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Posted By Robin & Jim

We were lucky enough to get a chance to watch some sailing races among the rare and famous Chesapeake Bay Log Canoes (built in the mid-1800s)!  We have friends who own one of the 18 remaining traditional sailing craft - one of the biggest, 5 logs wide - and we were invited aboard the chase boat for the Flying Cloud (sail #22).  This was a real thrill!!

flying cloud close hauled

As you can see by the photo, these gorgeous sailing craft do not look like they were built from logs.  They are huge boats that carry an enormous amount of sail area, so the crew uses hiking boards to shift weight far out over the water to keep the boat from tipping over. 

flying cloud racing

To see just one of these magnificent boats is a thrill, but to see a big group of them racing is a so dramatic.  The log canoes are tippy boats, and things happen fast because of all the sail area and large amount of people needed to sail one.

The crew who handles the main sheet sits very far aft, on a hard wooden seat suspended well past the stern.

mainsheet tender

These boats can fly a kite - a triangular shaped sail very high up, as well as a staysail off the mainmast.  Unfortunately for the Flying Cloud, the staysail proved to be a bit too much for the mainmast and the wooden spar snapped.

flying cloud broken mast

This was a disaster for the racing crew since it meant that they had significantly less sail area than her competitors, and it was a shame since Flying Cloud had been doing very well in the race so far.  Fortunately, the broken part of the mast was recovered, which would hopefully speed repair later on.

In between the first and second races, the crew was able to lash some blocks to the top of the broken mast section, and rig a smaller mainsail.  These are hard-core racers!  Unfortunately during the second race, Flying Cloud's skipper realized that he didn't have enough room to turn at the mark - at the last minute, and the need to react quickly caused the Flying Cloud to tip over.  This is a very easy thing to do in a log canoe, and it happens in a flash.

flying cloud tipped over

At that point, the chase boat is very important, since the canoe has to be stripped of all boards and sails, and the two masts removed in order to right the boat.  Then she has to be bailed, vigorously to get her back afloat.  The boat and masts have to be towed back to the dock for re-assembly, since the scale of everything on these boats is quite large. 

It was a very exciting weekend, with a lot of action and wonderful people.  We saw old friends and made new ones and had a grand time.

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

It's not all fun and games on the water, and every two years we have to have the boat hauled out for new bottom paint and a few other things.  We left Cape Lookout and headed straight to the boat yard where the lift was ready for us. 

out of the water

When our boat is "on the hard", we still live aboard even though we have no air conditioning when we're out of the water.  It's a bit hot in North Carolina in July, but we managed with some 12 volt fans and mid-afternoon breaks to run errands in an air conditioned rental car.  

One maintenance item we needed to do was to have the stabilizer seals replaced.  The stabilizers are active fins that help smooth our ride in rough seas, and the shafts that drive the fins wear on the seals.  It's a bit of a job to do, and we called our old friend Bert to help us out.  He puts a special fitting into the fin and uses a hydraulic pump to blow the fin off the shaft, and after the seals have been replaced, he uses a 6' long torque wrench to put the fin back on.

stabilizer fins

We had our own chores to do while the boat yard put new anti-fouling paint on the bottom and PropSpeed on our running gear.  Did I mention that it's a little hot in July?  We also waxed the hull while we were out of the water, sometimes working in the early morning or after dark to avoid the heat and direct sun.  But after a week of hard work we heard the happy sound of the big travel lift coming to put us back in the water.  That's the happy sound that comes after the unhappy act of paying the boat yard's bill.  But these things have to be done from time to time, and it's better that we keep up with the preventative maintenance to minimize the field repairs.

new bottom paint

We were tired and the boat was filthy inside and out from living in a dusty boat yard so we headed to Morehead City Yacht Basin for a few days - to clean the boat up and to visit some friends.  And for air conditioning!
When the wind settled down we resumed our trip north, anchoring in the Alligator River (yes, there are alligators in North Carolina) on a hot summer night.

alligator river

From there we stopped for a night in Coinjock, and were grateful for the marina pool to cool off.  We trekked through Norfolk, admiring all the activity - tugs, barges, freighters, Navy ships, trains, and airplanes - it's a bee-hive of activity.  But most impressive is the long row of mighty Navy ships...

