Battery Park NYC!
Our first stop was PJ Chapman’s (I think that’s what it’s called) for beers where I started with a Sam Summer. We soon realized that the showers we took back at the marina were unnecessary. The wind from earlier in the day returned to haunt us as it picked up the water from the nearby waterfall and sprayed everyone nearby.
We paid our tab and took the short walk over to the Tower viewing site. We also took this occasion to re-fill our wallets with cash at a nearby ATM.
Begin “March to Stone Street” for dinner…
After some aid by our smartphone GPSs and a helpful New York native we found Stone Street, or at least what we thought was our destination. It didn’t look quite as it was described to us, a cobblestone street with outdoor seating from five or six restaurants. We’re sailors though, and we saw a bar called Murphy’s and went in. While inside we learned that we were on the “wrong side” of Stone Street, ahhh, that explains it. Since we were in Murphy’s we decided to have a few beers including a Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat (didn’t get high marks). Do not recall what the other few beers were, but Kelly and I sampled a few from the bar’s menu.
The bartender was sympathetic to our cause of needing to get to the “restaurant side” of Stone Street and gave us directions. “You need to walk around the Goldman Sachs building. The rest of Stone Street is on the other side.” he said.
“Well,” I asked, “Can we just go through the building?”
“What?” he guffawed, “You can’t walk through buildings!”
Now confident of our final destination and well-lubricated with libations, we resume our march to other side of stone street. It turns out that we could have done exactly as I was thinking, we could have gone through the “lobby level” and ended up where we needed to be, whatever, no bother.
After a walk up and down the “real” Stone Street checking out the different outdoor seating availabilities, we decide on the Dubliner…might as well stay with the Irish theme. We have more beer, and I had some pork short ribs which were awesome.
Soon afterwards my cousin Chris showed up and joined us for a few more rounds. Seated behind us were some Wall Street types who were busy pounding their chests about whatever trades it was they had made that day. They were loud but harmless enough, and part of the “New York Experience” I guess. As happens when the beers are flowing the time and conversation slipped by and suddenly it was time to go. Chris led us back to a bridge that would get us back to Battery Park and our water taxis.
We stay inside the taxi where it is warm and soon we are delivered back to Liberty Landing. We ramble back to the Betty ann where we all have good laughs over the “matchstick boat” story conclusion. While burying ourselves into our blankets, dad and I come up with a grand bar scheme (a scheme that can only be conjured in the presence of alcohol and has little chance of ever being put into practice, especially after sobering). Our scheme concerned a wedding party that we had observed earlier:
The Grand Bar Scheme
Find a wedding at a marina.
Show up dressed as a pirate.
Announce: “I be hired to tell ye of the ways of marriage!”
“But first I be needing a glass with ice, for every marriage starts with a strong foundation, like a bed of rock.”
[someone gets you a glass with ice] “Ahhh….thank you”
“SECOND! I be needing some RUM! For every marriage needs some fire! And you know what, throw some lime in there as well, that can represent the sour spots that will be overcome.”
“Now boys, I’m sorry to tell ya, but the ladies be needin’ some flowery shite in there too, so throw in some pineapple juice and call it a day!”
Repeat until you are found out.
June 3rd, 2011
We depart Liberty Landing and head up the East River. I’ve been through this piece of water a few times now and I’m actually getting fairly familiar with it. My first time through I was a little nervous, you hear all these stories about Hell’s Gate and tug boats and the like bearing down on you. It turns out, like a lot of things in life, actually “doing the thing” is not nearly as bad as “thinking about doing the thing”. The waters are actually pretty deep and the channels wider than they look on a chart. There are a few points where you need to pay a little extra attention, but over all it’s not that bad.
The previous night Chris had mentioned that he would be able to see us from his apartment. We call Chris to see if he can see us, but we are already past his location. Apparently that was a grand bar scheme too.
We pass through Hell’s Gate, past Riker’s Island and past Execution rock into the Long Island Sound and suddenly is starts to feel like home, well, home waters anyway.
We discuss our options for the day; it’s early and we’re making good speed. If we want to hit up Block Island it’d be nice to have as much time as possible to get there, so we decide to make for Clinton or Westbrook instead of the standard Port Jefferson. This will make for a much shorter trip to the BI.
