Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bermuda Bound!

Well, no fishing today, for it’s “one hand for the boat, one hand for yourself”. (Not that Ron didn’t try to put out the lines this morning as I was coming off watch, but I told him I needed to sleep and not have him shouting for help in landing another monster tuna.) In these conditions, you have to hang on, as we’re rocking through 6’ seas which are hitting us on the starboard beam. Every once in a while we get rolled to 15 or 30 degrees when a cluster of sneaky waves tosses us off balance, but it really isn’t too bad. If you get focused on the waves approaching, you just feel tense and overwhelmed by the power of the ocean, and fail to notice that Equinox is solidly plugging along through the waves. One just has to relax and accept the rhythm of the boat; then it’s actually comfortable. And after hours of watching an empty horizon and blank radar, just when you think no one else is out here, the 600’ cruise ship Norwegian Majesty comes flying past at 19 knots, clearly headed to Bermuda as well. Can’t say she looked any happier in the conditions, spraying and splashing her way about as she passed us. I thought about hailing her captain to slow down so we could follow in her lee….

Ron is off watch and attempting to sleep in our cabin while I’m at the helm. I’m on the 2000-2400 watch, and he’ll take the wee hours. It’s still quite light out, although once darkness descends, I’ll switch everything over to night mode and use red light so that my night vision doesn’t suffer. Not that I’ll need to see anything besides the radar and chartplotter. Can’t see anything out there now, but earlier, we were visited by a big pod of spotted dolphins. They were wheeling and cavorting in the waves alongside our bow, but the minute Ron tried to step outside to get a closer look, they left. SO…it’s been a quiet day of reading, standing watch, writing, or in Ron’s case, watching DVDs on his computer. We spoke with Ally earlier today via sat phone; she’s having a great time with Alexis McHarg (a girlfriend from school, who lives in Bermuda) and is looking forward to our arrival. The chart plotter is estimating a July 1st landfall; hard to believe we have two more days to go! Conditions aren’t going to get drastically better, but they aren’t forecast to get worse, either. Let’s hope it holds true!!

Well, forecast or not, there’s a squall approaching from the southwest, and although it’s soon to be overhead, it’s not raining yet. Guess that’s what the “isolated showers” means in the forecast. Just now, I heard Bermuda Harbor Radio responding to some sailboat that’s hailed its arrival. BHR cleared them to enter St. George’s harbor through Town Cut. Boy, does that make it real!! We’re still quite some distance away, over 344 nm!! Clearly Bermuda Radio has a hell of a VHF transmitter. Darkness is almost here; time to switch off the computer and switch the lights to red. My contemplation time!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Offshore, enroute....

Well, during our lovely run down the Chesapeake in calm conditions, we kept checking the weather updates, and while the inshore forecast was good, the 48- & 96- hour forecasts for further offshore gave us pause when we saw the 3-meter markings on the forecast charts. NOAA forecasts are conservative in that the wind and wave forecasts indicate the average 1/3 of all the waves, meaning that a third of the waves will be larger than forecast. Who wants to see 12 waves? We’ve been there, and while Equinox can handle it, believe me, it is no fun for the crew.
So, we tucked into Norfolk for a night, arriving into Little Creek Va at 3:30 in the morning. We had a storm hot on our tail, complete with lightning and thunder as we pulled in the inlet. Ron had called ahead for a slip, and we were assigned A-58, right around the corner from the channel. Of course, not only was it the dead of night, but the outgoing current was clipping along at a good pace, and pushed the boat about quite a bit more than Ron was expecting, so we actually had to make two approaches to back into the slip. Between the wind, the current, the lightning, and the fatigue factor of a middle-of the night docking job, Ron did fabulously, in my opinion, easing us into the slip with nary a touch on the pilings!! I happily snagged the pilings with the lines, and once secure, we got shore power connected and hit the bed. Exhausted, but happy, we had time to wait for improving conditions.

