Sunday, October 26, 2008

You don't have to go home but you can't stay here

Yesterday, I couldn't have gotten this shot of Mirasol - the marina was PACKED. Today, by about 8 AM, the mass exodus was nearly completed. We watched boat after boat head across the river to Mile Marker 0 on the ICW and begin their journey south.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So there I was...

It was dark o'clock and I was warm and snug in bed, half asleep and half thinking about getting up to take the flag down because it was squeaking, when I hear "HONEY I NEED YOU WE'RE DRAGGING!!!!" accompanied by the rumble of the twin diesels coming to life.

While uttering a few choice four letter words, I quickly dressed and headed to Gregg's side at the helm station and saw the approx. 100 ft path on the nav system (notice the yellow arrow pointing at the long straight line). It was pretty windy and I was struggling to wake up and not adjusting perfectly going from slumber to maneuvering the boat. So, Gregg suggested I go up front and run the windlass, in the dark, for the first time. I thought it best to collect myself and work the helm. We dug the anchor in again and let out more scope, but the excitement may not yet be over. Hopefully we will get some rest tonight. But for now, too wound up to sleep, we are both on anchor watch, staring at the blue screen of the E120, hoping we stay pretty much in one spot.

I fear this will be the first of many "So there I was..." entitled blog entries.
UPDATE (7:30 AM 10/22): We stayed on watch until 3 am and kept alarms set on wind speed and vessel drift until present time. We did not drift again, much to our anchoring neighbor's delight... and ours. Getting ready to head out - today should be a good sail down to Yorktown.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Honey, did he say 'Gale Warning'?!?!?

We had our first test of the family crew in big(ish) winds on Saturday. We left Solomons, Maryland mid morning with a 48 mile sail in front of us. As we left, the wind was out of the north at about 15 knots, and forecasted to gust up to 20. Once we left the shelter of Cove Point and entered the main body of the Chesapeake, we discovered the winds were in the 20’s, gusting to 25 so we quickly rounded up and tucked in a reef in the main.

I was happy we had practiced reefing in mild weather as the process went smoothly. With a reef in both the Main and Jib, we turned south and blew south down the Bay. The ride was very comfortable doing around 7 or so knots until we reached the mouth of the Potomac River where the winds cranked up to the high 20’s gusting into the low 30s and the waves got steep and lumpy.

We put in a 2nd reef in the main and tucked in a little more of the jib and continued south surfing along at about 8.5 knots. We could have left more sail up as Lagoon suggests that you can run downwind with full sails until the boat reaches 15 knots or accelerations become strong and sudden, but we weren’t in any hurry and I wanted to be able to maneuver comfortably at any point of sail without having to reduce sail first. The thing about catamarans is that you can reach downwind very fast with lots of sails, but you must be prepared to reduce sails fast if you need to maneuver or you risk breaking something. Jen and I were happy surfing in the mid 8’s with 2 reefs in the Main and Jib.

By the time we reached our destination, Sandy Point in Wicomico River Virginia, the winds were blowing a full 30 knots (gusting to mid 30's) and we were hearing gale warnings from the Coast Guard on the VHF. Dropping the Main in this wind was a little exciting, but as usual when Mom and Dad tells Quinn we need him to sit still while we run the boat he is a good boy and sits still. Somehow he figures out that its not a trivial request and doesn't pull his usual schenanegans.

The anchorage Jen selected worked out very well. We were protected from the worst of the winds and although we were still in 20+ knot winds, the waves were a foot or less. Our anchor held fast on the first attempt and settled down to a well deserved steak dinner.

Jen and I were very happy with the performance of Mirasol in these winds and 6’ steep waves. We had to gibe several times in strong winds, but with the wide traveler on a catamaran, it’s as easy as tacking. Simply leave the Main sheeted in at the far end of the traveler, perform the gibe and then ease the main to the lee with the traveler. Quite civilized in comparison with gibing on a monohull, which can be um, exciting, so to speak.

Just about everything stayed where we put it, including photo frames, books, etc. A couple of plastic glasses tumbled out of the overhead cabinet when Jen opened it while preparing dinner, prompting her to comment “take care opening overhead compartments, contents may have shifted during flight” which we both found very funny, having both spent more than our fair share of time flying around the world in our work life.

