Monday, August 31, 2009

Ally's Birthday weekend: Annapolis!

The Captains Ron!

Sorry for the delay in and its sundry details got the best of us this week! We weren't exactly stationary, though, as we did a quick cruise down to Annapolis for the weekend of Ally's birthday. Ally had her girlfriend Kayleigh along, so they were happy to sunbathe and listen to their music on the journey south, for another night's stay at Annapolis Harbor Boat Yard. John Norton, AHBY's owner, helped us tie up and then proceeded to show us some stainless samples and get some measurements for the new hard top that they are fabricating for our flybridge. Ron is excited about getting rid of the flimsy bimini, even though it will reduce our ability to get under fixed bridges. (It's not like we ever put the mast down as it is, and have no plans to do the Great Loop either, so we're not too perturbed by the height restriction it will impose.) The larger concern is not to add too much weight up top, as we have enough stuff on the FB as it is! John's CAD drawing of the hardtop looks great; they'll go ahead and get it made, and it will be installed later in the month/early next month right before the boat show!

Part of our plan to cruise to Annapolis was to meet up with our friends the Messanos, who were aboard their boat, Clairebuoyant, in a slip over at The Yacht Basin. We were delighted to meet up with them again before Claire heads off to college at Providence next week, and before Ally starts boarding during the week at Oldfields. Being without the dinghy (which is in for repairs at Maritime Solutions) we rode the folding bikes over the Compromise Street bridge to meet them for a quick early nibble at Pusser's on the waterfront in Annapolis. We're almost becoming regulars!!

In the evening, we all walked over for a lovely dinner at Ruth's Chris' Steak House in Eastport with Kayleigh, the Messanos, and Claire's boyfriend Eric Schubert. Ally wanted a dinner out for her day, and we were all glad to indulge her!! Eric had never eaten at Ruth's Chris' before, so really enjoyed the treat! A great dinner -- and a better time -- was had by all!! Ally was most excited with her gifts: homemade scones from Ann Messano among other treats, and a great pair of leather sneakers from Kayleigh.

Kayleigh, Ally, Eric and Claire

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back in Baltimore: busy busy busy!

Since we've been back in Maryland, Ally's been busy with her girlfriends. This week, she's been enjoying the last bit of summer before her senior year. Hard to believe she's turning 17 this Saturday. Seems just like yesterday she was only heading off to kindergarten, not gearing up for college!! But she's definitely all grown up, going out with her girlfriends to the pool or the mall or to movies and dinner. She's quite the socialite!

We've not neglected our social lives either though, as Tuesday evening we met our new boat neighbors, Susan and Don off Passage, a 55' Fleming based in Jacksonville, Florida. They came over for a few sundowners and we traded stories until rather late. Then, last night we hosted some of Ron's former work folks aboard for a "Taste of Bermuda" party, complete with Dark 'n' Stormies, and Bermuda Fish Chowder. Everyone agreed it was delicious and for me, it really brought back memories of the Rock. I really do miss all our friends there, as well as the singing frogs!! They made such a pretty background sound to the evenings...

Riding on the eastern shore, near Cambridge, MD

Ron and I have been cycling a lot lately, prepping for our trip in October to California. We're going to be combining a lot of things: a visit with Ron's step-brother, John Paul in Santa Cruz; a trip to Arcturus Marine for a class on the care and maintenance of our Trac stabilizers, which we have on Equinox; and a cycling trip around the Russian River/Sonoma County area. We're really looking forward to all of it! While we've been cycling at every port of call -- around Annapolis and Cambridge just this past week -- it's all fairly flat along the seaboard there. We did a zippy 20 miles in Annapolis out to Arundel by the Bay, Thomas Point and Bay Ridge neighborhoods, averaging 17 mph (which for us is good, what can I say?) on Tuesday morning, but again, it's all pretty flat.

So, in order to be ready for the hills in CA, we've been hitting the hills of the horse country of Northern Baltimore County and Carroll County. We did 30 miles this morning, after a good 24 miles yesterday. Just trying to build up the endurance so we're not embarrassed in all rolling hills in California! Although, I'm not sure how hard folks will be riding in CA...after all, it's a tour of the wine country, and somehow I suspect that may influence things!

