Saturday, October 31, 2009

Offshore to Charleston...

The sunset last night was unbelievable. Truly. That saying, "Red sky at night, sailors’ delight?” sure seemed true....we each had a fast 4-hour watch, with fair conditions. The following seas gave us such a push that we had to slow down to nearly 6 knots coming into Charleston Harbor, so as to arrive with some daylight. We both were up for arrival into Charleston, so as to have an extra set of eyes available in the early dawn darkness. There was a fair bit of tug traffic initially too, so we timed our entry into the channel in a break between all the big commercial ships heading into port. The Charleston Pilot boat passed us on its way in and hailed us, confirming that the channel would be clear for our entry, before recognizing Equinox as a Kadey-Krogen and complimenting her with “Beautiful boat”! Thanks, we think so, too!!

We docked at Charleston City Marina, at the Megadock about 8:00 right after they opened. We ate a lovely breakfast aboard in the PH: Ron made a great veggie-stuffed omelet which we split, and Karyn made the mimosas! Immediately after that, we crashed hard for a solid two hours, since we were both needing to re-charge a bit after our early morning endeavors of making landfall. Groggily we awoke mid-day, to walk about old town Charleston and enjoy the beauty of the place. We had a delicious late lunch at 82 Queen Street in their garden, then meandered back to the marina.

One of the many beautiful homes we passed walking
back to the City Marina

Ally arrived very late that evening, having flown in to Charleston despite many delays (going through Atlanta, where there was serious flooding). She is staying with her friend Annie for the weekend, so it was serendipity that we could be here at the same time!! Ally walked over to the City Marina on Saturday morning, and we enjoyed a few hours together before she helped us cast off lines yet again. She will stay in CHS to enjoy Halloween with her friends before flying back to school tomorrow afternoon. She said it didn’t seem fair having to stay behind on land, but, if all works out, we will see her again in just a few days down in Florida!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beaufort NC, heading offshore to Charleston, SC...

After enjoying a delicious dinner at the Blue Moon Bistro in Beaufort last night (who knew fried oysters in spicy Thai dipping sauce could be so good??) we returned to Equinox and poured over the latest weather forecasts that our Sirius Marine Wx system had received. We really wanted to make a short offshore passage to Charleston if the weather allowed. We each examined the frontal boundaries, impending high & low pressure systems and wind gradients, all with an eye on how Equinox would handle the prevailing conditions if the forecasts proved true. All 24- and 48- hour forecasts for the coasts of NC and SC were similarly favorable: NE winds, 10-15 kts, seas 2’-4’, with increasing winds 15-20 kts and seas building to 3-5’, before diminishing to 10-15 kts again. After some discussion of the very real probability of the weather being worse than forecast, we decided that with the winds at our stern and a following sea, we’d fare well. If the forecasts in the morning were worse than the night before, the plan for going offshore would be scrubbed.

Dawn arrived with light NE winds and few waves, and the extended outlook was for steady conditions until the weekend when a cold front and nasty-looking low would be moving in. So, offshore towards Charleston we went!! We watched the sun come up on the water looking silky smooth, and as the day progressed, we did get the forecasted 10-15 knots of wind, with the gentle swells gradually increasing in size to about 3’. With the following seas, Equinox got a little push, making 9 knots at times at less than usual cruising rpms, and we rode the swells easily, gently rocking up and over.

Our friends aboard Concrete Idea called about 9:30 to say we’d done the right thing in going offshore, as the ICW below Swansboro was closed! This was due to some “live firing exercises” by the Navy; they were shooting live rounds at their practice range near Onslow Bay, just offshore the ICW. We’d been hearing Warship 98 all morning, warning vessels to stay clear of her maneuvers, but we were well away from them, despite Karyn’s initial concern. (There were several large ships out participating in the exercises, so it was initially a bit confusing as to which ship was making the VHF announcements.) We are SO lucky we went offshore....not only are we making good time, at least we’re making time, period!

The sun rising to the east as we left Beaufort, NC

The clear early morning hours clouded over for a bit mid-day, then sporadic sunny breaks gave way to a full-on sunny afternoon. The best part of our gentle rolling ride was the dolphin escort we received most of the day! We had huge pods of spotted porpoises leaping and cavorting in our bow wave; we took photo after photo, hanging off the bow pulpit in delight as they rolled on their sides and peeked up at us as we peered down at them. I’m pretty sure they were actually having the most fun, but it wasn’t a contest!! Their acrobatics were thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

Ron of course wanted to fish, but much to his dismay, only caught a couple false albacore (easily released, much to their pleasure). I suspect we’ll get better fishing opportunities as we head down the coast from Charleston next week, if we’re able to do so!

Racing Equinox's bow wave

One dolphin rolling over to peek at us

More dolphin fun

Right now the sun is hanging over the water to the west, as we’ve made the turn around Frying Pan Shoals at Cape Fear, NC. We’re sailing into the sunset, truly!! Ron is prepping dinner and Otto the autopilot is keeping us on heading for an early morning arrival in Charleston. The swells are now a bit more from the starboard quarter now, but all in all, still quite gentle and lovely. There’s another hour or so of sunset left, then the night watches begin...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Belhaven, NC - Beaufort, NC: ICW Day 3

The weather started out ugly this morning with 20-25 kt winds and a small craft advisory out until 2 p.m. We woke around 5 am, hearing rain pounding down on the foredeck and the lines of a nearby sailboat clanging away on the mast like an annoying drum. Usually I don’t mind the sing-song of sailboats, but this particular one had a tone that wasn’t exactly musical at that hour in the morning! We were leaving at first light, which wasn’t for another two hours, so sleep would have been welcome!

