Monthly Archives: June 2014

Friday the 13th (June 13, 2014)

Today’s date is what a novelist would call ‘foreshadowing.’ As sailors are a superstitious bunch, I decide not to tell Matt it’s Friday the 13th. It is our final day of travel before reaching Annapolis, MD. Both of us can’t wait to be somewhere permanent. We see storm clouds around lunch but they are blowing west of us. We are so close to Annapolis – literally about 20 minutes from the marina. If we head in, we will go right into the storm. There’s no way we can outrun it (I mean, we probably could if we were on land and actually running, but not going 5 knots in a sailboat) so we head back out to the Chesapeake. The lightning and thunder seem like they are right on top of us. Which is what you want, really … to be stuck in a lightning storm while sitting in a giant puddle and holding a 60-foot metal pole up in the air. There are two big metal tankers out there with us. Matt maneuvers the boat to be closer to one of them. At least they are taller than us and have more metal. Matt thinks one of them gets hit three times. [A link to a video of part of the storm is below. Matt has no idea my camera was on video … my first attempt so bear with me (if the link doesn’t work, you may need to cut & paste into your browser). Turn the volume up to get the full effect of the thunder].


It lasts at least an hour. Matt, my hero, is out there braving it on his own. Malachi and I cuddle down below while Joshua sleeps through it. We are monitoring things on VHF 16. We hear the Coast Guard issuing a man overboard alert (he was knocked off a sailboat but was found an hour later, unharmed, floating near the bridge). There were also alerts about a capsized boat. We feel pretty lucky. We go out to dinner to celebrate our return. The server tells how she worked in a marina in which the owner was ½ mile out in a lightning storm. They saw lightning hit his boat and he disappeared. He died before the rescue boats even got there. A comforting tale which I was glad to find out about post hoc.

The Last Leg (June 6-12, 2014)

From Bellhaven, NC we anchor out on the Alligator River (6/6). Matt and the boys jump out for an early morning swim before we head to Coinjock (the ICW guide says the alligators departed long ago but I have Matt jump in first just in case). We have great wind and sail up the Alligator River.


We arrive in Coinjock just in time to go into the tavern, order homemade potato chips and drinks and catch California Chrome’s unfortunate defeat. The next day, we cross over into VA (6/8) and spend a day in Portsmouth.



By the time we get to Irvington, VA we are pretty beat. We stay at The Tides Resort for a few days to recover. We enroll the boys in a sailing class which they love. Joshua, of course, attempts to tip the boat over. [the boys in the two yellow life jackets are ours}. After that, we head to Solomon’s Island, MD on June 12. One more day and we will make it to Annapolis!







“S” is for Storm (June 5, 2014)

We stay in Beaufort for a day to recover from our ocean passage. On Thursday (6/5), we head to Bellhaven, NC in the ICW. Around 2:30 or 3 pm, Matt says there is a small fishing dock where we can pull over and avoid an approaching storm. My land-self thinks, What’s a little rain if we can make more progress today? I have no idea. We decide to push on and can see the storm behind us. Matt says he’s going to put on his foul weather gear. Really? I think. For a little rain? Isn’t that going a bit overboard (no pun intended)? The wind picks up and the rain starts to come. Matt shouts over the wind for me to get mine on also. Me? Do both of us really need to get wet? is what I’m thinking but not saying. I quickly weigh up my recent nautical errors versus contributions and decide that if I don’t want to be demoted and report to my six-year-old, I might just want to follow instructions. Sixty seconds later I’m glad I did. The storm hits with ferocious immediacy, whipping wind and pelting rain. I see lighting and immediately let go of the metal rail I’ve been holding. It’s our first storm.


Visibility drops to about 10 yards, the wind is pushing us 90 degrees off course (i.e., broadside to the channel), and Matt gets a mouthful of rainwater every time he tries to yell something at me. The wind becomes so vicious it rips the tough canvas bimini above Matt’s head (he estimates 50-mph winds).


There’s nothing to do but hang on and wait it out. It only lasts about 30 minutes but we are soaked by the time it’s over. And the boys? Blissfully napping through it all.


