Monday, 26 November 2012

Still moving south

We left Vineyard Haven for Newport and, after an undisturbed night sleep, hauled the anchor up and set sail for what we hoped would be the Delaware Bay and a visit with Russ and Alison, friends from the 2011 trip to Labrador. The day started with a fast hour or so, became lumpy at the entrance to Narraganset Bay and then settled into a rhythm as we headed toward and past Block Island. The NE wind blew steadily and progress was rapid if quiet; rarely have we managed to cross this section of water without a constant background chatter of fishing boats/tugs etc warning other vessels of their intentions but it was a welcome change. The journey from this area to the mid section of the US involves crossing numerous shipping lanes; 3 for New York alone and traffic was reasonably heavy. The AIS, as ever, made life easier, particularly in the dark when judging distance is generally more difficult...but our first problem came from a fishing boat that Bee had seen well off to port. Initially all we could establish was that it was incredibly well lit up but, because of the brightness and distance away, no direction of travel could be determined. After what seemed an age a faint green light could be seen and we knew then it was traveling in our general direction....our courses closed and too late we realised that far from moving slowly this dredger was steaming, dragging whatever it drags and showing no inclination to slow down. Because of the wind direction and the tack we were on we had little option but to bear away slightly, increase speed a little (we were already running at 7knots +) and cross his bow about 150 feet ahead. Nothing was heard on the radio and doubts began to set in. When we'd put sufficient distance between us we checked to see whether he could hear us. No response and no response either to a general call for a "radio check" Hmmmm. The rest of the night proved quiet but the following day off the third of the three traffic lanes that enter and leave New York we ran into our second issue. Daylight this time and we watched visually and on AIS, a large Chinese container ship move slowly away from NY and toward us. They were steaming at 10 knots or so, we were sailing at 5 or 6. They slowly closed the gap between us and it looked as though our course would converge. Because of the seas and wind direction we had our boom with a preventer on and whilst gybing might be a last resort it would require a lot of prep work before we could do so. We stood on. The gap closed and narrowed. At a point we judged that we could pass astern of the ship we rounded up and sort of hove to. I say "sort of" as we were still moving through the water at 2 knots and now moving closer to them. The ship altered course away from us by 10 degrees and once we were both clear of each other our normal courses were resumed. We had tried calling the ship but had no response and had no idea whether they had tried calling us. Not being able to communicate made life very tense for a few minutes and I began to feel concern about going through the Delaware Canal with no means of communication. As it happened the weather forecast came in and warned that the winds were fading and backing to the north which would leave us with a possible beat up the Delaware Bay or an easy sail down to Chesapeake and then across to Portsmouth. We opted to head on south but in the end it wasn't that easy as we approached Cape Charles in the dark and rain but with the tide flooding into the Bay. The effect of wind over tide over shallow water produces square, lumpy seas and with 5 miles to go before we cleared the bridge/tunnel system we opted to motor sail our way through the things. Water poured over the deck as the bowsprit buried itself in the solid mass of water we were running into. I watched as several inches of water ran along the deck and over the Air Only Vent vent we'd fitted. Having suffered for years with water dripping through various vents we're still over the moon that this vent does exactly what it says. No water drips or leaks below from it, the ventilation is excellent and, when the pension kicks in next year, we intend to fit several more.

By 11:30 we were tied up at the dock some 73 hours after we hauled up the anchor in Newport. We'll stay here for a few weeks, have already started our winter batch of home-brew (5 litres of beetroot and 25 litres of rice and raisin) and the inevitable job list that accompanies a boat. The plan is still to go south...after the last 2 summer cruises to the north and a winter spent in Maine we're ready for some sun......oh alright and some cheap rum!

Some months ago we wrote about giving up on the Taylor's cooker and replacing it with a single "primus" type burner. The reasons were numerous, not least, the horrendous price of spares from Taylor's and their, apparent, indifference to emails from long term customers - we'd been using the unit since 2000. The primus was/is great but we needed to find a way to gimbal it. 

 As luck would have it we found a second hand "Atom" unit in Maine before we left on the Greenland trip and I have to say it has been a winner. The unit is well made and we've been able to cook irrespective of conditions. Bee continues to turn out a loaf every other day using a cast iron dutch oven and we have had few problems. It is noisy but even that has its advantages  - drowns out the noise of vile weather and wind up top;  unlike the Taylors with its 6 litre fuel tank the primus holds less than a litre so it really requires filling on a daily basis. But over and above its effectiveness has been the response of the guy who designed the gimbal unit and sells them from here. Knowledgeable, efficient and helpful. Each time we've contacted him he has responded quickly (a major plus when you're often on the move). He also recognises that you may well have the skills to build your own unit so displays on his site a helpful diagram with measurements. Kero is such a sensible fuel for a cruiser and this is a simple, neat alternative to a Taylor's too.

VHF. We seemed to have sorted out our vhf silence. Cary's boat is in the slip next to us and we were able to swap radios around and establish the fault lay with the connection or aerial. Turns out to be a loose connection between aerial and cable and it has been judiciously tightened and taped. 

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