It’s now sometime after noon and I decide to go below and end up taking a long nap. When I awake I head topside to see what progress we’ve made.
“We let you sleep, so we didn’t change sails.” says Archie. We are just off Clinton! Sweet!
The Clinton marina is actually three of four marines all operating out of one giant maze of docks and slips. We make our way through this labyrinth and end up coming to a dead end near a bridge that we cannot pass (it’s only 5 feet off the water). We hear a shout and see a dockhand motioning for us to tie up near him. We finish making the boat secure, the deckhand seems to like us and says he told the office that we’re a 42′ boat (shorter equals less expensive as they charge by the foot). Thanks!
Begin program: Showers then off to find food and beer.
We hear that this place Bills has pretty good food and will be having a live band later on. Sounds good to us! We initially are seated outside on the deck and it is 100% gnats…nope, no thanks. We walk back inside and four seats magically open up for us at the bar. The stars have aligned for us!
We all order some drinks (I think Kelly and I started with beers and Jack and Cokes). The band starts, they’re ragtime and really good. Archie loves it and keeps calling friends to have a listen over the phone, holding his phone out to the band like a 13 year old girl at a Hanna Montana concert. Can’t blame him though, we were all having a great time.
Kelly and I make friends with the ornery bartender Mike. And guided by the music at our backs, we slip into an easy tempo of Jack and Cokes, Gin and Tonics, beer, Captain and Cokes, and Jack and Gingers…I think we covered all the bases there.
The night began to gain momentum and for a short bit the band was replaced by a high school band. We didn’t think they would all fit in the fairly small playing area. There was a tuba, a sousaphone, trombone, trumpet, keys and a drummer. The trombone player and the drummer were twin sisters which was pretty cool. The drummer looked very bored at times, maybe her other band is a metal band and she’s used to playing stuff much faster and louder. We all enjoyed it though as they were also very good.
Scott Woodford appears for the last hour or so. After the band stops and the bar is closing (something early like 11PM), we make plans to go out to breakfast with Scott. He says he’ll pick us up the next morning. Sounds like a plan.
We bounce our way back to the boat and I crash into my bunk with a water nearby, always a necessity to re-hydrate.
June 4, 2011 : 08:30AM
We may have had a large assortment of beverages last night, but we’re up on schedule and ready for breakfast. We make the call to Scott and he tells us he’s on his way. He appears in a big Black Cadillac and we depart for the Turtle Cafe.
The Turtle is a cool little joint with a good menu, more than the standard “bacon and eggs” (although you can get that too if you want. I have an italian wrap, but the frittata is popular and pulls in both Kelly and Dad. Laura offers to make a store run and all we can think of that we need is mayo and cheese. She doesn’t believe us at first, there must be something else you need she asks. Nope, I think that’s it. She is impressed at our apparent magic skill in managing our ship’s stores, but we seriously cannot think of anything else we need.
After breakfast we head back out to the Caddy to find its battery dead. This is apparently a “known issue” with this particular vehicle so Scott makes a call and soon his son arrives in a truck with jumpers. We have a leisurely ride back in the caddy, as we drive down the beach Scott gives us the details on how to get out of the harbor using the shorter “east passage”. He also mentions how boats have run aground taking that route too. It’s a slightly disconcerting combination of information.
After arriving back at the Betty Ann we all have our pictures taken in the caddy by Laura. We also give a quick boat tour to Scott and Laura. They are effusive in their praise of our water-based home, as everyone usually is when they see this beautiful boat. We drop our lines and go, but not before I see Scott on the other side heading out on another sailboat to go out racing. His boat would go on to win their race.
After we make it out the passage we turn left towards our next destination and find the wind nearly dead astern. We set the sails “wing on wing” and also rig up the gybe preventer (a set of lines that prevents the boom from accidentally catching the wind on the wrong side and being blown across to the other side of the boat, a very dangerous occurrence both for the boat and the crew). However we soon give up as the wind has slowed anyway. We bring in the sails (we’re getting good at it anyway) and turn back to one-zero-eight degrees magnetic.
Some apples arrive topsides for a snack and we continue our march to Block Island.