Anchoring overnight in 25 knot winds was new to us and I was up several times checking to make sure our anchor was holding. It held like a champ all night. I think it’ll take many more nights like this before I can rest easy on the hook when it’s blowing in the 20’s.

Since we're almost to Norfolk, we decided to wait out the rest of the wind on Sunday and spent the day learning more about the electronics, planning our route to Norfolk, doing Halloween art projects and playing with legos. Quinn is quite proud of his lighthouse!

Tomorrow we're off to Irvington, VA.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Rule Of Threes

A common question I've been asked when talking to family and friends is "are you keeping busy, and what are you doing with ALL THAT FREE TIME?" Well, that's a good question. What the hell am I doing with all my free time, because I don't seem to have much... certainly not enough to keep this blog up to date!

Before I delve into this, my apologies to all you "working folk" as this might sound like I'm complaining about living on a boat and not going to work 5 days a week. I'm not. In fact, I still dance little jigs on the foredeck when I remember that it's a weekday and I'm not driving to work or responding to countless tiresome emails. People on neighboring boats probably think I'm nuts. My wife certainly does.

If I'm to answer the question about how I manage not to go nuts from boredom, I have to bring you up to speed about a fairly well known (around boaters) but little understood natural law called "The Rule of Threes"

For those of you unfamiliar with this quirk in space-time, The Rule of Threes must be respected if you are to have any hope of completing a boat-related project in time for happy hour, or even a late dinner. This force of nature applies to every task performed on a boat, big or small. Simply put, take your worst-case time estimate for a boat related job and multiply it by three. That gives you the absolute minimum time required to complete the job.

For example, as I started writing this blog, I felt the need for a little nourishment to feed my muse, and I happily recalled that we had some of my favorite crackers stashed away... somewhere. Now, in a house you would simply stroll into the kitchen, root around in the cabinets and select the snack du jour. My task was a little more involved. First, since I knew the cabinet where we stored snacks did not have any of the tasty treats I was wanting, I had to guess where we had stowed the backups. Luckily, I found the crackers in the first spot I looked, but it required shifting all the stuff stowed in front of the box and then re-stowing it all once I had retrieved the crackers. So a 2 minute task to retrieve some crackers turned into a 10 minute task. For those of you checking my math, yes, the Rule of Threes was established by a hopeless optimist, and should be considered a best case scenario.

The Rule of Threes demands a change in pace to what Jen and I call Boat Time. Everything takes longer to do, and requires a lot more effort. Things as simple as lighting a stove or going to the toilet are more complicated. Throwing out the trash may mean a quarter mile walk each way. This change in pace can be frustrating until you realize that it's all part of the package and the extra effort is worth it. We're not on a schedule after all, and so everything slows down to boat time.

So with the Rule of Threes in mind, here are some of the things I've been doing to occupy my mind and time:

2 chart plotters
Water maker (mounting and wiring, still need to do plumbing, yuck)
LifeTag Man Overboard system
Lifeline netting to keep Quinn on board when jumping on the tramps
Remote control for autopilot
2 new anchors
New outboard, fuel tank, nav lights and anchor for our dinghy
Satellite Phone
Single Side Band radio receiver

Maintenance Stuff:
Oil changes on 2 diesels and transmissions (haven't had to yet on the generator)
Fill water tanks - weekly
Empty turd tanks - weekly
Scrub 1000 sq ft of deck - should be done every week or so
Maintain sailing gear
etc etc etc...

Head Stuff:
Routing for trip around Cape Hatteras (weather and gulf stream) and points south
Equipment and spares needed for cruising
Weather analysis
Establishing maintenance lists

Since this is getting long and it's getting late, I'll leave to other blog entries to detail the fun involved in some of the installations. Think "flying trapeze" and you'll be on the right track...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

I sold my car a couple days ago. I'm a little sad - it was my first new car. Some new friends we met at NPM in Rock Hall, Kathy and John from OCEANA, bought it. It's going to a very nice home.