16 July 2001 (Update #7)... Well, we can't say we weren't warned: "you really don't want to spend the summer on the Chesapeake. It's too hot and there's no wind!" We heard that from at least 3 different sources and I'm here to tell you that's exactly the case! We've been blessed with almost a week of 'cold weather'... it's been down in the 80s. But today it started warming up again. It's about 7:00 PM as I write this and the temp is still 90 inside the cabin (it's hotter outside!).
So when Celia's order of canvas arrived a few weeks ago at our mail forwarding service in Florida, I suggested that we could save about $30 in shipping if we drove down and picked it up. That way we could spend at least 3 days in an air conditioned car. Of course it cost about $250 in gas, motel rooms and eating out, but we were cool! :-)
We did manage a quick stop at Colonial Williamsburg (in Virginia) on the way back. It was a wonderful experience to be there and see the things that I've heard about for years. Thankfully it was a little overcast which made the temperature bearable (what a couple wimps we are!). The facility is very organized with about 1,200 employees plus another 800 volunteers, a visitors center that looks like an airport ticket lobby and buses to get you around. Learned a few neat things: makeup used in the 1700s was made with a beeswax base. On a really hot day it would start to run and the wearer would 'lose face'. Or on a cold day, if they laughed they'd probably 'crack a smile'. There's so much to see and learn that it would take several trips here to see it all.
But I've gotten ahead of myself. Shortly after returning from Maine we received our documentation from the Coast Guard. That meant we were free to get out on the bay and start enjoying the boat without fear of a fine if we were boarded. The USCG is pretty one way about using a boat that isn't properly registered... $10,000 per day from the time they find out you aren't either registered through a state or documented through the USCG.
I sort of sprang it on Celia. She'd just gotten back from doing a little grocery shopping and I asked if she wanted to go somewhere for the weekend. A half hour later we were on our way across Chesapeake Bay to a place called Shaw Bay. It's right near the entrance to the Wye River. I bet you've forgotten that's where Elian Gonzales stayed after they removed him from his uncle's Miami home. No sailing across Chesapeake Bay though... gotta have wind to do that. We motored the whole way over.
Yeah, right. Guess he mentioned it to a few too many friends because there must have been 50 boats when we arrived! (He later reminded me that he'd said 'during the week'. Oops!) Fortunately many of the boats left about sundown and the crowd was down to about 20 boats by the time we turned on the anchor light. Even with so many boats it was a very quiet anchorage and the place is very pretty. Some very expensive homes surround the bay and all the anchored boats were very protected from the prevailing wind and waves.
Thanks to our very shallow draft (we only need 18" of water to float the boat), we were able to anchor very close to shore which gave us a little extra distance to the nearest boat. Celia asked "Aren't we a little close to shore? I sure don't want to have to deal with any bugs!" The seasoned skipper considered this for a moment then said "We'll be fine. All we need is to be about 20 yards off the beach and we're at least 100 yards off." What I didn't consider, however, was that the 12-15 knot breeze would carry every airborne critter on the beach right over to our boat. Well... that and the insect kingdom's voracious appetite for human blood!
About 9:00 pm we were sitting out in the cockpit enjoying the stars in a perfectly clear sky when I turned on a flashlight to check something or other. You'd think it was VE day in WWII and we were sitting on the beach at Normandy: the invasion had started! Arrgggh!!!!! We retired to the safety of our cabin only to find the little buggers could get in through every gap and seam around windows, vents and doors. So out came the masking tape and the duct tape so I could plug all these supposedly 'sealed' gaps. Meanwhile Celia started a campaign of insect genocide with little Kleenex tissues. It sounded like we were being pelted with tennis balls... bop, bop, bop-bop, BAM (that was her kill-shot!). I managed to stem the flow of critters, but Celia was having a little trouble getting a decent kill rate.