June 4, 2011 : 04:00PM – Block Island!
Inside of New Harbor, Block Island we search for our mooring. Archie has made preparations in advance with a friend to borrow a mooring. We are told to search for a ball with GEIB printed on it. All hands are on deck inspecting the mooring balls as they pass by…nothing…we can’t find it. Finally Archie ends up spotting it from his position back at the helm, and before the three “young’ens” up on deck.
After making fast we use the air horn to hail the launch because the radio is unresponsive. Our first stop is the Oar for 16oz Rum Punches, hummus + rare Tuna. It turns out that our waitress is a wife of a family friend of Archie’s, so they talk for a bit before we decide to head out and explore this island a little more. The rum punches were good, but not $8 good.
We grab a taxi over to Old Harbor and end up watching the Bruins period 1 at The National and enjoy more beverages (Captain & Coke, Gin Martinis, shot of Jameson, Captain & Ginger). Archie returns from meeting with friends and we head back over to the Oar to watch more Bruins.
Our new waitress is a little rough around the edges in the social skills area, and Archie recommends to our crew at the table that maybe we can pay the waitress to go home.
Shortly before 11:30 we leave the Oar for the last launch. We arrive to a dark empty dock. Ehhh….what’s going on here…where’s the launch? Kelly heads back into the Oar and explains our predicament. Apparently the bartender called somebody named “Doyle” and then somebody called the harbormaster. While we wait we all head back into the bar to help them clean up by putting chairs on tables and the like.
Finally the launch driver [Buddy?] shows up and promptly exclaims “So let me get this straight. You thought the last launch was at 11:30. It’s now quarter past eleven, and you guys already called the cops on me?”
In any case we get our ride back to boat and all crash into our bunks.
June 5th, 2011
I awake to water bottles quenching my thirst and a blanket, very cozy. Egg sandwiches are made and consumed before the mind has a chance to object. Then we see the harbormaster coming over to us. Uh oh, we all think…clearly he’s here to discuss the events from last night. As it turns out it wasn’t that at all. He just wanted to make sure that we had permission to use the mooring and that he was “pretty sure you guys were legit because you didn’t run and hide when you saw me coming.”
As is usually the case, I don’t have any journal entries for the last piece of the trip, in this case Block Island to point Judith. There’s not much to it anyway, it’s only a 12 mile trip. In any case, we made back without event and delivered the Betty Ann once more to her summer home in Point Judith.
Wow, I forgot how much I hate writing by hand. It took me three false starts just to get going. I tried the left-hand pages, I tried starting at the back of the book, nothing was comfortable.
You see, being left-handed, the whole ‘writing by hand’ thing was always a bit of a chore. Quite honestly, my handwriting looks like a friggin’ Kindergartner wrote it. This was actually one of the first things I noticed when going from hand-written to typed papers in school, my grades immediately went up. It turns out I was a better writer than I realized, it was just that nobody could read it before.
I was in Palmetto, just south of Tampa Bay on Wednesday night (April 14th) and Thursday morning. Then the next morning the boat left for Key West with myself, Archie (captain), father (first officer), and Larry (Cook). We sailed through the night, and unfortunately my dad took a spill in the morning carrying dishes down to the galley. The boat hit a large wave and he went flying. We packed his foot with frozen peas, beans and carrots, and then I wrapped it in an elastic bandage. We arrived in Key west at night, spent the night on anchor, and then pulled into a dockside berth in the morning. We stayed there for one night and I made full use of it. I got to see Michael McCloud play at Schooner Wharf Bar and another guy play at some other hotel bar (it was later on in the night). My dad went to the ER and found out that he had a double fracture in his ankle that would require surgery. However, he elected to stay on the boat until we got to Ft. Lauderdale and fly out from there.