Horse country of Northern Baltimore county

So, other than cycling, our days have been busy running about getting the scuba gear and tanks inspected and overhauled, running to Target and Office Depot for Ally's back-to-school needs, finding a battery store, going to Tochterman's Fishing Tackle store to clean the reels and replace the line we lost on the way back from Bermuda, going to the bicycle store for new tires and the like, hauling the old Carver props out of the shed at the house in order to sell them to a buddy of ours who has a Carver 56 as well....LOTS getting done, and more lists being made of things to do before the voyage south this autumn. September is nearly upon us!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back In Annapolis...

...en route home yet again. But how lovely not to be on a schedule! While the public schools are back in session today, Ally doesn't have to be back until next week, and it's quiet and glorious to be on the Bay when there's little traffic. During the cruise north from Cambridge, Ally spent the morning working on her college application essay; when Ron and I read it, we felt it really reflects who she is, and is something she can polish up quite nicely. Hard to believe she will be off and boarding at Oldfields within just a week. Where did our little girl go? So grown up now....
We got lucky and found a space on the wall in Ego Alley this afternoon (hardly surprising, it being the Monday when school started here in Maryland public schools, as I said) so after docking, we took a dinghy cruise around the Annapolis area, over to Back Creek and up the Severn. We will be leaving the dinghy here in Annapolis for a fair bit of repair work; not that we abused the boat in Bermuda, but there's a lot to be done between getting the port bow rail re-glassed and the wiring sorted out so that the stereo, bilge pump and GPS work reliably. Ron did his best to work on the wiring while we were in Tucker's Town in July, but the stereo remains a recalcitrant mystery as to why it won't work.

Since we were here in Annapolis, we had to stop in at Mills Fine Wines and re-stock the wine larder a bit; always fun to go in there and sample their recommendations. What's even better is the store to boat curb-side service! Convenience at its best!

Bringing the wine to the boat...

Curbside service!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Steamed Crabs!!

Equinox is down at the Hyatt RiverMarsh Marina, part of the Hyatt Resort here in Cambridge for a visit with Ron's sister Laura, her husband Jeff, and their two kids, Marina and Jordan. We've had this visit on the books for some time, since we knew we would be gone for most of the summer and wanted to get together before school starts for all the kids on August 31st. We left Annapolis bright and early (Ron doing an amazing job bringing Equinox out and about from the very tight slip at AHBY) to have a bit of a choppy cruise in snotty winds from the south. Only annoying, since it sprayed the front of the boat, and we gave her a good wash when we arrived at the Hyatt Friday afternoon. By then, it was the typical southern Maryland weather: hot humid hazy with big cumulus clouds building in the sky, culminating in a late afternoon thunderstorm. Everyone else joined us in the evening, having driven from the D.C. area, and we enjoyed a fun dinner together at the Blue Point Provisioning Company restaurant, just a few yards from where the boat was docked.

Saturday morning we took the dinghy around to J.M. Clayton's, the crab packing company located in Cambridge. Ron loves going there for the freshly picked Maryland Blue Crabs that they sell, and we purchased quite a few containers of both their fresh jumbo lump crab that was just hand-picked that very morning, to a few containers of the pastuerized crab meat that will last in the fridge a bit longer. We took a tour of the picking and packing area....unfortunately, all the crabs were finished being picked, so Laura didn't get to see them in action first-hand, but they were still canning the crab while we were there. Old-school, done right!

View of J.M.Clayton as we arrived in the Dinghy

Running the cans of crab through the canning machine

Fresh out of the shell and into the can within minutes

One of watermen at the J.M. Clayton loading dock

We did have to immediately open a can of the claws once back to the boat, just to do a little taste-testing of our own for a luncheon appetizer! That was one thing we really missed while in Bermuda, having Maryland crabs!! After some pool time most of the afternoon, we headed over to Suicide Bridge Restaurant for dinner, where we'd made reservations (AND, more importantly, had called ahead to reserve some Jumbo steamed crabs for our dinner!!). They were absolutely delicious, and we all spent the evening cracking and picking our dinners quite happily!! Nothing like Old Bay on steamed Maryland Blue Crabs! last! We've been

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Underway yet again... moss gathers on this rolling stone, or rather, no barnacles or growth gathers on on this hull! After only a few days in her home port, Equinox is underway again, this time heading south on the Chesapeake Bay to the Hyatt RiverMarsh Marina and Resort in Cambridge, MD. Currently we are in Annapolis, at the Annapolis Harbor Boat Yard, where we're getting some quotes for a possible new flybridge top. The current bimini top we have is too flimsy and noisy, with the canvas sagging and all stretched out (it collects rain water like the Bermudians do with their roofs!) so some other solution is needed. Whether it will be a stretched canvas cover over an aluminum frame, or a fiberglass hard top has yet to be determined....we'll see! It's always good to see Kevin and John here at AHBY again though!

