Monday, September 27, 2010


Manteo, NC -- I've been looking for the perfect broom to sweep our very small stretch of wood floor in the boat.

My dreams came true at Walmart yesterday. As we were standing in line to pay for our basil plant, sewing thread and ledger book, I spotted the Slipper Genie!

Thanks to Oprah, the genies might be familiar to those who have television, but to me they were a shocking revelation.



Cue the music!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Okay, what boat chore requires the following tools:

  • 10 inches of small line
  • a small grabber tool
  • a paint stirring stick
  • a cup of water
  • a shopvac
  • a sheet of rubber
  • pair of scissors
We didn't know either. Well, we knew the chore: clean out the raw (sea) water filter. What we didn't know was how complicated it would get.

The housing of the filter is clear glass, but in this case it was jet black. When Chip pulled up the basket, the bottom disk broke off and stuck on the shaft.

My hand fit far enough in the opening to slide the disk up to within three inches of the top where the opening was smaller. Hmm. What now? String! We looped the string under the disk and it popped right off -- and fell down into the glass. Sigh. That's where the grabber tool came in.

With the disk out, we could now see an inch of sludge in the bottom of the glass tank. The shopvac nozzle was too wide to fit, so we put the tube over the shaft, only able to suck the water out from the middle. Paint stirrer and cup of water, er, cupS of water. We scraped the bottom with the paint stirrer, poured in water, turned on the vac. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Empty shopvac. Repeat. Repeat until all the sludge is gone.

So, now we just drop in the new basket. Wait! There's no hole in the bottom. Let's drill one.

Great. Now we just put in the new gasket, and we're done. Wait! West Marine discontinued our gasket. Let's cut one ourselves.

People often ask us, "What do you DO all day?" We just shrug our shoulders.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Manteo, NC -- As our departure date looms, my excitement is feeling more and more like anxiety.

As we complete more and more of our preparations, I feel less and less prepared.

The last few days I've worried about everything: my inexperience, the weather, whales, equipment failure, our health, bedbugs. Okay, not the bedbugs, but now that I think about it....

And then, tonight, we were walking down the dock and saw the most beautiful wooden kayak, which we failed to photograph (sorry). It was as beautiful as any of these.

We stopped to talk to the owner of the kayak, who paddled here from just north of D.C. and is headed for Savannah.

Savannah, Georgia.

In a kayak.

In the ocean.

Suddenly my big, brave sailing adventure seems like going on the flume ride at Six Flags.

Savannah. In a kayak. Jeez!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Chip bought a boat-friendly guitar, a Little Martin. Since it's made of mostly composite materials, it's resistant to changing temperature and humidity. It's supposed to hold its tuning -- so far so good!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Today is our 12th anniversary. I decided it was time to tell Chip the truth, something I'd been hiding, avoiding, skirting, making light of for a long time now.

At brunch, I swallowed hard and came out with it:

"I don't want to go north."

"Really? Me either!"

Well, happy anniversary to us, because now that we decided we can just head south -- where we REALLY want to go -- we are jacked up.

I pulled out all the Bahamas and ICW guides. We bought a Caribbean travel guide.

YAHOO!!!!!! Now THAT'S cause for celebration.

Crystal clear turquoise water, here we come...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Manteo, NC -- It finally came. Our wonderful mattress topper that makes the V-berth bed feel like a mattress.

After making fun of their ad for the last five years:

It seemed only fitting to make our own:

p.s. -- Chip asked me to add: That is NOT me in the first photo. That is the ad for the topper. Chip did not ask me to add this: That IS Chip in the second photo.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The solar panels. They arrived today!!!!

Two big ones that will be over the bimini, one of each side.
And a little guy that fits between the backstays -- or will when that rack is built.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Manteo, NC -- Our society is not set up to deal with drifters like us. There is no clean way to go off the postal grid.

We now have a post office box in Delaware, but we want OFF the lists, not to have the junk FORWARDED.

Sure we could just ditch and leave the new owners of our house and business to shovel the deluge of paper, but, well, that seems rude.

For two entire years, we have called everyone who has sent us a piece of mail and asked them to desist. We have gone online to request removal from lists, returned mail with RETURN TO SENDER in red Sharpee. We have called again -- and again. I have called The Company Store more than I've called my own mother. You just wouldn't believe how much freaking time we have invested in erasing ourselves.

And still, the wine shop gets spammed with piles of trash. We bring the pile of trash to the boat and once again call, write, return to sender, lick our paper cuts.

Then, here's the worst part, we order something and have it delivered to a friend's house. Guess who now inherits our junk mail. AAAAAHHHHHHH.

