Monday, November 24, 2014

My poor wife

She puts up with so much.

We are almost exclusively a sailboat, which is just the way I like it. It is remarkable to me how many "sail"boats out here on the water spend a significant portion of their time motorboating around. We have shamed many a boat on our travels into at least unrolling a jib and motorsailing. Not only do we enjoy sailing, we have a boat that is intended to sail, and not motor.

The ICW route involves a lot of motoring, as we cruise down these narrow canals and try to stay out of the way of all the other boats going much faster than us. We are putting our awesome little generator through the ringer, giving it much more work than it was intended for. The most recent canal was 20 miles long, so we started at dawn (about 7:00 around here) and cruised at 2.5 knots (about 2.8 mph, a normal/relaxed walking pace) until 4:30, just before sunset. As long as you channel your inner Huck Finn, and can enjoy lounging on a boat looking at the scenery, it's great. Unfortunately there appears to be some cold weather pattern on the east coast (perhaps you've seen the news from Buffalo, NY?) that makes it hard to relax and lounge. Bundling up in all our ski clothes doesn't really cut it for an idyllic water trip.

Then last night we tied up to a free dock in Belhaven, NC, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately the sea gulls also like it, so the poop is everywhere and gross. We moved to a different slip that was a little cleaner than the first one. During the night a storm (perhaps even a squall, Sipsey) blew through and we started rocking and jerking at the dock lines. About 1:00 am I woke up, listening to the halyards slap on the mast, even though we've tied them away to prevent that, and feeling the movement of the boat and the other noises, labeling and categorizing all of them. Eventually there was a thump I didn't recognize, and didn't like, so I got up to investigate further. Obviously it was raining at this point as well, because why not?

On deck I could immediately tell we had lost our bow-line, and were not being held in the slip properly. I got a flashlight, but never ended up using it because there was enough ambient light from the town of Belhaven to see. The rest of the dock lines appeared to be good, and were holding us without the bow line. The thump was the stern bumping the piling every 20 seconds or so with a big gust/wave combination, since the boat had rotated out of position without the bow line. I asked Jenn to get up and help me.

We put on our foulies (full rain pants and jackets) and sailing gloves and went to work out a solution. The bow line was still attached to the boat, so I hauled it in to prepare to reattach it to the dock piling. Jenn and I pulled on one of the spring lines as hard as we could, to pull the boat upwind towards the dock. When we got close enough, I hopped off with the bow line while Jenn held the boat as best she could against the wind. I put a wrap around the closest piling I could, to take the pressure off her line, and we could rest for a moment. We hauled the boat in again, she got onto the dock, and with the two of us we could make a quick dash to the next piling where we made the final attachment of the bow-line where it originally was. Some adjusting of all the lines, and about 2:00 we were finished, happily back where we started. We added a second bow line. We think there wasn't enough tail on the clove hitch we originally tied, and when the wind picked up it pulled through. It held perfectly the second time, with a little more tail.

The boat has a very jerky movement when tied to a dock in unsettled weather. We aren't necessarily facing into the wind, and there isn't enough space to let the boat roll with the waves. Living on a boat, we've gotten used to the way she moves, and having it stop part way through a roll is awkward. Fortunately we were able to fall back asleep. This morning the boat was filled with wet clothes hanging to dry, and I made coffee for my long-suffering wife.

Today it's warm, and kind of sunny, and we feel mostly human!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Balmy Day!

Thanks Elizabeth City and the Mariner's Wharf for your wonderful hospitality!

Anyone coming down the Dismal Swamp route or road-tripping for that matter, must stop through this little town for some good old fashion, well mannered, genteel-natured folks.

Thanks to the Elizabeth City Welcome Center for the use of the free beach cruisers to provision our galley, for the cleanliness of your warm and clean facilities and printing off some documents for us.

Thumpers, a great local bar made us feel at home with cheap beers to keep the wallet fat, good food, and a place to keep warm while still having a "night out on the town"!

