Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Valinor Travels’ Category

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.

20200320_094958  20200324_11201620200324_115849  20200324_174147

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.….


On coming Home – a sequel*

While resting on my newly acquired boat and feeling very much at home, I began thinking about the meaning of Home. What is it that draws us to a place that we feel is home? Is there some underlying biology to it? And so, from where did we come that would leave that trace?

Biologists and other scientists work to describe HOW we came to be as a species (along with all other living things). We think we’ve got it. Philosophers try to explain WHY — all absolute conjecture. Yet, seemingly buried in our DNA or elsewhere is some innate knowledge of both how and why – and from where. It’s buried so deep we are never certain, if we’re honest with ourselves, of what we profess to believe, or at least we shouldn’t be.

So, in that buried knowledge, do we have some understanding of what home means?  Why are some of us driven to try to explain? Is there something profoundly important that understanding would reveal? From ‘ashes to ashes’ we simply recycle our beings. Is death the pathway to home … returning elementally from whence we came? In that sense, do we not all return home to the earth in the end?

Most likely never consider these matters, being free then to pursue their lives unhindered by the questioning and frustrations of inadequate understanding. Others choose to leave this all up to one or another god and its associated religion – and accept that dogma.

At the very end of any puzzling of this kind comes the unanswerable question of where did this universe come from and what preceded it if anything. Thus, from whence did we come? Nothing-ness, along with infinity, are concepts our brains seem incapable of grasping in any meaningful way. What do we know but not recognize or understand about this yearning for home? What is different about those of us who feel this yearning so profoundly? Are we the same ones who feel so deeply for the health of our earth?

See, it’s risky to simply sit on a boat with nothing much to do.

‘Coming home’ is a frequent expression having nothing to do with opening a door to our house. What images connote home? Why? What do they have in common? Among many singers/songwriters, Enya sings “I’ll find a way home”, Sissel sings ‘Going home’. Many people will recognize that feeling about a place that they’ve come home to – a comforting, belonging feeling. When asked to explain why, what it is about the place and the feeling, most will struggle for an adequate answer.

What prompted this rambling essay? I’m back on the water after a solid-ground excursion of a few years. It feels like coming home. For me, that’s a sense of ‘rightness’, calm, familiar, peaceful, belonging. My boat’s name Valinor is from Tolkien’s middle earth tale. Valinor is the ‘undying land’ to which the heros sailed at the end of the story – a comforting thought of going home.

All is good when sitting in a boat in a quiet back water with no demands of self except the constant conversation that carries on in our minds, aware or not, and a child’s repetitive question, why? Why does this feel like coming home?

Perhaps it’s just simply that home is the saline sea from whence we came – if the biologists are right. The philosopher’s ‘why’ question is more interesting.

*see the earlier ‘coming home’ post.

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.

Home Slip

Just a short update —-

Finally, all the paper work and boat work is finished. Last Saturday (9/14) we launched and headed up the Bay to her new slip, with her new name and home port lettering on. Thanks for the great crew help from friend Ron.

It was a near perfect day.  Mostly sunny, with wind from the SSE at 10-15kts and an incoming tide. Slight chop and following low waves.  All in all, great run downwind under full sail.  All systems worked as expected.  Still a few minor issues to handle and some topside and cabin cleaning, organizing and stocking to do.

Home slip is an easy motor ride up Mill Creek from the Bay proper – just above a really great crab house….Cantler’s for those who know the area.

And, what a beautiful, quiet location – even a large lawn for exercising the pup 🙂  It’s a private slip with three sailing neighbors. Looking forward to settling in and enjoying time on the water again!



Full circle

After a wonderful couple of years traveling the Country full time in our motorhome, we’ve settled again close enough to the Chesapeake to be back on the water. The lengthy process of searching for a suitable boat, and going through the survey and negotiations finally met with success.

The search criteria, apart from affordability, was a comfortable, well equipped and structurally solid sail boat 32-36ft in length. Several boats were inspected from 32 to 40 ft varying in age from 25-35 years, all but one were in the immediate Annapolis area which will once again be home port.

The lucky winner is an ’88 Catalina 34 tall rig, wing keel. This is a familiar boat, though I’ve never sailed this model. It is nearly identical to my former Catalina 30 – same rigging, keel, electronics and engine – just several feet longer. The extra length provides for more comfortable living quarters, and capability to handle a wider range of sea conditions – at least with more comfort.





She is in remarkably good shape for a 30 year old boat, clearly well cared for over the years and upgraded to current standards. That said, there are a few maintenance and improvement issues. The head sail needs a good cleaning or replacement. The bottom will be sanded out and given 2 coats of ablative paint before we launch and move to her home slip. Some detailing is needed on the interior, as is maintenance of the refrigeration. Planned improvements include a windlass and a stern swim platform to facilitate getting on and off the dinghy – especially with a dog. That would be Tacker, a 40lb, 9 year old Brittany.

I think he’s going to be helpful crew … … that is if I can get him to stay awake to stand watch …

Looking forward to being  in a slip with sailing friends as neighbors, AND it’s a short dinghy ride to one of the best seafood restaurants in the Annapolis area – especially good crab cakes! And, it’s only a 10min run down creek to the Bay.

She’s a documented vessel, though expired, so renewing with the Coast Guard and changing name and home port are top on the to do list. Hoping to get help at the Coast Guard Documentation Center which is only 45 minutes away.  Currently named Althea, she will be christened Valinor II following her predecessor.  The ceremony to secure Neptune’s blessing will be employed when the time comes……with appropriate libations.   Stay tuned for more about our adventures on the water to come.


Almost three years ago I traded sails and house for wheels.


It was a wonderful two years traveling the Country, but now it’s time to trade back.

Motor home is gone and a new house renovated.  Back in the Bay area, and almost feeling settled……..then sitting still isn’t an option.  So begins the search for a new “Valinor”.  She was a wonderful sailing partner, and we covered a lot of water together. This time will be a step up from her 30 feet by 4 to 6 more. Looking forward to cruising the Bay again and reconnecting with my sailing friends.

Stay tuned for the search process … have already passed on several Catalina 34s and 36s and a couple Beneteaus looking for that ideal boat – solid, clean, well equipped, 34-36ft with walk thru transom. Yes, there will be a dog on board so easy access from and to the dingy will be important.

Look forward to meeting on the water!


Step one …

Valinor has provided eight wonderful years of sailing adventure. Together we’ve explored much of the Chesapeake Bay, sailed twice around the DelMarVa peninsula (once each way), and made the long ICW trek to Key West and back. In that time, we’ve motored on flat, still water, had lively sails in fresh 8-15kt breezes, anchored in serene coves, and fought 40-50kt winds with 4-6ft waves. She is a study boat and never let me down.

On a beam reach

On a beam reach

Thus, it is with some sadness that this chapter is coming to an end. Valinor has moved on to new owners.  I know she will provide them with equally great service and lots of new adventures. They say the best two days in a sailor’s life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells her…  selling comes with mixed feelings, it sure doesn’t qualify for one of my ‘best days’! But there’s more to come…..

Though Valinor’s part of this blog comes to an end, it will be replaced with other adventures. We’ll be trading sails for wheels as many of our sailing friends have also done. There’s a new motor coach in the near future. Money down and we’re on the build schedule for a Spring delivery.


So, whether it’s Valinor II or some other name, there are more adventures just around the corner ….