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Posts from the ‘Valinor Travels’ Category


Life is a moving target. To live fully, one must constantly be adjusting their aim. Practice helps, but perfect aim, if achievable at all, comes late.   I would never describe my life as uneventful or mundane. The watchword has been constant change, some minor and happening slowly, others fast and substantial. In any event, it has been an interesting ride – so far.

The latest significant change is my decision to sell Valinor II. That means taking off the skipper’s hat, but perhaps finding an occasional crew spot. My sailing career has been long and varied. I’ve first and foremost met and made good friends on the water throughout my travels. I’ve seen a lot of coastal US (east side), and spent many wonderful days exploring the remarkable Chesapeake Bay. It’s been a good run, and the destination has always been Valinor.

I trust there’s time for more adventures of some kind, and will share as they materialize …..


‘Hindsight is 2020’ they say … (This is NOT a political post)


We should soon put 2020 in the history book and find our way out of what has been an especially challenging year on so many fronts.

In part, because of the virus and some pretty inconvenient weather systems, this has also been a very challenging sailing season. Add to that some ongoing repair/improvement efforts on a newly acquired boat (late 2019). My enrollment in Spinsheet’s Century Club challenge proved overly optimistic. Not nearly as much time was spent on the water as planned. Even so, I managed to break the 50 day mark …..

First, early in the season I moved the boat to a new location at Maryland Yacht Club on the Patapsco River. It was a friendly and well-equipped site with a very generous sized slip and good marina neighbors.

On the down side, it was a solid 4+ hours sailing time to the Annapolis area where many friends are based and closer to my very familiar cruising waters. On the up side, it gave me opportunities to try my hand at some fun racing. Even a grand-daughter got a chance for some racing lessons at the helm of a friend’s boat.

One such race was cut short abruptly by a broken steering cable – right at the start line. It offered a little excitement and an opportunity to test out the boat’s emergency tiller system.

This new interest in racing led me to enter a novel Annapolis-based event, the ‘2 Bridges Fiasco’. This was the first year for this race which was patterned after a regular San Francisco event. It was perhaps the highlight of the season. We had good winds,10-20 mostly, and I scored an assist from very experienced crew.










That experience paid off given the 130+ boat fleet, and the staggered start all of which would have otherwise been a bit stressful. We managed a respectable finish in the middle of our class – not bad for a 34ft cruising boat. We topped 7kts and put the rail in the water a few times.





Even with the virus restrictions, the Club managed a few overnight cruises with small rafting groups in some lovely Bay anchorages.








For assorted reasons, I made several trips down Bay to Annapolis. One of those produced a record time with favorable wind and tide making for a really fun sail. Sadly, the usual weekend raft ups fell victim to the virus constraints.

It’s now mid-November. I’ve relocated the boat back to Annapolis at my former marina in preparation for some over-winter work. The process of setting her up for winter is underway, but final winterization is on hold pending the chance for a few more day sails. So, hoping for some moderate, breezy days and friendly crew to share some bittersweet time on the water. Barring a change in current plans, Valinor II will have a new skipper by next season. Stay tuned for new adventures………

Music on the Water

A great evening with dozens of other boaters, plenty of ‘social distance’! The Eastport Oyster Boys gave a live concert on the stage of the Stanley Norman surrounded by sailboats, power boats, and dinghies. Good music with good friends. This is a VERY popular annual event, and the EOBs deserve a big hand for doing all the work it takes to stage this event, and for a good cause. Thanks to the Stanley Norman Skipjack for hosting in a glorious day for Shorerivers / Wye River Pump out Boat… over 200 boats shared the evening and helped the cause.

I had the good fortune of leaving my boat in it’ slip and taking a ride with my best sailing friend on his boat. All the fun, half the work! That said, we managed a decent sail down Bay before motoring up Eastern Bay to get to the concert site in Shaw Bay — don’t know the country? … pull up online charts! It was about a 24nm trip. We enjoyed evening snacks and libations, and a quiet night before motoring home in the morning with less than 5kts of breeze. Another great weekend on the water!

The chronicles of an optimistic sailor*

If we weren’t inherently optimistic, I suspect most of us would give up sailing. If you spend any time with a boat and on the water, that optimism is frequently tested.

The weather forecast predicts moderate winds from the desired direction to accomplish your weekend cruise. What you get is building to gale force or dead calm. If the former, it will be on the nose both out and back. Then the optimist will enjoy tacking practice!