SoHo Organic Market - an awesome organic grocer with a ridiculous beer selection that we spent a while perusing. In addition to actually buying groceries, we picked up a new Top Dog IPA, Shipyard Pumpkin Smash (Jenn's weakness) and Black Radish Farm Ale. It's going to be a fun trip down the ICW!

It's a beautiful, 46 degree day as we untie our lines, with less than 5 layers on, and sail down the Pasquotank River into Albemarle Sound over the next couple days. Hope everyone is staying warm out there! You know we are!

Many thanks for the complementary slip!

Our grocery-getters!
Discovered on my run...someone likes the letter "O"
Outside a Baptist church
This is how we roll in Elizabeth City
Love to All,
Nate & Jenn

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Greetings from Elizabeth City, NC! Along with everything else along the eastern seaboard, this place has some great history. There is a great commercial and residential city walking tour that we plan to check out while docked up. Free docks, free bikes - this place is worth checking out for a couple days and with the temps and winds looking as they are, we'll be here for a couple more days!

It's exciting to be so far south (or what seems much farther south then where we began!) We continue to make our way along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), known to boaters as the ICW or "The Ditch". We flirt daily with winter conditions and temperatures dropping to 32 degrees at night, even during the day! We always pray for sun! We left Annapolis, MD (11/12) after a wonderful visit with friends and Nate's grandparents and took a 24-hour downwind sail to Norfolk, VA, arriving the following afternoon (11/13). And boy, has winter arrived on the east coast! With a sliver of morning sun, we welcomed Norfolk. We tied up to a free town dock in Portsmouth, VA across from Norfolk on the Elizabeth River and docked for 2 days. Wyatt loved the easy access from dock to land! As holiday decorations lined the waterfront towns, quiet has settled in for winter so not much happened during our stay. We lit some fires aboard Aletheia and wandered both Portsmouth and Norfolk. We left Norfolk (11/15) via the ICW instead of sailing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into the Atlantic for a few reasons: 1) sailing significantly offshore and putting up our dukes against the NE tradewinds, 2) avoiding the Cape Hatteras shallow waters, and 3) offers us a more sheltered waterway route. Just outside our departure city of Norfolk, there is the option to continue along the ICW, or make a coffee handle detour along the Dismal Swamp Canal...we took the swamp route! 

The Dismal Swamp Canal, the oldest and continually operating man-made canal, winds its way along southeastern VA and northeastern NC into Elizabeth City - where we are currently feeling grateful for the local bar with cheap beers and warm temps! Built completely by hand, the swamp seems to have more natural features including the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge and less man-made stuff, than the ICW. The swamp has a unique history and a definite Huck Finn feel to it as you pass along the banks that children splashed in during their careless summers. The waters have a tea-like color to them and apparently there are peat beds underlying the swamp and tannins that surface to give the waters its tea-like color. It's like throwing millions of tea bags into the river and waiting 1,000 years to get a river full of tea. Wait 1,000 years and it might turn into oil! Not something I'd drink, but it's entirely safe to wash dishes. Again, check out some neat American history.

Due to the narrow and shallow nature of the Dismal Swamp, we motored the entire way, putting our generator and power supply to the test. It's still working great! Along our canal travels, we passed under 5 bridges, through 2 locks (Deep Creek & South Mills), rafted up 3-deep to a dock, dinner aboard Other Goose, helped a fellow sailor tie up to a wall after his transmission died without damaging our boat, and quickly set up an unplanned anchorage after going 0.0 kts into the wind. This is a beautiful part of the world and I'm really glad we took this route. We've also met some great sailors along the way, also heading south! It's been great to share stories with other sailors having completely different, yet relateable experiences about weather, the imprints of clothing worn, distances traveled, and how quickly we'd all like to head south, just to name a few.   