We'll continue our journey south tomorrow and make the remainder of the voyage to Cambridge, where we're meeting Ron's sister, Laura, her husband Jeff and their two children, Marina and Jordan for a long weekend of family fun in the sun. The resort is a great place to meet, since the Hyatt has all sorts of amenities from a golf course, tennis courts, restaurants and two huge pools, one with a waterslide. Karyn is totally focused on the fact that Cambridge is also home to J.M. Clayton's, a local crab-packing facility there, where we can buy hand-picked lump crab meat by the pound. Perfect for Ron's fabulous crab cakes!! Yum!! Can't wait! Steamed crabs are also on the menu for Saturday night...REALLY can't wait for that!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Errands and Orders

Well, now that we're home in Baltimore, we've hit the ground running! We had quite a to-do list, and attended to a lot of necessary evils: compiling oil & spares inventories, doing a genset coolant flush, getting the scuba gear off to Aqua Ventures for inspection and servicing, running to the battery store for replacement batteries in our APC unit, going to the bank, taking the used coolant to the recycling center, going to the grocery store, among other errands. The hardest part was tracking down a replacement light bulb for one of our generator gauges -- tiny and definitely special order. There were none to be found at any auto parts store, so an on-line search was needed -- and, thankfully, successful! Funny how the smallest thing is the biggest obstacle!

Ron and I split forces, trying to cover as much ground as possible to get things accomplished. which seemed to work. While Ron and I were running errands, Ally stayed at the marina for the day so she could go to the gym and later, gear up for school, as she worked on her college application essays and summer reading. Needless to say, Ally is happy as a clam to be back with her friends , and of course, has visited with many of them already. Senior year is fast approaching!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back Home In Baltimore...

Calm Chesapeake morning

...after 5 weeks away! Saturday morning we were underway with the sunrise and had an absolutely beautiful cruise coming down the Chesapeake from the C&D to Baltimore on calm, mirror-like waters -- what's not to like?? Especially after the rough crossing from Bermuda! But, as Ron likes to point out, now that's just a distant memory and it doesn't dim the wanderlust to do it again! We ran the boat from up top, as it really was a lovely cruise down the Bay, and days like that really make you appreciate being out on the water!

Ron at the flybridge helm

Coming up the Patapsco River into Baltimore was a tad exciting, as we heard lots of chatter on the VHF that the center span of the Key Bridge was closed due to Coast Guard and police activity with divers in the water. We monitored the radio all morning, as there were reports of someone in the water, coupled with an abandoned car on the bridge -- but apparently, all a false alarm. Otherwise....glad to be in home port for a change, and good to see all our boat neighbors! (Although, it was odd to pull in and see that Medici is no longer next to us....miss them, but know they are loving the Thousand Islands up north!) Taurus in now in the slip next to us.

Blue skies over Baltimore on our approach

Our return to BMC was marred by the fact that they had rented out our slip while we were gone (unbeknownst to us) and unfortunately, every one of our set docklines were either untied from our original positioning on the dock cleats or....missing altogether! Ron was rather upset about it, as it made tying up a bit hectic as Ally and I scurried to grab additional lines from the lockers at the last minute when we realized what we were dealing with. We will be keeping an eye on whether or not they bill us for any electric charges that were incurred while we were gone. (Tain't paying for that!) BMC did replace the two docklines when they heard we were missing them, which mollified Ron somewhat. He spent the afternoon splicing proper-sized eyes in the lines for the hawsepipes, and re-setting the lines where we needed them on the dock cleats.

