Monday, October 31, 2011


     Rather than messing around at an anchorage for a few days we made an arduous minute-long crossing to Joy's Marina across from the public piers in Hampton. This is mostly because they gave us a great deal for the week and we figure sticking around to prep for the passage is a good plan. Now we sit in a large dock space surrounded by pilings trying to soak up the sun on this cool cloudy day having just reunited with Raftan after two weeks apart.

     One detail about staying here that I forgot to mention before is the crackling sounds that come through the hull of the boat as night settles in. The first night here Sarah and I were still awake and started to hear these unsettling crackling sounds-like electrical wires shorting or water dripping. Since we couldn't pinpoint where the sound was coming from we ignored it and went to sleep. The next day we remembered reading about a similar experience in Ann Vanderhoof's "An Embarrassment of Mangoes." As she and her husband traversed the intracoastal waterway in North Carolina they heard the same noises and feared they were sinking only to discover that the sound was caused by krill eating the algae off the hull of their boat. Seeing as our bottom is slowing growing a carpet-like coating of green stuff we are more than happy to have these little guys helping us out in the cleaning department.

     I'll have Dad do some pre-departure posts soon to disclose our plans for the crossing so that everyone at home is nicely informed.

Hope everyone is well!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Friendly Cruisers, Frosty Nights and Fierce Anticipation

     Currently at the boat in Hampton, tomorrow we head back into the Chesapeake for a few days. We will return next weekend to provision, fill up on diesel and water and prepare for the big passage to the BVIs. Before entering the Chesapeake region we hadn't encountered many sailboats and none who were heading south like us. Here they are plentiful and people are eager to share their stories and experiences. We've met many Canadians but no one who did the same route as us along the St. Lawrence River. Some had their boats trucked down and others managed the Champlain Canal.

     Docked at the Hampton Public Piers we are surrounded by cruising boats loaded down with spare diesel cans, solar panels, wind generators and even scuba diving tanks. Many people have arrived at our dock for the Caribbean 1500 rally, but since we're not signed up we are only observers of the preparations.It's a new experience having so many fellow cruisers around after so much solitude. From Quebec all the way to Nova Scotia it was just us and Raftan and we often felt like explorers entering uncharted territory. Now we are truly part of the migration south.

     We head off tomorrow (back to Mobjack Bay) to free space for the rally and to get back on the water again all the while thinking about our own passage to come. Our biggest considerations will be timing the departure for favorable weather, planning easy-to-make-at-sea meals, and preparing ourselves mentally for a possible 10 to 14 day passage.

     Walking outside tonight with my breath frosting the air makes the thought of the long passage to come much more bearable, especially since the end result involves a tropical dreamscape I can scarcely imagine. Sorry to everyone at home, but here's looking forward to a winter on blue-green waters under a roaring hot sun,


Thursday, October 27, 2011

End to an Awesome Week

Sarah and Dad
     This week spent in Cape Hatteras has been amazing. We had great wind and weather, managed to kiteboard almost every single day and got a ton of well-needed exercise. Sarah, who just learned to kite last fall, was up and going upwind with ease. It's pretty awesome when you can claim to have kiteboarded with your Dad and Sister at the same time. Being here and getting out on the water makes me look forward to Christmas in the BVIs where we can kiteboard with our brothers as well. Mom put her game face on and got out there to try flying a kite, so everyone was getting in on the fun!

Sarah in front, Nicole in back
     I am so grateful to be able to come back to this beautiful island again and again, especially after the havoc wreaked here by Hurricane Irene this fall. The damage to so many people's property is still apparent in the community of Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo where ocean-side houses are in constant danger of toppling off the sand dunes and into the ocean. Seeing the destruction caused by deadly storms reminds me of the precariousness of life here and highlights the resilience of the island’s residents as they work to repair their homes, businesses and their lives. It is such an exposed and fragile island, but that is also part of what makes it so intriguing and beautiful.