Elizabeth City is at Mile 50 of the 1,100 miles along the ICW route from Norfolk to Miami...we'll only be using the next 150-ish miles before entering the Atlantic to visit some southern coastal cities. After the wind is in our favor, our next plan of action is to move from the Pasquotank River --> Albemarle Sound --> Alligator River --> Pungo River to continue our route south through the ICW into warmer waters and air temperatures. Until then, here are some photos from our past week. We hope everyone is well!
Passing our first ICW bridge
Deep Creek Lockhouse

Aletheia relaxing in the Swamp Tea
My workout room
More scenes from the swamp
See the tea?
Approaching the NC border!

9 boats rafted at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center!

Captain Nate!
Our calm anchorage looking at the windline at the green daymarker (we turned back here!)
Happy dog in cockpit
Entering Elizabeth City!
Aletheia at the Rochelle Slip (thanks donors!)
Striped Bass in the Chesapeake

Sun up just outside Norfolk
Stroll in Portsmouth, VA

Pancake foul

Love to All,
Nate & Jenn

Monday, November 10, 2014

More Better Photos

Hanging out on the anchor 
Full sail

Normal transport to/from land

I love my Subaru

But, I've also really enjoyed not having a car. Being without my Subaru is weird and sometimes inconvenient, but also rewarding. It's been a refreshing way to put things into perspective, coming up with different ways to get around town, and makes things a bit more simplistic not dealing with a big, scary steel cage. We don't think about distance as being the issue, it's more about what errands are a priority and what can we carry (or not carry) on our backs.

It's a few groceries at a time. It's a laundry day. It's a couple bottles of wine vs. a 12-pack. 

In NYC, anchored across the Hudson in New Jersey, we walked 2.5 miles from our boat to catch the World Financial Center (WFC) ferry to cross into Manhattan. We considered timing to be our greatest factor. We shrugged our shoulders, rowed ashore and used our feet and MTA as our modes of transportation. We even successfully shopped at Trader Joe's and carried two heavy loads on our backs 2.5 miles back home. We got to where we were going and burned some calories in the process. 

In Cape May, I walked the dog 1 mile each way to the grocery store, adding items to my messenger bag (hip straps a must). It was a lovely evening walk. No added stress came of my errand and I burned off my stuffed dinner belly.

There are so many other ways to get around besides strapping on the seatbelt and the physical, financial and spousal benefits are even better. Yes, I don't have children, sports practices, a commute or a regimented schedule at the moment so it's easy for me to give up the vehicle. Did I mention I love my Subaru?! I certainly understand a vehicle can be imperative for emergencies, commuting, and other necessary evils, but for routine errands, a car should be secondary. Riding your bike, taking the bus or walking can simplify your to-do list and decrease stress, increase your health and fatten your wallet. That impulsive trip to the mall won't be necessary if it's out of the way of the bus route or too far to bike or walk.

We save $500/month for car insurance, registration and monthly payments. We save $50/month on a 16-gallon tank and feel great about our choice! We do carry gas aboard and fill 3-2.5 gallon gas cans to top off the generator when we run the electric motor. Prior to our departure in Port Washington, NY we last filled our 3 gas cans in Blue Hill, ME. We went 5 whole weeks without purchasing a drop of gasoline, saving about $63 - not bad!. At least for the time being, we're reducing our impact on the environment and breathing some fresh air.

People may wonder how we deal without a car. We're fine! In fact, I think it has strengthened our relationship. As we find ourselves walking the distance to clear the to-do list, our conversations have become more frequent with the ability to clear our minds by chatting, making plans, and walking to pass the time and be productive in the process. Because, that's all we, or any of us have...Time.

If we were still on land, I'd have my Subaru (did I mention I love it!), but it's great to have perspective about how and when to use the car. I became inspired to talk about the "not having a car" topic after reading one of our favorite blogs and was excited by his idea of "going car free for the weekend" topic; that going car-free can and likely is better for your health, the environment and your relationships...true? I think so! 
Check out his well-written article for yourself:

Can you go car-free for a weekend or even 24 hours, run your errands and share your experience? How much money did you save by walking or biking? Did you come up with a new idea in the process? Make drivers jealous? When we step outside our routine, our comfort zone, we can all gain a little perspective and it's well worth the walk!