We now have internet once again, although that was an issue upon arrival as well, as it wasn't working at BMC either. (Now, what's the common denominator with all the ISPs not working? Us? Let's hope not!) It really didn't matter on Saturday, since we were busy enough with other things to do that we didn't have time to get on-line. Getting in as early as we did allowed us to get the boat back in order, hit the pool for a bit with Ally, and chat with boat friends, then join our house neighbors for a surprise 25th anniversary/birthday party that Saturday night. Whooo --a whirlwind of parties all over again -- shades of Bermuda!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cape May Departure

With the impending White Marlin Tournament at Canyon Club beginning on Saturday, we had to vacate our slip before the weekend, so headed out Friday morning. We’d checked the depths at the entrance of Canyon Club at half-tide while in the dinghy, so we knew we were able to slip out as planned in order to catch the tide and current heading up the Delaware Bay. The girls drove back to Delaware by car, and we cast off the lines immediately thereafter at 10:00. We had to wait for one of the Cape May-Lewes Ferries to depart from the Ferry Landing at the end of the breakwater, (scene of the famous propeller disaster a few years ago aboard our Carver) but we idled in deep water and had no issues this time! It eased my mind to know that the running gear is totally protected on Equinox!

One of the Cape May Ferries as it departed the breakwater ahead of us

Once out of the breakwater, we made excellent time; with the current giving us a push, we were going nearly 10 knots at times with very efficient fuel burn, barely 3 gallons an hour. Ron had timed it so that when we arrived at the mouth of the C&D canal, the tide was turning and we got a push through the canal too… easy cruising! We weren’t going all the way through, as we were headed to Summit North Marina for the night. We’d made plans to reunite with the girls there, along with Claire’s folks, Ron & Ann Messano, of Clairebuoyant. They arrived a couple hours after we did, to join us there for dinner at Aqua Sol, the new restaurant on premises. It’s been done up just beautifully with a great outdoor deck overlooking the water, allowing for live music and dancing. It was a lovely night, telling stories of our time in Bermuda and catching up with one another. In fact, Ally got a phone call from Bermuda, with the whole neighborhood group getting on the line to say hello and how much they missed us. We all got nostalgic for our little anchorage in front of the McHarg’s… MISS THEM ALL!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dinghy Cruise in Cape May

Well, now that we're back in the States, we've done a lot of maintenance work on the boat this week, which unfortunately included a visit from the AC repair guy to confirm our worst suspicions: the compressor in our Captains' Quarters isn’t working. (Ron says "Argh!", although I secretly confess that I'm okay with it since I don't care for AC, myself!) Thankfully, the parts will be covered under warranty, but it isn’t going to be a cheap fix, much to our dismay. Darn!! It’s always something on a boat! At least the weather has been cooler, so we’ve been able to use the fan in our room at night so we’re not sweltering. Nothing like the humidity of the mid-Atlantic in August!

A Sea Breeze at the Harbor View

hile the girls were at the beach, Ron and I took a dinghy cruise around the harbor….definitely shades of years past when the Baldonis were here with us, although this was an abbreviated dinghy crawl due to impending rain. Still, we hit the Harbor View restaurant for some oysters and sushi (Ron raved about the calamari salad, saying it was the best he’d ever had!). We meandered over to the canal near South Jersey Marina amongst the big commercial fishing boats and the quintessentially New Jersey boat houses on stilts over the water. Some of them are in true disrepair, others are barely hanging on, but it’s so New Jersey, I love it! We eventually continued around, ducking under the Rt. 109 bridge to dock up at Lucky Bones for a shared plate of delicious ribs at the bar. Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t muster up the energy to continue the crawl, but simply came around through the Ferry Channel back to Canyon Club for an early night. Can't claim it's jet lag, now can we?

The Master Les-- one of the commercial fishing vessels docked up near the Lobster House.

Some of the cozy canal homes

A little "Fixer-Upper" of a canal house in Cape May

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Boat Maintenance, Biking & Back with the Girls

Well, we've been without internet service at the Canyon Club the past few days due to quite a severe thunderstorm the other night. (Of course, it occurred just when we needed it most, now that we are back to the States and needing to deal with time-sensitive e-mails and long overdue correspondence!!) SO, sorry for the delay in the updates to the boat blog!

