Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Old Point Comfort

Today was a day of contrasts. We waited almost an hour for the Gilmerton Highway Bridge, it could not be helped. The bridge now has time restrictions due to construction and the Deep Creek Lock times south of the bridge do not coordinate well for a boat of our speed, or at the speed we are willing to drive her as we 'boat by brail.' Gilmerton Bridge was our transition point from the sticky and buggy solitude of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal into the busy and bustling commercial and military shipping lanes of Norfolk. We pushed through Norfolk on the Elizabeth River, skipped Hampton and shot the narrow entrance for an anchorage at Old Point Comfort.

The winds are very light and out of the Northeast, we are well protected here for those winds. We are looking for East, West or South winds for our next leg. This anchorage is more exposed to South and West winds, and I figure when we need winds from a certain direction, just go anchor somewhere that is not protected from that direction and the winds will come!

At Elizabeth City, I bought one of those fly catching sticks and at first I chased the flies around swinging the stick to get the flies stuck in the glue. Myron was sure that was not the proper use of the thing, especially after I got glue on the GPS. He took it away from me and hung it up near the galley. The swallows are in a league of their own, so the new scoreboard shows: Fly Stick - 2; Myron - 8+; Dena = quit counting at 10 (we also bought a fly-swatter). Tonight's anchorage seems good, if nothing else, because we do not have biting flies. It is also cooler out here in the open.

Love to all,
{GMST}37|00.589|N|076|19.110|W|great sunset|Old Point Comfort{GEND}

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Deep Creek Lock

We made it a short day to re-position for our exiting of the canal system and the ICW. We are currently tied to a free-dock just south of the Deep Creek Lock Bridge, conveniently located 75 feet from a mexican food restaurant. We have already consumed a properly made chili relleno and beef taco. Tasted like nap. No nap to be had in this heat though, weather station says heat index is 106 degrees. This is when we look forward to afternoon/evening thunderstorms, somewhat.

The Great Dismal Swamp Canal was gorgeous again today, with a little more biting flies than before. We also had our first hard bump. Yesterday was a soft bump, but today seriously got our attention. No water was coming in and steerage and propulsion remained consistent, so we consider ourselves just fine. It took an hour to calm down my adrenaline.

There is a nice breeze coming up the canal at our stern, for which we are thankful. We look forward to a good night's sleep, even though we are right next to a highway intersection. We have been well conditioned living next to the train tracks at OYCM!

Provisions are holding out well. It is hard to eat in this heat and scarce is the motivation to fire up the stove.

Love to all,
{GMST}36|44.437|N|076|20.694|W|locks|Deep Creek{GEND}

Monday, June 27, 2011

Great Dismal Swamp Canal

The water skiers cleared out of Goat Island yesterday evening and it was a wonderful night at anchor.

Today we embarked upon something new: our first lock. We encountered the Southern Mills lock about 3/4 of the way through today's journey. We were the only boat and the lift was eight feet according to the operator. We both 'manned' our lines at bow and stern as the water changed level. I realize now we do not want to be in the front of the lock while it is filling up as that is a lot of turbulence. The lock tender is also the tender for the draw bridge north of the lock, so we took our time exiting the lock and heading to the bridge.

We only bumped bottom once, just north of Mile Marker 30, we think we rolled a log on the bottom. Myron said we should expect it, and other boaters hit more times than that - if there is comfort in that sort of fact. Regardless, the solitude of the canal allowed us to drink in the beauty. The water was covered with a green velvet, not sure whether those were small green leaves or some kind of floating vegetation. Photogenic, but probably not good for raw water intake. We will post pictures when we are able to get internet.

