Travel 2015-2016

Some History

Why buy a boat and do this live-aboard cruising? 

Once upon a time, this was a common question. Finally, I may have found an answer.

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I’ve noticed that when hanging around with boaters and cruisers, they don’t ask this question very often. They might ask it rhetorically as a conversation-starter. But I never had to explain cruising to a cruiser.

Non-boaters — of course — are curious about the boat thing. And I haven’t really had a good answer.

Now there’s this: http://rubyandpearl.blogspot.com

CA carefully entered Mom’s logs from her trip around the US in 2002. Scanned the pictures. Ran the old cassette tapes through some transcription software to get the spoken word record. 

Wow. All of it. Breakfast in Depoe Bay, OR, on May 5th.  CA entered all of it.

As you can see, Mom enjoyed a good long trip. Someplace that took some work to get to.

I think CA should have called this Harriet’s Getting Gas, since that’s the preamble on a lot of the audio recordings. 

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Two women in a van isn’t the same thing as traveling on Red Ranger at all. Hotels and motels are important when you’re motoring. Since Red Ranger was our home, dropping the hook for a week or a month wasn’t a problem for us.

But for Ruby and Pearl finding Wi-Fi, food, and shelter was a very big deal.

Dad wasn’t quite so colorful, but he didn’t want grass to grow under his feet, either. He took the family of six on some long trips.

Why buy a boat and go cruising?

It appears to run in the family.

Armchair Sailing

If we hadn’t dropped the hook ashore to make some bank, we’d be planning our migration. However, since we’re not going anywhere, what we have as an alternative is armchair sailing. Here’s our armchair trip to Florida.

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October is when we have the Whitby Rendezvous. The rendezvous is in Galesville Maryland. Previously, it was a two day trip from Deltaville. When we move Red Ranger to Herrington Harbor, it will be a day sail.

This is followed by the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis. This is a wonderful day sail from Galesville.

Then the Hampton Snowbirds Rendezvous. This is about three days down the Bay. We can make it four days if we stop in Poquoson.

They’re great events, helpful preparation for the trip south. And the travel up and down the Bay is the perfect shakedown. In the past we’ve done significant repairs along the way.

We like to spend a week or so in Norfolk on the hook by Hospital Point. We also need to top off the fuel. The trip from Deltaville to Annapolis to Hampton is can be about 40 hours of motoring; we would burn about 50 gallons of diesel.

It takes about week to run down the ditch to Beaufort. The docks are expensive, but there’s an anchorage by the Coast Guard station that’s wide open and sets the stage for jumping outside. We’d spend at least a few days there topping off fuel and water.

In previous years, we went inside the ICW to Wrightsville Beach. If we go outside, it’s 80 nm to the Masonboro inlet. That’s about 16 hours — too far for a day sail. But if we leave about 14:00 from Beaufort and make 5 kts all night, we could be there in the morning. The alternative is three days in the ditch. 

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For a night journey like this, we really need flat seas. This usually means almost no wind, or — at most — less than 10 knots in exactly the right direction: out of the SE or NW.

We love Wrightsville. We’ve spent weeks there. But it gets cold and we need to press south. It’s 110 nm to Charleston, 18 to 22 hours. The problem is that we need to get down the Cape Fear river: it’s another 25 nm: a 5 hour slog. So, the general policy is wait for a fair current, pull the anchor up just before nautical twilight starts (about 48 minutes before dawn) and plan to arrive in Charleston sometime just after dawn.

Since we get to do much of this trip in daylight, flat seas aren’t required, but they’re helpful. We’re willing to deal with winds up to 15 kts, but the seas need to be flat. Anything above 3’ can lead to sea-sickness, especially if it’s an overcast night or there’s no moon.

A dawn arrival is glorious. The Charleston light is visible at least 26 nm away. That’s a solid four hours of watching it work its way higher and higher above the horizon. I get to watch that during the tail end of my watch. CA follows it during her watch. We can often see the lights on the buoys marking the channel as we get closer. Plus, of course, the shipping. 

Then the sun comes up and we can see the shoreline. 

At this point, we’ve done at most 46 hours under power in flat seas. That’s about 60 gallons of fuel. We’re ready to refill the tank in Charleston. And eat Shrimp and Grits. And perhaps wait for Thanksgiving before pressing south.

It’s about 145 nm from Charleston to St. Mary’s Georgia. This is a plump 24 to 29 hours. We’re (again) waiting for flat seas and fair winds to make the jump. This is dawn departure aiming for a mid-day arrival at St. Mary’s. 

Then it’s time for a longer break. Hiking around Cumberland Island. Perhaps visiting Fernandina Beach. It’s a 20 mile day sail to the St. John’s River. From there it’s a 30 mile day sail to St. Augustine. 

If we play our cards right, we’ve burned another 40 gallons or so of fuel, and we’re far enough south that Winter is Fun. 

Bahamas or Coconut Grove? 

Armchair sailing. 

Slip Shopping

Long, long ago, from a city far, far away… 

CA and I enjoyed looking at boats and marinas. In the years BC (Before a Craft), we’d make excuses to visit marinas just because boats were so cool.