Having arrived late Saturday night, once the boat was tied up, secure and shore power on, we crashed hard... slept 10 hours straight! (Fabulous!) Then, it was up early and to work on Sunday: washing Equinox and getting her back in ship-shape. It took us three sweaty hours in the high heat and humidity just to wash the outside of the boat alone....and then another three getting the interior vacuumed, cleaned and dusted. How can a boat get dusty being at sea??? You would think that things would stay clean, as there's no dirt and dust to blow in, right? Definitely not the case, though, oddly enough! As a reward for all our efforts, we treated ourselves to a decadent surf & turf dinner on the aftdeck that evening. Let me tell you, a real meal was quite welcome after the past days at sea! Ron is ready to write a new diet book, called "The Crossing Diet", guaranteed to make you drop a few pounds: find bad weather well offshore so you can't sleep, can't sleep and in fact, don't even want to look at the galley! It works!! The workout portion follows when you have to clean the boat once you're back in port....

Monday brought more cleaning and boat chores, but we weren't all work and no play, for at the pool, we met some other transient boaters on C pier, Lenore and Scott Norris aboard Sea Watch II, as well as some of their friends. Always fun to meet new folks, as is the case with cruising! We ended up going out to a fabulous dinner with the Norris' at 410 Bank Street in downtown Cape May that evening: delicious gumbo!!

Lenore & Scott on their 24th anniversary
aboard Sea Watch II

Tuesday morning saw a few happy changes, most notably, as Ally came back aboard along with her friend Claire! Ally had flown back from Bermuda to Maryland on the 5th, not wanting to make the ocean crossing with us, (clearly a smart move on her part) so has been busy visiting girlfriends, spending time aboard Clairebuoyant with the Messanos and now is back aboard Equinox with us. We missed her, and are happy to have them back aboard! Yesterday we also had Ally's friend Becca aboard; she's been staying at Dewey Beach for the summer with her family, so hopped aboard the Lewes - Cape May ferry and joined us for a bit. It was nice to have the girls aboard!

Becca, Claire, Ally & Karyn before dinner at Fresco's

While the girls hit the beach or pool, Ron and I enjoyed a few road bike rides, doing loops through the Cape May countryside of 20-, 30- and 30- miles each the past three days. Yesterday's ride was not as pleasant, as Ron had some bike issues; after much fussing and adjusting of the derailer gears, we discovered his chain had a frozen link, which was skipping and slipping on the chain rings. SO...thankfully an easy fix, despite the frustration it caused!

Ron busy dealing with his recalcitrant chain

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Safe & Sound in Cape May, NJ

Well, what a difference a day makes!! Saturday actually was the nicest day of our crossing, as seas diminished to barely 1' by the late afternoon. A welcome respite to the stormy journey we had! (Haven't had a Dark 'N' Stormy yet to celebrate our landfall, but that will be on the agenda as some point!) We already miss Bermuda!!

The highlight of the last day at sea was that Ron caught a BIG white marlin at the same latitude as Ocean City, MD (about 100 nm offshore, or thereabouts, as we were nearing Baltimore Canyon) ... over 6' in length, although at first , being fishing neophytes, we didn't realize what it was. In fact, for a minute, as the fish neared the transom for the first time, Ron thought it was a shark because of the tall dorsal fin! But, no.....definitely white marlin, when we saw its bill, color and stripes! Needless to say, we were startled, since we weren't expecting to catch any billfish...we were hoping for tuna or mahi-mahi! We hadn't a clue as to what to do with it, so released the poor thing. We've since found out that the local superstition here is to jump in the water after you catch one, or you won't catch another. (Ron didn't jump in, and believe me, it's fine if we don't catch another!) It was wild, though!

In any event, we came into Cape May in the late evening, around 9:00, just as it was getting dark. Lots of fishing boats around the breakwater in the midst of a wicked current...I looked up and we were doing ...what??....10 knots??...Coming in the inlet?? Yes indeed! There was one big charter boat that was perpendicular to the entrance as we arrived, apparently caught by the current and swung sideways -- it blended in with radar and we didn't realize there was a boat there at first, thinking it was just lights at the end of the jetty. It ended backing away from the entrance as we approached, amongst several small fishing boats. (I admit to being very confused by the lights I saw: What is that? A tug? Pushing barge? No tow lights, so...what IS that?) Looking closely with binoculars, I realized it was just a lot of little fishing boats and one BIG one, directly across our bow! Good thing we were entering cautiously and carefully! Not that anyone bothered to use their radio, either....thankfully we have been here before and knew the lay of the land -- or buoys & markers -- so to speak. We'd timed it right to come into the harbor at high tide, but weren't anticipating the fishing boats everywhere. Even after we entered the breakwater, there were boats zipping at us and by us at a good clip, some ignoring the marked channel. Welcome to New Jersey!