Not having a physical address causes some odd dilemmas. This is one of my favorites: I went to my credit card's web site to stop mailings to the wine shop. No problem, I'll have them mail stuff to the PO box in Delaware. Problem.

There are three mailing addresses associated with the account: A card mailing address, a correspondence mailing address and a statement mailing address. One of them has to be a physical address, no PO box. So, stick with me here, I put the PO box as the card mailing adress and the correspondence address. I left the wine shop address as the statement address and signed up for paperless statements. Will this work? That remains to be seen.

A few weeks ago I tried to add Google ads to my blog to make a little money when you click here. Guess what? You can't use Google ads without a physical address. Post office boxes don't count.

If I were smarter I would think of a clever play on "I think, therefore I am."

Sigh. Don't write.


If you're just checking in to see if I've updated the blog lately, you might want to scroll down to August. There are a lot of new entries (and will be more) that show up after the Hurricane Earl hoopla.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 13, 2010


One of my readers has published a book! Congrats to Laura Wharton on the publication of The Pirate's Bastard. Best of luck, Laura, and let us know if you'll be doing a signing out here before we leave...

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Manteo, NC -- September 11, the anniversary of the unspeakable tragedy wrought by extremism. Religious zealotry without spirituality excludes and destroys.

There is no god worthy of worship who would approve violence against the innocent.

May the families of the 9/11 victims find some measure of peace in their loss and hope in our collective future.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


No caption needed.
We took Cara Mia out for a test sail today. It was the first time I raised the main by myself. It's a beast! The full battens make it really heavy. I got it within six feet by hauling at the mast and a little further by winching. Chip had to step in for the final heave ho. It will be my workout challenge.

Downeast Rover led us into the harbor.


Now that we've had a few days to ponder weathering a hurricane on the boat, it's time to evaluate how it went.

On the face of it, I realize that riding out a hurricane onboard a boat seems careless, cavalier, stupid. Yeah, but ours was calculated stupidity.

We've been riding out Outer Banks hurricanes on land, and securing our boats at dock, for 15 years. We are in familiar waters and have a good feel for how things will play out. Had we been far afield, our decisions would have been different.

First, let me throw out a retroactive blanket of forgiveness to everyone who didn't call ahead and offer us a place to stay. We stayed on the boat by choice, because a) we wanted to do everything we could to keep the boat safe, and b) we wanted to experience that level of storm, to hear 40-knot wind in the rigging, to see how the boat responded.

We get an A+ for predicting Earl's antics. He stayed offshore and blasted us with steady 40-50 knot winds with gusts up near 70 (we think). No water issues -- no water blowing out or flooding in.

The only thing that caught us unawares was the actual size, and therefore length, of the storm. In a closed-off cabin being tossed around in the clamor of pounding rain, yowling wind and groaning lines, it seemed interminable.

Were our lives in danger? No. Had the hurricane made a sudden change in course, we probably would have stayed ashore and kept watch.

Was the boat in danger? We were on the opposite side of the dock from the heavy wind, protected from derelict boats. The only boat next to us was a power boat, so there was no rigging to worry about. Nothing went wrong, but the wee hour scenarios went something like this:
--What if the pilings give way? That was a clear possibility. In that case, we would have had some serious banging around and likely a lot of damage. Everyone here was worried about the pilings. A large powerboat took one out a few months ago in a minor blow.
--What if the cleat on the dock gives way? Same as above.
--What if the staysail starts unfurling?

--Doubled up all our dock lines
--Removed the jib
--Removed the bimini

--If we tie up to a cleat on the dock, check its integrity. Otherwise, we'll fret about it all damn night.
--Remove the dinghy and put it ashore. We didn't have any trouble, just another precaution that seems prudent.
--Remove the staysail. We had no issue other than worrying about it. The time/effort in removing it would have been much less.
--Decide based on the storm if we should remove the main. Several dock walkers thought we were negligent in leaving it on. I noticed they did not come back by to say, "You were right." The main was safe because the prevailing wind direction came right on our nose (which is why we left it).

--Dropped two 5-gallon buckets on each side to arrest rocking motion. Jeez, it's impossible to know. We were definitely rolling around.  I now feel a certain kinship with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker.
--Staying on the boat. I wouldn't want to stay onboard in anything above 50 knots.

Finally, we offer a sincere apology to Cara Mia. We should not have been in the Outer Banks during hurricane season. Please forgive us for putting you through that.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


We went roving around on the Downeast Rover, a test of the post-hurricane sail installation. The sail and sails were beautiful!

Friday, September 3, 2010


The wind has started from the Northeast, quiet and cloudy. We watch with nervous energy.