We resorted to the big guns; out came the low pressure insect eradication system: the vacuum cleaner. Worked like a charm and we ended up with a clean boat besides. Only trouble was that Celia didn't think she could sleep thinking about the little buggers crawling back out the hose, so the intrepid captain applied a little more duct tape to the outside of the vacuum. Good thing we were never boarded by the USCG. They'd have thought we were terrorists carrying some sort of silver bomb!! :-)
Sunday we went over to St. Michaels, a picturesque little village created to pick the money out of the pockets of all visitors. We started for the entrance and realized that there were more power boats pouring in and out of the entrance than I'd ever thought existed. None were smaller than 30' and they all threw out a wake that threatened to throw us bodily on the beach. We definitely weren't ready to run with the big dogs, so we decided we'd save St. Michaels for a mid-week outing and beat a hasty retreat back to the safe confines of Shaw Bay.
We anchored about 1/2 mile off the Shaw Bay beach, but still 'no joy in Mudville'. The bugs found us anyway. But this time we knew what to do and we had the boat pretty well sealed up by the time the critters became active. We promised ourselves that screens were in our future since bugs are just a way of life on the Chesapeake.
While at Shaw Bay we saw a pretty cool fishing system. 2 guys in a small jon boat (a small open aluminum skiff with a flat bow) laid down 2 long lines (300' each?) with little plastic bait holders on them about 8' to 10' apart. Then they would drape the line over a 3' metal arm sticking off one side of the boat and slowly motor forward along the path of the line. The arm lifts the line with the bait holders up to the surface, then as they continue to move forward, each bait holder drops back down into the water off the arm. Meanwhile, the 2nd guy stood near the bow and watched for a fish to follow a bait holder toward the surface. When he saw a fish, he'd just dip his net into the water and grab it, flip it into a waiting wooden basket (or back into the water if it wasn't a 'keeper') and get ready for the next bait holder to appear. In about an hour they caught 1.5 bushels of fish and never broke a sweat doing it. Very cool way to spend a warm summer evening after work and earn a few bucks in the process.
Monday morning when we headed back to Herrington Harbour we had some decent sailing with winds of 15 to 25 knots. We put a reef in the jib (rolled up about the first third onto the headstay) because a catamaran is sensitive to the wind speed in the gusts. If you've watched a Hobie Cat sail out on SF Bay, you've probably seen them sailing along with one hull out of the water. You don't want to do that with one of these heavy cruising cats, though, because it doesn't take much of a heel and it'll be upside down. The reef didn't do much to slow us down as we were hitting speeds a little over 7 knots at times as we beat to weather. We sailed back in company of a 40' Island Packet, a very popular (and expensive) monohull, and had the distinct pleasure of running away from her in our 34' Gemini. Guess even an overweight catamaran can be pretty quick on its feet under the right conditions. Friend Michael Beattie calls mono-hulls 'cat food'! :-)
Back in the marina I got started on the screen project. We ended up with a simple Velcro attachment system that so far has worked beautifully. Another Gemini owner who works over at Fawcett's in Annapolis (a marine supply store) suggested it as an alternate to the do-it-yourself household screens I was thinking about.
Besides the screens I put on the windows, Celia is busy making window covers and awnings to give us some relief from the sun. Along with saving a substantial amount, it's almost impossible to get someone to work on canvas (or anything else for that matter!) because this is the peak of the season here in boating mecca. They're all swamped and don't even bother returning a call. She's finished the window covers and they look great!! So much so that she's had inquiries about doing canvas on other peoples boats. The truth is she's about ready to pitch the sewing machine in the water for fear of being chained to it for the next several years! :-)
We're scrambling a little right now because we're running out of time. We have 2 more weeks in July and then we'll be back in SF for the month of August. That leaves September to finish getting ready for our trip to the Bahamas. And somewhere in there we'll have to haul the boat out of the water at a boat yard to install an additional thru hull valve needed for the watermaker we will install. The biggies we have left to do are...
- the watermaker,
- solar panels for charging the batteries at anchor,
- marine single sideband radio for voice and e-Mail communications.
Guess we'll pass on the satellite phone since it costs about $7/minute for air-time! If anyone knows of a less expensive alternative, please let us know.
23 August 2001 (Update #8)...
Our worst fears have been confirmed. We have learned that Mark Twain was absolutely right when he said 'the coldest winter I ever spent was one summer in San Francisco'! I'm not sure we can honestly say that we look forward to 100 deg + 90% humidity, but a little warmer would be OK. We've been freezing our heat-conditioned buns!