Of course, the next day was glorious weather inshore, but we kept looking at the offshore wind and wave reports and telling ourselves we made the right decision. It’s so hard not to second guess yourself when it comes to the weather! We didn’t pout, but rather, put the dinghy in and enjoyed a champagne cruise on Little Creek. After a late afternoon nap, we briefly attended a Jimmy Buffett “Not-Quite-Live” concert that Paul from Parrot’s Nest was putting on at the other end of the pier (learning a lot about how to grill oysters and steam clams on the grill in the process). We had our leis and grass skirts; never go anywhere without them in the closet, actually!! I love having our clothes along when we come across an event like that. On our way back down the pier to the boat for beverage reinforcements, however, we stopped to talk with Maria and Jorgen Lindquist off Querincia, a Catalina 44 sailboat. Maria's Irish and Jorgen's Swedish, and after being invited aboard, we ended up chatting the night away with them, first aboard their boat, and then aboard Equinox. They are fun folks; they’re looking to spend the winter aboard in the Exumas, so we will be sure to look them up. We never did make it back for the concert, unfortunately!

Our Slip in Bay Point Marina, Norfolk, Va

Some of the scenery from our dinghy cruise. Really like the classsic houseboat, listing to starboard....

The next morning, Ron was up before me, already checking the latest weather reports. Judging from what he saw, we now had a window of opportunity to head out. I looked at the charts with him, poured over the Bermuda weather forecasts and NOAA offshore predictions for wind and wave heights…and agreed. We topped off the fuel tanks and headed out of the Little Creek inlet around 1100. We called various folks with the float plan, and thus…here we are….just cruising along in lovely following seas of 1-2’, and a light wind behind us. There are some southeasterly swells to make it truly oceanic, but Equinox is just purring along and we are enjoying a fabulous first day at sea. It really doesn’t get much better than this….it’s a tad cloudy, but that’s okay. We had a light dinner of broiled tilapia, broccoli and tomato-cucumber-olive-avocado salad, and soon, we will start the night watches. Tonight I’m doing 8-12, Ron will do 12-4, and then I’ll be back at it again for the dawn watch. We used the satellite link to check the latest weather, and so far, this should continue throughout the night. We will encounter larger seas, but it looks like we timed this right! The ETA into Bermuda is on July 1st, about 10 in the morning. Can’t wait to see Allison again!! Miss HER!!

Ron’s putting out the fishing lines in hopes of catching some late dinner, AND…as I wrote that last sentence, he started hollering “FISH ON!! AND IT’S A BIG ONE!!” Certainly was!! Just as he was bringing in the line to give up, something hit it, and I slowed the boat, disengaging the stabilizers. He’d hooked a large yellowfin tuna, and was reeling it in hard. I grabbed my lone crabber’s glove (only have the left one, donated by a crabber on Fairlee Creek, who said he only needed the right one) and with the gaff in my other hand went out on the transom to wait for the fish to be close enough. I gaffed it once, but it got off and started taking off again, so Ron had to scramble to re-reel it in. (The fish almost took the rod with it, as Ron had set it down to help me, post-gaff.) The leader is way too long on that reel too, which made it difficult to deal with the overhang on the back deck, so we couldn’t get the line any closer than what the leader would allow. Finally, using the waves and the fish’s own motion, it came close enough to the surface for me to grab the line with my left (gloved) hand and gaff it with my right and bring it through the transom door. HUGE!! Approximately 45 inches long, we couldn’t lift it alone; both us of had to heave it into the cooler together. It had to weigh over 60 lbs, and that’s not an exaggeration. My hurried photo doesn’t do it justice, but that cooler is 40 inches long, and the you can see the tail curling up at the end of the cooler.

We set about pithing and bleeding it as it says to do in the books, although I’m not sure we did it quite right, but we tried. We added ice to cool it down as soon as we could and set about to gill and gut it. Ron then began the arduous job of cleaning and steaking it. Judging from the amount of tuna steaks we bagged and froze, along with a couple bags of chunks for seafood chowder, it definitely was sizable!! It took us over two hours from the time Ron hooked it to the time I finished vacuum-sealing the last bag of tuna steaks for the freezer. Oh yes, I’m SO glad I bought all those tuna steaks from Wegman’s before we set out!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Heading offshore...