navy ships

Heading into Kilmarnock, VA we had to shut the starboard engine down - the fresh water cooling pump and several belts went belly up.  At least we could bike to our engine parts supplier in Kilmarnock, and we had a marvelous time visiting our friends.  But we're getting tired of things breaking!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We finally made it to a place that we've wanted to explore for many years!   Cape Lookout is a National Seashore located at the very bottom of North Carolina's Outer Banks, about 10 miles from Beaufort inlet.

cape lookout

Cape Lookout is best known for its lighthouse: 163' tall, painted in a distinctive diamond pattern that indicates east-west (white diamonds) and north-south (black diamonds).  The current lighthouse was built in 1859 to replace the smaller one built in 1812.  Only 93' tall, the original lighthouse was too short to be seen by mariners trying to avoid the Cape Lookout Shoal, which extends about 16 miles from the Cape out into the ocean.  The original lighthouse could be seen about 10 miles out in good conditions, and the new one can be seen for about 19 miles. 
On certain days of the week the Park Service lets people climb up the lighthouse, and the views were well worth it!  We could see far to the north towards Ocracoke...

view

...and across to Shackleford Banks, home to several herds of feral horses and a maritime forest... and across the dunes and beach to the Atlantic Ocean. 
The Park Rangers and volunteers do a great job explaining about man's interaction with the Cape as well as nature's.  The Cape used to be connected to Shackleford Banks but a 1933 hurricane opened up a new inlet and left the two islands separated to this day.  Wildlife is abundant, especially birds and sea turtles.  We saw three loggerhead sea turtles near our boat in the anchorage, and they are known to nest at Cape Lookout.  The variety of sea shells is impressive - even conch shells, and the water is pretty clear and very clean and nice.  Fishing is a probably the most popular activity in this part of coastal North Carolina, and that is evident everywhere with everything from shallow draft flats boats to big sport fish boats roaring here and there. 
The birds were wonderful - lots of different terns, gulls, and black skimmers as well as American oystercatchers. 

oystercatcher

I would kayak early in the morning along the beach to look for shells and birds, since there are miles of beach inside the Cape and along the outside, with natural dunes and sea oats to protect the shoreline. 
You can only get to Cape Lookout by boat - either private boat or by ferry from Harker's Island.  It's a great place to enjoy uncrowded beaches and to fish, but the lighthouse and the wildlife are the highlights for us. 
All good things must come to an end though, and the weather was about to turn ugly with strong winds predicted for at least a week.  We also needed to head to the boat yard for new bottom paint and out-of-the-water maintenance that we do every two years.  I could have stayed out at the Cape for another week or two!  But we left early on a Monday morning heading straight to the boat yard where the travel lift was ready to hoist us out of the water for a week of hard work.  It's all part of cruising.

adventures cape lookout

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We cruised through Charleston and we watched ugly dark clouds heading our way as we were getting close to our anchorage.  Why does the exciting weather always hit just as we're trying to anchor? 

south santee storm

The good thing is that these summer squalls don't usually last long and the worst of it passed to the south of us.  I don't mind the rain so much but the lightning makes us nervous when we're the tallest thing in sight.
The weather wasn't favorable for running offshore so we continued our winding trip through the salt marshes in South Carolina.  We usually cruise through this area in the fall or spring and the marsh grass is gold at that time of the year - now it's bright green.

marsh

The marsh is always so interesting and beautiful in its own muddy way.  Dolphins are very common hunting in the tidal shallows, but we sometimes see snakes and alligators swimming. 

alligator

Birds are the most common sight (and sound) - pelicans, spoonbills, terns, gulls, egrets, herons, red-winged blackbirds, and the little waders - plovers and willets.  The tall trees are home to bald eagles and osprey, and the osprey also take advantage of some of the bigger navigation markers to make their nests.  This time of the year the young birds are getting big but they still stick close to their parents.

osprey nest

As we moved north the salt marsh transitioned to the flooded cypress forest in the Waccamaw River - more green and lush in the summer than the spooky feel of the place in the fall and spring.  From there we traveled through the very boring stretches of golf courses up through Myrtle Beach - not my favorite area.  Finally we got to North Carolina waters and the sandy dunes of the barrier islands.  Of all the wildlife sightings we have had along the waterway, seeing this herd of goats walking along the shoreline was truly strange.  I wonder what their story is.