There was only one other boat when we arrived at the visitor's center this afternoon, tonight there are five boats here. One of the late arriving sailboats is rafted to the sailboat in front of us and the only power boat, 45 feet, is rafted to us. As they cruised up to the visitor center dock, Myron asked if they wanted to raft, then I saw the boat name: Siroco. I realized immediately this was the vessel in trouble last night. Clearly they faired better than the US Coast Guard as they were still mobile. Last night TowBoat US successfully pulled Siroco off the bones, which we are now told are sunken vessels, and they arrived here at the visitor dock with a vibration. They leave early tomorrow for a haul out in Virginia. The US Coast Guard that came to check on them last night, grounded themselves on the same snag. They pulled up one outboard engine and the prop was completely gone, when they freed the other engine, the prop was severely mangled. It appears the USCG will be marking that spot as a danger area.

It was over 100 degrees today on the canal and at the docks, according to the visitor center personnel. We were under severe thunderstorm watch and I could not be more thankful. When the storms did hit, we unplugged gear as usual and waited it out. It must have dropped the temperature over 10 degrees. Should be a good sleep tonight.

Love to all,
{GMST}36|30.402|N|076|21.351|W|visitor center|Swamp Canal{GEND}

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Anchored by Goat Island

Elizabeth City has stood up to its name as the Harbor of Hospitality. We were allowed to stay beyond the 48 hours by more than another 48 hours. We went to First Baptist Church downtown and they were so incredibly friendly, they even said we could stay longer. That church was established in 1786. It is a beautiful sanctuary with large wooden doors and dark timber ceilings. Mostly though, we were impressed with the hospitality. Today's Sunday School lesson was on Jeremiah 10 and coping with discouragement, God's perfect timing for me.

I am glad we did not anchor out at Elizabeth City. During the short time we have been safely anchored at Goat Island, we have been listening to the plight of a poor gentlemen in a powerboat who tried to anchor off the yacht club and got into a 'bone yard.' We now know that a bone yard is old pilings and docks cleverly submerged 3 to 4 feet. He has been patiently waiting for TowBoat US to get there from Coinjock and he has been attempting to get local knowledge to help in the dislodging when the tow boat arrives. When he requested local knowledge from the US Coast Guard, they asked coordinates and decided to give him a visit. Apparently they have no local knowledge because they disabled one prop and damaged another, limping away leaving the power boat still hung up. It sounds as if the tow boat has arrived and I am sure they are speaking in person, since the radio has gone silent. Hoping all is well since darkness is falling.

Tomorrow we head for the southern lock on the Dismal Canal and hope to stay overnight at the Dismal Swamp Information Center. They have a 150 dock for such purposes, with restroom and fresh water.

It is cooler here than in Elizabeth City and we are hoping for a peaceful night's sleep.

I miss Shari, it was wonderful to have so many days with her, and with Paul. We could eat for two days on Shari's leftovers!

Love to all,

{GMST}36|20.703|N|076|13.496|W|very nice|Goat Island{GEND}

Friday, June 24, 2011


Mission: Success!
We had just zipped up the cockpit on Hold Fast to ward off a down pour and were re-arranging wet cushions when I heard a man yell ‘Dena.’ I was surprised that some cruiser might address me rather than Myron, since he is much more memorable than I. Then I saw Paul and recognized Shari. I think we were in shock. Crazy people! First they catch us on ‘Gretel’ after we leave the dock at Ortega Yacht Club & Marina and they jump aboard to ride with us out to the Mayport entrance. Then they take ‘Short Trip’, their inflatable dingy, out to us at Cumberland Island and spend the afternoon. Now they show up in Elizabeth City. What a riot! We truly were surprised, I mean, who would not be – that is about a 600 mile drive – one way.
They were not sure where we would be on Thursday since we had not updated our post, but Myron’s email to Barry gave them the location information they needed. They were quite surprised we are moving so quickly north. Just in case we moved again, they were loaded with Short Trip, a VHF radio, charts and plenty of fuel.
We enjoyed yesterday evening with them and most of today. This morning they toured around on Short Trip while we did laundry and projects. They graciously drove us around to look for some needed things. It was really helpful. They have enjoyed the great food here and were with us tonight to watch the movie on the grass in front of the docks. I think tomorrow Myron and Paul will go out on Short Trip and Shari has volunteered to help me with a bug screen project that did not get finished today. Hopefully we will sneak in some time at the farmer’s market. It has been a wonderful time together and we keep asking them where they will meet us next.
Now, if anyone else is thinking about meeting up with us, you might consider planning a meeting spot for a couple of reasons:
1. we are highly unpredictable;
2. you might not be willing to search for us on a dingy; and
3. there were a few things that might have had delivered that would have been helpful!
With that said, thank you everyone for keeping this a surprise – it was really great.
Love to all,

