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Posts from the ‘Valinor Travels’ Category

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 ….

Moving on……

The only constant in life is change. That’s one of the lessons I’ve learned – repeatedly!

So it is that my world is shifting yet again. So has Maggie’s. In fairness to her, she has found a new home with a loving family.

Perhaps there will be a new ‘Maggie’ when life gets resettled.

Since retiring, sailing has occupied much of my time and energy, and provided wonderful friendships and shared experiences on the water and on land. Valinor and I have sailed all around the Chesapeake, some off-shore and down the east coast to the Keys and back. Traveling the Intracoastal Waterway was a special experience, and created so many memories I will carry with me of interesting places, fascinating people, and assorted experiences – from peaceful to more exciting than I needed.

Along the way I’ve made good friends – some even have left the water for similar on-land adventures. Many of the stories are shared here on this blog.

Valinor is now For Sale, and hopefully will find another sailor to treat her kindly and continue the adventures. (reply here if you would be interested in purchasing a great boat!)

In the works now are plans to cut the home ties, move into an RV motor coach and go exploring our great Country. It has been some years since I’ve traveled much on land, so looking forward to renewing old friendships, making new ones, and revisiting the many wonderful places I’ve been to but briefly – not to mention being able to take the home where it’s warm — all year around!

So, stay tuned for more adventures of a land-based kind. Our Spot will travel with us, and we’ll do our best to share the fun!

Season opener

March 12th marked the opening of sailing season for Valinor! It was just a short day sail, but cranked the engine  – started on the first try! Brought along a couple friends and  Maggie — managed to find enough wind for a delightful sail.


Discovered that a February wind storm had driven the boat against the dock and chipped the gel coat. A call to my favorite maintenance folks (Diversified Marine) got the repairs done quickly with excellent results. Another call Boat US Insurance got the claim approved and payment in full within a week. Two great outfits to deal with!

March 29th was a short work session. Moved the dingy off the fore deck and stowed against the stern. Turned the boat around to bow in and readjusted all the dock lines. Shut down all shore power and 12v uses leaving the solar panel to maintain the batteries. Left to do: flush the fresh water systems and fill the tanks, change oil and filters, check all fluid levels and do a complete cleaning above and below deck. Will get a diver to clean the bottom and check the zinc early May after a late April delivery from Florida to Annapolis.

Looking forward to another great sailing season! You can follow us here, and check the Spot link to see where we wander…….

Maggie on the water – week 13-17

And the training continues ….  Leaning more about Labs every day. This one in particular is exceptionally smart, AND has a strong will to match!  Prudence says ‘professional help’, and so we signed up with a trainer for once per week sessions. All the basic sit/come/stay and related skills are developing along with my patience (most of the time). She learns fast. The trick is to get her to do what she knows – when I tell her!

All work and no play isn’t for Maggie or me!  She made the trip with me, by car, to the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam and made new friends while getting accustomed to the car kennel. The following week she guarded the door at the Passport Yachts office while I did my part-time broker work at the annual Annapolis Boat Show.


Several days living on the boat helped her to learn her way around. I built a carpet covered ramp to make it easier to get up and down from cabin to deck. The following week was committed to boat maintenance that involved a short three day haul while replacing a thru hull valve. That and a couple weeks of not so great weather meant limited boat time, but continued training time. We did sneak in a short day sail with a couple crew friends giving Maggie the first chance to sail – she was a trouper, and seemed to take to the life easily.IMG_7223

Week 17 brought the first overnight sail to a marina. As a club cruise, I had crew help, and it provided shore time for Maggie. It was a great downwind sail on Saturday and a motor sail upwind home.


A little help with the lines (photo by crew friend)

Sadly, it’s fast approaching the time to winterize – what and ugly word!  Off today to winterize the fresh water system. Holding off on the engine in the hope of another sail or two.

Next weeks/months with boat secured means more puppy  training time and planning for the next sailing season!

Best Laid Plans….

For some weeks I anticipated this extended cruise. Substantial planning was done with multiple alternatives built into the float plan. Destinations were set, both north and south, and on both sides of the Bay. Decisions were to be made each day depending on wind and weather – objective being to maximize sailing time.

First – don’t trust the weather reports more than a few hours out –

and then look around to see if they got it at all right!