Because of the snotty forecast, only a few of us ventured out at daybreak, a couple of sailboats and three of the heavier trawlers. (Our flock!) Our friends aboard Concrete Idea, the Carver 56’, weren’t keen to get pounded in the 3-5’ waves that NOAA was predicting in the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers, so they didn’t leave with us, much to their dismay.

Shrimper boat on the way to Beaufort

Fishermen netting fish just north of Beaufort

Yet, within a half hour of departure, the winds settled right down and it was lovely cruising! We were really happy with our decision to head out! Ron is really enjoying this cruise; it’s SO much better than getting beat up and tossed about on a rough offshore passage. We’re keeping an eye on the weather, nevertheless, because if it does improve, we would enjoy a smooth offshore run from Beaufort, too!

Concrete Idea came blasting by us about an hour out; once they saw the weather was clearing, they were kicking themselves for not leaving when we did. With the offshore forecast not looking favorable enough for their vessel, they were heading for Swansboro rather than stop with us in Beaufort as we are planning tonight.

We had some sunny breaks as we crossed our of the Hobucken area, but mostly it was gray as we came down the Neuse River. We’re cruising in the company of another KK 58', Solveig IV, who is slightly ahead of us, with our "flock: (Prima Donna and another trawler) trailing behind us. Prima Donna peeled off to head to Oriental, while we continued along south. The winds picked up as we came into Beaufort, NC (pronounced “Bo-fort”, as opposed to “Bue-fort”: Beaufort, SC) The best thing as we arrived into Beaufort is that the temperatures are noticeably warmer than they have been of late, so we're enjoying that. Yes!!

We’d timed everything right except....had a 20-minute wait at the Beaufort Bridge. (If we’d gone around, there’d be no waiting, but it was a longer route and we opted for the shorter route....didn’t save a darn lick of of time!) We docked at Beaufort Docks on the waterfront, wanting to hop on their free Wifi, but could never get on their signal. Still, we’d also received the well-known Docks tokens for free beer, so put them to use immediately, pausing to quaff a cold one on the deck overlooking the marina. Watching the sun on the water amongst the sailboats in the anchorage was delightful!

Beaufort is a lovely seaside town; Karyn had never been here before so enjoyed strolling around with Ron along Front Street. We stopped at the Post Office in an attempt to mail some large envelopes (they needed weighing, as we were unsure of the postage needed) but to our surprise, the Post Office was closed. The posted hours were 10:00-1:30!! Wow, bankers hours at the post office...who would have guessed?

Nevertheless, we enjoyed walking about the town, and came across Cru Wine Bar, where we had a yummy cheese plate and a glass of pinot noir (Russian River, of course, as a nod to our recent trip to CA). We strolled past lots of beautiful historic homes -- some dating back to the 1700s -- all carefully kept in charming neighborhoods that abut the downtown area. It’s all really pretty. There’s a lot of history here too; the maritime museum on Front Street has artifacts from Queen Anne’s Revenge -- Blackbeard’s ship that sank in 1718, and discovered in the shoals of Beaufort’s inlet in 1996. How cool is that?? Argh!! Pirates!

One of the many cute front porches -- with cat, of course.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Coinjock, NC- Belhaven, NC: 87 statute miles

What a great dinner we had at Crabby’s last night!! We knew it was going to be good when the Midway Marina manager told us the restaurant wouldn’t open until 4:30 “because the ribs needed more time to cook”! Yum!! Worth every penny as the staff was a nice as could be, and yes, the food delicious.

Ron and I crashed early -- were out cold before 8:00 p.m.! But, on the plus side, we were up at 7:10, and underway at 7:30 am! Once out the gate, it was the usual jockeying for position, with the faster boats pushing their way forward (again, sometimes with an obnoxious wake) and the attendant snarky comments on the radio. Albemarle Sound was sloppy and choppy with 10-15 kt winds from the west, with a good layer of fog that limited visibility to around a quarter mile to a third of a mile. Not great, but definitely better than it would have been going offshore!!

Karyn at the helm, logging engine readings

Scenic view of the Alligator River-Pungo River canal.
Never saw a sign of life the entire way, actually...

So, onward we pushed, leading our little flock of boats along like a mother duck...every time I looked back, we had a little flotilla in tow: a Fleming, Prima Donna, direclty behind us, and another little trawler behind them. There was only one bridge today, at the Alligator River, so no bottlenecks nor traffic issues. It was just a scenic, calm cruise through some of the most remote wildlife areas we've seen. I suppose on a warm summer blue sky day it would be prettier than it was today in late October under overcast, gray skies. Plus, we never did see any alligators, either!