Little Alligator River to Elizabeth City

Little Alligator River would be a nice stay when winds are out of the west or SW. The cruising guide noted that anchoring there can be hazardous to your ground tackle due to the “snags.” That seems too polite a term for malevolent sunken trees and un-buoyed crab traps. We did find good holding ground, a true blessing once the winds freshened to 20+ knots out of the south. It was a rocking horse ride that one should be able to sleep through if one was not concerned about breaking ground tackle near a lee shore. The wind abated after 11 pm as forecast, and sleep could follow for me anyway, Myron was already asleep.
We left early in the morning to cross the infamously dreaded Albemarle Sound and encountered a light SW breeze, perfect conditions to bring out Big Betty (our white and red spinnaker) and ghost along at two to four knots. It did heat up at the entrance to the Pasquotank River, so Big Betty was retired for the day. Unfortunately, Big Betty took a dip in the Sound. This was pretty much thanks to Ziggy (Zig Zag, our auto-pilot) who chose to round up as we were both on the forward deck to bring down Big Betty. Simply a few moments of excitement after hours of relaxing sailing across a sound that has a rather bad reputation.
On the Pasquotank River we reached under jib and played a serious game of dodge crab pots. A few miles outside of Elizabeth City we were boarded by the Coast Guard. They made their request to board known but were sensitive enough to let us dodge more crab pots before boarding us underway. Officers Jans and Higgins both had about eight years in the USCG and looked like kids to us, but they were professional and courteous. After the inspection, inquiries and review of documentation, they printed out of passing inspection report but made no guarantees that we would not be boarded again. In all the inspection and inquiries, they never looked at or asked about flares. We found that to be an interesting gap in a safety check.
Elizabeth City has been fantastic. They have a free dock for visiting cruisers, limited to 48 hours except under certain circumstances, which we are apparently enjoying. The grocery store sends a shuttle to take us to/from their store. We can fill up our water tanks, the laundry is a little walk down the street and the people have been as friendly as can be. The food has been great and the museum is free. Tonight we watched an outdoor movie (‘Our Gang’) put on for the kids on the lawn in front of the docks. Tomorrow there is a farmer’s and craft market on the same lawn. I think we just fell in love with this town! We are going to ask permission to stay until Monday morning so we can go to church on Sunday.
Love to all,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Elizabeth City NC

We are in Elizabeth City at the free docks yeah!

{GMST}36|17.924|N|076|13.098|W|nice town|Elizabeth City{GEND}

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pungo/Alligator Canal

Today we left our secure anchorage and headed up the long Pungo River - Alligator River Canal. It was an eerie 21+ miles of narrow canal lined by menacing tree stumps and dotted with dangers afloat such as large logs and tree stumps. It did not seem natural to have a 42 foot sailboat so close to a river bank. I never saw an alligator but I did see turtles peek through the surface at us. We plugged along at 1200 RPM making just over five knots. There was little wind, if any, which added to the surreal ambiance. I wish I could share pictures, but it will have to wait until we get internet.

As we exited the canal into what seemed to be an open swamp, I looked back and wondered how the in the world we would ever find the entrance that was now swallowed up in the vegetation. I thank God for our chart plotters (yes, plural). Even out of the canal, the channel we could run was still very narrow for quite some time, with shoals on either side. The channel is lined with crab pots, a kind of double trouble if you do not stay between the lines. We call it "play the video game" in which you make sure the little boat on the chart plotter stays on the ICW magenta line. Today we were an hour on, an hour off.

