1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: October 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Croquet Madness, Shrimp on the BBQ and More!

From Midway Marina, the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally's next stop was Elizabeth City. While this meant a bit of backtracking, since we hadn't run the Dismal Swamp - it was badly beat up during Hurricane Matthew - it was a trip well worth the detour in the group's opinion.
Elizabeth City, the Harbour of Hospitality, is known for its friendly locals, Rose Buddy receptions, and free dockage. Along with drinks and nibbles, each lady is given a rose, a tradition started back in 1983 and continued by the Chamber when the founders passed away. The Sail to the Sun fleet was this year's first Rose Buddy reception - and if they are unable to reopen the Dismal soon, it may be the last for this year as well, sorry to say.
With time to enjoy the city, the group spread out to explore the museum and other sites, while several of us headed for Byron's Hot Dogs. This small restaurant makes absolutely great 'dogs', and sells them for $1.25 - $2.50, depending on how you dress it. Best of all, the Coconut Pecan cake for dessert was amazing. This is one of those hole in the wall establishments that, should you be lucky enough to discover it, is the ones you always remember.
The next day in the early morning fog, the goal was to cross Albermarle Sound and get into a safe anchorage at Tuckahoe Point before the near gale force winds predicted late in the day struck.
Albermarle Sound was calm, flatter than I've ever seen it in 28 previous trips.
Last year coming north and fleeing Joaquin, gusty winds blew out my dodger and bimini while propelling me along at 7.2 knots...the Sound can be like that sometimes. You never know. Despite being a shallow body of water, or perhaps because of, it's one that bears caution while crossing if there's any serious weather about.
The S2TS fleet was soon across and tucked in safely for the night, watching the front come over the horizon. Reports from those who crossed the next day were that it was 'sporty' - so sporty in fact that the bridge was closed due to high winds. It was a good choice to leave when we did.
The winds were lighter than expected the next morning and of course, the Alligator Pungo canal offers good protection.
Everyone set off for Dowry Creek Marina, but that day wasn't without it's problems. One of our two smaller boats, a Cape Dory 28, managed to back down on the dinghy painter and, you guessed it, wrapped the prop.
Everyone got involved in the 'rescue', one of the group donned a mask and went in, but wasn't able to remove the line, so Steve, in his Seaward 26, our other small boat, towed it to a dock at the end of the canal where they were finally able to get the line off and Sweet Pea finished the trip under her own power.
Meanwhile, in the confusion, another of our boats managed to wrap a prop and required towing assistance to the marina. There, Frank from Let It Be donned his dive gear and quickly had the problem sorted out. It's a resourceful group we have here!
In any event, the multiple problems in the canal reminded me of last year's rally when we had a rash of stuffing box leaks, including mine, and which necessitated tows for two of us. Is this year's epidemic to be wrapped props? I sure hope not, and for the moment, everyone's boat is running well. Still, as we know, things happen on boats. It's all part of the adventure, as was everyone pitching in to solve the problems.
Nick and Mary at Dowry Creek hosted our group with a wine and cheese reception which was most welcome, and provided an opportunity for everyone to talk about the excitement of the day. The next day was given over to shopping in Belhaven, boat chores and laundry. Some things just don't change!
On the way to our next marina, River Dunes, I stopped at the seafood dock in Hobucken and picked up 31 pounds of fresh caught shrimp. The plan was to have a shrimpfest that evening, and what a party that was. 
In fact, during this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally we've already seen some great parties, and the fun is just starting to ramp up. One comment was that the Rally was just a floating two month long party - that's not really all that far off actually. 
The following day, we convened by the pool to play croquet - and the ladies won the first game, but with a considerable amount of creative tactics, such as kicking the ball through wickets and turning the wickets sideways for the men's shots. The men were far too polite to notice this of course. The next game was a tie, with the men winning the third game, making the overall result a tie. Everyone seemed quite satisfied with that.
Our next party the following evening was a dinner at River Dunes with Bob Laverty playing. Turns out that some of the crews knew Bob, from Cape Cod.
Bob is a fellow boater with a great voice, and just as last year, provided an evening of great music for us. The meal, chile and clam chowder, which doesn't sound inspiring, was superb, as I've come to expect here. There's a reason this marina has been judged as one of America's top 25 marinas.
We've also been blessed with some really good sailing conditions, and several times at the dock I've heard tales of the crews hitting hull speed during the day. 
This is despite some naysayers claiming you cannot sail on the ICW. Truth is, there are a lot of areas you can, and even more in which you can motorsail. It just requires some determination to get those 'emergency white things' up the mast, which this group does with enthusiasm!
That's it for this post - stay tuned as we head on to Beaufort NC, home of Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard. 