By the time we reached the Pungo River, we were glad to be out of the canal, definitely time for a change of scenery!! The canal doesn't have much to catch your eye, but at least it's deep and free of snags in mid-channel...sometimes the ICW is a bit of a grind, in that you have to log a good number of miles in order to reach a decent anchorage or marina in unsettled weather. It was about this time we kept hearing our friends from Concrete Idea every so often on the radio, so knew they were catching up with us.( At 8 knots, we're not hard to catch, especially when they can go almost 25 knots if they choose!) We're both now tied up and secure at River Forest Marina, where we will spend the night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Annapolis, MD - Coinjock, NC (Day 1, SB on the ICW)

As Ron says, he loves it when a plan comes together!! We had a smooth, calm run down the Chesapeake last night, doing 4-hour watches. Ron was at the helm most of the afternoon and evening, which was smooth as silk and muted in pale colors. This being October, not many folks were out on the Bay, and it was just magnificent cruising!!
Just after an amazing sunset (see photo below!) Karyn took the 8 pm-midnight watch per usual. Again, more appreciation time, as it was just so gorgeous!! The moonlight peeking through the clouds, reflecting off the water....beautiful!

There wasn’t too much tug or commercial traffic out initially, although once dark, we were heading south with a couple of the Coast tugs. Just north of Smith Point, I kept seeing this radar signature that didn’t match anything, and try as I might, I couldn’t see what it was. I made sure I was clear of it by running just outside the channel, luckily, because a few minutes later, one of the tugs notified the Coast Guard about an abandoned vessel adrift! Radar is a wonderful thing!

About 1100 Equinox was hailed by one of the big cargo carriers coming up the Bay, and I was a bit startled to hear the pilot ask “Is this Karyn?” It was one of the Maryland pilots with whom we’re acquainted, Capt.B!! It was delightful to hear from him; we’d been trying to connect all summer, but between our schedules, we kept missing each other. He’s kept an eye on our Blog, as he does a lot of diving (and obviously, boating) himself, so we wanted a chance to chat and compare notes on cruising, etc. I’m sure our paths will cross again, perhaps next summer when we’re back in the Bay for Ally’s graduation in June. In the meantime, it was a treat to talk with him briefly while underway, as it brightened the tail end of my watch! (By the way, I enjoy the Pilots’ Association coffee mug, and use it daily!! It’s my favorite aboard!)

Ron took the midnight - 4 am. watch, which was uneventful and serene. Ron loves checking out the night sky; it was so crisp and clear at times, the stars were just popping out! I relieved him at 4 am, and brought Equinox around Thimble Shoals and into Hampton Roads just as dawn was breaking. Thankfully it was so early, that there was little traffic except for a few tugs, although by the time Ron was up and back at the helm, there were several other cruisers heading south with us as we passed Mile Marker “0” (ICW flashing red buoy 36). We were like ducks in a row!

One thing about the ICW...because it's so narrow in spots, with bottle-necks at the bridges, every boat is in continued contact with all the folks in the boats around you, as there is no way you are going to outrun anyone. Passing obnoxiously, letting tempers flare on the's all in vain as everyone ends up at the same few marinas, and quite possibly the same restaurant for dinner!! (Lesson is: be polite & courteous -- it's not that hard!!)

Ron surveying the Great Bridge Lock scene

A lovely Cheoy Lee that just HAD to beat us out of the lock to the

very next bridge. Of course, there were 7 boats ahead that

he also tried to maneuver around in a tight, tight area.

The boat only made it to Coinjock, just like the rest of us.

After a good 7 hours of cruising southbound, going though one lock, battling currents and crowds of boats at multiple bridges, keeping a sharp eye out for submerged logs, and trying to maintain decent speed, we finally got to Coinjock, NC at 3:30 pm where we are moored for the night at the Midway Marina and Motel. There isn't a better stopping point in this section of the ICW as facilities are rather limited further on, and as only a couple of hours of daylight remained, we were more than happy to be here. Just as we finished getting tied up and secure, the weather closed in and the rain started in earnest. As Ron says, he loves it when a plan comes together!! Tonight: early dinner and earlier bedtime!! It's been a long day, was a lovely cruise!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In Annapolis, All Together!

View of the Maryland State House

It was a lovely day together as a family, just the three of us aboard Equinox last night and this morning. We all pitched in to make breakfast: gloriously stuffed veggie and cheese omelets. Why is it that a leisurely breakfast aboard in morning always tastes so much better than one on land?? It certainly helped that it wasn’t pouring rain any more: the sun was shining in a classic, crisp October blue sky day. We spent the early afternoon walking about Annapolis, up around the State House, out to Main Street, up to West Street and back, enjoying the sunshine and the gorgeous autumn colors. It’s very pretty here; I will miss Maryland’s fall colors, but not its gray, damp cold winters!

Looking towards Church Circle from West Street

Ron and I attended to the last minute details to prep the boat for departure, specifically looking again at the weather and noting to our dismay, the weather forecasts are once again looking less than optimistic for going offshore. There is a combination of a coastal front and system lifting northeast from the Gulf of Mexico that will bring unsettled weather Tuesday and Wednesday, right about the time when we’d be rounding Hatteras. It’s rather depressing. While I wouldn’t mind 4-5’ waves, as Equinox can handle them, the forecasts are never all that accurate regarding sea state, and I’m sure if we’d go offshore, we’d see more than we’d want! A forecast of 5’-7’ waves really means 8’-10’ in my book, and who wants to go lumping along in that?? Been there, got that t-shirt, so no need to repeat it, in my view.