We inched into Canyon Club marina, jockeying with the current even inside the marina, and Ron did his usual superb docking job, sliding Equinox into a 20' wide slip. (Our beam being 18' 10", it's a bit tight!) Lines secured, engines and gensets shut down with power cord out, phone call to Customs to clear in....we'd arrived. It was hard to believe we weren't moving after 84 hours of being underway and 5 weeks on the anchor previous to that.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Offshore, Back to the States

Right now it’s 1 o’clock in the morning and I’m on watch. It’s been a hell of journey the last 48 hours with the weather… NOT what was in the forecast when we left two days ago, I might add. When we left Wednesday morning, NOAA’s 24-, 48- and 96-hour wind and wave reports were very favorable, as was Bermuda Weather’s marine charts, so it was a go for departure. Wednesday wasn’t too bad, but the very first revised forecasts we received via satellite Wednesday afternoon/evening showed significantly higher winds and waves in the area where we were headed. After some discussion, we detoured a bit westerly rather than following the rhumbline northwest in an effort to stay in better seas. But it really didn’t matter, as there were squalls everywhere with a huge front blossoming that spread from Florida to the Carolinas. It was moving northeast -- we’d have to cross it, no matter what evasive actions we took. At our speed of 7.6 knots or thereabouts, we weren’t evading any weather, anyway.

SO…onward we went. Wednesday evening we ran into some 45-knot wind squalls and intense rainstorms that whipped up the waves and reduced visibility to whiteout conditions: always exciting and anxiety-producing, for me anyway. Regretfully, due to its almost-impossible difficulty, we hadn’t taken down the bimini top on the flybridge this trip, so spent each storm listening to it rattle incessantly and wondering when it would start to shred or take off entirely. We watched lightning off our bow, but thankfully never saw any of THAT up close and personal, and just endured the higher-than-anticipated seas. We kept telling ourselves that things would eventually calm down, but the high seas continued into Thursday with no relief, despite what the wind and wave forecasts had predicted (and continued to predict, with each satellite download, to our incredulity). Being out there, we can attest that the forecasts were wrong!

Squall line ahead of us on radar

Thursday we were rolling 15-20 degrees with each wave, rocketing about in beam seas from the front sliding NE as we crossed towards the NW, first in 4’-6’ seas, then in increasingly larger seas until we were seeing 10’-14’ waves. Not a lot of fun, and it’s not an exaggeration to say there were a few 20’ waves in there, too. Did I say how much I love our stabilizers? Then, feeling like we were rolling too much after some 30+ degree rolls, we adjusted course to reduce the danger of being rolled entirely by an errant wave. Ron turned us about to try running with the waves behind us, but soon realized we were only getting pushed off course farther NE into worse weather yet. SO….we opted to head west to try to cross the line of storms before the worst arrived. Plunging into the waves and burying the bow a few times, we settled in for an ugly race along the shoulders of the waves to beat the stormline approaching some 100+nm from the southeast. Again, at 6-7 knots, we were the tortoise, the storm was the hare.

Some of the approaching waves
as viewed from the pilothouse

Instead, we found squalls that sprouted, flourished and grew around us. Literally, Ron said he felt like he dragged a squall along with us for nearly 12 miles, as it kept re-forming around us, bowing out and then encircling us again, for about two hours! The Bermuda Triangle effect? We didn’t think so, but it was getting weird out there! And we still had the approaching front to contend with yet.

Another squall approaching and looking ugly

Then, somewhere in the early hours of Friday, within the space of an hour, we went from huge rolling beam seas to short, choppy head waves, wherein we pitched violently and had to slow down to barely 6 knots to make any way whatsoever, without snapping our necks and/or the boat mast. In fact, we slammed into some head seas so roughly that we got water in the forward cabin again, through the two portholes, when the gaskets were displaced from around the edges. (Not sure if they were properly installed or not, but they weren’t sealed in place and were very loose indeed: bulging out from under the lips of the window frame, letting in water with every slamming wave). Water shorted out the outlet near my side of the bed...thankfully, we’d been checking the stateroom very regularly so Ron noticed the water when he checked at watch change. SO…major mop-job and gasket re-securing (as best as could be done underway) was necessary and thankfully while it wasn’t a lot of water, but now we’re paranoid about the windows again.