[And yes, I took a chance to grab my iPhone and capture it on film and no, the Captain didn’t see me do it or I definitely would have been demoted].






Heading Out, Take Two (June 2-3, 2014)

We motor up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach, NC.


It’s the last place to re-provision before we hit the boondocks. We take a taxi to the grocery store and load up. We plan to get to Beaufort, NC the next day. It is our last opportunity to go out in the ocean on this leg of the trip. Matt says the weather looks good and that he wants to leave early. The next morning he nudges me and says it’s time to go. I groggily roll out of bed and get dressed, thinking that 5 am is damn early. I look at the clock … it’s only 3:15 am. We leave the dock at 3:45 am and head out the inlet. It is pitch black with only the lighted buoys and the chart plotter to guide us. I have new appreciation for how Matt does things. He insisted that we motor out to see the inlet on our way up the ICW yesterday. Coming in and going out to the ocean can be one of the most dangerous parts of sailing, beyond unexpected weather. This becomes obvious as we navigate in the dark. I think how foolhardy it is that some people will crew on anyone’s boat, without knowing what kind of person is captaining it. My trust in Matt in this area is 100%. In the late morning, we see three other sailboats far behind us. They are headed straight for Beaufort which indicates they are motor-sailing. Matt is a purist when it comes to this issue, “If you want to motor, why not just buy a trawler” he growls in irritation. There is not very much wind in the morning so we float along at 2 knots. It picks up in the afternoon, so much so that we decide to reef the mainsail and use the staysail instead of the jib. The ocean is lumpy for the last few hours. Everyone is either on deck or napping while we are underway as seasickness happens quickly down below. In between helping Matt tack or jibe, I entertain the boys by reading to them. At one point, Matt leaves me in charge so he can get a nap – I take this as a good sign, or maybe he’s just really, really tired. By the time we reach the channel, I’m more than ready to be done with the day. Thankfully, the marina we chose is the closest one to the channel. We get in about 16 hours after we set out, right on schedule. I compliment Matt on his ability to time our travels. We generally arrive at places within an hour, sometimes minutes, of his predictions. This is no easy feat given that dynamic variables such as the wind, tides, waves, bridges, etc. all play a part in this calculation. Matt looks at me and says, “I’m kind of like an idiot savant … except the savant part isn’t apparent most of the time.” [Below, the Captain on our mobile home].


Northbound Progress Continues … (May 28-June 2, 2014)

The next possible ocean passage is a few days away so we continue in the ICW. It’s a nice break after being out. We stay in Georgetown, SC for a day (5/28) and visit our old haunts and then arrive in Myrtle Beach, NC (5/29). A pool and a pond with at least 60 turtles keep the boys amused for the afternoon. From there, we head to Bald Head Island. We end up docking next to “Journey,” another Lord Nelson. Only 52 of them were built in the 80’s and it is the first one we’ve seen, other than our own. If you are looking for a place to vacation, Bald Head Island is gorgeous.


It’s impossible not to slow down here. No cars are allowed, only golf carts, so stepping out of a 70-mile-per-hour life is easier. We rented bikes and kayaks, had a picnic on the sand, walked to the tip of Cape Fear, climbed the lighthouse, went swimming and took walks along the beach (seeing at least six skates in just a few feet of water).


[Matt & Joshua at the tip of Cape Fear, one of NC’s three great capes, known collectively as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” for the numerous vessels which have sunk upon the shoals. Comforting].

We decide to stay through the weekend. Matt and I have been together 14 years, twelve of them as husband and wife. Sunday (6/1) is our anniversary. Matt asks what I want to do to celebrate. I shrug, “I don’t care.” I tend to go over the top so Matt looks at me and says, “You bought gifts, didn’t you?” “I did nothing,” I say. We both agree we’re tired and that it’s fine. After church that morning, we walk to the post office and see babysitting ads on the wall. After three tries, we find someone who can watch the boys from 4-8 pm. To mark the significance of the occasion we shower but still don’t have clear plans. Matt surprises me with a few gifts. He subscribes to the ‘it’s a verb, not a feeling’ theory of love. I confess to occasionally subscribing to the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ theory of love. The Red Cross-certified babysitter arrives and takes the boys to the pool. We are now back to ‘the original two’ as Matt calls us. Our life is divided into B.C. (before children) and A.C. (after children) segments. Matt rents a golf cart. We tour the island and go to a turtle/alligator hangout and walk on the beach.


