Friday, 18 December 2009

Here’s to absent friends........

 The last log of 2009, 9 years and who knows how many words since we started on this life...?

After a couple of weeks in Belfast we needed

to be moving south if we were to avoid the colder weather that hangs around at that time of the year and we duly said yet another bunch of very sad goodbye’s to friends even though we knew we’d be back in  May to catch up with folks before pushing north.

We had a quiet few days and then sheltered for a few days to avoid a blow. The following day as we prepared to head out we heard a yacht talking to the coastguard about the possible need for a tow. As they were only 4 miles away we called and said we’d come down and see what we could do. On arriving it seemed their engine had packed in and where they were anchored was surrounded by shallows etc. We crept in, got a line to them and made ready to leave. For some reason he felt then was a good time to let us know he was an Episcopalian minister and we wondered if he was about to launch into a sermon but no, it was a conversational piece it seems... Once clear he decided that rather than tow him to wherever it was (against the ebbing tide and into the wind..) he’d sail for his home port and as we’d heard about a very sheltered, if a little tricky to enter, anchorage near to there, we followed suit.
 The Basin, as our anchorage is called, was everything we’d been led to believe. A tight, shallow entrance coupled to a fast running tide gave us an interesting 15 minutes or so. Inside was much larger than we’d imagined but sheltered and empty. A couple of days later with a strong favourable forecast we left for Provincetown (P’town)... Of course the weather hadn’t heard the same forecast we had so didn’t follow the rules and as evening came round we looked for an alternative to a night spent drifting......

The harbour we chose was about a dozen miles away and as we closed and began searching for the buoyed entrance the thought struck us that the chart we were using hadn’t shown the light characteristics. But that’s because there weren’t any to show as we realised when the buoys failed to show up.
Provincetown and the Pilgrims Monument
 We crept as close in as we dared but with night on us and no way of establishing the entrance we turned away to continue a drift through the night for P’town. Luckily even with the little wind there was we still managed to get the self-steerer to work  and so it wasn’t the purgatory it might have been. Crossing the shipping lane and fishing fleets  was interesting but like most things we survived them and with some desperate motoring we crept into P’town harbour about 10pm.

Onwards to the Cape Cod Canal, through and anchored in Pocassett Harbour where a friendly passing boat invited us to use any mooring buoy.  They were taking their boat to be hauled as they sold her that day after an ownership of 30 years and at 70+ years old felt they might need something a little easy to handle.  A few days later we had a leisurely breakfast and headed off down Buzzards Bay toward our destination of Block Island. In retrospect we wondered what the hell we were doing dawdling around over coffee and toast when we had 60 miles to do and consequently the evening saw us still with15 miles to go, a beat to finish and then a narrow entrance where it looked as though some buoys may be lit but not others.
The breakwater with high tide still to come...
 In the end we opted for Point Judith as the place had never really let us down before... We should have known things were not as we remembered when, on entering; we saw the height of the water in relation to the breakwater and thought we were at high tide. A quick check showed how wrong we were and though the tides are tiny in this part of the bay we knew that the direction the next blow was coming from would send the swell over the top. And it did giving us several days of sleep starvation to mull our leisurely breakfast.

The journey down to the Chesapeake was started with a favourable 3 day forecast and the first 24 hours lived up to hopes as we bowled along making enough progress to commit ourselves to doing the trip in one hit. Of course once the decision had been made and enough hours passed so that we really were at the point of no return the weather turned foul with wind, rain and fog as we edged our way through yet another shipping lane; this time for the Delaware Bay. Naturally at this time we discovered the antennae cable to the AIS was a poor connection and we were, once more, blind.  We’ve since sorted that out so, hopefully,  it’ll be the last time it figures on these pages!

We made progress, dealing with a jib sheet that mysteriously came adrift in the night. It could have been far worse as, with a strongish breeze blowing, we could have found the jib in tatters. As it was we had to deal with a sheet wrapped around the inner forestay and the jib flapping around like a demented flag. Working together we managed to get the jib in, the sheet unravelled and everything back together again. Whilst we were at it we took the opportunity to reef and set a smaller head’l as the falling barometer heralded more poor weather which was due to head us, on the way. Before it arrived we had a period of very light winds coupled to heavy swells left over from yesterdays winds.
 We motor sailed to try and get at least past Cape Charles before the wind changed. We made it and continued our way up the Bay, this time opting to head north toward an anchorage on the east side rather than beat our way to Portsmouth. It’s an artificial harbour created by the sinking of 15 ferro-cement Liberty ships from the second war. And although it doesn’t look much it was great protection, off a nature reserve.

So the following day we headed for Pompey with a wind that didn’t really materialise in the company of more yachts than we’d seen all summer! Portsmouth is the start of the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway) a “channel” that runs all the way down to Florida some 1000 miles to the south. It enables boats to do the run without the need to head out to sea, in particular avoiding the Capes – Hatteras, Look Out and Fear with their shoal water and proximity to the Gulf Stream.  Our excitement mounted as we slipped along, reverting to the engine as the wind died. Turning into the channel that leads to the creek Bee hopped up onto the doghouse to check if their was a space for us.. not only a space but she could see Robin and Jac’s RV parked in the street!!. We hastily moored up, crept out onto the road and thundered on their door. In one of those bizarre coincidences they had arrived about an hour before us and we wasted no time in cracking the colostomy bags of red wine. We called Cary and Linda and despite their invalid status they too came over to join the celebrations.
Well since then we’ve settled in, R&J have gone home and we have allowed ourselves to get sucked in to working on Hannah. Though not much as in the last few weeks rain has arrived with a vengeance. A few weeks back we were told of a front coming through. Listening to the radio gave us wind strengths of 50 or 60 knots from the NE.........  well, we sort of face the NE in this slip so that was good news.
 But the Elizabeth River on which this whole place stands is open to the NE. So we listen and on the Wed. we’re told the winds could reach 70 knots and tides will be high. They got both of those right!! For 2 or 3 days we had winds so strong that the tide was unable to ebb and consequently each high tide got progressively higher.

Normally at high tide we’d have a couple of feet under the keel. Now we had close to 8. The jetty was underwater and the water was level with a hand rail that runs alongside the jetty.

Eventually the water would rise ABOVE this rail. and this is a metre above the jetty..the water normally stops a foot or so below the jetty

At its height the noise from the wind as it flattened the waves was so reminiscent of Greenland that the fear on Hannah was palpable. In some ways we felt worse as the jetty was a matter of feet from our rudder, we’d taken the tiller off to work on it some days earlier, the anchor was un-shipped and rock hard land wasn’t that from our stern. All in all a very frightening few days and we watched the storms progress across the Atlantic as it barrelled up the English Channel causing havoc. If you’re interested we use (when we can get a connection)  The “front” casually mentioned turned out to be a downgraded Hurricane Ida now relegated to a Tropical Storm...oh the joys of the east coast USA.

So that’s about it. Got a couple of web sites to share with you. You may remember the blog we gave you before called Boxes and Bellows. Run by Andrea from the wonderful Island of Lewis. She has started charting the progress of a crofter near to where she and Eve live. Not only are the photos excellent but she has a humorous writing style. So the new site is

Lastly some great friends of ours in Monroe, Maine have a bought a farm. Not just any farm either but one that requires a HUGE amount of work, will be run organically and looks as though they will have the time of their lives. The blog is called

And finally; many, many thanks are owed to dozens of folks who have kept us going through the years. We think of you often.

Enjoy your festivities, keep the wine flowing as we do – the rice and raisin wine we knocked out when we got here is particularly good this time and we’ll write again early next year.

I suppose you think this is funny...?