....today! We checked the weather and plotted where we will be approximately & when, and right now, it looks like we have a weather window. Thus, we are heading out this afternoon. Keep an eye on the weather and wish us luck!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Done Provisioning....

...at long last! The freezer is full, as is the refrigerator, so we are well-stocked and I'm glad that's done, along with the 1,001 other details we had to take care of before we are ready to leave. I believe I logged 100 miles a day trying to get everything wrapped up: post office, bank, book store, grocery store, house, hardware store, liquor store, doctors office...I feel like I've been to each place repeatedly this week! I had to pre-pay our property taxes, for example, since they are due in July and we'll be gone. However, the county tax bills aren't generated until July 1st, so they couldn't tell me how much the taxes will be, which made paying a bit difficult! I made an estimated payment, and they'll let me know if we owe more (or less?) later.

It will all work out, but both Ron and I did SO much work this week to prep the boat, we're exhausted. I had to get all of Allison's re-enrollment paperwork in to school ahead of time as well (and encountered the same thing re the July 1 bill generation....!) since her forms are due in late July, but managed to get that taken care of with the assistance of Oldfields. Ron was immersed in boat projects to batten down items (installing D-rings for strapping down bins in the storage area, for instance) between the melancholy moments of his last few days at work.

It's finally hit Ron, how big a change it will be to retire and not see daily all the folks who mean so much to him. There have been so many wonderful tributes to Ron this week; it's been very touching. There was a fabulous event Monday evening with many board members, community leaders and executive folks in attendance, and Warren Green, president of LifeBridge, gave a great speech before presenting Ron with his retirement gift: a fabulous video camera to be used for underwater photography. Ron was thrilled with it, to say the least! The following day Levindale had their going away party for him, and he was again stunned by the generosity and outpouring of affection. He was incredibly touched: most meaningful was the gift from the Levindale employees, who all willingly donated money and raised $50,000 (!!!) to build a garden courtyard at the facility to be named in Ron's honor! It will benefit both the facility and the residents, so it was perfect!! Truly appropriate, and he loves it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back in Baltimore!

All the work is finally finished on Equinox...she is now sporting some gorgeous new storm windows on the port side (let's hope we never need them!) and all the punch list items are taken care of, for the most part. The port engine was cleared for duty by Gary Gateau of Drum Point Marine, who so carefully examined it and recorded its temps and numbers. While it still runs 3 degrees warmer than starboard, it's well within specifications.

Ron and Karyn left Solomons and cruised up the Chesapeake Friday evening, the 19th, on a gorgeous calm Bay. We left at 4 pm, and due to the distance, knew we wouldn't arrive until midnight or so, but the weather was so lovely, we couldn't resist!! Ally headed up by car (having brought Ron down to the boat) so was there awaiting our arrival. We passed the Grandeur of the Seas heading south...looked for a while there she was aiming right at us! Those ships are so big and so fast, we slow trawlers really have to keep an eye out for them.

As it turned out, we got in just a little over midnight; Ally was aboard Medici next door having spent the evening with Charlie and Trish. We appreciated being snug in our slip the next morning, when it was stormy and raining. There were tornado watches all over the Bay, and thunder rumbled most of the day. We spent the day in the engine room, changing oil and various filters (14 of them!) from oil filters to Racor fuel filters. It was a long day, but productive. The next week will be a test, since we have a lot to do to prepare for departure on Friday. We want to be ready if the weather cooperates!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Finishing up....

....all the items! Love it when a plan comes together!!! Well, the myriad of things we got added, tweaked, repaired and inspected are winding down and getting finished, so we look to be on our way back to Baltimore tomorrow. Ron came down yesterday afternoon and we did our own bit towards the maintenance, by changing the oil in one unit of the dive compressor and replacing the O2 sensor and all various air filters for the unit. Easier said than done, as the plug fitting for the O2 sensor was so tight that we had a heck of a time getting it out. We succeeded at last, so the new unit is on and we are good to go for a while again! Yes!