I powered through my first draw bridge today, talked to the bridge tender and all. *SIGH* He called me 'mam.'

Myron talked over the radio to a man on 'Sail Off.' They are headed north of the Chesapeake, maybe even Maine. We may run into them again in Elizabeth City. We get as much ICW and anchorage information off passing boaters as they will give out.

Tonight we are at the open roadstead anchorage of Little Alligator River, just before the Albemarle Sound. As we pulled in to anchor, dodging crab pots, the swallows came out to Hold Fast. Not to greet us, but thankfully to dine on the mean biting flies that had stowed away during our journey through the canal and swamp. At this point I think the score is: Swallows: one dozen; Dena: one; Myron: one. I am glad we have some serious deet on board. It must wear off after some time because we still find ourselves slapping legs, feet, arms and even face. We only slap ourselves silly though, not each other.

Much love to all,

{GMST}35|56.167|N|076|00.540|W|easy day|Little Alligator River{GEND}

Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 19 (Father's Day)

We are now in a beautiful anchorage on Pungo Creek (just off the Pungo River) next to Bellhaven, NC. Today we repositioned to a new anchorage for a couple of reasons: safer anchorage for a forecasted storm; to get cell phone reception; and to get internet reception. Well, the storm went south of us and we did not succeed in getting either cell phone or internet coverage. No matter though, we ended up with a steady 30 knots in the anchorage and were quite secure. Things have settled down tonight and, in my opinion, it is the best anchorage yet. Another riveting sunset. We will see how the night holds up as we sometimes have had some crazy storms and winds come in during the night. Ah, as I am typing this, the winds are starting to gear up again out of a new direction. Oh well, it will keep us cool and keep the bugs off.
As to heading north, we are debating whether to take the Dismal Creek route or the Virginia Cut. We have a couple more legs of the ICW before we must make that decision. This journey has been interesting. We must do some motoring in the canals but we also have opportunity to do some sailing in the sounds and big rivers. The other day we ghosted along under the jib, probably only making 2 knots average. We were in no rush anyway.
Several days ago at Bonner Bay, we had a thunderstorm come right over the top of us. We were at anchor and there was not much we could do, other than unplugging our electronics. Several strikes hit the land around us and started fires. One strike hit the water right near us. We thought we lost both sounders, but they finally came back. The wind and rain were deafening and we lost visibility. We just assumed the anchor was holding.
Between the storms, the winds during the night at anchor, finding markers and avoiding the shoals, I must admit that my prayer life has really increased. I am getting down to the most basic needs for which I am most grateful.
Happy Father's Day to all dads! Sorry to our dads that we could not get cell phone coverage to call.
Love to all,

{GMST}35|30.752|N|076|38.672|W|great sunset|Pungo Creek{GEND}

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Slade Creek

Hey all, Hold Fast had a nice sail on the Pamlico river today and is anchored at the mouth of Slade Creek for the night. We are doing well and are making our way to the Chesapeake Bay for the summer. May take the day off tomorrow that's all for now.

{GMST}35|27.567|N|076|33.125|W|wandering|Slade Creek{GEND}

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bonner Bay

We had a good day of travel up the ICW, such a nice sail we went right past Oriental. Hold Fast is anchored in Bonner Bay riding out a blow. Still no definite plans just wandering, it is beautiful here. It is nice to have solitude.

{GMST}35|09.702|N|076|35.659|W|wandering|Bonner Bay{GEND}

Beaufort, NC

Dena and I have been recuperating since arriving in Beaufort. Sorry that we neglected writing as both of us were wiped out. Feeling much better we will moving up the ICW toward Oriental NC today.

{GMST}34|42.919|N|076|39.834|W|resting in Beaufort|{GEND}

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Slogging our way to Morehead City

All is ok on board Hold Fast.