We really got bounced pretty good here….not totally beaten up, as the boat is doing well otherwise but for a few leaks here and there, but … it’s a boat! Always trying to shake itself apart in a hostile environment, thus you have on-going maintenance and a watchful eye is necessary. But, I love Equinox. I feel very safe and secure aboard her; she’s a stout little ship. My attitude is that yes, we do have a few leaks, but with the exception of the cabin portholes letting in so much water, I feel like the boat’s solid. The engines are consistently humming along, and thank goodness the stabilizers have been trouble-free. We really put them to the test this trip with the heavy weather. Gratitude!!

So, heavily fatigued (neither of us could sleep or eat in such horrid waves – moving about meant hanging on or getting slammed about) we soldier onward, still 161 nm from Cape May, with an anticipated arrival in the wee hours tomorrow morning, about 26 hours from now. Not sure how we’ll do that….will need to wait for the high tide; if we recall, it’s a bit thin in by the Canyon Club so we want decent water under the hull after all this way.

This return journey has been pretty brutal at times, but the trip itself was SO worth it. I loved every second in Bermuda!! The new friends that we met and who are now so dear to us, the times we had with them and the things we did to explore and acquaint ourselves with the islands…it was fabulous. Being on no schedule enabled us to spend about 5 weeks there, which was lovely. The fact that we arrived in our own boat by ourselves is a feat not everyone can claim! While many folks have done it in worse conditions and in much smaller boats, what I’m most pleased about is that we had the courage to do it, and did it! Life is about the stories one can tell, isn’t it?

One indispensible piece of equipment aboard that has worked well despite distance and rough seas has been our Sirius Satellite Radio, which, being Parrotheads, we’ve had tuned to Radio Margaritaville the entire time. Something about hearing Jimmy Buffett while you’re out at sea….pretty cool to have “A Pirate Looks At Forty”, “One Particular Harbour”, “Southern Cross” or any other ocean-loving tune playing in one’s ear when looking at the impossibly blue water 500 miles from landfall!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Clearing Out and Tour of Bermuda Harbour Radio!

A busy, busy day for the crew of Equinox, who continued the preparations for departure. Karyn and Ron were up early, battening down the vessel, stowing away any potentially fly-away objects, doing engine room checks and all the necessary pre-departure details. With a heavy heart, we hauled anchor this morning to leave our little cove in Castle Harbor. True to its name, our anchorage was indeed Cable Bay, as we pulled up a heavy cable with the anchor as it broke the surface! Ally was already in Eclipse, ready to take it around Ferry Reach to St. George's, so Karyn jumped in; with Ally maneuvering the dinghy and Ron manning the windlass, she was able to lift the cable free from the anchor. Whew! Heavy duty industrial cable…whatever was it for? Certainly kept us from dragging anchor while we were there! Hurricane hole, anyone?

Newly freed, Equinox set out and threaded her way out Castle Roads past the outer reefs along Bermuda’s south shore. Having gone through it dozens of time with Eclipse to go out diving still isn't the same as taking one's deep draft boat through. We had plenty of water and Ron had no problems bringing us out through the reefs and around to Town Cut and into St. George's Harbour. We tied up at Ordnance Island to clear out with Customs, which went very smoothly... and quickly! We retrieved our flares and pole-spears, and locked everything back up aboard before we received our precious Form 5. With that in hand, we proceeded to Dowling’s to await the Shell fuel truck bringing our load of duty-free diesel. At .70/liter, it was considerably less than the $1.48/liter that gasoline cost, and worth the arrangements.