Finally, prior to departure, we tested the satellite phone again, to make sure Ally could get through on her new iPhone. For some reason direct-dialing didn’t work on her phone (while it did with mine) but when she used the Mobile Link connection, the call came through fine. Good!! Always nice to know she can contact us if need be, although....we’ll most likely remain in cell phone range if we’ll be on the ICW for the next few days.

We cast off the lines in Annapolis about 2:50 pm, with Ally waving away on the pier as we pulled out. It was hard saying good-bye, and odd not having her aboard, but Ally has to head back to Oldfields for the upcoming school week, per usual. Next weekend she is going to be visiting her friend Annie in Charleston, SC, for Halloween, so she will be busy then. We have about 10 days to get the boat south (a bit tighter time frame than we’d wanted, but....oh well!!) Delays with the hardtop were not anticipated, although we probably should have planned for it anyway!! There are ALWAYS delays with any boat project, I’ve decided! As it stands, we’d hoped to have Ally spend a long weekend with us aboard in the marina at the new condo, so made reservations for her to fly to FL on November 5th. If we’re not there yet, well....we’ll figure something out!

Tonight’s cruising plan is to run through the night down the Bay, aiming to reach Norfolk, VA by early morning, and get a start on heading down “The Ditch” at first light. Our friends Karen and Kerry aboard Concrete Idea are already in Solomons, MD, on their way south. They’d wanted to run in tandem with us down to Beaufort, NC and if the weather was nice, go offshore then. (They have a 56’ Carver, the same type of boat that we had prior to Equinox, so the weather for going offshore for them has to be pretty darn good.) But timing being what it is, we may as well run while we can and see how far south we can get by the 5th!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Whirlwind before the calm...

....or so we hope!! The activity levels have been off the charts here, between prepping the boat to head south and getting the house tidy enough for the realtor to show (even though the house isn't officially listed yet). Between the boxes, packing paper and bubble wrap, and the handyman odd jobs getting completed (crown molding put in the dining room, master bath being renovated and re-tiled), the house was a disaster!!

So...after a big 3-hour push this morning, the boxes were consolidated in the garage, miscellaneous trash gathered and taken to the dump, and the rooms all vacuumed and dusted for showing. We have about 7/8 of our remaining things packed and prepped for the movers, but considering how much we've already donated, given away and/or gotten rid of, there isn't much left to pack, and all told, not really that many boxes in the garage either. Yay! Still, I have a couple of boxes worth of books and memorabilia odds & ends tucked into corners and cabinets that will have to be dealt with, but...later! :)

We're now aboard Equinox with Ally after she took the ACTs this morning, and watching the weather. It's pouring cats and dogs in Annapolis at the moment, raining so hard it's hard to see across the mooring field in front of the Naval Academy:

The radar shows the rain moving from the west

But it's beautiful to have it be raining now...we're snug aboard after getting the last of the provisioning done earlier this afternoon. The house boxes are packed and ready (for the most part), the house is presentable for showing (for the moment), the boat is fueled and ready (also for the moment) and all that remains is to watch for a weather window!! actually sit down for a minute feels utterly fabulous! And, the weather window for the few days ahead is ... definitely improving! After Ally heads back to Oldfields, we'll be off, heading down the Bay to Norfolk, VA. Once there, we'll reassess the weather again, but if the current forecast holds true, we'll be heading offshore Monday sometime. Or...NOT! The weather will dictate our path!! Adventure awaits!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Last Minute

If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done, right?? Sure seems that way, for the amount of work we got finished this week!! The weather cooperated (finally!) to give us some much needed sunshine and dry weather to complete all the outside projects: the boat yard finished installing the hard top, Martek came and moved the satellite domes from the pilothouse roof to the hardtop (as wire runs and chases were planned and built for those as well as the lights in the hard top), all the re-glassing and gel-coat work was finished, along with a list of odd jobs (spreader lights needed changing, new LED breaker panel lights installed where old ones burnt out, etc...). LOTS accomplished!! Plus, on Thursday and Friday, the detailing guys (Dean's Yacht Service -- LOVE them!) came to wash, wax and wash yet again to detail the upper deck and topsides post-gel-coat work, so Equinox is looking pretty!!

The hard top is lovely...John Norton at AHBY did a fabulous job with the custom design, as its curves echo the classic upturn of the Kaden-Krogen pilothouse roof, and the stainless supports are superbly done and gorgeous! Ron is very happy we went with the stainless over the aluminum, it just matches so well with the rest of the stainless stanchions and railings.

Shots of the new hardtop
While all that was being accomplished, Karyn was at the house, going non-stop: sorting, discarding, packing, and labeling boxes for the move, hauling trash away to the dump, putting out tons of boxes and bags of household goods for donation for Purple Heart pick-up, meeting with the Boy Scouts to donate all our backpacking and camping gear (quite an assortment of goodies!), and generally exhausting herself in the process. Ron was at the boat, coordinating the yard work, while doing work himself: changing the Seagull H2O filter for the boat's freshwater system, getting the propane tanks topped off, coordinating a fuel delivery to the boat, meeting with CruisAir Annapolis re getting the watermaker system up and running at long name it, we both had our hands full! But, we both got a great deal accomplished.