{GMST}34|19.900|N|076|29.800|W|Heading to Morehead|need sleep{GEND}

Day Five

As many of you know, our original plans included doing a shakedown cruise of Hold Fast in the Bahamas. If all worked well, we would go northeast to Bermuda/Azores. If we encountered some concerns while in the Bahamas and south, we could come back to the states and address the concerns. We have been busting our tails to get Hold Fast going. Since the hurricane season was upon us and last week Jamaica had a low with a potential tropical cyclone, the door was shut to us for the Bahamas. We chose to visit Cumberland Island and consider our alternatives, one being to conduct the shakedown in route to Bermuda.
During the previous four days we have certainly conducted a shakedown sailing around the Atlantic. We identified some wonderful aspects of Hold Fast and the new features Myron has installed. We could not be more happy about things like our hard top, the solar 'farm,' the Ham radio communications, the multiple sail configurations and the way she handles under either auto pilot or wind vane. As previously noted, on Day Two we almost ended the shakedown and came back, then changed our minds and pressed on in light and often contrary air. Still, we both could not ignore the feeling that Hold Fast was not ready. On Day Four, we had equipment break, a few hours later we blew the tack out on ol' Grandad, and just before sunset we were overcome by a storm and, frankly, shocked to find that Hold Fast would not heave-to in 40+ knots of wind with eight foot breaking seas. Heaving-to is a critical defensive mechanism we employed with our previous boat to reduce damage, fatigue and potential for injury during impassable weather. We think the problem is solvable but it will take some time and testing. Therefore it is with heavy heart, but a clear mind that we tell you we are heading back to the coast. We expect to land in Moorehead sometime tomorrow. We plan to rest for several days.
We can still serve God while we prepare for the next fall season in the Bahamas. We are actually getting excited about serving God in a new area outside typical hurricane reach, such as Chesapeake or points north.
We have not given up, our service to Him will just be temporarily re-commissioned up the east coast.

{GMST}33|52.600|N|075|31.300|W|Heading to Morehead|Day five{GEND}

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Working our way to Bermuda

Not much new we are working toward Bermuda and all is well.

{GMST}33|07.750|N|074|01.780|W|all is well|Day Four{GEND}

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day Three

The water out here is a gorgeous blue. I could gaze at it admiringly for hours?oh wait, I am.
We have been northing because that is what we can do and that is where more favorable winds are predicted/forecasted/promised. We were also trying to avoid a low pressure area moving in from our south. Looks like it cannot be avoided and will probably overtake us in a couple of hours. Our latitude is slightly north of Bermuda, maybe we will get westerlies to ride back down. Such is the life on the wind.
We are starting to name things on Hold Fast. I have no idea what that might be indicative of, hopefully just good humor. In that vein, we had Big Betty out today. She is our red and white spinnaker. The winds were light so we used her like an over-sized Genoa. It was a very comfortable and made the most out of light winds. We just took her down after the winds freshened up. All sails up again, Genoa, Main and Old Granddad (mizzen).
Crossing the shipping lanes for Savannah, Brunswick and points north was a two person job the first night. I wanted to get a download of the screen showing all the potential collisions happening at once, and then another screen shot after "crises averted." We have not figured that out yet - I suspect that scenario will present itself once again. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) radio is a wonderful tool. We called one tug - AND HE RESPONDED - to avoid him and his "tows. " He asked for 2,000 feet; that is a lot of luggage.
We are adjusting to life underway. Our watch schedule is still flexible until we figure out the routine we like. Thank you again for all your prayers!
Please be aware that we may not be able to update the blog or our position every day. Yesterday we had trouble with propagation. Myron tried three times with no joy. It was not until evening that he finally had success. If we miss a day or so in updating our position, that is likely the culprit.

