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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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….

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.

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 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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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?

Grandad’s Day?

Not sure why we don’t get our own, but guess I’ve had my share of Father’s Days….

In any event, enjoyed a nice sail and dinner at anchor with grandson Tyler. Give a kid a dingy and freedom to wander and don’t expect to see him for awhile!  With a forecast of 5 or less we didn’t expect much sailing, but once again the forecasters were wrong. We found 8-15 and flat water … about as good as it gets for a pleasant daysail on the Bay.

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Dropped anchor in Whitehall Bay and relaxed while Tyler explored …

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Just another good day on the water..

A Surprize Cruise

A Surprize Cruise

Being in the right place at the right time does sometimes pay off! At a recent sailing club event I was fortunate to meet a new sailing friend with a Galeforce 34 [http://sailboatdata.com/viewrecord.asp?class_id=1989] berthed in Elizabeth City, NC. Seems he needed to move her up to the Chesapeake Bay. After a brief discussion – and a check next morning in the sober light of day – I agreed to help.
That stretch of the AICW is a favorite of mine, especially the run though the Dismal Swamp. A rental car got us to Elizabeth City, and after checking water depths with the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center we headed north from Lamb’s Marina up the Pasquotank River.
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Always a pretty ride up the river and into the Dismal Swamp canal. Along the way we found other company headed for a stop at the visitor center.

IMG_20150520_105745462_HDRBut first we needed to clear the South Mills lock – about an 8ft lift to the canal.

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Then it’s a short distance to the visitor center where all the other boats stopped.

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Given our planned schedule, we continued on through the canal to the north end and stopped at the Deep Creek bridge. The trawler from South Carolina passed us on the way and we found them waiting since they failed to make the last bridge/lock opening.
The next morning we cleared the bridge and lock and made our way to Hampton Public Pier for the night. Gilmerton bridge opened for us as we approached and then we slowed to allow the outbound tanker to go ahead of us – seemed a prudent thing to do! It was a pleasant stop at Hampton and afforded an opportunity to have dinner with my daughter and her husband – a great meal at Marker 20.
Then the weather began to create challenges. The first two attempts to leave Hampton across Thimble shoals failed. Short period, 3-5ft waves proved too steep. But we found a better path nearer shore and headed for Deltaville after dropping the original plan to go straight to Solomons. The weather delays made that problematic.
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We anchored in Fishing Bay by mid-afternoon and enjoyed a pleasant evening. It’s now fast approaching Memorial Day weekend, so we had company in the anchorage including this fascinating ship, named STYRR that has been around the world providing charter cruises.
BAKKER trip 003Leaving Fishing Bay, we headed either for Solomons or overnite to Annapolis. A helpful tide and south wind made the decision to press on for Annapolis. Night sailing is always interesting, and two south bound tugs/barges made it so. We got a VHF call as we passed Bloody Pt from one of the tugs suggesting we might want to take a 10-20 degree turn to Port in order to clear their intended route. Seems the two different AIS apps we were using failed to show either vessel as well as tankers at anchor off Annapolis. Then they were working again in the morning – puzzling. A good caution to be careful depending on such technology.
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We had the good fortune to have the loan of my neighbor’s slip in Back Creek and arrived about 2am. I had the luxury of sleeping on my own boat. The it was a late breakfast at Grumps and another down wind run to Worton Creek clearing the Bay bridge about noon..
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Then into Worton Creek – the final destination.

IMG_20150524_143955300_HDRAll in all, a great trip with good company on a terrific boat!

Spring!!

Spring!!

Seems it may finally have arrived. It was a long winter…. feeling especially so after having spent the last one in Key West! But now days are longer and the sun is stronger. Temperatures are rising, and ice has gone from the creek.

Valinor is being readied for another season. It was a nice sunny day for the diver to clean the bottom and update the zinc.IMG_20150402_104210069

 

 

The flare demonstration and exchange is an annual event of SOS. It gives skippers and crew first hand opportunities to ignite flares of several kind. It also provided an early chance to slip the dock lines an enjoy a weekend on the water.

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Next day was a pleasant  sail in 5-12 kts making for a good start to the sailing season. Lots of others out enjoying the moderate breeze and sun, including a race or two!

 

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Once upon a midnight …

Once upon a midnight …

Dreary indeed! Mid-winter always feels that way. The holiday season is over, along with the novelty and joy of magical snowy landscapes. Snow and cold are fast becoming old – as are the regular pictures of sun and sand from luckier friends who have sailed south to warmer latitudes. The pesky groundhog managed to find his shadow, though it was pretty grey here when I looked.

IMG_1028 “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December…”

As a boy, I grew up in the northern snow belt of upstate NY but am only partly relieved by being in the more moderate mid-Atlantic climate now. Waiting now, not so patiently, for Spring and conditions suitable for re-commissioning – still a few weeks off – six, if you believe the furry prognosticator.

Punxatawney PhilMore optimistically, it IS only a few weeks now till sailing season. Days are getting imperceptibly longer. The list of winter boat chores is slowly shrinking. Canvass removed for the winter has received minor repairs in the hope of extending its life another year or two. Bright work sits in the shop waiting to be sanded, stained and varnished. Sails are cleaned, folded neatly and stowed back aboard.
As soon as we’re clear of persistent sub-freezing temps, sails will get bent on, followed quickly by a thorough cleaning of top side and below. Fresh water system will get flushed and engine serviced, including oil change and all new filters.

Meanwhile, other sailing-related activities keep up the spirits. Sailing clubs have winter parties, and seminars are aimed at sharpening skills and enticing new sailors into the fold. That will do for now, and any such distraction helps make the waiting seem shorter.

So, with the season’s sailing calendar filling with club cruises and other on-the-water activities already announced, there’s time to plan. It’s always fun to re-live last season’s time on the water. Spinsheet magazine initiated the Century Club in 2014 to recognize those sailors who managed 100 days or more on the water. Lucky to have made the grade at 149 days, and enjoy the celebration. Look for those new Century Club burgees out there this year!

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See you on the water soon!

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