Of course, with hard work come rewards! We took a break Tuesday afternoon to watch Ally compete in her final game as a Oldfields senior in a tough match against a very talented McDonogh player. Ally played some of the most brilliant tennis we've seen her play all year, fighting hard to several deuce points in nearly every game, but wound up with a loss to close out her high school career. Nevertheless, the season ended on a high note, as Ally was chosen as one of this year's B Conference All-Stars at Varsity Number 1 Singles! It was a fitting award; her coach was quite complimentary of her play and leadership as a co-captain this year. Again, we are so proud of her and her hard work!

Another small reward came Wednesday evening, as the day was simply so lovely, Karyn joined Ron aboard for the afternoon and night. It was a treat to cook aboard once again...feels like ages since we've had a quiet moment home! We grilled cedar planked salmon, pairing it with shallot risotto and steamed asparagus, and enjoyed a lovely dinner for two on the back deck facing west as the sun set over Annapolis proper. Now THAT is what cruising is all about: appreciating the moment!

View from our aft deck: sunset over the Annapolis Yacht Club

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weather issues delay the hard top...

Our hard top, still on the hard...

Ok, the weekend has been a trying one. The weather has been atrocious lately, with monsoon-like downpours ruining the past few days. Even Sunday football was a heartbreak (I won't even mention how I feel about missing field goals!) and when the rain finally stopped Sunday night, it only stopped raining to .... start snowing! I looked out the window in the early am upon awakening and was astonished to see huge, dust-bunny-sized flakes of heavy wet snow falling! Yep, apparently it snowed a good deal of the night, complete with momentary power losses. We had a fair coverng of snow on the yard, the car, the trees, by morning, along with a lot of branches broken and trees down. The result of the rain/snow/weather mess, though, was to delay installation of the new hard-top, which was a disappointment. (Didn't we leave Ron in charge of the weather this week?? He's got to do a better job of things....!)

We were in Annapolis for a few brief hours on Saturday, but we were delayed by our own boat issues (why is the boat always such a mess when there's work being done??) and never got over to the show. :( We really wanted to get over there, too, so that was a severe disappointment. Basically, our weekend ended up being spent in brutal moving mode: we sorted, discarded, packed, hauled, discarded, cleaned, bubble-wrapped, packed and repeated throughout the weekend. On the plus side, the house is now echoing in emptiness, all cabinets and drawers are empty, and we continue to lighten the load! We have Purple Heart coming (again) for many more donations of clothing, household goods and kitchen items, and the Boy Scouts are coming to get all our lovely camping gear. Still, would have been nice to to have been at the boat show...

However, on the good news front, Monday was finally clear, so Ron went down to the boatyard to see the hard top getting fitted on Equinox! It's looking gorgeous!!

The hard top getting lowered by crane aboard Equinox

Almost in place!

Progress! In place, secured and ready to be finished

On an additional note, it's still Fall Family Weekend for Oldfields, and Ally took part in the IAAM B conference tennis tournament this afternoon, playing Number 1 Varsity Singles for OS. She had a lovely match today against a very good player from Friends School (they had some amazing rallies and play, fun to watch!) and after hard work and lots of scramble, Ally won the match, 6-2 6-2, so she will play again tomorrow! We are so delighted for her!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Waiting on the weather...

SO... after what felt like eons away from the boat, we're back in Maryland!! Just in time for Fall Family weekend at Oldfields, so despite the lack of sleep and enduring a bit of jet lag, Karyn had a great day with Ally, going to classes and enjoying the Performing Arts assembly with the other OS parents. Apparently, we dragged the bad weather back with us from California, as the east coast is now being deluged with rain, complete with flood advisories and nor'easters in the forecast. Yuck! I feel bad that the Annapolis Power Boat Show is having to deal with this weather....not good for business! Nevertheless, rain or shine, we hope to scoot over to the show tomorrow or Sunday ourselves...gotta get a peek at the new Kadey-Krogen 55'!

Beyond the boat show, the next week is lining up to be a busy one. While we didn't want to complicate our lives, here we are, simultaneously trying to get stuff sorted/given away in MD in preparation to moving the (thankfully) few remaining items to Florida while provisioning and prepping Equinox to head south to Florida and thence the Bahamas. ARGH! Way too many balls in the air at the same time! The weather has delayed the installation of the hardtop, so we have a bit of a reprieve in the packing timetable, but frankly, I'd rather be aboard and underway. Enough of all these land-based domestic issues! :)

So... the juggling continues!! We completed our "mail-away" closing on the FL condo and met with a MD realtor today, with an eye on listing the house in the spring when it's particularly pretty in Maryland. Good news: he's very bullish on the house -- great house, great lot, great neighborhood -- and hinted he might want to show the house sooner than later. We're not sure we want to list it right away, as the potential timing of it all poses some latent logistical problems with Ally in her senior year of high school. Her transition to land as a 5-day boarder was tough at times, and as that smoothes out, we don't want to cause more waves and have her feeling too unsettled during her senior year.