goats

We ran into friends Jim and Pam on DeFever 44+5 SILVER BOOTS on the waterway, and found out that they were planning to go to Cape Lookout for the weekend - the same place we were heading!  We haven't seen them in a long time, and we were looking forward to
catching up with them.  I know we say it often, but it's so true - it's a very small world on the water.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Despite the summer heat, we're enjoying the trip north with all there is to see along the waterway.  Leaving Cumberland Island we passed by Kings Bay Submarine Base and got to see one submarine on an outer dock.

submarine
If you look at a map you'll notice that Georgia is pretty far to the west - coastal Georgia is west of Pittsburgh, and the shape of the coast causes the tides to be quite large - up to about 9 feet.  Between the big tidal swing and the prevalence of marshes, docks are built very tall and they can be ridiculously long to reach across the marsh to the water's edge.  For us, the big tidal swings mean strong currents that either slow us down or speed us up.  You'd think that statistically the push-pull would be about even, but it always seems that the current is against us more often than it gives us a nice push.
  current
What's nice about this trip is that we're not traveling during the "migration" season, and the waterway is pretty quiet until the weekends - then it gets crazy with local boats.  During the week the waterway is like a scenic highway; on the weekends it's more like driving on I-95.  We've been trying to stay off the water on weekends and visit some places we've always wanted to see, like Beaufort, SC.  That's pronounced "byoofert" as opposed to the North Carolina town pronounced "bofert".  Near the Marine Corps' Parris Island, Beaufort has a nice downtown with cafes, little shops, and art galleries.  Most of the homes are traditional southern style architecture and the streets are lined with big live oaks draped in spanish moss.  The riverfront park has lovely landscaping and instead of traditional benches, it has benches that swing - how cool is that?
 beaufort park
One advantage of stopping to visit town was to tie up at a marina so we could run the air conditioning, but the town docks were having power problems and the breaker on the power pole kept tripping even if we minimized our electrical loads.  Very frustrating on sticky summer days!  Of course Jim found other ways to cool off...
ice cream 1
...since there were several ice cream shops in town.

ice cream 2

We found slushies to be even better than ice cream for keeping cool, so I broke out the blender and we've been experimenting with fruit slushies to beat the summer heat.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Cumberland Island National Seashore remains a favorite anchorage and place to explore.  It's right above the Florida-Georgia border, and is a natural barrier island with 17 miles of pristine beach, dunes, and maritime forest.  It is known for its wildlife as well as its history as a private winter resort for the Carnegie and Rockefeller families. 
There is too much to say about Cumberland Island, but our favorite part is the knarled maritime forest of live oaks (and long-leaf pine to the north), swept by ocean winds.  The trees are covered in Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, and armadillos, wild turkeys, deer, and feral horses wander the landscape.

maritime forest

The horses were left behind when the wealthy abandoned most of the mansions on the island, and the Park Service doesn't interfere with them.  We saw several colts as we toured the island - they are so sweet.

colt and mother

The Park Service started offering a more extensive tour of the island last summer - Lands and Legacies.  It was a perfect way to see the more distant sights, especially since the road is rutted sand and dirt and the distances are too long for walking and difficult for biking.  On a hot July Fourth, the air conditioned van was just perfect!
We got to see the elegant Plum Orchard mansion, with amazing luxuries and capacity to entertain many people in high style (and it was only a small mansion!).

plum orchard

One of the highlights for me was to see the tiny little First African Baptist Church (founded in 1893) at the north end of the island.  This is where John F. Kennedy, Jr. got married.

first african baptist church

Some of the live oak trees on the island are incredibly old - some may be 500 years old or more.  The older ones have branches that droop to the ground and then angle upwards - they're huge and dramatic, and I wonder about all the history they have lived through.

old live oak

Temperatures were in the mid-90's and humid with the awful heat wave, but we spent the late afternoons swimming in the ocean to cool off, and then running back to the dinghy to avoid the mosquitos that thrived after all of Tropical Storm Debby's rain.
It was a great visit to one of our favorite places, and yes, we realize how lucky we are to be able to enjoy all this.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