Ally returns from her time at the beach with an OS family, and this next week will undoubtedly be a busy one as we prepare and provision for our trip to Bermuda. Of course, the weather has to cooperate, so we're keeping an eye on it closely.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Solomons once again....

My early morning view over coffee from the cockpit

...after our lovely interlude in Annapolis over the weekend, we brought Equinox back to Spring Cove for the final items on the maintenance list: getting the fiddle installed on the stove, getting the storm windows fitted for the saloon port side, one last gel coat touch-up, among others. Karyn was captain, doing the piloting leaving Annapolis as well as the docking upon arrival in Solomons. The new port shaft and properly tuned propeller make a big difference -- our fuel consumption is so much better! Glad we got that tweaked! Ron is back at work (only a few days left!) this being Monday, and the girls will be heading out to the beach for a few days with another Oldfields friend and family tomorrow. It's a quiet kind of overcast day, perfect for sleeping in (which the girls are doing), catching up on paperwork, phone calls and planning, but first, coffee on the aft deck!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Good Times with Old Friends!

Karyn, Donna, Kim, Ally & Kayleigh

Ally had her friend Kayleigh visiting aboard for a long weekend, re-joining us after the Orioles game on Friday night and meeting up with us at the boat in Annapolis. Ron and I had a lovely bicycle ride Saturday morning (the 18-mile loop out to Arundel-On-The-Bay and the Bay Ridge -Thomas Point Loop), followed by a classic breakfast at Chick and Ruth's Deli in downtown Annapolis. After a leisurely afternoon of boat projects, dinghy rides, reading and napping, we met up with Kim Baldoni (formerly Electric Dreams) and a group of girlfriends who were in Kent Island for the weekend. They cruised over to the western shore on their big tender for a late lunch at Pusser's, and later joined us up on Clements Creek off the Severn while we were visiting Medici and Captain Cook, who were moored up there. All lovely fun in the sun!! Trish and Charlie made fabulous hor d'oeurves and dinner for us all, before weather forced us to race back down the Severn in the dinghy, dodging a few raindrops in the process. SO good to see friends again, and really glad to be back aboard!!

Ron, Karyn & Ally aboard Captain Cook

Friday, June 12, 2009

Boat Maintenance...

...is never ending! But, after a couple weeks out of the water, Equinox is happy to be wet! Karyn spent the day cleaning and vacuuming inside, then cleaning the accumulated boatyard grit off the aft cockpit chairs. In general, just tried to stay out of the way of Rob Abbott from Martek, who was here re-programing some of the Furuno instruments (had conflicting software issues) as well as the AHBY guys who were working on repairing and re-painting the summer kitchen drain cover up on the flybridge. We can tell we've not had our guys from Dean's Yacht Service available and able to clean the boat...she's in desperate need of a bath!  In the afternoon, after Ron got back from work (12 days left!), we hosted Ashley Love from T2Productions, the company that is working on a promo video for Kadey-Krogen Yachts. We'd shot some video footage of Equinox in the Bahamas this past winter, which Ashley edited into a nice little segment, and she wanted to get footage of Ron and I describing our trip, why we love our boat, the cruising lifestyle, etc. Guess that was our "15-minutes of fame", to paraphrase Andy Warhol!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

College Visits in Florida!

The H.B. Plant Museum at University of Tampa

While Equinox was out of the water, Ally and Karyn took the opportunity to visit a couple more prospective colleges, this time in Florida. Specifically, the University of Tampa, and Eckerd College, both located in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Ally is interested in marine sciences, and/or public relations/communications as majors (in either of which she will excel) so we toured each campus for more information and to see if either place was a good fit. Both had their strengths, and we really enjoyed each visit, but I think that UTampa captured her heart. SO...lots to consider and get done, as applications and essays lie ahead! After the tours and interviews, we hung out on St. Pete Beach, as we were staying at "The Pink Lady", the Loews Don Cesar Resort. It was a great time!! Perfect weather, good college visits, what's not to like? Ally is feeling much more very excited about college now, and is ready to get to work on the applications!