We left Key West at daybreak on the 18th (I think). We had some nasty rollers off our bow that was causing the boat to roll upwards of 50 degrees. That’s an estimate, but when the sailboat’s prop is coming out of the water because of a roll, you know it’s pretty dramatic. We slowed down a few knots and this helped to alleviate some of the rolling. It was still an uncomfortable night trying to sleep though. We pulled into Ft. Lauderdale Tuesday morning, April 20th. My dad took a taxi to his flight back home (the surgeon would be the same one who did his hip) and the remaining crew (Archie, Larry and myself) took showers and relaxed dockside. We had dinner at a nice restaurant on the water, then the next morning we set sail again for Charleston, South Carolina, which would be my final leg of sailing (the boat is continuing to Point Judith). The sail would take about 3 days of offshore sailing ( 2 nights), and with only three people on the boat the overnight watches were a little long. I was on deck (alone for the most part) from 6 – 9:30 PM and then back up on deck from 2 to 6 AM.
However, just because the sailing was over didn’t mean that my adventure was over. My cousin who was deployed in Iraq was going to be home for the week, and there was a party for him on the coming Saturday. So I canceled my flight and instead rented a car. But not just any car, a Cadillac SRX. It was only $140 for 24 hours, not bad really. It was a really nice ride, and the 70 MPH speed limits in SC, and NC make the miles go by fast. It had a Bluetooth-enabled radio that allowed me to hook up my phone’s MP3 player, so I was all set. Windows down, tunes cranked and singing along, and loving going 80MPH (sometimes 90) instead of the boat’s 8! I made a stop at South of the Border for some “gifts” for my cousin and continued on to Maryland where they live.
Party on Saturday, where I finally got to try a Texas “Shiner Bock” beer that I’ve heard so much about. Then do the DC tour thing on Sunday with my brother, his wife and kids. I bummed a ride with him on Monday back up north, and he dropped me off at the Old Saybrook train station. I bought a ticket from there to Westerly (only $13) where my mom picked me up and drove me back to their house. I was full from road food, but she was making my dad’s birthday dinner of Lamb chops, and they smelled so good I couldn’t resist. Three lamb chops, a baked potato and two glasses of wine later I was an extremely satisfied man.
This morning she drive me back to Johnston (where I live now), I picked up my truck and drove to work….The end.
Whew, that’s the “condensed version” believe it or not.
This is the journal from my experience on the Betty Ann sailboat during a delivery from Annapolis, Maryland to Point Judith, Rhode Island. This would be my first of many trips aboard this fine vessel. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did living (and writing) it!
Eventually, I’ll get my pictures of yet another northbound delivery, this one from Tampa, Florida to Charlestown, South Carolina. We had a stopover in Key West, which was, obviously, one of the highlights of the trip.
So grab a glass of your favorite beverage, light a fire if it’s cold out, and prepare to go on an adventure with me and the crew of the Betty Ann…
Sunday, May 20th : 8:38 PM
Whew man, long day. Today started at 5:30am in Quonny, RI. I cautiously opened my eyes to reveal a day starting much darker than I’m used to. “What is this daylight savings?”, no, just dawn AM, or the butt crack of morning, whatever you want to call it. No one cares about this part of the trip so I’ll just get right to the point so we can get to the good stuff:
Drive to George’s house
Park dad’s truck and Gerry’s car at some logger’s log storage area (what else would be in a logger’s storage area?)
All pile into George’s car with his wife Maime.
Get to KPVD, and unload the bags. The frozen Italian Country Chicken dinner made it through the x-ray scanner ok. This was slightly surprising, we expected to be asked at least a couple questions about it.
Dad got the full security scan because of his steel hip parts. “I’m sorry sir, but you’re going to have to leave your hip here, I can’t let it on the plane.”
Land at BWI, and all pile in Eric’s explorer and head for the marina where the Betty Ann is waiting for us.
We sat down for some breakfast and Archie joined us. His breakfast turned out to be the best, the Crème Brulee comes highly recommended.
Say goodbye to Eric who looked like he really wanted to come with us.
Shove off into the Chesapeake.
Ok, now we’re getting to some boat talk, after all that’s why you’re reading this right? Let’s back up a little bit to breakfast. We all watched in detached pleasure (pleasure because it wasn’t us) as a sailboat attempted to depart its slip only to realize that the turn was too tight, and they weren’t ready for the wind that was going to blow them down towards the pier wall. I bet the wish they had a bow thruster (we do, ha ha ha). After watching the mini-drama unfold we took our first crew-vote on what to do today. There were two options:
Leave tomorrow morning, and go visit the surrounding area.