North of St. Augustine we have a favorite anchorage in the salt marsh called Pine Island.  I've always wanted to stay there and explore with my kayak - it's a great birding area.  So this time, we spent a day and I had a ball (despite temperatures in the mid-90's).  I'm always happy to see the herons and plovers and other shore birds, but one of my favorites are the roseate spoonbills.

flying spoonbills

They are not very common to see and I was hoping to get close to some.  They were flying overhead but landing well to the north of where I could paddle, but as the tide started to fall they came in to feed in the shallow water.  Lots of them! 

spoonbill

I also saw a lot of snowy egrets - another favorite bird because of their long, elegant feathers, black legs, and bright yellow feet.  The yellow also goes up the back of their legs like the seam of an old fashioned pair of stockings. 

snowy egret

I saw plenty of other birds - herons, white pelicans, willets, red-winged blackbirds, wood storks, and a bald eagle.  The dragon flies were the biggest I've ever seen... clinging to the tall marsh grass.

dragonfly

I went out just before sunset for another long paddle, exploring deeper into the marsh because of the very high tide.  The marsh seems inhospitable, but it really is a beautiful place and I'm so glad we took the time to stop and enjoy it!

pine island

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We enjoyed our month-long stay in Cocoa and the time really flew by.  We got our important repairs completed as well as a few other projects and chores.  We never got the chance to tour the Kennedy Space Center this visit - by the time we got everything wrapped up and could take a day off to play Tropical Storm Debby was dumping torrential rain on us. 

We had fun spending lots of time with our friends Sunny and Jim, visiting Jim's Dad for Father's Day weekend, seeing Helen and Bob, and I had a ball hanging out at the Knit & Stitch shop a short walk from the marina. 

I've been an on-again, off-again knitter, but that shop was so incredibly friendly and fun that I ended up taking two classes and spending several afternoons a week at their big table knitting with the gals and the occasional guy.  It was just wonderful - I grew my skills and confidence and finished a few projects.  Now my needles are clicking away every evening, though I really miss the all lovely knitters at the shop very much.

knit & stitch
Cocoa Village is a great town with interesting shops and little cafes and restaurants, a farmer's market on Wednesday mornings, and a big old-timey hardware store all within a short walk of the marina. 
cocoa village

The muddy Indian River is a big change of pace from the crystal clear water in the Bahamas, but there is plenty of nature and beauty in its own way.  Our daily sightings included manatee, dolphins, anhinga, cormorants, pelicans, ibis, herons, catfish, and even a diamond backed terrapin (turtle). 
The day we left Cocoa there was a Delta rocket scheduled to launch at the Space Center.  The launch was delayed for a few hours, but we ended up getting a front row seat as we passed directly abeam of the rocket just as it took off!  It's still an amazing feat no matter how many times humans have sent things into space.  The rocket goes out of sight quickly and all that's left is a little trail in the sky.

delta rocket trail
It feels good to be underway again - cruising!  We have some favorite radio shows we like to listen to underway like "Science Friday" and "Car Talk" and "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me".  The temperatures have been hot, but we make our own breeze and we have lots of shade so it's comfortable, until we anchor and the late afternoon heat catches up.  But then the sun gets low and the breeze picks up and the evenings are cool and nice.
Do you realize that if you're driving down I-95 in Florida the distance you can cover in 1 hour is about equal to the distance we cover on the boat in one day?  That is no exaggeration!

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We left Bimini, Bahamas for a 75 nautical mile crossing to Palm Beach, FL - a slow trip with just one engine, but we would get a bit of a speed boost from the Gulf Stream which was running about 3 knots.  We departed early with the sun, enjoying a beautiful dawn sky.