We've been mostly doing the usual stuff that everyone does on a day-to-day basis: we both had appointments with doctors, Kelly stopped by and cut our hair, David has our teeth sparkling clean, the medicine bag is filled with prescriptions and we managed to order the new single side band (SSB) radio and special modem that's going to make it possible to send and collect e-Mail while we're away from telephones. The folks at HF Radio On Board in Alameda were very helpful in getting us set up. Now all I have to do is install it. Arrgggh!
You may also recall that I was asking if anyone knew about options for phone service like satellite phones for use when we're away from US cell phone coverage. We learned that the Iridium satellite phone system is back on line again. The Gov didn't want to see it go away, so they've given the new owners a contract to supply services. They dropped the price for airtime substantially from about $6.00/min down to $1.50/min. We managed to find a used phone, also through HF Radio On Board, so it looks like we've solved our voice communication problem with something that works very much like a cell phone. At this price we won't be using it frequently, but when Celia needs to get in touch with her mom or the care givers, or when we need a special part for Goosebumps, we should be able to do it. [ If you've seen Jurassic Park III, the yellow phone they dug out of the dinosaur dung heap is an Iridium satellite phone. Hmmmm... I guess I don't want to think about where our used phone came from! ]
We did have to do a little heavy duty work. With a lot of Celia's help I managed to clear out one of the 4 storage units I have scattered around California. Took 2 trips to the dump, one more trip for hazardous waste disposal (I had enough special paint thinner to create my own personal hole in the ozone!!), and several trips to move what was left, but it's finally done! I've had that unit since late '79. Sure hope all those folks that have been collecting their dividend checks from their Public Storage stock appreciate my contribution! :-)
We did manage to take a great drive north of San Francisco on a spectacular day. We got up north of Bodega Bay as far as the Russian River. Sunshine the whole way... not even fog at the Gate when we came back!
While here in San Francisco we managed to pile on a few more pounds from eating too much of all the things we missed while we were gone. Yikes! Guess there's going to be a lot of walking for exercise in our future. Walking is not so bad... we actually enjoy it a lot. It's the heat and the bugs around the Chesapeake that make it torture! From what we understand, September is supposed to be the month when the summer heat breaks and things get much more comfortable. Sure hope so because we have a very long list of things we have to get done before we leave. It's going to be very tough to get all those things done if it's as hot as it was in most of June and July!
One of those things to be done requires us to make a trip back to San Diego the first weekend in October, just prior to our departure. We're going to attend a special weekend seminar to (hopefully!) get our amateur radio (ham) licenses. That SSB radio I mentioned earlier will allow us to talk on not only the dedicated marine bands but also the ham bands. That will allow us to participate on the ham nets for people cruising in the Caribbean. When I crewed on my friends' boat (PUFFIN) to deliver it back to San Francisco from Hawaii, Phil & Lynn (they're both hams) checked into the Pacific Mariners Net every night the entire trip back. Believe me, it was very comforting to know that someone on shore was keeping track of us!!
Before closing, we want to welcome all of you recent additions to this list. Welcome aboard! We now have 42 understanding folks patient enough to put up with my ramblings! I keep promising that things should get a little more interesting when we finally get on our way south, headed for the Bahamas. Remember, if you're ever inclined to write, don't hesitate to send us an e-Mail. We love to hear from you guys! Also, if for any reason you need or want to be removed from distribution or to change your address or feel you need to drop off while on vacation, whatever, don't hesitate to let me know and I'll fix it right away.
A little administrivia. As long as we're still able to connect through our domain name server (goose--bumps.com), I can continue to use the Bcc: option for creating the distribution list for this mailing. Bcc: is the 'blind copy' option that masks addresses of the other recipients on the list. Once we start using the SSB radio for delivering e-Mail via a service called SailMail (some time between October and December), we'll lose the Bcc: option and all our mail will have only the Cc: option for distribution to the list. For those that care about such things, the program we'll use for radio-mail is something called AirMail written by Jim Corenman and donated to the amateur radio community and the inexpensive commercial SailMail Association for cruisers.