Plus, it's tough enough as it is with SATs, ACTs and college apps looming large. (That being said, Ally submitted her first application to --- College of Charleston! It's exciting to see her selecting colleges and diligently working on her applications... the world is her oyster!) We're simply remaining positive, appreciating her cheerful attitude and all the hard work she is doing in school while looking ahead for her to meet us aboard in the Bahamas for Thanksgiving and winter break. She won't fly down every weekend, obviously -- the perils of trying to cruise before all lines are cast off, I guess!! But it isn't the first time that we simply are going with the serendipity of the moment... things always seem to work out, in ways we never could predict! Here's hoping for good weather, good timing and good luck!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sonoma Coast and US 1

Talk about a fabulous ending for a great weekend of riding!! We'd enjoyed a wonderful dinner the night before at the Village Inn (some of us going to The Pink post-dinner, Ron and I enjoying The Stick instead....!!) so those who remained in the morning to bike were gathering their courage for the last few hills ahead.

It was GLORIOUS!! Despite the forecast for wind and rain, it never materialized, and the seven of of that remained on the tour swooped and climbed and gawked and stopped for amazing photos of the Pacific coast in all its October glory. As we left the Russian River delta, crossing one of the bridges to the ocean, we saw a group of river otters playing with a harbour seal....totally frolicking and enjoying the moment. Very cool!

The group of river otters heading downstream

From there it was stunning ocean scenery with swells crashing on the rocky shoreline and literally mesmerizing you. The best part was the road, which was smooth and lovely, allowing you to ride hard down into the hair-pin turns and use your momentum to pull up the other side. We swooped and pulled all the way to the Tides, a great restaurant on Bodega Bay, where we replenished on their hot clam chowder and smoked salmon!

A bit rough out there!

More amazing coastal scenery!

Ron and I wrapped up the day a few miles shy of Occidental with visions of "Cedar Aromatherapy" Spa Baths in our heads, but alas...the spa was booked, so we opted to head south to get a jump on the traffic. We wrapped up our biking time for the week with 155 miles (including those over in Sonoma-Napa) so don't feel like we shirked too badly! We were on the road to Santa Cruz by 1:30 but in doing so, probably missed one last outing to the The Pink with the rest of the crew! For those whom we didn't have a chance to say proper good-byes to: Please know we had a blast riding with you and would LOVE to see you again, sometime, in the future! You are always welcome aboard Equinox!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Russian River Wineries and The Pink!!

Day Two of our biking tour here was the long ride of the weekend: 52.8 miles. It was a tour of the Russian River Valley's northern Sonoma County Wine Country. Think miles of mist-draped hillsides above valleys full of vineyards!! Usually it's sun-drenched rather than mist-covered, but....we had the luck of being here just as the remnants of a Pacific typhoon, Typhoon Melor, was moving east from Japan (where it hit with winds of 120 mph.) So...the weather is changing, and bringing cold temps and mist for the moment.

Being a motivated group, we were out the door earlier than expected....and made such great time that we arrived at the first winery - Martin Ray Vineyards - a full 30 minutes before they opened their doors for tastings!! (Sad!!) After re-fueling with the great snacks, drinks and munchies provided by Mary and Dot, the UDC Tours folks, we all continued on to Healdsburg, another 10 miles up the road. Most of the group were intent on finding a coffee shop for warmth and caffeine, and a respite from the mist that was dripping off our helmets.

Ron heading up the grade beneath the redwoods ahead of me

Mary and Dot cheerfully awaiting us as we made the
summit of the Green Valley Hill road. The climb reduced
some of us to trembling, gasping beings on the verge of
falling over. But we made it!!

Ron and I had the idea of stopping in Healdsburg ourselves along with the rest of the crew, but instead, figured we'd best keep going to the lunch rest stop at Arista Winery. Ron said if he got into a warm coffee shop, he'd never get started again! So...we played tortoise and the hare...just keep plodding along in the mist, shaking the raindrops off our bike helmets and ignoring the fact that our feet were ice in an effort to reach the winery. Oh, the rewards of arrival!!

Ron's fireplace at Arista Winery, where he stripped off
his shoes and spread out on the floor in front of the fire.
Not sure they appreciated his doing so on their doorstep,
but we did buy a case of their reserve wines after our tasting!

We relished the tasting at Arista, and fell in love with some of their Pinot Noirs! Even better, they had the TV on with samplings of the various games around the NFL...which we enjoyed watching as we warmed ourselves by the fire. We rejoiced in a late 4th-quarter Baltimore touchdown, but later were crushed when Cincinnati won in the last 22 seconds. (Why does that happen every year??? Heartbreak football!!) Good thing there was wine nearby to drown our sorrows!! Mary and Dot provided a great sushi lunch under the trees in the Japanese-style gardens outside, which was fabulous.

Of course, as luck would have it, on departure Karyn demonstrated why biking and wine-tasting can be hazardous, as she fell right over in the parking lot trying to get situated on her bike. (Left pedal is clipped in, no....? push on it. Oh, wait, yes, it is clipped in!...Ooops, off balance, let's fall over!) No worries, I was relaxed from the wine. No damage done (except to my ego) and away we went, to enjoy the flats along the Russian River on the way back to the Village Inn.