bimini sunrise

It was a nice day to travel on the ocean and the seas were pretty easy.  About two hours out of Bimini we heard a loud engine alarm go off - it was the high temperature alarm.  We monitor the engine gauges closely, but the temp spiked very quickly in just a few moments.  We shut the engine down and Jim found that the vee-belt had broken.  Rather than just drift in the Gulf Stream we decided to fire up the "bad" engine to maintain steering and keep us steady in the waves while Jim was in the very hot engine room replacing the broken belt.  It didn't take him long to make the repair and as soon as we fired up the hot engine and the cooling pump was running again she cooled down to normal quickly.  Crisis averted, we shut the "bad" engine back down and continued our passage.  We've certainly have had a lot of little adventures on this cruise.
At the Lake Worth inlet we turned our cell phones back on, cleared US Customs with a phone call, and anchored for the night with a lot more boats, cars, trains, and lights than we've been accustomed to for a while.
The next day we went back out in the ocean to run up to Ft. Pierce - a perfect glassy day on the water.  We even saw a big sailfish right at the surface, with his tall fin sticking out of the water.  We had a quiet night at anchor, and left very early for the long run up the Indian River to our next destination - Cocoa, FL.  Cocoa has a nice marina convenient to lots of shops and restaurants, and we have good friends who live nearby.  It's a great spot to sit still for a few weeks and make our engine repairs.
About an hour before we got to Cocoa the sky turned ugly and we heard warnings about severe thunderstorms on the radio.  We tracked the storms on radar and managed to avoid most of the squalls, but the chance of lightning is scary when you're all by yourself out on the water.

angry sky

We settled into the marina at Cocoa so we could remove the failing damper plate and get the correct replacement.  Removing the damper required building a lifting frame to support the 200 lb. transmission so it could be slid back out of the way.  Jim built the frame and rigged a block and tackle, he unbolted the shaft and transmission and bell housing, replaced the damper plate, and put it all back together - and he did the work all by himself.  For both engines.  He is amazing!

replacing damper

Here is what a new drive damper plate looks like:

new damper

We're working on other small repairs and little projects while we're sitting still.  It's a big change from snorkeling every day in the beautiful Bahamas, but we're having fun with our friends and we're getting some things accomplished.

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

The blog is a bit out of date and out of touch with reality.  We are now back in the US dealing with our engine repair, and I think my reluctance to leave the Bahamas in blog form mirrors our reluctance to leave the Bahamas in real life.  But such is the way of cruising.  We are very good at going with the flow because weather, mechanical things, broken teeth, and other lumpy bits of life constantly get in the way of any attempt to make "plans". 

It takes a few days to get from the Exumas back to the US, and we had a few adventures that are worth sharing.  We headed to Nassau where we had a replacement engine part waiting for us.

nassau harbour club marina

Jim and I spent a day walking around town in the drizzle to get some lumber, screws, and bolts for the repair, and the next day Jim did some amazing engineering wizardry with the supplies and our block-and-tackle to support the 200 lb transmission, unbolt it, and slide it out of the way.  By himself.  The bad news is that the part didn't fit - our manual and reality didn't match.  We could try to figure out the right part number and wait for one to be shipped in again, but that would be a lot of cost and delay.  And the second named storm of the hurricane season had popped up already.  Heartbroken, we realized that the prudent thing would be to head back to the US to deal with it all, safer if more storms crop up, and cheaper dockage and parts accessibility. 

The trip from Nassau to the Berry Islands started out nice and smooth, but we encountered squalls in the afternoon and the sky looked bruised and angry.  As the weather turned ugly we saw some swordfish tail-walking!  Apparently they get frisky when the seas do likewise.  We dodged the worst of the squalls and anchored for the night, leaving at 0400 for the long, slow (on one engine) trip across the Great Bahama Bank to Bimini.  We planned to stay there for one last Bahamas day with our friends on SMALL WORLD.

We gathered our snorkeling gear and waited for SMALL WORLD to come by our marina and pick us up, but they had to wait because the departing mail boat ran aground in the entrance channel at low tide, and nothing could get past it.

mailboat aground

We finally escaped and snorkeled the famous Bimini Road.  This is a formation of rectangular rocks in the ocean, not far from the very deep water and the Gulf Stream.  Some have called it part of the lost city of Atlantis - who knows?

bimini road

Then we headed south to snorkel the wreck of the Sapona - a ferro-cement ship built in 1911.

sapona

We snorkeled all around the wreck, going inside and swimming through passageways - it was great fun, a last fling in the pretty water.

sapona bollards