The Loews Don Cesar, our "pink castle"

Gulf of Mexico sunset - the view from our room

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ally is a Senior!

It's been a busy week; Ally had her last week of school with all the traditional events: May Program presentation, Garden Party and Awards Banquet, dashing up to Delaware for girlfriend Claire Messano's graduation from Sanford. Saturday Ally took part (as did all OS girls) in walking down the hill for Graduation 2009. It was rainy weather all week, but it did manage to be sunny Saturday morning for the ceremonies! Ally is now a SENIOR!

Ron and I have been busy with details, details, details regarding the work on the boat, and re-vamping our boat insurance. Seems like nothing is coming together these days! The rainy weather has put a cramp in the schedule for getting the outside work finished, but the prop has been tuned, is back on and is looking gorgeous. Ron's bummed he didn't get the starboard prop polished too, but my attitude is that it was working beautifully, so don't mess with success! We still spent the weekend aboard, even on the hard, getting a few boat projects done on Saturday, and enjoying the Spring Cove Marina pool after a great 33-mile bike ride today. We averaged nearly 16.5 mph, which is just fine by my standards!! We're getting stronger every ride and enjoying the early start to summer!

Hopefully this week things will come together and we'll get the boat wet again. It's tentatively set to launch this coming week after finishing up the maintenance, so I'll keep you posted!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Still hard...

...being on the hard. It gives one pause to be back on land and missing the boat. Lots of time to ruminate, actually. And...in retrospect, thinking about what Gregg said about Equinox being overweight...he must have been thinking of a KK48' or another smaller version, as I checked the specifications on the 58' and at half load, the boat already weighs 96,500 lbs! So at 100,000 lbs, we aren't so fat and happy after all! The dinghy weighs the most, at almost 850 lbs all in, with its 60 hp engine, which means we don't have 9 tons of stuff aboard. Whew!! Here I was going to blame Allison for all her clothes, or...all Ron's business suits (which will be offloaded soon!). But...nope, probably just the spares and the dive compressor. So...not too bad after all. Of course, when I watch The Deadliest Catch, then I realize how very much we have it easy. You are not going to catch me out on the Bering Sea, knocking 4" of ice off the railings. Isn't going to happen!!

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable weekend aboard. Yes, even on land, we stayed on the boat as that is what we all wanted to do after Ally returned from Paris. And it was a great, time from the weather to the bicycling, and especially, just being together. Ally just enjoyed some quiet time, loading her Paris photos to her computer while Ron and I went out and cycled. We did 26 miles on Saturday, and 30 on Sunday.

Being out of the water was totally weird though. You get so used to being aboard, you have to remember which systems will not work OUT of the water. So...this weekend I had to resort to using the laundry facilities at the marina, and of course, I couldn't get the machines to operate. (No, not totally out of touch, just recalcitrant machines!!) But what was scary was that I spent so much time moving laundry in and out of broken machines, that I couldn't I remember if I left laundry in the machines, or not. Truly felt that I hadn't left anything, but yes, the next morning I realized our riding gear was still there in the washing machines. Ooops. Sorry for hogging the machines!

Anyway, we were so happy to even ride on Sunday after waking to noisy thunderstorms Sunday morning! And, talk about being pleased that we have lightning protection... for some reason, I felt very exposed out on the boatyard versus being in a slip. The lightning seemed everywhere, briefly, and then after the rain we slipped out for a ride just as Ally was waking, and did a strong 30 miles. Let it be noted that sometimes -- a rare sometimes -- the wind CAN be at your back. :) Nevertheless, a good weekend together and we enjoyed another fine dinner at the CD Cafe Saturday night, and an interesting lunch at Solomons Pier before heading back to the house.

Which is where we are, at the house.