{GMST}33|13.500|N|075|48.260|W|Good to go|Day Three{GEND}

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day Two

We knew that we would spend most of Day One motor-sailing to find wind. We only logged about five hours sailing without the motor, and that did not start until 11 pm. After searching for air a good portion of today, we both felt despair and considered coming back. We cannot motor across the Atlantic, and we cannot sit out there waiting for a hurricane. All the forecasts still insisted we were having favorable winds at our location, but we could not even find a contrary wind. The wind was holding her breath on us in the middle of the Gulf Stream. It is a lumpy windless ride in the GS, but even worse in its eddies, something I referred to as a washing machine or cabbage patch. Myron made the best of it though and caught a fine specimen of Mahi Mahi, enough to fill about a grocery bag with fillets. Such a beautiful fish, tasty too!
We finally got our southerly winds, and thank you for your prayers. They are light, so we are making the best of it. Genoa rolled out, main up full and the mizzen up as well. With a little help from the GS, we are making eight knots, and not toward the U.S.!

{GMST}32|19.624|N|077|50.025|W|ALL is WELL|Sailing{GEND}

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Leaving Cumberland Island

The anchorage at Cumberland Island was truly a pleasure. It was flat and calm yet with a blessed breeze. It had to be at least ten degrees cooler than Jacksonville and there were no trains or constant boat wakes. There was great wildlife as well. We saw manatees, manta rays, turtles, jelly fish (turtle food), dolphins, and the island's infamous wild horses, including a mare with her appaloosa colt.
We got another visit from Paul and Shari who were kind enough to bring a few needed items from Tiffany's for Boaters (West Marine) as well as some luxury food items such as mushrooms, blueberries, limes and, yes, ICE! We hiked together on the island and visited for a few hours before yet another tough goodbye. Then it was back to work to prepare for departure.
Myron made a couple of modifications on the fresh water maker to take the stress out of operation and fresh flush shut down. On Monday, we did another test run with the waste water configured to flush down the galley sink. The 3/8" tube was lively enough under about 40 pounds of pressure, and got a bit scary when he brought it up to 750 PSI, like a Water Wiggle on steroids?someone could lose an eye. I managed to spray myself, my recently washed dishes and much of the galley before I got it under control. All solved now with the parts Paul brought and the waste water goes directly overboard. Myron is very careful to avoid potential mutinous scenarios.
We pulled up anchor at about 8:30 this morning and stowed the anchor at about 8:45. It was good holding ground, so good that it continued to hold to the anchor and we had to pry the mud/clay/shells off the anchor with a boat hook. We motorsailed out of channel right into light conditions. It will be difficult to make much easting today with winds this light and directly from where we want to go.
If you are so inclined, please pray for winds from the west, or we would be happy with winds from the south. The forecast calls for winds from the south tomorrow, but we trust prayer not forecasters!

{GMST}31|06.700|N|080|56.949|W|Out to sea|Motor-sailing{GEND}

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island at last! Praise the Lord, we could not have asked for a more pleasant trip.

Not only was it quite a difficult chore to empty storage, sell the car, empty the dock box and work on stowing all sorts of gizmos with purposes yet unknown to me, we found it very difficult to say goodbye to dear friends that have been helpful and encouraging in so many ways. Paulette sent us off with a prayer, asking for calm seas and winds. RJ pointed out that maybe we should have a sail boater send us off in prayer for us rather than a power boater, but we understand her heart.

We managed to leave without any stowaways (Lucky dog, Otis or Jimmy) and no boats tied to our stern, but we were pleasantly surprised to see Paul and Shari catch up to us in 'Gretel' at about Blount Island. We brought them aboard, tied Gretel to the stern and spent the next nine miles together before they left us at the Mayport jetty. It seems like it was over in a flash.

Outside of Mayport, we hoisted the main sail and unfurled the jib. With only 10 knots of wind we were only making four knots. Myron humored me and kept the iron sail going because I needed to get to an anchorage and get some rest. And here we are, ten hours later ready to clean up, make dinner and hit the bunk. Therefore this is a short post.

One more thing to our buddies at the dock: We made it WAY past the Main Street Bridge.

Love to all.

{GMST}30|45.647|N|081|28.419|W|We are off!|Cumberland Island{GEND}