You’re making a quick trip to a service marina for a minor repair. On the way, the engine dies. So, sail on, tow in, new racor filter, engine service and fuel polishing. But the minor repair gets made, and now you have clean fuel and a fresh filter. It is after all only $$$. (see a previous post on the $$ topic).

A wonderful weekend cruise, with ideal wind conditions and lovely weather. Arrive at the anchorage, drop sails — I said drop sails……!   Well, the main won’t come down. Anchor down, and while puzzling solutions a friendly neighboring boat comes by with a bosun’s chair and a volunteer attitude to winch me up the mast. Problem solved and a new friend made.

Getting the idea? There’s always (almost) some sunshine even on a cloudy day.

Always thought about racing, but then my boat is cruising designed. None the less, it can be fun. So, cast a net for possible crew and found a couple. First opportunity for an evening club race found moderate conditions, good wind and an easy to follow course. Crew calls to cancel. As a veteran single hander, this is easy. Out of the slip and off to the start line with 8 or so other boats. Prepping for the start, swing the wheel to line up and it just keeps turning, the wheel that is…..drifting now with sails up and no steering. Gotta love the volunteer attitude of sailors. Another boat tosses a line to pull me away from the course. Anchor down while getting sail down and setting up the emergency tiller to head back to the slip – sound familiar? Learned a few lessons about the race protocol, practiced steering with the emergency tiller – not easy. Of interest, the race committee boat had son on board who asked if they had an emergency tiller. Yes. He tried it and found same result. Not easy to use…..

Cable broke..


Chart shows 6ft of water at low water (tide’s out). That short cut will save a good 30mins to destination. Easy choice given the boat draws just 4ft. You know the result. This time it’s a friendly (at least he was laughing) power boater who tosses a line to drag off the sand bar. Should update the chart software for shoaling. No damage done except to pride. Made another friend.

Off shore passage and motoring overnight going well. Engine dies – a long way from nearest port. No luck re-starting. Solution – raise sails just as the little wind astern drops to a whisper. Still, making headway at about 1-2kts. Tow called and he’s about an hour out, but finds us in the dark. Really good news this time – not my boat. On a delivery with owner on board.

The list goes on. There are some old, familiar sayings, ‘What could go wrong?’, ‘if it can go wrong, it will – and usually at the worst time’, ‘B.O.A.T – bring out another thousand’, ‘Any day on the water is a good thing’,. Those and more all created by sailors I’m sure.

So, off again soon for other adventures. Keep a smile on your face and sail on!

*credit for the title of this post goes to my sister who listens to my occasional woes.

A Tale of Two Bays


It began as a simple, short 20nm run down Bay. Weather forecast called for favorable ENE wind 5-10kts. Slip neighbor volunteered to come along. Purpose was to get the autopilot checked out … drive not turning the wheel.

It was a sunny day. We got an early start (8am) and motored out to the main channel in a good breeze on the nose, then turned south and began setting sail….

That’s when Poseidon stepped in. It must be payback for something I neglected. As it turns out, that was exactly right.

An hour out, the engine gurgled to a stop.

I discovered that three of the mainsail slides got slipped in the mast track upside down….makes raising the sail against that friction something of a challenge. Also, it was worrisome for getting it down.

The upside…we were sailing. But the forecast had begun to fail. Winds built to the east…a nice beam reach now, but in 2 to 4ft waves. It was a bouncy ride, and slowly the pieces made sense.

Old fuel in the tank.  Significant wave action. Fuel filter clogged with algae…thus the motor’s decision to take a break.

By now we were making really good time sailing at 5 to 6.5kts and steering over some of the bigger waves. Next step was a plan for arrival in Back Creek (Annapolis). Very familiar water. It was my former home Port. Easy to sail in to the dock. Not so easy to be sure we could stop…softly! [For non-sailors reading this…sailboats, unlike cars and power boats, dont have brakes, and we’d lost the power option.]

Solution: call Towboat US. A very nice captain delivered us the last 15mins of the 5 hour trip to the dock.


Now safely deposited at my old dock with local friends to help. Day 1-2, E-tech found the autopilot problem. Answer: Send control unit to Raymarine for repair. Called my friendly tech from past winter’s work to sort out engine issue. Two visits to change fuel filter and get engine running….success.

Days 3-4, Putter (that’s a nautical term) around boat doing small jobs that had been put off, and visit with my former slip neighbor and other local boat friends.

