Saturday, June 20, 2009

"...including Deadly Force!"

We left Hampton, VA (Norfolk) on Friday after a 3-day rest and recovery, expecting to be at our destination on Monday--2-days late. (Are you really "late" when you're retired?) Departing the Hampton River and entering Hampton Roads, we heard a warship destroyer announce that it was enforcing a 500-yard security zone around the Aircraft Carrier "77" which was departing Norfolk. "Anyone entering that zone would be subject to force, including.... deadly force". How could I explain to my children that I was blasted out of the water by my own navy, supported by my tax dollars? So, we called the destroyer, announced our position and our intended course and told them to stay out of our way. Right!!!

We did call them and announced our position, our intended course and asked for direction. They responded: "maintain course and speed; we have you on radar; we will notify you if you became an issue." Become an issue? How will we be notified?
It all ended up OK as the aircraft carrier was headed up the James River to Newport News--the opposite direction. Whew!!!!
We cruised to Deltaville, VA, but ended up passing it because the weather was good, the seas were gentle and we only had a slight breeze from the north and a gentle falling tide. We went on to Reedville, VA. (Still on the western shore of the lower Chesapeake Bay.) We were going to anchor in Cockrell Creek, Great Wicomico River; but, Norm discovered a severe oil leak in the windless (anchoring mechanism) rendering it unusable. So, we took a slip in the Fairport Marina.

They have a pretty good restaurant and bar that specializes in soft shelled crabs and oysters. Need I say more.....?

We awoke this morning (Saturday) to head for Solomon's, Maryland. We checked the weather radar before we shoved off, as we usually do, and discovered another wave of storms approaching from the west. While they were not directly headed for us in Reedville, they were tracking directly toward a line from the Potomac River through Baltimore--our planned path today. Some of these storms were predicted to produce winds in excess of 50 mph. Our better senses said to stay. As it turned out, we saw severe storms pass over that area with upwards of 45 mph winds. We met others that pulled in here today to get out of the lightning and blinding rain. Our decision was the right one, even though it delays our homecoming.

So what are we trying to avoid? This, on the left! (Sometimes double clicking on the pic will expand the photo.) When we say we look at weather radar, we look on web sites with our computer that give us real time pictures of current conditions. We also have other sources that give us text forecasts. Here is a pic on the right of the computer screen showing today's storms as of a few minutes ago. You can see that the storm cells have moved off the coast. The arrows indicate where the cell will be in an hour. The longer ones are moving faster than the shorter ones. They also show and tell us in what direction they are moving. Cool huh?
Unfortunately, tomorrow is not looking much better. Not storms, but strong blustery winds from the north and a strong falling tide (a new moon). When able, we'll depart for Solomons, MD and have Washburn's Boat Yard take a look at the windless; and then, we'll proceed north to Wilmington, DE, our home port. Wish us luck--we have to catch a plane for Milwaukee out of Philadelphia next Saturday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

999 Miles & Vicki--the human fuel pump guage!

We're relaxing comfortably in Hampton, VA, just across the bay from Norfolk, VA. We needed a break from the continual wind, storms, bridge openings, shallows and gray overcast days. Besides, the Chesapeake Bay (we are here now) is very "lumpy" today and we just don't want to deal with that. We're tired. So, we might just stay here a couple of day.

Since departing Pungo River anchorage, we cruised about 80 miles to Coinjock, NC for the best prime rib this side of Texas. We were watching Nexrad radar on our PC and saw some really bad, dark, stormy clouds approaching from the west. So, we ducked into Alligator River Marina and got permission to tie up until the storms passed. They never came! We had lunch and waited 1.5 hours and literally watched the storms dissipate before getting to us. They must have built up and burst out all their energy before reaching us. So, we resumed our long trek to prime rib, ooooops, I mean Coinjock Marina, NC. This marina is a goldmine. They are known for their prime rib, home made potato chips and great dock hands to help boaters tie up. The marina is always full with some boats rafting off. This means that there is no more dock space so they tie boats up to other boats--sometimes 2 thick, we are told.

The next day was another long day. We cruised 12 hours for a mere 62 miles. That's because we had to time bridge openings and lock availability. This can be quite a chore but necessary. Cruising through Norfolk to Hampton Roads we saw plenty of Navy war ships--aircraft carriers, destroyers, guided missile frigates, supply ships, hospital ships; and, lots of USCG security boats with 50 Cal's on the bow. We are required to keep 500 yards away and that is sometimes not possible considering the width of the channel and other tour boats, fishing boats and other recreational boaters in the harbor. And, the afternoon wind was strong with 3-4 footers in the harbor. And, the chatter on the VHF radio is always exponentially more frequent and louder in industrialized areas--all adding to a confusing, tense, and focus-required period.

We arrived safely at the Sunset Boating Center on Sunset Creek, just off the Hampton River to refuel. We did not exactly need fuel yet but this marina has an especially good price. And, when purchasing 540 gallons, we look for the best deal. This took forever. First of all the pumps were awfully slow; and more.

Here's what happened. We have four 200 gallon tanks. We can turn valves in the engine room to dispense the diesel from whichever tank we want to keep the boat level. If we only ran diesel from one side of the boat, we would have an opposite list (lean). We don't have gauges to tell us how much we have used from each tank. Instead, we do have site tubes where we can see the level in each tank. I use a formula that I developed by measuring the inches of fuel used to determine how much to put into each tank. (I know, this is a yawn-er, right?)

Anyway, we know how much to put into each tank. For example, 171 gallons in the port forward tank, 108 gallons in the port aft tank, etc, etc. Someone has to be at the pump to tell me when we have reached the required amount. The marina folks said they would help. So, I began filling up the port aft tank and waited for the 5-gallon warning. The dock hand did not show up and Vicki, who was on the spot yelled "167 gallons". I stopped when she told me 171 and went on to the next tank. She would tell me when we reached the accumulated amount for each tank. We filled 3 of the 4 tanks this way. While working on the 4th tank, the dock hand came out of the office and said "167 gallons--this is your 5-gallon warning".

What the heck!! We're on our 4th tank. How can this be?

Well, (hold your laughs), Vicki was reading the price, not the gallons. So, we had to return to each tank and put in the difference. A lesson learned??

We have cruised 999 miles up the east coast since arriving in West Palm Beach from the Bahamas. Only 2oo more miles to go to our final northern destination this summer--Bear, (near Wilmington) Delaware.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dogged by Storms!

We just can't get away from them! But today, we safely anchored in the Northern Pungo River Anchorage about an hour before we were hit. The 90Lb Delta Fast Set anchor and 120 ft of chain in 8 ft of water held us in the moderate winds. (Nothing like yesterday.) The canvas roof held on with our temporary repairs. So, we're relaxing with a good book. Tomorrow we have schedued an 80-mile cruise to Coinjock with a forecast of 30% T-Storms all day. The last 2 days have been 30%. Go figure!