Day one: First change. Destination was reset in order to meet up with sailing friends at Swan Creek Marina in Rock Hall. It was a good party and conditions allowed for at least some motor/sailing time over a relatively short distance despite pretty light winds mostly on the nose. I also took on two crew from the club for the one-way trip. Give the weatherman an ‘A’ for accuracy on this one. By way of Face Book, I heard from a fellow cruiser traveling generally in my direction, and not far away. So we began the dance of trying to connect in the same place at the same time……a fast trawler and a slower sailboat with varying weather conditions. First stop was just north for me at Fairlee Creek – a very nice protected anchorage.

Day two: I made an early start with a brief stop for fuel, and headed for Fairlee. I turned into another day of motor/sailing, but at least with a good boost from a favorable tide. The anchorage was still a bit crowded from a busy weekend but, being Sunday afternoon, it cleared quickly. My cruising friends decided to stay put, otherwise a pleasant evening at anchor.

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Day three: Now weather reports were beginning to be mixed with cautions of approaching T’storms. So, with winds cooperating for a Bay crossing, it was a good day to get back to the western shore and one of several protected anchorages. While not ideal, SE winds enabled a decent sail, and with an outgoing tide I made better time than planned. After dodging a couple tugs & tows crossing the commercial channels, I sailed into Eagle Cove off the Magothy River. To the weatherman’s credit, I did encounter a brief shower as I approached the Magothy – give him/her a ‘C-‘ for the day.  I shared the anchorage with only four other boats, and enjoyed a quiet evening. I also reconnected with my cruising friend who was now planning to head to Mill Creek near Cantler’s crab house – good motivation to adjust plans again.

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Day four: More calls for PM T’storms by the weathermen, but now I had favorable winds and tide for thunnamed (6)e run to Mill Creek. Nearly ideal conditions made for a brisk sail just off the NE wind. Except for a short motor-on to clear the Bay Bridge due to chop and traffic, it was sails up all the way.

I passed my friend’s trawler on the way into the creek, but never was able to connect. The consolation prize  was a dinner of steamed mussels and lump crab cake topped off with key lime pie for dessert! And, it was a short dinghy ride from my anchorage. I subsequently learned that, if empty slips, I could have used one free and stayed the night…. next time.

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Day five: Now running low on provisions (bad pre-planning on my part), I chose to stop back in my home slip (Back Creek, Annapolis) to re-provision, clean and re-organize the boat. It also gave me a chance to lunch and visit with my former slip neighbor. The heat already was building and predicted to get hotter, so a good day to scrub the topsides, and continue the process of weaving netting onto the life lines. The latter project being undertaken to provide for the arrival of a new boat dog (yellow lab puppy), and her safety underway.

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                                                                                                               -one of these!-

Day six/seven:  With a forecast of very light, but favorable winds for heading south, I made an early start heading to the Rhode River where I would catch up with my sailing club’s weekend raft. The two-day early arrival would afford time to enjoy some quiet time mid-week. Uponleaving the creek I found 8-12 kts of N wind and quickly was under full sail making great time down Bay. Managed to sail nearly all the way into the Rhode River anchorage. After dealing with an aggressive power boat dragging a raft full of kids around my corner of the bay and the buzzing of jet skis, it was steak on the grill and a good bottle of Cabernet.


 Next day I re-located to the section of the bay where I expected the raft to be set up. Weather was HOT, but the predicted T’storms never arrived. Instead I got a brief 10 min shower. There was also ample time to drop the kayak in the water and explore – always good birding along the shoreline.

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July 2015 sail 019

Day eight/nine: After several days of solo sailing, it was fun to welcome the arriving club boats. Building a raft can be a tense time. At least conditions were calm, if very hot, and the process got accomplished without too much fuss. We completed the linear raft (nose-to-toes) with 10 boats, and spent a pleasant evening sharing treats and stories – even got in a swim to cool down.

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Weathermen got it right for the sail home on Sunday (day nine) with light SE winds. At least it was worth flying the head sail for the short motor/sail.

So, almost none of the ‘best laid plans’ materialized. The weathermen managed about  50% accuracy. I never connected with my cruising friends, but got three days of good sailing, a party with some sailing friends and a raft up with others. All in all, not a bad week on the water. Then, when is a week on the water ever bad?