Day 5, Weather forecast called for 5-10 kts from the South…sounds familiar. I was skeptical, but woke to a calm, sunny day. As for Poseidon’s pay back…when I bought the boat about a year previous, it had sat unmoved for over a year with a partial tank of fuel. My bad for not getting it clean then. Lesson learned. Take note if you’re buying a used boat.

Schedule has Clean Fuel coming about 11am, so a noon to 1pm departure seemed likely. Well, it turned into a 3pm departure after what appeared to be considerable problems with the pumping system transferring/filtering the fuel.


Bay 2

(Still Day 5) South winds 5 to 10 kt. Waves 1 ft. Isolated showers in the morning, then scattered showers with isolated t’storms in the afternoon. Ok, at 6am that last part about t’storms wasn’t in the forecast.

The late start to the north raised concerns about the PM t’storms. Seems they were moving northeast and we never caught up – good news!


The Bay giveth and the Bay taketh away. All the hassles of the southbound trip were replaced by a wonderful downwind cruise in near ideal conditions. The 5hr run down turned into a 4hr return with 5-18kts on our stern and waves less than 1ft. The only excitement was another close encounter with a northbound tanker at the Bay bridge. Kindly let him go first. As a matter of interest, tankers headed for the bridge announced that transit 20mins out.

On the approach to MYC, as we drooped sails, more good news – the engine started easily!

All in all, a good week on the water if a bit on the pricey side, but then this is a sailboat we’re talking about.

Is it Spring yet?

Uncertain is the first reaction. Yes, the grass is growing – already mowed several times, flowers are blooming, a mosquito or two have been spotted and wrens have occupied one of our nest boxes. Then the weather forecast shows sub-freezing overnight temps (31f tonight) and cold rain. Someone said something about a possible snow shower….

In the sailing world, it should be time to lose socks and switch to shorts. Not so much. Then add the ongoing responses to the current virus epidemic. One of those responses, in our State, was to ban recreational boating. I could rant about the absence of common sense given the fundamental isolating nature of single boats on the water carefully avoiding close interactions with other boats……. but then I’m not the Governor having to make very difficult decisions. And this is not the forum for that debate.

On a more positive note, based on improving metrics tracking the virus spread, the boating ban was just lifted yesterday (May 7)! Clearly good news for the sailing crowd. While the Governor hasn’t done anything about the current weather pattern, getting out on the water is still a good thing.

As such, and given a brief improvement in weather for a day, I managed to sneak in a short sail. That made it feel, for a time, like Spring, and promised better sailing times would come. Yes, it is Spring – so the calendar says. We all hope for improvement with the medical challenges and better weather soon. Meanwhile, bundle up a bit and go sailing!




A post from a previous ‘quiet time’ (2013) ……

Doldrums(from Wikipedia) .. noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks. Colloquially, the “doldrums” are a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness or stagnation.  —- a common, well-understood term in the sailing community, and one that comes frequently to mind this time of year. As summer heat builds, it seems only two weather conditions prevail; hot, humid and still or hot, humid and thunderstorms. Neither condition is conducive to good sailing. So, what to do with this time that includes much of July and August?

Some options include: make sailing plans for when more favorable conditions return, make those postponed repairs/improvements, catch up on ‘home chores’ and/or seek air-conditioning. These options will clearly fill the time, and are productive ways to do so.

For myself, I’ve been working through a long list of home projects/repairs, finishing a set of companionway doors for the boat, and developing plans for extended sails come September/October and beyond. In addition, it provides a quiet time to reflect on a variety of personal and philosophical issues.

‘Forced’ quiet and alone time can remind us to slow down, think about priorities and the important things in life – and maybe even turn off the cell phone and computer? Among more personal and arguably more important matters, emerge thoughts about why we sail, and why sailing can become a way of life.

Lyrics in Kenny Chesney songs, “vessels of freedom, harbors of healing”, resonate with the feelings that often come when on the water, powered quietly by the wind with “nowhere to go, and nowhere to be”. Sailing offers a sense of total freedom to go wherever one chooses and the wind can take you. And maybe to capture just that feeling is the fundamental reason we sail.


Well, a microscopic organism has put us here in the current doldrums, so what to do while camped out at home? In part, I’m thinking about the boat I’m not allowed to visit, much less sail. I wonder if it’s thinking about me 😊

The good news is that I got it off the hard and moved to it’s home slip before the latest government order to stay at home was issued. With a couple friends crewing, we had a nice motor sail (almost no wind) of about 5hrs to cover the 23nm distance up the Bay. She is safely tucked into her slip at the Maryland Yacht Club – fortunately with a slip neighbor who’s watching out for her.