     Highlights of the week included: ripping through waves and feeling the salty spray on my face while kiteboarding, visiting with friends old and new, demolishing delicious dinners cooked by fellow kiters, walking on the beach, sleeping in a solid bed, and being lazy while watching tv. I'm not gonna lie, it will be hard to say goodbye this weekend; partly because it's been such a relaxing and fun week here and partly because I have so many emotional ties with this beautiful place. There's something about Cape Hatteras that just pulls you in and tries to hold you here. When I lived on the island we called it the "vortex." It's a place of such immediacy that you always live fully in the present while here. All that exists is Hatteras—the sun, the sand, the salt water. Needless to say the week has gone by with lightning speed as we begin the task of considering how to re-pack the car.

     But as we make the short drive to the boat this weekend I imagine our minds will shift back to the amazing journey begun just over two months ago and the challenges ahead of us in the coming weeks. It’s time to cast off into the Chesapeake once again and begin to prepare for our greatest task yet—sailing offshore for the British Virgin Islands and our first taste of the Caribbean.

All the best,

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Vacation from our Adventure

     This week we are taking a break from cruising for a kiteboarding vacation in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. On Saturday we loaded a rental car with kites, boards, and some giant bags of laundry to drive to the familiar sandy dunes of the Outer Banks. This has been a vacation spot for our family for over ten years and I had an amazing summer 2010 living in Waves and working at REAL Watersports. Seeing the long stretches of sand and scrubby bushes of the island felt like coming home.

     On Saturday we promptly pulled into the parking lot of the ranger station outside Rodanthe and Dad met up with friends for an ocean session. One of the amazing things about this island is that to one side you find the ocean, frequented by surfers and beach-goers alike during the summer months, and to the other side you find a kiteboarder's (and windsurfer's) paradise in the form of the Pamlico Sound. The shallow waters and strong winds of this area make it one of the best kiteboarding locations in the world.

     Here we will remain until next weekend basking in the luxury of sleeping in real beds and enjoying good company (including Granny H. who traveled all this way for a visit) in between kiting sessions and long beach walks.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts on Sailing and the Environment

     As the wind gently spun the propellers on our new wind generator I lounged on the boat deck watching the warm Maryland sun sparkle on passing waves and thinking about the benefits of being self-sufficient while travelling. Since Dad installed the wind generator in Annapolis our battery charging capabilities have improved by leaps and bounds. It also helps that the wind hasn’t stopped blowing since its installation.
     When combined with input from the large solar panels that occupy the top of our dodger these enviro-friendly sources of power help reduce the need to run the engine to recharge our batteries. This is important given that battery power is in constant use on a boat. At anchor energy is used for refrigeration, lights, water systems, and to power our propane stove. Under way the batteries power our GPS, autopilot and sailing instruments, among other things. Having these sources of power guarantees that we don’t have to plug into shore power at marinas and allows us to stay out at anchor for long periods of time while exploring remote places off the usual tourist path.

      As we travelled under sail with the brackish waters of the Chesapeake flowing beneath the boat I thought about the benefits of these gadgets, not just for keeping our travel costs low but also for the environment. Sailing strikes me as the ultimate “green” form of transportation. With a little wind power it is possible to travel long distances and to many places across the globe without putting harmful pollutants into the water and the atmosphere. Although we do have a motor and have to use it almost daily we also commit to sailing whenever possible. On this trip we’ve been frequently gifted with strong winds, sometimes to our frustration, and have managed to sail far more often than motoring.

     There’s nothing quite as inspiring and empowering as harnessing the power of natural forces to propel ourselves to a new destination. Part of what attracts us to sailing and wind-powered sports like kiteboarding is this ability to harness the wind and use it in a unique way. Also the adrenaline rush doesn’t hurt :)

     Our recent travels through Chesapeake Bay have stirred awareness of the effects of pollution in waterways. With over 4000 miles of shoreline Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the world. The combination of salt and fresh water makes for brackish conditions that are unique, allowing it to support a staggering variety of aquatic life. Unfortunately in the past few decades the waters of Chesapeake Bay have become increasingly threatened by pollution runoff from coastal sources. Pollution has combined with the over-exploitation of the oyster population and caused a decline in the health of aquatic plants and animals throughout the Bay.