While we awaited the fuel truck’s arrival, Ron and I loaded up on gifts for our friends stateside. Being a bit creative, we are planning a “Bit of Bermuda” party upon our return, so we loaded up with cases of Barritt’s Ginger Beer and a few bottles of Gosling’s Black Seal Black Rum, so that we can have Dark ‘N’ Stormies as the cocktail of choice for everyone. The piece de resistance, though, is the gallon of Bermuda Fish Chowder from Barracuda/Hog Penny that that Ron bought Monday night, which is currently residing in the freezer for the journey home! We also have the requisite Outerbridges Sherry Pepper Sauce to add to it, to make it truly authentic, in order to give everyone a good taste of Bermuda. It took us each three trips from the liquor store to bring back all the cases of Ginger Beer! After one last trip to the market for fresh veggies for the next few days, the fuel truck arrived and we put on 3984 liters of diesel, topping off the tanks and giving us plenty of fuel for the 650-mile trip back. Karyn went back with the truck to the fuel depot to pay; in true Bermudian fashion, the cashier was out to lunch upon arrival, so ended up having a nice 20-minute chat with the driver until the cashier returned. Folks are so nice here in Bermuda!!

Bermuda Harbour Radio atop Ft. George

The highlight of the afternoon was a private tour of Bermuda Harbour Radio, located at Fort George on the highest point on St. George’s Island. Our friend, Scott Simmons, is the Chief Radio Officer for BHR and arranged to meet us to show us the inner workings of the lookout station. It was really pretty cool to climb the (very) steep hill to find a 3-centuries-old fort, then cross its deep, three-story moat to enter a high-tech radar and radio installation!

Scott showed us their radar tracking station and the variety of computers and radio workstations that they use to communicate wtih all the ships inbound and outbound. We were introduced to Tom, Nick and Peter, the technicians on duty, all of whom we've heard or spoken to over the VHF when we were first making landfall in Bermuda. The courtesy and dedication of the radio technicians is very impressive and seeing them in action was a real treat! As any sailor or cruiser who enters Bermuda by ship for the first time can attest, there is nothing better than hearing the calm, courteous and welcoming voice of Bermuda Harbour Radio (callsign VBR) after days at sea!!

The radio techs at their stations

Scott pulling up Equinox on their AIS radar for St. George's Harbour

While we were there, the cruise ship Norwegian Majesty came into the harbor, and we got to listen to VBR giving them clearance to enter Town Cut. Watching the boat from the vantage point of Ft. George was pretty cool as the ship squeezed through the tight cut into the harbor! Check out the following few photos as it came through the cut:

The ship finally into the harbor

A ship aground in years past, a reminder of
the importance of Bermuda Harbour Radio!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Last Dive and Departure Preparations...

Ron, Karyn and Ally dove the Pelinaion for their last dive here in Bermuda. Under sunny skies and fairly breezy conditions, we tied up Eclipse on the mooring ball and had a leisurely hour dive that took us from the Pelinaion's remains to the nearby reefs and all the way east until we came across the neighboring wreck of the Rita Zovetta. We retraced our dive tracks, exploring the nooks and crannies of the reefs and wreckage and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Nice dive for our last one here this year!

After a leisurely lunch in St. Georges at Tavern By The Sea, we spent the afternoon immersed with heavy preparations for departure. Sea strainers inspected and cleaned, oil changed on the 12 kW genset, aft lazarette cleaned with dive gear fully rinsed, dried and stowed, bikes covered and secured, fuel arrangements confirmed and chart routes, waypoints and tides reconfirmed. We'll head to St. Georges in the morning for final clearance with Customs & Immigration before fueling at Dowlings. We need to clear out first, in order to get the fuel duty-free.

The reward for our efforts was a final swim at Castle Roads in the gorgeous azure waters and pink sands. Hot and sweating after our endeavors, the water never felt so good! Ally taught Ron how to find sand dollars in the fine Bermudian sand ...he was most unlucky and spent most of the time searching in vain while Ally and Karyn found several. But persistence prevailed, and he finally did find one at last before we headed back to Equinox for a jump off the pilothouse roof to cap the swimming session.

Ally in mid-dive off Equinox's pilot house

We all hurried to clean up for dinner; we met Helene and Vicky at the Mid-Ocean Dock for a ride into town and dinner in Hamilton at Barracuda, next to The Hog Penny (Or, "The Pig Coin" as Taylor inadvertently dubbed it!). Joined by Scott and Vicky's friend Kevin, we seven had a delicious dinner for our last meal in Hamilton. Helene arranged for us to get a gallon of Bermuda Fish Chowder to take home with us....Ron can't wait to share it with everyone! It's hard to believe that the month has flown so fast, but here it is, departure is soon upon us. The moon is nearly full...and we'll be gone when the glow worms make their next appearance in August. Sad to contemplate, as we will sorely miss this lovely island.