We all cruised back along the River Road, enjoying the scent of the redwood and conifer, and loving the fact we'd crushed a half-century distance during our ride. FUN!! Even better was the post-ride celebratory drinks and convivial atmosphere at....THE PINK! Clearly a Bohemian institution, the Pink Elephant is just down the street from the Village Inn and was where our riding group gathered post-ride to bask in the glow of a great ride. The Pink is no frills but its staff is welcoming, down to earth and friendly, and the place just has atmosphere!! Not to mention the fact its kitchen offers an amazing cheeseburger and fries that is unbelievable. Scott and Harvey indulged in the Satan Burger...and it was all I could do not to throw myself on their left-overs, it was SO good. For some reason, I was saving myself for dinner...!! When you're riding hard each day, it's good to reward yourself. Next time, I will!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Biking the Bohemian Highway!

Redwoods, firs, Blue Gums, cypress, cedar, pin oak and
more crowd the roads here in the Russian River Valley.
Our hydraulics class with Arcturus Marine completed, Ron and I drove up the coast to the tiny hamlet of Monte Rio, located at the confluence of Dutch Bill Creek and the Russian River. We're doing a 3-day bicycle and wine-tasting tour with Undiscovered Country Tours. There are 10 of us riding this tour, folks from all over the country, from Denver to Virginia and points in between. While we can't ship wine to Maryland (due to the completely archaic blue laws there) we CAN ship it to Florida! Yay!! We've already sent ahead a couple cases of wine from Arrowood and Sequoia Grove, which will be waiting for us when we get the boat down south in the coming weeks. Now we have a chance to see more wineries in this more remote section of Central California.

For a little background on the area, The Russian River Valley has been a popular resort area since the 1920s and 30s, when wealthy socialites from San Francisco and Oakland began traveling there for summer rest and relaxation amidst the towering redwoods and conifers that define the rugged landscape. Today, it's a premiere grape-growing area boasting dozens of award-winning vineyards with lots of small towns that are fun to visit, especially by bike. Today's route took us south along the Bohemian Highway towards Occidental, then over to Sunce', a small-family-owned winery where we had a delicious picnic lunch in the sunshine by their bocce ball court and wine-tasting pavillion. I wasn't sure how the biking would go after the wine tasting, since we still had a good 20+ miles to go after lunch, but it was delightful!!
Inside Sunce's wine shop and tasting bar

View of the vineyard work area from the picnic pavilion

The Russian River Valley is named, of course, for the river which flows through it - beginning in the coastal mountain ranges of Mendocino County, following Highway 101, and turning west at Healdsburg to empty into the mighty Pacific Ocean at the town of Jenner. We will be seeing that area on Monday, I believe, but today's ride of 38 miles was only a taste of the hills and the incredible scenery to come!

Karyn on a bridge over the Russian River

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Arcturus Marine/TRAC hydraulic systems class: Amazing!!

Ron and I are here in Rohnert Park, CA participating in a class put on by Arcturus Marine/TRAC -- the stabilizers-thrusters-hydraulics system folks for Equinox. The integrated systems class is free for owners, captains and engineers and SO WORTH taking. During our many years of boating, Ron and I have learned a lot about boat systems, so through hard-earned experience, feel comfortable doing our maintenance or troubleshooting. But... never having had hydraulic systems before, we were in the dark about how these systems worked. Truly, hydraulics were a mystery to us and thus would have been an Achilles heel should we ever have had problems.

But not now!! The class was priceless in the amount of information we learned. Eric Folkestad and the TRAC folks are stellar in explaining the care, feeding and maintenance of the systems, from the stabilizers to the bow and/or stern thrusters. The first day, we got a tour of the factory buildings and saw first-hand the amazingly meticulous care and quality that gets built into the units. The systems are robust, durable and built to standards that exceed the norm. (Clearly the reason we could be so blithely ignorant of our hydraulic systems for the first two years we've had Equinox, I'm ashamed to say.) We saw how well they machine their parts, and how they strive for improvement over every generation of component, refusing to out-source items that they know they can build/machine better. These systems aren't cheap, but when you are out at sea in nasty conditions, do you want to be thinking, "Damn, I'm glad I saved money on my stabilizers!"?? don't. We've been there in ugly seas, and I was thanking my TRAC stabilizers even then, when I didn't know a thing about them.

Dave beginning our tour of the machine shop, explaining how
they fill the orders and the quality control behind each assembly

Schematics of one system, with only partial markings from
the technicians as they double-check each order. By the time
this order is ready to ship, the schematic is multi-colored

Eric put us through the paces, teaching us about hydraulic basic principles of flow and pressure, basic components and their proper settings, how to read system diagrams to understand our boat's particular set-up, and how to trouble-shoot if you ever have an issue. Really reassuring is to know they keep on file the detailed diagrams and drawings of every boat system they've ever made, in case you need parts. Have an issue? Just call and give the sales order number or hull number from your boat, and they can pull up your schematics and tell you what kind of hydraulic pump you have or what size actuator cylinder you might need.

A manifold machined out of a single piece of
aluminium, with each port marked precisely

Eric showing us how TRAC cables are manufactured
to the specific dimensions of each boat system

Day Two had us doing the oily work: trouble-shooting various theoretical problems, then disassembling the various components and replacing or repairing the components. Be it as simple as clearing out a valve assembly or as complicated as replacing a broken actuator unit, we did it all and felt very secure in new-found prowess. We had folks from Kadey-Krogen there, and well as Nordhavn and an independent yacht maker who sent his engineer crew. With only six of us in the class, we all had ample time to go over information, discuss concepts and have time working with the stabilizer assembly and sensors.