You can also follow this adventure at http://www.cruisingworld.com/wheres-wally, and also follow our location on the Where's Wally Delorme Map, which will give you our precise location.
If that's not enough Rally excitement for you and you want to follow the fun on a daily basis, click to our Facebook page, Sail to the Sun Rally - it's almost as much fun as being with the crew! Just look at their smiles!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Are We Having Fun Yet? OH YEAH!

part of the Rally fleet on the lock walls
Between Matthew, the Annapolis Sailboat Show, the Sailing and Cruising Dinner, the Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar, and prepping for the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally and the kickoff wine and cheese dinner, and getting from Naptown to Hampton, I've actually not had a lot of time to blog and keep you up to date. I'll try not to let that happen again!
I will tell you this, it's been an exciting couple of weeks, and the culmination of all this activity was October 17, when the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally left Hampton - 19 boats heading south towards their cruising dreams. And although we've only just ended day two, it's been an amazing two days already.
Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar, Greg from Mantus speaking
Part of the leadup to the Rally was the Sail to the Sun Cruising Seminar, held at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, where more than 60 boaters listened to Lin Pardey, Dave Skolnick, Jeff and Jean Grossman, Joan Conover and Greg Kutsen discuss cruising. Topics included crossing the Gulf Stream, cruising as a couple, the Bahamas, the ICW, anchoring, ending with Lin discussing proper maintenance while cruising.
At the end of the day, we held a Q&A session, and then a opportunity for those attending to share nibbles and adult beverages with the speakers. Wonderful session, with many people commenting on how much value there was in the day for them. Be watching here for an announcement of a similar day long session later this year in Florida!
Next morning, it was time to sail to Hampton VA - and the winds were kind, either very gentle out of the south making for easy motoring, or stronger from the north making it possible to sail.
In Hampton, our kickoff wine and cheese was hosted by Dave, the manager at Bluewater Marina - and thank you again Dave for a great time! Much appreciated.
Guest speakers were Ed Tillett from Waterway Guide, who discussed current issues on the ICW and how to keep track of them using the Waterway Guide app online; and Bill Knowles from the Salty Dawg Rally, who explained his rally program to the group. All in all, an excellent session.
The following day, it was an o'dark:30 departure from the docks to get to Great Bridges and the lock there. Our original plan was to 'do the Dismal', but flooding due to Matthew has closed the Dismal, possibly until spring. No one is quite sure yet just how bad the problems there are, but there are many downed trees and new shoaling to deal with before it reopens.
Brad removing masthead gear
Dockage now looked to be an issue with the change in plans. With some kind assistance from Atlantic Yacht Basin, we scored the required slips for everyone as well as putting a few of our vessels on the new free dock at Great Bridge and on the walls following the lock.
With the flooding, our big issue was bridge clearance for the taller boats. The first problem bridge was right after the Great Bridge lock - and sure enough, Reflections was too tall even after having removed his masthead gear - all but one item that put him one inch over the limit. Back to the dock and back up the mast. Such fun!
Next came the Pungo Ferry bridge, which was showing 63.25 feet at the notice board. Seems someone measured Reflections' mast height wrong - it wasn't 62.5 as Brad had been told - it was 63.4, enough to stop Reflection from proceeding.  Now what?

Look Ma! No, wait...don't look!

Ken, from Mauna Kea, hopped over and went out to the end of the mast - wasn't enough to heel the boat over that teeny little bit and Ken is not a small guy either.
Then Ken saw some older teens swimming and 'volunteered' them to help out. Three got on the rail, and one clambered out to the end of the mast like he'd sailed on tall ships his entire life - and that extra bit of weight made the difference - according to Brad, about a half inch of clearance as they went through.
Tomorrow, we may get to watch it all again as we come to the bridge here in Coinjock...we're hoping the water will have gone down just enough this won't be necessary.
Oh, and thanks to Terry here at Midway Marina for putting together the required dockage on such short notice when we discovered the Dismal was not happening for us.
So how is the rally crew handling all this excitement? Pretty darn well, from the laughter and chatter going on at the restaurant at Coinjock Marina, where the boats' crews filled half the restaurant to feast on their excellent prime rib dinner.
Thanks also to Cruising World for hosting this blog - you'll find future updates on the Rally every couple of days at http://www.cruisingworld.com/wheres-wally, as well as the Where's Wally Delorme Map which shows you exactly where the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is at any given time.
Make sure you bookmark the Cruising World link so that you can follow the Rally on its way south. If you want to watch the fun on a daily basis, follow us on Facebook, at Facebook Rally Group - it's almost as much fun as being with us, but without the mast climbing!
Tomorrow morning, we're off to Elizabeth City and their Rose Buddies reception, the first of this year's cruising season - and sadly, possibly the last for this year since the Dismal is closed until spring.
Stay tuned for more fun with the 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Here Comes Matthew - Anchoring Techniques to Save Your Boat

This is going to short and sweet, and is meant for those whose boats are at risk from hurricane Matthew. Here are three excellent articles on anchoring techniques.
One that I see as having merit is the tandem anchoring technique. Don't forget chafe gear, and don't stay on your boat - it can be replaced, and we'd hate to lose you....Good luck, and our prayers are with you during this time.