We headed out of Back Creek at 11:01am, said good bye to Annapolis, turned north under the Bay Bridge and settle in at MYC at 3:51pm.

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The world will return to some sense of normal, though what that will look like remains to be seen. I trust there will be good times on the water. Meanwhile, I wish everyone good health – stay safe and enjoy the quiet time.

“‘Forced’ quiet and alone time can remind us to slow down, think about priorities and the important things in life.”

Boat Units…

It is generally agreed that a boat unit equals about $1,000.  A boat unit is most often the smallest denomination accepted in boat work of any kind. These facts often challenge the sense of humor of those of us who own boats (some might say foolishly) ……

That said, and 2 or 3 boat units later now, the winter work on Valinor II is essentially done – at least the contractor-paid work. The list of needed projects remains just a bit daunting.  Starting at the top:

  • Bend sails back on;
  • clean and waterproof top side canvass;
  • strip plastic coating off life lines and reinstall (in progress),
  • install safety netting on the life lines;
  • sand, stain and varnish top side wood;
  • install new companion way door (owner built);
  • clean deck;
  • modify stern rails;
  • install new swim platform (owner built);
  • clean anchor locker and deck;
  • clean and organize below deck;
  • repair/replace anchor locker drain;
  • de-winterize.

The target date for de-winterizing and the start of the sailing season (the reason for all this work) is Sunday, March 15th.  It is purely coincidental that it’s also the Ides of March. Besides the murder of Julius Ceasar, several other not-so-great things occurred on that day .. .  I may just move it to Monday the 16th……..

The good news is that all the necessary engine work has been completed and the fresh water system secured. I finished constructing the companion way doors and swim platform. Most of the life line work is completed. Sometime in the early Spring the drive shaft will be replaced and a dripless fitting installed. Now, if it weren’t for boats, what would we do with our time?

Winter work

As the sailing season comes to an end – at least in the northern regions – the list of off-season projects begins to grow. With a new (to me) boat, it seems the list is pretty long despite the good condition overall …..







My 1988 Catalina 34, which has been nicely upgraded, still has some issues. Not surprising for a boat of this age, 1) the ports and hatches need re-bedding. 2) The interior surfaces need a thorough cleaning. 3) Some hoses need replacement. 4) A minor water leak in the fresh water system needs to be found and fixed. 5) Wood needs sanding and sealing. 6) Sails and canvass need cleaning and minor repairs. 7) Fridge and water heater need replacing. 8) There’s a small soft spot on the deck that likely needs repairing. 9) And, the shaft and cutlass bearing need replacing. The last item, which also means dropping the rudder, will wait till the yards thin out in the Spring so there’s room to haul and block.

I already had the bottom sanded and painted, the hull cleaned and polished and her new name and home port added before launching and bring her to the home slip in Annapolis (Eastport).




Meanwhile, the shop will service the engine, replace filters and change fluids, and likely replace the heat exchanger prior to winterizing.

Items 1, 2, 5 & 6, and maybe 4, are all DIY projects. So, now I have boat stuff to do for entertainment over winter!  It will feel great to have a ‘like new’ boat come next sailing season!  May even have some help from a sailing friend.

But don’t expect much help from Tacker, my number one crew.….


Coming home

All the commotion and uncertainties of boat search, prep and movement to home slip is behind me. There is a “coming home feeling” to being back on the water. The first reaction is to raise sails, find a nice peaceful anchorage, put feet up with a suitable beverage and watch the sunset. That will come soon, but there are still assorted details to yet to address……find the water leak in the fresh water system, finish cleaning, organize and stow essential gear, sort out lines – clean and replace as needed, treat and pump tanks, load and store provision. Moderate chaos still reigns below deck. Doing this right will take some time, but as they say, ‘there’s nothing more fun than messing around with boats’ 🙂

Meanwhile, she’s (Valinor II) settled in a secure slip in a beautiful location. That’s sparkle on a shinny, waxed hull, not marks!

A short work day got some things done. We moved to an adjacent slip – now bow in. And, my furry crew got introduced to the boat. He managed the boarding ramp and the companionway – down & up – with only a little assistance.

Next step is to work though the chore list (above). I’m pretty sure it won’t all be done before we slip the lines and find that idyllic anchorage for at least one night…… The first Valinor liked this spot.