Day Two: Eric explaining the workings of systems aboard
each of our boats, using the mock-up that illustrated the different
stabilizer or thruster hydraulic configurations

Hands-on training: replacing a stabilizer actuator control arm
and re-setting the fin position sensor and coupling

After the end of the course, we all enjoyed chatting, telling boating stories amid much laughter. It was a great group of always with cruising, we met new friends with whom we hope to keep in touch and hope to have our paths cross again. For any boat owner or cruiser who wants to improve their knowledge, comfort level and safety concerns, we highly recommend this course. Arcturus Marine/TRAC does it right!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

California Interlude!

After all our work to clean out the house and prep the boat to head south, Ron and I are enjoying an absolutely lovely interlude here in California. We're here for a number of reasons: 1) to visit Ron's step-brother for a few days, 2) to attend a class given by Arcturus Marine/American Bow Thruster regarding the care and feeding of our hydraulic system on Equinox and 3) treat ourselves to a wine country bicycle tour in the Russian River Valley area. Monday, Ron and I flew in to SFO (on a longer flight than usual due to wicked head winds) and drove up to Sonoma county, where we stopped in at Chalk Hill winery for a spontaneous tasting and tour after checking into our hotel. Talk about gorgeous country!! I'd forgotten how uniquely beautiful this area of the country is! After a long day of travel, the wine was all we needed to make it an early evening...

View of Chalk Hill looking east

Today, though, it was early to rise and boy, did we cover some ground!! We were up before dawn and in Sonoma early for a quiet morning walk around the old city square before we hit Sonoma Valley Cycles to rent a pair of Specialized road bikes for the day. We did a gorgeous 35-mile loop from Sonoma to Napa Valley and back, along the southern edge of the mountain range there. We cycled through hills and valleys of acres, acres and acres of vineyards, most part of the Carneros Estate and its Alliance growers' vineyards. It was stunning scenery!

Typical view during our bike loop through the southern
end of Sonoma and Napa Valley area

Great old truck by the entrance to one vineyard

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, stopping to take lots of photos, take in the scenery and replenish our water bottles, but still made it back in three hours. Thus, after we returned the bikes to Brad at Sonoma Valley Cycles, we were parched and in need of some ... wine! We hit the road and headed north to Arrowood, where we knew we could sample some fabulous wines in an even more fabulous setting. If we'd brought along some cheese, bread and olives, we could have sat out on their veranda overlooking the valley and really indulged, but...that will have to be next time!! Nevertheless, we joined their wine club, being delighted with the lovely reds that Arrowood featured during the tasting.

From there, spontaneity took over, and we took the narrowest of mountain roads, Trinity Road, to head up some 2000'+ over the mountains back to the east to Napa. Talk about hairpin turns, and NO guard rails....gulp!! It was intense, the way the road gave way to nothing but air at times. We loved the signs we came across: "Trucks with trailers not recommended" (Gee, no kidding!) or, even better, which we came across as we were most of the way up and over: "Warning: narrow twisting road ahead next 2 miles" (SO what the hell were we on before??) Frankly, the roads were wider and less twisting on the Napa side of the mountains, where the sign was! :)
Once down in Napa valley, we headed to Cakebread Winery to sneak in a tasting before they closed, but, alas....they only do tastings by appointments, so we were turned away. SO, we went next door to Sequoia Grove, and had the BEST TIME!! Serendipitously, we came in at the same time as another couple, who were very friendly and lovely to chat with during our tastings. It turned out that they were from Nashville, and that Craig was a major salesguy/distributor of Sequoia Grove in Tennessee. Thus, he knew Vicky and Jane, the two lovely women who were handling the tasting room crowds, and we all got along famously, having a great time talking and sipping. Of course, we joined the Sequoia Grove wine club thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were invited to tag along on a special tour of the winery!! We got to see the loads of freshly picked cabernet sauvignon grapes being sorted and de-stemmed, (even got to taste a single ripe raw grape prior to pressing: juice is delicious but don't chew on the skin!) AND THEN...we went down into the Sequoia Grove cave, where the massive toasted French oak barrels are stacked, each storing wine for its alloted time. Vicky took us into this tiny tasting room down below, and using a "wine thief", extracted a taste of the latest wine for us each, right out of the bunghole on the barrel. It was sooooooo smooth and mellow --- HOW cool was that??? We LOVED it!! We bought a few bottles of wine to take with us, and a case to ship home, along with some titanium wine glasses for the boat -- all good!!

The freshly picked grapes awaitng de-stemming

The de-stemming machine in action

A few of the massive oak barrels below the winery

Vicky using the wine thief to pull some wine
out of the barrel for tasting.

After that amazing treat, we were famished (having missed lunch during our ride and then going straight to the wineries) so we reluctantly said our good byes and headed to Sonoma once again. We stopped for an utterly delicious dinner at Saddles (we highly recommend their lamb sirloin - perfectly done with sides of al dente steamed veggies and garlic mashed potatoes) before we returned to the hotel to crash for the night. Ah, what a day!