There’s a basic aesthetic of shape to the hull and topsides. There’s the technical aspect of deck fittings and hardware. And there’s a fitness for purpose in the hydrodynamic and aerodynamic worlds. And they’re cool. Even when we knew nothing about boats, there’s a level of supreme coolness to them.

When the stakes were low, it was big fun. 

Now, however, the stakes have been raised. Our essential home, Red Ranger, is down in Deltaville while we’re working up here in McLean. It’s a right long drive down to Deltaville of a Saturday. And Winter is Coming™. We need to find a new home for Red Ranger

Back in ’06 or ’07 we settled on A Idea, and started trying to shop. At the time, it was just A Idea and a poor marina decision was inconsequential. We’d seen Annapolis. We’d seen San Diego. We knew what sailing nirvana looked like. And we knew there were waiting lists for slips. We weren’t sure how to make the decisions. 

We used spreadsheets to compare and contrast every nuance as we tried to come to grips with all the unknowns.

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Its hard to move forward with A Idea, when we’re unclear on what we’re doing. And — at the time — we didn’t even have a boat. So it’s really a kind of three-part shopping expedition. To find out what’s important, then find a boat and then find a slip. But we’d like to know approximately where that slip was before buying a about. Otherwise we might wind up settling for a slip so far away that the boat merely languished. Chicken? Egg?

Once upon a time we flew to Baltimore and spent a long weekend driving around looking at Marinas. We weren’t sure what we wanted, but it wasn’t there. We looked at Norfolk and it seemed like a reasonable compromise between what we thought might be a good idea and reality of holding down a day job, finding a boat, fitting it out, and taking off to purse A Idea.

We created spreadsheets with lists of marinas and details details details about each marina. We sat in the car after each tour and filled in the cells on the spreadsheet. We wanted to be sure we didn’t do something completely stupid.

We created hugely detailed spreadsheets when nothing was at stake.

The Bold New World

Now, we’re shopping with a few more years of experience. And a boat. There’s a lot more at stake.

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The conversations are suddenly very focused.

Us: “42ʹ overall, 13ʹ6″ beam, 6ʹdraft, 30A shore power.” 

Them: “Well…” followed by a sales pitch.

That’s sort of it. We’ve seen a few marinas, and we now know what we need. And the bottom line is that we don’t need much. 

I rebuilt the engine cooling system at anchor in a river. See “Heat Exchangers Exchanged.” We’re sort of competent at some things. 

[Let’s not get carried away here. We’ve met people who’ve pulled their prop shafts while in the water. Yes. They opened a giant hole in the boat and jammed a plug into it without losing any parts or sinking. We’ve met people who’ve redesigned and rebuilt their rudder. When it comes to self-sufficiency, we’re barely moving the needle.]

The marinas (and yacht clubs) seem to compete on amenities. They compete on what we want.

At the boat show, we talked to a guy from a totally Posh Yacht Club. The Whitby Rendezvous is held at a small yacht club’s facility. It was a remarkable contrast between West River Sailing Club and Posh Yacht Club. 

  • WRSC has a bar/kitchen and a two rooms with some furniture. Heads. Cinderblock showers. Boat Launch. Dock. Moorings. No actual staff.
  • Posh Yacht Club had a giant bar, a full-time chef, three huge rooms, patio, outdoor fireplace, pool. Posh heads with tiled showers. Four docks. Four grill and picnic table pads. A guy who appeared to be a paid concierge and (perhaps) a secretary or receptionist of some kind. A $75/month minimum at the bar/dining area. Fuel. Pump out. A membership fee above and beyond dock fees.
  • On and off, we've been at Deltaville Marina. A lounge. Heads with fiberglass stall showers. A pool. A gazebo with grills and a picnic table. Four docks. A paid dock master. Fuel. Pump out. Adjacent to a top-shelf boatyard: Deltaville Boatyard. Walking distance from Ace Hardware and West Marine.

That seems to be the spectrum: from approximately nothing to just about everything. We spent some time the Ortega Landing marina. It was comparable to the Posh Yacht Club, without the membership fee. We’ve spent time at anchor, as well as city docks (with almost no amenities) and other tiny, family-operated marinas that are little more than docks in a creek.

The Decider

Besides the fabulous Posh Yacht Club, we’ve looked at some marinas more in line with Deltaville Marina.

How do we decide?

More nerdy spreadsheet action?

Actually, no. We no longer need the crutch of a formal decision-making process.

We’re down to this:

Sturdy Docks with safe walkway access to carry heavy things down to the boat?

Nearby hardware stores or West Marine (or both.)

Nearby marine services for the things we can’t easily do ourselves: 

  • engine, transmission, and fuel;
  • complex structural fiberglass;
  • complex rigging — mostly dealing the masts themselves;
  • sail loft.

Since we have a working fuel tank, I may take on the center fuel tank as a long-running project next winter. Or. I may hire diesel tech to rework the fuel plumping and add a filter/transfer pump.

So far?

Herrington Harbor North.

Seems to have everything we need and only a little of stuff we might merely want. 

Bonus: they’re an Eco-Lifestyle Resort. This has a lot of appeal. 

  © Steven Lott 2016