It blows. There's a light steady rain on fiberglass. The boat is rocking and groaning. Every once in a while the boat heaves a big stuttering shiver. I flirt with sleep. It plays hard to get.

The motion changes, the wind picks up. All the sounds that had made themselves familiar the last three hours have left and sent in a new platoon of noises. The most unsettling of them is a high mew like a kitten, mew mew mew, mew mew mew. Sleep still taunts and runs away leaving me feeling slightly queasy.

I was roaming around restless and stopped to look out to port. A man was walking down the boardwalk and turned up our dock. He bent his head against the wind and rain. A few minutes later we heard a loud horn blow. Wee hour mysteries.

Okay, that was a big gust. A loud bang and the trash flew open on its track. Hmm. Getting more queasy.

I'm seeing what they mean by "bands." Every 10 minutes or so, we get blasted. That damnable cat sound is consistent and annoying. My muscles are getting sore from being thrown about in a washtub.

This should be the worst of it, the next hour. We talk briefly about the cleat on the dock giving way, then quickly change the subject. Conversation is difficult amidst the cacophony.

Chip is sleeping. Amazing. I watch. A storm blast wakes him, and the boat shimmies. We turn on the spreader light halfway up the mast and look up through the hatch. The rain is almost horizontal.

A sudden pelting like gravel thrown on the deck. I jump up to turn on the foredeck light. It looks the same as before. Hail? Not sure.

We've started to get stripes of quiet, calm. Taunting. But then it comes back with a vengeance. Perhaps we'll be finished soon. I hope. My nerves are frayed.

We've passed now into what will surely be the final hour. The gusts are so strong, the boat bump-bump-bumps along like it's passing over a wooden bridge. The bigger world out there might know where Earl is but in our isolation we track it by wind direction, still north, and the plummeting barometer, still going at 29.7.

According to FM radio, Earl will not be passing Nags Head until 8 a.m. Could that be true? We have 5 more hours of this? Really?

Sure enough. This has not let up. The rain pounds. The wind howls. The boat pitches. I snatch little bits of sleep between bands.

"We expect winds to continue for several more hours and ease around daybreak." This according to automaton man on VHF weather channel. Bastard. And so we enter the fifth hour.

We both prowl around restlessly. Minutes ago we were standing three feet apart facing starboard, holding tight as the boat bucked. Two items started flying across shelves, one in front of each of us. We each in unison reached out and grabbed the one nearest us.

I guess the hours before dawn are always the hardest. We both fret. The water rises. We realize now that if something happens, a line breaks, a piling gives way, there's not much we can do. I question our decision to stay onboard. The water's too high now to get off safely.

Howling wind. This is the worst, and we're tired, nerves shot, watching the minutes tick by, cringing at every gust. I study the eastern sky, begging the sun to rise. We listen to FM radio to hear human voices. We strain over the noise only to hear them saying schools are closed today. There's some news.

The sky is brightening. Chip just went on deck to secure the boom. It's still wailing. The power has gone out in Manteo. No more AC.

The barometer has gone up a smidge. Could we be almost out of the weeds? Woods? Winds?

No, it's getting worse. The wind is intense, sometimes sounds like a low-flying jet. The rain is pounding. We rocking so severely that I'm seasick. We're suiting up and waiting for the first chance to get off the boat. She has proven herself capable. We need a break.

We left the boat just before 8:00 and huddled in the dockmaster's office with some other wet folks, the wind and rain still howling. McDonald's was the only place open selling hot food, so we got nourishment, coffee at Front Porch and then settled onto a now perfectly still boat for a 5-hour nap.

Cara Mia sustained no damage. I'll review the lists from yesterday once we've had an actual night's sleep.

I like reading my wee hour thoughts. Time will tell which ones will take root.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A note to my blog readers:

I'll be busy the next few days getting the blog up to date, but didn't want to keep you in suspense about this hurricane. We are tied up at the docks in Manteo, ready to weather it.

What we've done:
--Doubled up all our dock lines
--Removed the jib
--Secured the staysail and main
--Removed the bimini
--Secured the dinghy on the davits
--Dropped two 5-gallon buckets on each side to arrest rocking motion (a new theory we've never tried before. Stay tuned.)

What we'll do tonight during the storm:
--Stay onboard and adjust to changing wind and water levels
--Monitor Channel 9 with all our dockmates in case anyone needs assistance
--Keep an hourly log that will eventually show up here.
--Play cribbage.
--Not sleep much!

What we didn't do:
--Remove the staysail
--Remove the main
--Haul out
These decisions will be evaluated here after the storm.

All told, it's nice to weather our first hurricane in familiar waters with friends all around.

God speed, Earl.