     On our trip through this vibrant region we encountered one interesting project that aims to restore the estuary to its former vitality. The project involves introducing young oysters in large numbers into strategic locations around the Bay. Apparently these tiny creatures are capable of filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day, removing algae from the water in the process. Introducing oysters en masse will help to counter the effects of over-exploitation, naturally and efficiently improve the water quality of the Bay, and rebuild large reef systems that provide a habitat for many aquatic creatures. We became aware of this project when we stumbled upon signs in Annapolis and along the marshy shore of the Little Choptank River asking that the oysters not be disturbed to benefit the project.
     Since exploring waterways has become the focus of our everyday lives these kinds of projects resonate strongly with us. They help keep us mindful of reducing our own impact on the environment around us. As our guidebook illuminates, the Chesapeake Bay is “many things to many people.” For some it is a cruising ground with endless possibilities, for others it is an “environmental wonder.” But most importantly it is home to thousands of people and aquatic creatures who depend on the water for their livelihood. It is encouraging to read that organizations like the CBF are working hard to preserve this beautiful bay for the benefit of future residents and visitors.

     If you made it through this whole post, congrats! I hope it was informative and interesting in some way. We remain anchored on the East River until tomorrow when we'll do a 30 nautical mile trip to Hampton, Virginia. 
All the best,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crab Pots of the Chesapeake

     Terri here. We just had to tell all about the numerous crab pots we have encountered on our journey since first spotting them in a small channel off the northern end of Halifax. Since then crab pot dodging has become a full time job!  Even while making the passages out in the Atlantic, whoa we had to watch out for these little bobbing floats.

Crab pot marker

     Now here in the Chesapeake pot dodging has become a daily task. Just when you think you have cleared from a field of the floating hazards and sit down to relax for a nice sail, BAM, there is a floating flag zooming past your starboard side and you scramble to get a lookout up on deck. Now it may not seem a big deal but if you snag one of these sneaky little hazards on your prop it could mean a line tangled around in a big mess.

Crab boat

     The hardest thing about spotting the pots is the fact that they are all different colors.   We have seen red,orange, yellow, black and blue with the consensus being that black is the hardest to spot. Trying to complete a tack while surrounded by them as well as trying to hoist the sails has meant we all must be on deck to lend a hand. No slackers here!
Another interesting Chesapeake lighthouse

     In amongst the crab pots are the meandering crab pot boats, or skipjacks, who skim around throughout the day checking to see if the pots need emptying. We are not clear on the schedule of putting pots down or retrieving crabs but these watermen sure are a hard working bunch. Hats off to those who make their living from the water!
Large fishing boats
Til later,

P.S. Nicole here: It's Mom's Birthday today! Happy Birthday to an amazing, brave and caring lady. We will celebrate with lots of pancakes and a cake at our anchorage in East River off Mobjack Bay!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Travels on Chesapeake Bay

Simple church on Solomons
     From Fish Creek we wove through endless clumps of crab traps and had a perfect leisurely sail to Solomons Island on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. There we sighted nice stretches of beach and entered Back Creek off the Patuxent River. Winding around clumps of marinas and wharves it became clear that Solomons is a town where life is centred on the murky waters of the Chesapeake. There must have been hundreds of boats docked there and the town was small and spread out.

     We had planned to stay another day but this morning after listening to the weather forecast Dad realized that we need to get moving towards Norfolk. There is unsettled weather coming on Wednesday and Thursday so we decided to continue our progress south to reach Hampton by Friday. This morning we said goodbye to Raftan until the end of the month and did a brief downwind sail to the Potomac River. We are now anchored in a pretty rural area in a place called Glebe Creek. (For Raftan, if you are reading this it's a good anchorage and is located at 37 degrees 59.29 minutes north, 76 degrees 29.26 minutes west).

Drum Point lighthouse at the Calvert Marine Museum
     Aside from having a beautiful calm sail today we came across a naval training area and were advised by a Navy range boat to avoid the target area by 2.5 miles because there were exercises going on. After that I expected to see some exciting target practice or something exploding in the water, but that didn't happen. We did get to watch several aircraft circling the area though.

     Tomorrow we will aim for a place called East River off Mobjack Bay. Our plan for heading to Cape Hatteras for a few days will take us to Hampton Roads and the Downtown Hampton Public Piers by Friday.