We have friends who are sailing by on their way up to NYC. It’s rare to have photos of one’s boat in sailing mode so we want to get some for them. Greg calls and says they are passing by within 30 minutes so we race to the other side of the island. We walk on the beach and take lots of photos of their boat as it passes by Cape Fear.



“Would you still marry me, knowing everything?” Matt asks me over dinner. I think for a bit. “Yes,” I tell him, “I would.” We talk about the trip. Maybe everyone sometimes has a need to break out. In the BHI lighthouse museum, we read about a successful European plantation owner living in Barbados in the 1800s. In the middle of the night, he left his wife and children and took off in a fully loaded boat to become a pirate. He was just as successful in his new venture, although it didn’t end well [a hanging]. I wonder if he was having a midlife crisis. Next year Matt and I will be halfway to 90 – this trip is as good a way as any to mark a significant halfway point.











Heading Out (May 27, 2014)

I sometimes see people walking up the dock and wonder, “What the hell happened to you?” They are completely disheveled, have rumpled and stained clothing, hair looking like it was caught in a tornado, and a very dazed expression on their faces. I finally get it. We ‘headed out’ today, which means we took the ocean path instead of staying in the safety of the ICW. It’s been getting hot down here – several days of 95-degree weather convinced us it is time to head north. We left Charleston, SC at 6:30 am and arrived at 9:15 pm into Georgetown, SC (site of our historic engine breakdown). [The sunrise in Charleston as we head out]


[Although only an hour’s drive north of Charleston, it would have taken 3 days to get here in the ICW]. After docking in the dark with no assistance, Matt hooks up the hose to wash the vomit off the deck. Yes, it was that kind of day (you can thank me later that I didn’t take and post a picture of what had been Joshua’s lunch). Malachi had better aim and was able to miss the deck. Despite sea bands, homeopathic oil behind the ears, a ginger capsule in the belly, and ginger gum, everyone except The Captain felt queasy. Apparently we haven’t earned our sea legs yet. The wind was stronger than expected, 15-25 knots with 3-7 foot waves hitting us every 6 seconds. Despite stowing items, we could hear things crashing out down below. Poor Malachi spent almost the entire day huddled in a ball, either on deck or in his berth. Thankfully, he slept for hours at a time so he was not completely conscious of his misery.

To say the day was long does not begin to describe it although, similar to childbirth, you look back on it with a kind of pride and sense of accomplishment. Matt did a stellar job. Although we joke that he gets upset about small stuff [incremental stamp price increases, contiguous highways with similar numbers, e.g., route 86 near route 88 (for which I’ve often told him he should run for public office on the platform ‘minutia matters’)], he is at his best when things get really hairy. In those moments, he is the quintessential leader and maintains a cool calm that is contagious. The water out there is beautiful, neither blue nor green but a fantastic deep teal color. The incredible power of the waves and the ocean is humbling – particularly when imagining those who have faced severe weather. In that light, today was nothing.

[We were rewarded the next day with our first marina sighting of an alligator. I tell the boys they are just the right size to be a delicious snack]







The Ocean, Attempt #2 (Friday, May 23, 2014)

Today is our second attempt at the ocean. We opt for the long (non-tanker) way around the harbor channel to go out. Once we get past the jetties, it is quiet and calm. I love it – the ocean is large and soothing and there are no immediate worries about running into another boat. It just feels good. I tell the boys we need to do an ocean blessing. We ask the ocean to protect us and keep us safe. As part of the blessing, Joshua throws out something the ocean has (sea salt) and Malachi gives the ocean what it doesn’t (a cup of fresh water). Let’s hope it works …

[A dolphin in front of hazy Charleston].


[Joshua, our boat monkey, shimmies up the staysail while we get fuel and a pump out in preparation to leave].

IMG_3773 [I feel a bit like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth “Out, damn’d spot! Out, I say!” Incredibly, the only camera store in Charleston went out of business a few months before we arrived. The black spot remains … ].