I need to mention one more thing in anticipation of our upcoming switch to SailMail (those of you that have been around for awhile have already heard this). e-Mail via SSB radio has a big limitation since only one boat can access any one of the 7 SailMail ground stations at a time. That's a maximum of 7 boats connected at any one time. In order to give everyone an equal chance, SailMail has to limit how long a single boat is connected to the system to 10-minutes per day. This method of sending e-Mail is s-l-o-w, but it works quite well considering the difficult conditions. What we have to do is ask that any of you that want to send us e-Mail do 2 things: use text messages (no HTML) and don't include attachments. The reason is that one HTML message can be the same size as 50 text messages with the same number of words. Attachments like a photo will be even larger.
That's it for now. We head back to GOOSEBUMPS next Wednesday, 8/29, and start scrambling to be ready to leave for the ICW around 10/10. We'll keep you posted as we move toward departure.
ps- our neighbor Rick says Goosebumps is still afloat.
28 September 2001 (New)...
This was the month for the haulout. Mostly an exercise in coordination which didn't go particularly well, but we tried! We did manage one fun thing which was the 1st Annual Rendezvous at Performance Cruising Inc, the builders of our boat. It was a lavish affair with a bunch of Gemini owners showing up with their boats so they could compete in a "fun race". Yeah right! There's no such thing as a "fun race" unless you win! :-) The seminars were great, Tony showed a long video of their crossing via the North Atlantic to England and the catered dinner was exceptional! Thanks Tony & Sue.
There were really only a few things that had to get done in the yard at Herrington Harbour North (Deale, MD):
- paint the bottom
- have the rigger unstep the mast (get it laid down horizontally on saw horses) so Peter Kennedy can install the radar mount, antenna and cable through the mast
- have the rigger install an insulated backstay for use as the antenna for our single sideband (SSB) receiver
- install a thru-hull fitting to eventually be used by the watermaker
- get the mast re-stepped
Unfortunately for us Peter is a very popular guy and had a schedule that was jammed. I was in a sweat because he was pretty vague about when he'd show up, but I needn't have worried. He got there and had the work done in a flash.
Alpha Rigging did a great job handling the mast and making up the backstay. We also had them swage new fittings on the lifeline gates at the transom steps because of the new spacer bars that were installed to support the davits. The later didn't get installed till after we returned to Herrington Harbour South because we had to have KATO refab the spacer bars.
The haulout, power wash and blocking (setting the boat on blocks on the ground) went fine though I couldn't get them to set it high enough to be able to work on the center boards. It also meant crawling in the gravel to get the thru-hull installed, but that's not a big deal. This photo was taken as the boat came out of the water and had just been washed. The outboard is on its storage bracket. Sure wish the engine would reach all the way to the water, but it doesn't. You can also see the rudders where I set them in the up position. This is where they would also go if they hit something in the water. The centerboards, also down here, will also pop up if they strike something.
And no,the thru-hull I installed didn't leak! :-)
After the haulout came the davits which we ordered from KATO Marine in Annapolis. They did their usual superb job of fab'ing them, but unfortunately PCI used a different spacing between the handrails on the aft deck on our hull and the spacer bars we bought didn't fit properly. Since the bars they made would eventually be sold to PCI it was no trouble taking them back and having them fab a length that would fit our boat. Of course all this took several round trips from Rose Haven to Annapolis, but it eventually got sorted out. KATO also made a stabilizer bar for the davits that is a little different than their usual. Instead of each end fitting the pin on each davit, we had them fab the bar so it extended about 8 inches beyond the davits on each side. This was done to allow us to get 2 large 80-watt solar panels mounted on the bar.
We also got a commitment from ALMO to build and install the canvas enclosures for the boat. This was something of an accomplishment since we tried for 3 months to get ALMO's owner to just answer a phone call. But eventually we wore them down and insisted that they take our $$$! We wanted both the clear plastic panels for cool weather and the screen panels for hot, buggy weather... 2 complete enclosures. Each enclosure panel is a canvas piece fitted with windows of one or the other of the 2 materials. These 8 panels fit together with zippers and snaps around the cockpit and (big surprise!) enclose it completely. I'll get a photo up to illustrate what it's all about. The design is Tony's and is built by ALMO. It's really well thought out.
That's pretty much it for activity around the haulout. Only 2 or 3 weeks left to go before we take off!