That's all for now.
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some Nice Pics

Here are some pictures from our spot in the anchorage at Fishing Creek.

First Kiteboarding of the Trip - Yeehaww

     We decided to stay put in a nice anchorage in Fishing Creek, MD because of the predicted 20-25, gusting to 30 knot wind. Of course, such winds are perfect for kiteboarding although the somewhat sheltered anchorage was likely to be very gusty. In any case as low tide approached a beach suitable for rigging emerged and Sarah and Nicole joined me in the dinghy on our way to the small beach.

     I rigged an 11m kite with the idea that it would get me through the lulls and I would have to deal with the extra power during the gusts. It worked out as we thought, likely the gustiest wind I have ever sailed in and going from between 5 knots to 30 knots sometimes in a blink of an eye. It was nearly impossible to jump as you set up for a jump the wind would either die or rip you off the board. In any case it was great to get out again. Here are a few pics from the day.

 Heading out to the launch spot.

 Fully powered.

 The launchers on their way back in the dinghy.

 Some decent airtime.

 Havin' fun.

 Kiting past Raftan, anchored to windward of us.

 The sketchy landing area.

 What a great day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mom's View of Life Aboard

Sarah's always hungry when
she wakes.
     Well here I am finally sitting in front of the computer entering my 2 cents on living aboard our boat and our journey toward our final goal the BVI’s. I did not really know what to expect once we entered the big old Atlantic but I now have a better respect for the forces of nature and the power of the water in motion.  

A proud moment!
 The scenery on the journey down the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Canada has left me in awe. I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared seeing it with Jon and the girls. The American portion of the trip, although less spectacular from a scenery point, has been filled with new experiences from sailing on the Atlantic to parking the boat in tight spaces with pilings to dealing with constant tidal changes.  The kindness of the people we have encountered has been refreshing whether it’s the girl checking out our groceries in Annapolis, the cab driver who took Jon on several rides to pick up marine supplies or the friend of Jon’s who so kindly allowed us to use his dock and condo facilities for several days. WOW! Great folks here.

     For the passage planning, skilled boat handling and incredible boat repairs I must say a huge thanks to Captain Jon. For the great support, helping during late night watches, exceptional cookies and brownies I say thanks to Sarah and Nicole. Finally I have to thank the boat for she has safely delivered us to each of our destinations, something for which I am grateful!

Nicole's plants have
survived so far!
     At present we are anchored on a beautiful little creek, Fishing Creek, where we just watched a rain storm pass through. We are anchored alongside Raftan and another family of five from Montreal who Raftan met while in Annapolis. They are doing the Intracoastal down to Florida and then to the Bahamas. I am glad to be anchored for the day as the wind is kicking up its heels again. It seems to me that every time we decide to sail on what Jon has dubbed “bonus sail days” the wind likes to play its game of sending us 20 to 30 knots of wind much to the Captains delight, but from my perspective I now prefer 0 to 15 knots as sea sickness seems to be my best friend lately. Oh well time to try out all those sea sickness remedies we have purchased.

     I have really enjoyed cooking on the boat but the one thing that is challenging is the time it takes to get stuff organized to cook. Since things are stored in tight spaces everything takes time to locate. We all agree that the food eaten after a day’s sailing tastes better than ever before. I have been using our little propane stove for dinners and baking and have had pretty good success. We are eating foods similar to those at home with not much sea food as of late.
     Tomorrow we head to Solomans Island on the Patuxent River. We hope to explore the town and soak up the atmosphere of the Chesapeake Bay while there. All in all I am finally relaxing into the boat lifestyle and am very happy to have the opportunity to do this journey.

Love to all at home,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pictures of Mor' Childs Play

     Here is a series of awesome pictures taken throughout the journey by our traveling companions aboard Raftan. Thanks so much to Patrice, Julie, Rafael and Tristan!

Starting out on Lake Ontario
In the Thousand Islands
Singer Castle
Bridge beyond Ogdensburg on the St. Lawrence Seaway
Lift Bridge in Montreal
Ship encounter in Montreal
Sailing with a wing-and-wing configuration
Heading downwind on the St. Lawrence
Glassy anchorage in Nova Scotia

Video clips will follow soon,