The Approaching Holidays

Throughout our travels, we've been able to visit with family and friends, mostly along the east coast. Recently, we sailed through Cape May, NJ to spend time with my dad's side of the family followed by Nate's grandparents in DC. Our schedule truly allows for a 24-hour notification window, so we've been blessed and grateful that people have made the effort to find time in their busy schedules, even on their weekends, for a family visit. 

Realizing the holidays are quick to arrive later this month, we will all surround ourselves by loved ones whether it be family, lifelong friends or new people we accept into our lives. In honor of our first holiday "away" from family, we're posting some special moments we've had along our journey, by land and by sea; to let everyone know we deeply appreciate your love, generosity and excitement, and love the phone conversations, texts and time spent together. Life is good. Family is awesome!
Cleveland with ole' Uncle Art & my bro on our way to Halifax
Indians game @ Progressive Field - good times with these lovebirds!
Blue Hill Wedding

Blue Hill Wedding

Freeport, ME with Dana & Gigi - I've adopted Gigi as another mother!
Gloucester, MA - Nate's LM!
Boston, MA with Malcolm
Cambridge, MA - our lovely dinner party hosts
Our first crew heading to Cape Cod
New school NYC
Old school NYC
Cape May family time
Love these beautiful people - my dad's big brother
Ready for trolling - thanks Mark & Eric!
Made the 1.5 hr trip to hang out - thanks Chris & Kim!
A night out on the town with Granny & Grandpops - yummo Italian dinner!
And this little Hazel-Marie - 18 days old. CONGRATS Callie & Dongbo!
Great catching up with this guy - thanks Benny D for making time after getting off the plane!
Love to all,
Jenn & Nate

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Power Supply

I'm still not happy with our electric motor. Well, the motor is great, but storing electricity to run it is a pain in the neck. Whoever can engineer a more energy-dense storage method for a reasonable price will surely make a Brazilian dollars, some of them mine.

We bought a power supply box from an electrical supply store, and had it shipped to Sipsey's apartment in the city. This box, about a foot long, 3 inches thick and 5 inches wide, takes 120vac in and makes 48vdc out. Our little suitcase generator makes 1.6 kW, so we get about 30 amps of 48vdc power. There is an adjustment screw on the power supply, to adjust the output voltage.

We ran an exterior grade 12awg extension cord from the 120vac plug on the generator to the power supply. Then from the 48vdc we go to a switch. The switch has inputs from the battery bank and the power supply. The switch outputs to the motor.

Somehow the dealer for this product doesn't include the mounting brackets with the box itself. They are sold separately, cost $.50 each, and were out of stock when I ordered. Argh! So instead of having the perfect parts for $1.00, I bought a stick of aluminum for $12.00 and had to make it myself. Grrr. The stick of aluminum wasn't quite big enough, so I had to use extra nuts as spacers to get the bracket to hit both the wall and the mounting holes in the power supply. They are held on by bits of tape so they'll hold still while we install it.
Heaven forbid, I actually put it together correctly (though I won't show you the final installation until I fix a few cosmetic errors that a real electrician would have a fit over). We fired up the generator, and it made the motor work! Though, of course, I had the voltage up too high (still well within the motor's limits), and overloaded our poor little generator. That was kind of exciting, since we started drifting towards the mooring field. We switched it to battery power, picked up one of the tons of free moorings offered by Port Washington, and troubleshat. I shortly decided the power supply was asking for more power than the generator could create, and the generator stopped making power. So we simply restarted the generator and all was well. I also found out that if I drop the throttle quickly it turns off the power supply, but if I bring it down slowly it's fine.

This is the lowest cost option for long duration motoring on our boat. We have considered many options, and this is probably not the longer term solution, but it is sufficient for right now. Other options have included more batteries, lithium batteries, an outboard, a 2nd generator, a diesel generator, or a new diesel engine. Does anyone have a different option we haven't considered? I"m pretty sure we've got the pros and cons of these options pretty clear.

Moore Better Later